Wednesday, October 7, 2015


I went to a pottery class with my husband the other day.

Okay, there are a couple things to clarify. First of all, this was a class to make the pottery, not just paint it. The primary equipment consisted of a spinning wheel, a lump of clay and our hands. It was the scene from “Ghost,” minus Patrick Swayze. Well, you get the picture.

Secondly, you read correctly, my husband joined me. We are soon-to-be empty nesters, and have been trying out more creative options for our date nights. A couple months ago, we went to one of those painting workshops together (including the wine) and this time, it was pottery-making.

I learned a few things about pottery.

Pottery starts out as a formless lump of clay. It needs water added and a special touch to shape it into something recognizable, useful, and possibly beautiful. I appreciated the metaphor of God as our Potter in a new way.

Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)
“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hands.”

I have no defined shape except what is given me by God. On the outside, I can be curvy or slim, depending on the season of my weight loss efforts. But on the inside, I have many more components, such as a passion for meeting new people, a love of numbers, and a heart to make others feel loved.

We each received a softball-shaped lump of cool, gray clay which was dense and stiff. We had to add water so it would be more moldable, softer, smoother. Water softens things, makes them pliable, more receptive. Perhaps I could use some of this extra water for molding my perspectives to be more like God’s. Wish it were so simple.

When I reached my goal of losing 100 pounds a few years ago, I had a new shape outside but I started to harden inside under the pressure of the goal. Coupled with my husband’s health crisis at the time, I then fell back into old habits of depending on my own abilities and pulled myself out of God’s hands. Now, I’m losing the weight I gained again, but this time it’s with an even greater focus on God. Like the clay’s response to the water, life experiences can adjust my shape.

The end result of our pottery-making extravaganza? Simple beauty.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fastnacht Traditions

In my teen years, I participated in a youth program at the local Lutheran Church. It was a fun way to celebrate my German heritage while spending time with friends. We prepared and performed a new skit every year; one year, it was a Carol Burnett tribute, another year a variety show. I still remember lip-syncing the song “All for the Best” with my friend Debbie. What a blast. The best part? Eating fastnacht at the end of the evening. Why? Because my grandmother made them.

These weren’t your typical doughnuts found at Dunkin’, though. Authentic German doughnuts made the traditional way didn’t come easily. The time, effort and love blended into the delectable treats were not only food for our bodies, but food for our souls.

This year, I decided to pull out Grandmom’s recipe to pass the tradition along to my teen daughter.

 Step 1: The recipe

Having the right mix of ingredients creates the perfect doughnut, and the perfect environment for conversation and connection. When I hung out with Grandmom, the primary ingredients were love, hugs and smiles. She was a fun-loving woman who avoided conflict and I learned to observe moments of pure contentment watching her in action.
Step 2: Knead the dough

 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.

Step 4: Cut the dough

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

Ahhh, the heat. Now that the little beauties were rolled and shaped, they could be placed into the hot oil, resulting in puffy clouds of deliciousness, cooked to perfection. The heated challenges in life, like the oil, can turn our perfect little pieces into something more satisfying, and thoroughly enjoyable.

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

Book Review: No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches

As much as I love to write, I also love to read. Therefore, I chose to participate in a book review of:
No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches (ISBN 978-1-63357-001-6) by Jeff Davidson.

Jeff shares his personal experiences as a dad having a son with special needs in No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches. The stories provide insight into his perspectives on life, on parenting and on his faith. Families raising children with special needs will benefit, however the encouragement he intends to share also applies to the universal theme of challenged faith, no matter what the struggle.

As a pastor who is called to serve the special needs community, Jeff’s generous heart to help others is evident. The book, however, falls short in story-telling techniques and instead slides back and forth from anecdotes to sermons. His writing is redundant and preachy, as if his existing sermons were assembled and printed together to compile the book. There are helpful ideas interspersed between the stories, however.

I found the concept and ministry appealing and useful, however recommend Jeff’s blog site and Rising Above Ministries as a resource for inspiration instead of the book.

The paperback is available on Amazon:


Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Targeting My Thoughts

My daughter and husband are competitive pistol shooters. Some of you may cringe at the word “pistol” because of the fear of guns and all things gun-related. I get that. Guns, in the hands of people with evil intent, can be used as deadly weapons.

 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.

As for me, I have my own version of target shooting: healthy eating. I watch what I eat, when I eat it and how much. It takes gut-level motivation to continue to plow forward even when the scale moves slowly and everyone else in the world seems to be eating donuts.

There are three principles in target shooting which I can apply for success in eating right.

 1)      Everyone in shooting knows it’s virtually impossible to hit the ‘x’ every time.

When I watch what I eat day after day, there are certain to be moments when I miss the mark. Today, for instance, I had a York Peppermint Patty (yes, it jumped from the counter into my shopping cart) but counted the calories towards my day’s allotment. This meant dinner was a tuna salad and soup, but it still worked. Not quite an ‘x,’ but close.
2)      Shooting professionals manage their thoughts by approaching the target one shot at a time.  

I take my eating plan one day at a time, and sometimes one hour at a time. The focus it takes to figure out what to eat to stay healthy and yet manage to keep going can be overwhelming. Instead, by weighing in one week at a time, and approaching each new day with a new attitude, I can break the long-term goal into smaller, achievable goals. These are the goals which result in healthy weight loss.

3)      Finally, true competitors know that each shot is a clean slate. 

Having a plan in place for the entire day makes it easier to stay on track, but if I blew it for that half-hour between picking the kids up from school and figuring out what’s for dinner, then I start over by approaching the dinner meal as the next shot. It’s about writing down what I ate, then continue to write down the next meal, too. There’s a finality in putting it on paper, instead of replaying the mistake over and over in my head. Not a good idea. For me, it’s about watching what I think about, and then I can have results with my actions.

Most importantly, hitting the “x” for me is when I reach out for help, either from God or friends or both, when I’m having a weak moment and want to eat instead of coping with the feelings I prefer to avoid.
This verse helps me:
Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I PRESS ON toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Targeting my thoughts…now that’s a worthwhile competition.




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Broken Faith

A faith-buddy gave me a cherished gift which adorned my powder room sink for many years. It was a ceramic knickknack of the word “FAITH” written in all capitals, painted a cheery lavender and adorned with yellow and white daisies around each letter.

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

What Goes In A Nativity Scene?

For many years, our family had a nativity set which consisted of MOST of the required pieces.

There was a stable, with its scattered straw, and the porcelain figures of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. The angel, shepherd, cow, and two of the three wise men finished the scene. Somewhere along the way we lost a wise man and a donkey. Odd.

Well, not so odd. It was me, not my children, who dropped and broke the missing pieces. At least I didn’t drop baby Jesus.

This year, we finally replaced our nativity set. As I was packing up our Christmas decorations (yes, it’s always a letdown, huh?) I discovered an extra visitor in our nativity scene.


How did the chocolate Santa get there?

I found another notable nativity scene this year in Cape May, New Jersey. I wanted to take a picture because it seemed so big and complete.




It was more than complete. If you take a close look inside the stable door, my reflection appeared in the photograph, too.

My kids’ response: “Gee, I didn’t think you were THAT old.”  

What doesn’t get old, though, is enjoying these traditional nativity scenes to remind me just what Christmas is all about. God with us, in infant form, to give us hope in a sometimes messy world. Even today, more than 2,000 years later, it’s still a messy world. It helps to peek through the stable door and remember the hope I found in the form of an infant bundle.  

Now that’s even better than a chocolate Santa.



Friday, January 9, 2015

New Year's Resolution...Resolved

Another new year, another new year’s resolution to lose weight.

I penned this line ten years ago for the first time and almost every January 1st since.

Wow, ten years…? Good thing God is patient. Finally I see differently.

God doesn’t want another new year’s resolution. It’s just my made-up way to perform so I feel like I am pleasing Him. No, God already loves me and is pleased with me (most of the time, at least). However, God does want me to have discipline and in that regard I know taking care of my health and weight are important. But they are not to be the gods of themselves. God is to be the God of Himself. This means God is to be my priority and focus, and practicing discipline in eating can result from having God first.

What does this look like?

Take this morning for instance.

I worked out for a half hour. Check. Then came breakfast. I measured and wrote down my Weight Watchers’ allotment for the day. Check. I packed a baggie of veggies and a bottle of water to have later this morning. Check. Most importantly, though, I sat down and read my Bible, prayed, and gave myself time to be still in God’s presence before I left the house. Check. Check. Check.

Spending time with God is my key to weight loss. It’s how I can know God loves me and has plans for me. It’s the boost to my health, not just spiritual, but my physical and emotional health, too.

How do I know this is important? I recited a memory verse I hadn’t thought about in months:

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will always provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

This verse has been my lifeline for many years and is familiar to me. But today I noticed the next verse, too. Check it out:

1 Corinthians 10:14 (NIV)
“Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”

To me, it was a way of God telling me to make sure my goal of losing weight itself doesn’t become more important than Him. To make sure the Weight Watcher plan isn’t an idol. To make sure my exercise program isn’t an idol. To make sure my own new year’s resolution doesn’t become an idol.

The first and second of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 speak about worshipping only God. If these are the first two of the Ten Most Important Rules written by God Himself, I must have to pay attention, huh? When I am worshipping God, my obedience to Him in discipline and self-control can then follow naturally. It’s not about the “after” photo, it’s about the “after” life. Life with God in eternity where I want to hear Him say “Well done, Lisa.”

Headed to the coffee shop, I knew in advance I'd order only coffee. Those muffins and cookies wouldn’t be a problem for me. At least not for today.