Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Letter to My Blog


I want you to know today that I miss you...

I miss the talks, the things I learned, the incredible way I feel when I am with you. I miss the laughter, the goofiness, the revelations in the early morning and the way you love all of me, warts included.

You are a delicious, wonderful, amazing, beautiful distraction. Leaving you is hard. Leaving you is a risk, but one I have to take...

Some will understand my choice, some will not. That is not my concern... I just wanted you to know today, without a doubt - I miss you.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gone Finishin'

Photo Credit Creative Commons

I take on too much. I am a project starter, not necessarily a project finisher. I have been out there in the crazy maze of my imagination and I have been creating. It has been energizing and fun and full of potential and all of it is unfinished. It's unfinished because: 1. I have so many commitments I am like following around an ADD kid without their medication, 2. I get impatient with the process and the outlines and the actual typing it takes to get it on paper, and lastly (and most telling), 3. I am afraid of finishing because then I have to "ship my work." It's one thing to write stuff for me and see if I can do it - It's a whole other ball of wax to actually open up and show it to someone, let them tell you it's bad... really bad, or worse yet, let them tell you it's good.

The point I am trying to make here is that I have decided to concentrate on these other projects for a time. I will be out of the blogosphere for a while as I explore what it takes to "finish." I need to finish. I need to know that finishing is in me and that no matter what gets thrown my way I can press on and come to the end of something.

I look at the four book ideas I have and I see that each one is about taking an ending and creating a beginning from the ashes. Endings are a catalyst for beginnings and while it is scary to face, I am excited to stand in the starting blocks once more. I can feel the tension in my body, straining to hear that gunshot... Writers ready....

FINISH!

Blessings to all and I will see you on the other side!

Stacey <3

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dream Big



Hope dreaming big for a little filly
Photo credit Eli Paulsen

I remember it almost as clearly as I remember the day I knew. We were standing in the driveway and our friends looked at us and said something to the effect of "This is just too big to take on."

We had been searching for a way to buy the ranch. We were exhausted emotionally, intellectually and financially. All of our creativity was gone. It felt like a punch in the gut. Even our friends thought we were crazy. Maybe we were. I asked Shane if he thought it was too big. He said, "Maybe." I was not encouraged.

The thing is, I KNEW what God had said. I knew He was going to put us here and none of the talking or planning or scheming we had tried was going to work. I was aggravating in my steadfast belief that He would deliver. So much so that my husband let me have it one afternoon. I had been ignoring the bullet points in our planning meeting with a business advisor and Shane asked if I had any input. I shook my head. He was frustrated and asked about my lack of participation. I explained that all of our planning was fruitless; I knew we were going to buy the ranch, I knew we wouldn't have to split it up and I knew exactly where our house was going to go. He had had enough. He all but hollered at me, "Well, when you get all that set up, you just let us know!"

It was hard. I didn't have any answers, I didn't have a cohesive plan, I just knew it was coming - would come in a huge rush - and there was nothing we could do to stop or sway it. But explaining it? Ya... Nope. I couldn't do it and it made me feel like an idiot.

Two years later we were moving into the self-same ranch we were told was impossible. God had been the author of our dream and He had brought it to fruition with a chain of events that sound like one of those Hollywood feel-goods. It shouldn't have been possible. It wasn't possible without God. He did it all.

That's how God works. He takes your biggest, most impossible, unachievable dream and He produces a miracle. Sometimes, like He does with dullards like myself, He lets you know with certainty that it's coming - but He doesn't hand you a road map.

It's about trust. It's about trust and obedience. He doesn't inform you of the next step because you will jack it all up with your "helping." He doesn't need or want my help, as much as that pains me... He wants to bless me, and He wants me to tell you about it. That's the part that is almost too easy. I am supposed to tell people that God takes an impossibility and moves every obstacle out of the way so that His plan is accomplished. My only role in the miracle is to move when He says move and then tell people how awesome God is. That's it. Be obedient and pass it on...

Do you have a dream you are certain is unattainable? Are you convinced it will always be just a dream?  Is it just too big to handle on your own? I challenge you to lay it at the feet of the Almighty and then just listen for Him to tell you when to move. You may have some real work to do in that "move" command, but I assure you it will all be worth it when you are sitting in your kitchen telling someone how awesome God has been in your life. When you are able to look back and see how many obstacles He removed, how much He lined up to make it all possible, how amazing it is to be a child of the Most High - you will be in awe of His love and humbled by His gifts.

There was a quote from Joel Osteen this morning that inspired me. In effect he said if my dream is doable with my own abilities, my own resources and my own time it isn't big enough. I don't agree with everything that man says, but that? That I agree with wholeheartedly. My dreams are big enough that I cannot do them alone. My dreams need God. Are you willing to dream that big?

Be blessed and dream big... SCARY big!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fair Warning...

Photo Credit Creative Commons
I am having one of those moments this morning... One of those, I-really-don't-care-what-you-think-of-me moments where I go all bat-crap crazy and say EXACTLY what is on my mind. There it is... Fair warning, the shot over the bow, whatever you want to call it - I have given it.

I am feeling pissy and defensive and downright self-ritous. Yeah, yeah... I hear the doomsday music too, but sometimes you have to forge ahead and say it anyway, right?

I am so sick and tired of defending my stance that Christians are not these sterile, never have any fun, never laugh at themselves, never take a drink, never crack a sideways joke types that once they "drank the Kool-Aide" have to sit on the sidelines with pursed lips and wagging index fingers, judging everyone who does. Sick. Of. It. I don't believe it, I don't ascribe to it, and I won't be shut up by those who do.

Let me make this crystal clear - No holds barred.

I AM A CHRISTIAN WOMAN. I am not perfect. I say things I shouldn't. I drink. I don't smoke now, but I did at one time. I have tried certain drugs. I slept with men that weren't my husband as a young woman. I made mistakes. I found Christ. I pray daily that I never forget the place I have come from because: #1 - I could be back there with the blink of an eye; #2 - My testimony may be exactly what someone needs to know the unconditional love of Christ. I have developed a love for Christ and His desires for me that none can know but myself and Him. If I offend you because you don't like what I say, if your sensibilities are affronted because I refuse to pretend perfection, if you somehow have managed to excise all sin from your own life and cannot be party to me and mine - I wish you well. I will not beg you to stay. I will wish you no harm.

I believe that there are plenty of people out there who have been wooed by the Holy Spirit, only to be chased away by those same pursed-lipped, wagging-fingered zealots who started out the new Christian's education with all manner of "don'ts". I shake my head at that and the frustration rises... How different would the body of Christ be if we could somehow shake our preconceived notions and let all manner of person revel in the love that He wants to shower on us. How amazing would life be if the love of God was allowed to be experienced, untainted by our own fears and baggage? If I were covered in tattoos, piercings and had a drug addled past am I any less acceptable to God? Am I somehow damaged goods? If I love Him and He loves me, how is it right to hear people say I somehow cannot have purchase unless I cover up, shut up, look more the part? What does a Christian look like anyway?

Let's pretend (and let's all thank the Lord this isn't real!): If it were natural for a mark or scar to appear on your body every time you sinned, even though you love Christ, would it be fair for those with fewer marks (if there are any), to judge you? If for every sin, the mark was indiscernible from the next (because all sins are equally horrendous in God's sight), could you stand in judgement of another, not knowing what it was they earned the mark for? Even if you knew what caused the mark to appear, do you have the right, as a sinful human being with marks of your own, to judge your brother? Or is that domain of the Almighty alone? Maybe God doesn't mark out our sins because we all have them and every one of them is a personal affront to him no matter how "big" or "small" they are. Or maybe God does mark out our sins by covering us in human flesh. Just a thought...

I am not an idiot, I get it. We should all attempt to be more like Christ with every moment we have on this earth. I understand that there are new Christians out there that may find my brand of frankness off-putting and confusing. I am not saying I don't have flaws or that my sins are justified. Not at all. I am saying that living out loud is incredibly important to me. I am also recognizing that Christ sat with sinners, ate with prostitutes, associated with crooks, thieves and political aspirants. He didn't deny them a seat at his side. What right do I have to not do as Jesus did? And He also states very clearly in His Word, that there is no way on Earth that we can ever possibly be sin-free. Hmmmm....

(Takes deep breath...) Not everyone has to like me. I am not going to be everyone's brand of Christianity. I am ok with that. But do not mistake my admission of my fallibility for acceptance of such. I try daily to balance out the "bad dog" inside with the Christ-loved aspirations I harbor. I want to reach as many people as I can but I refuse to do it behind a faćade. I will love all of Christ's people with arms that once did nothing but evil. I will listen to them confess Christ with ears that once heard nothing but despair. I will encourage them with a mouth that cannot be tamed and fails in constancy. I AM A CHRISTIAN WOMAN, and I am loved by One who knows every hair on my head and every hope in my heart. I dare you to tell Him I am not worthy...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hope in My Heart

Photo courtesy of Eli Paulsen
I could hear the other horses milling about in their stalls. The quiet contrast of the barn at night is so stark it's hard to comprehend how busy we are during the day. I was here on a whim, running something to the freezer, but something told me to look in on her. Standing outside the stall is never good enough - I had to go in. I squatted down, back against the wall and waited as my legs fell painfully asleep. Just being in her presence calmed my breathing, slowed my mind, made things simpler in an otherwise exhausting day.

Her mother eyed me suspiciously. I scratched her neck and she relaxed with a sigh as I squatted to peer at the foal, standing opposite me at her mother's side. The big mare dutifully snuffled at my hair, lipped at my cheeks and generally checked me out before turning to allow the foal a closer look. This little one was not like the last. She was not as curious, not as willing to fly in the face of her mother's protective stance to check out the two-legger encroaching on their night. I held my breath and prayed my legs would hold up.

She nursed from her mother and stretched her neck to sniff at me, tiny nostrils flaring with each breath. Her big brown eyes were tranquil pools of mild curiosity. I cautiously reached out with fingertips to touch her  muzzle... Softer than I could imagine and such a treat, I sat stock-still, hoping for her curiosity to get the better of her. She inched closer, walking under her mother's belly on tiny, halting hooves. The mare nickered her approval softly and I quit breathing for a moment...

The filly stretched her elegant neck out as far as it would reach and lipped softly at my fingertips. I closed my eyes and felt as her mouth determined that my hand held no milk. It was only a second, a short fleeting moment after long stretches of waiting and legs that couldn't move any more... But in that instant my heart melted into the goo that would love her all the more come morning.

Her name is Hope and she is filled with promise...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It Isn't Fair...

Photo Credit: Morgan Nati

He stood there, amazed. Slack jawed and more than a little irritated; he was fuming! After a long day's work in the fields he was returning to bedlam. Where was his father? The revelers were dancing and playing instruments, the smell of roasted meat filled his nostrils and not far away a familiar but heartbreaking sound of a man's voice filled his ears. He pushed his way past the partiers, to find his brother seated with his father. Laughing and feasting he was wearing one of Father's finest robes over tattered rags and as his hand reached for another chunk of succulent meat he caught a glimpse of the ring as it shone in the firelight. A ring? The robe? Really? Fury began to build in his gut, fiery and acid with the taste of betrayal. As his father looked up and saw him, he spun on his heels. He couldn't stand it any longer - He had to get out of there before he exploded.

"Son?" His father caught up with him outside the large tent. "Won't you come in and celebrate with us? Your younger brother has returned! He is back!"

"How could you?" His heart pounded loudly in his ears, his chest near bursting with anger and humiliation. "How could you treat him like a king when you know as well as I do he was laying with prostitutes and wallowing with pigs? He wasted everything you gave him! Why on earth are you celebrating?"

"But he is back! Your brother is back - We had to celebrate!" His father looked genuinely confused.

"He doesn't deserve it. I never asked you for anything, yet he demands it all and you give it to him! You never threw me a feast for being the good son... It isn't fair!"

Have you been there? Have you ever watched as someone less deserving got the best piece of the pie? Have you ever wondered if there is justice in this world? I have. Many times. I have watched as our own family struggled, ate less than glamorously, didn't vacation, prayed as our business languished. I have looked up from the devastation that I felt and seen those that are so smug and wasteful, less than Christianly, prosper and flourish. I have watched as others enrich themselves on the soil of our despair... It was terrible. It was excruciatingly painful. It wasn't fair.

So where is God's justice? I mean, we hear about how fair He is and how He will be our ultimate Judge at the end of time. Does that mean that we don't get justice until then? We have to wait until the Rapture and return of Christ to see those that are undeserving get what's coming to them? Well, do we????

If I am waiting for that kind of justice, I hope to be waiting a very long time. I hope, for all of our sakes, that it is never fair.

God's love isn't built on justice. It isn't measured out in deserving spoonfuls based on what I have done for Him or how much I have tried to be a "good girl." Thank God for that! God's love - What we all crave whether we are aware of it or not - God's love is based in Mercy and Grace. I cannot earn it or achieve it. I can only ask for it. The very best part about having Him operate that way? If I ask for His love, genuinely and humbly, He will give it every time. Without fail, God will never deny me His love and His grace. That means no matter how ugly I have been, no matter how selfish, how hateful, how murderous my heart, God will always open His arms and welcome me back to His celebration. I am never turned from His table of plenty. He will never ask that I sit in the corner and watch as others eat. He always has my seat reserved for me.

I am comforted by that - for me. I don't much like it when I see others I judge as unworthy allowed the same grace. Why? Because my justice is skewed, my grace is nonexistent, I am without mercy in my heart. I am human. He is God. I look at the situation and want to view the repentance in action. I want to see that the person is really going to be sorry and change their ways. I look at the outward view of a man. God looks at the man's heart. He sees the repentance where it starts, He looks into the soul and judges there - There, where I cannot go.

It seems too easy, doesn't it? That someone can just say, "I'm sorry," to God and He accepts it without prejudice. It doesn't seem fair or right... It is the same with salvation. You don't have to DO anything. You only have to ask and viola! It is done for you. You instantly become a part of the family with all rights to inherit the kingdom of God. You would think that people would be signing up by the droves to get that kind of booty. They don't. It's too easy. Our human nature says there has to be some kind of ceremony, some sort of sacrifice...

The ease in which you and I are saved from an eternity of darkness came at a very high price, the ultimate in sacrifice. The only person to ever live this life without sinning (not even once) took all of it on for us. He did it all! Christ did everything we couldn't do, so that He could climb onto a cross and be covered in every sin - EVERY SIN - past, present and future! His own Father, who vows never to turn from us, turned from Him so that we could have it so easy.

I won't tell you that I don't struggle with the prodigal son thing... I won't tell you that I don't wonder at times why on Earth God allows such painful injustice to wallop me on the head and bring me low. I will tell you I get it. I get that God wanted it to be so easy that to not accept His love would be folly. I get that if I am allowed His grace for every nasty thing I have done and will do, I have to allow others the same process. God's love isn't fair.... And aren't I glad of that?! After all, I am the only one that stands in my way from attending the same feast - And if you know me, you know I rarely miss a party!

Be blessed... not fair.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Simple Stuff

I know! It has been too long! (Reaches out and gives you that uncomfortable "pat-pat" hug.) I try desperately not to give apologies or false hope here. I won't tell you "real life got in the way" or that I have been very, very busy - All of which is true. I will tell you that this is still my happy spot and I miss you when I don't show up here. I have been out in Analog World doing Me.

Me? Well this chick is a mess! She does things like lays laminate floor and crochets sweaters, draws cell phone covers and decorates glassware. She has a card business and lots of creative ideas. She writes reams and then doesn't write at all. She's simple and she's complex and all of that inside a 30 nano-second time span. I won't pretend to know why I have been out of the blogosphere for the last two weeks, I only know that I have accomplished much, gotten some much needed chores done, reclaimed an entire room in my home, lost a dog and been dealing with an insurance company. It has been a little hectic... And yet, I have been happy. Well... As happy as I can be when I am not writing.

Writing is just so much of who I am. It is the essence of Me. When you do what you love it is as if you suddenly exist. When I neglect it - Well, I become shadow - bodiless mist, as it were. Don't feel sorry for me, I can be damned productive shadow-mist! But I still pine for that space in my head that feeds my writer-self. I miss it. And so... Here I am!

It hasn't been an easy week, but I am still here, all of my loved ones are safe and the hard decisions are made. It is in these weeks, when I rely on God most, that I become aware again of how important it is to say thank you for the simple things and take a moment to appreciate them fully. Here is my list:

  • I love the smell of fresh ground, fresh brewed coffee, hot in my mug, the color of warm caramel.
  • I love to see my dog stare at me. Such innocence and love, unconditional and unwavering.
  • I love realizing that the cat who loves only my husband is sitting next to me and allowing me to absently stroke his incredibly soft head. I love that he pretends not to notice I am touching him and I love that I touch him without thinking about it.
  • I love that if you leave honey and lemons in a mason jar long enough they ferment into a lovely addition to your Vodka.
  • I adore text messages from my love. He gets me... Mostly.
  • I love my bed and the sound of my fingernails on the keyboard. They remind me that I am doing what I love in the best spot in the house, surrounded by the things that I love and love me back.
  • I love the smell of cut lumber.
  • I love the feeling I get when I accomplish something I was afraid to start (Yes, laminate floor and cardigan sweater, I am talking about you!)
  • I love remembering to write things down so I don't forget them later and then actually remembering where I wrote them so I have them at my disposal when the time comes...
  • I love the feel of crisp, fresh paper
  • I love knowing that all of my choices, good and misguided, make me who I am and no one can say they have done it exactly like I have.
  • I love feeling my purple converse get wet from the slush because it means we have snow on the ground.
  • I love knowing that no matter what I fear, God already knows how it turns out.
  • I love the curls and waves in my hair that are so trendy right now and all I have to do is give it a spritz and I am done...
  • I love being a sister.
  • I love finding a bargain at the Goodwill at just the right moment and confirming that it was a really good deal!
  • I love just being...

What are your simple things? Say thank you right now and count them out loud!

Be blessed!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fitting It All Together

Photo Credit Creative Commons
I grew up thinking everything had to have a purpose. I don't know why and I don't know how it came to be my modus operandi. It just did. Suddenly I was sitting in my grown up life and everything had to have a reason for doing. You ate when you were hungry, you spoke when there was information to impart, you moved because things needed doing... All of it had links to something important in your life. Homework was to get you to college. Jobs were to teach you responsibility. Careers were to earn money and buy things, have a family, do the right thing. It all linked together in this jigsaw puzzle of life and someday, when I was grown up, it would look like something spectacular. The trouble is, I had these pieces that didn't seem to fit the rest of the puzzle.

I had pieces that I loved. Pieces that were shiny, beautiful and touchable but they didn't fit into the puzzle. They didn't have the same tones, the same shape... So I set them aside. I left them there to gather dust and wondered if there would ever come a time where the puzzle they belonged to would surface and I could make them fit somehow. I waited for permission and purpose to use those pieces.

I don't usually watch much tv before I write. It saps me of creativity. Sunday Morning on CBS is different. The format pokes my creative spirit in the ribs and asks, "Did you hear that? Did you see what they did there?" I love it. Seeing the artists they feature and hearing stories of how they came to be so in tune with themselves... It gives my muddied muse a douse with the garden hose and lifts me back up to the easel. I get inspired.

Today I watched a piece about rock and roll artist turned Broadway musical creator, Trey Anastasio, formerly of Phish. It was soothing and pleasantly enjoyable until his parting words slammed into my chest, "I love writing music. It's like food!" Not that I love writing music, that wasn't where I instantly related. It was the "I love _______. It's like food!" Put in that space anything that fills you up, anything that truly rejuvenates you, completes you in ways that all of your chores for purpose don't. That was what struck me today. There are things that I do in life because they need done and there are things that I do in my life because they feed me. FEED ME... It was as if I had in earplugs and I finally removed them to hear that desperate plea, now so loud it was shocking. I had been ignoring that cry because I had other things to do; important, purposeful things... I was drowning out the pleas, waiting for permission.

The epiphany wrung my heart with surprising strength. The puzzle pieces that sit outside my daily life: my writing, my artistry - They are not pieces to be set aside to gather dust or be forgotten. Worse yet, they are not pieces to be used as rewards for a job well done in purpose-puzzle-land but a vital part of me to be cultivated and grown and built upon in their own right. If I cannot fit those pieces into the puzzle of daily life then I need to build another puzzle. I must start by realizing that those fragments, whimsical and fragile and frivolous, refuel my desires and my abilities to stick with a puzzle filled with responsibilities and things I have to do.

I had a meltdown the other day. I was overwhelmed, frustrated and desperate. As in most times like that, my mother called. I don't know if she has a radar for my moods, but she could instantly tell that something was off with me. I poured out my heart to her, I explained my frustration, I cried, I admitted that I hadn't a creative drop of juice left in me. Her answer was not to head into the house and get some laundry done. It wasn't her advice to clean a bathroom or head up to the office and do some accounting or web updates. Her advice was to go out to my studio and soak it up. Even if I did nothing at all but sit on my couch and take in the light, she advised me to go to my happy place and just BE. She told me that not everything has to have a purpose to be good for us. It was like a balm to an open wound. It soothed me and gave me permission to minister to myself.

As a woman and a caregiver I tend to deny myself that luxury of doing for me. I feel guilty if I am not serving someone else's need. I hold myself to a standard no one could achieve and one that I am sure God didn't intend for me to model. I was created to serve a God who wants me to be lit afire, burning brightly and cheerily, giving to others without draining myself of my own fuel. That "food" that I crave it is like a Sabbath to my soul. It feeds me in ways that I don't always understand. Like different cuisines, each of us craves something unique. I am fed by putting words on a page, by creating art that touches others. It becomes a Sabbath refuge for me - A place of rest and rejuvenation. It is in this space that I feel most alive, most myself, most ME. Seems counter-intuitive that I would avoid being more of who I am, doesn't it? It is time to change that perception.

Those odd puzzle pieces aren't a part of my daily routine quite yet, but I am turning them over in my hands now. I am studying them and starting to look for other pieces that will fit. Someday they will become a part of the larger picture. Until that day, I will build on them in their own right. I will create around them and be refreshed by that sensation - The sensation of being full, being satisfied - being Me.


Be blessed - And be YOU!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

After God's Heart

Photo credit: Creative Commons
He stood there, in his youth, fresh, strong, ruddy and handsome. He felt the rush of blood through his veins and excitement sped his heart rate to ear pounding levels. He was in the presence of every one of his brothers, his father and the leading holy man of his time. He knew he'd heard it right, there was no denying it - And from the looks on the faces of his kin, it was no less shocking to them either. David had been anointed as the next king of Israel. There were some details he didn't understand, of course - like how he could be king when Saul was currently on the throne - But that didn't matter right now. He would be king... Soon!

I love David. I thank God that He let us know his story intimately. David was small, a shepherd (one of the lowest jobs you could have at the time) and not your typical hero. He was hot tempered (yeah, I can relate to that), red headed (one of my people!) and he screwed up on a regular basis. These things are not what Hollywood would have you believe make up the most recognized hero of the Bible. But most people, even non-Christians, have heard at least part of David's epic tale. Yeah, he's THAT guy. David is the diminutive under-dog that killed the giant. He's also the guy that fell in love with Bathsheba, another man's wife, and had her husband killed so that he could take her for his own. I cherish the allowance God gives us with letting us see David for such a long period in his life. To be able to learn that he starts out strong, is pursued by evil, kicks evil's butt, fails, then epically fails and ultimately ends up exactly as God says he would is a treasure trove of love. I strongly advise reading David's story (1 Sam 17:1-1 Ki 2:10), it is beyond amazing. Be warned, his rule spanned 40 years and he was a busy guy... Not to mention the years before he ruled.

Yeah, that is what I am really talking about here. David was dubbed King of Israel amid his family by the prophet Samuel FOURTEEN YEARS before the crown was laid on his head! Fourteen years, people! And we get impatient waiting for our burger and fries... Before we dismiss that thought with a sage nod of the head and let our brains wash out how long that actually is let's think about it. There isn't one thing I have waited for in my life for that long a period of time. There is only one thing in my world that even comes close and that is my son - He is fourteen. (yeah... Moving on!) Imagine being told you won the lottery... Now imagine that your first check won't come for fourteen years! That's right, you have to go on working for the same boss, worrying about the same bills and responsibilities, deal with the same lines at the grocery store and live in the same house. You have the winning ticket, you know you won, but for fourteen years nothing is going to change. And here's the kicker, you know it will be fourteen years - David didn't know when he would finally be king! Are you getting it like I am?

The years David spend waiting for that moment he would get to wander the halls of palaces and be waited on hand and foot were long and arduous. Not because he lived in ancient times without running water, indoor facilities and wi-fi, but because he was pursued. Yup. The current king was being ousted, but it was going to take a while and in that time period, King Saul found out who his successor would be. Um, can I say that he wasn't thrilled? It made him cuckoo, in fact - literally. Saul went nutty trying to make sure he would stay king as long as he possibly could. He drifted from having David among his court members playing musical interludes (where he also used little Davey for target practice) to chasing the young ginger in and out of caves, around the country-side and onto fields of battle.

If you thought that made any difference in what our young hero did, you would be wrong. David proved to be a resourceful man. We all know the story of how he took down Goliath when everyone else hid, but you have to read on to see how loyal, inventive and intelligent he is after the meeting with Samuel. He is fearless in his youth and nothing seems to sway him. He stays in service to King Saul as long as he can, only leaving when his best friend, the kings own son, advises him and aids him in his escape. He then partners up with some men of questionable reputation (some of them open criminals) and wanders the countryside, trying to stay just out of Saul's reach. He is pursued relentlessly, hungry often, worried for his men, his family and himself and he is often exhausted beyond comprehension. He has lost the company of his best friend, he is under a death warrant for something he didn't ask for and it all seems surreal and unfair.

How easy it would have been for David to chuck it all and figure he somehow got it wrong. To think that David could have walked away, thrown the inheritance of a kingdom and the glory of God down the drain is a testament to his perseverance and his patience. He had every right to say "forget it!" He didn't deserve the wrath of a crazy king. He didn't do anything to be left friendless. He was a godly man who started out a lowly shepherd, did a courageous act in battle for his country no one else would step up to do, and he had been thrown aside and forsaken, even it seemed, by God. He could have done all that, and we would have understood. Except for one thing... He didn't.

David was patient and he persevered. David trusted God and what He said through Samuel. He didn't need to be reminded over and over that God had said he would be king. He knew it. He trusted that God doesn't lie. More importantly, David understood the magnitude of the job. To be king of Israel would take a man that could lead a people reputed for their stubbornness and refusal to obey God's commands. To be king and survive it in humility, David had to learn strength and reliance on the one person who could see him succeed: GOD. He doesn't do it perfectly. In fact, he becomes a murderer and an adulterer, he loses children because of his own sin and he is not allowed to build things he once thought he would. He deals with consequences that most of us would crumple under. He perseveres.

I love David and his story because it shows me how trivial my problems must look. It gives me a focus that is so simple and clear: Do it because it pleases God. It is that plain. Because it pleases God... Not because I will get anything from it, although I may. Not because I will have fame and followers, although I might. Do it because God has asked it of me and my obedience pleases Him.

Whatever you are going through, be reminded that patience and perseverance are rewarded mightily at the hand of a God that knows every hair on your head. He loves you, wants to bless you and will discipline you with the hand of a devoted father. Christ sealed the deal for us with grace and mercy so that we can walk confidently into the purpose set before us. Don't give up... You never know when that promise might be just over the next horizon.

Be blessed!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chucking the Heebie-Jeebies



Photo credit Creative Commons

I have this weird secret. It isn't sensational, it won't leave you breathless. It's kind of lame actually. I have a terrible time accepting compliments on my writing. I get this weird butterfly feeling in my stomach, I try to think of an appropriate joke or self deprecating comment and I usually can't or realize I shouldn't... So I stand there, weak smile on my face, shuffling from foot to foot and feeling very aware that I don't know what to do with my hands. I usually say thank you... Do you have any idea how lame that sounds? Gah! Barf... (rolls eyes) Is that humility? Is it weakness that compliments on a job I feel pushed to do for God make me supremely uncomfortable? Or is it false? Should I revel in the accolades and feel blessed that God has given me a talent that touches others?

Like most of us, I struggle with discerning genuine humility. I can recall to mind those, "Aw shucks," foot-shufflers, but I also know that those shoes don't fit me. I read once that false humility is a form of pride. Well, craptastic! There's no doubt that that is wrong. Then what is it really? How can I humbly respond without sounding like a complete dork?

You know I "googled" it, don't you? You should know I google things a ton by now. It shocked me to find that one of the easiest quotes to understand came from a person I would not qualify as humble: Charlie Sheen! He said, "Uncertainty is a sign of humility, and humility is just the ability or the willingness to learn." OK... Then there was another Charles (one a bit more somber and recognizably qualified): Noted theologian, Mr. Charles Spurgeon said, "Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self." Getting closer... Now for the nail in the coffin: "True humility is intelligent self respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be." Ralph W. Sockman. (Emphasis mine.)

Authentic humility is recognizing our God given gifts while at the same time realizing that we came from nothing - "dust," as it were. Humility is not making light of our abilities, as if just anyone could do the things that we can do. That would be silly. I cannot sculpt or sing or paint like others can. My medium is words and my pallet is my computer screen and I am gifted. I recognize God's grace in my abilities and I seek to sharpen my craft the best I can for His purposes. To keep my tools sharp and to use them is to be obedient to God's purpose in my life.

My writing brings me immense joy and when it brings God glory, in the form of compliments of my writing, that is the ultimate high! Do I have a gift? Yes. Is it direct from God? Definitely. The thing is, there is a fine line between realizing that God is the author of all glory and knowing that my compliance and willingness to do what I am asked is a vital part of the reach. To minimize its impact by making a joke or saying anyone can do what I do is flying in the face of God and, quite frankly, isn't true. Being falsely humble is as sinful as being prideful. Being so self deprecating that I diminish God's gift to me is insulting; insulting to God and to those who took time to express their gratitude and admiration for what I do. Don't get me wrong, I won't be doing a happy dance or saying things like, "Oh yeah, I rock!" anytime soon. But I can graciously say thank you and express that I am happy God used me to touch someone's heart. That is all true.

Realize today that God has gifted you in a very specific way to reach others for Him. Now, stand up and accept that there will be folks who will want to tell you how much that helped them. Say thank you, tell them God is amazing and smile! Be the face of Christ so that others may know He loves without hesitation.

Be blessed!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Like a Freaking Ballerina

Photo credit: Creative Commons

I don't get it. It escapes me, really. In fact, if I think about it too long I get downright angry. It brings out my edges... Sharp edges. Makes me want to say all those words us nice Christian girls aren't even supposed to know.

I abhor injustice. I know - I can hear the, "Well, DUH!" I think most of us, deep within, no matter what we let out, think it sucks. When someone gets the short end, time after time and those sticking it to them just skate on like nothing happened - That kind of thing infuriates me. Oh buddy! And let me be on the receiving end? It ain't purty!

But there are actual, for-real, live human beings out there that don't seem to get all bent out of shape over injustice. I don't mean that they don't feel disgusted by it, or that they are milk-toast wimps about it. Just that it doesn't send them into a tirade. They take it in stride. They might smile or chuckle or just walk away, but it leaves them and doesn't stir their guts into a tumultuous wad of tangles.

I have asked, you know? I have asked how it is they can stand by and let someone treat them horribly without even saying so much as one word. Do you know what they said? Grace.

Grace.

Us humans, we are crappy individuals. We aren't that way all of the time, but it is in our nature to be self-serving, judgmental, mean and self-riteous. Doing nasty things to each other is part of the gig of a fallen world. But what God teaches, through His Son, is that no matter what gets done to me or mine, my actions are to be ones of grace. Before I start huffing about how unfair that is I am reminded it is exactly what has been given to me. In Golgotha I got a very concise, clear, unwavering gift of grace hung on a cross. I couldn't miss it if I tried.

Grace.

The simplest definition of grace I can muster is "unmerited favor." It does it the most justice in the simplest terms I can understand. Unmerited = undeserved. Favor = good will. Undeserved good will. Undeserved. Hmmmm... Means nothing in my actions say I should be allowed good will. Means I can't earn it. Means no one can. It means that God loves without condition - for reals, not like me. I don't have the ability to truly unconditionally love anyone or anything. Only God does. And He did. Even when I hated Him.

Let's be very clear here: Grace when I am feeing all fuzzy and charitable is worthless. Grace when I am hurt is hard. To truly have worth, grace has to cost something. Without darkness, light loses all meaning. Without pain, pleasure has no context. Without injustice, grace is empty. Grace is a gift unearned, given without hope of reciprocation. Where justice would be deserved, grace releases its grasp and hands the offender a get out of jail free card.

There is one last thing about grace: Grace is quiet. It is why it is so hard for me to comprehend. Grace is something that doesn't look for recognition. When grace is truly undeserved good will it isn't spoken about or lauded by the giver. Grace is like an anonymous gift - I am not supposed to lay claim to it, boast about it, point out the good thing I did... If I do, it isn't grace. Grace is the great release of all expectations and for me, one of the hardest things on earth to do.

Grace isn't fair. It seems like grace lets the bad guys win and that goes against the grain. I want things to be fair, good gets rewarded, evil gets punished - the hero wins, you know? But then I think deeper; do I really want fair? Turning that table around, would I want fair or grace on my plate? None of us are the good guys all the time. Sometimes we are the villain. Well then... Hmm. Yeah. Makes me rethink my reactions. Now. In this moment when it doesn't cost me anything, grace seems like a great idea. Putting it into practice? Well... I guess I will just have to continue to hold my tongue and pray that when God gives me the opportunity to free someone with the grace card I will be up to the task.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph 2:8)
Be blessed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It Ain't No Book Learnin'

Photo Credit: Serene David
Going from city girl to trainer's wife has taught me more than I ever could have imagined. Some of it is useful, some funny, a little is tongue in cheek and all of it is treasured. Off the top of my head I have learned:


  • When a colt is born you have to do three things almost every time:
  1.  Check for a healthy placenta
  2.  Apply iodine to the umbilical stump
  3.  Give the little tike an enema (and stand back)
  • Automatic waterers have a float and a float arm. Horses will play with the waterer and bend the float arm to flood your barn.
  • The best constructed barns have central line drains for when they are flooded
  • Horses have iffy eyesight and two very separate sides of their brain. What they saw coming from one direction means nothing coming from the other and it could get you killed.
  • Foxtail doesn't belong in horse hay. It has tons of stickery-sticker things that get stuck in their mouths and they won't eat.
  • An outdoor hydrant can freeze and burst if the little arm thing isn't put all the way down
  • Vinyl fencing looks nice but is useless around horses
  • Vinyl fencing is hella expensive
  • Horses can recognize people and they do have preferences. There are people they remember for good things and people they remember for bad things.
  • The softest part of a horse is their nose. It is also one of the most sensitive parts.
  • Some horses love to get treats.
  • Some horses should never be given treats because they will become extremely obnoxious
  • Horse show people are not as crazy as dog show people
  • Horse show people are crazy ;)
  • I am a horse show people
  • Kids can eat horse poo and not get sick
  • Dirt builds amazing immunities
  • Riding lawn mowers are a little like tractors
  • Riding lawn mowers are nothing like tractors
  • Being allergic to hay means mowing the lawn is not a good idea.
  • Being allergic to dust means you married for love
  • The eyes of a new born filly hold all the answers to every question you ever had
  • The best stars are seen where there are no street lights
  • A horse whinny can sound like a baby crying
  • Cows lowing is comforting but the soft blow from a horse on your face is heaven
  • Horses love to watch another horse escaped and running free.
  • One escaped horse is a predecessor to many escaped horses
  • Catching an escaped horse is an art form and not for the impatient
  • Horses think humans are HUGE
  • Horses are HUGE
  • A scared horse that thinks you are huge will try to climb in your lap for comfort
  • Horses don't fit in my lap - Horses of any size!
  • Halter breaking is about who lasts the longest
  • Keep their heads from smacking the ground when you are halter breaking a colt.
  • Cotton ropes will burn your hands and make them feel like plastic
  • People who love working with horses have amazing hearts
  • Trainers are tougher than they look
  • Trainers are softer than they let you see
  • The well pit makes a good tornado shelter
  • Dead snakes in the well pit make horse trainers squeal like girls
  • More than 8 people and 4 animals will fit in the well pit when necessary
  • Horse shows are great places to raise a family
  • Community is still alive in the rural US
  • Neighbors will help when you call
  • You have to ask for help when you need it
  • Quiet doesn't mean things are broken, it means things are just right
  • Buffalo may be necessary for working horses but make sure your gates are strong
  • Escaped buffalo are a pain in the patoot
  • Not everyone will help you gather up your escaped buffalo
  • Being alone is fine if you aren't lonely
  • Leaning your body into a horse is good for every ill
  • Horses will keep every secret you whisper
  • Horses hearts are larger than their brains
  • A horse doesn't need to be smart to love you 
There is so much more but I think that'll do for now. And I've only been here for 17 years...


Saturday, February 9, 2013

At the core of it all...

This won't be popular. It won't make some readers happy. In fact, they may walk away right now. I have to be ok with that. What I am about to say flies in the face of many viewpoints on living a "happy life." Know that I mean no disrespect, but God desires our growth, not our comfort and sometimes His message stings.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

God's love came at tremendous price. God watched as His son was brutally killed after a rigged trial. God turned His back on His dying boy, hung on a criminal's cross, and left him there to breathe his last breath alone, forsaken... He didn't do all of those things to give us a picture of cruelty. He did it because it was the only example we would relate to. He did it because I understand pain more than I understand love. God handed His child over to me and watched me abuse Him so that I would understand how much He loved ME. God gave me His son, no holds barred, no strings attached - He even allows me to walk away without choosing to take the gift.

When I look on my own son's face, when I hear his voice and touch his hand I think about what God gave up so that I would understand. When I really get down to that level, think about looking at my own flesh and blood in pain, alone, terrified; it brings it home. Hard. That is what God did for me. He gave me the ultimate gift, a gift no other could ever offer. God handed me His most precious possession and He did it when I hated Him. God gave me His treasure when I spit in His face. He didn't flinch or give it conditions. He released Christ to me to do with what I would. Who in their right mind would do that?

Has the shock-wave of that hit you? I has hit me. I can hardly write this without weeping. So often I rip through my days without stopping to feel. I have so much doing to get done, I don't have time to feel or appreciate or connect. But when I finally sit with this gift I have been given, when I don't shy away from the pain of knowing how much I don't deserve it, I begin to understand the gravity of my choices.

(I hear you out there: "Yeah, yeah, yeah... Here she goes again about choices. I can choose joy or I can choose sorrow. I can choose to be offended or I can choose grace. I can choose Christ or I can choose the enemy. When will she pick another tune?" Well, maybe later... But not today.)

Above all things I believe we choose, we are given an opportunity to choose love. I don't mean just loving your neighbor, though that has tremendous merit. I mean choosing daily to specifically love your spouse. In our disposable, entitled world, growing up with a shelf life to almost everything, we have been conditioned to look for the next best thing. We have applied this to marriage as well. If it no longer suits me, if I don't feel appreciated, if I have someone else that would be willing to love me more the world has given me permission to throw away my marriage and start over.

Now, before I get hate mail and folks twist what I have been asked to write here, let me be crystal clear: I am NOT talking about staying in a physically and mentally abusive relationship that threatens the health of women, men or children. Of course actions must be taken to secure your health and safety. What I am talking about has nothing to do with those circumstances. What I am talking about is choosing not to throw away a relationship based on how we feel.

I don't know about you, but my marriage isn't perfect. (I know! You are shocked right? *rolls eyes*) There are days I have to actively choose not to walk out the door and never look back. The shocking realization I have come to is this: So does he. There are mornings I am sure my husband closes the door to our home and contemplates hopping in his truck and leaving it all in a cloud of dust. He would be justified by this world's standards. I am mean, broken, selfish, heartless and cruel. I say things I shouldn't, ignore his needs and take him horribly for granted. So why doesn't he just leave? Why would he stay? Simple: He chooses to love me.

OK. Wait... What? Well, in that simple act of not throwing in the towel, he is choosing to love me. It may not have a hug in it, it may not come with flowers or jewelry, but that choice to not leave - THAT is love.

We have been taught some terrible insidious lies in this life and the biggest one is that love is an emotion. That you feel it. We have been taught that if you don't feel it anymore it is acceptable to walk away. I am here to challenge that. I do not believe that love is an emotion - Not the kind of love I want in my life, anyway. Love, the kind of love I desperately need in my broken life, is a choice. It isn't fleeting like the attraction I had when we first met, it isn't based on how he treats me or what he says on a daily basis. Love is choosing to stay, choosing to act with kindness and grace, choosing to hold on when everything else says I should let go. Love is making a choice to trust that when God put us together, He meant what He said.

Emotions are fleeting. Lust and attraction will fade. Passion comes and goes. Love... Love chooses to stay and give and wait and trust. Love is not battered about on the winds of whimsy, it doesn't dissolve in the torrent of hardship. Love waits when it is hardest to be patient. Love reaches out when it is offended. Love forgives.

If you are struggling today to love your spouse rest assured you are not alone. Choose it anyway. God chose you when you didn't deserve it. He still does. If you need a picture of all the things love is, check out 1Cor13: 4-8a:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (NIV version)
This verse is revealing in ways that make me very uncomfortable. It shames me. It should. I fall short on a minute by minute basis. I choose to keep trying anyway. How about you? What will you choose?

Be blessed!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Balancing Act


Photo courtesy of Leslie Laing

Can I share something with you? No, really... You might not like it and it might change the way you look at me. You sure? ok...

There are days I just don't want to be happy.

I told you it would be hard to hear. Try living it. As a friend of mine says, "At least you can get away from me!" Ya, there really are days I wish I could crawl away from myself and not have to be cordial, polite, congenial and overall a pleasant person.

Today is one of those days. I don't know if I will be brave enough to publish this post, but I hope so. I think it might me important, since God is giving my emotions a word count... He doesn't always do that.

Today I woke up, I got the kids off to school, I talked pleasantly with my husband and wished him a happy day. As the door closed on the bright white of 2 inches of snow, it hit me. I felt like crying. No reason at all. Just felt like it. Tried to shake it off and post something sunny to Facebook and I couldn't. Opened Pinterest for some inspiration and it tasted like sawdust in my mouth. I don't want to be happy. Not for forever, just for right now.

I am an over thinker. So when I feel like this I want to give it a label, a reason, a time limit. It's how I operate. I figure if I can pinpoint the reason I feel this way, I can somehow prepare for it next time and maybe avoid it all together. Then I stopped.

What if it's ok that I don't feel like being happy today? What if the reason I feel like this is because I am in constant upbeat-land and I am responding to the pressure of not being who I really am in the moment? What if everything doesn't culminate in an inspirational Facebook post? What if a few tears and some time in grumpy-cat land brings me back in touch with my true self? Would that be so bad?

I came to a few conclusions:


  • Because I live a life surrounded by work and people that are work-related, I tend to stuff my feelings. I put on a happy face so my interactions are polite and efficient and pleasant. No one wants to deal with a Grumpy Gus. Because of our careers, I don't consistently clock out, drive home, decompress. When my phone rings I am expected to answer, when the email lights up I am expected to respond. It is a function of the society we are living in now that I never really shut down and unplug.
  • Without darkness, light isn't truly understood or appreciated. If I had to always live life with a light turned on I would become unhappy and crave some darkness to allow my eyes to rest. Emotionally, I need that. To not always be forcing the smile, the wit, the sunny disposition... It sets me up to appreciate the times I am completely, truly, over-the-top happy.
  • Joy has not left me because my smile has. I am still joyful in my life, in my work, in general. Joy isn't lost because I feel the need to emotionally release the pressure. I am not broken because the thought of carrying on a sunny conversation makes me want to run and hide. I just need to settle the score between being "on" and being me.
  • God is still here with me, despite the status of my emotions. He isn't disgusted because I don't want to be happy today. He isn't going to leave me or rob me of my message because I am needlessly somber. God, most of all, understands when I need time to reevaluate my mood. And the kicker? If I ask Him to, He will help me find my happy again.
So there it is. I am not happy today. I would really like to crawl back under the covers and start over... Later. Like, tomorrow. I'll find my happy again, I am sure. I will be back to being the me you know and love soon. Just not right now.

What do you struggle with? Is it losing your happy? How do you find it again - if you even want to?

Be blessed!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Now Hiring


I’ve often thought about what it would be like to place an ad for a new best friend. Not that I am in the market for one… It’s just one of those things that cross my warped mind and stay a little too long in the crosswalk, if you know what I mean.

The ad would start out:  “Friendship Wanted: Previous experience a plus, but not required. Skills listed must accompany large bottle of wine with two glasses, any size.

1.     Side kick: Applicant will posses the attributes of a heroic helper. Tights not a must but definitely helpful. Must be nimble, able to leap low shrubbery and own at least two pairs of high heels. Possession of a cape of any color will move you up in the selection process.
2.     Confidante: Applicant must be able to keep their lip zipped. No blabbermouths need apply. Snickering and “remember-when’s” in mixed company will not be tolerated. Applicant (hereinafter also referred to as the friend) will guard all secrets, including the time I tucked my skirt into my panties, as if their life depended on it, no exceptions! And no, telling your husband/boyfriend is not acceptable.
3.     Partner in crime: Aiding and abetting a must. Sharp skills at verbally eluding invasive questions helpful.  Must be unafraid of heights, darkness and be able to run in heels. Back ground check should reveal questionable decision making skills.
4.     Comiserator: Applicant must come equipped with a deep love of vodka, ice cream and Mexican food. These skills will be utilized in the event of heartbreak, job loss or general malaise. It is imperative that the friend is never dieting when commiseration is called for. This could result in early termination.
5.     Sommelier: Wine. I love it. I need it. Get it. You’re in!
6.     Dance partner: The friend will possess skillz. Applicant will be unafraid to shake their groove thing when needed, salsa if asked and always be available to dance inappropriately to ward off unwanted advances. Mosh pits are not included nor will they be ever be. Applicant will never refer to the age of herself or her employer as reason not to dance.
7.     Wing man: Applicant will be able to assess and intercept unwanted and inappropriate advances in any situation. The friend will also be sharp of wit and agile of foot to trip up anyone that might get too handsy. Applicant will also possess adeptness at pointing out her employer’s most intriguing characteristics. She will enjoy banter, laughter and light joking but not monopolize the conversation. She must also be in possession of the code word (Squirrel!) in order to affect a quick extraction.
8.     Cheerleader: The friend will find applicable compliments to bestow when appropriate and may even don the short skirt and poms when necessary. Applicant will possess the discernment necessary not to wear the short skirt and poms during important formal business meetings.
9.     Truth Detector: Applicant will be allowed to call BS when appropriate except when acting as confidant or wingman. It is the friend’s duty to hold accountable the desires, dreams and goals of the employer so as to facilitate happiness. The applicant will be permitted to employ honesty, integrity and a bat if necessary to reach compliance.
10. Comedian: The friend will possess an incomparable sense of humor and the ability to make the employer laugh at herself. Humor should include physical mishaps, intellectual bantering and slapstick silliness. Knock, knock jokes will not be tolerated, we are not five here. When in doubt, we shall laugh it out!

Any takers? I might even have a cape you can borrow…

Be blessed and laugh hard! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Geronimo!!!




There was no doubt that it was a dangerous endeavor. At this time of year the river was in flood stage, in some places even white-water kind of flooded. I can almost hear the river's roar, and close behind it the thousands upon thousands muttering as they waited on the banks, backed up for miles. Joshua was telling them they needed to cross the river. He was standing where they will step off into the rushing water and carry the Ark of the Covenant across to the other side. Instructions were clear, and yet... Who in their right mind would take that first step, down the embankment and into the tumult that would surely sweep them away? This was not a gentle slope to the water's edge, it was a cliff! Had Josh been too long in the sun? What was in his water skin anyway? At least their certain doom would be swift...

When Joshua quit his speech, when the priests carrying the Ark took that first harrowing step and all that water fled back from their sandaled feet like scared rabbits, when the people followed those priests into the dry bed and even took time to set up twelve large stones, that was the moment I came to understand faith. If courage is doing it despite the fear you feel, faith is believing you can do it when it makes no sense.

There are plenty in this big, bad world that will tell you faith is a crutch, that faith is for the weak-minded, the dolts among us, those who aren't intelligent enough to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make a go of it. Nietzsche said "Faith: not wanting to know what is true." There are plenty who agree with him. I would not be one of them.

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase," said Martin Luther King, Jr. Seems like a fitting quote here, doesn't it? Faith isn't the denial of truth, in fact it is just the opposite. Faith is understanding that we don't yet have the whole truth on which to base many of our decisions. Faith is trusting that when God tells us to act, He knows the plan in its entirety and we are simply asked to follow Him. God doesn't always tell us the next step because we will surely argue. Faith takes humility, trust and self-awareness beyond our pride. To have faith you need to sit down, shut up and hang on.

When you have faith you accept the death of a child, not without pain in your soul forever, but that it somehow has a greater purpose. When you have faith you understand that you may never be afforded the answer to the question, "What is that purpose?" When you have faith you trust that God will provide a way when every path you can discern looks closed to you. When you have faith you keep on the path He set you on because the fruit it produces will reap a harvest you cannot conceive. Faith takes immeasurable strength.

Faith removes from us the need to have a sense of control over our every step. We can choose to look at life from a perspective of Faith in God and the love of His Son, or we can look at it from our own sufficiency. Let me tell you: If I have to be the only one to count on around here, there's trouble brewing!

Being introduced to the concept of faith has taught me that I am not now, nor have I ever been in control. It has also taught me that I am absolutely ok with that. Faith becomes the seed of my peace at the feet of Jesus. It removes my doubt and stands me on the slippery precipice, taking confident steps off the banks of earthly safety and into the rushing greatness of His heavenly plan. Truthfully, where else could I possibly want to be? Safety is great, y'all, but there isn't joy without some risk.

I have a quote on my desk from this guy. He says, "Your real quest, when it happens, will feel increasingly terrifying. It is testing your resolve." I agree. When God asks you to step into the true space of who He wants me to be my first reaction is to freak out! How? What? When? I can't! But then God is gracious again and reminds me: He will show me the way. I have only to trust Him with my faith. I can believe what He says is true, even when I don't understand it. After all, I get on airplanes and I don't understand them either.

Be blessed!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Where the rubber meets the road




As I tried to put on my "mom's-in-control-and-there's-nothing-to-worry-about face, as I drove as slow as I could force myself to drive, as I turned on the radio and sang along to keep my jangling nerves from showing, I knew it was one of those moments. One of the times I talk about that God speaks into my soul and I'm expected to listen...

It had been a long five days. My son had come down with influenza B and I had been doing the best I could to juggle work, caring for a sick teen and prepping the Man for a road trip in a few days that would last more than a week.

The Boy had been having terrible bouts of stomach cramps in the night time hours and I was fried. I don't function on interrupted sleep and three nights of it plus the stress of getting enough liquid into a surly teen was taking a huge toll. I have to admit, when he walked into my bedroom doubled over in pain I responded in frustration. There is nothing as irritating to me as feeling helpless and that was exactly how I felt: helpless.

Nothing I was doing was helping my son. Food didn't alleviate the pain, we didn't have any Pepto (which I know now was a good thing), and it seemed to be getting worse. After probing with some pretty invasive questions about his bathroom activity I decided to call a helpline. Something was definitely off.

If you've ever called a nurses helpline you know they can be incredibly compassionate and caring. This was no exception. The nurse I had even went the extra mile when my phone cut out twice not to drop the call. She made a point to call me back and continue getting the information.

If you've ever made one of those calls you might also be familiar with the tone of voice they take when they become concerned. It's a very sunny, I-don't-want-to-alarm-you-but-crap-just-got-scary distinctness I've heard only a few times in my life. It was time to head to the emergency room and she wanted to know if I was ok with doing that or if she should call 911 for me... Uh... Wow. There just isn't anything like that kind if reality slamming head on into your night.

No, I said, I can take him. When she began asking me to confirm that my Boy was coherent, that his speech wasn't slurred and that he could walk on his own power to the car I knew we were on a time crunch and that losing my cool was not an option. Luckily, that kid is made of some pretty strong stock and we made our way to the car and out onto the night time roads.

While I had a suspicion of what we were dealing with I also knew my child was counting on me to maintain a sense of security. He was watching my every move looking for any reason to be concerned.

Normally I'm a basket case when it comes to the safety of my "chillins". I'm overdramatic, volatile and protective in the extreme. Lots of eye-rolling tends to accompany my tirades and plenty of, "oh mom!" This night there was something different. I had a peace surrounding me. I knew we were at the edge of a dangerous place, potentially in some serious trouble but I also knew, just as sure as I was sitting in that seat, that Jesus was along for the ride.

You can call me crazy, over zealous, delusional - whatever you want. I really don't care. How I reacted, the quick way we made it to the hospital, all the professionals involved who looked and actually listened to us... He was there.

Even after two days in the hospital and the Boy on his way to recovery from a stomach bleed that still isn't quite pinned down, I'm confident that Christ is with us here. We have very few answers and not a lot of direction but my heart is full and my head is clear. We are in the palm of His hand always. No matter the situation He is there. I don't know what the next report holds but things look hopeful for us. It could've been so much worse but thankfully it wasn't.

We are not done here yet. It takes way more time and patience than I think it should for the simplest of tasks. But I'm doing my best to relax into it. No matter what my day consists of, no matter how interrupted my routines become, God is still at the helm. Trusting Him will always be challenging for me but looking back on this week I know He's not done proving He's worth it.

When I'm tempted to question what God is doing, when I think I just want to know what His ultimate plan is, I hope I can conjure up this memory of being held right in the palm of His hand, cradled, loved and protected.

Thanks go out to everyone who's prayed with us for a speedy recovery. We continue to covet those prayers as we await discharge, whenever that might be.

Be blessed!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Splash Zone



We have all seen it. A swimming pool, water park, kiddie pool, Vegas... You name it, where there is water, we have seen the "Don't get any on me" dance and squeal. The little girls around 12 to 15 years old are the best. They threaten, fuss and do that funny jog in place-limp-wristed-hands-held-up-above-the-water-level dance. For whatever misguided reason, they think they can get into a pool and look cute with curled hair, lip gloss and perfectly applied mascara and every one will respect their desire to be just that: Cute. If there are any boys of corresponding age in the pool, we all know that will last as long a jar of Nutella at my house! Doused and crabbed out, out of the pool they will stomp looking like drowned raccoons to pout on a chaise somewhere out of sight. Oh and let the whining begin...

We aren't much different spiritually. Ever been to a Christian conference or better yet, your own home church and thought, "Oh man! If only (insert other person's name here) was sitting right beside me... They really need to hear this!" You nod along to the pastor's message, even throw in a little "Amen!" when you feel particularly sure that this will be the dvd you actually pay $2 for so that ole so-and-so can hear it for themselves. Yeah... Tread lightly, folks. I have been just that person and not too soon after I was sure I knew that God was speaking directly to someone else's sin, splat! You guessed it... I got some on me!

It is funny. That special way we can look around and point out fault like we are Gordon Ramsey in a Kitchen Nightmares episode. Yet to the gaping holes in our own spirituality we are oblivious. (What is that breeze I keep feeling?) Those times that God allows us to be privy to another's failings I have learned, are not so much the accolade that we are right and they are wrong. Quite the opposite: they are warning signs that anyone can struggle. Lest I start thinking that I have it all in the bag and under control, God will splash a little light my way and illuminate the sinful behavior I am engaged in. It is all in how you respond in that moment. I can stomp out of the pool and harumph my way out of sight, or I can stand in the light of my Lord and say, "Well! Would ya look at that? I got some on me..." Until I recognize that I am also covered in sin-splotches, I have no compassion for others or desire to scrub it out of my own life.

God is gracious, however, and He also allows us to be splashed with the light of someone else's joy. When a missionary, visionary or just amazing Christian influence embarks on a journey to better themselves and the world around them they have a tendency to splash around in the pool of life. They aren't being malicious in their whirling and twirling... They just can't believe they have been allowed the opportunity to live it up in the deep end of the pool! You know the feeling right? That moment you finish a book like Wrecked and you examine your life for something to be spiritually destroyed and rebuilt over... When you start recognizing your Flinch and decide, "No more fearing failure for the sake of mediocrity!" When you redefine yourself as courageous. That is the moment you realize you got some on ya... And it feels great!!

Whether what you have dripping down your shirt is revealing light or exuberant joy, don't be afraid to splash a little, jump a little, get a little on ya... It's about time we were unapologetic and excited that God chose us! He chose us to make us better, He chose us to exemplify unconditional love, He chose us so that we would chose Him. Make it count!

Be blessed...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Put 'Em Up... Put 'Em Up!




Hollywood is a big fat liar. Yeah, I said it. Not sorry either. At all. You know what I am talking about... The protagonist hero in some blockbuster movie that stands on the edge of doom and screams his defiance as he leaps without hesitation into the abyss. Bull-crap! They feed us this line of dumb-assery that if we fear, if we hesitate - that somehow we fail in being courageous. Like the simpy Cowardly Lion, we are aggravating, irritating and a blubbering mass of uselessness unless we bull forward into oblivion, nary a care or consideration in our midst. To this end, I say "Nuh-uh!"

Courage has so little to do with being fearless. Courage has been lauded and sought after, pursued and bastardized so often and so brazenly we have completely lost sight of what it looks like. Courage isn't standing in the midst of the fray, swinging wildly about without fear of pain, failure or personal destruction. Courage is, in fact, the opposite. Courage, when properly viewed, will look less like "Braveheart" and more like Charlie Brown. Courage trembles, courage sweats, courage can even cry, but ultimately, courage steps forward and in spite of the fear does what needs doing.

Google "courage" and you are bound to find some gems. I found quotes from Nelson Mandela, C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain but the two that struck me where I live came from more modern and gritty sources.

The first is my husband's hero, John Wayne, who put it simply, "Courage is being scared to death... And saddling up anyway." Amen, Duke! When put that way, it comes clear that the kind of bravery we are talking about isn't without reservation. In fact, it has all kinds of hesitation and reasons why I shouldn't have to step up and step out. It reminds me that most things God asks me to do require a good measure of courageous behavior. When He asks me to write outside of my comfort zone, when He tells me to say something encouraging to a stranger, when my kids come to me with issues I thought I would never have to deal with... Those require my decision to be courageous and saddle up anyway. There is definitely fear. There is reservation. There is the thought that I am not nearly good enough, capable enough or worthy to do any of those things. But God doesn't tell me to do the stuff I think I can. God tells me to do the things I know HE can.

The second quote doesn't mention courage by name, but it nails it none the less. Julien Smith said recently, "To focus on negative outcomes and hurtful criticism is a good way to ensure failure. Giving power to our doubts is an invitation for our feet to slip off the tightrope." I live there folks, up on the high wire, chanting ridiculously, "Don't look down..." I live there in that land of "What if someone is offended by what I say?" "What if I am not universally liked?" "What if I fail?" Julien reminds me that we all have those thoughts. No one is an island of constant confidence and utter heroism. He reminds me that it is what I choose to do in spite of the fear that matters.

Simplified further, so that I might grab it with both hands and shake it into focus:
- Courage is writing what God says I should, not what I think you want to hear.
- Courage is losing some one you dearly love and moving on with life, no matter how stilted, because you never know who you might touch with your action.
- Courage is saying yes to letting your kids drive when so much could go wrong.
- Courage is allowing failure so that there may be education in the midst of the struggle.
- Courage is falling in love again, even though it never worked out before.
- Courage is letting go of control because you never really had it anyway.
- Courage is being unjustly ridiculed for the sake of Christ and continuing on that path still.
- Courage is confronting a bully even if it means embarrassment.
- Courage is feeling your heart pound, your knees get weak and your blood grow cold and doing it anyway.

The biggest lie about courage is that it is always met with success or happiness or gain. Sometimes courage looks a lot like failure. Don't buy it. It may look like your courageous act fell flat, had no impact, fizzled out impotently. Behind the scenes, however, you cannot know what plan God is working together. Like gazing at the back of a tapestry, you may get the gist of the pattern, it may look vaguely like this or that, but the nuances of what God is creating cannot be seen until He allows us the view from the front row. That, my friends, comes only when we are seated with Him.

When I am tempted to tell God that I cannot do something because I just don't have the courage to step forward, I must remember this: That is exactly the point at which He is asking me to do it anyway. On the edge of the abyss, knees knocking, heart pounding and certain of doom and utter failure - Do it anyway. He isn't counting on my abilities... He's asking me to count on His.

Be blessed!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How the Magic Happens




Have you ever wondered how writers get their stuff? I have. I used to think it was all about their amazing imaginations, their intelligence and their education. I used to wonder how they got from point A at the opening of their story to point B at the close. I wondered about the whole process and because it seemed mysterious and overwhelming I gave up and figured if I didn't know the basic way they did their job I would never be a real writer.

Like so many things I think I know, I was wrong about that.

I have had to answer that same question about how I write. What happens when I get an idea for a book or a story for a blog post? After having to answer that question, I realize for each writer it is different. Sometimes, especially for me, it is different for each idea.

Mostly, I get my writing direction from God. I know... Sounds very mystical and esoteric, doesn't it? One of those answers that leaves people staring askance at me and nodding knowingly, as if I would balk if they asked what I mean by that. I will tell you exactly what I mean by that - TODAY.

I get my writing direction from God in a few different ways. First, let's be clear: I am not espousing clarvoyance, I do not hit a trance-like state when I sit at my writing desk, and I don't scour the bible for hours on end until the booming voice of the Lord says, "Today, you will write on David and Bathsheba... GO!" It doesn't work like that.

The simplest thing can be going on in my life and suddenly I will have this overwhelming intuition that I need to pay attention. God is speaking to me, through the radio in my car, through the sunset I am watching, through a television commercial - "Pay attention, this is going to be important." Sometimes the idea comes complete, beginning, middle and end. Other times, I get just the basics: What does courage really look like? Some days the idea needs written out like a burning match and there is urgency, other times it stews around in my head for a day or two - maybe more - and comes out slowly, like maple syrup in the woodlands of Vermont.

Often, I will scurry to notate my pay-attention-moment into my phone. Some ideas need more time to simmer and bubble on the back burner of my psyche and if I am not careful the cacophony of life will steal away the original thought. Once I have it down somewhere (and let's pray that I remember where that somewhere is), I can relax a little into the process of research, prayer, devotions and actual writing to get what is in my muddled noggin onto these cyber-pages and out to you.

With the larger projects I have done, God has been gracious enough to give me complete concepts. Three books, one completed, two in process and all three ideas came complete. Write this, like this and for this audience. Now actually sitting down and completing the work... Well... Working out those details and making my writing a priority isn't always top 'o' the list. After all, I am the only one who knows what is in my head and on my God-given task list to complete. No one will know if I never finish those things, right?

Well, not this time. I decided with this new year, I would put myself out there and enlist an accountability partner. I would give myself a reason and a deadline and I would be disappointing someone if I didn't make it happen. I was excited at this new approach. I work so much better when I have a goal, a deadline, an assignment! Yeah. And the first thing that happened was that life got hectic, the weather got cold (well-diggers-lunch-box cold!) and I fell down. But you know what? This is me... Getting back up!

I have a series that I have been asked to write on Christian attributes. It won't be easy to complete because the concepts are often misconstrued. They aren't easy to hear about either, but just like every other post I have written, this isn't about me teaching you - This is about me being schooled by God and you watching the carnage from a safe distance. If I get a little on ya, well that's something you can take up with the Father on your own.

I also have a plan and a hope that the fictional work I have been tediously avoiding will reach completion this year and somehow God will provide the means to get it edited. I know that this is going to be difficult work, I know that there will be missed deadlines and my accountability partner will have to jerk on my chain to get me to comply (I chose her for just that reason). I also know that things worth doing don't come easy. They just come. Sometime they sit quietly and politely in the background and wait until I am ready. Sometimes they don't. And sometimes, like this time, God pointedly asks when I will think His request is important enough to finish?

What little closet task has God asked you to complete? Why haven't you? Are you ready to quit giving excuses and give an accounting? Step up, step out and tell someone who will graciously hold you accountable for what is being asked of you. No one ever has to know, but you will... And God does.

Be blessed.