look happy

I got a huge compliment yesterday.

“she looks happy”

 

Which is funny, because at the moment it was said I was trying to hide how unthrilled I was.

I had just stepped outside my building for a moment to meet a friend who was delivering a custom skating dress for me. I had the garment bag over my arm and I was on my way back to the building.

With no make-up on.

In the middle of the workday.

Yes, I know…brave.

Foolhardy.

Just plain stupid for a 44 year old.

Whatever.

Coming up the sidewalk towards me were three men. I think of them as “young men” but really they are almost my age. They are all fit, neat, healthy and pretty decent looking guys. One of them is my former boss (whom I had a lite boss-crush on) and all three of them were people that I used to work with in the Chemistry Department here at Emory.

Last time they saw me I had long hair and was 40 pounds heavier than I am now.

fat christmas

this is what I looked like last time they saw me

 

So when Todd hugged me and said

“I’ve heard some rumors about you, are they true?”

I experienced my very first “I don’t want to talk about the cancer” moment.

I didn’t want them to attribute my weight loss to the cancer.

I didn’t want them to chalk up my hair cut to the cancer (chemo, hair loss etc)

I didn’t want my lack of make-up to be marked down in their minds as “oh she is strung out from treatment of her cancer.”

 

fat puttputt

and this photo really shows how bad it had gotten.

 

I’ve worked hard to lose the weight, I changed my hair cut because I wanted to and I didn’t have makeup on simply because I don’t feel the need for it most days. Sure I look better with it, but I prefer not to have to bother.

nomakeup

this is what I look like now….with no make-up.

 

So I laughed. I bubbled. I sparkled. And I said

“What rumor? The one that I’m going to U.S. Adult Nationals next week and I’m going to do better than last year? Sure! It’s TRUE! I placed 5th last year, but this year I’m gonna make it to the medal stand!”

In short, I deflected.

I knew what Todd wanted me to confirm.

But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bear to have

 CANCER

be the word that comes to mind when they think of me.

I would ten thousand times rather they think of

Ice Skating.

spiral magnolia

recent competition.

 

 

The conversation went pretty rapid fire after that. All three of them shooting me questions about ice skating, competing etc…when suddenly one of them says to the other

“Man I almost didn’t recognize her! Deirdre, you sure do look different!”

And the other one comes back with

“yeh, she looks HAPPY!”

 

happy

just last week. minimal make-up. on a date with hubby.

 

 

At which point I got to tease them by saying that it was because I had gotten rid of all the stress in my life when I left off working with them!

All in all a fun conversation. And one that I have gotten more and more out of as it percolates through my brain hours later.

And yes, I’m insecure enough that I wore make-up today…… Just in case.

 

 

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blessings in this photo

This picture makes me so happy.  I keep looking and looking and looking at it.  The blessings in my life are abundant.  There are the obvious ones; Happy, healthy child, happy healthy husband. 

And the not quite so obvious ones. 

 Martin is standing. Upright. After his broken leg in April life was rough for a while. With the help of family and neighbors we got through it. 

 Church name tag.  Not visible, but I know it is there.  He works for God.  That makes me very deeply happy.

 Martin’s Smile.  Yes, he still smiles like that when he sees me.  and I smile right back. Wouldn’t you?

 Martin has lost some weight.  We both need to lose more. But we are way healthier than we were a year ago. Progress.

The picture is taken on our church grounds.  I grew up being very comfortable at our church becasue my mother worked there.  It was like a home to me.  It makes me happy that Ginny is growing up in a similar situation.

 Ginny’s smile.  I love her smile in this picture. It is not a “picture perfect” expression…but it shows how much she adores her papa. 

 The pink rose petal in Ginny’s hand is special to me too.  I don’t like pink.  I’ve tried to steer Ginny towards purples and blues.  She looks stunning in denim blue because of her blue eyes.  But she has a mind of her own, and in color preferences she is starting to choose pink.  I enjoy watching her figure out what she likes for herself, especially when her choices run counter to mine in little things like color preferences.  She is gaining independence.

 I love how tightly Martin is holding her, and how enthusiastic Ginny is about being in her papa’s arms. Security.  Trustworthy.

The grey in Martin’s beard makes me smile, because he didn’t have any when we started dating.  I have watched it happen. That represents years and mileage together.  Longevity. 

 Ginny’s hair blowing in the wind makes me happy.  She chose that haircut and it is great on her.  I was always into long hair on little girls, but she rocks the short hair look and is completely little girlie and feminine while having a hassle-free haircut.  Win-win!

 Martin takes time to play.  We had things to do and places to be, but he got out of the car and came back to play with us as Ginny examined roses and I snapped pictures.  Then he hoisted her up and headed for the car.  I said “wait, I want a picture of that” and instead of being annoyed with me for yet another delay, he turned and beamed at me while Ginny clung to his head. That is one patient, fun, loving, kind, generous man.

Thank you Lord.  You have been so so so very good to me.

renewal

In this fall season, renewal is not a primary focus, but something just jumped out of a verse at me this morning and I wanted to share.

I am having a rough day at work.  Actually the last two days have been rough.  And when this situation began I reacted poorly.  Not as poorly as I have in the past, but not perfectly either.

A spirit of fear, defensiveness and anger took hold of me.

This morning, as the tension mounted…..I found myself winding tighter and tighter.  In desperation I looked around my cubicle walls and started reading the scripture memory team cards posted there.

Those who look to the LORD are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:5

Well, that doesn’t help.  It only makes me feel worse, since I didn’t keep my eyes on God.

Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things
Colossians 3:2

*sigh* here again, I didn’t keep my mind focused where it needed to be.  I feel like a failure.  And then my eyes found the verse that delivered the help I needed after a failure…

Create in me a clean heart oh God, and RENEW a right spirit within me
Psalm 51:10

The word RENEW jumped out at me in a way it never had before.

I had always thought of this verse as a plea for God to create a clean heart and right spirit in me and then I was supposed to be able to keep it clean and pure and right.  Through my own human effort.

But the truth is that I simply can’t.  I can’t keep a clean heart and right spirit on my own. 

I need to be renewed….probably about once a minute or so.

Even the psalmist felt the need to have a right spirit renewed.  So logically we can conclude that even the psalmist failed to continually have a right spirit.  He had, at least occasionally, a wrong spirit.  And yet he had complete confidence in God’s love for him and willingness to rescue him.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Though I don’t normally advocate deriving comfort from the failures of others, today I found a great deal of comfort in the failures of the psalmist.

blessed beyond my wildest dreams

(this is a re-post with follow-up.  i’ve got stewardship on the brain, so this post was a natural to include in this series.)

A couple of years ago, just before Thanksgiving, Beth Moore ( of Living Proof Ministries) asked a very interesting question on her blog.  I answered it in a way that surprised me.  So when Brian asked me to write something for the stewardship campaign I felt a nudge to let you in on my answer.

Beth asked-

What are you grateful for that you NEVER thought you would

be grateful for?

Well.   That one got me thinking.  The usual stuff is easy – health, home, family, Jesus.  All the pat answers.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being grateful for those things.  But what, in my life, that would normally be viewed as a negative could I turn on it’s head and view as something to be grateful for?

If Beth had asked this question in years past, my answer would have been my infertility that led us to adopt Ginny.  Never in a thousand lifetimes would I trade.  Ginny has been a huge blessing.  I can never thank God enough.

But when Beth asked this question it was 2009…..Alright.  The thing I never thought I’d be thankful for in 2009  was that my husband lost his job in August.  August 4th as a matter of fact.  On my mother’s birthday.

I was so sour about it at first.  He was my Bible study partner on the way to and from work for 5 years.  We loved our commute together. So I was seriously bummed when that ended.  I said all the right things.  “God will take care of us.”  “It will be okay”  and I meant them.  But deep inside, even while I knew God would take care of us, I was resentful.  And to be honest, I kinda of imagined that God taking care of us would mean us scraping by on ramen noodles and finding ways to cut corners on everything.

I envisioned a life of constant restriction.  Nothing extra to enable us to help others. No joy.  Just getting by.

Apparently that is not what God had in mind.

Even just the first 4 months after the layoff was filled with blessings.  First, to hear my man say that he wanted to continue his tithe through the end of 2009 AS IF HE STILL HAD HIS JOB.  Wow. I don’t know how to be grateful enough to God for sending me Martin.  When I think of the background we both come from.  The sin, the darkness of our respective pasts……..and now to see Martin, how much he really does love God,  and know that he is the real spiritual head of our home.  That in itself is a blessing.

We grew in our relationship.  Our relationship had gotten lazy.  We depended on that commute to keep us connected.  We had to learn all over again to find (or MAKE) time for each other.

Martin got to spend lots of time with our baby girl, which was very good for them both. 

Four members of our family extended family were sick and needed lots of time and care in the Fall of 2009.  If Martin had still had a job they likely would have had to let him go because of all the family emergencies we went through.  We never had to face that though.

God sent a job opportunity to Martin that he never would have been able to take on if he had been tied to the old routines.  It changed our whole dynamic.

So spiritual growth, learning, new patterns, time with family……But what about money?  How did we get by?  did God provide?

*sigh*

Finances. 

The big bug-bear.  The nightmare of all who are “downsized” in this economy.   God had sent us a clear message that we were not to worry.    There were two (not one, but TWO) out of the blue, un-asked for, financial gifts to our family that, are you ready for this? enabled us to continue our tithe all the way to the end of 2010 as if Martin still had his old job !  When the checks came, the first thing on Martin’s heart and mind was the tithe.  Wow.  After all I have been through in my life and put others through, to finally be married to a real Christian MAN OF GOD is just blessing me right down to the tips of my boots. So there you go.  In 2009 I was thankful that my husband lost his job.

Well since we were so ultra faithful in 2009 and trusted God for his good provision, did we receive a huge blessing in 2010?  Absolutely!  I got laid off in October of 2010. 

No, I’m not being sarcastic.  We got a chance to trust God to provide again.  I’ll be honest, we did look at that money already set aside for the tithe for 2010….shook our heads and said “Nope.  That money already belongs to God.”

But it was sitting there, tempting us.  So we decided to go ahead and instead of writing a check out once a month, we just moved it all to the charity account.  That helped a lot.  With a combination of blind faith, deliberate actions and lots of heart to heart discussion my little family got through a couple of years that look rough on the ledger books.  But in my heart, these have been three very good years. 

We have become much more focused on relationships.  with God, each other, family and friends.  Life is not about presents, or activities anymore.  We’ve had a spiritual attitude adjustment. 

Now, if you ask me about my life, I will generally say “I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams.”

i’m not proud, of me

This is not a rant.  But it does have to start with a confession that is going to make a fair number of people angry with me.  But read through to the end and I think you will forgive me for my candor.

I’m not particularly proud of my daddy.  Sure, for a few fleeting moments, after a solo, or when he has carved a really cool pumpkin.  But not in a lasting, over-arching kind of way.

Candidly, he is not really good at being proud of me either.  Drawing, singing, academics…. nothing I did was ever good enough.  I always got the feeling that “well, yes, that drawing is good enough, for an 8 year old” but the unspoken text came through loud and clear – “and I can’t wait for you to get older so it gets better and I can actually give you accolades without perjuring myself.”  You don’t even want to get me started on discussing our disconnect over music.  It is very nearly a tragedy in our family, that two people who both love music so much can both be so disappointed in each other and unable to resolve it.

Richard Nelson Welton, my daddy, is awkward.  He says the wrong things, he is volatile, and dogmatic and judgmental.  As parent and child we did not understand each other and as adults, we just don’t get along.  Our politics do not match up at all, and half the time I feel as if he questions my very salvation.

To be honest, we are BOTH volatile, and awkward and judgmental.  It’s not just him.

*sigh*

Thoughts of my daddy do not stir up good feelings in me.  Every scene in my head, every memory I have is mixed at best and some are downright painful.  It is hard to point to a single moment and say “there, see that?  I’m am proud of him for that accomplishment”

He is good with Ginny now, and I recall that he was very good at doing the occasional weird, fun things when I was a kid.

Like the time he made tiny balsa wood model airplanes for me and my brother.  They were beautiful, pure forms carved and sanded carefully……and the game Stephen and I wanted to play with them was hiding behind the couches on each end of the living room and flying bombing missions across the room.  Which of course damaged the planes…..and made my dad angry.

That led to him teaching us to make origami paper airplanes.  Less trouble for him, and less heartache when he saw his well crafted little planes crash up against a wall.

When Stephen and I were kids and playing at the pool was an all day affair in the summer, Daddy gave great horsey rides in the pool.  He gave our friends rides too.  He would “buck” us kids off his back endlessly.    How he survived those summers without drowning I don’t know.  Because I don’t recall him coming up for air much…..

There was one summer where I remember him letting the grass get really high in the back yard.  Before he cut it all down, he cut a maze into it and let us kids run around playing tag in the maze.  But he wasn’t carefree or playful in the sense that I seemed to see other fathers being.  Probably because every time he tried, things went wrong.  Like that hike in the mountains when I was a kid

What my daddy IS good at is what I call “the long-haul” stuff.

The nitty gritty things that leave other folks staring at the long road in front of them and giving up.  Daddy is stubborn.  He worked as a full time day janitor, part-time night janitor and had an early morning newspaper route *all at the same time*  (my mom also worked two jobs at that time as well)

My parents did all that because they wanted my brother and I to go to a Christian school and I had fallen in love with ice skating (an expensive hobby to say the least).  My daddy is certainly a long standing example of doing the mundane things in life.  My mom is good at inspiration and blue sky thinking, and I’ve gotten some of that from her.  Richard Nelson Welton is good at the long haul.  The daily grind is his specialty.  He knows how to find joy in accomplishing the most menial of tasks.  I like to think I’ve learned something from him in that regard.

My daddy is a really good example of someone who knows how to be happy with a job well done, no matter how “low” the job may seem.  Even “waving” for a tax company that forces their employees to dress like Lady Liberty and stand on street corners waving at bored, jaded motorists.  A job that would have humiliated me to my core….he thinks it is fun.  He does his job so well in fact that people KNOW him. My daddy is locally famous.  People call the tax service just to ask if they can hire Richard to wave for their own company!

He takes pride in doing his job well, even if the job itself isn’t inspiring.

I think he got that from his daddy, Dr. Felix Burell Welton, a surgeon who spent his retirement years doing volunteer work at a clinic in the local prison.  Long after his surgical career and extensive missionary work should have entitled him to just sit down and put his feet up, Felix kept going.  When life and illness finally forced Felix to stop volunteering….he just stopped living.  Dr. Welton wanted, needed to be useful.  His son, my daddy is the same way.

It’s easy to look back now and make my daddy’s work ethic sound noble and glorious, but it was hard in the day-to-day living of it to feel proud.

What 15 year old girl on the planet is going to be proud of her daddy as he picks up the milk cartons that her classmates insist on spilling on the school’s carpeted halls?  What 9 year old is going to be proud of her daddy when he can’t come see her skate?  No 9 year old on this earth is going to be un-selfish enough or even aware enough to realize that the reason he couldn’t be there was because he was working double to clean the offices so mother could take me to the competition.  What 30 year old is going to be proud of her father who is in his 70’s, standing on street corners, making a spectacle of himself as he “waves” for various merchants around her small town?

But I’m not 15, or 9 anymore or even 30.

I’m almost 42, and I am proud of my daddy now.  And in this case it is for one shining moment where he got everything right.  It is time for me to share that moment with you.

My father has cancer.  Prostate cancer.  His prostate is 90% engulfed in cancer.

When the doctor told my dad he had cancer my dad’s response was “well, we all die”

The doctor said, “yes sir, that we do”

My dad followed up with “yes, but I know I’m going to see Jesus when I die.  Do you know who you are going to see?”

The doctor paused and said “yes sir, I do. I’m going to see Jesus too.”

And that was about the extent of my dad’s participation in the conversation.  The rest of the appointment was taken up with my mom asking various medical questions.

My dad stayed focused on what really matters.

The same mind-set that allows him to take pride in a job that would bring me utter humiliation (but has instead earned him local fame, respect and honor) is allowing my daddy to place his utter confidence in the goodness of our creator as he gets up each day and just keeps being useful.

And even though we have gotten the news that the cancer is NOT contained and that he may have a very uncomfortable future ahead of him, he still knows what is really important.  He has settled in for yet another (hopefully) long haul.

Good luck daddy.  I’m proud of you.

on the other hand…

Someone told me yesterday

“I see God in you and in how you treat other people”

Wow.  What an amazing compliment.

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say that to me before.  How great!

On the other hand (and once I stopped celebrating and patting myself on the back) how… convicting.

It is rather convicting that I have lived 41 years on the globe claiming to be a Christian and not ever had anyone say that to me before.  Mostly because I haven’t deserved it before now.  I have always had a caustic mouth and a quick temper.  Not the kind of person you would want to place in a customer service position.  But I refuse to get down about it.  There has never been a time quite like this in my life.

  • I have taken a huge pay cut.
  • I am dealing with an endless line of ticked off people every single day at work
  • I am processing a mound of non-stop, tedious paperwork.  Paperwork that involves MATH no less!  Yes, that’s right I spend all my time going through taxes now. 
  • I am getting not nearly enough sleep.
  • I get to see my family for a grand total of about 30 minutes at night before I fall on my face and beg for sleep.

And yet in all this…. I am happy.

Coming into this job I knew that it wasn’t my dream job.  So I asked God to get me excited about it. 

Lord please, you know me, help me here.  Make this meaningful.  Make it a joy to come to work.

and He has. 

Through many details I can’t even begin to enumerate here, God has changed my mind and heart to the point that I see this job as meaningful and a chance to bless loads of people every day.  Each new phone call makes me smile and gives me a chance to make someone else smile, or laugh. 

And even though the schedule is tough I am finding joy even in that.

The 30 minutes I get with Ginny at night is concentrated Ginny time.  I enjoy her in ways that I didn’t before when I thought I had loads of time to spend with her.  In this season I know I only have time for the giggles and wrestlings and ticklings.  So that is what we do.  Last night we danced to two rounds of “Elmocize” and “Grover’s Dance-Along” videos.  I was silly.  Ginny was silly.  And I was completely in the moment with her in ways that I didn’t do very much of when I thought I had all the time in the world.

The 15 minutes I get to talk to my husband in the mornings over coffee leave me wanting more.  He is so much fun to talk to that I drive away each day yearning to stay and just spend time with him.  Talk about something that will kick-start a relationship that had started to become too “routine”  Martin is funny and sweet, and helpful and it kills me every morning to say bye bye and drive away.

So even though I am not in a season of hardship, I am in a season of living beyond my own ability.  I wake up every day KNOWING to the bottoms of my boots that I must have God to get me through the day.

So it really shouldn’t suprise me at all that for the first time in my life, someone has said that they see God in me.  I can’t make it through the day without Him, so…that tracks.

blessings rain down

After talking in my last post about the job loss, I figured it was about time to tell you how blessed I am in my new position.

I am working again.

Have been since the first week of February.

The hours right now are a bit hard on my family (7 a.m. to 7 p.m. most weekdays plus Saturdays) but it is deadline season in academia and we knew it would be like this. 

but I’m happy.

Am I happy because I’m back at Emory?  Well, yes I am thrilled to be back at  Emory University.  It feels like coming home.  I have been here for over 10 years after all.  I even got my old parking space back.

Am I happy because I enjoy my actual job?  Well, yes I do like my job.  I work in Student Financial Aid and it is inspiring to get to be part of the process that allows kids who couldn’t otherwise afford it to get to come to this great school and be a part of Emory.  Some of them are the first people in their whole family to even go to college. 

But the real reason I am happy is very simple, though it is hard to explain without sounding hackneyed and corny.

I am happy because I am convinced to the depths of my soul that I am sitting right where God wants me to be.  

and that, even on this rainy, yucky Monday morning makes it easy for me to say

 “Thank you Lord for this pretty day.  Bless me to be a blessing to someone day”