Monday, November 25, 2013

Grateful, Indeed

Twice Blessed!

The countdown to Thanksgiving begins…In three days, there will be 15 gathered around our table, a smaller crowd than usual, but many of our nearest and dearest will join in. As I contemplate the tasks to be completed, I am reminded of the reason we rejoice…the many things we have to be grateful for. So, indulge me, if you will as I recount some of my greatest blessings…

I'm thankful for all the gatherings around our great, big, white dining table. It's not fancy, but it's massive! We love each one who has surrounded it and are grateful for those who will be with us this holiday and for those who will not... for those who will return and those who have gone on to an eternal feast of Thanksgiving... for every friend, family member and visitor. You are the reason we built this room and purchased this table. You make our home a gathering place enabling us to practice hospitality. We love you for that! #fullhearts

This is the husband and I, on a trip of a lifetime. It's one we saved,  planned and hoped for over a period of many years. This year it finally happened, at a time when we were able to enjoy it in a way we wouldn't have any earlier.  We experienced Italy, the home of his ancestors, with our favorite travel partners, Dan & Nan, and made memories that are forever embedded in our hearts.  Sigh….. #beyond beautiful

Someone recently said to me, that had he realized how wonderful grandchildren were, he'd have wanted to grow older, sooner.  I concur!  Our Ruby has been a joy since day one, and this year we were blessed with her baby sister, Minnie Eloise.  I could go on indefinitely, but, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?  #therearen't enoughwords

In late summer, we were blessed to be able to share in a family reunion with the Herndon clan, my mother's family, in Montana, AKA, Big Sky Country.  Ruby was able to accompany us and it was pure delight to see her interact with the many loved ones who have so impacted my life.  Spending time there, where I formed such sweet memories with ones I love so much and who have been such a source of joy and encouragement was so big, so rich and so treasured. #homesweethome
She walks the line...

Ru with her new friend at The Thunderball Ranch

Now in my mind, it goes without saying, but I would be remiss if I didn't say it. So here it is, friends:  I owe everything to the saving power of the blood of Jesus.  I am eternally thankful  for His Word, which  fills me up  daily, preparing me for whatever lies ahead.  Also, for His Holy Spirit who comforts, guides and sustains me;  for His church who surrounds, encourages and supports me,  and for His presence which is constant.  This is the foundation of everything that I am or ever hope to be.  My Rock.  With Him, I have everything I need. #well,ALMOST… ;-)
I'm exceedingly grateful for His mercy and grace.  This year He has sustained cherished loved ones who have battled illness, grief and loss.  I am thankful for those who remain and for those who have left this world. Full circle. #thisworldisnotmyhome

Thank you Lord, for every gift…

The beauty of creation….

for great art...

for travel and travel partners...

For family  (circa 1965)…
friends, work, a place to call home, a bed to lie down in, a life that is rich.

Francis Chan said it best….

We're FILTHY rich!

Friday, June 7, 2013

What Remains

aberration (ab-uh-rey-shuhn)

1.  deviation from what is usual or normal
2.  mental unsoundness

How often we get swallowed up by the aberration- the exception;  the one thing that is not going our way.  So much so,  that we lose sight of all that is good, all that is right, all that  is true and just.  If we could somehow stop to view the bigger picture, perhaps then we could see that often,  that  one segment is overshadowing all that is still good.  But--sometimes that is hard to see.

It's true...some things truly are all consuming.  The loss of a child or a spouse, a broken marriage, financial ruin--  all  have the potential to overwhelm.   I have friends who have suffered the untimely loss of  a beloved child.  This is a loss capable of  shattering an otherwise stable life.  There are no words adequate to speak to it-- so much so that the surviving parent is crushed with pain and consumed with their loss.  Sadly, they can, in a sense lose everything that remains, because they cannot see through their tears, that which is still in front of them. I can imagine no loss greater. It is unthinkable-unimaginable and yet--to lose what remains is a tragedy of it's own.  

Why is it that we are so drawn to the pain of our losses?  This pain obscures everything else.  Like a magnet seeking a mate... a  tongue seeking a broken tooth, we are inescapably drawn to it, so much so that we can forget to treasure and nurture what is acknowledge that there are still blessings to count.  The discomfort is so distracting that we struggle to get beyond it.

It is understandable that we may lose sight of the good that remains.  Grief and loss take time to work through.  A lot of time   There are no short cuts.  Even so, we  must navigate through it, with great care.  Most often we are unskilled laborers. We have no experience to compare our journey to.  We have never traveled this road before and we didn't make plans or reservations for the trip we find ourselves on.  Yet, the road must be travelled.

Major loss is a game changer-a turning point, a membership in a club no one ever wants to join.   It has to be an event so breathtaking that it cannot be contained, leaving us gasping for breath yet not wanting to breathe.  Only faith can carry one through such heartache. Only the peace that passes understanding. Because there IS no understanding such things.

Even so, there is no other life to live  other than the one we've been given.  Despite the wake up call that makes you want to throw the clock through a window, shattering glass everywhere, we must press on. And- when others grow weary of drawing near  to us because of the dangerous shards surrounding us,  we must press in.  We must persevere to the other side.

Lord help us, not to shrink back from this pain but to press into it... to be in community, not just with those who have shared a similar grief, but, with each one you place in our lives.  Help us to be grateful for those devoted to walking through this horror with us until we stand on firmer ground.  Comfort us in our loss and help us to not lose sight of what remains.  Remind us that our loss is heaven's gain.  And help us  to never wish back what you have lovingly taken.  Help us to cherish the gifts of memory you have implanted in our brains, but to live the lives you have given us with the companions you have placed in our midst.

Comfort us. Strengthen us. And help us to live wisely and for Your glory.  For  whatever time remains and for all those who need our love and attention while we are here, help us to look forward more and in the rearview mirror cherish every sweet memory but not to miss out on what you have for us in the here and now.

Thank you, Lord, for what remains.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It is Good

I love Sunday mornings.  I work Tuesday through Saturday, so,  it's the beginning of my weekend.  We go to church on Friday nights, so,  Sunday mornings are pretty luxurious here at Mandish Manor.

I get to sleep in and wake up, usually to birds singing, the tree outside my window swaying and sunshine pouring through my window.  The coffee is ready, thanks to my faithful husband, and I pour it in to one of my favorite cups (I love cups).  I carry a steaming cup upstairs, to nestle back in bed with coffee, lap top, journal and books surrounding me.

And it is good. 

I love to think about the week before...all that has transpired and I give thanks.  For those who have come across my path, for the good words I have heard, for the opportunities to keep silent when it was wise to do so and when I responded appropriately and  for the failures when I didn't, because they remind me that I am but dust and haven't quite arrived.

That, too, is good.

For the sweet children I held and spoke to and heard from.  For a call from a friend just to catch up and share with, for the families I helped while at work and the note of thanks from one of them, reminding me that mine is not a mere job, but a high calling.  For those who are sick and who I get to lift in prayer and encourage in small ways. For reminders that we are in this together.

Yes. It's good.

For friendships forged, for friendships maintained and for friendships still growing.  For so many beautiful women in my life...quirky ones, thoughtful ones, deep thinkers, big laughers, generous hearts and kindness personified...I love them all so much.  Putting faces with names, names with faces and brand new faces and names.  We are a garden blooming together.

So good. 
Just a little botox party among  friends!

For secrets shared and fears exposed and trust given.  For feeling at home in a home that is mine but that was given by Him. For ministry that happens when the doors are flung open and people walk in.  That we can walk out changed, because even in the midst of the laughter and  the conversation and good food and beautiful flowers and, yes,  a little bit of chaos- somehow, He comes and dwells among us.

Oh. It is good. 

For sorrows and set backs and trials and infirmity, for they remind me to cast all my cares upon Him and to trust in the Everlasting Arms.  Sometimes this is very hard, but, you guessed it-

Very good. 

Not always easy, not always sweet. Not always pleasant.

But always good. 

Because He is. 


Very good.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day 2012-She took her last breath on earth and her first in heaven.   And for a moment, it took our breath away. We did not expect this loss so soon.
Marjorie Ann Herndon Matthis

She was not June Cleaver.  But, I've come to realize that none of us are.  June Cleaver is a myth.  Only the Beaver and Wally had a mother like that. And that, after all, was  on television.  Marjorie Ann Herndon Matthis was, well--a handful. And she was my mother. And she loved her children very much.

She did some goofy things.  She said some goofy things.  She struggled to believe she had enough, that she was enough. She was largely unfiltered. We, who loved her  often uttered  the words, "I can't believe she said that."  Yes, she was a handful. But she was our handful.  She was not a perfect mother, nor was I a perfect daughter. Not even close.

                                                                Even so,

She loved us the best she could. And it was enough.
She made us laugh with her stories of her youth.
She drove us all over creation when we were kids.
She defended us when we were in trouble.
She was president of the PTA.
She taught us to love and care for babies and
how to clean a house.
She welcomed friends and family to our home.
She shopped like there was no tomorrow.
She loved children and they her.
She loved drop in dinner guests.
She was a rabid Lakers fan.
She found countless people jobs.
She was the original neighborhood networker.
She was far better informed on world news than I will ever be.
She sang silly songs and came bearing quirky  gifts.
She had a gift for staying in touch and spent hours on the phone with those she cared for.
She knew all her neighbors and all their kids.

She was, in retrospect, a bit of a neighborhood legend.
Marge was my mom.

A year later, her first great grandchild still mourns her...still has moments where she tears up because she misses her Nanny.  There are moments when I think to call her and then I realize she is no longer a phone call away.  And, I miss that. I miss her.  She was a handful.  No denying that.  But now that she's gone, it is sweet comfort to remember all the good, all the laughter, all the love and all the joy.

 It is now so easy to let go of all the things that seemed to loom so big back then.  It is now so easy for me to let go of the sorrow and so sweet to hold to the good.  So, today, I honor my Mom. I thank God for her because she gave me the opportunity to live this beautiful life.  I am thankful for every gift she gave and  every challenge she presented me with.  But, most of all,  I am thankful that she is finally at home and in perfect peace, celebrating this Mother's Day with the Mother she so loved, as well as with my Dad and with her sisters and friends who went before her.  It is a grand celebration in Heaven today and that brings nothing but joy to my heart.
Mom and I
I am not sad today.  I am not grieving.  There has been a long year of doing that.  Truthfully, there is a kind of peace knowing she is finally home, with my Dad, in the presence of the One who gave His life so that we could have this life eternal.  And there is a certain symmetry in losing her to Heaven on Mother's Day, when just hours earlier all four of her children had gathered around her bed.  I am eternally grateful for our final moments together on earth...for the chance to say "I love you" one more time on earth, and to whisper in her ear,  " I know you loved us the best you could. It was enough."



Monday, May 6, 2013

There's A New Girl in Town!

5:55 AM
My girl was out of bed before the bathroom...not normal operating procedure.
The door to my room opens and she's standing there, a look of distress on her morning face.
"I don't feel good. I think it might be today.  I wish Danny were here." Again, labor arrives early in the morning.

I spring out of bed. "What can I do?"

Again, "I wish Danny was here."

She decides to take a shower. She just wants to shower, put a little make-up on, feel human, be ready for the photo opp' that is surely ahead.  But then, she's overcome by pain and collapses to the bathroom floor in a fetal heap.  The wave passes and she's up, into the shower. But there will be no shampoo. There's no time. And all the while, our little Ru sleeps, blissfully unaware of what is happening outside her bedroom door.  I text Ommie Sandy:


I gather  clothes,  load the car.  Did yesterday have to be the day the city dug up the driveway to replace it with smooth new concrete? Drat. I back the car into the next door neighbor's  driveway.
I gingerly help my girl get dressed.  She winces, "Where is Sandy?"

"'On her way" And knowing that's true, but hoping she's going to drive up any second.

She stands by Ru's door.  "I have to tell her we're going." She opens it quietly and walks to her bed and little eyes flutter open.   She crawls into the bed and little girl reaches to her Momma's belly-"oh! don't touch baby, momma's tummy is sore." She pulls back her hand and  they lie face to face. Amanda says that baby sister is probably coming today and Momma has to go to the hospital...and Ruby bursts into a flood of tears.

"But Daddy isn't home. We prayed for Daddy to be here."

And Momma soothes her little chick..."I know...I wanted him to be here, too, but it will be okay."

Ommie Sandy arrives and takes charge of our little Ru as  we make our exit.  The 6 mile drive begins and time is of the essence.  We traverse the streets of Long Beach and I am grateful it is still  early and there is little traffic. It is just after 7 am. I am urged to drive faster and I respond accordingly- we are nearly there. Flashback- the urgency of her pleas remind me of another drive to the hospital, 33 years earlier, when I implored her father to drive faster, and to avoid any bumps in the road.  Deja-vu.

She repeatedly voices, "I wish Danny were here."  And I know he wishes the same. He has been in Texas for over a week, getting crucial training to fly a new plane so that he can provide for his growing family. We had prayed that he would return in time to share in the birth of their new girl, but clearly this was not to be.  This is hard for all of them, I know, but I pause to be  thankful for this man who loves this little family so much and who is a faithful husband, father and provider to his precious girls. At this point all he knows is that we are en route to the hospital. I have been entrusted with this sacred responsibility and  am honored to take it on.

I pull into the hospital drive and up to the curb and she is suddenly frantic-she cannot wait.  I jump out, run in and tell the guard I need a wheel chair "right now!"-that my daughter is ready to give birth.  He looks for a chair and there is none. I go back to the car and the urgency has intensified. I return to the guard..."I need help, NOW!"

I return to the car and assure my girl that help is on the way. And within seconds, two beautiful nurses were there with a chair-and summoning a doctor. A birth is imminent.  A cursory exam is done curbside and the decision is made to transport her immediately upstairs. There is time.

Sweet nurses assist her out of the car and I jump back in to park the car.   I turn into an ER-ONLY lot, I ask for permission-"this is a bit of an emergency" and permission is granted. It is 7:15 AM.   Within 5 minutes I have parked,  gathered a mountain of belongings and arrive on the second floor where I am instantly  directed to a room where my only child is about to deliver her second baby girl.

An IV is being inserted and the words "10 centimeters" are voiced.  There is no time for an epidural. It is time.  An unknown doctor enters the room, young and fresh out of med school no doubt. But, she is up for the task and the work begins. Precious nurses encourage Amanda to breathe through the pain. Cameras are in hand  and the hard work begins.

At one point, Amanda prays aloud, through the pain, and one of the nurses does something so remarkable and so brave and so good. She asks Amanda, "Are we praying to Jesus?"

"oh, yes, we are."

And she proceeds with, "then, let's pray.  All activity ceased and  everyone in the room closed eyes and dropped their heads while this precious and courageous young woman petitioned heaven for the safe arrival of,  and blessing on our sweet baby girl.  It was a moment of awe that I will never forget.

And moments later, and I do mean moments, our little Minnie Eloise, was born at 7:34 AM-nineteen minutes from the time we pulled up to the curb at the hospital! And she is perfect!  They immediately placed her on Amanda's chest and left them to bond together.  I cut the cord!
                                         And then I held her as her
Momma slept briefly.  What a privilege and what bliss!

I think she's pretty spectacular. And I'm not the only one.  I'm thinkin' we're gonna  keep her.
Ru meets Minnie for the first time!

Grateful and blessed.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Beware of Pretty Packages

Blue sky-wispy clouds, sun shining through giant trees, leaves swaying in the wind.  T he golden gate bridge, front yards covered in white,  pretty people in slow motion, eyes full of wonder gazing toward heaven.  Surfers, bicyclists,  snow angels, but not in snow, open hands raised as if in praise...and all the while,  a lovely  chorus of sweet melodious young voices singing "California Dreamin'". Finally the tag line ,


It was truly captivating -all 62 seconds of it.

Even so, about halfway through this exquisitely done project, a feeling of genuine horror came over me.  This white matter wafting through every image was not snow flurries but, instead, a virtual downpour of  ping pong balls. Yes, ping pong balls- and in a sea of white balls floating through the air, in the most beautiful scenes imaginable, one, lone red ball drops from the air into hands held open and a look of absolute bliss comes over the face of the one now holding this special treasure.  His eyes glisten with pure joy- a  look that says, "finally, every  prayer has been answered!"

 This, my friend, describes the newest marketing genius promoting the California Power Ball Lottery.  I  immediately felt a wave of disgust come over me.  Disgust that something presented so beautifully could represent something so vile. Watch for yourself:

I sent a private Facebook message to a pastor friend and double dog dared him to write a sermon around it.  And then I remembered a book I read decades ago, and one line in particular that I've never forgotten.  In his book "The Singer",  author Calvin Miller said,

"Oftentimes Love is so poorly packaged that when we have sold everything to buy it, we cry in finding all our substance gone and nothing in the tinsel and the ribbon.

Hate dresses well to please a buyer."

It's bad enough that this  beautifully done but oh so deceptive ad  panders to those who can least afford to throw money away and who are desperate for a dream to come true- desperate  for something to believe in.  But to insinuate that a one in a billion chance at material wealth is the something to believe in-well, I couldn't stomach it.  Truth is, the facts are in.  Generally speaking, big winners in lottery contests don't have a great track record for living happily ever after.

I am reminded, yet again, that beautiful packaging does not necessarily contain beautiful content.  We are bombarded by so many images of things promising happiness, wealth, money, fame and status.  All of them tout their unique ability to change our lives for the better.  The book of Proverbs says, "There is
a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

The lottery web site continues:

"When you believe, the world opens up before you.  The impossible is flipped on its head and dreams become a reality. So believe. Believe that today could be your lucky day.  Believe in something bigger."

So, they have it partially right.  Truth is, there is something bigger to believe in, but, not to burst your bubble (or in this case, your little red ball),  let me be the first to assure you that it is NOT having said little red ball drop into your lap. Nor will it spring from having millions or even billions in your bank account.

No matter what the culture keeps telling us, be confident in this:  Wealth, higher education, the next promotion, having the perfect body, home, car or anything else we're told will guarantee us happiness, is not the hot ticket.  Those kind of riches will never satisfy.

As long as happiness is the goal, we will be looking for quick fixes, longing to be overnight sensations and believing the lie, "THEN, I'll be happy."

Instead, let me direct you to the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, also known as the sermon on the mount. Take five minutes and read it today.   Jesus speaks eloquently on the subject of riches so I'm not going to try to reinvent an already perfect wheel.  He knows what we need and He knows we are often distracted by what we think  we need. Still, His words are crystal clear:

"...your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. "

True riches are within our reach. Reach for them. Not for a silly red ball. 

Monday, April 8, 2013


1. the handing down of beliefs, customs, etc., through generations

Let's just begin by saying I love  traditions.  They anchor us, give us something to look forward to, a reason to gather together and a sense that though relative chaos may be swirling around us, some things remain the same.  I find that enormously comforting.

And, so, maintaining treasured traditions is a priority for me.  Not so much that I cannot bend, but enough  that I am still glad to do the work to make sure they still happen.  My nephew Mike, as he was loading his family into their car after joining us for our traditional Easter family gathering, made the observation, "that was a lot of work to pull this all together and then, much like Thanksgiving dinner, it was done in thirty minutes."  True, that.

There were hours of preparation-a trip to the farmer's market before work to buy just the right flowers, last minute runs to the market, multiple purchases in the weeks leading up to the event to find  goodies to fill eggs for the traditional egg hunt...staying up late the night before with my sister Debi, to prepare in advance much of the food we would consume.  Time in the attic, pulling out all the decor and later to put it away, setting a beautiful table days in advance.  But when everyone gathered around our table, (fourteen this year) it was worth every second--to see each face I love, to remember past gatherings, to see our little ones delighting in eggs found, to relax around our table and enjoy the luxury of their company,  that was, is and will continue to be priceless. 

Just yesterday, the husband and I took our grand girl  (and she is!)  to the garden center where we filled a rolling cart with beautiful things to plant-- notably our traditional tomatoes and beautiful flowers, but some new additions as well.  We spent the day, the three of us, toiling in the back yard, pulling weeds, digging holes, planting, watering and generally getting muddy!  And four year old Ru, while watering our new crop made the observation, "I've been waiting for this day all year!"  She has been part of this tradition since she could walk and she knows that she can depend on it happening every spring...the trip to the nursery, the unloading of our loot, the pulling of weeds, the releasing of lady bugs, the watering, the time spent with her Ommie and Poppa,  the harvesting and the joy of the tradition itself.  

So, traditions will stand for as long as I can.  We may no longer drive to my parents home for Christmas Eve, but we still gather. The faces around our table  may change as some are unable to come and others are added, but there will remain a continuity, a certainty that in this evolving world, some things will remain the same.  Count on it.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

With You, Always

"I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

These are the last words of Jesus, recorded  in the gospel of Matthew, and they are words I cling to these days.   While traversing the  difficulties, sorrows,  anxiety, and challenges that have defined my life of late, I have prayed to fully absorb that.

He is with me.  Always.

I have prayed to fully understand it. To believe it. To live as if I am fully confident that it is true.  To know that I cannot fail when He is with me...that nothing can overwhelm,  defeat or overtake me.  Likewise, to know that I will ultimately be victorious as I abide in Him, and He in me-in every realm of this life~ 

In my community and in my day to day life.  He is with me ALWAYS. In every trial. While  I cannot ascertain the purpose of these "brief and momentary" trials,  I do know that they are not random happenings in a life run amok.  I do not see the beginning to the end, but He does. Perhaps He is planning something new for me that I currently have no visibility of.  Hence, my only option is to trust that He sees all and knows all, and then  to leave it in His hands, believing He walks with me.

Right beside me. ALWAYS.

Help me Lord, to stay on the path, even when it is treacherous and dark and scary...when things go from bad to worse, remind me that You are the captain of this ship and that shipwreck is not in Your plan.  Though I am laid low, You are still on high. Though the storms rage and the waves crash and though I am truly humbled by my affliction,  you don't leave me forlorn and alone.  You are with me, ALWAYS

Help us Lord, to know this. To really KNOW it.  Show us Your power and Your glory.  Heal the sick. Mend the broken. Feed the hungry.  Visit the lonely. Comfort the grieving. Give rest to the weary.  Be merciful to the unrepentant. Be kindness to the harsh, forgiveness to the failed.  Be a guide to those who are lost and a protector to the careless.  Give  clarity to the confused and peace to the tormented.  Thank you Lord that you are all these things and that you are with us.