Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 and....the WORD

Oh I am grateful.
Grateful that 2013 is ending.
Grateful that 2014 begins at midnight.
Grateful that I am alive to see a new year.
Grateful for God's faithfulness and grace and forgiveness to me, over and over and over again this past year.

Whew! It was quite a year.
Friends getting cancer and other terminal illnesses.
Me getting cancer.
People I care about dying.
One person in particular that I loved so deeply and so dear to my heart leaving earth too early for me.
Hunger and homelessness and poverty and wars abound. Not much has changed since the beginning of time. They are all still around in abundance.
Injustices occur everyday throughout our world.
Misunderstandings occur daily.
We get hurt. We get angry. 
We get fearful.
We get lost.
We get so caught up in our own messes, that we forget about others.

Thankfully, there are also good and wonderful things that happened.
At Woodleaf, week after week in "Say So", I was privileged to watch many new babes in Christ profess their new found Savior.
I was indeed blessed watching loved ones get engaged and see the hope of new love.
I was deemed cancer free.
I learned how to pray more and love that my list gets longer.
I was blessed to be involved in 3 small groups with some amazing, God seeking young women in Chico.

And heart yearns for more.
My heart yearns to be more Christ like.
To forgive much more easily. To forget quickly. To love unconditionally and unselfishly. To extend grace as often as needed.
With others and with myself.
Oh those failures want to keep haunting me.
I want to remember how the Holy Spirit is seen in me in the Father's eyes. That He sees Jesus and not all my failures.
I want to not be judgemental. 
And wonder how tired God must be of hearing me say that.

Oh yes, there is much work to be done in my life. 
I think I am up for the challenge.
I've never been one for new years resolutions, because lets face it, time would quickly pass by before I broke each one of them; and that would just be another failure. 
Why set myself up?

So this year I am not resolving anything.
Instead I am going to focus on something.
A WORD or a few WORDS that I can think about, learn about and practice being in 2014.
I had a few in mind.
But finally came up with THE WORD I will concentrate on.


How much different will my life be if I extend GRACE to others?
I imagine it could be very very different.
How wonderful it would be to be a GRACE GIVING person.
Just like God is to me: Grace giving, full of grace. extending grace upon grace as needed.
OK, this will be a challenge.
BUT i look forward to it.
I will re-read Yancey's excellent book "What so amazing about Grace".
I will re-read "One thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.
I will seek out other books to help me understand GRACE more and ask the Holy Spirit to do a mighty work in me. To transform me into a person of GRACE.
I will reflect at the end of 2014 on how I did and thank God that He continues to change me into the character of JESUS.
It's ALL ABOUT HIM, remember.

May you be thankful for the gifts you've been given in 2013. May you reflect on the goodness and faithfulness of God. And may you learn from the pain and heartache you suffered, that you are never alone.
May the LORD bless you and keep you His in 2014.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

LIGHT in the Darkness

Christmas. The Word itself evokes emotions, memories, traditions, family, friends.
In various ways throughout most of our world, it is celebrated. Not necessarily on December 25th as we do in the United States.
Christmas means so much to so many of us.

The original story, the original Christmas is often overlooked now days. But not for me. It is the most favorite time of the year for me, because it is about God entering our world and becoming one of us.
The problem is that part of the story often goes unsaid, un-noticed.
How can we miss it?
The basis of the Christmas story is that God sent His very own Son to earth-to be born just as we all are, as a newborn baby.
From the beginning, when God created the universe and then created Adam and Eve, He has longed to be Our Father. He cherishes us as His very precious children and longs to love us in the most perfect way.
Maybe you know the story, maybe you don't. So I will give you a brief synopsis. God created the world, then created the first man and woman: Adam and Eve. God desired so much to be their Father. He envisioned a perfect world. One that was without sickness and death, grief and heartache, poverty, racism, hatred and war. He wanted us to know Him and live in peace.
He asked Adam and Eve to take care of His Creation, which they were happy to do. He asked them not to eat the fruit of one specific tree- the tree of knowledge of good and evil, because if they did, He told them they would surely die.
Well as it often happens, curiosity got the best of Eve, (thru the trickery of God's enemy, aka the devil, disguised as a serpent), and she wanted to find out why this fruit was forbidden. In a short conversation, the devil misquoted God, confused her, and then encouraged her to take the fruit because then she would be like God.
Sounded good to Eve, so she ate the fruit and then convinced Adam to do the same.
And that is when God's vision of His perfect world stopped.
We tend to forget that He is God and we are not. 
I do that way too often.
Reality though, is that HE INDEED IS GOD, and we are not.
God is the Creator and the Sustainer of all life.
He knows what is BEST for each of us. And think how many there are of us; both now and in history past.
Our basic problem is that we want to be god, and that is just never going to happen. He is what holds together our universe.

When Adam and Eve took the fruit (this is what was known as the first or original sin), God came up with Plan B.
First we might need to give a quick basic definition of sin. 
sIn is putting ourselves as first. Giving us the Capital I. We want to be god and not follow the real GOD. Somebody has to be the one in charge and in God's plan, He is the One. 
We tend to struggle with that a bit, we want to be in charge of our own lives-and often the lives of others. Since God was the One who created the world and us, He became the top dog-the one in command. And sin is basically us rebelling against God's plan. We like to be in charge. 
So God's "perfect creation and world" ended with Adam and Eve deciding to do what they wanted, and God came up with Plan B that would allow us again to have the original relationship God had intended for each of us with Himself. He knew that there was nothing we as humans could do, to make things right.
Oh we tried. We followed His laws (most of the time). We offered sacrifices to make up for our sins and He accepted those. But they would never take away permanently our need to keep asking God to forgive us thru our sacrifices.
So God's plan involved sending His Precious Son, Jesus to earth.
Together they knew what must be done to save us from our sins.

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us"
John 1:14 (NIV)

Or as another version states: 
"The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood" The Message

God's own Son, Jesus, came into our world, as a newborn baby. He lived and grew just as we did. He was man and yet He was still God. Jesus was God in the Flesh; God Incarnate. Jesus became the Light in a very dark world. But as we often do, we didn't recognize Him, didn't want to acknowledge who He really is. That doesn't change the fact of WHO He is or why He came.
Fact be known, Jesus came to our earth as a man, to take care of sin once and for all. His sole purpose in leaving heaven and coming to earth was to reconcile us to the intended relationship with God the Father that He had envisioned since before time began.
He lived to die. He lived so that He could be the ONE sacrifice that was needed to take care of our sins. And He did that on Good Friday when He was crucified and died for the sins of entire mankind. Just so that we could know Our Father the way He had intended. Know His Love for us, His Grace and His Forgiveness.

John 1 :4-5 says:
 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Jesus was life. Jesus was the Light. Jesus was the Light in the darkness of the world. And even the darkest dark cannot hide Him from us.

We all need Light in the midst of the darkness of our world. The atrocities that occur over and over again. The raping of women and young girls, those sold into prostitution or child slavery, the rampant wars that continue, the extreme poverty that 7/8 of the world endures, the sicknesses, the deaths of those we love. The wrong decisions we make that cost us, either emotionally or financially. WE need THE LIGHT of Jesus to counteract the hatred and jealousy of racism. We need His Light to bring healing to broken homes, broken relationships. We need to be embraced by the Light of Jesus, to hold us close when life seems completely overwhelming.

Jesus often shows us His Light thru His people.
He has shown me His LIGHT in my very dark fall thru the lives of 11 incredible young women.
Two of them, Andi and Jen are my Young Life staff friends who I try to mentor. They have showered me with love and affection all fall long-even during Andi's wedding to Mike. Thank you both so so much.

The other LIGHT in my darkness has been my Young Life College Friends in Chico. They have blessed me, prayed for me, sent me texts and messages, called me and upheld and supported me in my very darkest fall ever. Having two cancer surgeries within 6 days and a very long recovery time, plus losing my dear 4th "son" Robby has made life difficult to say the least.
I am blessed and beyond grateful to both my Sarah's, Kristin, Caitlin, Lauren, Katie, Bri, Emily and Robin. They have been Jesus to me. They are my Jesus sightings all thru this hard time.
Jesus brought them into my life to be HIS LIGHT in the darkness I experienced.
I am truly truly thankful.
I am so amazed at how day in and day out, the LIGHT of JESUS shines. We just need to look for it-to look for HIM, in all our days.
My prayer is that in this next week, we all look and long for the true LIGHT that will not allow the darkness we face, to extinguish His Presence with us.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Celebrating Christmas when you don't feel like it.

I love Christmas.
Its always my favorite time of the year. I love decorating my home, I enjoy the goodies I make and give away. I love the lights. I love the carols-and never tire of them.
I love that what we are celebrating is that God is with us. Immanuel (or Emmanuel ). God who left heaven to be born as a baby. God Incarnate. So amazing. So wondrous. In the child born in Bethleham, in the powerlessness of a baby, God entered into our world. That's so remarkable to me.
My tree is up-although this year its a bit Charlie Brown like, the ornaments are hung; the ones that evoke memories and are treasured. The house looks festive, both inside and out.

Yet, I am not excited this year about celebrating.
I am really trying to keep my focus on Jesus, because that is what Christmas is really all about.
This has happened to me twice before. Not wanting to have Christmas.
The first time was forty years ago; the Christmas that snuck up on me two months after my mother had died.
The second one was probably twenty five years ago. I was a NICU nurse and the primary caregiver of a very sweet baby boy named David, who never was expected to live and yet he did. He had osteogenesis Imperfecta-type 2. Its a brittle, in his case , very very brittle bone disease. At birth, thru the trauma that he endured, he had over 200 breaks in his little body. So this sweet little boy lived ten days, and he went home to heaven on Christmas Eve day. It truly affected me in such a deep way. But I had young kids who looked forward to Christmas, so I put on my biggest "fake" self to make the holiday enjoyable for them.

This year Christmas will come, one day short of four weeks since our Robby too, went home to be with Jesus-way too early for us.
So that thrill I get each year anticipating celebrating Christ's birth is very absent right now.
I know this Christmas will be very different, very difficult. I grieve for my dear friends who will not spend another holiday with their son until eternity. Its their new normal, one that wasn't wanted.
They aren't the only ones who will spend this Christmas without their loved one. 
Countless families across the globe will spend the holidays remembering their lost loved ones. They will be sorely missed. And most likely, they will wish they could pass on this holiday this year.
Many times, in order to deal with what we have lost, we try to keep busy, we try to make new traditions. This can help, but it doesn't take away the fact, that someone you love is just not there.

So what do we do when this happens to us? When The Christmas Season arrives and we don't feel like even acknowledging it.
Just like the life we have now been given, we keep on; we keep going. Because more than likely, that is what our loved one would want us to do. They want us to keep living when everything in us screams that we don't want to.
We need to be realistic; things are going to be different, Try and not set up expectations that won't come about. It will be hard and seem different. Of course it will be.
We can try new things to do, we can go away to a place that we haven't been before. One important thing to remember is that we still need to rest and take care of ourselves. Grief can bring on illness as our bodies have taken a hit in our immune systems as we deal with our loss.
We need to give ourselves permission to continue to grieve and not try and pretend that life is the same.  A very dear friend sent me a wonderful passage written by the gifted Anne Lamott today and it is too good not to share.

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp." 

So although I may not feel like there's a reason to celebrate, there is a reason: We don't forget those we have loved and lost, we remember them, with fondness, with our sweet memories and we treasure them and begin to be grateful that our lives were blessed with someone we loved so deeply. And slowly, very slowly, we begin to move on.
But we will never forget.
One step at a time. Even if its a very small step.

A grateful heart.
One that rejoices in God, Our Savior, who came to earth to give us life and life abundantly.
One that doesn't try to pretend we aren't sad, that we don't miss those we lost, but one that begins to have a heart that longs to be thankful, longs to find joy again and one that remembers the love we had been blessed to give and receive.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dear Robbo

Dear Robbo,
Has it really only been 12 days since I heard the news? when I was awakened to the horrific word that you were no longer with us? Was I dreaming? was it real??
And yet now as I get ready to go to bed again, so tired, so emotionally drained, our new reality has hit.
I don't like it at all. In fact, I hate it.
Yeah, I know. We were taught not to use the word "hate".
but I think hate is something that one detests, something that causes you pain and you want to avoid at all costs, the thought of something or someone that makes you cringe.
So you leaving our earth is painful, and I hate it.

It pains me to watch your dad cry. He loves you so much and hates that he won't get to see you here anymore.
It makes me so incredibly sad to watch your mom, my best friend, be stoic and yet I know how her heart is breaking and empty.
And Tommy and Kelly? Those older siblings of yours, they are at a loss. Just as I am.
And then to watch the other kids.
do you know that Kristi cried throughout your celebration of life?? Kristi cried. We know how big that is, and she couldn't stop. And Todd, well, he has cried alot for you, for that little brother that he won't see on this side of time.
And then there's Katie. she was invaluable to your family. And God held her together...for awhile, and then she broke down when she saw the shell that was once you. She wrote the MOST beautiful words describing you that I have read Then there was Ryan, the brother from another mother, who struggled again with another loss. All so gut wrenching.
And there have been so many who wrote about you, telling stories of how you made everyone feel special, everyone feel valued, everyone feel loved.

I'm sure there are alot of us who wonder, "how did he do that?" .
How could Robby love so many of us well?
Scud and I talked about that. It was because you loved like Jesus, and that was so , or is so, difficult for us to do. We avoid the down and outers, the marginalized. You were like Your Savior, and sought them out and made them feel valued.
As we looked and thought of verses for your celebration of life service, we couldn't agree on one.
All of a sudden I told Katie to look at Romans 12.
You know - that book we studied ALL SUMMER LONG when you were a Nintern.
R12- we even got a bit tired of it, and yet there it was..the perfect verses.
I so remember you and I talking in the kitchen at Woodleaf about how you wanted to be how we were called to be in that amazing chapter.
Katie picked verses 9-18 from the New Living Translation....oh how they described you to a tee.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection,[e] and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.[f]12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Oh you did what you wanted to Robby. You loved us so well. You honored us. And I watched how hard you worked, you weren't lazy (except for when it was hard to wake up!). You were happy with others, you were sad with others. You loved all people, especially those of us who are just ordinary. We all know you were honorable and you tried to not have conflicts with anyone.

I remember when you called me before our birthdays to say you were praying for me when I was about to have my second surgery for cancer, and you cried and said you couldn't lose me. As i type those words now, the tears are streaming down my face, because I have lost you now. But its just for a time. But its not fair that for you it will be a blink of the eye and for the rest of us, it could be what seems like forever.
But the forever is where we will meet again.
I call your cell just to hear your voice, and heard your message on your parents answering machine several times last week, and each time I heard your voice, I smiled.

And the reception or party we had for you after the service, you would have loved it. All sorts of different groups of friends who were celebrating your life and sad for your early departure from our lives. I kept expecting for you to show up...Paine time of course-late-but the life of the party.

Yeah I know you weren't perfect...boy did i know that. But it didn't matter to me at all. I loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you on September 16,1988.
I watched you struggle and be conflicted and prayed for you nonstop. I knew you would be OK and I wasn't worried.
You are OK now. You are better than ok, you are in heaven with Jesus. And I know how you loved Him, how you served Him. 
Yet, like all of us, your life wasn't perfect, you weren't without sin. But heck, I certainly am not-and you knew that about me.
but Robbo, you loved so well.

You were little when the commercials came on when little kids saw Michael Jordan play hoops and everyone said "I want to be like Mike". I surely enjoyed watching him, but I never said that. For one, I am a white woman who isn't very tall and I can't play basketball, so I think I was a realist.
But I now can say, "I want to be like Robby".
I want to love and be present with people like you did.
And I will try Robbo, I will try. But dammit, why aren't you here so I can watch you more and learn from you.

The first few days you were gone, so many people wrote things like, " I miss you". I don't think I could comprehend in my small mind that you were really gone, so I didn't understand that.
Oh, but now I do.
I miss you Robby Paine...I miss you so so so much.
I am thankful I will see you again, and spend eternity with you.
And I pray that so many of your friends will be with us too.
I love I always said to you...always have, always will.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Robby

This will be a very hard blog to write but one that I need to so that I can process thoughts and feelings and questions that are in my mind. I imagine that some of you who read this are experiencing some similar thoughts.
I was awakened on Thanksgiving night and received the news that Robby Paine had died.
I couldn't believe it.
Surely this was a mistake.
But NO, it was a horrific reality.
My vibrant, fun loving, lover of people friend Robby, was gone.
My dearest friend in life had lost her youngest son.
Our family's BEST FRIENDS had lost their precious Robbo.

This is seriously WRONG. 
As most of us who knew Robby were, our minds were flooded with questions as to why and how. And one of the hardest things to process is that we might likely never know what happened.
As I write that, my first thought now is: Is that really the important thing? And NO, it isn't. What is most important is that we who are left behind will now live out our lives without Robby. And that's what hurts; that is what sucks.

Robby was my birthday buddy. Its the name we both came up with for ourselves. Although our birthdays were a day apart, we were still birthday buddies. When MaryKay was pregnant with him, she knew she would have a C Section and with the due date she had, she asked her doctor if he could be born on September 15. The nerve of that man to say it was his day off! So instead Robby was born on September 16, 1988. Our whole family was so excited to meet the newest Paine that I took all three of my kids out of school and we were at the hospital when he was born.
So Yes, I am one of the privileged few to say that I knew and loved Robby his entire life. And that is a priceless, precious gift I have been given.
I have so many stories and memories of Robby from his growing up years. I loved him thru his chubby years ( Paine loves chocolate) to watching him slim down and become a dynamite volleyball player. I am remembering gifts I have given him over the years and how my daughter Kristi was the one who gave him presents at our annual Christmas Eve gathering. With Todd and Tommy best buds, and Katie and Kelly as well, Kristi was left with Robby who was ten years younger than her to trade gifts with. She delighted in the fact that Robby was her partner in this annual tradition.
I cherish and relish the fact that both my daughters, believed that the Paine's were truly their family, and they both had Tommy and Robby in their weddings as ushers. Neither of them would have gotten married without those two being involved. And of course Kelly was a bridesmaid for Kristi and she was Katie's Maid of Honor.

As many of us have our memories of Robby, I have been overwhelmed with how many friends have stated that he was their best friend and made everyone feel special and loved and valued. Truly Robert Allen Paine was indeed a very special gift to all of us.
His smile could light up a room. His smile is something we always will remember. Even when he was late (aka "Paine time"), he would smile and try and get away with it. He made people feel so special. He was truly "present" with you when you were with him.
Gosh how he could make me laugh. And his humor-so great.

How do I (you) say Goodbye? This is something I do not want to do. Something Scott, MaryKay, Tommy and Kelly definitely do not want to do. Something any of us who knew and loved Robby dread.

For quite a few of Robby's friends, they may or may not know that he had a spiritual side to him. As a young boy, Robby asked Jesus to come into his life and be a part of his life forever. There were times of tremendous growth in Robby's relationship with Jesus. What a privilege it was for Scud and I to be a part of that aspect of Robby's life as well. I remember vividly going to his house on East 1st in Chico at finals time and telling him this was the year he was going to be on Summer Staff at Woodleaf. I remember him telling me " I need this", and we began to fill out his application together.
And so he first served on team 609 , aka sick with swine. How many of you became friends with Robby then? and how grateful are you for that? And then he came back for the August session that year. The next year he worked at Woodleaf on the weekends and the summer of 2010, he was one of our Interns that served the entire summer. What a tremendous group those Ninterns were!! I love them dearly.
It was that year when Robby really decided to pursue Jesus Christ again and he was in a bible study (scudlife) for 2 years with Thomas and Will and Scud.
So for me, saying goodbye to Robby really isn't goodbye. It is most definitely, "I'll see you again".
For me, for his family, for my family and for many of his friends, we know with complete assurance that we will see Robby again in heaven. That we will spend eternity with him. Which means FOREVER.
For whatever time I have left on this earth, I will not see Robby. But I will see him again and I will get one of his hugs again and live forever with his smile.
Some of you didn't know the spiritual side of Robby. Some of you might question that side and wonder how could that be. You might have seen him drink too much, do certain things that didn't seem "christian like".
But the truth is, that doesn't matter.
Every single person that has ever walked the face of this earth has sinned. All except Jesus Christ, and He is God's son.
Sin is basically choosing to be the god of your life. Doing what you want to do and not caring if there indeed is a real GOD.
I know there is. Robby knew there was.
Robby, like alot of us, realized that there was something more to life that just what meets the eye. That there was a "higher power".
Robby believed that Jesus Christ was the son of God and that He came to earth for the sole purpose of taking on our sin so that we too, could have a relationship with God. 
This might be alot to take in right now, especially as we are grieving so and our hearts are broken. What I do know for absolute certainty is that Robby is in heaven with the God he loved, and that he would like you to be there too.
The MOST famous verse in all of the bible is John 3:16.
It says:
For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (New Living Translation)

This is what Robby believed. He believed in Jesus. He believed that he was the Son of the Most High God. He believed that Jesus died on a cross so that he (and me and you) would be able to live with God thru all eternity.
One day- who knows when that will be - I will see Robby again. I will see spend eternity with him, with Jesus.
Both of our prayer is that you will as well.
If you have any questions about this, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me (
I love you Robby Paine. Always have. Always will.
I miss you deeply but look forward to your smile and hug.