Wednesday, October 9, 2013

It's "Go" Time!

The following blog post from three years ago came across my way and was a much-needed message in my life right now. I am struggling with trusting God again, and while I know there's a deep-seated faith within me, it's a little hard to find. Why? Well, there are new things going on around here which require trusting God. My children are getting older and we're looking at colleges, my husband's health seems stable and I need to move forward in this new normal, my own habits of stress eating and "doing" instead of healthy eating and "being" are creeping back. But I know in my head, and somewhere in my heart, that God is in charge. I can jump again into His presence, and while it feels like free falling, it can be a place of peace. I can still remember those five seconds of falling...they were freeing. Let me know: is this message just for me or also for some others out there? I'd love to hear about it.

Back in the early eighties, there was a parachuting fad, and I dove in. Or shall I say: I dove out…of the plane. The end of the story? I landed on the ground with more of a thud than anticipated, but safely nonetheless. The jump itself was triggered with the single command: “Go!”

The one-day-crash-training-course had a single purpose: to help us know what to do when all other systems failed. We each were provided two parachutes. One of the parachutes was strapped to our backs, and was subsequently attached to the plane with a static line. The line released the chute as we left the plane. The most critical piece of equipment was the second parachute, referred to as our “reserve” chutes. These were strapped to the front of our abdomen. This chute was to be deployed if the first chute failed. We were repeatedly taught “Pull, then throw!” “Pull, then throw!” “Pull, then throw!” We were taught to pull that reserve chute out of the pack if necessary, and then throw it away from ourselves as hard as we could so we would not get caught up in the ropes as it opened.

We were also taught the techniques for landing. If we looked straight ahead and not down at the ground as we were landing, we were safer and less prone to broken bones from putting hands and legs out to stop the fall. Again, this was a method taught through repetition: “Jump, then roll!” “Jump, then roll!” “Jump, then roll!” We continued this mantra as we jumped off the five-foot platforms to practice our moves.

The plane ride was next. Packed in like sardines, straddling the bench, we were to exit the plane one at a time. The first person went. All I saw was the blur of her helmet, so I figured she went down, hoping the parachute opened to accompany her. I still remember my racing heart; beads of sweat on my forehead; a lack of ability to swallow. The open door of the airplane seemed to grow larger with each moment. Gulp. My turn. I stood up. “Ready?” the instructor said. A brief nod. With a slap of his palm against my left shoulder, it was “Go” time. I jumped out and dove into nothingness.

Free falling was incredible. Those five thrilling seconds of weightlessness were worth the work. A strong tug, then I was pulled upward, and thankfully I knew my chute was up. I didn’t need to use the reserve chute. I don’t know if I would’ve remembered “Pull, then throw” at that point either. I continued to float down to the ground. It was an unusual feeling, but also peaceful.

I was thinking about that moment of “Go” time recently. The times before and after the actual jump were fantastic, but “Go” time was that pivot-point where I could have said “No!” Why was it so frightening to jump after all that training? Because I still felt unsure of what would happen. Because, at “Go” time, I felt out of control—the most. This is my new definition of faith—saying “Go” when everything in me wants to say “No!.” Trusting God requires that I trust Him with everything, the training time, the equipment, and even the “Go” time.

The only reason I can say “yes” at “Go” time in my faith is because of what I know about God. I know He loves me and always gives me a safe place to land. No adventure can beat that type of fall. Falling into faith is an exciting, but peaceful, adventure.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Praying Like A Mantis

I’ve seen a few praying mantis recently, and am always shocked to notice the rather large bug camouflaged on the holly bush in front of our house. It’s their large size which intrigues me, but then when I look more closely, I’m fascinated by those front legs giving them their name. They remind me to be in that position of prayer more often for myself.

Reading up a little on the fascinating creatures, I learned that the praying mantis’ front legs are in the folded position to give them a chance to snag their prey quickly. More gruesome is the fact that those legs are equipped with spikes to help grab their prey and pin it in place. Nice bug, huh? Sitting in a praying position in order to get some food. Sounds like a good approach to prayer. Sitting and waiting patiently, maybe then I can snag some food for my soul. A sense of peace. Pinned. A reminder of God’s power. Pinned. A feeling of God’s love. Pinned.

I have been a little down recently, mostly because I’m in another stage of “letting go” as a mom because my son is discussing his future, including college options. I’m excited for him, big-time, but my heart will miss having him around. The discouragement drove me to pray a little more patiently these last few weeks. I’m back to being a little more still. Sometimes I’m crying, sometimes I’m peaceful, but in being still I’m getting back into the groove of sensing God’s presence.

The other day I found a note, written in my own handwriting, tucked away in the pocket of my Kindle cover. It was a verse I used as a reminder against discouragement. Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Further back in the same pocket, I found a second note written to me in my daughter’s handwriting from a year ago. At the bottom of her note, was written a Bible verse. The same one.

Like the praying mantis, I’m going to pin that message and eat it up.

Any messages you've received lately?

Monday, September 9, 2013

True Confessions

It was almost 40 years ago, in the middle of the summer, and I was hanging with my friends at the Sev. We took turns going into the store for a snack, gum or a cherry Slurpee. Sometimes we got one of the older kids to get us a pack of Pall Mall lights. I stayed in the background, a spectator.

It was my turn for teen initiation.

“Hey Lis, you’d never do anything wrong, would ya? A goody two-shoes, that’s what you are.”

Looking down, I grunted, “No, I’m not.”

I didn’t like being predictable.

“I bet you wouldn’t steal anything, ever.”

“Maybe I would.” My heart sank.

“Oh yeah, then go ahead and steal a candy bar. Now.”

No going back.

With shaky knees and clammy skin, I tried to steady my breath as I pulled hard to open the front door and walked into the 7-11’s brightly lit foyer. Avoiding eye contact with the dark-haired cashier, I could tell she noticed me but turned back to her task of placing the doughy pretzels onto the oven warmer rack. I headed to the right and stopped in the middle of the candy aisle. There were so many options. The colorful rows stared back as I tried to decide quickly, needing to avoid my freak-out about to happen.

My analytical mind kicked in. I searched for something small. My eyes widened when I spotted the Chunky bar. With nuts. I palmed the silver jewel and shoved it into the right pocket of my jeans. Exhaling, I walked out.

I faced my friends’ wide-eyed stares.


“Got it.” And I pulled the candy bar from my pocket. Anticipating high-fives and the ultimate compliment, “cool,” I waited. Nothing. I slowly unwrapped the candy and took a thick, chocolaty bite to seal the deal. Still nothing.

After a long, quiet moment, one of them reported, “You’re gonna have to say that in confession, y’know.”

Quickly I responded. “I know.”

This scene flashed through my mind the other day as I approached my car after getting a 20-oz. from the Wawa. I poured the steaming coffee, found a friend in the store and chatted with her while adding my cream and sugar. I capped the coffee and since she was already finished with her purchases, we easily walked out together. I gasped. My coffee was still in my hand.
I immediately returned to the store and paid the young cashier, explaining my mistake. Laughing, he said it was not a problem; it happens all the time. Yes, I’m thankful for forgiveness. But I still can’t eat a Chunky bar with nuts to this day.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First Day Cookies

The first day of school can be exciting for the kids, but we moms have our own roller coaster ride of emotions to handle.

In my world, this was the first day of a new stage of first days. My baby is now a high school freshman and my older child a junior. Why, then, did it feel like the first day I sent both of them to the elementary school?

Way back when, I started a “first day” tradition of baking cookies to greet my children when they came home. The cookies and milk were the perfect accompaniment to their stories about their teachers, new friends and classroom expectations. I think I started it more for me than them, not to eat the cookies but to savor the joy of hearing those stories. Okay, maybe to have a cookie or two. A dozen years later, we still shared the after-school cookie moment yesterday. This time, their stories reflected their personalities and wisdom. It’s not just about the nice teacher or what it takes to get the grade, but also the environment in the classroom, their personal goals, and mostly their motivation to thrive in the new year.

This year, though, after they gave me their updates and headed to their rooms to start homework, I cried. I hadn’t done that since my baby went to first grade. Back then, the tears were the first of many which I changed to prayers. In that place, where I needed to trust that my kids are okay, is where I learned to trust God.

I cried for the times in the near future when I know I won’t be there in their college dorm with a dish full of cookies and ears ready to listen to those first day stories in person. (Yes, that would be weird.)

I cried with the recognition that I have to let go even more to allow my children the experience of growing up.

I cried about the speed with which these years have flown by. I know, I know, everyone says time goes by quickly, but high school crept up before I felt ready.

And I prayed again. Remembering God got me through all those elementary years, I am confident God will help me through these high school years, too.
Philippians 4:6-8
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Thank you, God, for the promise of your peace, especially now that my babies are in high school.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Vacation Surprises

One of my favorite benefits of vacationing in a hotel is the opportunity to use the guest laundry room. Yes, I enjoy catching up on some wash before I get home. I know, I know, vacation is for relaxing. Getting laundry done relaxes me. If there’s a chance to throw a load in during my time away, I see it as a great way to get a head-start on my chores back at home. It’s a good day when it’s just me, my coffee and the Zen-like pulsing of the washers and dryers to start the morning. The sounds of productivity and the reward of clean, fresh-smelling laundry make me smile.

There were some added surprises in a recent laundry experience. Instead of my preferred solitude, another woman was in the laundry room using one of the dryers. We nodded, acknowledged each other’s presence in the polite way strangers do, and tended to our own machines. As I loaded my wash, though, I couldn’t help but notice as she opened her dryer door, looked inside, closed it again, and then stood there as it ran, while holding the door closed with her hand. She then repeated this process every few minutes.

I simply couldn’t resist and had to ask. “Something wrong with the dryer?”

“No, ma’am,” she drawled, “except that the sneakers sometimes fly outta these things, y’know?”

Puzzled, I watched the spinning sneakers for a few seconds to process her comment. I thought that maybe since I was from Pennsylvania we had different laundry customs. Perhaps flying sneakers are as southern as grits.

“After the rain last night, I decided to throw our sneakers in here,” she continued, “but the door won’t stay shut. The sneakers keep flying out and I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

All I could visualize was a perfectly enjoyable vacation being knocked upside-the-head by being, well, knocked-upside-the-head by a flying sneaker. Vacations can be full of surprises, and so can laundry rooms.

I thought about getting myself some grits. Sometimes a change in routine is a good thing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Noise Noise Noise

I’m sitting here by the open window on an incredibly gorgeous day in June. I picked today to get some writing done, with perfect 70 degree weather and a slight breeze to accompany me. An unwelcome companion, however, is the street worker who decided to tackle repairs in the road in front of my house. Seriously? Today of all days? The sound of the street cutting machine grinds its teeth into my brain while slicing a cut into the road out front. It won’t stop. For hours. I think to myself, just shut it out and pretend it’s only white noise in the background. I continue with my day’s work, and over time I’m less aware (consciously at least) of the grinding roar of the motor. My subconscious mind, however, remains tuned in to the high volume of the gears. Suddenly, the machine stops. I feel my body melt into my wooden chair. The quiet, thick and welcoming, drapes me like a soft blanket. I want to stay still as long as possible to soak in the nurturing peace I didn’t realize was missing. What did the noise prevent me from hearing, I wonder? My thoughts. They run a mile a minute in haphazard fashion on a normal day but the grating background noise kicked my thoughts into hyper overdrive. Finally, the silence, like a lasso, gave me something to grasp so that I could reel my thoughts back into marching band precision.

A busy wife and mom of teenagers, I run on hyper overdrive on a regular basis. Drop the kids off somewhere, run errands, go to work, get groceries, make dinner, set up the doctors’ appointments, manage the calendar, check in on my parents, pay the bills, oh, and pick the kids up. It’s no wonder when someone asks “What do you do?” I assume the deer-in-headlights expression because I don’t know where to start.

One of my favorite bible verses is Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” Ahhh. Now we’re talking. This is the type of ‘stillness’ I’m looking for. Only with pockets of quiet can I bring sanity and order into my life and mind. I need to force myself to maintain the discipline of being quiet, even if for a few minutes, on a daily basis so I can hold on to the peace I desire. Then, I am a better wife, better mom, better friend and overall better version of myself.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Ultimate Book Signing

Writing is hard work. Writing a book is even harder. Getting a book published harder yet. But the ultimate challenge? Book signings. Whether a first or fifteenth book, the author is vulnerable. A book signing is one of those events where people are needed more than technology. Live people. I enjoyed attending a number of signings these past few years, and each one was a fun adventure in excitement and hope.

What if Jesus had a book signing? His book would be the Bible, which covers all the nonfiction genres. The Big Book contains biography, autobiography, memoir, letters, history, inspiration, and travel, all in one. With a shiny Cross pen in hand, Jesus would smile his big, welcoming smile to indicate he was ready to greet his readers. We’d each bring our books to the table, get the famed autograph and during our conversation we’d enjoy personal attention from the Big Guy. Of course, there would be light snacks and coffee, since I’m of the belief there will be coffee in heaven. The cake would probably be angel food but hopefully there will be chocolate too. Alongside the table would be business cards with one word--“God”--with no phone number or website needed. Of course, there would also be bookmarks to give away.

I’d walk up to the Big Author, shaking in my shoes, with my favorite Bible in hand, the NIV version. “Hi, Jesus!” I’d say, “Address your note to Lisa, please.”

“Of course! By the way, I know your name already,” He’d say.

“Oh yeah, that’s right. Sooo, Jesus, why did you write this book anyway?”

“To tell you how much I love you. And Lisa, how about you. Are you a writer too?”

“Umm, yes. At least that’s what I keep trying to tell myself.”

“Yes, you’re a writer, because I made you that way. Keep on writing, Lisa. And remember I’m always here to help you.”

To all my fellow writers, keep on writing. And I will, too.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Thoughts are Bugging Me

A quick glance through Google shows we have anywhere between 20,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. Whether 20,000 or 70,000, it’s a lot. What are all these thoughts and what do we do with them? Among these thousands of thoughts there are some which are damaging. Small, unobtrusive, like termites. These pests feed on wood, the structural form causing a home to stand. When this wood is damaged, a home could eventually be unlivable. But termites seem so simple and innocent by themselves don’t they? It’s a lot like the home of my inner self. The running commentary starts again. Nobody likes you. You’re not smart enough. You’re not skinny enough. You’re hungry again? But you just ate something. You’re not valuable. You’re not loved. Nobody notices. When these safe-sounding, simple thoughts are allowed to randomly crawl across my heart and mind, my insides become structurally damaged. I’m affected physically, emotionally and spiritually. Other thoughts flit about, harmlessly. Like household spiders, they cause me to notice and sometimes even to react. I usually prefer to avoid spiders, but they are safe in that they can be dealt with, one at a time. It could be a random Is it time to pay the bills again or I wonder if the guy on the elliptical cleaned off the machine or I better get the car inspected soon or What’s on TV tonight. Any of these thoughts could fester and grow, but they could also be swept away like the spider that got in the house. They are a nuisance at times but can be handled and dismissed quickly. I’m reminded to filter all my thoughts, the termite-type and the spider-type alike, through the lens of God’s Word, the Bible. I’m told what to think about “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, think about such things…” and I’m told how God thinks about things “My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts…” This is the reassurance I need when my own thoughts run the gamut of the insect world. Thank God for exterminators.