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Giving a Last Letter

Back in April of 2011 I blogged about Writing Gini The post was a way to keep myself accountable about something I didn’t want to regret not following through with. Gini Andrews, my mentor and friend, is now 95 years old and 11 months. She has been a dear friend for 13 years and has played an integral part of my faith journey. Her life here on earth has been winding down with the support of a group of friends, friendship which is measured in decades rather than years. I am humbled that in a small way I am part of this group that is part of loving her into eternity. I have been thinking of this a lot for the past months. How do I express to her how much she means to me? How for my own process, journey, and eventual healing do I feel I have no regrets and enough been said? Though both of us have been generous with words I chose to write a letter. Yet for many months I didn’t feel the pressure of it. She seemed relatively healthy and I only wrote a bit. However in August there was a diagnosis of cancer and decision for hospice rather than treatment. The pressure moved to writing the letter and my desire to get it “perfect.” How I hate the part of my personality that puts pressure on myself to both overachieve and do things “perfectly.” So I worked on the letter in fits and starts. It was exhausting to write and to edit. Writing each section brought tears as did each edit. Yet finally I finished and it found its way downstairs and into her hands this week.

Having completed writing a letter of gratitude and thanks I leave you with some suggestions when writing and sending an important letter, especially for those leaning toward Type A.

  • It really is the thought that counts. As long as it is readable the receiver is not going to look at it with an editor’s eye. I have comma issues and Gini is a writer. Get over your grammar issues, finish and send it.
  • Allow yourself to use the process to work through your own feelings. Allow tears to flow thinking about saying goodbye whether goodbye is in months or years. Allow tears to flow about expressing things that someday you will not be able to. Assume you will not be able to easily identify all the emotions the process stirs up.
  • Express what you have learned from that person. We all want to know how our lives impact others and wonder if/how we will be missed.
  • Most relationships include humor and if you are able include this aspect of your relationship.
  • Consistent with your own beliefs, share your own source of peace, or if you share similar beliefs/faith this could be the most central source of comfort and strength you share with the person.
  • Get it done, put it on your list, and prioritize it with enough time to allow the emotional process of it.

Other posts referencing Gini and the gift of her friendship: A Childless Mother’s Day
Embracing a Space

Hospice is an agency that excels in helping individuals and their loved ones make end of life decisions with dignity and grace. Hospice of the North Shore

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Artistic Dabbling’s

I’m a bit Type A, I admit it openly. I desire to be creative however any artwork I attempt to create seems more like geometric figures and tends toward symmetry. In my world this does not equate to anything artistic. However I should note my mother likes geometric shapes and symmetry but she makes it work for her as she uses color and creates artistic quilts. However back to the typical life I lead which includes minimal output of artistic work. However this past week, with a Groupon in hand, I dabbled in producing some artwork.

My friend Tracy and I signed up for a one night class at The Paint Bar. It’s a class in which all the materials are provided and everyone paints the same picture, guided by an enthusiastic instructor. The instructor teased us “Type A’s” and perfectionists in the room. She asked us to take a deep breath and set that part of our personality aside for the night. So I did, mostly. We were guided through the colors and brushes to use and the general area to make each stroke. Our masterpiece would be named “Funky Boston Skyline.” The Prudential was placed, the John Hancock Tower, the weather tower, the Citgo sign, brownstone houses, trees, and of course the Charles River.

As I looked around the room everyone’s painting was similar yet we all created our own personal masterpieces. Tracy and I could not stop smiling. We actually had in our hands, by the end of this short class, pieces of art that we couldn’t just hang up but were excited to hang up. We left looking forward to another artistic adventure at this place. Taking an art class was on my 40 for 40 list. The goal was to dabble with my artistic and creative abilities. Now I look at my new art on the wall at work and smile when it is noticed and then glow when they learn I painted it. I don’t share that I painted it only because I’m a bit proud of my accomplishment (though I am) but I want everyone to try. I want other people to feel that they also can be artists with some guidance. I don’t want anyone to miss out on some artistic dabbling’s, even type A’s.

Charity Water Birthday

In September I turned 40.  For my birthday it was easy to acknowledge that I don’t need or want for anything materially.  Yet, I’ll be honest, I do like gifts.  I enjoy it when someone chooses a personal gift for me.  It is not about the size or cost of the gift but really the thought.   A collectible item found at a yard sale, a picture, book, recipe, a new piece of sports equipment, etc., I love them all.  Yet again there was nothing I needed or wanted so I thought why not ask friends and family to give to an organization that is on the front lines of working to solve the water crisis in the world.  Having travelled to places in the world where clean water is an issue this seemed right.  It’s always bothered me on trips that I drink clean water because I can afford it while others go without.  So I raised funds toward clean water through Charity Water

 

 

What happened was that each time my email alerted me to a new donation there was incredible joy.  What I found that friends and family far and wide joined in celebrating my birthday in a different way, in a way that was deeply personal to me.   Each donation was as precious as a collectible item, a picture, book, personal recipe or  piece of sports equipment.  Each made me smile when I thought of both the good that the donation would make to help bring clean water, but also the relationship I had with that person.  What especially touched me was that a few of the young woman I have had the pleasure of knowing in their high school years through church joined in helping me celebrating my 40th.   As young leaders they understand this water crisis and want to do something about it.  Thank You Charity Water for your birthday present to me!

The Importance of Cairns

carinnoun  \’kern\ a heap of stones piled up as a memorial or as a landmark

Labor Day weekend with two friends I hiked Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Due to the extreme flooding and washed out roads from Hurricane Irene we chose a less travelled trail up the mountain. For most of the hike it was only us on the trail. Mt. Washington is 6,288 feet and boasts of being “Home of the World’s Worst Weather.” Though we planned to summit the mountain, it is rare to have a view from the top and the day was without exception as the summit was covered in clouds. This meant we hiked literally in a cloud much of the time on the way up.

We hiked from cairn to cairn. The cairns both assured us that we were on the trail but also where our next few steps should be headed. Most often we could not see more than one cairn ahead. The clouds were too heavy and though we desired at times to see more of the trail it was impossible. What a strong image we most often experience our relationship with God. There is challenge and trust with each step. God does not show us more of our journey than we both need or can handle. There were times that if we were able to see the mountain in front of us we would have been discouraging and even overwhelming. Our goal however was to make it to the cairn in site and nearly miraculously as we approached the next cairn would appear from the clouds. It happened over and over again without fail. Occasionally there would be a moment of anxiety when we didn’t see the next cairn but if I couldn’t find it a friend would and we would continue the journey.

The hike for me was part of my 40 for 40 experience this year. I don’t want to miss that God continues to give me spiritual cairns to guide me. Though I have been discouraged on my journey at times He continues to be faithful to always provide a cairn to aim for. What cairn has God provided for you to journey toward?

 

Writing Gini

My neighbor and more importantly close friend and mentor is 95. Generally she has been in good health, but she’s 95! She’s an amazing woman who has a depth to her relationships, both with others and God, that is remarkable. I visited with her in the hospital yesterday as there has been concern with her blood pressure. When I arrived she was watching 60 Minutes and had books surrounding her to pass the time. Her well-worn Bible was on her bed tucked next to a book by Henri Nouwen on reflections of Life and Death. I should add there was a fiction book on Cleopatra as well which happens to be the name of her cat. Gini makes me smile. She emails, googles, writes, reads, studies, listens, asks great questions, and prays. I know she prays a great deal for me which is humbling. We have talked about death, her death, and how she is ready to spend eternity with Christ. She said to me one day that she would prefer not to live to 100. She’s ready for the next step in eternity, to have new surroundings.

Gini is a woman of incredible depth whose life has not been easy yet she has allowed it to deepen her understanding of God and how to reach out to others. Gini was an only child, and had a brief marriage but did not have any children. However her life is full of people and there is a loosely jointed group of friends who look after some of her needs. She’s had a full life living many places on the East Coast, then heading to Colorado, Switzerland, and London. When she visited Egypt I believe she was 92. There were 90 people at her 90th party and it was an honor to be invited. Each of us has had deep rich powerful conversations with Gini as she is thinks deeply about her faith and how to encourage others on their journeys. Though she didn’t have children she plays the role of mother, grandmother, and cherished friend to so many.

Yesterday before I left we prayed together as we often do. Tears come to my eyes even thinking of how tender it is each time we pray. From her hospital bed she prayed for me about the anxieties, joys, and hopes of my heart. We hadn’t talked about them last night yet she knows them from the years of our friendship. I can’t quite imagine living in this house without her. Our friendship has evolved to the point where I let myself in a couple of times a week to check on her and do my laundry. Yet it is her checking on my heart with care and concern and directing us both back to Christ. On my 40 for 40 list is writing a letter to Gini – I don’t want to miss writing that letter.

One last note… Gini asked me once how I came to live in this house, in the apartment above hers. I reminded her of what she had said to me previously. “I prayed for a single Christian woman to move in.” Your prayer was answered Gini and so was mine as I have consistently prayed to have amazing mentors in my life. How God weaves lives together is beyond comprehension.

Investing in myself

Recently I made a sign to make me smile. On my 40 for 40 list is “going to a great conference.” There are many trainings that are offered through my agency, sometimes they are interesting, help me develop new skills, and develop professionally. Yet I’ve been looking to be pushed and challenged in some different ways personally. I’ve been thinking more of my skills and responsibilities as a leader and how to grow in this area. Trainings offered through my work don’t particularly lend itself to this. So I’ve decided to invest in myself and my own growth and pick a conference to attend. Quite honestly it feels a bit indulgent. Whenever I buy new sports equipment, take a fun trip, get a new fun unnecessary piece of clothing, go to the movies…. I’m essentially treating myself. Sometimes the treats have long term gains such as new hiking shoes, if I use them for actually hiking. Other times they feel indulgent and I think occasionally about what else I could have done with the money – give it away or save it. I’m single and much of my spending is on myself. It feels that I am constantly treating or indulging. Let me give you my most indulgent example… every bit of grocery shopping I do is about what I want… every item I pick out is because I like it and each meal can be justified as a little personal treat. Reading this it may seem ridiculous but I’ve needed to be intentional about this trip and how I view it.

This conference is not about treating or indulging. Rather it is an investment in myself. An investment – in very specific growth – personal and spiritual growth. I want to learn from others… how they are leading, doing ministry, living out their faith, and what they have learned in the process. I’m excited to be around others who are leading, love Christ, want to grow, and are the next generation of leaders. I’m excited to worship with so many others! When I use my hiking shoes mile after mile they become an investment in my health and even my spiritual and emotional well-being. I could read the books by the authors that will be at the conference, listen to the interviews and talks but I know myself full well… the conference will do my heart good. It is an investment as important as my most newest piece of sports equipment – my new bike seat. The seat is simple but it will allow me to go further and become stronger and a better cyclist. That is what I am hoping for Catalyst Dallas. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to go to a great conference and invest in myself.

The following is the sign I was working on… to remind me (as work is good but exhausting lately) that something good is just around the corner and not to lose focus.  (please note I am not an artist… but I like gluing and cutting like a kindergarten kid)

I haven’t glued it together yet so it may change….. but thought I would share where I am off to….

www.catalystdallas.com

 

Warrior Yoga

I tried yoga for the first time today. I don’t think my attempts at a couple of positions using Wii Fit counted. So today was the first time. Because it is also on my 40 for 40 list it can also be summed up as I don’t want to miss trying yoga. The class I chose, instructor and studio, seemed from the website to be focused on stretching, moving, and body awareness rather than on spiritual awareness. That was important to me because I didn’t want to be thinking in a class about whether I agreed with what the instructor was saying (spiritually speaking) when my goal is stretching, relaxing, balance, etc. Actually I didn’t know quite what to expect, though a friend told me the instructor was good and it would be an easy first class. My intrigue in yoga lies however more in the classes that friends will say “kicked my butt.” I sort of think that might be the type of yoga that I might also like to try. Yet today I spent $9, which was a donation to a local charity, stretched a lot and listened to my breathing. In no way did I do anything in the class that would make me sore later yet I liked it.

 I enjoyed learning the names of a few poses that have made it to popular culture (I have now done my first downward dog). My favorite was the “Warrior Pose.” Quite honestly I like the name, and the type of person it conjures up in my mind. It was a pose that we were up on our feet for and it felt strong and alert. However conversely near the end of the class I nearly fell asleep. As it was after so much stretching, and the instructor’s calm voice through the poses, I thought to myself… “somehow I don’t settle myself like this down at home, this is pretty good, I might come back, it was worth $9.” It seems that is what much of yoga is, settling down to listen to yourself and being still. It’s a practice that I have a very very hard time with. I’m often struck with a sense of frustration with myself when I am not “doing” of what I am doing appears to have little value. So yoga was good for me. I promptly went home, chilled out a bit more until I went for a run/walk and now I am sore as I haven’t run much, it’s been a long winter.

Planning a Birthday Year

This year I am turning 40… It’s a bit hard for me to say some days. Its months and months away still, but I’ve already been planning. My goal is not to accept it rather embrace it and celebrate it. Part of the reason for starting this blog is embracing it. I had thought of blogging for a while and finally decided to put a stake down. A friend from college turned 40 this past year and she had an inspiring idea calling it Forty for Forty http://sharpteamblog.wordpress.com . 40 Experiences in the birthday month for Turning 40. What a great idea to hijack (giving credit of course). So I’m putting my own tweak on it. I’m still working on my 40 for 40 list. Some are experiences, others one time goals, and others are hopeful bigger changes in my life. The complete list is yet to come. But starting to blog is on the list. It’s not a simple experience or task to check off as anyone can sign up for a site and pick a theme. I’m guessing that signing up really doesn’t qualify as blogging so I’ll have to evaluate at the end of this year. I’ll give it a 1/10th of a check so far. The list is in process and new ideas emerge as I dream and reflect. There is a difference in this list than the one I make nearly daily to prioritize my day at work. It’s different than my weekend to-do list which I put on special paper so I don’t lose it. Those lists are not made or completed with the great anticipation and expectation of joy that my 40 for 40 list has. The 40 for 40 list makes me smile when I read it over, affirms my commitment to grow, and helps me feel that I am embracing rather than missing out on this year. I don’t want to miss planning a great 40th birthday year.