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.


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.


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


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!