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noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

No Pushing; Stop Pulling March 8, 2016

 

Calvin is nine in dog years, translated to human time – he is about 52ish.  Maybe because he lived on a leash in hot Florida for the last three years, maybe because he is older and not as strong anymore, he wiped out in the MI winter snow.  Result:  torn miniscus or ACL.  Either way, he stopped using that leg for a while.  Thanks to a wise and conservative vet, Calvin is being given time, lots of time, as much time as he needs to heal.  There was an initial prescription for some medicine to reduce the swelling and give initial pain relief.  He also got daily chews to support joint health and encourage joint strength.  I advocated for the continuance of walking this 80 pound lab for his mental health.  The vet agreed but said “no more freedom.”  He is leash restricted.  No zooming around until the healing is complete.

For nine dog years I’ve walked with Calvin.  He is pretty good though not stellar at staying right beside me.  He would prefer to be in front with a bit of strain encouraging me to walk faster.  Not now.  His brisk jog lasts  only a half mile if that.  The rest of his walk is s..l..o..w.  If you would meet Calvin for the first or fifty first time today, you would not see his internal injury on his outer body.    So you would question his limp or hesitation to go up the stairs or clearly painful struggle to lay down.    Its been over six weeks since the wipe out.  And actually, he wiped out once which led to a limp, but the second wipeout a week later took the injury to a more serious level.   When we walk, he does not want to be pulled.  Nor does it help at all to push him to a faster pace.  He is still on the DL.  Pet owners – do you get it?

I get it in human years, in human pain, in human experience of having part of me injured.  But its not on the outside where everyone can see.  In fact, I am trying to keep the outside intact so I can keep interacting with life that I love – the relationship with my husband/best friend; relationships with family, long time friends, new friends in the making; work; play; volunteering; errands; keeping my house and clothes clean; exercising; walking Calvin.  It has been a compact six months of hard – loss, old wounds re-opened, previous emotions of significant loss re-opened, moving, change, more moving, more loss, and all kinds of unfamiliar, new, learning.  It is intense and this most recent loss has wiped me out.   NO PITY PLEASE.  The reason I am sharing this is NOT for the sake of personal condolence.  It is to give a voice to people you know, that may not be able to say, “I’m wiped out.  There is hurting places on the inside you can’t see.  I need time to heal, and it’s not something that can be rushed.”

You who’ve been there, or are there – do you get it?

People who are reading this, look around you at the those you know and interact with.  There might be one or more who is like Calvin, like me right now.  Please, no pushing.  Don’t pull us.  It won’t help the healing for you to try to speed us up or tell us to “keep our chin up”, or say to someone else, “It’s been long enough.  They need to move on now.”  Everyone is unique and what is going on inside might be more complex than you understand, than even they understand.  So how they heal and the time it takes will be unique.  Think about the internally injured person right now.  Take a deep breath.  Another one.  Let go of your need to have them get over it and get better already.  If you can’t, you would love them best by giving them space from you and your need.    If you can, replace the pushing with hugging.  Drop the rope you are trying to pull them with and extend an invitation to have a beer, or a wine and cheese, or ice-cream or go to a funny play. Someone unexpectedly extended the invitation to really listen yesterday.  Those kindnesses are loving and helpful.  But be ready to hand out the rain-check graciously if they can’t say yes this time.   Keep on living your life and let them live into theirs even if it makes you uncomfortable.  Even if it takes a while for them to be like their old self.

I read these words today; words of a person who was overwhelmed by troubles:  “You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”   This was a statement made to God by a man named David.  (Ps 56).  It struck me that I know God cancels my sin, but then goes and collects my tears.  I wonder what he does with them.  Maybe he taps people on the shoulder, or knocks them on the head and sends them out to love the hurting.  Sometimes He does something Greater and floods the hurting with Peace and Comfort that is more profound than people can offer.  I know this personally too.

And one last thing – if you are the one with the hurt who is pushing and pulling on your old self to pull itself up by its proverbial boot straps, I grant you permission to let the old self off the hook for what it cannot possibly accomplish.  There is work for grief to do.  Let it do its job and have its way.  For if it completes the unique task it has, the old self will return whole and changed and equipped with compassion it did not previously have.  It is worth the wait.

I’m eager to walk briskly with Calvin again.   Not just because his leg will be better, but because my heart will be too.  For now, slow is just fine.

 

 

 

 

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From The Heart of an Elder and the Younger February 29, 2016

Filed under: Authenticity,Cancer,Grief,Loss,Wisdom — lauradegroot @ 10:47 pm
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My dad died.  Andy Ploegstra was born Groundhogs day 1938.  He told that to his oncology nurses each time he came for a chemotherapy treatment.  He wanted them to know when Groundhogs day was; know it came on the same day every year.  He wanted to add humor, a conversation in the midst of being treated for pancreatic/liver cancer, the kind and the stage that would predictably take his life in a few weeks to months.  It didn’t.  He had many many months instead.  Thank you Chemo – for time, for more conversations, for the final gifts my dad had time to give.   He died February 17th, 2016.

Some will understand the arrangements, travel, details, crowds of people who come together for the intense mourning and honoring.  If you know are in the know about that, you are also aware of the mass of people who show up to help that all happen.  Some of those people you don’t even know. If you are remembering your own recent or not so recent story, I know you are also acquainted with grief.

I am sorry for your loss.  Be thankful for your tears, even if they are in your eyes, on your face now because of your dad, your mom, your sweet child, your grandmother, aunt, grandfather, worlds greatest uncle, the friend who blessed your life, the co-worker, neighbor, husband or wife you can’t still hardly breathe without some days.

Right before I left for those necessary days of rituals and closure an elder man shared a sacred story.  On the retelling of this story one evening a  younger man – my 18-year-old nephew – spoke a sacred statement in response to the story.    It’s profoundly true.  The two stories were gifts to me so I shared them at my dad’s memorial service.  I will share them here for all of you whose somebody has died too.

The elder:  “May I have  two minutes of your time before you leave?”

Me:  “Yes of course.”

The elder with his firm hand on my shoulder:  “I am so sorry for the loss of your father.  Based on the stories you told, he sounds like a great guy and you two had a special relationship.  I really am sorry for you.  But…I am jealous of your grief.  My dad was a drunk, not a mean or sloppy drunk….but a drunk and for the last ten years of  his life he got drunker.  When I put him in the grave, there were no tears, there was no grief.  So, I am sorry for your loss, but jealous of your tears.”

Days later in the retelling to some family, the response was mostly ‘wow’ or wordless.  Until the younger man said this:  “Well that only makes sense.  Grief is a byproduct of love.”

Dad, thank you, thank you for my tears, for my grief.  Its big.

 

When Opposites Attract February 8, 2016

During the 10 hour drive between MI and Iowa, the adult passengers shared stories of people with somewhat opposite personalities, strengths, interests, and characteristics finding one another, pursuing one another and resulting in marriage. No one intentionally sought out an opposite, but attraction to the opposite was the common thread in every story.  Also common was that the differences have worked together not against the relationship.   In fact the opposite qualities become complimentary over time. My own experience would say that is because I’ve pushed back less, and appreciated the differences more;  I rely on what my hubby is wired to contribute and accept his ‘opposite’ as necessary to bringing out the best in me – and our ‘opposites’ functioning together bring out the best in us.

Turns out, this opposite attractiveness shows up in circumstances as well as in people.  I have a fresh experience that I need to write down somewhere.  Its too much for me to hide, to keep to myself.  And because it’s raw, real, recent, there is no filter.   My father has pancreatic and liver cancer.  He responded well to chemo for months, but in the last few weeks has made the shift to facing end-of-life rather than more treatment. He is still living with love, in faith, not in fear.    My brother Jim and I (we both live out of state) got to be with my dad and my mom this past week.  And really – we did a lot more being than doing. That doesn’t feel like much, but its good.  My brother Jeff and wife Sara who live there are so present, kind, compassionate.  Their little kiddos are refreshing diffusers of the intensity.   So thankful for this time to be together.  However, during this same week, some many-year, long-story unfortunate circumstantial crap stirred itself up.  Just trying to write that sentence sucks air out of my lungs, makes my hands shake.  Does anyone else relate to hard things piling up – coming at you in multiples?  Sheesh.  It nearly wrecked me.  Nearly.  Thank you friends for phone calls/texts; you people who I know well – who know me well, and who know yourselves the wallop of hard things.  In one conversation the words of Psalm 23 about the darkest valley (or valley of the shadow of death) came up and the truth that its real but we can “walk” through it because were not alone in it.  I would admit sometimes the walking looks more like crawling with bloodshot eyes, snot running out of your nose, gasping for air.  Or looks like fist pounding on what seems like steel doors, crying for mercy.   We’re not alone.  The opposite of the darkest valley makes me vividly aware of my need for the Presence of Jesus.

The valley of the shadow of death isn’t imaginary.  It isn’t figurative.  The shadowy valley of darkness isn’t inviting or attractive, never on someone’s bucket list.  No one will escape it.  Though most will want to avoid walking through it themselves or with someone they love.  Normal.   I find its hard to breathe and my chest feels tight and I can’t swallow easily  when I’m walking through that valley myself or alongside someone.  A sense of helplessness bounces off the valley walls: ‘I can’t make this go away; I HATE this; I can’t DO anything to change the outcome; I can’t fix anything; I have no control; I don’t want this to be happening.’ It is threatening and oppressive – alone.   Ps 23: 4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil for You (Jesus) are with me;  your rod and your staff will comfort me.”  I will walk through dark valleys but I can without fear…and with provision, protection, comfort, peace – the Light.  You can too; we are NOT alone.

Joy meet grief.  Sorrow meet beauty.  Celebration meet suffering.  Dark valley meet Light. These opposites actually seem to attract.  My friend Rachel told me about an unreal circumstance her friend is living right now, unborn baby, cancer.  no No NO.  Same story: best doctors available, treatment, plans for summer, and the beauty of a Spirit filled prayer.  Please – pray for Rachels friend, her name is Rachel.

And Please don’t push back on the light in your own life, maybe a birthday celebration, maybe a baby on the way,  an engagement, vacation, a childs school program, the job you like, a snow day, even if you also have unreal circumstances in your life – in your friend, family, neighbors life.

Yesterday Dirk the pastor told the story of Elijah who was in the darkest valley; ( I Kings 19 ), Elijah who just had his life threatened by a nasty angry kings wife; a prophet who had ENOUGH; a man of great faith who was just done; who was afraid; who ran away – away from people and places and civilization.  He got to the wilderness alone, away from the dark place, but not really away from the fear or feelings of being overwhelmed.  He lands under a bush and actually prays this prayer:  “Enough of this God, take my life, I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave.”  Then he falls asleep.  I hate to admit, but I get you Elijah.  I relate to the fear for my life, to the having had enough, to the desire to run far away from people, places, civilization.  Anyone else want out of the dark valley?

Thank goodness Dirk the pastor included the next 5 verses.  Here is where the opposite of despair shows up.  An angel shakes Elijah awake and fixes him breakfast!  More sleep, more food and he is ready to take up a long journey to a place where God Himself comes to Elijah in a gentle whisper and sets him back on his feet, back on task. Dark doesn’t win.  I again relate to this story – arriving home, exhausted and waking up to someone making me a great cup of coffee and an spinach, egg, and cheese mexican breakfast torte smothered in Nanita’s hot green chili.  Thanks JR,  you angel you.

People, please believe me.  God is for real.  He is good.  He is greater than the darkness which is also so very real and no one denies.    Don’t push back on Who the Light Is.  If you are curious or skeptic, desperate or not; if you have sat in a church for years and are pretending to believe but really don’t, or have never asked a single question about God – Please just ask God to show Himself to you.  He will.  I can’t help but share what is so real for me in the current dark valley.  I don’t know too many people who haven’t lived through rough patches.  What I know to be true is that the greatest opposite of those places, of those people, of those circumstances is the way Jesus shows up, encourages me and sets me back on my feet – back to living.  He is doing that now.  The cancer isn’t gone, the crap isn’t gone, I’m not done walking through.  But I didn’t run and die alone under a bush.  And I know for certain – I am not walking through alone.

Are you in a dark or dangerous place?  Is hard piling up?  Wanna run?  Too overwhelmed to even know what you need?  This is true: You Are Not Alone.  God is everywhere and will not let you be overcome.  As we are unique, our circumstances unique, God meets us uniquely.

Sometimes it begins with breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 11: The Memory Holder October 12, 2013

Filed under: Food Stories,Grief,Joy,Loss,Peanut Butter,Uncategorized — lauradegroot @ 2:01 am
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The Memory Holder July 24, 2009

(This post was one of the first I wrote when I started a blog.  It was about the topic of Food being a love language.   It is worth repeating.)

Final Button 3My grandfather Ed Rozeboom passed away recently.  When my children were little we started calling him Grandpa Rosie because Rozeboom was a mouthful for toddlers. He lived long and finished well, going where he longed to go – the place where he is no longer an alien, but a citizen.  The Promised Land.

There was a funeral, with all the expected people, places, and casseroles.  Closure happened.  But now there is remembering.

I like this part. Because the end of his life was recent I think of my grandpa as well as my grandma often.  Here’s what keeps joyfully rising to the surface of these thoughts: food! Bringing lunch out to Grandpa on the tractor. Grandmas deep freeze in the sun room full of frozen candy from the previous holiday. The cellar in the basement where we put leftovers after big family meals.   Learning to make Grandma’s pie crust that she had no recipe for.  Camping & rolling coffee cans with grandpa to make home-made ice cream.  Summer and sandwiches with Valveeta; Grandmas thick sliced garden tomatoes. Garden Tomato and Valveeta sandwiches on homemade bread.  Peanut butter with butter on top of grandpa’s toast.  More peanut butter and butter and sweet pickle sandwiches on Wonder Bread – Grandpas favorite. Grandmas cookies and bars and candy jars. And pizza. Grandpa always brought us pizza.

After the funeral, our family left Iowa and headed for Colorado making a stop at The Pizza Ranch for dinner. Not because it’s the greatest pizza we’ve ever had, but because it reminds us of this man we loved.

I find myself thankful when I think of my Grandparents Rosie. Remembering is healing. And I am most delighted to find that food is the memory holder. Given that, I am sure I will never forget them.

Does food hold helpful memories for you?

 

Julia August 1, 2013

Filed under: Authenticity,Grief,Humor,Laughter,Loss,mental health,Sisters,Suffering — lauradegroot @ 4:12 am

“Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday dear Juuuulia.  #40 is a Big One.  Mom thinks you would have chosen Brats or Mexican food for your birthday supper.  I think I would have given you a great new purse.  Jeffy and Sara are visiting with the little ones – we know you would have been so glad they were theer on your special day.  I wonder if Jim would have sent you black roses like he did on my 40th birthday?  I don’t know what type of cake you liked best.   Just thinking about picking out a card for you makes me giggle…                     Love Laura”

(excerpt from a birthday letter, July 30, 2013)

I think its important to celebrate the day people were born.  No life is random.  I’d like to celebrate my sister Julia’s 40th birthday by sharing a little of her best with others.

She could laugh till she snorted.  Which made other people laugh too.  She was one who knew great sadness but also able to laugh with gusto.  It was contagious when she was with my girls.  I am not certain what she did, but she consistently produced snot, toot, and tear producing laughter when Lauren and Lyndsay were in her presence.

Following a women’s retreat she attended, she called me to share what I must do every day to improve loving myself, just the way I was made.  Her instructions were, “Stand in front of the mirror naked, look at yourself, raise your hands in the air and announce loudly, ‘I AM A MASTERPIECE’!”

I tried it.  I still do on occasion. I’m not sure my self-image improves, but it always makes me laugh.  Go ahead and give it a shot – you’ll know just what I mean!

Julia suffered so much for so long.  Yet in some of her toughest  days spent in offices, clinics, units, hospitals,  she engaged with the suffering.  She went where the sad and lonely, bruised and confused were because those parts of herself were not hidden behind masks.  And though she was frightened by parts of life, she was courageous in this place – a place where I, maybe you avoid because we are frightened by it.   She shared  kind words.  She shared the Good News.  She shared herself not out of pity for others, but from a simple authenticity of one who isn’t afraid of others who hurt.  The world needs more authentic people and less wearing masks.

Maybe the best of her best is a legacy she leaves.  It is being gleaned and repeated by our wise mother who loved Julia

the  longest

the best

the most.

Julia did the best she could.

Honestly, how can I, how can anyone do any more or better than that?

Then why do we all try so hard to?

“Julia, I’m sorry for my part in trying to ‘help’ you or push  you to be someone you were not; to do something more or less than what you could do.  It was selfish; I wanted you to get better.  I believe now,  you did do your best.  You were the very best Julia you could be.  I so admire that about you, though wish I had realized it sooner.   I will try to head in that direction too.  It may take a few more trips to the mirror naked,  and taking off a mask or two, but I hope I can do it as well as you did.  Way To Go SISTER!

Happy Birthday Jules.

Love Laura”

Julia left earth, circled by family song, story, prayer, and love and moved into her Mansion –  a perfect place prepared just for her on October 15, 2011.

 

That Which is Inverse May Also Be Harmonious December 7, 2012

Filed under: Adventure,Discouragement,Grief,Joy,Thankfulness — lauradegroot @ 6:05 am

A  handicapped sticker hanging in the window of a Porsche Carrera  –  oxymoronic?

41% of Palm Beach County homeowners ‘under water’ on their houses –  contradictory to the American Dream?

In weakness finding strength…    In surrender being victorious…    In dying, really living… – inverse to human nature?

These are my ponderings of the week.   All of them rub me the wrong way.  Honestly – who doesn’t prefer to be in control, be in the know, be on the path you laid out, be confident and successful in all circumstances, be healthy-wealthy (or at least financially sound) wise?   To accomplish this state of ‘be’, I tend towards fighting losing battles; sucking it up and moving ahead; pulling myself up by my bootstraps; pushing through full-steam ahead even if I am steamless.  Do I have any company who share this way of life/living?

If I had the wisdom of Solomon, I would certainly give advice to seekers that this way is unsuitable for any human being.  I’ve been given that wisdom myself.  Unfortunately it comes naturally to go the way of doing the same thing over and over and never getting different results.

22 years ago in the deep water of grief, I faced a crossroad with a choice to make:  Choose bitterness or Choose Joy.   Circumstances lended themselves to the first choice.  Joy was contradictory.  I choose the second (with a little divine nudge).  And so found life in dying, experienced strength in weakness.   This choice did not require bootstrap strength or mustering self-generated steam.  It required obedience and surrender and victory followed, in time.

There are similarities in my current circumstances to 22 years ago.  These adventure days are marked by loss, unfamiliar territory, lack of control, mental/emotional fatigue, the need to live day by day – sometimes moment by moment.  That Joy choice was a one time thing, but it’s also a daily one too.

It’s curious how thankful things get overshadowed by troublesome things.  It’s also curious when I let them blend together rather compete for my undivided attention, they become harmony.

There is more than plenty to be thankful for in my current circumstances.   And so I shall choose Joy again today and let the harmonious sounds play while I live.

I am thankful that I am a homeowner in Boulder county and a renter in Palm Beach county.  I am thankful I live in a community where they love dogs.   I am thankful that we were invited to 2 parties by some of our new neighbors  today.  I am thankful for coolers to hold the food from the fridge and freezer that is currently needing a thaw.  I am thankful for a man who is taking me out to dinner tonight since our food is currently living in temporary cooler housing.  I’m thankful for my friend Ruthie.  I am thankful for parents and children and friends in Colorado who are helping me choose Joy and keep things in perspective.  I’m thankful for all the awesome birds that live here and that I am no longer afraid of the little lizards that are everywhere.  I am thankful I can see and for a puzzle which distracts me from stinky thinkin.   I haven’t gotten lost, in fact I’ve acclimated to the driving surprisingly well – a gift.   The  humidity feels so nice – as the temperatures are moderate  which is another unexpected reason to be thankful.  Calvin and Pekoe have adapted easily – thanks again.   We’ve located good mexican food – different from Colorado, not that spicy, but unique and delicious…THANK Goodness!

 

And I suppose – there is something for someone to be thankful for if they can drive their Porsche yet have the need for a handicap sticker!

 

Laura – choosing joy one day at a time.

 

 

 

 

 
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