Friday, December 31, 2010

To Have or Not to Have?

Lavish vacations in an enormous beach house with lobster for dinner each night, spa treatments for the ladies, new cars, a house being remodeled, i-phones for kids, and an easy $80.00 in each of the teens pockets on any given day. Do you live this way? The majority of the world does not, but there are a few who do. Those who bring in well over six figures and enjoy every penny of it. They are the rich, the privileged as some say. However,I wonder just how privileged they are.

Proverbs 30:8 reads, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."

How does one live with that much luxury and not become enslaved to it? How do you not become so accustomed to it and then not expect it nor associate the meaning of love and happiness with it? I don't know. I've never lived that luxuriously and you know what? I'm glad.

Ruth Bell Graham said once that when she visited the Queen of England and later a missionary living in a mud hut, both times she felt she had entertained royalty. Some of the most incredible, God fearing people I've ever met are those who simply live on their daily bread. They don't have much left over after the bills are paid, yet they are full of life and equally appreciate the small and big things in life. In addition, they are some of the most giving people I know.

There are others I've met who have a lot, but love to give. One of the families I met a few years ago had recently adopted two children from Russia. They live on a good stretch of land, a ranch with horses, and have enjoyed some nice vacations I'm sure. Both parents earn a sizable income. Renee, the mom, shared with me, "We can tithe the ten or twenty percent. That's not a sacrifice for us. We wanted to sacrifice." The result? They adopted two older children from an orphanage in Russia and have had their world turned upside down ever since. Renee told us,"We never had any problems with any of our kids."

Then her husband, Todd chimed in,"We're making up for it now." They have a long road ahead, but show no signs of backing out. They wanted to give back and sacrifice. They wanted to make a difference in the lives of two children and I know they are.

The best reason to have is to give and to much that is given, much is required. I'm drawn to a picture of the Dead Sea in Israel. It is dead because there is no outlet. It is an immense pool of salt water, so much salt that one easily floats on its surface and nothing living can survive in it. I would much rather be a tributary like the Blue Nile. It is the source of the most water and fertile soil in Africa, the hottest continent in the world. The only way to do that is share and spread the love. After all, we can't take anything with us when we leave this world except the people we've loved to Christ. Everything else is temporary.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Shut The Door?

We are getting slammed. The winds must be about 20-30 mph and the wind chill factor below zero. Thankfully, I still have power. It is a quiet cozy evening at home which brings me to something my Pop Pops said last night during dinner. In response to my comment about how cold it was he replied, "Once I close the door, I don't worry about the weather outside." I couldn't help but reflect and ponder how that kind of philosophy may apply to life. In other words, once you shut the door, you don't look back and entertain thoughts of what if's or if only's.

Luke 9:62 reads,"Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."There is definitely a time and context in which to press on ahead and not to worry about whom or what's left behind.

Yet I also think of a hymn entitled, They will know we are Christians by Our Love. 1Corinthians 13 gives a most detailed list of what true love is and how it looks. No where in that list does it say to cut someone off, disown them, or close the door. People do it though. They do it to their own family members. I've seen it in my own family.

Somebody says something that gets taken the wrong way, attitudes flare up and nobody talks to anybody for years. People decided it was better to close the door and leave the cold people with the coldness, out in the cold. However, what they don't realize is that the icy wind has seeped inside the chambers of their own hearts and any warmth has eluded them. They don't even think or talk about those left behind. It's as if they don't exist anymore.

Not too long ago, one of the artists in my church created a digital picture of an iced heart surrounded by burning candles. The heat from the candles was actually beginning to melt the ice away from the heart. Heat and warmth that says, "I love you! I believe in you. I keep no record of wrongs and I just want to be a blessing to you. Let's talk about this and work things out."

It sounds crazy and illogical, doesn't it? However, doors are there to be opened and closed. The only weather that should be kept outside is the battering of ice and snow on a night like tonight. Let's not leave the cold people out there, too. Eventually it's bound to kill them instead of change them.

My hope and prayer for my family is they would realize the coldness that has seeped into their own hearts and long for the warmth and healing that comes with love and forgiveness. I hope you too, would rather see that for yourself in your own life and be one of those many candles burning brightly; burning and melting the ice away.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

For the Girls

Today was the last day of school before vacation. Katia, Bethaney, Alicia, and Laurie were so excited! They have been counting down the days 'til Christmas like any child. Upon entering my class, they discovered their handmade stockings filled with goodies and warm, fluffy scarves awaiting them. They were thrilled. After pulling the items from their stockings, they pranced around the room with their fluffy scarves draped around their necks saying, "We're all princesses. Ms. L is a princess, too." Innocent, dainty, beautiful and childlike they are. They are children who are free to express themselves and not yet hardened by life's pits.

If only life was always that simple. Fast forward about 30 years or so and life may or may not be so carefree. My heart broke tonight as I listened to a dear friend share her hurts and frustrations. Her marriage has not been one of bliss, but much disappointment and pain. She dearly loves her husband and children, but feels as if she has been treading water for the last umpteen years and quite alone in the midst of everything. I wish I knew what to say and how to comfort.

Although I have not walked in her shoes I certainly know what it is like to be and feel alone and not treasured at times. I imagine there are many other young girls and/or women whom have wrestled with these thoughts and feelings as well. We are not alone.

Somehow, I wish I could take everyone of us, who has ever felt inadequate and alone, back to an earlier time; back before those poisonous darts were aimed and fired. I wish we could all be like Katia, Bethaney, Alicia, and Laurie prancing around and declaring, "We're all princesses!"

I know my dear friend has such beauty and depth in her. I see her gifts of creativity and warm heart. I see her willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of others, most importantly her family. She has great treasure within her.

As women, we are God's gift to men. "Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to alone; I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18 NASV)

As people we are God's gift to each other.
" that there should be no division in the body, but its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1Corinthians 12:25-26 NIV)

I love my dear sisters and friends. In spite of life circling around and firing those poisonous darts that aim to infect us with feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, may we remember the treasure and gifts planted within each one of us to bless and brighten others' days. May we remember we are gifts! We are princesses! We have value and we are not alone!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The War

It's been over a week since I tried the drops of rubbing alcohol and I continue to find those disgusting, evil white bugs on the Begonia. Not to mention, now the Lamb's ear plant in my classroom is dying. It has something on it as well and the leaves are no longer lush and green, but slowly shriveling up. The lady at Adam's warned me that it wasn't meant to grow inside, but I wanted to try it anyway. I thought my students would love to feel it's fuzzy leaves. I know I do. The leaves still feel soft and fuzzy, but are now dying. I hate it! I hate that shriveled up look with branches listlessly hanging. I don't know what else to do. How can I help it? How can I win this war?

I am taken back to the story of Hanukkah. Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights. The story goes that Jerusalem was invaded and the Jews were expected to follow the ways of the Greeks. Their temple was desecrated and the menorah taken away. For two years, a group called the Maccabees fought tirelessly. They hid in the mountains where it was safe and slowly overcame until they were able to regain Jerusalem and the temple. Once victorious. they cleaned it up and found they only had enough oil to light the menorah for one night. God did a miracle and the oil lasted eight long nights until they could get more. It took them two years, but they won. They faced the darkness head on and regained what was lost.

Back in September, the middle fingernail on my right hand got slammed while trying to close the hatch on the back of my SUV. Ouch!!! It hurt so bad. For about 10 minutes or so the pain radiated through out my whole nail. I never knew I could feel such intense pain in such a small area of my body. I had no ice to put on it.

Today the pain is gone, but it is nasty as ever to look at. The bottom half of the nail completely blackened. I've grown weary of seeing it and explaining to all who ask, "What happened to your finger?". It is a horrible reminder of the pain I felt that day.

Yet there is hope! About a week ago I noticed the cuticle is no longer back and I can see a new nail starting to come forth. It has a long way to go, but there is progress. How I wish it would grow out faster. How I wish it didn't take so darn long. Kind of like my plants that have been brutally attacked by the evil insect world. I want those horrible pests dead and gone once and for all. I want the new leaves to burst forth and its fullness to be restored.

Joshua 1:9 reads,"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Things never seem to go easy. At least not with regards to things worth keeping. The war continues to rage on daily, but there is hope. I don't know that my Begonia will definitely regain it's robustness and beauty, but it is worth fighting for and protecting. I am not giving up. After this morning's application of more alcohol, I am hoping there will be no more bugs. In its place, I would love to see some new leaves sprouting.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Last Thoughts.....

It is the last day of the second to last month of the year. I was kind of jolted into reality yesterday when one of my students was fretting over being made of fun. Katia is very sensitive and a bit of a perfectionist. She firmly told Rachel, "Don't make fun of me!"

"Rachel wasn't making fun of you, Katia," I counseled.

'But she will," she persisted.

"Has she ever made fun of you before?" I inquired.

"Ella made fun of me," she answered.

"That was Ella. That's not Rachel," I pointed out.

"Oh," she responded.

How often do we do that? I know I have plenty of times. Sometimes, I still do. As the old adage goes- History repeats itself. It certainly can, but I am reminded to take a good dose of my own advice to Katia.

I Corinthians 13:5,7 "it (love) keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

Saturday, November 27, 2010


“Try alcohol with an eye dropper. Just a few drops into the soil and then on the leaves to run down the stem,” Bob informed me.

“Half the plant has been devoured. I just hope it comes back,” I sighed.

So this morning I set about pouring about an inch of rubbing alcohol into a plastic container with a narrow tipped opening. Carefully I administered drops here and there into the soil and upon the leaves as Mr. Bob instructed. I’m almost at my wit’s end. The brightly colored pink, voluminous Begonia that welcomed all to my apartment in the summer is now half its original size with only a few blossoms sprouting forth.

First I thought they were aphids attacking it. Thus, I prayed for God to send a swarm of ladybugs. Last year, we couldn't’t get rid of the ladybugs. This year? Not one to be found. I couldn’t let this beautiful plant be eaten by these disgustingly, evil, white sticky bugs; whatever they were. Hence, on Wednesday I ventured to Home Depot’s garden section. One older lady overheard me explaining my dilemma to an employee and said she used something to mix with water and pour into the soil. “The spray stuff doesn’t really work,” she lamented.

The tall middle aged man scanned the shelves for what might help me. “We don’t have anymore. At this time of year, we’re all out. You're better off trying Adam’s,” he suggested.

Back out to my vehicle, I trudged, hoping I would find something to save my precious plant. At Adam’s I walked through the outdoor garden section filled with the aroma of fresh pine needles and brightly colored lights and decorations for Christmas. I found an older, short and stout man who directed me towards a container of systemic granules for insect control. “They sound like mealy bugs,” he commented. I didn’t know what they were. I just wanted them gone. I picked up the large container and proceeded to the checkout.

Once I got home, I read the directions and sprinkled my new weapon evenly over the soil before mixing it in and thoroughly watering. “I hope this works,” I muttered. Only time would tell if it would kill the invaders. Until then, I would need to keep a watchful eye. With each additional day, I have still found a few of those evil, destructive insects spattered amongst the leaves. I wiped them off and today I applied the rubbing alcohol. I can only hope this will be the end of the infestation, but will remain vigilant. After all, beauty in this life must be preserved and well guarded at all costs.

In Matthew 24:12-13, it reads, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Last night, my friend, Stacey shared how she had to stand firm or be devoured. After three days of living in Morocco, she was wakened one night and felt something begin to grip her around the neck; an evil presence announced its displeasure. She called out to God and prayed. He answered her with, “What are you going to do?” Her response was one of sheer determination. She declared, “I will worship you God!” For the next few nights, Stacey endured similar attacks, and she fought back! She prayed. She danced. She worshipped. She won the battle. The evil presence left and did not return. From then on, she slept peacefully.

I'm not giving up on the battle over my Begonia and I am reminded I should not give up in other areas as well.

Timothy admonishes us to “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you-guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” 2 Timothy 1:14 and more importantly Jesus declared in Matthew 10:22,"he who stands firm til the end will be saved."

Undoubtedly, attacks will come, but there is help and there is hope.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Juggling, Pulling, Tugging and Ringing


I am overwhelmed by too much info. and activities! I just can't keep up with everything. I don't know how and when people find time to do everything they do. I am so far behind on reading blog posts. Yet I manage to check email daily. As a teacher, there's always work to be done-things to clean, organize, lessons to revise, new plans to be written, and children to pray for. My apartment? Well let's just say I'm glad I don't have the mess that comes with having a rather large, hairy pet lying around. I only do a thorough cleaning about once a month. Don't worry, the laundry gets done weekly, along with the dishes I wash daily. Exercise? Well, that's taken a back seat with the blog reading. What can I say, it's been a few weeks.

There's always something whispering or crying aloud, "Hey! Over here-check this out!" This brings me to question, "Where does all my time go? What is it that is constantly tugging at my heart and beckoning for my undivided attention?"

Luke 12:34 reads, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

In spite of the numerous conveniences we have with technology today, why are we so busy and always in a rush?

I need to slow down. I need to ponder and count the cost. It's time to reflect upon the year rapidly approaching commencement.

What did I do with my treasury and my time?
Was it worth it?
Where am I headed?
What do I hope to achieve and by when?

In the upcoming new year, 2011, I will continue teaching and juggling the many tasks at work, as well as with church, and time spent with family and friends, but I know I will also need to re prioritize some things. I can't do everything.

"..since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."- Hebrews 12:1.

As I approach finishing this post, my thoughts race back to 8:15 a.m. this morning when I was traveling the long and narrow county route to work. A blue and white tractor trailer began to pull right out in front, blocking the lane I was driving in. I laid on the horn and swerved into the left lane to avoid crashing as there was no time to stop. The trailer had ceased etching forward and I continued driving north, both stunned and relieved. Thank God! Thank God no one else was in the left lane and the trailer stopped. Thank God I was spared, but what for?

As we enter another holiday season of thankfulness and celebration, one ought to grapple with the question- 'What for?' .

After all, there will always be tasks, relationships, and requests to juggle. Not to mention, the pulling and tugging of everything else will refuse to sleep.

Today and everyday I live, I can choose what for. I can and should purpose in my heart what treasure is most worthy of investment because tomorrow is not promised.

" Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." (John Donne, 1624)

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Zoom in
I see a single detail
one item
one or more colors
one moment in time

Zoom out-

I see many details, items
a mosaic or kaleidoscope of colors
perhaps a whole life's journey

As a painter, so God paints
His perfect picture for our lives
He has an image, a final destiny and product in mind

BUT I don't always like the colors and techniques He uses
and yet, I am the creation with my own picture in mind
viewing my own heart's desires as things of more importance
and I don't understand

I see odd shapes with the artist's painting
I can't imagine where He is going with everything
and yet at the same time, I know that at the arrival of completion
it will be clear and an explanation given,
the artist's purpose and interpretation will be unveiled

I think of some of our great, old oaks at the River
like Marge and Bill
well into their 70's or 80's
They have walked many miles
and seen far more and better than I can
They've been given the perspective of zooming out over the years
Marge and Bill can reflect only because they have travelled so many years and miles

Why must I be in this place for this time and for so long?
Thus far there have been times of great pain-
the passing of my father, broken relationships, and hopes long deferred
I've endured disappointments with limited perspective
I want to know more and better understand all the whys
and what in the world He is doing
I can't see and I think it is fear and anger that has held me back.

Where will I proceed to next?
How can I get there?

I have hated the outcome of so many different things
Although in God's perspective they may be a necessary detail
a far bigger puzzle than I can comprehend or imagine

There are some things I don't like one bit!
And yet I have no idea of the final outcome or product
How does one let go and let God
when He has allowed or ordained so many horrible things
that take place in our world today?

How does one trust and believe God's ways are best?
How when God's ways always seem to include loss and pain along the way?
When and where is the silver lining?
When and where is the restoration and redemption?

When God? When will that ever be made clear to us?
In this life? On this side of Heaven?
Often it is after we have zoomed out
somewhere down the road
Yes, so I've been told
down the road there will be loving arms,
holding answers to our questions

But what do we do until then?

His response?

Upon my completion of the above, written out during Sunday morning worship, my dear friend, Liz shared Psalm 34!

Verse 19 reads:"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but He delivers them out of them all."

Verse 5 reads:, "Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Sunshine Day

Psalm 67:1 "May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, "

That verse speaks volumes to me ever since I arrived home yesterday from the statewide conference for ESL teachers. At 5:15 a.m. yesterday morning the radio alarm began to sing and I stumbled out of bed, making my way to the blue and white plaid love seat in my living room for my morning meditation and reading. It was hard to focus.

My prayers went something like this:

"God please let everything go smoothly. Help me find a parking spot and the room and then I need to set the equipment up. I pray the Internet service works well and I remember everything. I pray I have confidence, courage, and boldness to do this and that I would have the same peace I had when I went in for my very first major surgery. I pray I have that peace again;a warm blanket of peace that completely covered me. I did not feel nervous then, I pray that when it comes time, I'll be able to feel that same peace again and deliver this presentation well, but first is getting there and finding a good parking spot."

I spent the next hour getting dressed, primping in front of the mirror, and preparing breakfast while I rehearsed in my mind what I needed to do. I even had time to make my bed that morning. I tried visualizing myself walking into the room and setting everything up with out any problems. That was difficult, so I tried to imagine how much more relaxed I would feel while driving home after it was all over.

This was my very first time presenting a workshop at a statewide conference. I had practiced the presentation in front of my colleagues at my home school, but today would be in front of new folks I didn't know, in an unfamiliar place, and I had no idea how many would choose to come. This was really stepping out of the box for me. It was not on my list of new things to do this year, but when the opportunity presented itself, I thought, "Why not? I'll give it a try." Thus, I submitted a proposal to the conference committee this past spring.

Conference day had finally arrived. At 6:30 a.m., I gathered up my lap top, the document camera, my pull along suitcase containing all the additional materials and headed out the door into the frosty cold air. When I glanced up at the sky, it was pitch black with the little dipper lit up brightly. The windows of my SUV were covered heavily with frost. It took about 10 minutes or so just to let my vehicle warm up and for the frost to melt away. Soon enough, I was on my way, headed north to the Crowne Plaza Hotel. During the next hour, I observed darkness change to light as the sun came up. I was hoping that would be my spiritual experience with this new endeavor I was embarking upon.

There was little traffic, so I made it in time and found the parking garage right next to the hotel. I hate parking garages. I think they are creepy places. It was jam packed. I had to drive up to the sixth level before finding a spot. There were a few other vehicles in front and behind me, looking for spots as well. Luckily, we all found something and rode in the elevator together.

Once inside, everyone was very nice and helpful. After signing in and receiving the conference materials, I was directed towards the ballroom for the keynote speaker. While transitioning I spotted the Imagine Learning display amongst other booths in the hallway. I went up to the gentlemen, the same two men from the elevator, and said, "I use this!! It's a great program."

They were so encouraged to hear some one's students were benefiting from it. They invited me to their demo. workshop at 9:00 a.m. to come and share how the computer program has been useful to my own students. I agreed. Guess where it was? The same room I would be presenting in later that day. Whew! I found the room and the projector and cables were already set up! I felt so relieved. The rest of the day I attended a few other workshops and grabbed a bite for lunch in Kelsey's, one of the Crowne's restaurant. After lunch, I walked back out to the parking garage and discovered many of the cars were gone. I took the elevator to the 6th floor, hopped in my SUV to drive closer to the floor level, and got the materials I needed for my presentation.

When it came time for me to set up, I was able to get the document camera connected to the projector and my laptop as well as lay out all the other materials. I was on my way and I didn't feel nervous. Instead, I was calm and excited to share how I use this new technology in my classroom. Slowly, about ten to twelve people filled up the room and picked up a handout. One of the participants, Mr. Hill, was a man whom I've crossed paths with before and assisted me in translating for parent teacher conferences.

Over the next hour, I demonstrated how to use the document camera for reading writing, and art activities and it was FUN! At the end, Mr. Hill commented, "Thank you so much for doing this. Didn't she do a great job?!" Everyone clapped and I smiled thinking of the grace God had shown me for that day. It was a sunshine day. His face shone upon me, letting all the details fall into place and run smoothly.

It is humbling because I know He didn't have to do that. He doesn't have to do anything for you or me, but He chose to show His grace and grant success in a new endeavor. Our God is a gracious God!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wait and See

"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord," Proverbs 16:33

Almost every day, my thoughts go back to my new friend. What should I do? What do I want to do? What does God want me to do? I'm not 'twitterpated' as Thumper said to Bambi. There are no fireworks. I am not counting the days til our next meeting, but I do look forward to his calls now and anticipate them.

He is a godly man, one I have come to deeply admire and respect and he likes me. Yes, we've had that conversation and I am not sure what to do with it. There is so much to consider and think about.

He is a good man and one that I have no doubt would make a great partner. He is kind and considerate, loves God, intelligent, hard working, fiscally responsible, gentlemanly, and most of all meek.

Amos 3:3 reads, "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" When two people decide to pursue a relationship deeper, they must be agreed and have a common vision and purpose, otherwise you can have two oxen pulling in different directions and a whole lot of plowing not getting done.

I don't know that he and I are passionate about the same things or feel called to the same things. I don't know that we want the same things out of life.

During this season of autumn when the leaves are changing colors and falling away from the branches, I ponder the question-What does God want me to let go of in relation to this opportunity? My own dreams? My perception of how things must fall into place? Which ideas or endeavors am I to lay aside?

My friendship with him has been pleasant and healing after the last relationship I was in. It is also encouraging to see that there are God fearing men out there who love God, like women, and are available. Yet after praying and talking with friends for advice, I am still not sure what to do at this point other than continue the friendship with him.

For someone like me who likes to know the plan and how to prepare myself, that just hasn't been enough. Unfortunately, God doesn't seem to agree.

Yesterday afternoon, I grabbed the tall stack of square paper notes sitting on the kitchen counter, ripped off 4 sheets and individually wrote out the following options on each sheet: marry, date, remain friends only, or wait and see. I crumbled each one up, tossed them around in a plastic container and said, "Alright, God. I don't know what to do with this situation, what am I supposed to do?" Thus the lot had been cast in a sense.

Are you ready? Can you guess? It was not what I wanted to see, but just like God to do this. I reached in, pulled one out and slowly unfolded the sheet of white paper. It read:


I hate waiting. I don't know anyone who enjoys it, but I am reminded of Philip Yancey's quote, "Faith is proceeding on incomplete evidence, trusting in advance for what will only make sense in reverse."

I don't know what I am going to gain in the end from all this. I do not see the sense in it now and I do not like having to WAIT and SEE.

My mom, Linda laughed when I told her. She knows I want to know where all this is going and what am I to do with it. My friend has been amazingly patient through this and I, too, am being asked to be also.

Eccl. 8:5-6 reads, "..the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him."

So that's it, in a nutshell, for now. I can only hope the time for seeing will be sooner than later, and both of us will be ready to receive what the Lord has for us in this matter.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Trees

I have often wished for and wondered if trees could talk what would they say? Whether it be the Great Sequoia's and Redwoods in California or the Maple's and Oaks at Vanderbilt's Mansion in Hyde Park. What must it be like to remain a tree and observe the people and environment around one evolve?

They intrigue me. Roots anchored deep in the soil, holding things in place, while branches climb upwards and out; they are a symbol of life, solidity, shelter, and beauty. We have used them for a variety of purposes throughout the ages and they just keep on giving.

My favorite is the Great Sequoia. Well over 200 feet tall and almost 40 feet in diameter. I imagine it to be like standing next to God, the Father, so immense, so strong, so stoic and elegant, and yet inviting. Inviting all to come and rest beneath and be nourished by it's beauty.

I've never been to California, nor do I know when I'll go, but I long to stand beneath the greatness of this gentle giant.

Centuries ago, when cathedrals were built, the ceilings were untouchable and many formed an apex, pointing towards heaven. Today, many church structures are not so. Our structures do not reflect the majesty we are to embrace and reverence is greatly lacking. Yet those Great Sequoia's continue to stand tall, pointing heavenward and inviting all to rest beneath.

I do not know when I will have the privilege of coming face to face with one. God only knows if I will even be able to articulate the extraordinary workmanship of He who created it.

Isaiah 55:12 reads, "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."

Monday, October 25, 2010

What's in Your Hand?

Luke 9:12-14 reads, "Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, 'Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.'

He replied, 'You give them something to eat.'

They answered, 'We have only five loaves of bread and two fish-unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.' About five thousand men were there."
They only had five loaves and two fish. I had a bag full of fabric scraps, a box of junior artist cray-pas, and a few sheets of 11x17 poster paper.

Their task? To feed five thousand.

My task? To do the art for Sunday morning service.

Jesus' instruction to both of us? "You give them something to eat." (Luke 9:13)

How? Jesus took what they had, gave thanks, broke it, and passed it out to the disciples to distribute.

Their end result? Luke 9:17 reads, "They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketful's of broken pieces that were left over."

My result? A colorful picture illustrating four trees in four different seasons, with a bird flying from autumn into winter, and a narrow, black path in front for pedestrians to travel along. It was a picture and message God directed my shaky hands towards completing. It was well spoken at the right time for what was happening that day in the service and illustrated what season our church is currently in-autumn.

They, the twelve, couldn't foresee or plan ahead for the amazing opportunity they were privileged to take part in and neither could I.

Before the service I entertained the thought of backing out or not using the cray-pas at all. It was new and different. What if I messed up? What if it didn't come out right? Cray-pas doesn't erase.

I'm glad I didn't back out. I'm glad I prayed, "God, you have to guide my hands because I'm not sure what I'm doing. Help!"

Now, I'm encouraged and strengthened, humbled and blessed. God chooses to work in and through us, in spite of our weaknesses. He looks to us to bless and feed His sheep.

So what's in your hand? What do you have to give for others to feast upon and be satisfied?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Oh, look at the time. How time flies when you're having fun. Time's a wastin'. Time is how most people spell love, especially children. As we all know, we make time for what's most important to us. Unfortunately, that has not included time at the gym this past month or so and my body is not appreciative of it. However, my friends are.

Saturday was time to pray with my dear friend and neighbor, Ellen. "How's it going Ellen?", I inquired when I called.

"Not so good. I'm in bad shape. I'm spending the day just resting and praying. Would you come over and pray with me?," she asked.

"Do you want me to come right now?," I responded.

"That would be great. I'll see you in a bit," she answered.

Ellen is facing cancer for the second time. This has been the roughest for her. She had not been to church in 3 weeks. She longed to play the piano and get up and go. Her body is not letting her do that now. She's found it a struggle to walk and even care for herself on a daily basis. Nurses come to check on her almost daily, neighbors have gone shopping for her and meals on wheels deliveries have become a support as well.

I had not seen Ellen in awhile or heard from her, but I kept wondering how she was. This day, I no longer needed to wonder. Ellen needed a friend and prayer. As I listened to her debrief about the past few weeks' events, I could sense the longing in her to be finished with it all. She would be utterly content for Jesus to call her home to be with him, but it does not appear to be time. I listened. She cried. I cried. My heart ached for her and we prayed. I don't know how long it was, just that it was time needed.

Later that same day, I visited my dear friend, Natalie, of almost twenty years. We spent the afternoon catching up on all sorts of tidbits; from the twists and turns associated with medical practitioners merging to relationships and all the politics of teaching in America today. We shared. We laughed. We cooked together and ate. I can't tell you how much time had passed. All I know is it was late when I got home.

Sunday? I was up at the crack of dawn and picked up my mom, Linda, bright and early at 7:00 a.m. We were walking together at the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. This was the first time my mom could go and we did the walk together. Afterwards we went shopping and had lunch.

I am thankful I did not spend a lot of time on the computer this weekend. I am thankful for the time I had with Ellen and Natalie on Saturday and the time with my mom, Linda on Sunday.

Tonight, I received an email from Natalie with a most gracious note expressing her gratitude for our friendship. It was then that it hit me. We've been friends for almost 20 years and still counting.

Ellen has been my friend for about a year and Linda a mom to me for the past 23 years. All of it precious, precious time.

In the book of Ecclesiastes it reads, "There is a time for everything." It is always something nobody seems to have enough of and yet everyone desperately needs, but the Bible admonishes us again and again that we do have enough time. Ecclesiastes puts it simply when it explains how there is a time for every activity and season under heaven.

I pray I'll understand the times I'm in and apply a heart of wisdom. I pray I continue to cherish the opportunities to reach out, pray, rub shoulders with, and bless the ones God has placed in my life for this time. After all, nobody knows how much of it is really left and it's hard to keep track of that which has escaped us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Something New, Something Inevitable

I recall hearing the infamous Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boon say something to the effect of "Hold onto things with loose fingertips." To be more direct, in the book of James we are reminded in 4:14, "why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

Life being what it is, we never know what will happen and must be open or prepared for anything. More than anything, prepared, is what I prefer to be. Sometimes this is feasible and other times not.

While driving to the airport on this past beautiful, sunny Saturday, I hear, the announcer very matter of factly, inform us of a frost forecast for Sunday. Twenty eight degrees- yikes! The one weekend I decided to go away and my garden was left defenseless against Mr.Jack Frost. What could I do? Desperately, I called my mom and dad to see if they could go over and cover the plants. I left a message and never heard back from them, so I wasn't sure if the pink Hydrangea along with the others had survived or not. Upon returning last night, I saw mom and dad had indeed answered my call for help and everything was in tact.

However, driving home tonight, I hear once again, "Patches of frost expected throughout the valley." After dinner, I pulled out the white, tall, kitchen garbage bags and headed out the door with a pair of scissors in hand. Clear as day, inside my head, I hear, "You're prolonging my work." Yes,I know the frost is inevitable for this time of year, but naturally, I still want the precious flowers to last through til the end of the month.

Once I got outside, I proceeded to slit the bags down each side and then carefully cover the flowered plants while tucking the sides under stones. Some of them still have new buds that have not yet opened. I don't want to see them die.

After treading back upstairs and into the warmth of my apartment, I remembered a verse I read this morning from Isaiah 43:19, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?"

I love the pink Hydrangeas, and white impatiens amongst the other blossoms in the garden, much like I love many other things in my life as well. I wish they bloomed year round. I wish Jack Frost was an enemy they would never encounter. Yet, I also know that change can be refreshing and is always inevitable. It is the something new God brings to us through His hand.

No doubt, I'll still be outside each night the rest of this week, doing what I can to protect the blossoms that remain. May God grant me the serenity needed to accept the things I can not change.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Let Them Play

"The glory of God is man fully alive," wrote St. Irenaeus. At times I've contemplated what that means to me and in my own life, but today there was no mistaking that people, more specifically kids, are fully alive when they play.

This year, I decided to have my fourth grade students learn a new American English proverb each week. Monday they are given the proverb to copy in their journals and practice at home for the week. Each day's activities then revolve around some type of lesson that connects the statement of truth with language arts, science, or social studies. The more connections made linking everything together, the better it will stick. Letting them play as part of that process? Absolutely unforgettable and necessary. Today, was a testimony to that.

"In unity there is strength" is our proverb for the week. Their task for science was to experiment with loose parts-tape, paper clips, Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, pipe cleaners, and yarn. They had to play or tinker with the items to create a design that represented the concept of unity. They could use all of the materials or just a few, but their final product could not break or it would be back to the drawing board.

Three of the girls gathered together at the first station, while the boys paired off at two other stations set up in the room. Feverishly, all of them worked trying to put things together that would form some kind of shape and not break. Kim started out with a circle and kept adding different materials to reinforce the edges while saying, "I'm upgrading." The other boys made triangles or diamond shapes with all the materials and the girls simply created one large circle linked together with all the different items. At the end of class came the testing time. I took each item one by one and proceeded to pull or break the items apart. Every one's broke, except for Tiger's. He started with a triangle shape and then reinforced it with other materials and lot's and lot's of tape. On the way out to the bus he boasted to another teacher, "Mine didn't break!"

Their conclusion? The more tape and stickiness, the harder it is to break; which leads me to thinking of another truth. "And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:14

Love is the glue that binds us together, "because love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8.

I have a long way to go in learning to love others that completely. Being the first one to take the initiative to love that way is quite another matter also. My prayer is that my students will be able to fully grasp how important it is to love and grow into that for the sake of peace and unity.

Today they were fully engaged, alive and testing what it is that makes materials strong and unified. I have no doubt they will remember the lesson for a long time. Now it is making that connection to loving and working with others. I suspect that too will come through more playing. Why? Because it's fun and they each have their own part to play.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Small Beginnings

I love the quote from Mother Teresa, "Ek. Ek. Ek.", which directly translated from Hindi means, One. One. One. More often than not, my dad has had to admonish me to stop trying to eat the whole elephant at one time. I see the whole picture and can become overwhelmed. I can't see or imagine how it will all get done and work out, even though, somehow, it usually does.

As I type this, Josh Groban is in the background singing, "You raise me up so I can stand on mountains. You raise me up to walk on stormy seas...." Everyone knows, you only get to the top of that mountain, one step at a time.

It is with one step in the right direction and much tenacity, I have observed fellow believers to be flourishing and spreading their wings in my hometown and its surrounding communities. Thus, I am reminded to not despise small beginnings.

Sunday, I had the pleasure of visiting a new church, only 6 minutes down the road from where I live. A friend of mine was preaching. Traveling south, I saw the sign for Bridge Builders Community Church and turned left into the parking lot of the school they rent space from. As I pulled up towards the building, I saw about five or six vehicles. When I walked through the side entrance of the school, I saw a large rectangular table with a variety of literature and information about the church and other services. One of the women walking towards the meeting area, pleasantly welcomed me. I could hear guitars playing on the other side of the bluish green partition.

My friend, Jay, welcomed me with a hug and explained the rest of his crew was home sick, including his dear wife, Chris. Shortly after, Pastor Tim walked in and greeted me with a great smile, pleased to see I had come. Although there were not more than 25 people there in all, there was a pleasant sweetness. Bridge Builders began just two years ago this month. With a clean up day planned for next month and a variety of other activities shared during the announcements, I could easily tell these were people looking to bless others and declare a message of hope and healing.

It brought me back to my younger years as a teenager, when my family was meeting in a small home church setting in the city. The couple from Missouri had relocated to the area to plant a church and started in their home. We were small for quite a few years, but gradually grew and as God led, became part of another church which rented different places, before finally buying our own building.

After Pastor Charles had retired and moved back down south to be closer to his family, we united with a larger church in the city. Today, we are part of a congregation with over 300 people. We reach out into the city to meet the needs of the people in our community and love people to Christ.

It is exciting to see that other churches are sprouting up in neighboring towns outside of the city to do the same. Many hands make light work. With believers spreading out and sharing the love combined with a message of healing, there's no telling what will be accomplished in the years to come. There's no telling and no stopping. It's good to remember, one. One. One.

From little acorns, mighty oaks do grow.

Proverbs 14:23, "All hard work brings a profit.."

Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Turn, Turn, Turn

So long summer. It's finally over. This morning's air had a bit of a chill to it, refreshing, but beckoning me to stay huddled beneath the covers. This evening, was the first Open House at school. It's the night parents get to visit the teachers with their children and see what it's all about. So, goodbye summertime.

Upon arriving home late and firing up my PC, I decided to change my desktop background. Bye, bye photo of the brightly colored Begonia, resting outside on my stoop and hello ocean. Yes, the ocean. I'm not quite ready for those orange and yellow leaves to appear and fall.

After a long day at school, I wanted to go back to the beach. Looking out at the ocean from the boardwalk, clouds a bit grayish white and the waves calm and comforting, I felt renewed. I uploaded the vacation shot, resumed my full size desk top,and instantly felt as if I really was back, standing on the boardwalk. I could sense the lulling of soft waves and imagine the gentle breeze blowing. Sometimes, that's all it takes.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reads, "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven..."

Tonight was a night for meeting some new parents and gathering with others I've known for some time. It was fun and a bit sad. Why? Because summer is gone and soon my garden, along with the rest of nature, will near it's end and begin to cease growth.

Yet the beach will remain and our sun and moon never cease to shine. There are variables and there are constants. I am not sure where I am going with all this, but I do know in a period of change, we all need some consistency. Something rock solid to hold on to is like a warm blanket and teddy bear wrapping itself around you. It's a shelter in the time of storm.

Hebrews 13:8 reads, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Furthermore, Isaiah 25:4 reads, "You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat."

I long for the warmth of summer and relaxing days of strolling the boardwalk down by the sea, but even more so, the One who ceases to cease. I thank God for those constants that will never cease to be.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Read the Directions

Laying in bed this morning, I thought to myself, "Mmmm, I think I want pancakes this morning. Yum!" So I rolled out of bed and trotted into the kitchen, pulling out all the ingredients needed. I found I only had enough mix to make three pancakes, which was fine because that's all I would eat anyway with the maple syrup in the cabinent. There was just enough.

I flipped the pancakes onto my round, white correl plate and poured the maple syrup on. "Oh, no! Yuck," I blurted out. Onto my fresh piping, hot pancakes came a thin film of greenish, gray mold with the Vermont Maple Syrup. So much for pancakes. Luckily, it did not get over all of them and I was able to salvage part of my freshly made breakfast. Strawberry preserves would have to do instead. I picked up the bottle of syrup and looked on the back. In fine print it read, "Refrigerate after opening." I never thought to put it in the fridge. I just figured it would be fine like the syrup you find in the pitchers at IHOP. The obvious lesson here was to read the directions.

Which brings me to a new opportunity I've been presented with. An opportunity to pursue getting to know someone beyond casual friendship. To be more direct, it's a guy. Yes, a guy I was introduced to by a dear friend last year sometime. What will come of it? I don't know and I am not sure what I want to come of it just yet.

As the years have gone by and I've gotten older, I began to wonder more recently if I was just meant to be single and that was it. Not that I didn't want to meet someone or have a family, but for so long and after so many disappointments, one can't help but think, "Perhaps this is just the way it's supposed to be." In addition, I've felt a leading towards some type of mission work for quite sometime now. I remember reading something from Elisabeth Elliot about how some are meant to walk a life fully devoted to God, in deeper relationship with Him, so that others in the body of Christ may benefit. Although she has been widowed twice and married three times, Elisabeth has spent most of her adult life as a single. She has served as a missionary, author, and teacher. However, in her book, Let Me Be a Woman, she expressed to her daughter that one of her greatest joys and fulfillment as a woman, has come through being a wife and mother.

It is clear to me, that both marriage and singleness are gifts given to different people at different times. After meeting the yucky film of mold from the Vermont Maple Syrup bottle this morning, I was reminded to check the ingredients and follow directions even more so. I know, far too many marriages that have ended in divorce these days. Not to mention, the relationships that don't result in marriage, but still cause much heartache for those involved. Why? As my pastor from many years ago stated,"They don't follow the Book!"

Matthew 19:5-6 reads, "..'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." Most truly, it was never God's heart for divorce to enter the picture.

I do not know where this opportunity will take me. I have no doubt that he and I were meant to meet and develop a friendship. Time and God will both tell where things will lead. Until then, I am going to begin a more in depth study of what the Good Book says about relationships, singleness, and marriage as I prayerfully consider what to do.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Labor of Love Spread

I love flowers, lot's of them. There is such diversity amongst them-large, tiny, scented and non, dainty, or voluptuous. It's no wonder I can't name one as my ultimate fave's. They are simply beautiful, brightening our world and individual lives daily.

Hard to believe I waited so many years before asking if I could plant some outside my apartment. Each day I walked down the path, I ignored the 12x3 rectangular plot in front of our building, as it was filled with weeds. Each day, that is until my friend, Ellen from the laundry room, ecstatically shared about the new community garden she started over by her building. She planted brightly colored orange and yellow marigolds under our complex apartment sign. The neighbors now take turns watering. That simple act got me to thinking, maybe I could plant some flowers over by me. So I called the rental office and asked. The response? One of pure delight.

"We would love it if you planted flowers over there," gleamed Mr. Seagrem. I had never heard this man so happy. Yesterday, when I saw him as I dropped off the rent check, he offered to reimburse me for the plants. He was thrilled with the beauty of this new garden and so appreciated the time and effort that went into it. I told him, "Ellen inspired me when she planted the flowers under the sign, so I hope it inspires others because it adds so much."

Earlier this morning, I spent time weeding, watering, and fertilizing. I love it! The cost for such beauty is minimal compared to the results gleaned. Each day I discover a new bud or blossom on one of the plants. I am so thankful for the gift of these flowers. Flowers thriving, rejoicing, and most definitely inspiring. Inspiring others to create, labor, and spread the love. Now I have another friendly neighbor, Tony, who has taken an interest as well. He helps with the watering.

No act of kindness or labor is ever fruitless. Instead it leaves a footprint in the sand of the Savior who brings health and beauty to wherever He passes through.

Monday, August 23, 2010

From Then Til Now

Today, Monday morning, early, I sat down with one of my colleagues to discuss themes for the year. We chatted back and forth a bit about the new schedule and then Cathy informed me, "You have a new student coming in from West Africa. She speaks French and very little English, but you need to check with Lydia in the office because look at her birthday. She's young so they may put her in second grade instead."

"Yay! Love new students. I wonder what part of West Africa if she speaks French," I responded.

"I think Lydia put the paperwork in your mailbox," Cathy added.

"OK, I'll run down and check now," I said

I was excited! That made three new students coming in for this year. I began to wonder if the girl was from Burkina Faso, being she spoke French. Wouldn't that be something?

I had travelled to Burkina over 15 years ago with a youth mission team after graduating college and just last year knew of a couple who travelled there for the first time, themselves. One is never the same upon doing so. The country is extremely poor, but certainly not in hospitality. The people are so warm, welcoming, and generous with faith as strong as steel. They gave us their best wherever we went.

Lydia was on the phone when I walked into the brightly lit office, so I went straight to my mail box. Scholastic News, a few book clubs, and upcoming conference materials, but no new student info. I strolled out of the copy room, but Lydia was still on the phone, so I headed back up to finish meeting with Cathy.

"There was nothing about the new student," I said.

"Well, they may have sent it over to the other side of the building," Cathy replied.

Knowing I'd be headed over there when we were finished, I responded, "I'll get it when I go over in awhile."

Cathy and I finished chatting about the curriculum and themes for the year and I walked over to the primary side of the building. A bit anxious, I stepped up my pace to enter their office and find the paperwork I anticipated. It was folded in half and stapled. I gave the sides a quick tug to open it and discover the student was indeed from Burkina Faso, West Africa.

"Aaghhh!!! Yes!! What are the chances?," I blurted out. I rushed up to my classroom to call Cathy.

"Cathy, you're not going to believe this! The new student is from the same country I visited in Africa!," I exuberantly carried on.

As Cathy and I chatted about the African theme unit she planned way before we ever knew of this new student coming, I envisioned Burkina's black night sky lit up with a zillion bright, white stars. I remembered the beating of the African drums across the land. Land that was clothed with red dirt and mango trees. Land that is inhabited by some of the warmest people I have ever met.

Burkina was now coming back to me, flooding my mind and senses with everything it entailed, but now through the gift of a newly arrived student.

Isaiah 46:10 reads, "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come."

Psalm 139:16 reads, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

Surely, the Father knew that when I made my trip to Burkina over 15 years ago, that today a newly arrived student would enter my classroom from the same distant land I travelled to so many years ago. Yes, most assuredly, He knew. I am anxious to see what He has in store next.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Too Ashamed?

I just finished watching an old episode of The Little Rascals entitled "Teacher's Pet". What a great lesson it had!

A little boy named, Jack gets a ride to school from a beautiful young lady driving an old Ford convertible with the top off. He begins to carry on and on about the new teacher coming to school that day. He even showed her the scary picture he drew of this lady named, Miss Crabtree. He continued on with telling her about all the tricks his friends were going to play on her that day as well.

Boy was he in for a surprise when he walked into the one room school house and found the lady, who gave him a ride that morning, to be the Miss Crabtree. She smiled and asked Jack to come to the front and held up the picture he drew. The class giggled while poor Jack wanted nothing less than to hide under a chair somewhere.

Shortly after that, she asked Jack's friends to bring forth their little surprises-a bottle of ants, sneeze powder, and an old matchbox containing a live, white mouse. It wasn't long before Dorothy and Weezer, two younger children, came into inform Miss Crabtree that Jack and his friends, Chubby and Furinia, needed to rush home because their parents desperately needed their help. In reality, it was only so the boys could play hookey and enjoy some swimming in the pond nearby. All of this right before Miss Crabtree had boxes of cake and huge barrels of vanilla and chocolate icecream delivered.

Cake and icecream or swimming hole? Well naturally, Miss Crabtree played along and said, "Come now boys, you need to get going. Your parents are waiting for you." She practically had to help escort them out the door with her arm around Furinia's shoulder.

Upon sitting on the school steps, Furinia chided Jack, "Some friend you are! You snitch!"

Jack answered back, "How was I supposed to know she was the teacher? She didn't have a sign on her when she picked me up."

Furinia declared, "Well I'm going in there and fess up, so I don't miss out on that ice cream! What about you?"

Jack began to sob, "I can't! I'm too ashamed!" Furinia and Chubby turned to get up and walked back in the school house. Miss Crabtree welcomed them and piled on the cake and icecream. Jack was laying down under a Maple tree sobbing. He would've missed out had Miss Crabtree not been so gracious. She walked out to him and sat 2 plates in from of him on the ground. Jack looked at the huge pile of vanilla icecream on one plate and the hunk of chocolate cake on the other and with tears streaming down his face, confessed to Miss Crabtree, "You are the most beautiful teacher and as nice as Miss McGuilicuddy was. You're even nicer."

1 John 1:9 reads "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Let's not miss out because we're too ashamed. There's always more than enough icecream and grace to go around.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Another Voice, Another Victory

As I think back on the past eight months of this year, 2010, I realize, I have been most inspired to write about the people I know or have read about. They are ordinary people we may pass on the street and never give a second thought or glance. Yet they shine in spite of horrendous obstacles.

Just this past week, I was introduced to another. Norma Hotaling (1951-2008)who formed a non profit organization called SAGE (Standing Against Global Exploitation project). Below is a link to the article about her own struggle and victory over a life of drugs and prostitution. What an amazing woman!

Upon reading the article myself, a burst of energy shot through me. Although she died at the age of 57, I dare say she lived more fully and accomplished her purpose in serving others and paving the way for them to be set free. May we all be inspired to do likewise.

Enjoy the read!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Just to Be With Her....

"So has Doug arrived?," I inquired of my friend.

"He has. Came in yesterday," she responded.

"Does he like the apartment?" I probed further.

"It's a house. He has the whole house to himself for a few weeks," she answered.

Doug, is Lisa's beau. Twenty one years old, no job, and no guarantee that this move from his hometown in the state of Washington to Virginia will win him the true desire of his heart, but romantic and courageous as ever. He reminds me a bit of my dad, Guy.

When my mom and dad were dating, my dad wrote her a letter every day. Then, every chance he had, he would drive eight hours from Buffalo to Rhinebeck, spend the weekend with her, and at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night climb back in his car to drive the eight hours back to Buffalo. On July 30th, they were married 43 years.

Doug has been dating Lisa for over a year now and not unlike some couples in this day and age, they met online. They have emailed back and forth, talked on the phone, and visited for brief periods, but this week he took the plunge. He moved to Virginia.

How precious! How courageous! How incredibly romantic! Doug simply loves this young twenty one year old woman. He is no doubt enthralled with her beauty, her mystery, and all the wonder that makes up this twenty one year old named Lisa. Thus, he has given up everything familiar, comfortable, and safe. He has travelled across the country just to be with her.

It reminds me of The Love Song sung by Third Day. It reads:

I've heard it said that a man would climb a mountain
Just to be with the one he loves
How many times has he broken that promise
It has never been done.
I've never climbed the highest mountain
But I walked the hill of Calvary

Just to be with you, I'd do anything
There's no price I would not pay
Just to be with you, I'd give anything
I would give my life away.

I've heard it said that a man would swim the ocean
Just to be with the one he loves
How may times has he broken that promise
It can never be done
I've never swam the deepest ocean
But I walked upon the raging sea

[Repeat chorus]

I know that you don't understand
the fullness of My love
How I died upon the cross for your sins
And I know that you don't realize
how much that I gave you
But I promise, I would do it all again.
Just to be with you, I've done everything
There's no price I did not pay
Just to be with you, I gave everything
Yes, I gave my life away.

It's amazing. The thought of it literally takes my breath away. To know there are men who will sacrifice everything just to be with the woman they truly love and adore sweeps me off my feet.

Even more so, to know that's what God has already done for you and me. Just to be with her! Just to be with you! Just to be with me! Pure romance doesn't get any better than that!

I commend young men like Doug and I am so appreciative of knowing the stories behind my mom and dad's own great romance. They are a shadow and token of the Great One's love and sacrifice on Calvary.

To Doug and Lisa, I wish you nothing but the best.

To Guy and Linda, my mom and dad, keep enjoying the romance and Happy Belated Anniversary!

To Jesus, there are not enough words to thank you for choosing to love and come for me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shack, Stream, or Basement

After hearing much adieu, I finally decided to pick up The Shack by William P. Young. I started reading it Friday night and finished it this morning. Thought provoking, heart warming, and like a large wooden spoon, it stirred and swirled many fragments brewing within me. Like many, I chuckled, cried, and ached for the characters affected. I even wanted to know more about what would happen to each of those involved after the story ended. I was simply captivated.

It caused me to ponder my own struggles. Will I find resolution? Will I, like the protagonist, Mackenzie Allen Philips, find healing, along with my own unending questions answered? When? What will God do? What now or what next?

In the story,the shack serves as a metaphor for a place we get stuck and can't seem to move beyond. It is usually a place of great loss or pain. Where is God in all this chaos and havoc and where do we go from here? A shack is commonly defined as "a roughly built hut or cabin". To me this implies it is not meant to be a place of permanence, but something fashioned together quickly for the sole purpose of shelter from severe weather.

Last month, I had a dream. I awoke somewhat stunned with numerous questions. I was at some type of church function where everyone was smiling, dancing, and having a real good time. Everyone but me, that is. In spite of many of my friends being there, I did not feel comfortable. I became increasingly anxious and walked out into a dark corridor. With eyes fixed upon the ceiling, I cried out, "God, I'm stuck in the basement! Can't you just beam me up?" Although, I may have been hoping for something of a Star Trek experience and being instantly transported, it wasn't quite like that. I glanced to my left and saw a doorway with lot's of green trees or bushes just on the other side of it. I moved towards it and found myself not only out the door, but flying over tree tops, ever so high, up to clouds comprised of the most beautiful flowers, blue, pink, silver, and white. They were mostly roses or hydrangeas. I loved them! Instantly, I began to walk barefoot upon them, so as to feel the softness of the petals beneath my feet. I gathered bouquets in my hands, lifting them up to my nose to inhale their scent. There was much more after this, all so vivid and somewhat puzzling, but I was indeed, no longer stuck in the basement. Upon talking with my friend, Shari, she encouraged me, that the frustrations I have been wrestling with, would soon come to an end. I would be lifted up and out. She believed it was a promise from God that there would be healing.

In The Shack, Mackenzie found healing, but it meant travelling to a place of great pain once again. In addition, he had choices to make while he was there. It kind of reminded me of a scene from C.S Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In it, Lucy, a young girl, comes upon Aslan, the great lion and metaphor for Jesus. She is dying of thirst and so desperately wants to cross in order to drink from the stream he is resting in front of. She probes him with questions like, "Do you eat little girls? Is it safe? Is there another stream?" His responses were anything but comforting, yet most truthful. To the second question he said,"I make no promises." and to the last, he replied, "There is no other stream."

It was not until I was in my mid thirties, that I finally could smile broadly and unashamed of my teeth. For many years, they were crooked, and a sight I hid from others. Due to many circumstances beyond my control, I did not have the opportunity to get braces for a long time. Furthermore, I assumed I would never be able to afford it. However, my dentist was persistent in broaching the subject each time I went in for a cleaning. He was most assured that the orthodontist would work with me and I would be able to do it. I'm glad he did not give up.

At 33 years old, I finally took the plunge and went for a consultation with the orthodontist my dentist recommended. I explained to him how Dr. Naglieri kept persisting that I come. His response somewhat surprised me, but has always stuck out in my mind like a neon sign lit up in a dark window. He asked me, "Are you ready to do this?"

In conclusion, whether it's a shack to revisit, an old basement we're trapped in, or the stream we seek refreshment from, are we ready to do it? Are we ready to do what needs to be done, to gain freedom and beauty? Am I ready? What is it that holds us back from flying?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Death & Life

I didn't know her personally, but I do remember seeing her sit beside her mom in church about three weeks ago. A woman with long, blond flowing hair, a radiant smile, and fit as can be. She and her mom, Inger could almost pass as sisters. Her name was Allisyn. She was only a year younger than I and died while doing what she loved, base jumping.

Just a few days after the news, I saw her dad, Ralph in church. Both of his hands were outstretched. While standing over six feet tall, he worshipped to the song of "Amazing Grace" Like the blooming cacti in the desert, Ralph stood strong and tall, vibrant as ever. This in spite of such fiery heat. One might ask, 'Why? How can he do that?"

After hugging his wife, Inger, she said to me with tears in her eyes, "When I heard the song, 'Oh, how He loves us' I just wished those kids were here to experience this." She, as her husband, Ralph, clings to that priceless truth. They both know God loves them. Although they grieve the loss of their sweet Allisyn, they also celebrate her life. A life that was undoubtedly lived out with great passion and zest. I am told she knew God. It is evident from the stories and photos shared, that she relentlessly and fearlessly pursued her dreams. She was not afraid to live. She was not afraid to die. Thus, she inspired many.

This past Sunday, we had a guest speaker. Larry, one of the missionaries we support in Ecuador, explained that if we focus on the here and now, we can miss eternity. There are days he and his wife, Susan would like to cash it in and just come home to the States, but they don't. Again, one might question, "Why not?" Their response? They know in their hearts that what they are doing is making a difference for eternity. They may or may not see the fruit of their labor, but they trust God to do something with it. They are utterly convinced of a divine purpose.

I am humbled and inspired by all of these people. I do not have such faith made of steel. Like many, I like to see and know something is working and how. I am reminded of a poem by Alexander Pope. It is entitled, "The Dying Christian To His Soul"

Vital spark of heav’nly flame!
Quit, O quit this mortal frame:
Trembling, hoping, ling’ring, flying,
O the pain, the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.

Hark! they whisper; angels say,
Sister Spirit, come away!
What is this absorbs me quite?
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirits, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?

The world recedes; it disappears!
Heav’n opens on my eyes! my ears
With sounds seraphic ring!
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! where is thy victory?
O Death! where is thy sting?

When we each meet that inevitable appointment with death, may it be only after we have lived so passionately, doing that it is, which we were divinely called and gifted to do in the first place. May our own deaths and lives, inspire others to reach for their dreams and LIVE! Until then, may our faith be strengthened as we consider both death and life.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Pure Pleasure of Hard Work

There's nothing like clean windows. As my grandmother says, "It's a pleasure to see them clean." I appreciated this fact even more so after some recent cleaning jobs with my friend, Cathy.

Earlier in the week I was to meet her at 6:00 a.m. for a cleaning job just up the road from where I live. Early in the morning because the place had no AC. When I arrived, Karen, another fellow worker, directed me as to what needed to be done. The house had recently been emptied and a real estate company needed it cleaned before showing it. "We need to dust from top to bottom and take the windows out to clean both sides of the storms before putting them back in," she instructed. I knew the vacuuming would be last, along with the bathrooms and mopping.

The dusting and vacuuming I was used to, but this was the first someone requested all the windows, inside and out. After one look it was clear why. I don't think some of them had ever been done. Not to mention the painter who never put masking tape down, so that when the trim was painted, it got all over the edges of the windows. Yuck! Dusty cobwebs coated the basement windows on both sides.

I don't even remember how long it took me. I had to clean many of the windows three or four times on each side so there were no streaks. Cathy had a razor blade for going around the edges to scrape off the excess paint. Time consuming, but well worth it. When I returned to the house yesterday, one of the neighbors pulled up in a small pick up truck. "Can I help you?" I asked. An older man with white hair and glasses stepped out, walking towards me.

"I just came by to check on things," he responded.

"I was told to come back and do some more windows. The realtor requested the garage windows be done as well," I explained.

"You ladies did a beautiful job. I thought you took out the glass in the front by the door," he commented.

"They hadn't been done in awhile," I said.

"Probably not since the builder in 1976," he kidded.

Soon enough, the friendly man was on his way and I continued with cleaning. While scraping off more paint and sticky residue from one of the storms, I thought to myself, "This is a lot of work, but they sure do look nice when they're finished."

I began to ponder how it might be similar to the work and love involved in caring for others. Many lives are tarnished, beaten from the storms of life and entangled by spiders' webs, but what a pleasure to see all of that icky residue wiped away and the gleaming luster restored. Just look at the difference in the windows. When the glass is clean, all kinds of vibrant colors can shine through, lit up by the beaming rays of the sun.

Note: the images posted above are not the actual windows of the house recently cleaned

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Heat or No Heat

While reclining in her periodontist's chair, Ellen was asked, "How did you get this tough, Ellen? I have so many patients come in that are so fragile and then you come in."

"I get it from my flowers. I look at them and see how tall they stand out there. They're pretty tough. Heat or no heat, they're still there. When I see them I know I can be tough, too," she responded.

Ellen is pretty tough. She's my neighbor and friend from the laundry room who's battled cancer twice and now going for a third time. Her scan was not clean. She is not cancer free, but her spirit is. This week she's helping out with vacation Bible school at her church and loves it. Recently, she got the neighbors to plant a garden under our apartment sign out front. She continues to be a blessing and inspiration to all.

When she told me "Heat or no heat.." I thought of blooming cacti in the desert. So I did a search online for blooming cacti. Did you know the pink hedgehog cactus blooms dainty pink flowers and they only open at night? I was astonished to discover there are several different types of cacti that bloom in the desert in spite of its extreme temperatures. Amazing and unthinkable, which brings me back to my friend, Ellen.

I'm thankful for people like her. Regardless of another bout with cancer, she like those flowers stands tall, producing some of the loveliest blooms ever seen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fill 'Em Up!

It's white and cakey, almost like the texture of Noxzema, but without the smell. Pastor Marlow, the GC of our River House project, dipped his pointer finger in and began to demonstrate how to apply it to the nail holes in the freshly primed, wooden door frame. Patch and Paint works just like magic. After you fill the holes and wipe away the excess residue, it's as if there never were any. Pretty easy and mindless work, but necessary before painters would be able to set about to paint. This was my task. I was the designated nail filler. For a few hours, I went from room to room, inspecting all the windowsills and door frames and filling the nail holes upstairs in the River House.

An hour into this project, the irony suddenly hit me. On Sunday, I created a fabric collage illustrating the infamous story, Nails in the Fence, by an unknown author. I received it quite some time ago as a forward via email. It tells the story of a little boy who had a very bad problem controlling his anger. He was instructed to hammer a nail into the fence each time he lost his temper. When he was able to control himself, he could remove a nail. The day finally came when the boy was able to fully control his anger and had removed all the nails. His father was pleased, but pointed out to him that the fence would never be the same again, much as it is with people whom we have hurt with sharp and cutting words.

I can only surmise this story was written before Patch and Paint, but it caused me to ponder, how do we repair those holes in people?

Isaiah 61:1 and 4 read, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,... They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations."

I pulled out my cell phone and looked down at the time-4:58 p.m. It was time to clean up and head home. "Have a good one," I called out to the two carpenters chatting in the front room.

After I scrubbed off the excess Patch and Paint caked on my hands and wiped them dry, I saw Pastor Marlow heading out the back door. "Thanks for doing that," he commented.

"No problem. It's pretty easy and mindless work, but needs to get done," I responded. He nodded in agreement. I then proceeded to ask, "It's pretty easy fixing holes in wood, but how do you do it in people?" I could tell by the look on his face he wasn't expecting that one. He turned around with this blank stare as if to say, "Where did that one come from?"

When I brought up the passage in Isaiah, he explained, "Some people's lives are just destroyed. They're full of nail holes. They have to believe. God can restore, but they have to believe."

We all know, they can not believe unless they have first been told. However, I believe it is just as important, if not more so, that we be willing to get ourselves caked in the white creamy balm of God's love and forgiveness so as to reach out and touch those wounded and in need of repair. Jesus repairs and restores, but He works through our hands.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Something Old and Something New

Tonight I had the opportunity to share with my friend and neighbor, Ellen, an experience the Lord had brought me through and wrote on July 6, 2008. I thought it worth posting. It comes from Revelation 21:5.

"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said,'Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.'”

I had heard this verse on the Sound of Life radio station while driving home early from a fourth of July celebration with friends. I began to wonder what kinds of new things God wanted to do. The thought in and of itself is somewhat mind boggling to me. I have discovered that these new makings of everything come quite unexpectedly though and yet so very timely, as they were today.

Bittersweet memories of a romantic afternoon spent hiking with a significant other came flooding back today while I was hiking with some new friends from church. Unbeknownst to any of them, he and I were hiking through the very same wildlife sanctuary just a year prior. Bittersweet because it was precious at the time the memories were formed, but our relationship had later unraveled and dissolved.

However, upon reaching the old wooden bench he and I rested on, I remembered the above verse. Today for the first time ever, I was together with new friends from church in this same spot. Just before our hike that day, we enjoyed lunch at Wendy’s and then a jazz concert on the lawn before our hike below and coming upon the same wooden bench he and I had shared the year before.

Shortly after that, I suddenly noticed my beloved toe ring was gone! I must have lost it somewhere on the steep hill after the bench. I looked around a bit, but didn’t see it anywhere. I let out a sigh of disappointment. I knew the chances of reclaiming it from the steep path layered with twigs and leaves were next to none. I also knew though that I could just as easily get a new one.

Upon reaching the gate, one of my new friends, Nancy encouraged me, “That means something new is coming!” I answered her with, “I’ll take that!” My disappointment passed as I felt a burst of excitement shoot through me. Today, I had made new memories with new friends and although something once treasured had been lost, there was the promise and hope that something even more wonderful and new was on the verge of arriving.

Lord, I do not know what the future will bring, but I thank you for the hope you provide, your promises, and that you are already making all things new. I especially thank you for new friends and memories. In Jesus name, amen.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lot's of Ladybugs

I reached inside the small party gift bag my student, J.T. gave me, to pull out a rectangular turquoise box. I was thinking, "Wouldn't it be neat if there was a frog inside?" Ever since I discovered Kermit at a yard sale a few years back, I just I love frogs. I lifted the top off. It was not a frog, but a ladybug key chain instead. This was just as good, if not better. This past school year was the year of ladybugs. I've never seen so many!

In the fall, my students and I saw several crawling on the outside brick wall of our school. Bright, red with tiny black dots; they all congregated together. They were trying to get inside. Upon arriving home later that day, I discovered several outside my apartment building on the door frame. Then later in the week, some had found their way into my apartment. Time of year? Probably. Winter was on it's way and no doubt they were wanting to get inside for the warmth, but I wonder if there was a deeper significance. I like to think there is or was.

Ladybugs are indeed lovely and seen as a sign of good luck, but I didn't know much more than that until I did some of my own research online. I was enlightened to find they have a very short life cycle of only a few weeks, yet can reproduce hundreds of generations within one year. They are also great for your garden.

When I showed the key chain to my friend, Rita, she remembered the influx of ladybugs I was bombarded with late last year. I said, "It must have some significance, but not sure what."

She replied, "Ladybugs are protectors. They protect gardens." I had never heard that term used to describe them before, but I now know they eat aphids which can destroy a garden.

I love these amazing creatures! They are brightly colored, delicate, useful insects which multiply like crazy. They are known to reproduce anywhere from three to six hundred generations in one year. That's a lot of multiplying to say the least!

They are inspirational in the sense that I pray my life will add such beauty and protection to those in need and bear much fruit. Therefore, I will always welcome lot's of ladybugs.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What's It Worth?

"Sunday, Monday, Happy Days; Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy days; Thursday, Friday, Happy days; Saturday! What a day! Rockin' all week with you!" Do you know the song? Do you remember? Was it a favorite? It was of mine. As a kid, I looked forward to watching the 1970's hit series "Happy Days" every evening at 5:00 p.m.

It was an all American family living in a nice neighborhood with Marion, the Mom, Howard, the Dad, and Joanie and Richie, their two teen age kids. They had problems, like anyone, but always seemed to have them worked out and wrapped up by the end of the show. For the most part, they seemed to enjoy lot's of 'Happy Days' together when life was much simpler than what it is today. The mom and dad were together, the kids were not being cursed out and beaten, and everyone appeared to not only love each other, but really like each other, too. The parents, Marion & Howard, told their kids when they were proud of them. They had heart warming chats and were not afraid to hug.

How many of us can say that was true or is true of our own families today? Unfortunate as it is, it is not the norm today. Not in 2010, nor other decades like the 80's or 90's. It certainly was not true of mine and others I know. Home was not a happy place to say the least; nor did we share many happy days together. Like many children, my parents divorced when I was 13. There was much turmoil in our home up to that point and even after. I wanted it to be different, but didn't have much say or control. As cliche as it sounds, I now marvel at families that stay, play and pray together. What an amazing feat!

Yet, I struggle with the verse in Psalm 139:16, "..your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days were ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." One of the definitions of the word ordained in Webster's dictionary is "to order or command". Would God ordain, order, or command people to be born into a family that is not intact or falls apart somewhere on the road of life? In light of what Job once said, "Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?" (Job 2:10), how does I or anyone reconcile this with the goodness of God and His love? I don't know. I don't understand it. It frustrates me to no end.

So what do I do then? What does anyone do who has been through tough times? Is there a purpose in suffering? What can I do? What can you do? We can change the future for ourselves and hopefully someone else, too.

Recently, my church hosted an orientation for people interested in becoming foster parents. In my hometown, more than half of the children in foster care are not living in a home like setting. These are children who can't stay with their parents simply because it's not safe or they are unable to care for them.

When my father was unable to care for me any longer, I had a Christian family that stepped in and said, "You can stay with us as long as you need to." That was over 20 years ago. Today, we are family. I am so appreciative of them and to God that they were willing and able to care for me. If it were not for God's grace in my life and their sacrifice, I do not know where I would be today. I have a truly blessed life.

Now, my hope is to inspire others to reach out, and care for children in dire situations. My dream is that more children will have a place of safety and refuge to go; a loving family that will care for them; that people will serve as Jesus' hands and feet and put their faith into action.

I can not change my past, but I can speak on behalf of the children who need a voice. I can inspire. I can share my story. And just maybe there will be more kids who get to experience some bright, new, 'happy days'.

In that case, I would have to say, it was well worth it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rox A Boxen Takes Me Back

Projected on a large screen was the story, Rox A Boxen by Alice Mclerran. It is a great tale of children using their imaginations to play outside in the sunshine. I was enchanted with the story line and objects the children used. Objects like rocks or pebbles, not the plastic stuff supplied by Fisher Price or other well known companies.

After the read aloud commenced, one of the directors of our Early Childhood Conference, asked us to take seven minutes to write about a memorable childhood play experience we had before the age of ten. That was easy. Hide and Seek, of course. Growing up, it was an all time favorite in my neighborhood.

I used to play it with my friends, outside on a warm summer's day. In our neighborhood, there were tons of places to hide. When the person, who was 'it' finished counting, they would then holler out, "Two box of powder, two box of soap. Whoever not ready, holler 'Billy goat'".

Some of us hid behind a car or a tree, in green shrubs, or under a front porch. The nearest car in a driveway or the front steps of some one's stoop, were usually designated home base. The sun was hot as ever, but I relished the cool breezes that would blow and rustle the leaves of maple trees that lined our street. Occasionally, a car would pass by, but there was hardly any traffic on our narrow side street, so we were able to run in or across it with little to no worries. It was a childhood game, often played numerous times for hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

It is one I have taught to my nieces and nephews since they were wee toddlers. We continue to play it until this day, even though my eldest nephew will turn 15 tomorrow. I have yet to meet a child who doesn't love to be sought after and found. It is SO MUCH FUN playing hide and seek.

It makes me think, that everyone must love to be sought after and found. How many of us continue to experience this today? Do we know the 'Hound of Heaven' who sniffs us out? Are we hoping He'll find us sooner or later? Do we seek for Him?

Matthew 18:3-4 reads:" I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Working with Dad-A Little Girl's Delight

As I sat at the head of the rectangular table, in between two of my students, one of them began to openly share about how she liked working with her dad. "What made you think of that?" I inquired.

"Because I like working and doing things with him and we're working now," she responded.

"What kind of work do you do with him?" I continued to probe.

"We pick the apples and get them for people to see and we put them in a big box," she explained while modeling the size of the crate. By this time, another student chimed in, "I like working with my dad, too."

Both of their dads work on farms. Their work is anything, but glamorous, but to these two girls, it didn't matter. They didn't know the difference. It wasn't about the money. It was about being with their dads. They simply delighted in his presence and doing something to help him.

I can't seem to recall many memories, if any, of just my dad and I working along side one another. There were a few times in the kitchen, as my father, Frank, loved to cook, but not much other than that to remember.

Matthew 28:20 reads, "And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."

Today, the glimmer of joy on my students' faces while they shared how great it is to work with their dads, caught my attention. I was inspired to reflect upon my own experiences and wondered, "How conscience am I of my heavenly Father's presence while working? Do I enjoy it? Do I desire more of it? What am I doing to help Him?"

I think little girls never outgrow needing a daddy. Needing his presence, his strength, and knowing she has an important role to play in helping him. My students relish in that now and I can, too.