If You Just…

Where is our faith when every stinking thing that can happen happens? When you’re already struggling, when your body is failing, and when your mind refuses to think?

Here come the “if you justs”. If you just have enough faith, if you just say this prayer, if you just drink or eat this, if you just ask for help, if you just make this change, if you just recite this every morning at 6:30 a.m., if you just stand like this, hold out your right hand and lift your left leg. There are 83 balls in the air, you have two hands, and any “just” adds another ball. Just how do we keep our faith?

Twenty plus years ago I was hit head on while stopped in the left hand lane. It was one in a series of extremely traumatic events that on their own are considered major but occurred within a two year period. The things that happened in-between when I lived in survival mode, hid what was really happening, existed by performing, are too numerous to mention yet added significantly to the overwhelming weight of my burdens.

Church friends passed on their magic faith formulas. One said, “Just write down everything you want God to work on and put the paper under your pillow. Just pray your list faithfully and say these special verses every day! Just have faith and God will!”

I actually spent time writing that list and saying those special prayers making sure I had the words just right, with just enough sincerity, just enough holiness, just enough faith to make God behave, for about three days before the absurdity of the just-do-these-things-and-He-will hit me. God is God. I’m not. God is just; just Him.

Most of us know the story of Job and his faithfulness to God despite the terrible things that happened. Then there’s Nahum about God’s wrath on Nineveh. It’s horrifying to read and sometimes I think many of us can relate but the message in this one verse is found throughout the Bible.

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.

Nahum 1:7

There is no “if you just”; He just is. He is our faith.


 …but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ,…Ephesians 4:15 (NASB)

Hearing something we don’t want to hear is hard enough, but when it’s served with a spoonful of sugar that is unconditional love, the taste isn’t quite so bitter. I should know. I’ve swallowed hard truths more than a few times.

And with that gulp of truth we may also recognize our faults and experience regret, for our words, our actions, our choices. Therein lies the rub; we now have to do something!

One of the things I try very hard to practice is capturing my emotions and actually hearing the words that are being said to me. If I write down those words and look at them rather than react, I learn something. Maybe I learn the way I say something is heard differently that my intent. Maybe I learn something I did caused a consequence that could have been avoided. Maybe I gain a new perspective. Whatever it is, hearing truth spoken in love is a gift from someone who cares and wants better with or for us; accepting it as an opportunity to learn and grow is a choice.

Here’s a mnemonic to process through hearing an unwelcome truth:

T – True. Is it true and accurate? It is for the person confronting you. Try to see their point of view.

R – Ramifications. What are the ramifications? How did/does it impact others and me? Do I need to ask forgiveness? Now?

U – Urgent. Is this something I need to manage right now or can it be considered later?

T – Thanks. Give thanks for and to the person who confronted you. Not an easy task and it comes with risk of loss.

H – Heart. How do I need to change my heart, my perspective, my going forward to align with God’s Word and continue or restore my relationship?

Psalm 51:10 says “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew in me a steadfast spirit.” I love this prayer as a start to surrendering whatever emotions I’m having to the Holy Spirit to work on the things I need to change in my heart.


“A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:7 (NASB)

There are good ones, like surprises and gifts that bring us joy. And there are those that hold us hostage, feed our fears, heap us with shame, guilt, and regret. They call us names and throw rocks to keep our hopes pinned down. They cover us with heaviness, blocking light and truth. Gradually they choke us as we gasp out lies to cover them. All we need to do is speak up, but at what price? Can we bear being looked at in a new way, being thought of in a new way, perhaps answering questions to justify our actions, being judged by those we love, by strangers? Why are we held captive so by secrets?

There is a time to speak…

What if our silence is causing harm, to ourselves or others? What would happen if they knew? Surely the image so carefully built would crumble and tumble as a sand castle hit by a wave. Then what? Who would we be then? What would it change?

There is a time to speak…

As I’m working out the pages of my contemporary Christian fiction, my characters struggle with the secrets that have brought them to the circumstances where they now are. Until now, they’ve chosen silence and lived with the consequences.

But something is changing, something new is happening. Secrets are poking their way through a tiny shack off a red clay dirt country road in the tiny town of Morgansville, Alabama. People are starting to talk. People are starting to wonder, seeing glimpses of truth.

Is it still a time to be silent, or is this a time to speak?

Will these secrets tear them apart, or will it bind them together?

The Roar of Easter

Lion of Judah

It’s Saturday, the day before Easter, the day before Christ’s Resurrection Day.  In my little yard is a cross, a couple of 4 x 2’s held together with a screw and wing nut, draped with a black piece of felt that was put there yesterday, Good Friday, to acknowledge the willful and willing death of Jesus.  Tomorrow I will whisk away the black felt and replace it with a white one, symbolic of the result of this sacrifice…a gift for me, my sins, my separation from God that is no more because of this act.

One of my worries in moving here was finding a church where I could not only worship freely but learn, grow, and strengthen my relationship with the Lord.  In a long, roundabout, and convoluted way that took a path through my daughter’s activities, I’ve found it.  I shouldn’t have worried…I know in my heart that God’s got it covered.  I didn’t realize how hungry I was for what I found there until I tasted it, but the teaching at this church covered the elephant in the room taboos of the South on my first day and it was more than good.  I am among friends.

As always, I am amazed and awed by God’s love for us considering how nasty and horrid, and ungrateful and stubbornly self-serving, we can be toward him and each other.   I can’t understand how anyone can deny his existence and authority considering the scientific and historical evidence (not theories, but facts) that support Jesus is who he says he is.  One of my favorite authors, Lee Strobel, in A Case for Christ says, ““The Jews proposed the ridiculous story that the guards had fallen asleep. Obviously, they were grasping at straws. But the point is this: they started with the assumption that the tomb was vacant! Why? Because they knew it was!”  I had never thought of that before, but it made me think.  In their hearts they knew the truth, but refused to utter it.  We humans are stubborn like that.  If we fear being wrong, or having to change, or a consequence for our actions, we grasp at straws.  In our hearts we may feel it, we may know deep down the truth…but it scares us…so we deny it.

Often those who know or think they know the Easter story picture a bloody man on the cross, a crown of thorns on his hung head, total submission to the fate ascribed by the people who would crucify him.  What we fail to take into account is the who this man is, that he was made for this purpose, he planned this to happen, and he accomplished it for his purpose.  As our pastor put it, Jesus was a volunteer, not a victim.

There is a current Facebook news feed of photos about actions that will restore your faith in humanity.  These are all pictures of people who have willingly, purposefully, and voluntarily put their lives on the line for others, even at risk of death. They are not scorned, they are not disbelieved, and they are certainly not considered as victims.  Instead, they are hailed as heroes, their courage celebrated, their death-defying acts lauded as the ultimate in showing love to a fellow being.  Yet Jesus is scorned, considered a good man and wise teacher but disbelieved, and even thought a bit of weakling because he allowed himself to die as a criminal to save us.

It didn’t stop there, though.  He fulfilled his plan and promise, and on the 3rd day he arose.  A Case for Christ, along with other books that back their claims with irrefutable evidence, support this claim.  Amazing to me is how people will believe theories that are supported by more theories and suppositions yet fail to recognize what actually is evidenced.  And I think it’s because of fear.  If Jesus is really who he says he is, we have to accept his ultimate authority.  Sadly, many who say they believe don’t do that.  Instead, there is picking and choosing what fits their own ideas and standards instead of alignment to what God actually says.  I think that creates the rub, and causes sects, hurt and hate, and disbelief.  Hard to trust when one says one thing and behaves another.  That’s not God; that’s people tuning out God.  God is constant and consistent; the Bible, historical documents and evidence supports that.  God sent us His son out of love for us.

Why the lion in this Easter posting?  He went to the cross as the lamb to be slain out of his love for us, but he roared out as a lion, alive, bold, conquering sin and death, all for his love for us.  All Hail the Lion of Judah, King of Kings, Lord of Lords.   He is arisen…he has arisen indeed.  That is the Good News!

The Courage to Zig Zag

I was talking with someone yesterday about upcoming change in her life, the kind of change you purposefully make because you’ve taken inventory, weighed your options, and come to the conclusion that unless you do something different, everything will stay the same.  I’m always awed by that.  I know that feeling, have taken that kind of action, and know firsthand that any time we zig or zag off the usual beaten path in our lives it takes courage, and stamina, and effort.   The known, no matter how oppressive, how difficult, how painful, or how limiting, is at least something we know how to travel. We’ve experienced the potholes, know the bumps like the back of our hand, know when to lean left or cut right, and know all the emergency pull outs.  We know the pit stops, the scenic overlooks, the fast lanes, and the back roads.  And because we know these things, we can go on automatic cruise.  But veering off that familiar road, turning down the one less traveled, or just the one that looks so doggone appealing is…scary, exciting, and takes effort.  It’s like we have to fight to have control in steering ourselves in that chosen direction.  The awesome part is that it’s our choice to do so, and once we set our mind on that course, we can start the tick off list of things to do to prepare for that zig and make that zag.   With every check mark and milestone, we are actively changing.

Of course, whenever we zig we are faced with doubts.  Of course, we have naysayers who would rather keep us boxed into the known rather than wish us well on our new adventure.  And, of course, we find obstacles from orange cones that can be immediately moved aside to boulders that require some hard thinking to figure a way around them.  It’s all part of the dance in choosing to zig.  It cannot deter us, cannot stop us, and cannot sway our chosen path unless we allow it to do so.

There are three little squirrels zipping through the branches outside my backyard, leaping and flying, running as hard as their little legs will carry them.  Their momentum remains constant even as they approach a trunk or crossing branch that would otherwise impede their journey.  What they do when they get to that obstacle is zig left or zag right and keep moving toward their goal.

Go, squirrels, go!  Friend, I admire your courage and pray for your momentum as you traverse the path to your new destination.  I’m cheering you on, and keeping you close in prayer.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2

Slag and Dross

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.  Proverbs 27:17

Slag and dross are the refuse that results from melting nonferrous metals, slag for those requiring high heat and dross for those requiring low heat.  The slag and dross refuse reduces the quality of the casting.  When we allow slag and dross in our lives, it reduces the quality of our character which can reduce the quality of our relationships, our thinking, our choices, our lives.  Iron sharpens iron; slag, if not disposed of, weakens, cracks, and eventually, in time and with testing, breaks the iron. Thankful for the irons in my life.  God bless you all…you know who you are.

What’s New?


“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

New.  Those three letters send a tingle of excitement when used as an adjective.  New clothes, new car, new house, new recipe, new anything seems to evoke feelings of hope for something, well, new.

The word can also inspire a bit of fear of the unknown.  New boss, new policy, new lump are words that can turn our tummies inside out.

But what about a new thing?  What thing?  What is the thing?  Will it hurt?  Will it be something I recognize as new?

Almost seven years ago this verse appeared on the same day in three different devotionals I was reading.  And something new did happen but it took a while for me to catch on.  I think I’m still seeing all the new that began even before then and here we are again at a New Year.

God has promised beauty from ashes and I believe that.  I also think I’m seeing the beginnings of that beauty.   From the time I made the decision to move from Arizona to my home state of Alabama I have encountered “new”.  New weather, new scenery, new living space, new relationships, new job, new interests and new feelings.  Some of the new feelings have been hard, like missing my children, my church, friends, a place that is mine, my job, and familiar things.  I still miss them but there’s a sense of expectancy that something new is happening.  My latest new is having my daughter move here with me after driving with her across the country to get here.  Our together new is finding a place for us to live.

When I think of it, we encounter new every day of our lives even though we may go through the same routines.  New opportunities are everywhere; sometimes we just don’t recognize them.

What new thing is happening?  I’m not sure yet but I’m ready for whatever new God has for my life.  It’s exciting and scary all at once, but that’s a new feeling I’m ready to embrace.  In His time, all things will be new.  Gotta love that.

Happy New Year!

Keeper of My Soul

I can almost remember the exact moment when I realized he wasn’t who I thought he was.  I was alone in my home, a childless woman yearning to be a mother, and reading 1st Samuel, as I did again and again and again for comfort, for answers, for confirmation, for hope, for some peace that would let me accept that, according to the doctors, I was one of the 10% who for no reason whatsoever couldn’t have children.  It’s not something most little girls grow up thinking about themselves.  Our dreams are usually littered (remember, I’m the cat lady) with visions of babies and baby things and toddlers who are adorable on chubby little legs and being the homeroom mother and seeing them off to prom and blessing their marriage and, someday, being a grandmother.  Nope, said the fertility doctors.  Not gonna happen.

So on this night after a long day of work when I was home and reading my Bible, words I had read many times seemed to leap at me.  In verse 15, Hannah explains to Eli that she isn’t drunk, and says “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord”.  For some reason that hit me in a way that reading about David’s life hadn’t, and David is who we think about when we think about someone pouring out their soul to the Lord, right?  Maybe it was the woman to woman connection, but whatever it was, I recall thinking that maybe I wasn’t seeing God for who he is.  Maybe instead of being like a mafia godfather who wanted to control me with fear and scare, or a benevolent grandfather we only visited on Sundays in the nursing home and forgot about the rest of the week, there might be more to him.  I realized Hannah was talking about a relationship with a God to whom she could pour out her soul.  Hmmm.  Really?

I had been raised with religion and though people I knew used the term relationship it appeared it meant they had accepted salvation.  The relationship part I was familiar with was laden with burdens and rules and threats that made me feel bad, condemned, and shamed for even saying I was a Christian because who in the world could live up to all that. The relationship demonstrated by those I knew meant that you would go to hell if you didn’t read your Bible every day, you would go to hell if you didn’t make it to church every Sunday, you would go to hell if you cussed, you would go to hell if you danced, drank, or sinned at all and since everything seemed to be a sin…bring on the fire.  The religion I was raised with said better act like a saint on Sunday, utter the magic religion words, take on a holier than thou voice when you pray, and don’t you be seen in church with a run in your hose or a missing button.  It was big on performance, big on production, big on doctrines and weekly rededicate-your-life altar calls because every week you’d lose your salvation, disappoint God, cause him to frown and hate you.  It was big on guilt, shame, comparisons, old ladies who wore a constant mouth pucker of disapproval, and old men who looked absolutely broken.  I’m not sure there were many smiles at church.  It was solemn and somber and depressing.  The laughter was reserved for before or after church when God was no longer looking.

Then came Hannah’s words.  At that time I attended a large church and grace had been introduced but I was stuck in what I’d been raised with.  I played the part like everyone else I knew but there was nothing real about it for me until I read Hannah poured out her soul.  I wanted that.  I wanted there to be a God to whom I could stop pretending to be what I wasn’t and just pour out my soul, all the yuck, all the hurt, all the whatever there was and just know that no matter what, he loved me.  Was that who God really was?  Would he love me unconditionally?

I wouldn’t find out for a few more years because life came at us with one slam after another and I reverted back to what I was raised with but longed for what I felt was more.  Then it happened.

I became part of a group of people who met weekly for a home Bible study and through that began my search for the character of God.  I attended classes and seminars that used the Bible as reference, pulled in the history and Hebrew view, to learn what the Bible said about God, his son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  I researched on my own and bought books that were not only references but described life application.  I found a church with a pastoral staff that actually taught the Bible.  And somewhere along the way I discovered what I always wanted – a relationship with the Lord.

A wonderful pastor/teacher said that when you know God loves you as much on your worst day as on your best, you get a glimpse of the unconditional love and relationship you were created to have with him.  I have more worst days than best ones.  I am so thankful for that unconditional love, for the relationship that lets me come to him and pour out my soul and know I am safe in doing so.  I’m thankful that I understand, finally, that obedience to God isn’t based on rules and regulations and fire and brimstone, but on a desire to please him, a desire to show love back to him, a desire to make him proud, and a desire to say thank you.  It’s not a have to…it’s a want to.  It’s not who we are or what we do; it’s who he is and what’s he’s done.  It’s grace, his for us.  It’s love, his for us.  And it’s a relationship built on trust in him, the one who gives us life and breath, and has the right to take life and breath, and knowing that no matter what, he is good, he is God.  He’s the Keeper of my soul.


There are some days when you feel everything is just right in the world. Even if this isn’t one of them, there are still some things that are right.

Forgiveness is right. Forgiving those who have hurt or offended you, asking forgiveness of those you have hurt or offended. Our motives are sometimes misunderstood. Our meanings are sometimes mistaken. Our intentions may be good but then, wham, they come back and slap us. Or maybe we are the aching ones, the ones covered in pain and shame and humiliation and ugliness. We can’t force someone to forgive us, but we can do our part in offering an apology. I think it takes sometimes takes tremendous courage to say I’m sorry. We become the Fonz who can’t say we were wrong, but when we do, it breaks open the communication barriers and allows for meaningful conversation and understanding.

Boundaries are right. In every type of relationship we have emotional and physical boundaries. Sometimes those boundaries flex depending upon change in the relationship. Aligning them properly or putting them back into place is right.

Learning is right. Learning from our mistakes, learning from our assumptions, learning from our expectations that were not met. With every twist and turn in all the things that happen in our lives, we add a new tool to our toolbox for maneuvering through life and helping others.

Rebuilding is right. A complete demolition and start over may be exactly what’s needed at times. Fear is our enemy in this but once the first sledgehammer is swung and the building starts tumbling, there’s a bit of freedom, a bit of confidence, a bit of determination to be done with the old and truly start over.

All of these rights, however, crumble and lose their footing with a few very significant wrongs.

Justifying actions at the expense of someone else is wrong. We are to take ownership and confront the issue with the appropriate parties.

Betraying a trust is wrong. That simple. Just wrong.

Gossiping, sarcastic references, and statements or actions designed to inflict or continue a hurt are all wrong.

Misleading others is wrong.

For believers, our love of the Lord and obedience to his Word is the priority. Are we exempt from mistakes? No. What do we do? Stop making that mistake, ask forgiveness, set new boundaries, learn from our missteps, and rebuild ourselves to honor our Lord. Not doing this mottles our thoughts and actions with the burden of guilt and shame no matter how we try to name it differently, leaving no peace. He knows our hearts, he knows our thoughts, he knows our intentions, he knows what is true and what we present as true to preserve our image to the outside world.

For those I need to forgive, I forgive. For those I have hurt, I beg your forgiveness. God is our redeemer, he is good, he heals, mends, and transforms. Beauty from ashes.

Wiping off the char…waiting on my Lord.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Second Glance, Second Chance

One of my favorite things about my former job was the opportunity to offer second chances instead of do-overs. In my mind, these aren’t the same.  A do-over implies backing up and starting over, having no more knowledge, no more experience, no more lessons, yet expecting that we would have made better choices if we could do it all again.  That’s not possible.  If I didn’t know or listen then, why would I know or listen then if given the chance to go back and repeat it?   How would I be a different person and how could a do-over without something new to influence my thinking make a difference in where I was today?  Think of the movie, Family Man.  Nicholas Cage’s character would not have desperately chased after Te’a Leoni’s without that very real glimpse of what could be and should be and would be with just a few different choices, but how many of us have those types of dreams that wake us with so vivid a dose of reality before the deeds are done that got us to where we are?  That didn’t even happen in the movie, let alone our own lives.  Do-overs just aren’t possible, but second chances are.

With second chances there’s the fear we’ve accumulated from our failures, struggles, losses, hurts, and beatings in life that often keep our second chances at bay.   It’s the “I don’t want to get hurt again”, “I can’t do this again”, “I’ve tried before, but…”, and “I could never…” that hinders our dance with second chances.  But what if we face what has hurt us and held us back head-on, and identify the lessons from them to create not only a new perspective, but learning tool to help us make better decisions the second time around?  What if we let that knowledge and experience and the insights gained help us to travel a new path rather than keeping us off of one entirely? 

As I approach this part of my life, I’m looking back so I can look forward.  Some of my thoughts:

  1. I wish I had finished college; my second chance is doing so now.  I’ve discovered I love learning, crave learning, and though I fuss and moan at the assignments like all college students, I secretly enjoy pushing and challenging myself to excel.  Unless it’s Math.  Thank God for daughters who know and love quadratics, radicals, polynomials, and Pythagorean distance formulas, and have great sympathy for their mothers who don’t. 
  2. I wish I could do-over saying No.  As in, “No, it’s not okay”, and “No, that hurts”, and “No, that isn’t right”, and “No, that’s not love”, and “No, I won’t.”   Amazing how a two letter word impacts your heart, your thoughts, your identity, your faith, your family, your career, your finances, your circumstances, your future, and your relationships.  There’s no returning back, but there is going forward and this woman is going forward with a new word…No.  
  3.  I wish I could do-over courage, having it younger and using it to step out in faith and determination to learn, to serve, to speak up, and to act.  My sister was the courage-keeper, it seems, and it was only through losing her that I gained some, maybe a pinky-finger full.  As time and events progressed, as I looked up instead and of out, the courage blossomed.  It still isn’t fully bloomed, but my second chance is to nurture it, to let faith see me through everything, big and small and life changing.  And to help me, to hold me up and minister to me, to redirect me, point out things I never even thought about, he’s given me gifts in the form of people who love the Lord above all else and are open, honest, transparent, giving, and forgiving.  None of us possess courage alone; our strength comes from the Lord.  Wonderful to have people who help lift our eyes from the fire around us to the One who brings the rains to drench it.
  4. I wish I had understood the difference between religion and relationship when I was younger, embraced a loving God instead of playing with one based on doctrines, old wives’ tales, superstitions, out of context interpretations, shame and guilt and so many rules that it seemed as if no one could ever be good enough or even certain about it.  My second chance is letting the relationship I have with the Lord be evident in my life so that others might see it isn’t all that other stuff; Jesus is amazing yet too often packaged and sold with benefits only for the golden key card members who never pass up the opportunity to make everyone else feel inferior, or the feel-gooders who continue to spout the 60’s “if it feels good, do it” and “there is no right or wrong, just what feels right for you” mantra only now it’s laced with snippets of and out of context Scripture that twists the message of the Gospel to be whatever they want it to be to fit whatever agenda they are promoting.  So very thankful for the straight shooting Calvary Community Church in Phoenix.  Bonus, I get the messages online! 

Taking a chance again could mean a chance to fail and fall.  It could mean more pain.  It could mean more yuck.  But I’ll take it because not to do so throws me in the jail of the past.  I can see through the bars but I’m still stuck there.  Taking a second chance is like trying the keys on the key ring…one of them will fit and I’m out, better for the consequences of lessons learned to move forward with new confidence.  

Chocolate Covered Faces Hiding Hurting Hearts

chocolate covered faces hide hurting heartsI had posted signs for a ladies’ home Bible study at the local gym, bookstore, and grocery store resulting in more calls than I had anticipated, but feeling blessed I pressed into the Word and prepared for what would be a twelve week study.  One of the women who contacted me offered her home for the study.  I was turning cartwheels since that meant I wouldn’t have to get my own house company clean each week!  That unexpected blessing gave me time to jazz up my delivery and take extra care in presenting myself as their group leader. 

Armed with the booklets I’d printed, I made the 30 minute drive for the first meeting and discovered twelve women, all strangers except one, waiting expectantly.  I had confidently dressed, prepared, prayed, and left my children all set for the evening.  After a rousing introduction to the group, I settled in for the part that always seemed to matter most, the part where the women shared, revealed a part of themselves, made themselves transparent to one another. It always seemed that this brokenness is where and how God worked in our lives as a study group and as individuals.  I slowly scanned the room, looking around at the faces, young, older, eager, afraid, open, each mentally preparing what they would share. One face caught and held my gaze from across the room.  It was mine, reflected in a wall mirror directly across from me.  And what I saw there caught me entirely off-guard.

I, the one leading this Bible study, looked absolutely shattered.  It was as if the pretty mask I had put on moments earlier as I enthused about the study and prayed for our little group had been ripped from my face, exposing hurts and truths that I didn’t admit to myself.  I couldn’t stop staring at that broken, tired-looking, hopeless woman.  And I wondered what in the world I was doing there trying to minister to other women?  Why would God let me sit here and embarrass myself in front of these strangers?  How could I pretend to have it all together when it was written all over me that I didn’t?  In fact, of all the faces gathered, mine seemed to shout misery, misery, misery, and who wants a part of that?

The touch of the hostess’ hand on my arm recalled me to the twelve pair of expectant eyes glued to mine.  “We want to pray for you before we begin,” she said.  This lovely woman lifted me to the Lord and as heads bowed and the prayer was spoken I did something ridiculous.  I looked back in the mirror.  

I don’t know what I expected to see but my appearance didn’t change, there was no apparition or glowing angels or anything noticeable at all.  Yet inside of me I made a decision to be real about my own life struggles.  Only by exposing my own weaknesses could the strength of my relationship with Christ become transparent.  And that’s what this was all about, really.  Living a relationship with the Lord. 

Women, and probably men, too, tend to cover themselves with the mask of perfection to hide our hurts.  It’s like we take a dip in chocolate and the nutty, gooey center that is our life can’t be seen.  Prettier that way, but I think it plays into the lie that Christians are perfect people when in fact we aren’t and can’t be, but our God is.  I think it sometimes pushes away those who see us beaming our luscious chocolate coating that seems to say I’m better than you, I handle things better than you, I have made better choices than you, I’m happier (see my grimace, I mean, smile) than you.  Sometimes I think we have to show our own hurts and broken hearts so that others can see what’s holding us together isn’t us or that chocolate candy we’ve wrapped so tightly around ourselves.  We’re covered by a constantly loving Lord who is also our center and that’s really something worth biting into.     


Sitting, Standing, Hiding, Slinking Around, and Otherwise Being Insecure, Ducks

Sitting Duck

I’ll admit it.  I’m vulnerable.  Oh, not just vulnerable in the “somebody might hurt me again” way, but in the “sometimes I can’t breathe because of fear of being hurt” way.  I know so many of us like this right now.  We’re ducks.  We sit and wait for the next horrible thing to happen, hoping it doesn’t, resigned for it to do so.  We stand and watch the world go by around us, not joining in.  We hide in our little spaces and think no one would want to see us, like us, talk to us, be friends with us, or in any way find value in us because we feel we have f-a-i-l-e-d in a relationship  and thus, we are doomed to forever failing because, doggone it, it hurts too much and who wants to repeat that?  We slink just under the radar, checking the wind direction, terrified to fly; testing the waters electronically, but never getting our feet wet.  And why?  Because we are reeling in insecurity about who we are, what we are, how attractive and interesting and funny and fun and valuable we are.  Quack.

Sad thing is, the longer we stay sitting ducks, the more danger we’re in.  It’s a pseudo-safety, our little hidey-hole of self-recrimination and woe is me, sigh, sigh, sigh.  Because when we sit as sitting ducks those lies that were told to us, things that were done to us, hurts that happened to us and made us feel like ugly ducklings burrow deeper into us, asserting who we believe we are.  And for the record, there are times when the hurt we have is because we have hurt others, badly, and that hurt should be painful enough to us to change us, change our hearts and minds and actions so that we never do those things again.  Until then, we need to sit as ducks and stew, bake, roast and broil until that bad part is no longer there.  But for the rest of us, those who fell for the decoy that put us here, we need to shake those tail feathers and start slowly flapping back to pond life…and friends, fun, relationships. 

Realigning ourselves with who we are as believers is a start.  When the words of hurt muddy our minds we can dip into God’s words, but I know it’s still not easy.  I’m still duckish rather than ducky, but I’d rather become like a lucky duck enjoying the gift of this time in my life God has given me, scars, lessons, wonky feathers, and all.  I think the only thing worse than being a duck is being a chicken…and those who know me know I don’t “do” chicken!

The Living Bible has this translation of my don’t wanna-be-a-duck/anti-chicken verse.  I think it’s rather appropriate. 

For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them.  Timothy 1:7


Who Is That?


Funny how so many of us are here right now.  Not funny, really, but odd.  Sad, strange, uncertain, scary and lonely.  And then there is another side of it.  Hopeful, expectant, exciting, challenging…the words we think of whenever we approach a new adventure.  Which is what this is.  It’s a place we haven’t been before, but whatever the reason, we’re here now.

Part of that is finding out who we are.  I talked at length with a dear friend who recently marked her first year post divorce.  “I’m not that woman I was a year ago,” she told me, “but I know and enjoy the woman I am now.”  As we talked about the heartaches, her move to a city she had never even visited, the things she had brought forward (not much), and the things she had now acquired (quite a bit), we cried at how life hadn’t gone as planned and laughed at the discoveries she would never have made if it had.

Like she would not have known she loved the East coast.  She had never lived anywhere except the desert, but a book she’d read made her long to see Chesapeake Bay and she went, in her car, thousands of miles, crying, yelling, hurting…but she went. And she loves her new hometown while still getting used to the bugs and critters and tourist trade that it revolves around.  “I was born and raised and lived in Arizona over fifty years.  Who knew I was really meant to be here?”

Another surprise was being hired as a secretary at the church she visited and had decided to join.  “That I could switch from banking to being a church secretary and truly love every day of my job was a huge eye opener.  I’d worked in banking since I was 19 and thought I would die in banking.  The pressure was immense, but when you have a house, cars, kids and then kids with cars, and all the trimmings, you do it.”  

Her most shocking discovery, however, was who she was.  “I was a wife, mother, banker, sister, daughter, cousin, friend, and neighbor, but I wasn’t sure who I was alone.”  She said she took pictures of herself in the mirror and studied them to help her find out.  “I had to adjust to the wrinkles and spots and rolls that happened when I wasn’t looking.  When you are so busy with life, you don’t really see yourself.  I wanted to know not only who I was inside, but who I was in 3D.  I wanted to see what others see.”  

And what is that?  “A happy woman who loves the Lord and smiles a lot.  And I’m rather pretty. Yes, I can say that.  I have streaks of gray, wrinkles on my face and neck, I have spots, my nose is crooked, my bottom is bigger than my top, all of me has extra flab, I have a roll in the middle, and some really mean varicose veins, but overall I like what I see and feel.  I know who I am for me.  I’m really thankful for that.”

Part of the journey for those of us who are on it is to do just that.  Know who we are, who God has created us to be. 

It’s not the first picture on my journey, but it’s where I am now.  Who is that?  I’m still finding out. 



The Beauty of Women in the South

The Beauty of Women in the South

I attended a funeral today, my first funeral in the South in 13 years, and what struck me in addition to the wonderful life and legacy of the man who passed, was the beauty of the women attending the service. From the lovely widow to the granddaughters to every woman there (and there were many), ages teen to eighty-something was represented. They wore flattering, modest, stylish dresses, skirts, suits, or dressy slacks, each outfit adding to the poise of the wearer. Complexions, hair color and style varied but it was obvious that every woman had invested time and attention in her appearance. From the oldest to the youngest, all sizes, shapes, and statures, each woman radiated and appeared comfortably proud of her own unique beauty. It was like she was crowned with feeling lovely, appreciated, and confident in her femininity. And she, every she present, wore it like a beauty queen.

I love being a woman of the South.

Just Let It Spew

“Poor Toby, he tries so hard to be the best dog for Olivia and it does not always work out for him. Last night at 1:00am, he heard her make a noise and so he walked in to check on her. Stuck his head in to give her a kiss and. . . bam, she threw up all over his head. He shook and spread it around the room. We had an awesome mess to clean up as they snuggled on our bed. Olivia still has an upset stomach, but is feeling fine. Olivia and Toby were both very chipper this morning, unlike their dads.” posted by Brock Hancock, July 1, 2014, Facebook.  

My friend’s post almost made coffee come out of my nostrils.  Truly, parenting is not for the weak-stomached, and how ever can we love our long-suffering pets enough when they are so tolerant and forgiving of these little things?  I think every parent has gross bodily fluid stories we, later, laughingly share to terrorize both new parents and our non-parent friends who are sure they know exactly what our lives are like.  Until your child has spit up, puked, bled, sneezed a cup full of snot, dropped a lugey, peed or pooed on you, and I don’t just mean near you or where it hasn’t actually touched your skin, but literally upon your body and possibly your face and hair, you haven’t been fully initiated into parenting.  For some, it’s a one time deal that rises to epic horror proportions because they only have the one story. For others, the experience has defined which parent will automatically add to the biohazard and which one is hereinafter designated as the cleaner-upper.  And then there are those who can hold a vomiting child while nibbling their own PB&J sandwich…meh.

My own kid’s episodes of spewing were taken in stride as a rite of parenting.  In fact, we used what we called the vomit bowl which did double duty after a trip through the dishwasher.  If a child felt ill, we sent them to bed with the vomit bowl.  I’ll never forget the first night my son’s footsteps awakened me and when I asked what was up he said he was just going to the kitchen to get the vomit bowl.  Tremendous moment of pride and my cue to get up, wet a washrag, and await, er, results.   

There were really no horrible horror stories with the exception of the night our third child awakened us with blood red vomit hurtling at amazing speeds across our bed, christening three shocked immobile cats in the process.  The moment we’d get it cleaned up and settle back in another gusher would burst forth.  Truly awesome the sheer volume of vomitus that can be produced and projected by a tiny child under the age of two.  This occurred five or six times in less than an hour at which point there were no more clean sheets, or comforters, or towels, or, for that matter, cats and people.  Seconds after panic calling the doctor at the magical barfing hour of 1 a.m. it occurred to us that the blood red coloring that looked like little pieces of cherry skin actually was just that.  If we hadn’t been befuddled by the recurrence and magnitude of expulsion and its alarming color, we would have remembered that much sooner and salvaged the stoic parent reputation.  Nothing like a second panic call to the answering service explaining you were just kidding when you asked them to awaken the doctor because your baby was vomiting blood, heh, heh, heh. I’m sure my name wound up somewhere on a list of suspicious people.

Though exhausting, parents of a sick child who bounces up early the next day really wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s a privilege we alone hold, along with a hopefully empty vomit bowl.  

18 Going On…

18 Going OnDear Daughter,

You were born eighteen years ago July 1st, the day we picked because 1) I had to have a C-section due to issues and 2) my doctor was going on vacation and I was pretty attached to that doctor since I’d met him when I was 18.  That was the moment I became the mother of something pink…a precious little girl who came out without a sound but looking around curiously at the world she had entered.  How blessed I felt to have a daughter, an answer to prayer, my heart’s desire.  

I have no idea where the years went but moments, huge in their impact, rise up like the waves of the ocean and crash into my heart’s mind, leaving beauty like shells and sea glass, sometimes bits of seaweed, shaping and revealing the incredible young woman that you are.

Remember the pretty pink flowery and kitten wallpaper boarder that I put up in your room because I was so proud to have a little girl and wanted as many frills and fluffs and foo-foo girly stuff as I could get my hands on?  I bathed your room in pink, dressed you in pink, surrounded you with pink until the day you told me, “I hate pink.”   Truth be told, by then I did, too.  Neither one of us have ever been pink fanatics.  Still, it was one of those I-am-a-mommy-with-a-baby-girl rituals and I’m glad I embraced it.  The moment you told me you didn’t like it, the pink went away. You’ve chosen your wall  and room colors ever since and we have had loads of fun redecorating through the years to make your room yours.  We’ve had blues and greens and shades of purples, but never pink – except for that one comforter that you insisted was your favorite no matter the room colors.  It was the last of the pink when you were put into a big girl twin bed.

My precious girl, eighteen is like that.  You enter it with a perception of who you are, what you want, what you believe and value, who and what is important in your life, for your happiness, and to meet your future goals.  As your year progresses, your earlier perceptions will change with circumstances and you have to work through them to find all those things that make you who you are at every turn.  Do you remember picking your wall color?  You looked at all the paint chips until you found the exact ones you wanted and though it seemed a little bright or dark to adult eyes, that was the color your walls were painted.  Some parents would have tried to sway you or chosen the colors for you – after all, you were just a little girl.  But your parents wanted you to learn something even from that young age – that you matter.  That what you say and think and feel and believe and do and choose matters.  It matters on a much more impacting level at eighteen.  Yucky wall colors, of which you had none, can be repainted.  Life choices, of which you will have many, come with consequences, some positive, some negative, all impacting on some scale.  

Five things to remember:

1.  Not one thing in this world can stop me, or your dad, or your brothers, from loving you. There is no condition whatsoever on that.  I love you forever and through anything – period.

2.  Everyone who has lived has made mistakes.  How we manage the consequences shapes who we are and who we become.  “I’m sorry” is one of the sweetest phrases.  Learning from a mistake, growing, backing it up with positive action and resolution, making a better choice – priceless.

3.  Your past, your history, your memories, your childhood, your family, your joys, your hurts, your grades, your many dead rodents, all those things that are a part of the person you are will continue to be part of the person you are; you have a choice, however, in what you choose to allow to define who you are and will become going forward.  Don’t carry burdens beyond your control – they aren’t yours to hold unless you choose to.

4.  There is a “Boaz” for you.  At the right time, in the right place, during the right circumstances, and for the right reasons.  And he will never ask you to change, never ask you to conform, never ask you to be other than who you are, and though he will see every flaw you have because we all have them, he will adore you and love you and be thankful every day that God put you, the woman specially created to be his wife, in his life. Hold out for that one.  I promise you, he is out there.

5.  Always turn to the Lord.  Every day is indeed a gift and we can thank God for it.  Yes, things go wrong and bad and horrible and I’m the worst person ever at times because things can really stink and be unfair and unjust and frustrating and overwhelming and hurt so bad the next breath seems useless.  It’s at those times that I have to literally tick off a list of things I am thankful for because I can’t even pray.  My children are always at the top of my list.  Remember my writing on the mirror?  My go-to-when-I-can’t-think-what-to-pray-for list. I may even scream at the top of my lungs “Jesus, Jesus” because there is nothing, really nothing, at some times that I can think of except to just call His name.  My comfort is knowing He knows and He hears and is with me, and somehow I get through the next breath.  I know you know this – so do it and never forget it.

My HD, you are an amazing young woman and I am so very, very proud of you.  Happy 18th Birthday.  I am thankful to the Lord for the privilege and pleasure of being your mother.  You are, as ever, my Heart’s Desire.  With all my love, Mom


What Do You See?



While packing I found an unfinished canvas in my art supplies and wondered what I had been working on and how long ago I had left it unfinished. I don’t recall painting someone walking on the beach.  Is that a snake or coffee stain on the left?  What’s with the roundy-thingy on the right?  Is it upside down?  Hmm.  I flipped it.  



Are these the wings of a dragonfly?  Is that a bit of grass?  Is this a swamp scene instead of a beach scene?  Hmm.  Not sure what it was originally supposed to be, but that’s pretty much how life hits most of us.  And with whatever we get, it becomes a matter of our own perspective.   

I’m liking the beach with my toes in the sand. 



Eye on the Sparrow



Someone asked me a question this afternoon and I’m not sure I addressed it properly.  The question was “Is all this change scary?”

And the answer is, “Yes and No.”  

Change is always scary because it’s an unknown, it’s not at first comfortable, it may come with surprises, sometimes unexpected and unpleasant, and often it requires something more of us than we think we are capable of giving or doing or being.  On the other hand, every day we greet change.  Every day is a change from the day before in some way, even a small way, and sometimes big ways.  A moment can bring change, good or bad or sad or joyful, so change impacts us all the time whether we realize it or not.  Our lives are always changing in some ways, and with incremental change we seem to adjust and go with the flow.  Big changes, however, require more of us, more fuss and notice and consternation and worry and fear.  I think fear is the leader when it comes to change.  We seem to naturally fear something different.  Sometimes we should fear it, other times we just do for no good reason.  So, yes, the big change comes with a set of scares that will eventually become the norms and give way to the incremental flow of day to day life with its usual flux of changes.  Thinking of change in these terms helps me to be able to go forward.  It’s iffy for now, but it won’t be iffy forever.  There will be new iffy in time.

Overall, however, my answer is No.  It’s not so scary when I rely on the Lord to see me through the changes.  How do I do that, one might ask?  My trust in God is based on my experience, my relationship, and my desire to love my Lord with all my heart, putting Him first and foremost in whatever happens in my life.  Can it be disappointing at times?  Yes.  Can it hurt and ache and knock the breath out of me so that I wonder if the tears will ever end and I will learn to breathe normally again?  Yes.  Can I start to doubt myself, and wonder if everything I am doing is so out of tune that I’ll never get back in tune to who is truly me?  Yes.  And those are very real, very human feelings.  Some of us don’t like to admit we have them.  And can fear sometimes be stronger than reason and logic and allow our emotions to take a giant roller coaster ride?  Yes, of course.  But through those thoughts and feelings, in spite of them, there is a deep seated, tried and true, ever-abiding and hopeful faith that God will walk with me, stand with me, hold me up and even carry me.  He will see to my needs.  He will provide more than I can imagine.  It doesn’t entirely banish the fears, but it does allow me to go forward with confidence, with some sort of indescribable peace, that my next steps are, indeed, the right steps.  

I trust that the Lord who has an eye on the sparrow, also turns that eye upon me, and you, and every person He created and breathed into life.  That love, that care and concern, tops it all.  Scared and secure at the same time.  I wonder if God smiles at that.  I kind of think He does.  





From the Oceans



Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
He calmed the storm to a whisper
    and stilled the waves. Psalm 107:28-29

Amazing things come from the oceans…shells, starfish, seaweed, creatures large and creatures microscopic. For me, healing comes with the rush of the surf, the moisture of the salty air, the glisten of the sun’s rays tiptoeing across the water, and long walks on the wet sand. With each wave of frothy waters chasing and lapping and swirling across my toes, feet and ankles, the clutter in my heart and mind rolls out and back into that big old ocean, sweeping out to sea with the whooshing tide, lost in the vastness of the oceans.  The waters roar and whisper and sing a soothing cadence of cleansing and refreshing.

This summer I will walk the white beaches as I’ve done many times in the past and let the healing that comes only from the oceans pour over me.  I will cry and I will pray and I will ache and I will give my shattered self to the Maker of the oceans and He will make me whole as only He can.  The storm rages, but the calm is coming as I anticipate every squishy barefoot step.  My toes are giddy just thinking about it.



Immovable Faith



Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew in me a steadfast spirit.  Psalm 51:10 (NKJV)

Years after it had happened, when the magnitude of her sacrifice began to hit me, when I wondered if I would have had the same strength and courage, I asked my grandmother what was she thinking as she silently endured rape and mutilation by the stranger who had entered our apartment with a knife and intent to kill.  In those dark early hours of the morning after he had broken in and found his target, my beautiful mother, missing, he could have, in his rage at being denied what he sought, easily killed each of us, my grandmother, a petite woman in her fifties, my five year old sister, and myself, a wise for my age nine year old.   

He had entered the bedroom window at the side of the apartment stealthily, my grandmother awaking to hands on her body, her first thought to protect my sister, Rosie, who lay beside her, her second to wonder if he had already discovered me in the other bedroom.  Not knowing what would happen, she still led him to the living room and as far away from us as possible.  

Rosie must have awakened and missed grandmother because she somehow wandered into the living room and upon seeing the stranger ran behind the little black and white TV sitting on a rolling stand in the corner of the living room.  It was her screams that finally penetrated my deep sleep and sent me flying out of the bedroom to see what was wrong.   

Expecting something wrong was not a new experience for me at the age of nine.  I was used to waking up to fighting and yelling but it usually came from my parents.  Because my dad wasn’t living with us at this time the screaming couldn’t be explained away so that I could go back to sleep, but as I entered the living room with no light except the moon that entered in the sliver of opening left when the apartment’s olive colored heavy drapes were closed, I saw a man bent over near the couch and made an assumption.  I launched myself at him, throwing my arms around his neck and joyfully saying, “Daddy!” when the glint of the knife against my grandmother’s throat stopped all thought.  

This wasn’t my Daddy.

My eyes skimmed my grandmother’s naked body and that her hands seemed bound.  Rosie’s screams reverberated in the small room, filling the cold space with a surreal sound.  I don’t recall the many questions that tumbled from my mouth as I stared at the man, burning his image in my mind, wondering what I could do, but my grandmother’s voice, calm, assuring, firm, and gentle instructed me to take my sister to the bedroom and lock the door, not to open the door no matter what and to keep her quiet.  I balked.  The man reeked of liquor and was sweating, I could see the sweat from the moonlight shining in. I didn’t want to leave her there with this man.  I protested and continued to ask questions that my grandmother answered.  Who is he?  A friend.  Why is he holding a knife?  It’s okay, he’s not going to hurt anybody.  Where is your nightgown?  It’s over there.  Why are your hands like that?  They were hurting.  What is he going to do? We’re going to talk.  What are you going to talk about?  Jesus.  Because the man was getting agitated, she then begged me to take Rosie, go the bedroom, lock the door, don’t open it, keep Rosie quiet, go  now, hurry.  

Rosie grabbed onto me and I took her to the bedroom where we tried to figure out what to do.  The bedroom window had a screen that I couldn’t get loose and I was afraid to make a noise by busting it out.   I quietly called for help a few times but there was no one to hear.  I knew the upstairs neighbors and threw some toys at the ceiling until my grandmother warned me to stop.  Not knowing what else to do, Rosie and I quietly sang, prayed, played games and told stories until she fell asleep.  

But I couldn’t. I put my ear to the door and heard no sounds.  I called for grandmother several times and she would answer me and tell me not to call for her, that everything was okay, to keep the door locked.  At some point the bathroom fan was turned on, probably to drown the noise, its rattling whir adding to this night’s terror.  

The reports show he tortured her for hours but I never heard her make another sound though my body was fast against the door, listening for anything to tell me she was okay.  

When her voice came to the door and she told me to open it, he was gone but we needed to hurry, I felt relief.  He was gone.  Little did I realize he could have been lurking still.  Battered, bruised and bleeding, she picked up Rosie and led us to the tiny apartment bathroom where she told me to climb on to the toilet and open the window and scream loudly for help.  “Thank you, Lord, we’re alive,” Grandmother said.  “Thank you, Jesus, for keeping my girl’s safe.”  

Amid the trials and suffering she underwent that night, my grandmother witnessed to this man, again and again and again.  Though fearful, she talked to him quietly, calmly and without a word submitted to the atrocities of his depraved mind.  She later said she felt if she had said no, he would have come after me because he asked my age and made statements that led to her think I was his next intended victim.  At some point she offered him water and managed to stash the glass between the cushions, securing his fingerprints.  I wondered how she was able to even think, much less plan a strategy that would identify him.  

Our ordeal wasn’t over with our rescue.  The reason my mother wasn’t home and my grandmother was staying with us girls, was my mother was in the hospital having a difficult labor and the night after the rape she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl.  

To answer my question about what she was thinking during this, my grandmother reached for her Bible which sat next to her chair in her own living room in her own house in Alabama where I strained to understand what had happened and how she endured it.  She turned to Psalm 51:10 and read.  I immediately asked why she would need a clean heart.  She told me it was so she could witness to this man, to see him not as the man who was doing these terrible things to her but as a child of God who had hurts and fears of his own.  “And the steadfast spirit,” she said, “to trust that even in this, God was with me and would give me the strength to go through it.”  

In my mind what happened that night was both incomprehensible and horrific.  Every now and then I get a whiff of alcohol that takes me there. Certain musty apartment smells remind me of that apartment, that night.  I can’t stand noisy bathroom fans.  I can’t imagine the strength and courage and sacrifice of my grandmother to keep us girls safe.  I can’t fathom the depth of loss my mother experienced.  

What I do know is that in this most fearful, painful, horrendous time, my grandmother’s spirit was immovable.  Her faith did not waver in the midst of something she didn’t ask for, didn’t deserve, couldn’t control, and that immensely hurt her both emotionally and physically.  She was not shaken by the evil carried out.  That humbles me.  That inspires me.  That makes me cry with gratitude, thank God for my grandmother.

Though she passed the year after Rosie died, Psalm 51:10 is marked in my Bible and read often as a reminder that God has given all believers a steadfast spirit; we just have to choose to use it, like she did.