Reunion in heaven~

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Justice Served.

So many of you have heard the story of the murder of my nephew; 8 years ago.   He trusted people he shouldn’t have; he wanted to make money in an effort to make a difference. NO ONE, No One knows him, knew him like his adoring aunts and parents did.

The media will build a story to sell Television time; but they didn’t know him.

Today, after 8 years of waiting…his murderer was charged with Life without the option of any parole. We rejoice, but we still miss Christopher every single day.

He was our first nephew; the first grandson. Because of this the love that hovered over him was wildly deep! He was a treasure in every way.

His journey to make financial strides as an adult led him to trust people that were untrustworthy. The man who took Chris’s life and stole his identity was on the Missions Team at Saddleback Church. He was a charlatan impersonating a man of God. I called Saddleback; they profusely apologized for trusting such an evil man.

It is so hard to fathom that this monstrosity has become part of our family’s story.  Did we sin? Is God angry with us? What???   And yet, in God’s grace He continues to reveal that it rains on the just and the unjust.

My brave sister and her husband and family have chosen to trust God in their loss; they have believed He would see them through. He has.

I, through the tears, through the anger, and through the sadness, choose to trust God as well.

On that sweet day, when my life is over and God takes me home….my eyes will be peeled on those that have gone before me and when my eyes land on Christopher I will run faster; with outstretched arms, than I’ve ever run before. I will be home.

Political Fallout~

 

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As Americans we have been blessed to have the freedom to choose our government leadership based on our values and beliefs. We are so fortunate to have this right. However, the politics in this season of the United States have become divisive, angry, and relationally polarizing.   My heart is so sad when I see people behaving so hatefully with one another.

Yes, there are a lot of key issues that create concern and angst in us all; treatment of women, North Korea, a huge polarization between the Democrats and Republicans making it difficult to come to collaborative decision-making to name a few. It can surely be infuriating!

My biggest concern, however, is how people; friends and family members are treating one another. Relationships are being wounded by harmful words and indictments, accusations, and resentment between those who identify more with the Left or those who identify more with the Right ~this is the worst part of the fallout!

Our pastor has been teaching on how to radically love one another; that we can disagree and still love and respect one another! I believe this can be done; especially among those who are Christ followers.   At our core we all want to feel safe, experience peace, be free to have our own thoughts and opinions, to be respected, and to be treated with dignity, ALL of us do no matter how we vote.

Presidents will change, politics will ebb and flow, but the harm done in relationships over our differences will be challenging to repair. Consider whether you have allowed politics to harm relationships that matter to you; can we agree to disagree and still love one another?

 

1 Corinthians 13 The Message (MSG)

The Way of Love

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

       Let’s choose love.

Alpaca kind of love~

 

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“There’s a head and a foot showing!” my daughter in law exclaimed as she walked toward me from across the field. “Should we get some help?” My sister has a small ranch in our area and she has allowed an Alpaca farmer to use her farm for grazing; today there was a little surprise coming!

As my granddaughter and I walked back out to the pasture we realized a baby alpaca had been born just seconds before we arrived. As the tiny baby lay on the grass I watched all the mama’s in the field begin to close ranks; almost as if they were linking arms in protection of this precious life.

Scout and I stood quietly in amazement from a safe distance away as each of these “aunties” began to lick the face of this little one. Sweet cooing sounds filled the air as the baby was loved and nudged gently. I was surprised, even caught off guard by the instantaneous love and care each female alpaca had for this little one that wasn’t even theirs!

After 35 minutes had gone by each female began urging this new little life to stand up; careful nudging and nose-poking to move the baby to where they would stand and find mama’s milk.

It was so painful to watch this baby; wobbly legs and full of uncertainty, stand and take a few steps only to fall time and time and time again; feet flailing in the air. I wanted to jump in and help this little one yet if I even took one step toward them all the females would turn and give you “a look” that let us know we’d sure better stay put!!

Finally this baby alpaca stood and walked, still wobbly, yet stable enough to put one foot in front of the other. All the while, all the female alpacas encouraged, nurtured, nudged, and cooed in an effort to support this little one to walk with strength and confidence.

Once home I began to ponder my experience that day; all sorts of questions began pulsating through my brain! “Do we love this way?” “As human do we continue to lift up and encourage those we around us even if they fall time and time again?” “Do we speak words of encouragement when someone is struggling?” “And do we link arms in protection for those who are weak and learning to stand so that no one can enter the circle and cause harm?” As human beings do we love others in this selfless, tender way?

Nature can sure teach us some many powerful lessons; and this was certainly one of those!  My day on the little ranch truly impacted my heart as I knew that that many times we give up on others too soon, when someone falls too many times we tend to back away rather than lean further in, and frankly, we can tend to be exasperated rather than trying to building a united circle of support around an individual learning to stand.

Scout and I saw an example of the kind of love God bestows on us each and every day; those little alpacas preach a powerful sermon not soon to be forgotten.

“ Love is not a BECAUSE, it’s a NO MATTER WHAT”   Jodi Picoult

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Who are YOUR People?

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As a Life Coach I have the privilege of having crucial conversations with the most amazing women!  I love it when they say ” I never thought of that!” or “Boy, that’s a really good question!”  Those statements let me know that they are gaining some fresh thinking and may embark of some new ideas.  Over the past 18 years, however, I have heard a statement that has caused me great concern.  That statement?  ” Dianna, I’m so glad I have you to talk to, I don’t have anyone else.”  That statement creates so much sadness in my heart and I have often responded with the question “who are your people?” “who do you have in your posse?”

Relationships, especially those who we would invite into our “inner circle” will require purposeful attention.  Trusted relationships are built over time and, if taken seriously, can also stand the test of time.

As a young pastors wife with a very outgoing personality, I spent many happy hours flitting around socially, connecting lightly, with practically every woman in the church.  I felt like I needed to be willing to be everyone’s Buddy.  Interestingly enough, when I faced my own challenges of marriage, parenting, and ministry, I didn’t really have solid, trusted friends to talk to.  My mistake?  I had built my relationships so that they would fall into 2 of the categories listed below ~ Acquaintances and Friends.

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I had neglected to intentionally build my inner circle- my posse- my close friends.

Over the years I have met many more wonderful acquaintances and made lots of friends along the way, but I have worked hard to  build a group of precious, deeply trusted relationships where I can find and give encouragement, direction, prayer support, and fun.  It has taken time and intentionality.

What are the names of your people?  Who sits in your inner circle? Can you list them?  I have often made the statement ” we don’t need a whole bunch of people to count on, but we all need a few trusted friends to share life with.”

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother ( or sister) is born for a time of adversity” (Prov 17:17).

Slippery Slope~

 

 

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Climbing down the slippery cliff toward our favorite beach, we held on for dear life. Rain the night before had made the already treacherous path even more dangerous. Yet, beach goers like ourselves knew that the snorkeling and swimming below was worth the effort so we forged ahead!

In our little group we had two toddlers to be mindful of so it was truly amazing to watch how thoughtful and kind other “path climbers” were to allow us to pass making sure those kids got to the bottom or the top safely. Mind you, stepping out-of-the-way or making room was as challenging as actually making the trek!

Feet full of red clay, a few scratches here and there and a fresh bruise on the bottom of my foot; I and my family made it to the bottom to enjoy this spectacular beach; not once but 4 times during our stay on Kauai!

Hidden Beach is a small beach in the Princeville area of the Island of Kauai; this area draws hundreds and hundreds of vacationers every single year! This beach is a “hidden” favorite and not for the faint of heart.

This particular day the surf was especially high as there was a hurricane looming outside the area; we were on alert but not deeply concerned. As so many folks gathered on this small strip of beach I was enjoying the sounds of so many different languages all around me; a gathering place of so many individuals and families from every nation, economic status, gender, personal persuasions, and spiritual focus. We were all so different as we enjoyed this God-given gift of His beautiful ocean together.

Mid-day it happened. Waves had been slowly creeping closer and closer to the place where our towels (and the towels of many others) had been carefully laid out. Snorkel gear, children’s sand toys, and ice chests full of well-prepared lunches were spread around the outside of the towels.

All of a sudden an especially large set of waves blew in and without any warning shot huge waves far beyond the water line that it had marked for most of the day.   Saltwater flew all the way up to the rock wall that served as the back of the beach until this point! Possessions belonging to every beach goer began to fly in all directions and quickly began being pulled along with the wave back into the ocean!

Everybody grabbed items for everybody. Everybody tried to help everybody. Everybody wanted everyone to retain all his or her items. Everyone worked together for the common good. Everyone!

I’m certain that a child’s shovel or two were pulled out to sea but we all had the good fortune to have taken all our personal items home, they were soaked but they were ours. Each one of us was grateful to everyone’s willingness and kindness. We smiled a knowing smile as we nodded a “thank you” to one another.

Later that night I took time to ponder what that experience meant to me. What stood out about that situation that grabbed my attention in a fresh way? What made me smile? For me, watching the willingness strangers in every walk of life and every way of living lay aside any differences to jump to their feet to simply help another human being. They weren’t get paid or rewarded, no one mandated the response. Everyone just jumped in to help collectively and it was crazy, beautiful to watch.

This unique gathering of people on the beach is a picture of gatherings we might find at a concert, the airport, or even a restaurant. Yet, it could also be your grocery store, library, or even church. It took a huge wave to cause us all to jump to our feet in an effort to reach across our comfort levels to help each other; it took a mini-crisis.

We often see individuals cross comfort lines when there is a shooting, a weather crisis, or some other community or world tragedy.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if it didn’t take a crisis, tragedy, or “mini-crisis” for us to love actively on those around us? Imagine the impact in our world if we all spent our days being watchful to come alongside those who are so different from us to encourage them, support them, or to simply lend a hand!

Fall is a little like the first of January, it can feel like a fresh start in many ways. Take this season to consider stepping beyond a crisis or comfort zone to be God’s sweet hand extended to beautiful humans who simply might not be comfortably similar to you.

 

Finding your soul begins by discovering our ability to listen! Alternatively, by sharing a smile, a laugh and just by being human to everyone – from friends, colleagues, family, and especially strangers, including those who are not from the same station in life as you.

Who is the bigger man?

 

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Tonight Greg and I went on a date! So fun! We walked the River Trail and enjoyed the rush of the river, the crisp wind that cooled us down, and the greenery that made us feel in awe for God’s amazing creation.!

After our 4-mile walk Greg and I decided to grab a quick bite before heading into the movies to watch The Incredibles (don’t judge)

As we ordered a salad and Iced tea there was a disturbance that caught our attention very close to where we were sitting. An angry man and his pretty wife jumped up and moved to a table way alongside of us–cursing and angry about the loud children that had been seated at a table right behind them.

We hear angry responses from the father and mother of two rambunctious boys from the family behind this older couple, the father expressed that his kids didn’t come with a mute button! “ This is a family restaurant!! All of a sudden two angry men were bumping chests and hurling angry responses to each other! Once it died down—the father with his children beside him preceded to provoke further anger by calling out the antagonist challenging him to fight and calling him a coward!

Greg and I caught eyes. We were both sad. Adults should lead in the arena of civility and yet, two sweet young boys observed the anger in these two men that mirrored the anger so prevalent in our culture today!

God says that His people will be salt and light in and generation who has lost its way!

How can we shine a light? How can we be a different flavor than those who are pent up—angry. This is a remarkable season for those who follow Christ! Let’s seek him in this angry generation and bring hope, kindness, civility, and reconciliation!

I had a really bad rash~

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It started with a small spot here and there; a little break out I assumed. I awoke the following morning with multiple spots and some swelling on my face; now I was both concerned and confused! Was I allergic to something I’d put on my skin? Had I eaten something that could have caused this reaction? I was feeling my anxiety rise; what is happening to my face?

After 3 days of managing this on my own I did the unthinkable! Yes! I looked up all the possibilities on the Internet! Believe me, the information that bombarded my brain caused me to become anxious and overwhelmed! I don’t recommend this route to anyone. Ended up going to my dermatologist and found out I have Rosacea (who knew) and this was a Rosacea breakout caused by something unknown. I got some medicine that caused it to begin to heal within hours!

Though this was a total nuisance; both irritating and frustrating, it did reveal something about me and gave me a chance to grow.

While my face was highly imperfect I didn’t go out of the house, not even to go get the mail a block away. I didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day at a Brunch with my sisters or attend church on Mother’s Day. I was not going to be seen out and about looking this way!

While home I had time to think about my situation and also the situations of others. Earlier this year I was involved in an amazing retreat where the majority of attenders were women involved in chemo treatments or Cancer survivors. These beautiful women had hair in various stages: short cut hair, thinning hair, and some with no hair at all due to the chemo treatments.  These lovely women hadn’t let how they felt “looked” keep them from enjoying their life or an opportunity to connect with other courageous women.

I was challenged by the feeling I had inside that told me “if I didn’t look perfect then I’d better hide away at home!”   Every time I looked in the mirror I was convinced that I looked horrible; this certainly took a hit on my self-esteem.

Isn’t it so much easier to put on our happy face when entering social settings when we feel we measure up? Isn’t it more freeing to connect with others when we are at the top of our game; at out best? Sure it is! I had a very evident rash on my face that anyone passing by would have easily seen and probably acknowledged with a “ohhh, what happened?”   Ugh! I didn’t want anyone to know!  Isn’t it true that, in reality, sometimes we’ve got a “rash” on our soul that effects us the same way? Maybe it’s a hurt, a habit, or an experience that has left us feeling “imperfect. Due to this “rash” we isolate ourselves saying that “when it goes away” I will re-engage with those I love.

After 6 days home alone (with the exception of my very kind and patient husband) it felt so right to exercise again, walk outside, visit with friends and family; my cup felt full again. Every person I shared my experience with said “I wouldn’t have cared about an old rash; I care about you!”

Got a “rash” holding you back?

Reach out, re-enter and re-engage; isolation doesn’t make it heal any faster!

When Life is cut short~

Jeff was a loving Pastor. He was tall, athletic, and well loved. He was one of the good guys; always a smile on his face. With his loving family he had served the church and community with a heart that truly cared. I was shocked and grieved as I tried to wrap my brain around the news. He had taken his life

Michael was a talented man; a singer, handsome, very funny, and loving. By all accounts he had found a life that was joy-filled and purposeful. He had married his college sweetheart and they had built a beautiful loving family together. When I saw the news I was breathless, shocked, and so sad. He had taken his life.

Over the weekend I read about a hugely successful realtor who was married to the love of his life and spent limitless amounts of his time and money on making a difference in the lives of others. As I looked over his Facebook page I saw hundreds of beautiful pictures of he and his wife on exciting vacations, earning awards, and making incredible memories. I just couldn’t make sense of it; he had taken his life.

I don’t think this issue of suicide is easy to discuss or understand; I feel awkward and uncomfortable even writing about it. Yet, I don’t think there are always blaring warning signs beforehand. I do believe that everyone who has been impacted by the suicide of a loved one is left with a host of unanswered questions and grief.

When a life is cut short we ponder the “why?”. When a life is cut short we wonder if there was something we could have, should have done. Truth is, I don’t believe that we can always pinpoint a key reason or even make sense of it.

What I do believe is important is grace, healing, grieving, and forgiveness. Each of these elements matter as we walk through the process of loss. However, it is also important to celebrate ALL the memories we were able to make with our loved one and to acknowledge their valuable life in creative and meaningful ways.

We experience deep grief whenever we lose someone we love; no matter how they pass. But, the loss due to a suicide bears it’s own unique sadness; a different kind of groaning in our soul; we need God to bring comfort and grace. And He does; He’s good like that.

If you have had thoughts about suicide; reach out! Isolation is the worst choice when going through rough times, or are experiencing emotional instability. There are more people who love you than you realize!

If you have a sense that someone is experiencing deeper challenges and greater instability than at other seasons of their life; reach out to them! Enter into a courageous conversation, a messy conversation, in an effort to open up a dialogue about your concerns.

Suicides will and do happen and there is no one who should own the blame. However, with the rash of lives cut short I am left to ponder if there’s anyone I need to be watchful for and am I making good choices in my life to stay emotionally healthy and surrounded by a loving support system.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens!   Don’t give up!”

What would I say to her? ~

 

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It is truly a pleasure to lead groups of women through a Life Plan Intensive; helping them to assess the season of life they are presently in and help them to move forward toward the life they truly desire.

In a recent event I asked the women in attendance to take 20 minutes to write a letter to their younger selves; how would they advise her? What council would they give their younger selves? What regrets would be expressed? What hopes? What celebrations? Certainly a daunting task.

The room got serious, very still as precious women took pen to paper. I could sense a myriad of different emotions being expressed as woman wrote feverishly throughout the room.

It was so meaningful as women began to share some of their personal thoughts with the other women in the room. I saw heads nodding in agreement as women verbalized their thoughts and regrets for their younger selves.

After a needed break, these same women began to write a letter to their 90-year-old selves. What could they share with her? What could they promise her? What would her legacy be? Almost immediately the atmosphere in the room lifted; I felt hope in the room; I could hear pockets of laughter.

I have been thinking a lot about this exercise lately. Writing a letter to our younger selves holds the potential of a quality assessment of the life we’ve lived. We learn a great deal about life from the many ups and downs we have all experienced. What if that experience empowers you to feel a fresh sense of hope as you enter into this fresh season of your life. Such important thoughts to capture.

Whether you are 20, 40, or 90 we are always learning and growing and there is always hope!

Let me challenge you! Take 90 minutes and write a letter to your 20-year-old self. Pay close attention to the thoughts and emotions that arise within you. Let yourself take notes on lessons learned. Then turn and write a letter to your classy 90-year-old self, tell her what you want the years ahead to look like. Make that wonderful lady some fresh promises and move forward in great hope.

 

May you come away even more kindness towards yourself;  love the woman you are today.

A Cancer Diagnosis~

 

 

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It was with both anticipation and anxiety that I boarded an early plane last Thursday heading to Tennessee to be a part of a meaningful Retreat named “Just Breath”. It was a non-profit called Compassion That Compels who had a vision for this event; I was honored to serve alongside their amazing team.

Entering the Ballroom at the resort I watched women from many different states, walks of life, married and unmarried, even rich and financially challenged gather together with incredible warmth, acceptance, kindness, and understanding. What did they share in common? A Cancer diagnosis.

In a world of heated competition where individuals scramble for first place in their companies, homes, and churches; I watched gracious women embrace one another without a thought of who mattered most. There was something that had evened their playing field~ A Cancer diagnosis.

I have been pondering this rich kindness in my heart with a little bit of wonderment. Does it take a “crisis” to make us show rich kindness? Why should it be easier to find acceptance post a crisis rather than following the words of Jesus “Love one another JUST as I have loved you?”

As I find myself, again, waiting in the airport for the next flight home, I know I am going to miss the kind of community I experienced in that Ballroom for two precious days. May I represent them well in the days ahead by being as incredibly inclusive, kind, and welcoming in my life every day! 🙂