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With All My Heart

13 Feb

Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength
and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Luke 10:27

We’ve all said it. Most of us have written it. It is sung as lyrics in songs. It is found in scripture. The sentiment of it is found in every room in my home. The effect from the Reality of it brings Life.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. A holiday created by Hallmark, florists and chocolate companies. So some say. As with every holiday on the calendar, it’s all in the perspectives and traditions in your life.

Mimi and Lillie

Mimi and Lillie

I mailed cute Valentine’s Day cards to my sweet little loves in Baltimore – knowing that they light up when something comes to them in the mail! I sent a card to Ryan and Brittany, always looking for ways to bridge the too-many miles between us, always wanting to remind them of our love! Tim and I spent time with friends last evening, exchanging little tokens of appreciation of life-long friendships. Celebrating loves, friendships, commitments and life together is not just for February 14th. It should be how we live life every day.

With all my heart … speaking of which, I had mine examined last week. For a few days I experienced a dull ache in my upper left arm that eventually turned into a burning pain that radiated into my chest and down to my fingers. I thought it would be in my best interest if I went to the ER to be checked out. With these classic heart attack symptoms, I was rewarded with an EKG, chest x-rays, blood work and a treadmill stress test that I passed with flying colors. I was sent home the next day to follow up with my primary care. He congratulated me for having a strong healthy heart, but encouraged me to begin a regular routine of exercise that would strengthen my muscular/skeletal systems throughout my body. I do admit that somewhere along the way I have lost the motivation to work out, but with this recent overnight visit to the hospital, I am determined to make sure that I take better care of myself. I read this just this morning on Facebook … “Don’t regret getting older. It’s a privilege denied to many.” With that in mind, I promise to embrace it – with all my heart!

I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.
Psalm 9:1

What better time than now to also embrace the reality of ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Valentine’s Day is not just one day to express a thought or an intention, but a reminder of what really counts in life. Our loved ones, our friends, and most importantly, our relationship with God.  Without putting Him front and center of your ‘with all my heart’, everything else will be out of balance.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

It is only when we seek God with all our heart that we can truly love Him with all our heart …
Won’t you join me today  …   with all my heart?!

Until next time,
Debbie

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The Same Air

15 Jun

You will guard him and keep him in
perfect and constant peace whose mind
[both its inclination and its character]
is stayed on You, because he commits
himself to You, leans on You,
and hopes confidently in You.
Isaiah 26:3
The Message

Oh my!!  My heart ~ such inexpressible longing …With fingers poised on the keyboard, I will try to sort out my feelings and aches.  Oh how much good it would do my heart to pull up next to a kindred spirit, to take a few deep breaths in, and to pour out what is inside.  Not just to share, but to lay down a very burdened heart.  Since writing has always been my therapeutic refuge, here I am.  Please remember that the venting is more for my good and you are simply along for the read.

The past several days have been consumed with news ~ the bad nearly smothering and snuffing out the very life of the good.  It all started with a desperate attempt at getting all the yard work done before spending the remainder of the week in Baltimore to visit with my mom and Kim’s little family.  In a rush, I neglected to tend to the proper maintenance of the riding mower.  It ran out of oil.  It died.  It’s bad enough that we now have to buy a different mower, the deceased one wasn’t even ours!  It belonged to our landlord.  Sigh …

In one week’s time, there were 3 people who I knew that passed away.  Frances Zeilinga was the mother of one of my oldest brother’s childhood best friends.  Even though I hadn’t seen Frances for many years, there is a sense of finality when parents of our friends are beginning to pass away.  Just a few days later, my own childhood best friend’s father passed away.   Becky’s daddy had been miraculously healed of cancer many years ago and God blessed him with nearly 30 additional years to enjoy life and family.  Just a few weeks ago, he was diagnosed with cancer once again, endured a battery of treatments and was finally beginning to feel better.  Then simply in his sleep last week, he bade farewell to his earthly body and was welcomed into the arms of his Savior, leaving behind his wife of 6 plus decades, children, grandchildren and greats.   Another couple days later, Pam Carnder’s ‘fairy tale’ finally ended when her beloved husband, Steve, passed away after his long 5 ½ year battle with cancer.  Pam and I worked together at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center … a faithful participant of Munchy Monday, my 2009 summer prayer partner, and a dear friend.

Cancer is rearing its ugly head in the life of another dear friend.  Back in the ‘90s when our family lived out here in PA, but in the Harrisburg/Hershey area, Sandie and I were pretty much inseparable ~  we worked together, went to church together, and our families often vacationed together.  Recent visits for evaluations, tests, and results have proven to be alarming and quite sobering as she is facing extensive treatments and procedures in attempt to defeat this disease at its own evil game.

Just yesterday, another precious friend with whom I’ve shared life and also death … in the hills of West Virginia, Cindy suffered a heart attack and was life-lined to a larger hospital where she had a stint inserted in her severely blocked artery.  Having just spoken to her on the phone and hearing her weak voice just added to the ache that is mounting inside.

The trees on the grounds of Bonita Park

If the morning reports or the evening news has caught your eye in the past week concerning the wild fires that have devastated south New Mexico, this has also heaped sadness and sorrow to my already bleeding heart.  Bonita Park, the New Mexico District (Church of the Nazarene) Camp and Conference Center, was in the direct path of the Little Bear wildfire, which incinerated much of the 200 acre camp.  While living in Albuquerque for nearly 10 years, Bonita Park became very dear to me … several retreats, family camps, and many precious friends had homes there.  Gratefully, the main buildings which support the functionality of the campground, were spared ~ Offices, dining hall, the tabernacle, the local Nazarene church, and some dorms.  But nearly all of the residences, belonging to camp staff, camp volunteers, retirees, and leaseholders who have had camp property since the early beginning years of Bonita Park, perished in the flames.  Original buildings whose walls breathed the holiness tradition and heritage on those sacred grounds are now reduced to ashes.  Scheduled summer retreats, reunions, and camps, including the anticipated annual family camp are all now written in pencil on the camp calendar, waiting on God’s intervention in all areas.

Precious memories have flooded my heart and my mind these past several days as I have thought about each circumstance and each person.  And here I sit in York, Pennsylvania.  The memorial service for Becky’s dad is in Florida.  Steve’s funeral was yesterday in Cincinnati.  West Virginia is several hours away, and even Sandie, who lives the closest, is an hour away.  I won’t even think about how far away New Mexico is.  And then when I get all mushy inside like this, I can’t help but cry alittle more for my son who lives in Seattle … so far away.  Have I mentioned that my heart hurts?

Not everything has been bad … two new healthy babies have been born to nephews and nieces in the past 2 weeks, and my mother-in-law received a good and treatable report from the doctor concerning a health issue.  Also, my precious mother came out last week to meet her little great-granddaughter for the first time.  We had a very special time enjoying the wide span of ages included in the 4 generations.  For these good things, I am grateful!

In the mix of the good and the bad, playing in the background is the extreme static of my own life, reminding me that the dial is not placed just right on the station, and it’s consuming my world with a lot of noise.  Even though the air around me is filled with smoke, illness, death, and static, in order to survive, I am allowing Jesus to carry me close to Himself.  Jesus and I are breathing the same air.

Until next time,
Debbie

19-21I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
   the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
   the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
   and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

 22-24God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
   his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
   How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
   He’s all I’ve got left.

 25-27God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
   to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
   quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
   to stick it out through the hard times.

Lamentations 3:19-26
The Message

The header picture are deer out in the woods of Bonita Park
March 2006

What is That Flutter Thing?

2 Feb

My flesh and my heart may fail,
 but God is the Strength of my heart
 and my Portion forever.
Psalm 73:26

  

“Beautiful” was the first comment from the ultrasound technician yesterday morning as she looked at the image on the screen in front of her.  This one word, simple as it was, sort of gave me a small sense of peace.  My reactive response of ‘Aww’ generated an explanation from the one in charge as she informed me that “beautiful” was her way of saying that the image on the screen was clear and was in full view – not that we had an immediate diagnosis and that all was great.  So, the nerves kicked in again as I laid on my left side with cold ultrasound goo oozing beneath the magic wand that somehow transferred an image of my heart onto the monitor.  Diane told me that since I am so tiny and there is not much open space inside of me (I guess that’s a compliment), that my lungs kept getting in the way of viewing my heart, so I had to exhale and hold my breath for what seemed to be a very long time.  And I had to do this several times throughout the photo shoot, praying each time that my lungs had shrunk enough for her to capture the view of my heart that she needed.  I’m not sure if the office interior decorator planned the placement of a particular picture on the wall just so, but it was perfectly situated for me so that I could see my heart on the monitor in the reflection of the glass.  It was really fascinating as I could feel the beat of my heart beneath the pressure of the magic wand, in perfect rhythm of the indirect view I had of the pulsation and movement of this vital organ that was busy keeping me alive. 

A moment of pure honesty and transparency here … it seems that ever since we have moved back to Pennsylvania, there has been a deeper sense of awe in my soul toward the brevity of life.  Having lost my father nearly 18 years ago, experiencing the premature birth of my first grandchild, Tim being diagnosed with coronary artery disease and having 2 stents,  …  and just the realization that I am no longer a young woman with little kids tagging behind me.  I work in an office where people come and go – some are stooped over with the brokenness of body, others are led in on a son or daughter’s arm, barely able to walk, but all finding it necessary to seek financial guidance and direction from our attorneys who specialize in elder care.  It seems that with each passing day, I am more and more aware that this life is temporary and is only the pathway that will lead me Home.  So, I got a bit mushy inside as I laid there looking at my own heart beating, realizing the frailty of it all.

I’ve been relatively healthy all of my life, with an occasional incident requiring intervention, but nothing major or life changing.  So, when I began experiencing a strange flutter sensation in my chest a few months ago, I took notice.  The initial doctor’s visit before Christmas started the process of blood work, EKGs, 24 hour heart monitor and a follow-up appointment with a cardiologist.  Everything thus far had checked out ok, but the specialist recommended I have a stress echocardiogram to completely rule out any problems with the heart.  So that’s where I was at 7:00 yesterday morning.  The initial EKGs and heart ultrasounds were all a picnic compared to the “stroll” I had to take on the treadmill, followed by an immediate set of ultrasounds on the heart, done in the first 90 seconds … all the while I’m huffing and puffing and trying desperately to catch my breath.  But remember I’m tiny.  My lungs were in the way.  I had to once again exhale and hold my breath several times.  All I could do was pray and ask Jesus to help me not breathe while everything in me was screaming for air.  Finally the essential photo shoot was over.  With goo dripping down my side and my heart beginning to calm down, tears filled my eyes as I thought of my mother going through that traumatic experience a few years ago.  Or even my husband in Albuquerque when he had to go on his treadmill jog with pain in his chest and extremely high blood pressure.  Sigh …    Within moments, the doctor on duty came in and gave me the good report that all is well with my heart.  Praise the Lord!!

So then, what is that flutter thing?  I have felt it at times in my upper chest, but most of the time, the sensation is in the soft spot of my throat.  It comes and goes ~ some days I feel it all day long, and others I notice it from time to time.  There are even moments when I feel like it sort of makes me catch my breath, and I need to cough to release it so I can clear my air passage.  I have found no rhyme or reason as to what triggers this flutter … time of day or night, my body position, food or no food.  It does seem, however, that stress and caffeine eccelerate the flutter to a degree, but they do not cause it.  Instructions for the test yesterday morning required that I did not consume any caffeine (coffee, chocolate, tea, …) in the 24 hours before the appointment, which I heeded, but noticed that the flutters still came and went despite the absence of chocolate and Cherry Coke.  And because I now can, I am sipping a cup of Starbucks Pike’s Place coffee, freshly made at home…with vanilla creamer and some Splenda ~ and a homemade almond/chocolate chip biscotti to dunk in it!  Yum!   Getting back to the flutter!!  Both doctors who have seen me for the flutter have mentioned that if it’s not my heart, then it could possibly be menopause.  Well, the cardiologist tried to be tactful by saying that it all could be a sign of maturity.  Seriously?  I chuckle right now as I am feeling this odd sensation of maturity.  I don’t know what to think.  It’s not painful, just annoying and distracting.  At least now I know that it is not a heart issue.  Maybe a hinge on the flapper in my esophagus has corroded and doesn’t close properly any longer?  Not sure, but I do hope that someone will be able to give me an answer to this flutter question. 

We all have questions that need answered, don’t we?  If it’s not a physical concern, maybe it’s financial or relational.  Whatever the case may be, we seek doctors, lawyers, counselors, pastors, family, and friends for help.  And we are ever so grateful for these people in our lives who can help answer life’s questions.  I’m also eternally indebted to the One who created me and Who knows the very number of red corpuscles that my heart pumps throughout my body.  He is my Physician, my Lawyer, my Counselor, my Pastor, my Family, and my Friend.  He is Jesus.  Won’t you join me in taking our questions to the One with the answers? 

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
Psalm 16:7

  

The LORD is my Strength and my Shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to Him in song.
Psalm 28:7

 

Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23

 

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23

  

Until next time,
Debbie

For those of you who have been praying for our daughter, she received a wonderful report from her obstetrician last week … her cervix measured the same, but remains stable, so he lifted the restrictions of light duty and encouraged her to return to normal activity ~ whatever that is at 6 1/2 months pregnant.  Thank you for praying, and thank you Jesus!!

~~~

 A note to all of my ‘mature’ lady friends … have any of you experienced this unusual phenomenon?  Perhaps it’s really not that unusual and many of you know exactly what it is … please tell me!   The flutter seems to have the doctors stumped, but I’m sure someone, somewhere out there knows the answer.  Leave your comments below … please and thank you!!

~~~

For my friends who subscribe to Morsels of Mercy and automatically get a copy sent to your email, check out the blog on my website to see additional photos of my family         https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com

**  Blog photo of my Valentine’s Day decor  –  February 2012