Thursday, July 21, 2016
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
This reminds me of the authentic root of my faith when I take time in the Bible and pray, as opposed to sprinkling a quick dose of an on-the-go prayer into my morning. The point of prayer is to be with God, right? It’s not about the recitation. God only knows He doesn’t need more noise in this world. The fresh, pure taste of connecting with God adds spice and joy to my life.
It’s worth the effort.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
It was slated to start at 11:11.
Friday, April 1, 2016
This mistress is a Life-changer, a Killer, and an Enemy.
I went into survival mode. Learning whatever I could about what was going on. Tests, more tests, research, doctor’s appointments. Planning for treatments, impact on our family, our financials. How do you plan what you do not know?
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Step 1: The recipe
This step took a bit of effort. The only way to get it right was to dive into that mound of dough and muscle it until the texture was just right. It was a hands-on experience, and relationships are no different. Simply being together, whether we were talking, cooking, cleaning or simply saying nothing, is what I remember about the texture of life at Grandmom’s house.
Step 3: Wait and wait and wait
I remembered thinking we’d never get to eat those doughnuts when Grandmom set the bowl aside, putting a towel on top so the dough could rise. The yeast would do its job only as long as we left it alone. Patience is probably the most important step in creating meaningful traditions, and without it the result will be an indigestible mess.
A few hours later, the overflowing bowl of dough needed shaping. We’d dump it all over a blanket of flour on the counter and roll it out, then cut into diamond-shaped portions to make it manageable. This is the only way those beauties could face the heat of the frying pan in the next step. Relationships are like this. At times, we need to cut back to shape our connections into precious pieces we can handle. It was in the little things, like a conversation about high school, or my current boyfriend, where I could ask Grandmom’s perspective on shaping and dealing with my own issues in life.
Step 5: Fry the dough
Step 6: Sweeten
A little sugar to sweeten the treat, like words of encouragement and time with Grandmom, gave the perfect finish to our tradition. The result? Heavenly perfection.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The paperback is available on Amazon:
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
It’s not the guns themselves but the people with evil intent which frighten me, though. When I think of my daughter’s bull’s-eye competitions, I smile with pride at her skills. It takes intense focus, physical training, and a gut-level dose of courage to hit the tiny little “x” in the middle of the big, bad white paper with black rings. I also smile with joy at her shared experience with her father. Nothing will replace their special times together, in training and in competition, and my daughter’s life is blessed as a result. The guns they use in these competitions are not in the hands of people with evil intent. Instead, they are in the hands of people who love competition, who love each other and who safely handle the tools of their sport.
1) Everyone in shooting knows it’s virtually impossible to hit the ‘x’ every time.
2) Shooting professionals manage their thoughts by approaching the target one shot at a time.
3) Finally, true competitors know that each shot is a clean slate.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I was extra klutzy one day and, not surprisingly, dropped it on the hard tile floor of the powder room. It split cleanly into two pieces, “FAI” in one piece with the emphatic “TH” separated from it. Broken faith still contains the components of faith, I thought. I just needed to put it back together. One dose of hot glue and it dried back into one piece, with only a fine line separating the ‘I’ and the T’ evidencing the damage.
I think life is like this sometimes. My faith gets broken and needs repair. Sometimes the repair line is noticeable, but hopefully, most of the time, it is not.
I had been working on a submission for “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” but had a dragging, nagging, sagging day and felt my little roots of doubt settling in. I wondered if my ideas were interesting, or if my writing was valuable, or if I should be writing at all. I hadn’t experienced a hefty dose of self-doubt in, say, two or three days, so I was due for this episode. Regardless, I managed to spend time working through and completing the article.
The next day I planned to review, edit and send the article to the Chicken Soup folks. A dark cloud of self-doubt promised to accompany me each step of the way. I started my day as usual, with my steaming cup of coffee, bible and journal. I asked God for guidance and maybe a shot of confidence to go with it.
My doorbell rang. It was a neighbor, handing me a brightly-wrapped red and white package, with a note taped to the top. “This is for you,” she said. “I saw it and thought of you.”
It was a copy of Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul.
Faith repaired is still faith.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Friday, January 9, 2015
I penned this line ten years ago for the first time and almost every January 1st since.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
I still remember chanting this line during my elementary school years. Interesting defense, but it doesn’t work. It’s a lie.
Words can hurt me.
Words can also heal me.
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, a man name Isaiah prophesied the first Christmas.
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Immanuel. It’s a Hebrew word which means “God with us.”
Imagine that. GOD with us?!
We’re talking about God here, not a celebrity, not a top dog in a business organization, not a sports-team owner, not a major scientist or Nobel Peace Prize winner. We’re talking about the Almighty God, the Creator of the world, who chooses to be with us.
And how about the preposition “with”? God WITH us.
“With”…in the middle of, among, alongside. Not above, around, behind, before. God sent Jesus to be with us. God’s presence is with us in the middle of the messes, the joys, the funny slices of life, the scary nights.
And how special to know God wants to be with US. You and me, personally, one on one.
No matter what kind of month we had, what kind of year it is, whether we are joyful or sad or hopeful or afraid, God chooses to be with us.
Now that’s the best Christmas present of all.
Words do matter.
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”
Yup, that’s a pretty good line right there.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Friday, December 12, 2014
This is why, during this year’s Christmas season, I wonder what Mary, the mother of Jesus was thinking.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Heights of Fear
Parents trickled into the cavernous room, immediately overwhelmed by the stench of chlorine and oppressive humidity. Dissonant sounds of unclear origin echoed the children’s pounding hearts as they lined up against the gray cement wall on the far side. Moms searched the line for their own children, sending reassurance with a wave and a forced smile. The adults continued to methodically fill the metal bleachers while the swim coaches entered, quietly reminding the children of the basics taught over the past eight weeks. Meanwhile, the high dive platform projected its majestic presence thirty feet up, commanding acknowledgement from its royal subjects.
Staring down at the pattern of tiny gray tiles under my pudgy bare feet, I tugged at my white rubber cap again, wondering how to make the ominous white platform disappear. The muddled sounds of the coach’s voice reminded me to glance up at her lips to glean a word or two of the instructions she was giving. I couldn’t wear my hearing aids in the pool since they couldn’t get wet. Goosebumps and the knotted pit in my gut accompanied my walk along the slippery poolside plank as I waited my turn for the final requirement to finish my swim class. I didn’t want to look up as the first kid tentatively climbed the ladder to his fate at the top. I couldn’t help peeking though; I held my breath for him as he climbed and climbed and climbed some more; then skipped forward off the board to make the dreaded descent. Thwomp. It was a loud landing into the dark descent of the deep water, even to my ears. I bet it hurt. I continued to hold my breath, shivering, until I saw his dark shadow moving closer and closer to the surface of the water. He doggie paddled his way to the side of the pool and climbed out. I exhaled.
After what seemed like an eternity, it was my turn. I stood at the bottom of the ladder looking up, wondering if it reached heaven. Taking a deep breath, I started to climb slowly, keeping my focus straight ahead. I didn’t even want to try to see if my mom noticed me from the bleachers because it meant I had to look somewhere else. One-two-three. I’ll just count my way up there. Four-five-six. Taking my time, I considered going down instead of up again. Seven-eight-nine. The goosebumps and pit in my stomach were now accompanied by the fact that I couldn’t breathe. Inhale, exhale. Ten-eleven-twelve. Inhale, exhale. Thirty four- thirty five- thirty six. I was at the top. The grit of the board scratched the bottom of my feet as I took tiny steps forward to reach the end. There were a couple more steps to take and I stopped and peeked. All I could see was a black square of motion down there, and it didn’t look big enough to catch me.
Time froze; bile caught in the back of my throat, threatening to give me a new way to embarrass myself in front of other people. I swallowed. I slid my right foot forward; dragged my left foot to meet it. I did it again. Oh God I can’t do this. Will I die now? One more step to go. At the end of the board, I knew I had to move fast or freak out, big time. I sucked in a short breath and jumped forward. I don’t know if the screaming was in my head or out of my mouth but it was all I could hear. Falling falling falling until I slammed into a cold wet wall. That hurt. Flailing, I sank sank sank for what seemed like another eternity. My chest tightened with fear, my nose flooded with pool water. At last, I stopped sinking and was still. Silence surrounded me; isolated me; threatened me.
Motivated by my need to get out of there, I finally remembered to move my arms and legs. My chest tightened more. Blowing out through my nose, bubbles tickled my cheeks as they swam to the surface faster than I ever could. I followed the bubbles up the water. Swim swim swim. Swim some more. My arms got heavier but I moved them anyway. The light from the top of the water started to get brighter. I swam some more. Breaking through the wet ceiling, I sucked in air while I kicked my way to the side of the pool. My chest was still heaving as I grabbed the ladder and climbed out. Dripping, I looked in the bleachers for my mom. I took a few steps and finally saw her frantically waving from the sea of parents. I walked the slippery path back to the group of kids in my class to join the land of the living.
Today, I understand how the jump off the high dive was a critical turning point in learning how to trust. No matter how many swim lessons I had, there was a level of trust beyond my understanding which propelled my jump. To trust the God of heaven to love me so much to send His Son—for ME!--is a jump into overwhelming love which I hope catches me each time I fall.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
The girls plotted their morning wake-up plan using their cellphones as alarms. My own body clock turned out to be more effective. I woke up at 6 and after throwing on my sweats and an extra sweatshirt on top of my pajamas, I walked into the girls’ bedroom where their three bodies morphed as if they suddenly fell asleep playing Twister. I shook them awake, offering them the option to stay asleep. Not happening. They got up, brushed their teeth, found their sweats, hats, scarves and gloves while shuffling to the living room for their shoes. Within minutes, they were ready. It was only two blocks away, but we loaded up in the car and drove to the beach entrance, saving as much time as possible so we could beat the sun’s appearance over the horizon. The girls bounced out of the car and hurried up the wooden ramp to the beach entrance.
At the end of the ramp, we stood silently, just staring. The ocean danced ferociously under the expanse of a glorious sky painted with bold varieties of oranges, pinks, blues and greens. Breathtaking. The wind threatened to take our hats and scarves but we held on tighter and after a few minutes decided to forge ahead to the water’s edge. I snapped photo after photo hoping to capture the sunrise at the precise postcard-perfect moment when it peeked through. I found myself thinking about life and friendship and God and love while watching the trio of young ladies move ahead. Within moments, the colorful sky brightened, as if a God-sized light switch was flipped and suddenly we saw it. The sun blazed its appearance at the edge of the horizon.
The girls wrapped their arms together and, together, received.
I began a silent prayer:
God, you’re showing off for these girls, aren’t you? Thank you, God. Thank you, too, for the chance to spend time with them this weekend. This sunrise is the perfect show of what you have for them. Bless them, God. Be with them always. And thank you for loving them.
Then I cried.
God was showing off for me, too.
Friday, September 12, 2014
I didn’t know what I didn’t hear until I heard it.
It’s the same with God.
Could I actually hear something? Well, it’s God, so I imagine a choir of a gazillion angels or the clanging of a huge bell or perhaps the thunderous sound of a voice which shakes the ground I’m standing on. Or perhaps there’s no sound at all.
As a hearing aid wearer, the best way to “hear” things is to read them. I agree, God could help me to hear despite my hearing aids. But I’ve always lacked confidence in my ability to hear clearly, and reading the closed-captioning on the TV helps. My aids are much more high-tech than they used to be so I can skip the words on the TV most of the time, but hearing from God is still a tough concept. The Bible, however, is the ultimate in closed-captioning. Messages are written just for me.
Earlier this year, I experienced a spiritual rut when I was less sure than usual of God’s plans in my life (aren’t we all?) I found my prayers shifting to a passionless recitation of familiar words which were on my mind but not in my heart. I basically felt abandoned by God because, well, feeling ignored is a familiar “button” for me, and I wasn’t connecting with God in the busy schedule of my routine.
I attended the Beth Moore event in May of this year…solo. I was able to pick a seat from the general seating area by myself. Each of the chairs had a hand-written bible verse on an index card meant for the person occupying it.
My verse was Psalms 9:10:
“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
I looked up a definition of “forsaken.” It means abandoned.
I heard the message, loud and clear.
I’d love to hear your stories: how has God spoken to you through Scriptures?
Thursday, August 28, 2014
The cool breeze suggested the beginning of Fall but the calendar read August 25th---still summer. Regardless of the season, the first day of school arrived again.
My daughter, now a sophomore, bounded down the stairs, the slight scent of powder trailing her. She looked at herself in the mirror, smoothed a couple stray hairs and adjusted her blouse. She then turned, peeked over her shoulder to check the final view from the back, and smiled. Satisfied, she joined me in the kitchen.
“Good morning, precious!”
“How are you?”
“I’m okay, thanks. Except I’m a little nervous about the new building. It might be tough to find my way around.”
“I understand,” I said.
More than thirty years have passed since I started my sophomore year in high school. How odd to remember the details to this day. I wore a blue uniform, and remember checking from the back to make sure my blouse collar was laying properly, my socks pulled up, my hair smoothed down.
My young man, now a high school senior, walked down the stairs a few minutes later. Confident and calm, he no longer resembled the little boy I used to escort to the bus stop.
“You ready to take it on?” I asked.
“Yup!” he said.
After breakfast, they each posed for the obligatory first-day-of-school photo. They know to stand in front of the door, so I can see how tall they’ve grown since last year. The photo tradition gives me a chance to capture the moment, hoping to make it stand still. Tears threatened, but I held off. My chickadees hadn’t left the house yet.
“Time to go,” I said. “Let’s put on the armor of God, okay?”
We had been reciting our personal version of Ephesians 6 since my son started Kindergarten.
“Thank you, Lord, that you give us the belt of truth…”
And we go through the hand motions putting on our invisible belts.
“And for the breastplate of righteousness…”
Hand-motions to strap on a chest plate.
“…and our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
Hand motions to tie on our shoes.
“Thank you, Lord, for our helmet of salvation, and the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
Strap under the chin, then left arm bent at the elbow and lifted up to hold the shield.
“…And for the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”
Right arm wielding a sword, ready to take it on.
And my two young adults walked out the door, stepping out of this momma’s nest to fly.
Letting go is not natural, but necessary.
I cried. The first day of school gets me every time. I think I need a box of tissues to go along with the armor.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
I’m old enough to remember the days when it was normal for businesses to allocate time for their employees to take a “smoke break” as one of the company benefits. Smoking was all the rage, but only the cool people smoked, and I certainly wanted to be cool.
Remember the Marlboro Man?
Okay, I admit I tried smoking back when I was a teenager (sorry, Mom) but didn’t like it very much. Thankfully, it’s not a habit which interested me. As a result, you may consider me odd but I looked up “how to smoke” on Google. (Ironically, my teenage daughter caught me and seemed wary of my excuse that it was blog research. But that’s another story.)
I’m thinking I want this sense of…calm…when I’m praying.
The Google smoking instructions contained five basic steps:
Obviously, lighting up requires well, a light. Fire is required for smoke.
So many times I am pushed to the limit with feeling out of control in my life that a touch of heat…a flame…a scorch of awareness…is all I need to remember God is really the one in control. It’s a good way to get started in prayer.
2) Inhale a Little
The instructions mentioned it best to inhale just a little bit of smoke, slowly, so as to avoid singeing your throat, and to give yourself a chance to taste the cigarette.
Taking in only a little of the Bible at a time helps me to get a deeper sense of what God wants to say. Recently, I have been reading the book of Proverbs, one chapter at a time, and then selected a single verse in that chapter for reflection. I am able to apply that one verse more tastefully than if I simply sucked in the entire chapter.
The next step is to hold some of the smoke in your mouth, for enjoyment.
Reminding myself of the single verse at various times during the day gave me a chance to savor the lesson. The other day, Proverbs verse reminded me to “guard my heart” and it helped me stay calm when I felt overwhelmed about preparing for my schedule the following day.
4) Inhale Further
Next, the smoke is to be inhaled all the way down to the lungs.
Sometimes, the message I learned the day before (such as the “guard my heart” reminder) needs to get deep into my being. I decided to dwell on it for the next couple days as well. It made a difference.
5) Let Go
Finally, there are various ways to demonstrate your “coolness” by the stylistic way to let go and blow out the smoke.
For me, this means to let go of what I think I can control and simply breathe out my own efforts to let God work instead.
Thinking through these steps, I inhaled a dose of peace instead of tobacco. Drew in some stillness. Exhaled some stress. When I returned to my work later that day, I was more productive and energized.
And I was as cool as the Marlboro Man.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Can you see the two thick bunches of cables coming down from the ceiling? There must have been at least three dozen individual cords in each bunch. Each of the cable ropes connected up to the ceiling, and then fed into the blue cage. You can track the cage across the arena ceiling at the top of the photo. The cage then opened just above the center stage, where the ropes were freed. The ropes then dangled to the stage and were plugged in somewhere below the stage.
Who, I wondered, is in charge of making sure everything is connected? Looking to my right, I found this guy.
Okay, there’s always someone behind the scenes, right? We know he’s done a great job only when we manage to forget he’s even there.
Prayers are a familiar go-to response when life goes poorly. Kind of like when one of the wires gets unplugged.
But what about when life goes well? Could I still remember who’s behind the scenes, keeping all the cables connected properly?
I woke up. Early. God did that.
I have a bed to sleep in. Comfy. God did that.
I have food in my fridge. Plenty. God did that.
I received another annual “we analyzed your mammogram results and there is nothing wrong” letter. Relieved. God did that.
My husband is the love of my life and best friend. Always. God did that.
My children continue to bless my life. Abundantly. God did that.
I can read the Bible. Anytime. God did that.
I can pray and connect with God. Again.
God always does a great job behind the scenes. Even when I’ve forgotten He is there.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
After a year of using my percolator, day after day, sometimes twice a day, the inside was—ahem—black. My coffee, like my heart and the words that come out of my mouth, can get bitter with long-time residue left unattended.
It was time to clean the inside.
The tiny quarter-sized well at the bottom of my percolator was impossible to reach, let alone clean. Yes, I tried scrubbing. But as with most coffee makers, the stains became permanent. I considered a popular vinegar method to clean it but was skeptical because I didn’t want the taste of vinegar mixing with my beloved cup of coffee.
Then I tried another method: the dishwasher soap method. I took a dishwasher tablet, placed it in the pot, added boiling water to the top and let it sit for a half hour. The coffee stains practically removed themselves from the inside of the pot and my coffee tastes delicious again. The reason my coffeepot is sparkly clean now is not because of my efforts, but because of what I used to clean it.
This reminds me of the bible verse where Jesus speaks to the Pharisees about cleaning the outside of the cup and dish, not the inside.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
I am making efforts to clean my attitude about eating healthy---again. I am always making these efforts. But the question is:
What am I using as my cleaning product?
The only thing that works…the only thing that EVER worked…is daily prayer. It’s the ultimate dishwasher tablet. Not Dawn, not Cascade, but Prayer. The residue of life’s leftover gunk in my heart practically removes itself when I do this. My heart, like my coffee, becomes better, not bitter.
What’s your version of the ultimate cleaning product?
Thursday, July 3, 2014
God, I know you can help me deal with food these days. Help me to eat healthier and make better choices. Thank you in advance for being there for me. Oh, and help me not to eat the batter for the pound cake I’m about to make.
I make a mean chocolate cake, smooth butter cookies, crisp pizzelles and to-die-for anise biscotti. Nana would approve with a smile, a hug, and a cup of espresso to go with the cookies. But pound cake? Its secrets to baked perfection elude me.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are special techniques to pound cake. Room temperature ingredients. Measure properly. Beat the batter for no less than twenty minutes. Check the oven temperature. I reread the page of scribbled notes I took while watching my mom bake yet another perfect pound cake. And I followed my notes and special techniques perfectly.
Time to try those prayers again. Time to get raw. What is it I really want to say? I heard it suggested to sit still long enough as if a butterfly could land on my shoulder. And so I sat. And sat.
God, I don’t know if I really want to stop eating. The food helps me to deal with life, y’know? I’m stressed about my daughter’s headache today. I don’t want to panic or overthink it, but is she okay?
Is it okay that I’m afraid sometimes?
I want to let go and let You be in charge. I’ve taken care of myself and everyone else for that matter for so long that I don’t know how to let go.
What about my son’s college plans? Will he make the right choices? Will he get in? What about the finances?
What about my husband’s health? Will he stay stable?
What about my schedule? Am I doing too much? Too little? Am I good enough? Do you love me? Do you even hear me? How do I know you’re here, God?
Maybe, just maybe, the pound cake didn’t turn out to help me avoid eating it.
Raw. Perfect for prayers, not for pound cake.
How do you get raw with God?
Thursday, June 19, 2014
My children are teenagers now, but when they were younger, I found the summer slowdown an ideal way to get to know them more. I believe we are all born with unique talents as a gift from God, and one of my favorite responsibilities as a mom is to discover those talents in my children. I’d set us up on the back patio with some chalk, bubbles and a garden hose, and soon their preferences became evident.
My daughter loved to try new things and didn’t mind getting messy or wet. She’d spend hours on extra-large sidewalk drawings evidencing the colorful world in her imagination.
When my son tried something new, he usually preferred to do it over and over until he figured out how it worked. We once had an extra-large bubble-wand-thingy and he spent the entire afternoon figuring out how long the bubbles took to pop.
The toughest thing to juggle then was figuring out how to get my house chores done, too.
This summer, we are juggling my son’s part-time job, my daughter’s two volunteer gigs, and my own part-time job. When my daughter and her friend offered their services to clean my house, of course my answer was a resounding “yes!” This is a new way to get house chores done, I’ve learned.
Two and a half hours later, my daughter and her friend presented me with the sparkling list checked off and finished to perfection. Their organization, energy, competitiveness and joy shone through the wiping, mopping and scrubbing. I discovered more of my daughter’s talents again, along with those of her friend. I noticed their passion for life, their work ethic and their willingness to help. My summertime sigh was converted a summertime smile. What a gift.
How do you set up a sense of structure for your summer? And what are the gifts and talents you’ve discovered in your children?
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Ahhh. The first week of June and summer is not only on the calendar for this month, but on my mind. There’s something about switching to June that reminds me to Slow. Down. Whatever happened to the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer?”
I scheduled them.
No more lazy, hazy or crazy allowed. All it takes is a slight touch on a phone and voila! Life is booked. Overbooked, in fact.
When I was a kid, summer meant slowing down. Only then could I enjoy playing with an old chunk of white chalk and draw a masterpiece on the sidewalk, then use the hose to wash it away. I’d enjoy time with a bunch of neighborhood friends where we’d play freeze tag at the parking lot down the street where more neighborhood kids would join in. We’d walk around to the back driveway and grab our bikes to take a ride around the block. We’d play hairdresser and try new styles on each other. We’d ask our moms for some balloons and fill them with water for a short-lived balloon toss game. Then maybe we’d go to the 7-11 down the street for a Cola Slurpee and get brain freeze while drinking it on the walk home. The only way to thoroughly savor a Slurpee to the last drop is to drink it slowly. There’s no slurping a Slurpee.
Today, summer means figuring out the schedule for my teenagers, husband and myself. Driving to and back from appointments, work, volunteer gigs. It’s a good season, though, and I plan to watch for 25 mph speed signs and slow down enough to enjoy the ride. Just like a Cola Slurpee.
How do you plan to slow down this summer?