Vintage Wallpaper

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I have a friend who bought a new house.

Well, it’s actually an old house; nearly 100 years old. I don’t know why we call them new houses. Why don’t we call them new-to-me or gently-used like we do with cars and clothing? Whatever.

The man who sold my friend the house was an 80-year-old widower. And apparently, his late wife was keen on wallpaper. My friend said she could watch the decades roll backward as she removed layer after layer of wallpaper. I inquired if she saved any to frame and hang in the kitchen. Unfortunately, the removal process was too much for paper that was decades old.

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The conversation made me think of the wallpaper in my grandparents’ kitchen. It was golden pears and apples in fruit bowls. I have a vague memory of color in the design, but it escapes me. If I close my eyes, I can almost reach out and feel the texture; its linen fibers under my touch.

My grandparents lived in a ranch-style home and, as a child, it seemed like one long hallway. On Easter, the five of us granddaughters would show up in white dresses and black patent-leather shoes. We would run up and down the linoleum much to the chagrin of my grandfather. I can still hear the tapping and slapping of our shoes as they echoed through the kitchen.

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My memory of my grandfather is one of a quiet and stern man. There seemed to be an angry burden on his soul that he carried with him. Was it his badge of honor? Was it the power to mask feelings of powerlessness? When I was a young adult, I wondered perhaps if it was one of these.

My grandparents had five children. But they lost their first two children before the age of five. Both were sons. One of the boys drown and the other was taken by Polio. I can’t imagine losing one child let alone two. And then to lose them less than three years apart. No parent should have to endure such agony.

It was the late 1930’s and early 40’s. Who even understood grief back in the day? Did they understand what it did to the mind, soul, and body? Last year was a year of grief for us. Yet, we endured nothing like the pain my grandparents endured. For us, it seemed death was ever-present and camped out on our doorstep. It was a constant reminder of the brevity of life. And it took its toll.

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It made me think and ponder my grandparents’ life. Maybe it wasn’t anger that I saw in my grandfather. Perhaps it was profound and unspeakable grief. When I think about it now, it is clear he was an introvert with no way to express his pain. He worked hard, went to Mass, and cut the grass. It was what he knew to deal with the loss.

I’ve wondered often if he looked at his other children afraid to love them. Was he afraid to give his heart away and possibly have it shattered beyond repair? Was there a constant fear camped out on his doorstep threatening to crush him completely?

If my grandfather were here today, I would tell him it wasn’t his fault that his sons died. It wasn’t God punishing him. I would tell him it’s okay to be angry and to yell at God because maybe yelling at God would help him heal. And then maybe the healing would allow him to smile and experience joy once more.

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There are people in our lives who carry unspeakable burdens. It often appears as anger, sadness, or fear. Today, might you stop and pray for those who work so hard to hide their pain. May God reach down and heal their souls that they might experience true joy in this life!

 

 

My Top Ten Reads of 2018

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Every year I make a reading goal. I knew 2018 would be a hectic year, so I set my bar a little lower. My goal was to read 36 books. And I am finishing the last few books this week.

Books speak to us in different ways. A book we read this year may not have spoken to us a few years ago in the same way. But here is my list of top ten that met me and spoke to me in powerful ways. I hope you will give a few of them a chance in the new year.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

Brene Brown knocked it out of the park…again! Any book of Brown’s is a good bet. But, seriously, if you are a leader, then you need to read this book!

Reality-Based Leadership by Cy Wakeman

Cy Wakeman makes you take a look at drama in the workplace in a fresh way. Her book is practical and immediately applicable. If nothing else, it will bring self-awareness to how you invite unnecessary drama. The first step to being a good leader involves leading yourself.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Let me start by saying that this is not a “Christian” self-help book. But it is packed with great truth. It is a memoir/get-your-act-together book. Do you need a kick in the pants? Start here.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

Sometimes we need a fresh start. Sometimes we just need to get back on track. Goins’ book can give you a strategy for both. Put it on your January 2019 list.

Healing Spiritual Wounds by Carol Howard Merritt

I do not recommend this book for everyone. If you are a fundamentalist, then it will kick you in the teeth. Don’t read it. But if you have been wounded and you need to know there are others out there like you, then devour it.

Hiding in the Bathroom by Morra Mele

Love! Love! Love! Mele is an introvert speaking the introvert language. I love her! She gives practical advice. But she also encourages the introvert that you can make a difference if you pace yourself.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner

In January, my father-in-law died. Then a cousin died. And an aunt. And some of my church members. Then some of my church members lost family members. That was the first three months of the year. My doctor, who is Jewish, recommended this book. I listened to the audio version which was read by the author. And I cried. The author does not answer the reason why, but he does remind us that we are not alone. And, in the end, it’s loneliness that hurts the most.

Finish by Jon Acuff

This was my first read of 2018. I’m glad I read it first because it prepared me for the craziness of the year. It helped me finish some big projects that probably never would have been completed.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

I read this book in my hotel room in the Philippines during a mission trip. It wrecked me. It changed me. Read it.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I found this in the dollar bin at the library and purchased it because, well, Elizabeth Gilbert. I was not disappointed. Sometimes we need permission to be creative. Gilbert gives you permission.

Bonus!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling¬†

I committed to reading at least one fiction book this year. My (adult) children insisted it was this one. So, I read it. It was fantastic. I see now why children love this series and I highly recommend it. I’m glad I let my children read it.

Feel free to share your favorite read of 2018. Send me a message or post in the comments.

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Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Death

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This week was funeral number seven for me. It’s not really that many considering I am a pastor. Funerals come with the territory. But three of those seven were family members. During the funeral yesterday, I was struck with the intense realization that death makes everyone equal. We love. We hurt. We laugh. We cry. Death makes life so much more real and profound.

Over the years, but especially this year, I have discovered some things to be true about death. As a pastor, these are things I wish everyone knew about death.

1. All death is sudden. No matter how long you have been anticipating it, it will still catch you by surprise.

2. People will say stupid things. Forget what they said and remember that they cared enough to show up.

3. Funerals and memorials are for the living, not the dead.

4. Grief is not a straight line. It’s a hot mess.

5. You’re never fully prepared for it.

6. Death brings out the best and the worst in us.

7. There is no such thing as closure. Lines close. Stores close. Relationships transition.

8. Guilt, anger, and regret are all normal.

9. The practice of sending thank you notes after the funeral is cruel and unusual punishment. I have no idea why that started.

10. It’s ok to cry…to not cry…to laugh…to live. You can’t go over it, under it, or around it. You can only go through it. But it does get better…eventually.

We can endure twice the pain if we have one caring person in our life. Find your one person. Then find a few more.

 

 

 

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