Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Family & Conflict

I am writing this post with a heart that has been bruised over many years. Certainly, my heart isn't where it needs to be on this matter and a great deal of personal time, thought, and emotional energy have been exhausted in this regard. First of all, God is good! He is the same today as he was yesterday and he will be the same tomorrow as he is today. All of the trials we experience are for His perfect plan, IF we will permit ourselves to be used in His service.

It is sometimes difficult to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and I don't particularly enjoy that sensation. However, most people I know struggle with their family: where they fit, how they feel, and how they relate within that group. So, I want to share these thoughts before Thanksgiving, because I am reminded that I have so much to be thankful for.

If one looked at my family tree, I'd suspect it would be an interesting tree. Not exactly pretty, but memorable. From a distance, it might look beautiful but a close inspection would illuminate all of it's many flaws. As a child, my brother and I went to live with my grandmother. My father was completing professional training at the time and needed help with us. For reasons that were never apparent to me until decades later, my mother left the family. I recall seeing her once when I was five. From then on, we had no contact that I remember. A year or two after she left, he remarried and subsequently had a child with this wife when I was seven. They divorced when I was 18 or 19. My father was briefly married and rapidly divorced again. Ultimately, he married again to someone with many children of her own.

Relationships within my family are thorny. Confrontation of any sort is avoided at any cost. Being 'nice' and 'peaceful' is paramount, because as long as we pretend peace the contrast between what actually is and what ought to be can be successfully ignored. Problems are never directly dealt with; our approach is to hope that it goes away. If someone voices strong emotion or disillusionment, that person is labeled as the problem instead of acknowledgement that there is an 'issue.' Over the years, I've been the lightning rod of controversy in that I've been willing to say what I felt (and perhaps what others were thinking). I've been compared to others, and found lacking. Sometimes, I was convinced that nothing I did was ever good enough and, frankly, it wasn't. There were years when my family felt like an ill fitting pair of jeans I was wearing backwards.

Family are those people who are 'supposed' to love you no matter what. Fathers and mothers represent our first inkling of who God is. Ideally, they love, provide, and sacrifice. God is continually referred to as our father in scripture. If one hasn't had a 'healthy' or 'safe' experience with their parents, it can be very hard to see the truth of who God is because our seminal experience was so warped. I have had a lot of anger over the evolution of my family. With every regime, there have been those who are 'in' and those who are 'out.' I have often been the 'out.' Some of the situations I have experienced are so nuts that if I wrote it down, even I wouldn't believe it!

There is a rather vulgar saying, "You can't polish a turd." (EWWWW--I know, I can't believe I put that in writing!!!!) That is a very base way of a saying that man is not capable of taking something ignoble and elevating it to a noble status. For example, you can't take tin foil and make a platinum ring. These many years later, I am finding how only God can redeem situations like these.

Guess what? Being THAT child allowed God to show me so many things that I never could have learned otherwise. He forged me into a person who could stand up to others but He also helped me to empathize with those who feel shunned. He taught me that even if I don't feel a sense of belonging with others, I always belong with Him. He has shown me that I'll always be His child even if my parents seem to forget me. (There is even a verse in the Old Testament that says, "Though your mother and father would disinherit you, I the Lord your God will not.")

The truth is, we will all fail one another. Only God never fails. God has been so beautiful to me. Where I once felt like I should 'pull myself up by my bootstraps,' I am now painfully aware that I am incapable of doing so. Instead, I have learned to look to God for provision and He has been so faithful in supplying ALL my needs. He has brought the right people at the right time into my life. He has comforted me with his presence and with the presence of others who love me.

Human nature is such that each one of us wants to be fully known and deeply loved. I believe that God created us to be this way, because we are made in His image. I know the error that I've made is that I have expected other people to fill the void in my heart that only God can occupy. Jesus says, "Seek and you shall find me." I have had to ask myself, "What is it that I am seeking? Who is it that I am seeking?" Sometimes, I haven't found what and/or who I've needed, because I have been looking in the wrong place. Sure, people have failed me. Truthfully, I've failed them as well. But God is teaching me to let go of my expectations and find release in Him. This is a freedom that has been a long time coming and I am thankful!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Mother's Heart

I miss my children being babies! My heart yearns for those precious moments. I awake each day to children who have grown taller overnight. In my imagination, I still see them running down the hall, diaper whispering with each step. I can still smell the beautiful scent unique to each downy head. Their pink, teensie toes invite tickling and the soles of their feet are as soft as can be. Today, I live for their hugs just as they once lived by mine. They are growing up to be these amazing little people! The few short years from infancy to childhood are so precious to me. Irreplaceable! Those times are woven into my soul. These memories continue to feed me and bring me joy every day. Sometimes, I wonder if God feels that way about me. While my mind 'knows' that He does, it is hard to comprehend that God sees me for who I am and feels about me the way I feel about my children.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Carnivores Used To Eat

This isn't an essay, but I noticed this factoid for the first time today when I was reading Genesis. Genesis 1:30
And to all the beasts of the earth and all thee birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food. And it was so."
According to this scripture, at least as I understand it and it is rather clear, all of the animals that we identify as carnivores were originally created to be herbivores!!!! WOW.

I have a very soft hearted friend who once asked me how a loving God could create animals that would prey upon each other. I think at the time I mentioned the verse where the Lord refers to how the earth will be a new creation when Christ returns "and the lion will lay down with the lamb and eat straw...." (I don't remember it's specific wording or location right now.) I am just amazed though that this was in Genesis all along and I never picked up on it.

God did not create a world that included death! We invited death in and made it a part of the fabric of this fallen world. However, one day when Christ returns, the world will again be as God intended.
Again, WOW!

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Does It Mean To Be Blessed?

My husband wrote this and it really touched me. He gave me permission to post it and I hope you find it encouraging.

What does it mean to be blessed?

I recently had the opportunity to help out in a particular situation for a family without the means to help themselves with certain needs. As I completed this experience I had some time to contemplate the situation and ponder some past experiences with what we in the United States consider a blessing. It has become very apparent to me over the last 5 or 6 years that the “church” (I use this in general terms) has associated money and wealth with blessing. I find this sad in that it completely distorts true blessing as Jesus referred to blessing in Mathew chapter 5 (known as the Sermon on the Mount). In the NIV, Jesus uses the word blessed 9 times in versus 3-11. Not one of those instances mentions, blessed are the wealthy. There is no Beatitude stating blessed are those that have much for they will get more. Even with just a cursory look, one will note that none of the Beatitudes are attributes that our modern Western society would consider blessings. Let’s see, poor in spirit; mourners; the meek; those seeking righteousness; the merciful; pure in heart; peacemakers; the persecuted; and last but not least those who are insulted for their faith in Jesus. The only one of these that I see as a possible “modern day” blessing is the peacemakers. But even they might be considered as weak and therefore not possessing an attribute that deserves our time or energy. So who are the blessed and what is the expectation of those who are blessed.

Jesus tells us who the blessed are in Mathew 5. It would be foolish of me to try and elaborate on His words (you can’t top perfection). So what is the point of the first paragraph and my recent experience? It is this, blessing is from God. Blessing isn’t happiness. Blessing is a deep joy and understanding of who you are in God’s eyes and being able to hear His voice and respond in a way that demonstrates the love He has for all of us in a meaningful and life changing way. My blessing wasn’t that I have the means to help but that I was able to help. There were so many things that needed to be done and only a small amount of that required money. The blessing was in the shared life experiences, the laughter, and the time spent together. The blessing was a hug, a word of thanksgiving, a smile and simply being in the presence of family. God provided me the means to be a servant. If we are unable to use what He has given us, whether that is money or a more meaningful gift like our time and love, then He will take what we do have and give it to someone else. To fully reap the blessings of God we must be willing to reach out to others with whatever He has blessed us with. This may mean making a 5 minute phone call when we’d rather send an e-mail. I sincerely hope that the church in America will move our focus from the “prosperity blessing message” to the true message of God’s blessings and what that really means and how it can change the world.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When Daddy Comes Home

Normally, I like to write my thoughts and then polish them up later. I've been so busy with a move to Alaska that I don't have time to do that right now, but I wanted to share the briefest insight I had today. For the last month, the kids and I have been plugging along without Brad, without their daddy. We've experienced more than our fair share of meltdowns (some of them mine) and teary bedtimes. The kids have started a new school, a new schedule, and a transplant that has been anything but smooth. Jonathan keeps saying, "When is Daddy coming home?" Jacqueline keeps saying, "I wish Daddy were here!"

As I was driving today, a friend called. That person is experiencing a situation where their spouse just up and decided that they didn't want to be married anymore. When they called, Jacqueline, who has a big heart full of compassion asked, "How are they doing?" In that situation, there are children involved. This family is struggling along just as we are only their Daddy isn't coming home. Jacqueline and I talked about how hard it is to be without a Daddy, and her heart is so sad for this family.

In that moment I realized the parallel that we Christians have with my current status. I am slogging along up here in Alaska, two kids, a dog, a new house, boxes everywhere, and a stress level that exceeds the amount of cortisol my body is able to secrete. Each day, I do my best to compartmentalize....what is it that I have to accomplish today? I can't even think about tomorrow. But I find hope and comfort in knowing that in five 'short' weeks, Brad will be with us again. I reassure my children that Daddy IS coming back and that we just had to go ahead of him this time.

Similarly, we Christians are here on this earth though we are not of this world. We keep struggling each day to remember what it is that we need to accomplish. We find hope in knowing that we aren't alone in our efforts and that if Jesus went before us, he will return! Our Daddy is coming back for us. He has gone ahead to prepare a place for us so that where He is, there we may also be. Amen? My stressed out heart finds joy in remembering that He is faithful.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Crushes and True Love

First crushes are one of the most memorable moments of adolescence. Heart and hormones unite into a delirious concoction that elevate the subject to a higher plane. Suddenly, the world around looks three shades brighter as if life itself were a giant television and you'd brightened the screen by degrees with the remote. Gray, gloomy days look positively sunkissed and idyllic. Despite having a full load of classes with months to go until the next school break, it feels as if you are on summer vacation. Every day, mundane life recedes into the distance and is barely noticeable as shadows on the horizon. Your heart longs with the deepest intensity to see HIM (or her) and the faintest glimpse down the hallway is enough to make your heart jolt and thump hard enough that others, if they know to look, can see it pounding.

Aaaaaahhhhh, my first crush was lovely! I still remember it, as much as I remember him. His name was Kenny and I was a freshman in High School. He was tall, dark haired, green-eyed and played on the basketball team. To this day, I still don't know what position he played or whether he was any good in spite of the fact that I attended as many games as I could just so I could watch him. I also remember that he had a car, which only served to make me feel as if he were more manly than any of the other testosterone infused young men with whom I attended school. Although I wasn't old enough to drive, I felt much older than my tender years; adult even. My very existence was validated: I liked him and he liked me! Somehow, I had been lifted to a new level of existence, and yes, even status, all because of a boy. But Kenny wasn't just any boy, he was the popular guy who chose me out of a sea of incoming freshmen girls. In my imagination, and there may indeed have been some truth to it, all of the girls were jealous that I, despite not being on the cheer team, had been able to catch his eye. Each day, I spent hours picking the right clothing and taming my shaggy 80's mane of long hair, perfecting the sphere of bangs perched precariously atop my forehead.

My bliss was complete the day Kenny came by our house to take me on my first (almost) date. I was getting to go by myself in a car with MY almost boyfriend. He came by my house to meet my parents and face my father. If you've met my dad, you know that he is stereotypically Italian. Thus, Kenny towered over him in height. But being Italian means that my somewhat shorter statured father towered over him in presence and attitude! They faced off like a pair of male dogs eyeing each other. I know they shook hands, and in retrospect there may have even been some knuckle rolling. Fortunately I was oblivious of the unspoken exchange, because I was blinded by puppy love. With the interrogation behind us, I glided to the car and allowed him to open my door for me. My happiness was complete! When I returned home that evening, although I still can't remember where we went or what the function was, I spent countless hours planning how we would be able to get married after a long four year period of high school sweethearts followed by another long four years as college sweethearts. Ahhhh, silly girl!

The next day, I awoke suddenly more aware of my phone than I had ever been. "Ring! Ring!" I consciously willed it at 7:30a.m. on a Saturday morning. As 10:00 a.m. rolled around I became despondent! Then I became panicked as the day ever so slowly unfolded. I heard the grass growing, the trees drinking, and even the paint on the neighbor's two story garage drying. Kenny never called. Somehow I made it through the weekend. It was torturous!!! My mother forbade me from calling him, because "Nice girls don't call boys!" So, I was left wondering if the switchboard was routing his calls to another number or if we had power. We did. I checked many times that day, we had a dial tone.

All of a sudden, my euphoric plans for myself and my future came to a screeching halt. Anyone who has been rejected knows how bad it feels. Sleep is hard to come by, a general fatigue overcomes the body, and one's stomach is constantly queasy. I thought, "Surely he'll talk to me at school on Monday when I'm at my locker between classes!" Nope. Nothing. Crickets. I mooned about for weeks and months. The rational part of my mind that had been overcome with infatuation was now consumed by the urge to know "Why?" I frequently drove by his house to see if he was home and pretended I was visiting a friend when he was out washing his car. I found reasons to linger in the building where I knew most of his classes were just waiting for him to see me. My drive to connect with him, even fleetingly, reduced me to a benign, desperate stalking schoolgirl. I was no longer the "woman" I'd imagined myself to be in his presence. I'd deflated to half my age. Somehow in my adolescent mind I thought, "If he can just see me, he'll like me again!"

The school year slowly ground by, day after day until track season finally arrived. I was on the track team my freshman year and I will never forget how my Kenny bubble finally burst. Our team was at the track and field stadium and all of the participants were lined up for registration. I was standing in line joking with friends, desperately attempting to look successful and happy because he was around. My sense of self preservation had returned and I was determined not to be obviously pathetic anymore. I remember hearing friends jumping up and down on the huge, thick pole vaulter's mat and I even remember the b.o.--combined with sweat--combined with rain smell of that mat. My ears detected the timbre of his laughter and I looked over to see him in full repose with my best friend. My peripheral vision caught movement and as I focused in, I saw him leaning over to delicately, deliciously kiss her lips. It was the kind of kiss that every young lady dreams of; the kind of kiss that holds a promise. My stomach plummeted through my body, exited, and landed right there on the cinder track in front of the new couple. My naked heart was exposed for all to see. It took a monstrous and exhausting force of will to fake happiness and continue as if I hadn't been struck with a two by four. In that instant all of the memories of my best friend turned to dust and I loathed her as only a besotted, thwarted schoolgirl can.

Then I began to hate myself! "How could I be such a loser?" I berated myself over and over again. Why didn't I get it before? It was only then that I realized Kenny had seen me all along. He just didn't like me anymore. I finally realized all of my efforts to be funny enough, beautiful enough, and smart enough for him to like me were in vain. Thus ended my first crush. It then became important to me to prove to him, and to myself, that I was superior to any girlfriend he currently had. As I pulled myself out of my emotional hole, I became defiant in my attitude, "I'll show him what he's missing!" "I am the best thing that COULD have ever happened to him!" I hated that I had abased myself and abandoned my dignity all for wanting him to like me. How ridiculous is that?

Years later, a dear family friend laughingly said, "Oh do you remember the time your dad threatened that guy--what was his name?" "Kenny something I think!" Dear reader, all those years later, the why became apparent. My father's b.s. detector had apparently, and in retrospect rightly, been pinging a silent, screaming alarm. When I had taken a few moments to stop at the powder room my father took the measure of the man and instantly disliked him. I learned that my dad actually showed Kenny his gun collection. Now I know that there are a lot of urban myths about this, but my father is an avid hunter. He'd been to Africa to hunt Cape Buffalo and he hunted doves and geese annually. To my friend's best recollection my father actually said, "Young man, do you see that gun over there?" My would-be beau politely responded, "Yes sir I do." And my father said, "Well I don't have a problem using it!" Any amorous ideas young Kenny might have had for the good Doctor's daughter evaporated in a cloud of fear, partly I suspect because my dad could see ill intentions from a mile away. As it turns out, father's b.s. detectors are operational even when their daughter's aren't.

Now, many years later, I realized how fragile infatuation can be. During those months, I was willing to sacrifice myself and my dignity all for a man all upon the altar of 'love.' Now after having been married for sixteen years wife and being the mother of a ten year old daughter, I can chuckle at myself. I can tuck that lesson about preserving dignity into my pocket and show it to my daughter when she is ready. During these subsequent decades, I've learned a lot about love and what true love really is.

I am reminded that even when Kenny couldn't really 'see' me, Jesus really did. He saw beyond the fresh faced hope of a school girl and into her very heart. And unlike Kenny, Jesus stopped and took notice. He loved me for all that I was and even more importantly for all that I wasn't. He also saw all that he could help me to be and was willing to lay everything down to save me. Jesus totally abandoned his dignity just for me, just as he has for all of us. I think unrequited love is the perfect metaphor for the Jesus who waits for us! He's staring at the spiritual phone waiting for you to call. He sees time come and go, and watches the birth and death of stars. Yet, he became fragile man to prove his undying love. Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, did more than allow himself to be the subject of ridicule in the school cafeteria. He allowed soldiers to strip him naked, lash him with whips, tear open his scalp all to prove how much he loves us. He abandoned kingship, health, wealth, and even his own happiness so that we might have life. This is no crush, this is true, all consuming, love. Amen??? My heart is happy to know that he saw me and I am happy to return his love. Are you?

Hey, I finally got over my crush on Kenny! And then in college, I met this super HOT guy named Brad....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bottoms Up; An embarrassing church


Those who know me can attest to the fact that I am very clumsy. In fact, simply walking across a room can prove to be an insurmountable challenge. I take care to make life as simple as possible for myself and limit my overall exposure to situations that might lead me to embarrass myself. For example, one will almost never see me in a pair of cute shoes; I favor Dansko clogs, running shoes, and flip flops because they are a stable platform for this unsteady walker.

This last Sunday, I broke with tradition. A dear friend gave me a cute, flirty black dress...the sort of dress that flatters you in all the right places and camoflages any extra 'junk in the trunk.' I rolled my hair and carefully applied makeup designed to make me look dewy, fresh faced, and younger than my 37 years. I looked in the mirror and thought, "DANG....I GOT IT GOIN' ON!" To complete my nearly (but not so) "Desperate Housewives" look, I strapped on a pair of two inch, strappy heels with neat little geometric bows over the toes.

En route to church, I may have actually looked at my husband and said "YOU ARE WELCOME" (thinking he got a great deal in marrying such a fine looking woman). I pranced into church without incident and enjoyed an excellent sermon. Afterward, we picked up our children from the WOW worship facility, which is actually a trailer on blocks with a set of prefab deck wooden stairs. The kids ran ahead of while my husband and I walked slowly enjoying the day. I recall discussing where we would eat lunch as we began our descent from the deck. This conversation was abruptly ended by yours truly giving the Sunday school children an education which is not normally included in their curriculum. Upon reaching the second stair, my sassy two inch heel became wedged between the abutting 2 x 4 boards that make up each step. By wedged, I mean it sunk an inch deep in between the planks. I do not exaggerate when I state that I, or at least my right foot, was stuck!!!

I gave a most unlady-like shriek that served only to alert a larger audience to my distress, flailed wildly at my husband’s bicep, and plummeted face first down the two remaining steps. The only benefit his presence gave me was to slow my progress. In sloooooow motion (I am convinced that time itself did indeed slow to a crawl) my dress flapped, became caught by a divinely sent gust of wind, and exposed my backside to the masses of children and parents exiting Sunday school.

Ladies, I was wearing a thong. Yes you read that correctly! Lest you think I am some wild hussy who has taken leave of her senses, please know that it's a matter of practicality. If you have a derriere as substantial as mine, it becomes an issue of exactly how much fabric do you want crammed up "there." Regardless of what sort of undergarment I choose it's headed North, so I took the Less is More approach in selecting my pantaloons that morning.

Finally, some small shred of good fortune caught up with me at the last instant. My heel popped free and I was able to pirouette so that I landed soundly upon my gluteus maximus. To add insult to injury, I landed with my legs pointing up the stairs. Being the lady that I am in the dress that I was wearing, I clenched my knees together and refused to bend my legs. As far as I was concerned, that first peek was all anyone was going to get of 'the netherlands.'

Like a child needing consolation, I stretched my arms up to my husband and begged, "HELP!" He took hold of my hands and gave a mighty pull. My gravitational inertia was greater than the force of the yanking, and I didn't budge. So he was urgently admonishing me to, "BEND YOUR KNEES!" and I was vehemently refusing between clenched teeth, "AIN'T NO WAY!!!" After a second attempt, and much heaving, he managed to restore me to my feet. I was already painfully aware that I had inadvertently created a scene. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to stop and pay more attention to me.

But, my daughter in kindhearted concern began pointing out that I had a big bruise on my shin. She was terribly worried and completely unaware that she was impeding my escape. I was trying to kindly explain that “I am not worried about my shin and let's all go to the car now, mommy's fine, OKAY?” She continued to question me all while I was trying to limp and shoo her onward. On our way to the car, I noticed that several concerned parents had clapped their hands over their children's eyes. Other church-goers were doing their best not to laugh, and not succeeding at all.

Physically, I am fine. My ego, however, is crushed. And frankly, I feel terrible for all of those poor victims who were inadvertently flashed last Sunday. I suspect more people will remember the sight of my albino fanny, exposed, and flapping in the breeze than will remember the sermon, which by the way I have already forgotten. (They say trauma can cause memory loss and I for one agree.) I am deeply regretful for any offense I caused and am truly sorry for parents who might need to have explanatory conversations with their children.

I suspect God knew how proud I felt that morning. It seems apparent that he wouldn't want me to become conceited for any reason. Most importantly, I'd guess we can all agree that he does indeed have a sense of humor and that pride truly does go before a fall.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Church

Earth’s crust is littered with fragile bodies and broken souls
Mere fragments of who man was created to be.
We the church are an imperfect reflection of Christ,
Fractured shards of a holy mirror that when fitted together
Represent His love and passion for all of creation.
Only together, working as one body, can we honor him
By going places only Jesus would have gone and loving
Those who only an almighty God could love.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Brad and I recently traveled to Anchorage, Alaska from Washington D.C. We spent 13 hours confined to sitting at extreme right angles, knees in our eye sockets, and breathing in air that had been recycled by 250 pairs of lungs and then exhaled for our benefit. This already appealing cocktail of fun was further enhanced by my swollen, black right foot. I had severely sprained it and was supposed to be traveling with an air cast. As I hobbled onto the airplane, I was hoping that I'd be able to baby my foot and sleep as well. I also prayed fervently not to be seated next to anyone who felt it necessary to consume mass quanitites of alcohol! In the past, it seems that 'fate' plays the occasional rude joke and I get wedged into a seat next to some bombastic soul who sweats profusely, swears with flourish, and drinks enough to make someone of Slavic heritage proud. In those situations, with beer goggles perched neatly atop the bridge of their nose, the poor soul nearest to them, married or not, can appear to be an available, receptive target.

Brad and I seated ourselves and I sank into my seat with a sigh of relief. Finding just the right position for my foot was difficult, and I finally propped it up against the bulkhead wall. I noticed that my traveling companion also had HIS feet up too and they too looked worse for wear. He was wearing a pair of TEVA sandals and it was apparent that he was missing several toes.

Curiosity piqued, I asked him why he was headed to Anchorage. He indicated that he was en route to climb Denali, the highest and most hazardous peak in Alaska. Denali, for those from the lower 48, is known as Mt. McKinley. On a clear day, you can see Denali from Anchorage. It is breathtaking and spectacular! Most days, however, the top is shrouded in clouds and there is always a cap of snow on top. The steep angle of the mountain is hardly a slope for novices, so I assumed he was experienced and I suspected he'd lost his toes on another climb. I'd also read "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakaur and "No Shortcuts to the Top" by Ed Viesturs, as well as several other first-hand accounts.

More recently, he had attempted a peak in South America. It was during this trip that his foot became badly infected. He was evacuated on a litter by men who carried him throughout the night to reach medical care. I believe his toes were amputated as a result of this near-death experience. Many months of treatment and skin grafts were needed to bring him back to health. This trip would be a moment of truth for him. Would the grafts withstand the unique physiological stressors of high altitudes?

"Why," I asked, "Do you climb?" In my mind, I was wondering why someone would relish the prospect of risking life and limb to climb a mountain. Our companion said that when one is on the mountain, vanity falls away. Unimportant things like what you do for a living, what car you drive, and other inane status symbols cease to matter. I would suppose that in a quest of that magnitude, the significance of self becomes lost in the mighty, awesome, and somewhat terrible power of nature. Life, like a mountain, can not be tamed.

I shared with him that I love running for that very reason. Although I am currently hampered by chronic injuries, I used to run long distance races. Quite simply, endurance running helped me keep my soul tidy and organized. Exerting myself, forcing my body to obey my will allowed me to practice discipline. In order to succeed at long distances, one must take all of the negativity and any thoughts of "I can't" and replace them with "I will!" For that reason, I love the rhythm of running. While many people have a hard time breathing for long distances, I always felt like the little engine that could. I would start slow, but I always breathed in for two steps and then breathed out for two steps. That first mile or three was always stiff and uncomfortable, but the farther I ran the easier it became. Breathing and channeling pain became enjoyable to me! The act of running forced out all of the miniscule things I worried about and made me concentrate on the next breath or the next step. During those times of intense concentration, running stopped being exercise and became a form of worship for me. As I would run, I could pray and I could enjoy God's creation. There were simply no distractions to keep me from focusing on God. The phone never rang, I couldn't be cleaning, or cooking, or attending to all of the needs of others. As strange as it seems, when I was out running, everything else was on pause and that was very helpful both emotionally and spiritually.

I once trained and ran a marathon. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and that includes bearing children! The more I trained, the more running and setting a goal, and achieving that goal became a proving ground for me. I felt that if I could beat back fatigue and stave off despair, triumphs on the road would extend into other areas of my life. During these moments when my body wanted to fail but my mind wanted to win, I found a deeper understanding of who God is. He is a God who never gives up on us and I resolved to finish at all costs. However, running is hardly mountain climbing in its purest form. The only risks to me might have been a couple of blisters, hurt knees, or torn tendons. I could pull over to the side of the road and stop if needed. Barring an unforeseen collision with a car or a massive heart attack, I never risked my own survival to run.

The conversation touched me so deeply. Why does man persist in such endeavors? In my opinion, there is some small kernel deep inside all humanity that makes us fight to overcome. There hasn't been a day since that flight that I haven't replayed this conversation and it is very difficult for me to condense my thoughts into words effectively. Truly, the metaphor of climbing an almost infinite mountain parallels many aspects of life.

One idea keeps occuring over and over again in my mind: mountains are important to God! In scripture, specifically the Old Testament, God's very presence descended upon Mt. Sinai so that he could be known to the Israelites. In fact, Moses spent 40 days on the top of Sinai receiving the commandments. The book of Isaiah says that God's people are called to pray at God's holy mountain. In the new testament, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well. She talked with God's own son about which mountain she should pray at; the Jews prayed in Jerusalem but the Samaritans prayed at a different mountain. Mountains are symbolic of God because of how immense and infinite they seem. The biggest mountains dwarf us when we stand at their feet. They seem to bridge the gap between terra firma and heaven itself. Whenever I've been in the Rockies, I have been aware of my insignificance in comparison to something that seems immutable.

As I write this, my new friend is summiting Denali. I am amazed that in the pursuit of triumph he voluntarily risks his life. He has at times sacrificed his health and even a few toes in the reckless pursit of his goals. I am awed by his fortitude and persistence. At the same time, I can't help but believe that this is what God requires of us all...that we would seek him so ardently, so passionately that everything else would seem as unimportant as ashes from a fire...that we would ruthlessly chase him above all else and that we would risk it all just to see his face.

We are promised that if we seek him, we will indeed find him. And, when we find him, all of the trivialities in life will pale in comparison to the beauty, joy, and contentment that he offers. God is like a mountain. He is mighty and can not be tamed yet, he seeks communion, relationship with us. King David said it best, "What is man that you are mindful of him?" As I write this I pray for the success of this man. I am also reminded of who God really is and how I need to live my life. I need to work so hard that I leave it all on the mountain, because life is too short to leave any effort unspent.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Entropy & The Mom Valve

On a grand scale, there are three laws of Thermodynamics. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is dependent upon the first law and states that, in a closed system, "all things tend toward disorder." For the purposes of this particular rant, the author will be focusing on the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The First & Third Law will be addressed another day.

Okay, all things tend toward disorder. (GREAT! NO FREAKIN' KIDDING! TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT, I HAVE TWO KIDS, ONE DOG, AND A HUBBY.) So while the quantity of energy and/or matter may remain the same, the quality of matter will degrade over time. Translated, this means that the amount of useful energy or matter degrades into useless energy or matter. This explains why I feel so tired at the end of the day!

How does useful energy/matter become useless? It is used towards productivity, growth, and repair. It may also be used in food preparation, dirty laundry, and picking up everyone else's stuff. Thus energy is converted into useless energy and cannot be reconstituted into useable energy again. It should come as no surprise that as the amount of useful, quality energy decreases, the amount of chaos rises correspondingly. DUH!

Let me sum took Nicolas Leonard Sadi Carnot, a French physicist and military engineer, until the 1800's to formally publish this as a scientific principal? IF anyone had bothered to listen, (which clearly they didn't) they would have been able to learn that from your basic, run-of-the-mill housewife and mother. I have had it up to HERE with Entropy. As far as I can tell, I am the one thing that stands between the closed system of my household and absolute chaos. Behold the mom valve!!!

Today, I was informed that I am not a planner. My feelings were hurt (while at the same time part of me saw a glimmer of truth). Just because no one can see my plan doesn't mean that one doesn't exist. My plan just gets inundated and overwhelmed by three meals a day, lunches, herding two beautiful kids to and from school, to and from sporting events, laundry, ironing, exercising, and so on. By the end of the day, I can say that I've been busy. Sadly, I have very little to actually 'show' for what I have done. As far as I can tell, all of my energy is converted from quality energy to useless energy undoing entropy (mostly matter) for myself and at least three other people. Who has time to execute a plan? Just give me a template and let me follow it for Pete's sake!!! (sorry Pete whoever you are)

Furthermore, as far as I can tell, all of this spinning my wheels only keeps the entropy at bay. I am merely a hamster on a wheel, running in circles. It takes me all day to reconvert the postproductive energy and matter for this beloved family. One might say that I am the aperature of the otherwise closed system. At the end of the day, my strength is sapped and I feel just a wee bit ill tempered! To top it off, entropy is showing itself in more and more places, like on the back of my legs and my backside. Maybe I should postulate the Second Law of Momtropy....Keep your entropy to yourself.

Certainly, there are mothers and wives who are planners and administrators. I've seen them and I can attest to their ruthless efficiency. These are women whom I greatly admire and of whom I am slightly afraid. They have the ability to label, categorize, and organize not only their home, but mine as well. They write books on "Organization for Dummies" and launch websites like When I am invited to their home, I sit in awe of the ease with which they walk, chew gum, pat their head, and rub their tummy at all the same time. I run into them in the grocery store and they have their computerized grocery lists and menus and coupons with them.

What I can't decide is, is it just me? Am I the only one who sees the futility of keeping a perfect house? Does anyone else have a dirty laundry pile the height of Mt. Everest? Where is the fun in that?

I want my kids to grow up feeling loved and safe; confident in who they are and in their value. Is my inability to control chaos going to result in a failure of this fundamental goal? When I die, I hope my family will find something better than, "She kept her house clean" to engrave upon my headstone! I hope the inscription will read, "She made me laugh!" or something pithy like that.

You may ask yourself, why is the author sitting down at the computer typing away? I think it is because I feel as though words matter. The words I say to my family, the words I put in writing will endure long after my clean house gets dirty again. Writing essays allows me to create something new. I feel like I am adding energy and matter to my universe. It helps me chase away the despair at all the entropy I see around me. It helps me to reduce the level of personal chaos that I experience on a daily basis. Writing prevents me from running naked down the road, screaming TOHECKWITHYOURENTROPY! at the top of my lungs.

While the scientist in me is impressed with Sadi Carnot's ability to 'discover' and describe thermodynamic principles, it might have been better to have left the genie in the bottle. The mother in me really, REALLY doesn't want to know how useless all of my cleaning efforts are.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Glad to Know

I must say that I am writing this edition with such a sense of weight on my chest. We're getting ready to move and there are so many 'must-do's' to get done. The worst part of it is that we can't start working down the list until our military orders are given to us. It is as though we're on one of those really scary roller coasters. The chest bar has been lowered into place--a ride is now imminent. We're securely held but I have absolutely no control over the ride that is about to occur. We are pitched onto our backs, climbing the highest hill of the coaster, and each lurching click of the train brings us closer to the free fall. The dread of sitting suspended over the 90 foot drop is much worse than the drop itself. At least during the drop I can concentrate on swallowing my stomach, which will be in my throat. Instead, here I am with sweaty palms all ready to go but waiting on something external to begin the process. Moving about is so much easier than inactivity, at least for me.

I find myself in an uncomfortable place right now. I suppose it's a good growing place though, because I find myself in almost constant prayer. It is at times like these we are reminded how much we do really need Christ's presence in our lives. Surrendering control is an act of will, but it is also a process. I keep picking up these burdens only to remember that there isn't a thing I can actually 'do' to potentiate them. It is a nervous, tidying habit I have. I continually pace about the inside of my mind picking an object up and then putting it back down; realizing there really isn't anything I can do with it. I remind myself of an ex-smoker. At the first sign of stress, I am reaching for my front shirt pocket, patting it habitually only to remember that I don't smoke any more.

Throughout the day I keep remembering to give my burdens to God. The New Testament continually reminds us to cast our cares upon him. Frankly, that can seem a little trite. It is the pat answer that you hear from other Christians who are speaking to you from their happy little place looking askance at you in your dark hole. That answer is right up there with "just think positive thoughts!" Well, heck, I can positively believe in the tooth fairy, but that doesn't make her real. I can believe in Santa too. Or I can even believe that the earth is flat, but all the believing in the world won't change the truth.

The truth is that we, as humans, will experience hard times. Positive thinking won't change that. In fact, Jesus told us to expect hardship. I've been a Christian for a long time; at least 30 years. I try to read my Bible daily and I have thought of myself as someone who knew their Bible, but I got a surprise yesterday. I discovered a continual theme throughout the Bible that made all of the difference for me. It is truly a pivotal moment in my faith. Not only are we told to cast our cares upon him. (Jesus said come unto me all you who are weary and I will give you rest for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.) But I learned that JESUS HIMSELF IS PRAYING FOR ME!!!!

How amazing is that!!?? Jesus intercedes on our behalf. He knows right where we are. He knows that we will struggle, but he quite literally is on your side lifting you up before His father in prayer. I am so grateful to know that. It isn't as though he pats us on the back and says, "Good Luck with That!" No He is continually intereceding for you. It is his desire that we succeed. Yes we need to give him our burdens, but we can rely on the fact that he is right there rooting for us and even sending angels to comfort us in the worst of times.

Here are some scriptures that demonstrate Jesus' prayers:

Luke 22:31 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

John 17
First, Jesus prays for himself. That's a relief, because I pray for myself all of the time. :)
Second, Jesus prays for his disciples in vs. 6
Third, Jesus prays for ALL believers; that is you and me!
vs.20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one. Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world."

Romans 8
v. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. WHEW!
v. 31 If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him graciously give us all things?....Christ Jesus who died-more than that who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us! I like the word also here, because it confirms that God the Father is strengthening us too.

I absolutely hate feeling out of control! The truth is, we are almost never in control of our situation. We are only in control of how we respond. What a relief it is to acknowledge our helplessness even though being helpless is so hard to tolerate. This week, as I face my challenges head-on, I'll be asking Jesus to cover me with his prayers. And I am blessed to know that He 'along with all good things' will be glad to give them.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I work at a horse barn two days a week. It's hard work to feed, hay, and shovel for 54 horses and it takes at least 3 of us per day. The pay isn't great, but the rewards are. There is something comforting about barns to me. I remember happy days spent bouncing around in hay lofts with a little of kittens that we brought up with us. My friends and I resolved to spend the night in the loft, but somehow the hay always got too itchy and we never once made good on our promise. If you've spent any time in and around barns, you've probably noticed that they are a haven for wildlife, especially sparrows. On a cold morning, when I am first to arrive, I will walk through the barn with my Starbucks insulated coffee cup enjoying the stillness and sweet smell of hay. The sparrows are always there to greet me and they eye me curiously when I enter. They always look endearing to me with their feathers fluffed up to keep out the cold and their pert heads turned to the side so that they can get a good look at me. They feel safe enough to be in my presence even when I am at work. I notice that they frequently follow behind as I leave a stall to see if I've left any seeds behind as I've cleaned up old hay. The owner of our facility has hung several metal owl silhouettes up and they dangle from the roof by twine. Still the sparrows are undeterred. Apparently they like it there, and truth be told, I enjoy their presence.

I am reminded that sparrows are mentioned often in the Bible. The most familiar reference is in the New Testament when Jesus says, "Aren't two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet even your father in heaven knows when one falls to the ground. How much more will he care for your?" (my paraphrase). This week as I was reading through the Psalms, I found another reference and it touched my soul. Psalm 84: 3 says, "Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself where she may have her young--a place near your altar."

Sparrows are an insignificant bird by human standards. They are too small to eat and aren't a songbird per se. Sparrows aren't particularly beautiful either instead they are rather drab. And they are hardly rare, a dime a dozen really. There isn't much about a sparrow that makes them worth noticing. But God, our heavenly father, notices them! He knows when they drop to the ground and he is aware of their very existence.

I just love that the Psalmist notes that there is room for even a sparrow near God's altar. There is room near His throne for the smallest, most insignificant of God's creatures. I have a mental picture of sparrows hopping about in the eaves of the heavenly throneroom. In God's house there are many mansions. He has gone there to prepare a place for us. Maybe you feel insignificant, unimportant, unnoticed. God notices. You are important and significant to him, and there will be room for you near his alter too.

One day, when I see heaven myself, I am hoping to find that God has a barn. And I hope there are sparrows nesting in the eaves.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


My daughter came home from school the other night with the assignment of writing Haiku. Of course, since it has been so many years since I was in school that she had to remind me Haiku has 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third and final line. I had just come home from the barn where I work to pay for her riding lessons. By work, I mean mucking out the stalls of 54 horses. So, I was exhausted, dusty, and not a little fragrant. We each wrote a poem. Here's my attempt:

Horse munch and chew
While We Clean Up All They Doo
This Is Barn Haiku

It got a laugh out of her anyway even though I am certain good poetry of this genre doesn't actually rhyme. :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

What's Bothering Me!

Yesterday, I witnessed the inauguration of our 44th President. Amid all of the exuberance, celebration, and the great wave of hope our people are experiencing, I felt heavy in my soul. I’ve been asking myself, “Why am I feeling this way?” “Why aren’t I filled with the same kind of joy that so many are experiencing?” After all, Barak Obama is our very first African American president. He is educated, charismatic, and seemingly genuine. Despite the fact that I differ with him on several ‘hot button’ issues, there is a lot to admire about him. He is representative of people everywhere who work, strive, achieve, and dream.

Last night, as I lay in bed reading, it hit me! This man for whom we threw the most expensive inauguration ever has been heralded by the news media, Hollywood, and the “Who’s Who” in America as our savior. It is as though as a nation we believe we have finally found THE ONE who can fight our battles for us and win. The news is showing interviews of people saying, “I FINALLY have hope.” Finally? Despite the fact that we live in a ‘free’ country which is arguably the most prosperous nation in the world it is apparent that an unbelievable number Americans live without hope!!! Now, with the inauguration of the first African American President, America has finally found someone it can believe in. Many genuinely feel he is the only one who can safely guide us through the troubled waters that we as a nation face. Many of our people who are weary and live in despair have transferred all of their hopes, finally and officially, onto the shoulders of a human being.

I’d like to note that we are not the first nation to find ourselves in this place. There is indeed a cautionary Biblical record in 1 Samuel Chapter 8. I believe this passage parallels our current situation. In his old age, Samuel the prophet anointed his two sons, Joel and Abijah, to serve as judges too. His sons, however, did not follow in their father’s footsteps. The Bible says that they “turned aside after honest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” So the elders of Israel gathered and went to Samuel saying, “You are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us such as all of the other nations have.” Samuel was displeased, which strikes me as odd. Was he displeased that his sons were crooked? No, in fact it seems he was displeased because Israel wanted a king. At any rate, Samuel went to the Lord and prayed. God told Samuel to listen to all the people had to say and to warn them strongly of all that a king would do, including taking their sons for charioteers, daughters to be perfumers and cooks. Additionally, God warned that the king would take a tenth of their grain and wine and give it to his officials and attendants. Furthermore, their menservants and maidservants as well as the best of their cattle would be taken for the king’s own use! Basically, a king would skim best of his people and from his people to increase his own wealth and power. But the elders of Israel, that is the priests, scholars, politicians, the wealthy, wanted a human King badly enough that they were willing to accept that heavy price. It seems their primary reason is so that Israel ‘would be like the other nations.’

The most important part of this scripture is what God says to Samuel in verse 7, “It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected ME as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.” God called Abraham and took him to the land God intended to give him. God established a covenant through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In Exodus 6:7 God says, “You will be my people and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt (where they were enslaved.)” Throughout history, God nurtures, cares for, and provides for his people. Throughout the Bible we are continually admonished, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9) In Psalm 46:2 David says, “Therefore we will not fear though earth give way and the mountains fall into the sea.“ It is imperative that we keep our eyes on the living God. He and He alone will go before us. Only He can save! Why are we putting our faith in a man or in a government to save us instead? Each time we put our faith in something other than God, we are worshipping something other than Him. In essence, when we do so, we are rejecting God as king. We are therefore engaging in idolatry. And when we worship idols, we find only disappointment, only despair, and only a road that leads to ruin. After all, only the I AM is truly capable of saving us.

Let me emphatically state that we are to respect and honor those authorities that God has established.
God appoints Kings; He appoints rulers. We are to pray for them! After all, as Psalm 24 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it…..for the kings of the earth belong to God.” That said, we are to HOPE in the Lord. As David sang in Psalm 146, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.” He goes on to say, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them--the Lord, who remains faithful forever.”

In families, circles of friends, and, yes, even politics, we are seeking people to be faithful to us. Slang phrases like, “I’ve got your back!” bear this out. Political slogans like, “A Change We Can Believe In” reflect this need. We seek those who won’t disappoint, who won’t abandon us, those who won’t let us down. Sadly, whether by intrigue, human fragility, greed, malice, or death, we WILL be let down. The very people that should be those who never fail you, will indeed fail. That is why we can only trust the God of Jacob to remain. He who was, who IS, and who IS to come is SAFE! We can believe in him! We can hope in him, and we won’t be let down.

Let us examine ourselves! Where is our hope? In whom are we placing all of our trust? I can remember as a little girl, I felt as though if I could just crawl into my father’s lap, he could fix anything. How I loved being his little princess. I felt so special to him and basked in the sunshine of his affection. I put all of my trust in him. One day something happened, I am still not sure what, but I wasn’t his little princess anymore. I found myself shut out, put out to pasture and replaced by others. Truthfully, he failed me. I’ve realized not only doesn’t he want to fix IT, but he is completely incapable of doing so. Let me make this clear though, the sin was mine, because I put him in God’s place in my heart. I have grieved that loss so very deeply! And Sometimes I want to feel Jesus, touch him and know that He is solid, REAL, just like Thomas the apostle did.

I would suspect I am not the only person who has suffered this realization. Maybe the man who said he would always love you left you for someone else. Perhaps your father left your home and had children in another relationship that he now dotes on instead of you. Maybe you grew up poor and oppressed with no shot at an education. Maybe no one is proud to claim you as their own, because you never measured up to their expectations. Maybe your job moved overseas and you are struggling to find employment. Whatever your situation, you can have HOPE and not in the next, newest, political administration!

God “upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” Has it occurred to you that Jesus, the son of God, was born to a poor, unimportant family? The prophet Isaiah says that there was no beauty or majesty to attract us to him; nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Frankly, if I was coming to earth as the son of the Most High God, I’d have picked to be really good looking and driving a Corvette. I would have chosen to be born to the Vanderbilts, Kennedys, or Rockefellers. But Jesus cares for you, right where you are. He chose a lowly birth to demonstrate his desire, his love, his passion for the poor and the weak.

Again, let us examine, where is our faith? Where is our hope? Just as George Bush couldn’t control the destiny of any one man, neither can Obama save us from ourselves. I encourage you to put your faith in the Lord. Not only is he ABLE to save you, He is WILLING! May you find hope in Him and Him alone!