Category: Healing

A Booksom Babe Goodbye:  We’ll Miss You, Diane!

A Booksom Babe Goodbye: We’ll Miss You, Diane!

Diane had stopped coming to our bookclub soon after her diagnosis. She’d had brain surgery and was on an intense course of chemotherapy. We were at a loss. Diane had been a “Booksom Babe” for 13 years. We loved her wit and her insights as we discussed literature, sipped wine and shared bits of our lives.

She is only 59, we lamented. She just retired from a successful career in nursing.

We felt numb and inadequate as we continued to meet as a bookclub the past 18 months without her.  Care baskets of hand lotions, cards, books, and food were assembled and delivered. Some of us wore tie-dye, psychedelic, cat tee-shirts and brought hand drums to cheer her in her living room. We wanted to make her laugh. We all wanted to forget for a little while.

Because there were few options available, Diane opted for experimental medicines. For a while, the tumor was at bay. We all were a little hopeful. Maybe she’d finally catch a break.

Though she never complained to our bookclub, we were fully aware of all she had endured in such a short time. She lost her husband to lung cancer in 2005. In the past year she’d lost her mother and then very tragically, her son. How did she manage to go on at all? Her wonderful 26-year-old daughter “A” was  her “rock”, she said. We marveled at the young woman with so much tragedy and weight on her shoulders.

The tumor came back with a vengence. Soon Diane was moved to Hospice care.

We kept up with her progress feeling all the more helpless. Some of the Babes brought meals to her daughter to warm up after long days at the Hospice center.

Then Diane died. We knew it was coming, yet I think we were all a little stunned. We’d lost book club members to moves or people opting out, but never to death.

Bookclub was scheduled at my house just two days later. I decided we’d still meet, though I wasn’t sure we’d actually talk about the book. Would we be grieving as a group, too distraught to discuss it? I prayed before the women came over that we would find comfort that night. The five who came over greeted one another with the usual hug, but then we each just shook our heads and sighed. As usual as we assembled in my kitchen around the counter. This time, we raised a glass to Diane.

As we sat in my living room,  we skirted around the topic of our own mortality. We vowed to travel more. Do the things we’ve been putting off. Ever a practical group, we brainstormed what might do in memory of Diane, and how we might help her daughter.

After a while, someone enthusiastically suggested we discuss the book. Everyone was up to it,  so we discussed it late in the evening. I don’t think we were being irreverent or callous.  At times of grief, I think people tend to grapple for normalcy. We’re a bookclub, so it was normal to discuss our book, even though Diane had just died.

After everyone left, I ran the night through my head. It was good to get together for bookclub, but I felt a little odd that no one cried.

A week later, four of us Babes attended Diane’s Celebration of Life. The priest remarked to the full church that we all “showed up” because Diane had showed up for so many throughout her life. Her daughter reinforced this in her eulogy giving poignant examples of Diane “being there.” Diane was there for A’s long recovery after her life-threatening ski accident.  Diane had argued with reluctant doctors that they needed to perform yet another surgery on A to alleviate her daughter’s constant pain. One time Diane called the high school where her step-daughter attended and demanded the girl be assigned a new partner to walk with in her graduation procession. The kid with whom she was originally paired had bullied her. As a Girl Scout leader, Diane jumped off a bus in Boston on scout field trip so she could apply her medical skills to a bicycle courier who was hit by a car. The list went on and on.

We Babes sat in renewed awe of this strong, vigilant woman we were proud to know and privileged to call a fellow Babe. Our hearts were burning at the total unfairness of her untimely death.

At the end of the service, people were filing out of the pews in an orderly fashion ahead of us making their way to the back of the church.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye to Diane. She had been cremated and her beautiful pearl-colored urn sat on a small table surrounded by purple Irises at the front of the church.  I leaned to the Stacey on my right and told her I needed to go to Diane’s ashes.

“Do you want me to come with you?”

I said it was up to her, but I had to go. As I approached the table, sunlight streamed through the ceiling windows casting bright rays around Diane’s island-altar.

I rested my hand on the cover of the Diane’s cool, smooth urn and closed my eyes.  I thanked God for the privilege of knowing this awesome woman. Then I whispered “Goodbye.”

At that moment, I felt a warm hand atop of mine. I opened my eyes and saw it was Stacey’s. She had decided to go against the tide and join me. My throat tightened and I started to shake.

I opened my eyes a second time and saw that Ann and Theresa had now joined us. Through bleary eyes, I gazed down at the pile of Babes’ hands stacked on Diane’s urn. Ann’s hand was on top of  Stacey’s, and Theresa’s hand on top of Ann’s. This impromptu gesture of solidarity, collective loss and admiration hit us hard in our hearts, right then  and there at Diane’s urn.  We were crying as we turned to make our way down the aisle toward the receiving line.

“Father, Forgive Them”: Timeless, But Is It Possible?

“Father, Forgive Them”: Timeless, But Is It Possible?

One of the seven phrases Christ said on the cross was, “Father, forgive them” Luke 23:43. To me, these words are as fresh today as when He first spoke them. I believe in this phenomenon because of what Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

That means to me that when he said, “Father, forgive them,” they weren’t meant just for the high priests, the local government, the soldiers or the scoffers that day. No, these words, “Father, forgive them” transcends time and is also an appeal for you and me. “Father, forgive —all of them.” Especially me.

I am thankful that Jesus has interceded for me so many, many times in my life. Times when I wasn’t even aware I was doing something wrong—back as an unrefined child. For the mean things I said on the playground, to a sibling, or to a classmate.

Moreover, I am grateful for Jesus’s very personal plea, “Father forgive (Tanja).” He asked God to be open to me when I’d finally wake up after willfully sinning—as a rebellious teenager, or worse, as an inconsistent, lukewarm, so-called Christian. I may have known the rules, yet I flaunted them.

Still, Jesus spoke on my behalf. I didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness, but reflecting these times in my past, I am overwhelmed with the advocacy, undeserved love, and forgiveness.

Since I’ve experienced this blessed forgiveness, when I hear, “Father, forgive them,” I also feel I need to be more of what Jesus modeled. That is, to try to be more forgiving to those who have hurt me, betrayed me, and caused me pain. I have made some good strides, but I am not 100% there yet. I wonder if I’ll ever be?

For the time being, I can only try to follow Jesus: Marvel at His strength and love for us on the cross, and be guided and healed by what He says and does today.

 

Thank you, Tenth Avenue North

Living Out Loud With Passion & Faith:What’s Your New Tag Line for 2016?

Jukebox Hero
Living Out Loud and shamelessly playing my air guitar to Foreigner’s Juke Box Hero karaoke  after Sean’s cousin Jeanne’s cruise wedding. We were all a bit pie-eyed “performing” in front of a bewildered if not disgusted audience. Good thing they didn’t have rotten tomatoes!

Happy New Year! I removed the word “Healing” from my homepage tagline “Living and Healing with Passion and Faith” to “Living Out Loud with Passion and Faith.”

Why? Because after four years of blogging and therapy and getting deeper into my faith, I felt it was time.  I feel more whole. When I first started blogging four years ago, I was in the throes of therapy working out forty-something years of hurt, anger, righteousness, and conflict. Some of the junk was due to the cards dealt to me; some of it was self-inflicted.  Many of my posts talk about facing stuff, shedding old skin and growing some new.

I’ve been able to forgive myself and forgive others. I’ve learned the blessings of extending grace instead of waiting for the other person to bend first.  I’ve become a bit more discerning before jumping in. It is OK and sometimes crucial to say “no.”  I remind myself to consider the big picture, to be still and know that God is God. More than a few times, I’ve given a tricky person or difficult situation over to the Divine to duke out, instead of me.

I’ve also gained peace by disengaging when it just wasn’t worth the effort or damages to hammer my point home.

So, here’s to a new year of living up to my new tagline “Living Out Loud with Passion and Faith!” I expect to laugh more, cry more, praise more, forgive more, and play more air guitar!

Is it time for you to have a new tagline in 2016? What would it say?

The Deadly Consequences of Unforgiveness – Health & Science – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com

I just had to share this with you! Heard highlights of this on the radio (K-love.com) on the way to work. There’s actual medical evidence that we are made sick by holding grudges and refusing to forgive! It is so important to let it go when we are wronged for the sake of our own mental, spiritual and physical health! It’s not easy, but I have personally experienced the benefits made possible by giving it over and over and over again to God. How about you?

The Deadly Consequences of Unforgiveness – Health & Science – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com.

New Church, New Coffee House: A Real Oasis After Wandering in the Desert

New Church, New Coffee House: A Real Oasis After Wandering in the Desert

Looking for a great time on Saturday night?  Come to 150 PROSPECT, AN OPEN MIC EXPERIENCE and COFFEE HOUSE, at 150 Prospect Street in Wethersfield, Connecticut! 150 Prospect invites musicians, singers, poets, dancers and comedians ages 14 and up to perform in our venue for up to ten minute sets. There are no restrictions on respectful content. 150 PROSPECT is substance-free, open to all and is held monthly. Free homemade soups, chili, desserts, coffee and soft drinks will be available!  Doors open at 6:30, the mics will be open from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

That’s the infomercial. Now here’s the back story! I am really excited and in awe how this all has come about! As some of you may know, last April my husband Sean and I changed churches (after 26 years there, together, and 46 years total for me). We had facilitated a coffee house at the former place for two years and it was doing rather well. Not because of us, but because we had prayed that God would bless it—and He did. There always seemed to be enough performers, audience, food, and grace. After two years, it had grown to nearly 60 participants (audience and performers). We were grateful and thrilled.

Suddenly, God had other plans for us. Turns out, His were better. Right after our two year anniversary coffee house night, April 5, 2014, a most traumatic thing happened the next day that left me shell-shocked and broken-hearted. And wandering through the desert for a long time.  I have done a lot of processing and praying since then, and have since come to accept that in order for me/us to get (spiritually) well, we had to “pick up our mats” and move along.

I marvel now as I think back to that fateful April 6th. On that particular Sunday the Scripture lesson back at my old church was most fitting, if not customized for us to hear. “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”  “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” John 5:6-8

I see now how “unwell” I had been staying at my old church all those years. God was saying, “You want to be well, Tanja? Get up!  Pick up your mat and walk!” So we began visiting new churches. By Mother’s Day, we found ourselves at Wethersfield United Methodist Church (WUMC)—and have been going there ever since.

I reached out to the Pastor there who is also an incredible counselor. He and many of the people welcomed us with genuine love.  I told a new friend that one of the things that hurt the most leaving my old church was leaving the coffee house behind. She said, “Our church has been talking about opening our own coffee house for the past two years!” I started crying.

Fast forward a few more months. We learned that the fabulous Praise Band at WUMC’s early Morning Glory Service had envisioned establishing a coffee house since they began in 2009. WUMC’s Outreach Committee decided this summer that a ‘coffee house’ would be a good way of reaching out to the community. Before Christmas, Sean, my niece Debbie and I met with members of these groups. We were ready to share our experience facilitating a coffee house. With God’s perfect timing, the willingness of musicians and parishioners, and tons of prayer, 150 Prospect, a new open mic and coffee house will open its doors on March 28th, and will run once a month!

Yes,150 Prospect open mic and coffee house will be in a funked-out space in a church hall, but it is purposely a non-religious event. Yet, it’s got all the the right notes for plenty of spirit! If you’re in the neighborhood, come by!

Life Is Beautiful, The Afters

50 Things I’ve Come To Know in 50 Years

50 Things I’ve Come To Know in 50 Years

Fifty things I know as I turn fifty today, 2/25/15:

1. I am loved

2. I believe in a merciful God

3. I feel the power and presence of Jesus in my daily walk

4. I have come a long, long way in my healing

5. I am so much more centered than in my 30s and 40s

6. I have been forgiven

7. I have forgiven

8. I still need to forgive

9. I know the answer is always “no” if you don’t ask

10. I have confidence to speak up and am learning when it is better to just keep quiet

11. I have learned not to waste my time with negative people

12.  I need to give negative people and situations over to God to protect myself… from myself

13. I am still deeply in love with the man I met and married

14. I am blessed to have been able to balance work and spend so much time with my children as they were growing up

15. I am probably always going to be my current size and weight and have embraced it

16. Walking is my best defense to maintain #15

17. Dairy Queen chocolate dipped in chocolate cones are the best treat on Earth

18. One of the best places in the Universe is in the arms of my husband

19. Cuddling on the couch often beats going out

20. Laughing my head off with good friends is one of my very favorite pastimes and something I need to do so much more of

21. Encouraging people brings me joy

22. Sometimes I just have to write (ugly journaling) or I will lose my mind

23. Creative writing is like free-falling and eating a chocolate dipped in chocolate

24. It is important to celebrate my heritage, all sides

25. It is important to honor friends and relatives—living and passed

26. Having reunions—especially with live music—is restorative on many levels

27. I know that I am letting go more, prioritizing what or who is important

28. Moderation in everything makes everything more enjoyable

29. I don’t need to drink to have a blast

30. I never need to over-drink ever again

31. Sipping from a small glass of irish whiskey on the rocks that we brought home from Ireland is exquisite

32. I am supported by good women friends

33. I have been blessed with particular women prayer warriors who hold me up, and I them

34. I love to pray for people

35. I rejoice in answered prayers or blatant or subtle evidence of God’s hand in  situations

36. I love God as my Heavenly parent and finally feel I can climb on His lap and have him stroke my hair

37. I am excited for today

38. I am excited for my future

39. I am grateful

40. I know it is important to carve out trips for my husband and I to take now

41. I am humbled that America is not the center of the Universe

42. I love finding and playing records and jamming on my air guitar

43. It is important to keep learning

44. It is important to take up a new sport or hobby (golf!)

45. I want to write to raise people up, show love, praise God

46. I love my humble, 70s raised ranch

47. I like my funky green Fiesta that gets 40 MPG

48. I love making chocolate chip cookies for people

49. I like where I am at age 50

50. I am not afraid

Enjoy “Wild Wild Life” by The Talking Heads  

“I’m wearin’ Fur pyjamas

I ride a Hot Potata’
It’s tickling my fancy…
“Buddy Jesus” Meme Gets Personal

“Buddy Jesus” Meme Gets Personal

Just for fun this weekend, I searched my name in meme using Google Image and my oddly spelled T-A-N-J-A. I thought “Tanja with a “J” would never come up. Lo, I found this among other “Tanja” memes, a good number in German. At first glance I thought this rather duded-out rendition of Jesus could be a bit irreverent, but I have come to know that divine messages are delivered in all shapes and forms.

My husband who is far hipper on-line than me is well-versed in memes and explained that this is the “Buddy Jesus” meme. I realize that someone  generated this meme for another “Tanja” somewhere out there, but since we share the same spelling, I hope she won’t mind if I claim this meme as a personalized message for me today.  It rather reflects on my current faith journey status: I am seeing Jesus not only my Savior, but as “my bud” who gets my back as a Heavenly bro. God uses the world wide web as well as burning bushes to get our attention. Can a I get a witness?

Getting “Unstuck” This New Year: Changes That Heal

Getting “Unstuck” This New Year: Changes That Heal

Raw emotions had inconveniently bubbled to the surface in early December threatening to ruin this holiday season. In spite of lots of hard work to try to heal after I left my church of 46 years in April, I just couldn’t keep a lid on it.

I was stunned at the intensity of this sadness and anger that demanded to be dealt with. I so badly wanted “drive thru” healing, to be completely done with negative feelings by now.

In reality, I had not dealt with feelings of huge disappointment in the way things went down at my former church. It wasn’t so much about the leaders of the church, it was more about family who still attended there, who in my estimation, didn’t “get my back” for one reason or another. I was also mourning the fact that I would not be attending Christmas Eve service there this year. In spite of it all, that church did offer a beautiful Christmas eve service that meant so much to me and my family.

It all just came to a head in early December. Facing the holidays, how was I supposed to just paint a smile on and conduct “Christmas-extended-family-business as usual”?

I confessed to my new pastor and to my former therapist (she called me “out of the blue” in early December to check in), that I was struggling this particular holiday season. They understood my unresolved, raw emotions, and gave me permission to be a little ripped, and to give myself some more time. It had only been 8 months.

I immersed myself in a women’s Bible study group this fall in the new church to establish new relationships and try to see God, Jesus and Church (not religion) in new ways. One woman pointed me to a Christian psychologist and author, Dr. Henry Cloud. I picked up his book, “Changes That Heal: How to Understand Your Past to Ensure a Healthier Future.”

What I had read and been counseled struck chords deep in my soul. I began applying Cloud’s suggestions to make changes that heal by navigating with Truth and Grace and allowing for Time to pass. In the meantime, I needed to stop blaming others, take responsibility for my actions, create new paths and draw healthier boundaries. I was honest about the way I felt with the people I love. It was a little messy at first, but enveloped in God’s mercy and grace, I was able to see them in a new and healthier light. I felt myself grow up. Things still aren’t perfect, but at least they are honest.

I want to share some of the highlights which turned out to be wonderful and merciful gifts I’ve received this Christmas season:

Getting a handle on bitterness. As I continue to harbor bitterness towards someone it will only stunt and make me ill. I will be estranged and/or only fake being “nice” and “loving” to that person, but the ugliness will eek out or spring forth eventually if I don’t deal with it truthfully. I have learned that sometimes the only way to start dealing truthfully is to confess to God, “I really suck at being loving and forgiving towards ________right now. I just don’t feel it.” God knows our hearts anyway, so we don’t have to fake “being good” when we’re just not there. When we admit we are weak that is when God makes us stronger, shows us the way.

Expectations. I need to stop expecting others to behave or “be” a certain way for me to accept them. I have been guilty of expecting more out of others (and myself). This doesn’t mean I have to be a “doormat,” accepting unacceptable behaviors. It means setting respectful boundaries. I can hope for “the ideal relationship” by modeling how I want my relationships to be.

Forgiveness. I recognize my need to forgive (and be forgiven) to eradicate the bitterness I have towards others. Sometimes forgiveness seems a tall or impossible order. In such cases, I need to give that person or relationship over to God. Let it be “between them and God.” That way, I can be “unstuck” to grow and be who I am supposed to be! Happy and blessed New Year!

Enjoy the lyrics of I Am,by Crowder.

At Odds with Your Brother or Sister? We Must Negate Sibling Hate!

At Odds with Your Brother or Sister? We Must Negate Sibling Hate!

Last Thursday in my hometown, an angry, troubled brother poured copious amounts of gasoline on his older brother’s house and barn and then struck a match. He came back to the property a few hours with burns on his arms and face and a scorched esophagus to confess.

What on earth? What would drive a brother to hurt another like this? I can only surmise that a series of horribly sad conditions contributed to this desperate act.
This younger brother, 50, had grown up near my childhood home in a modest, yet decent cape, with at least two siblings and parents. He seemed to be a typical kid—in the scouts, in the halls at elementary school back in the 70s. We didn’t hang out—he was a year ahead of me and we were not in the same circles.

Later after high school, I had heard he’d become a state trooper for a short time, but was dismissed.
Apparently, the unfortunate guy didn’t bounce back. My heart goes out to him and his family.

Who knows what happened? What makes siblings snap like this? Extreme jealousy, perceived or real parental favoritism? Being left out of a will? Sheer mental illness? I don’t know the particulars of these two brothers, but lots of people are adversely affected by these sorts of things. I’ve personally witnessed sibs making questionable choices and later misplacing anguish for their own deeds, taking it out on “more successful” siblings.

Think of Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, Saul and Esau.

There are estranged sibling relationships on every side of my own extended family. Members refuse to talk to each other, have any kind of positive relationship with each other. For real, perceived, deserved or undeserved reasons. Where does it start? When will it end? As one who has been intentional on trying to heal, I’ve done extensive research in effort to try to understand why generations have such ugly issues and some continue to be so estranged. Why some are so unable to function and why some are successful in spite of identical circumstances.

It is complex to be sure.

I see that in some cases it’s the sins of the fathers and mothers (addiction, neglect, abuse) that have spread like poisoned roots into subsequent generations. Unchecked, they take hold in new lives, sprouting and producing more rotten fruit. This produce can seem intoxicating, righteous, even validating, but when consumed it can figuratively and literally makes us sick.

So what can we do to have healthier relationships with our siblings? Try to have some grace, forgive them, ask for forgiveness, pray for the relationship. Try to communicate honestly, but kindly. Try professional family therapy. Some of the hurt is so deep-rooted, so acute, however, that we may never fully get there in this lifetime.

What can we do? At the very least we must keep our own kids from this bad fruit. We must do everything in our power to nurture our own offspring’s relationships with one another, from day one and every day after. Cultivate the soil so they can grow to be true friends. Be painfully fair to each of them. Step in and help them stay on a healthy path. Teach them to love each other, root for each other, to get each others backs. Maybe then, a new, healthier branch can be grafted on the family tree and grow its own new fruit for their offspring.

A Slice of Swiss and “God’s Baby Girl”

A Slice of Swiss and “God’s Baby Girl”

I started going to a women’s Bible study group at the Wethersfield United Methodist Church to be open for what God has planned for me. The group, as well as the whole church, is very welcoming. We have embarked on a nine-week Beth Moore study, “Children of the Day: 1 & 2 Thessalonians.” I didn’t know what to expect, content-wise, but so far, it’s good stuff!

I am learning about the importance of (and am experiencing) a healthy spiritual community. I am gaining strength to get up again after being “knocked down for the count.”
Today’s biggie, to see God/Jesus as my Parent. To be a secure Child of God, I need to embrace and be embraced by God’s paternal and maternal attributes. “To be nurtured, affectionately desired (not just tolerated), exhorted (instructed), encouraged (inspired), and “charged to walk worthy” (get up and do what God charges us to do).

I’ve heard the phrase “Child of God” a thousand times. I just hadn’t wrapped my head around how it applied to me. I have biological parents and God had been more of a go-to “big guy” for mercy, relief, answers, grace and gratitude. I also never quite understood how God can have both female and male characteristics. I’ve struggled with God—the Father in defiance with previously unresolved Daddy issues. I never saw myself as  “God’s Baby Girl,” as Beth Moore suggested.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had to be a serious, big girl, big-sister, parent-partner to my newly divorced mother in the late 70s. My “childhood” lasted until I was in first or second grade before I was really aware and worried about the dysfunction at home.

For years, I could and did place blame, was a victim, made excuses… but that hasn’t served me too well.

During the video portion of the study, Beth Moore said something that helped bring things into even greater perspective. She compared earthly parents to various kinds of cheeses. Yes, cheeses, but she wasn’t trying to be funny.  She pointed out that we’re all human and imperfect. We can be swiss—though we try to be solid for our kids—we might have holes that leave them wanting. We can be bleu, sad parents. Feta, parents that crumble. Cheddar, too sharp or too mild.

Great analogy, Beth! Of course I thought of my earthly parents and what kind of cheese categories they might fit into.

To be fair,  I know as a parent myself, that I’ve fallen into various cheese categories, too.  I’m sure I’ve left some holes, been too sharp, etc.  Though I tried to be a more stable parent in a less chaotic home environment, I know there were times I’ve fallen short.

It seems to me that each of us feel holes left from childhood in some way or another. Nobody has perfect parents or are perfect parents, themselves.

I agree with Beth Moore, that we all could use to connect with God in a parent/child role, to be filled. As she said, “If we have a missing piece, we are missing peace.”

Many of us, especially women, are consummate care-givers to our children, our spouses, our aging parents. I’ve had to assume this role at an early age and later as a conservator.

Even though we may have great life partners we can lean on, they too, are merely human and cannot be there for us 100% of the time. They can let us down, surely as we let them down. But God doesn’t let us down. Anytime we call out, Jesus is there.

As part of trying to see God in a new way, I’m going try to see God as a Parent. To fill the holes that even after years of therapy, still can feel rather sizable. To rub my shoulders, soothe my brow, wipe my tears. Pick me up, dust me off, and put me gently back on the path with a gentle prod.