Wednesday, April 29, 2020

It's Garden Season, Installment #1

I'm in the back seat with my mom, waving,
We're riding down the road in a
 horse-drawn wagon, past all the farm fields
owned by my cousins in the wagon with us.
The farm girl side of me runs deep and long. It’s something I can’t escape. It’s something I don’t want to escape. It’s me.

My grandma was the daughter of a tobacco farmer in Kentucky. She married a farmer, moved to Indiana, and had a little boy, who grew up to be my dad.

We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and I always thought my dad was looking for his past; that place he could cultivate and till and plant and harvest. That place that gave him pride.

Everywhere we lived, we had a garden. BIG gardens, too. Like an acre. Or maybe even two. As far back as I can remember, I knew how to plant and weed and fertilize and pick the harvest, and when I got older, I learned to can and
freeze it for the winter.

When I was in seventh grade, my dad started selling plants off our front porch, and within a year, had moved our family to a 5- acre plot of land, on which he opened a garden shop. We had  the largest business in 3 counties, and on a busy Saturday in   May, you were likely to see 20-30 cars in our lot from 8 a.m. until dark.

From these experiences, I bring you the following tips this week for a healthy, happy garden:

1. About the "frost date."
Most plants should not be planted until after the frost date in your area, including tomato plants, pepper plants, zucchini plants, cucumber plants, and perennial flowers (those that must be replanted each year). If you aren't sure of that date, check In my area, frost in unlikely after April 25, but guaranteed not to happen after May 10, so I try to plant around that date.

2. Exceptions to the frost date rule:
Every rule has an exception, so here's the exception to #1. Certain vegetables are "frost free," meaning they are not damaged by frost. Those vegetables include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage. It is not too early to plant these items, but do it soon, if you're going to. They don't like hot weather.

3. Sidebar on planting peas:
Peas don't like hot weather either, but they are a little fussier. They are typically planted from seed, so you need to time it so that the first tender shoots don't pop through the soil until after the frost date, BUT, if you wait too long to plant, they will wilt and die in the hot summer sun. Look for varieties that have a shorter germination period, or advertise to withstand the heat, especially if you are the least bit late in planting.

4. The difference between a frost and a freeze:
Don't confuse a frost with a freeze. A frost will kill most vegetables, but not pansies, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and perennial flowers (those that come up every year by themselves without having to be replanted. A freeze means the temperature will drop below 32 degrees, which is likely to kill even the most hardy plants.

5. So what garden tasks should you doing right now?
There are a few things to be done right now:

  • Till your soil. Be sure you till in fertilizer during this stage. If you don't till it in at the beginning,and just sprinkle the granular fertilizer in before planting, you run the risk of burning your tender new plants. 
  • Plant any frost-free plants you want to put in your garden.
  • Consider sowing any seeds you may want to plant. If you sow them by the end of this month, you will have little shoots of plants coming through the soil just before the May 10 frost date for this area.
Thanks for joining me to discuss gardening. It's one of my favorite things to do!

Stay tuned -- we'll be talking about flower gardening in upcoming installments, and I'll be providing a resource page for you, soon , as well. 

We'll see you next Wednesday for Installment #2. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Easter We Lost

The Easter that We Lost

Easter has been lost,
Or so it seems to me,
Too weak to hold its own,
Eclipsed by what could be.
The subversive,
The unseen,
The virus.

Easter has succumbed,
We never thought it would.
Lost in all the noise,
Buried with the good.
It failed.
It was weak.
It was overcome.     

Easter is forgotten.
No Easter plans this year.
Family gatherings canceled,
Peace overcome by fear.
Instead contagions.
Instead stay home.
Instead keep distance.

But truth is always true,
Whether or not it’s heard
No matter if it’s quiet,
Or if the lines seem blurred.
          Light conquers dark.
          Light overcomes.
          Light is risen.

But truth is always true,
Its presence ever near,
Dwells inside our hearts.
Erases every fear.
          Our strength is in God.
          Our hope is sure.
          Our future accomplished.

But truth is always true,
And light will always win.
Maybe it was never about
The thing it’s always been.
          Instead the power of Grace.
          Instead the power of God.
          Instead the power of the Resurrection.

                   Instead the power of Truth.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Of Pansies and Soap Bubbles

I sat down to write. My heart wanted to write about how we all are feeling during this time, but I wondered, do we really need another article on how to reduce stress during the pandemic? Do we really want to read another blog post about five thing you can do to keep yourself healthy? Do we really need another sermon about being courageous and not fearful?


But that wasn't what God put on my heart. Instead, He spoke to me about pansies and soap bubbles and thankfulness.

My husband, Mike, co-leads a life group at our church, and yesterday we hosted a Zoom call for everyone so we could visit and catch up, and share our burdens with others who care about us. When Mike asked for prayer requests, a dear lady in our group told us she had a praise. She had planted some pansies her son bought for her, and every day when she looked at them she was inspired with hope.

I've been mulling over that praise for the last 24 hours, and I started thinking. How many small things do we pass by each day without noticing them? How much beauty do we miss? How much hope and joy do we forfeit? How many pansies did we fail to see? How many opportunities for thankfulness have we passed by without notice?

The interesting thing about thankfulness is that it can co-exist with peace and joy and hope, but it will not share space with tumult or fear or anxiety.

Thankfulness is a discriminating partner: she welcomes sweetness and happiness, while banishing bitterness and depression. She's a magnet for everything good and kind, and a repellent of all things dark and selfish.  Thankfulness and all her humble companions expand to fill the empty places in your heart. She warms you from the inside out. She's more contagious than a virus, more satisfying than a long nap.

And she's there for the taking, every single day.

Besides the hyacinths, irises, and tulips punching their way through the soil in my front yard, can you guess what else makes me happy and thankful? These are some things that made it to my short list:
1. Bubbles. Soap bubbles top my list. The kind I blew with a plastic wand when I was a child. The kind that float through the air impossibly longer than you ever dreamed they could, morphing into odd shapes and flowing designs. I love soap bubbles. 

2. The smell of moist soil after a rain.  

3. The first ripe tomato of the season. 

4. The birds that flock to the feeder outside my window.

5. My heirloom flowers: The live-forever plant that belonged to my great-grandmother and has survived two transplants and two moves. And then there's the lilac bush from the home my husband and I bought from my grandmother. When we moved from that house, we harvested a sprig of a lilac bush my mother watered as a little girl when she lived in that house. Now it's a beautiful, full, lush lilac bush in its own right. A lilac bush with a legacy.
What brings you joy? What makes you thankful? What makes your heart sing? Take a walk and "smell the roses." Revel in the sunny faces of the pansies. Check out the newly emerged irises and tulips. 

Be thankful. It will sustain you through the pandemic.It will bring you peace.

Blessings to you today!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Life as We Knew It

Water You turned into wine
Opened the eyes of the blind
There's no one like you
None like you
Into the darkness You shine
Out of the ashes we rise
There's No one like you
None like you

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God.

--Chris Tomlin

"Our God" played on the car radio while my husband, Mike, stood in the parking lot at work in the early morning darkness, saying goodbye to one of his coworkers. After tomorrow, they will be off work with pay for 15 days. His goodbye was for two weeks, but it sounded like a forever goodbye.

Maybe it was.

I pulled away, leaving Mike at work, and unexpected tears pushed their way down my face. Alone in the car, I felt silly for crying. The tears erupted from some sad place deep inside but I couldn't locate the source. I came home to an empty house, which usually delights me, but today, I didn't want alone time. I wanted the companionship of Christian radio. I listened to music while I tidied up the kitchen, and the tears faded.

Until a guest pastor came on the radio and prayed. He reminded listeners that God is still in control, that He is still the Great Healer, that He still sees me, that He still orchestrates events for His glory and my good. The tears started again.

Suddenly, I knew why I cried. I was mourning life as we knew it two weeks ago. Life before COVID-19. I was mourning my friends I didn't see Sunday morning, and my dear Bible study ladies that didn't come to my house on Tuesday. I was mourning the freedom to do non-essential shopping on a whim. I was mourning life's routines that provided security and a sense of well-being. I was mourning two of my friends whose crucial surgeries were postponed indefinitely. I was mourning our parents, ages 78, 81, and 88, as they find themselves without the understanding and coping skills to negotiate this circumstance.

And as much as I didn't want to admit it, I was afraid. Afraid life would never be the same. Would my husband's job still be there to come back to in two weeks? Which of my family, friends, and acquaintances might be absent from us in two weeks? How much more of our retirement money would be gone in two weeks? Was two weeks long enough? Is two months even long enough? What will be left at the end?

I was sad. I was afraid. And I think I was a little angry. I've tried to live my life somewhat "prepared" for the unexpected. I expected the unexpected to be another terrorist attack, or a mass power grid outage crippling our nation, or World War III, or even nuclear war. I didn't expect the unexpected to be so insidious. So invisible. So sneaky. So unfair. So non-discriminating. So...unexpected.

And then I remembered. I remembered I had already crossed this bridge, made this choice. I distinctly remembered deciding who I would trust, what I would believe, how I would behave, and how I would respond in unexpected, painful, uncontrollable, and sometimes unbearable circumstances. I remember giving God the reigns of my life. I remember telling Him I trusted Him no matter what.

So, really, the decision's been made. Am I going to go back on it now? Am I going to question my whole life's direction to this point? Or am I going to remember what I already decided, and why I chose this path. Am I going to stay the course?

Of course I am. Where else could I go? And why?

I am reminded of this Bible passage: John 6:66-68 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

I willingly choose to trust the One who spoke the storm and the waves quiet to calm the hearts of his friends. The One who multiplied the bread and fish to ease the hunger of strangers. The One who wept for the loss of a friend, then brought him back to life. The One who broke social protocol to speak life to a woman drawing water at a well, a woman who had already been judged by her peers for her sexual immorality. I choose to trust the One who willingly gave Himself up to be beaten and nailed to a cross for crimes He didn't commit; the One who chose death so I could go to Heaven.

I choose Jesus again, right now, today. I choose His peace, His goodness, His unselfishness, His grace.

Life as we knew it may, indeed, be gone for good, but I still get to choose what I believe. I choose to believe He is in control and at work in this world right now, and I resolve that my behavior will reflect what I believe.

What does your behavior reflect? What or whom do you choose?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019



[ per-haps ]                                            
maybe; possibly:
Perhaps the package will arrive today

"Perhaps" is perhaps my new favorite word.  It might be one of my favorite words ever.

I rediscovered this word at a writing conference in North Carolina early this summer. The keynote speaker, Bob Hostetler, spoke on 9 words for a writer to remember, and one of the words was perhaps.

All summer I kept hearing my new word; it was on audiobooks, it was in songs, it was on the printed page, it was in blog posts. But it wasn't part of my daily conversation, and I wanted it to be.

Why? Here are five reasons I love this word:

1. Perhaps is a hopeful word. 
It reminds me of a child riding in the car with his mother, bold enough to ask, "Mom, can we get ice cream on the way home?"
And then the sweet answer, inspiring hope in the heart of the child, "Perhaps we can, sweetie."
2. Perhaps is a peaceful word.
Perhaps says to me, "What you're suggesting may or may not happen, but either way, it's okay."
There's no struggle in perhaps, no resistance, no commitment. Just possibility, and a simple acceptance of the end result.
"Perhaps I'll meet you at the pool later on."

3. Perhaps gives the benefit of the doubt, and chooses to believe the best.
"The cashier shorted me $1.00. Perhaps it was an oversight." 

4. Perhaps is a word which indicates our faith. It says, "I have enough faith to act on my belief."
The best example I find is in the Bible, in Luke 20:13 (the story didn't end the way the vineyard owner wanted it to, but regardless, he had faith enough to act on it):
"Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’"

5. Perhaps is a word full of promise.
"If you come for the week, we can visit the botanical gardens; perhaps do some sight-seeing and shopping!"

Here's a quick test for you: Fill your own words into the blank, "Perhaps _________."

How did you fill the blank? I'm betting you filled it with something positive and hopeful and promising.

Perhaps begs to be part of your daydream, part of your legacy, part of your future.

Perhaps it needs to be a bigger part of our conversation. Perhaps we need to be intentional in using this word. Perhaps, as a society, we need a resurgence of the blessings of this word.

What does perhaps promise you? What hope does it inspire in you?

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Redeeming What was Broken

A couple of months ago I broke the lid to an antique candy jar I purchased several years ago for my desk at work. I thought of all the things I could do with the lidless jar; then I thought of all the things I could do with the broken lid.

At the end of the day, I didn't have the energy to do any of it, so I threw the lid away and used the jar to anchor my puzzle box lid so it would stand up while I was "puzzling!"

Unredeemed potential.

Fast forward to last weekend. I visited an exhibition displaying various mediums of art and was particularly struck by a blue mosaic plate, similar to the one below. The plate at the exhibition was made of cobalt blue glass pieces, then artfully dotted with groupings of rhinestones and beads repurposed from old jewelry. It was a breathtaking piece.

Redeemed potential. Repurposed. Reworked. In its redeemed state, now more beautiful than the original pieces before they were broken.

What had to happen before the new mosaic emerged, classic and beautiful?

The original tiles had to be broken. And not just broken in one clean line. No, the creator probably used a tool like wheeled tile nippers to deliberately break the tiles into tiny, irregular pieces, nearly impossible to rebuild into its original function and form.

The piece had to be shattered. It had to lose its original identity. It had to yield to the creator's hand before it could be redeemed to emerge a breathtaking, beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of art.

How like this journey with Parkinson's Disease. I had to give up the familiar, the beautiful, the functional, the independent, the comfortable.

I had to give it up so I could be shattered into unrecognizable pieces that somehow still had to function en masse. I lay in dozens of pieces on the table in front of my Creator, unable to re-form myself; unable to restore function. I lay quiet, in tears, and waited because that's all I could do.

Then my Creator began to spread the glue that would hold the pieces in their new places. He reshaped them and reordered them with that painful wheeled tile nipper. And then He pressed them into the glue. As each little grouping was pressed in, I gained a new function. With this group, I learned to minister to others. This grouping stripped me of bitterness and gave me empathy and grace. This unexpected cluster of beads gave me a voice, a platform, and a message, preparing me for public speaking.

When He's done, He will apply the grout over the top, and the paint along the wooden edges. Then He'll take a sponge dipped in strong vinegar and tenderly wipe each tile clean of all the residue and grout obscuring its beauty. And He'll polish me until I shine.

I don't know where I am in the process, but I know those tile nippers hurt! I also know the Creator has a perfect plan, a diagram, a purpose that will make me beautiful and uniquely fitted to fill a spot only I can fill; to minister in a way only I can minister.

Trust the process. Lie prone before your Creator. Let Him have all the pieces. It's okay to cry when it hurts. He knows all about it, and I promise He will pick you up and polish you clean, and the end will be more beautiful than the beginning.

He will redeem what was broken.

Rest in that hope. Take heart, my friend. You are a beautiful mosaic being redeemed, made whole.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Many Masks of Parkinson's Disease by Guest Blogger, John Binder

I'd like to introduce our guest blogger, John Binder.

John is a regular contributor to an online forum dedicated to those with Parkinson's Disease, along with caregivers for those with Parkinson's.
I see him frequently offering an encouraging and honest word to those of us who, like himself, suffer from this disease. Parkinson's Disease
wears many masks, and in this post, John does a good job uncovering them. Thank you for joining me, and John, thank you for your
permission to share.

Here's John:

I don't write, but I have Parkinson's. If I were a writer, I would tell the world Parkinson's sucks.

I would tell the world the life I used to live is gone. I would share that my wife, my son, my daughter and my grandchildren don't have
the same person in their lives that used to confidently play a strong role there. I would tell the world that I hate the way the meds make
me feel, the fatigue I experience every day, the confusion that snares my brain. I would tell them about the fear I experience in the midst of night terrors, the snarling nausea that greets me in the afternoon, the constipation that ties up my gut, and the loss of smell that cheats me of the joy of roses. Then there's the embarrassment I experience when the impatient clerk at the grocery store sighs as I fumble with a dollar bill, or the hurt that I really feel when I fall, or the self-consciousness I feel when I wonder who may be watching as I can't control the tremors at church.

So many symptoms, so much weakness, and so few answers.

I would explore the unfulfilled dreams that are scattered on the sands on beaches of what I expected my future would be. I would tell everyone that I am scared. Every moment, it seems that more of my savings are drained for another med, another treatment another doctor. I would confess that wheelchairs, nursing homes, dementia, helplessness, and uncertainty look a lot different to me now than they did before my diagnosis.

But, I'm not a writer, so I can't write about the new stronger inner self I've found. I can't tell of the determination I've uncovered. I can't begin to express my appreciation to all who have propped me up with encouragement, strength, understanding, love, hope, and assistance when I need it. I can't tell of the others in my boxing class who are better off, worse off or in the same place as I, who count on me for encouragement, a laugh or a gentle nudge.

Since I'm not a writer, no one will know that I'm proud of myself for digging deeper, finding donors to help fund PD research, pressing the local Parkinson's chapter to start a new local support group or, at 65 years of age, beginning a challenging, muscle-aching, exhausting boxing program. The world will not know of my new-found humility as a man who needs help taking off his own socks at night. Because I'm not a writer, I also can't tell you of my renewed love for my wife of 45 years.

I'm not a writer, but I live with Parkinson's. I couldn't possibly be objective.

Parkinson's sucks.

Friday, March 22, 2019

My Memory Box

Challenged by a series of recent events, I've been doing some soul-searching of late. While the events are unrelated, there is a common thread they all share; one that causes me to be introspective and a little melancholy.

The first thing that happened was a result of a little too much TV time! In the span of one week, I saw an episode of NCIS and also a Hallmark movie in which a deceased parent/grandparent left behind a box of mementos, which eventually came to be discovered and treasured by their descendants. That made me think.

Another event contributing to my introspection was the funeral I attended yesterday at which the daughter of the deceased woman gave a beautiful recounting of her mother's life. Her mother was a meek but courageous person with unshakeable faith. She was kind, never sharp or biting, yet she still managed to speak the truth. I know these things to have been true of Inez Girdley.

And last week my niece asked a challenge question on social media:  "What is your greatest accomplishment in life? What are you most proud of?" That question haunted me for days because, while I was dissatisfied with my answer, I was powerless to honestly change it. How would you have answered that question?

All these events share a common thread:  When I'm gone, what will I leave behind? How will I be remembered and what will people say about me? What do I have worth leaving to someone and would it be anything they would actually find worthwhile? Better yet, what valuables do I have that would fit in a box? And, since we have no children, would anyone even want it anyway?

Well, I hope someone would want it; that someone would want to remember me.

What would I put in my box? Maybe my wedding rings or maybe a thumb drive with my writing works on it. Maybe I'd leave my Bible with all its markings and notes so someone who came behind me could see what blessed me. I think I'd also put things I inherited from my grandparents, mostly jewelry or coins, and my great-grandma's recipe book. And instructions about all the spiral bound notebooks they would find around the house--the tool I've used to keep notes and recipes and finances and Christmas wish lists and garden ideas over the last 20 years or so. I once told my niece if she ever wanted to know what my life was really like, she should collect all the notebooks all over the house and read them.

But I still have one more question, and maybe this one is the best question of all: If someone else were making a box that depicted their perception of my contributions during this life, what would it reflect? What would be in it? If they were recapping my life would they use words like "faithful," and "kind" and "generous?"

So at the end of the day, when I'm gone, I'd leave a box with my wedding rings, a thumb drive containing my writing, my Bible, a couple of pieces of family history, an old recipe book, and instructions about my notebooks. And I hope that at my funeral, people would remember and talk about the good things...the God things...about my life. Most of all, I hope they would say I was faithful to God and to my family and friends.

Maybe my memory box isn't as exciting as the one on NCIS (it had military awards and a mysterious key in it), but I hope it would turn someone toward Christ.

What about your memory box?  What would it say about you?                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Friday, February 15, 2019

Losing Me

"How would you describe yourself?" the doctor asked.

"What do you mean? How do I look? What makes me happy? What am I good at? Are you asking about my personality and character traits? There are a million ways to answer that question."

"Just tell me how you would describe yourself," he said again.

"Okay, then, I would say I'm intelligent, logical, and rational. I can be efficient under pressure. I'm competitive and goal-driven. I can be a procrastinator, but I can also get things done if I need to. And I'd say I'm a solid performer at work."

"Well..." the doctor hesitated, "you may need to find new ways to identify yourself."

That was how the conversation went between my doctor and me 10 months ago. And today I understand what he meant.

All the things I thought made me who I am are slipping out of my grasp because of this ugly disease.

I used to be a formidable force to be reckoned with if I really needed to get something done. I was dogged and determined and knew how to put on the pressure until I got action. Today I needed some of that fight and I was too tired to dig it out, and wound up in tears instead (amazingly, tears got about the same result, though!).

I used to be logical and could order a task list or a list of errands in the most efficient way in a matter of seconds. Now, I stand paralyzed in the hall trying to figure out whether to go to the bedroom and put on my shoes or to carry the empty cups to the kitchen first.

I don't know who I am anymore and that's terrifying. I still have grand ideas about parties and dinners and gardens and shopping, just like I always have. But my body won't perform what I dream anymore.

The things I used to be good at--being composed in the face of difficulty, the way I dealt with stress, my method of arriving at a conclusion, my ability to find the right word, the right to be comfortable in my own skin, my self-assurance and confidence, my physical balance and mental clarity--gone. All gone.

In their place is the ever-present fear that I will trip and fall, the literal paralysis when I can't decide what to do next, the concern of whether I can get out of a chair or put on my coat by myself, and the tears that threaten multiple times a day.

Who are we really? Are we simply the sum of what we can (or cannot) do, and how quickly (or slowly) we can do it?  I surely hope not.

Here's what I know about myself today:  I am (mostly) compassionate and kind. I am a Christian who hopes to be closer to God every day. I am a helper and wife to a wonderful godly man.  I am a storyteller and a writer. I am a good daughter and a loving aunt who's always there for my nieces and nephews. I am a good cook. I hope I am dependable in ministry and that I am a loyal friend. I still have big ideas I need to learn to manage.

Most of all, I am a daughter of the King.

That has to be enough. God, let my value come from you. This is a hard and terrifying lesson.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Because She Prayed

Early this morning as I sat working I received a message from a friend I haven't talked to in a while. It seems she had a dream she wanted to tell me about.

In her dream, she looked out her window to see parades of people in shades of black, white, and gray, mechanically moving along together, eyes straight ahead. As she looked, she began to recognize faces among the mindless. She called out but none responded or acknowledged her.  In a final effort to save those she knew, she began singing Come to Jesus, and one by one, the mindless heard, and changed from gray to vibrant colors. She began to sing louder and faster to waken more of the gray army. Instead, she woke herself and her husband by singing aloud in her sleep.

When she woke, she began praying for each of the people in her dream.

I was one of them. My friend tried to save me in her dream and prayed for me when she woke.

Here are the things she doesn't know:

  • I've never been clinically depressed, but I've been wondering if I'm headed that way. 
  • I haven't read my Bible for several days. 
  • God has been whispering to my heart but I keep putting Him off. 
  • I'm not SO far away, but I'm not as close as I was. 
  • I've been discouraged and have had trouble caring lately.
  • Other friends have been praying for me (I can tell) and trying to pull me back.                    

So what did I do after her message? What would you have done?

I listened to the song she had been singing because she sent me a link. Then I laid down my work, even though I was right in the middle of a project. I picked up my Bible and opened to the last place I had read in Isaiah. Before I read, I prayed and asked God if He would or could even speak to me from such a difficult and prophetical book. I think God might have laughed when I asked Him that question. He reminded me He spoke all of creation into existence in 6 days, so I pushed forward in Isaiah.

It was Isaiah 6 where the Seraphim are worshipping God and calling out "Holy, holy, holy." It was the very passage my husband had read as part of our worship service at church two weeks ago, to foster discussion about God's holiness. Interesting, but that wasn't my message for today, so I kept reading.

I got to verse 8 and knew this was God's message for me:

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”  And he said, “Go, and say to this people..."

It didn't matter what Isaiah was supposed to say to the people. The important part for me today was this: Would I say "Here I am. Send me."

I don't know where God is sending me and I don't suppose Isaiah did either. Doesn't matter.

I don't know how anyone will respond to whatever the message is. Doesn't matter.

I don't know if I can be trusted for this job. Doesn't matter.

I don't know if it will be painful or difficult for me. Doesn't matter.

All that matters is that I said, "Here I am. Send me." Then just to be sure I meant it, I said it again. Out loud. "Here I am. Send me."

I don't know the end of the story because I'm still in the middle. But God can send me wherever it is. I trust Him to sustain me. I volunteer to go. All because my friend prayed for me.

Is God prompting you to pray or encourage someone? Do it now. You don't know what battles he or she may be facing. It's not your job to know; only to obey. 

Do it now.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Do you Have A Tribe?

Tribe. It's not a new word, or even a new concept, but it seems to be making a resurgence. I've heard that word at least ten times in the last week. Out of the blue. Just like that. If you're not a Millennial, this concept of a tribe might be new to you. Think of it as a team, like in a team sport. It's a group of people working toward a common goal. But on another level, it's so much more than that.

What is a tribe? Do you have one? Do you need one? Does it even matter?

It matters. A lot.

In case you have somehow missed hearing this word from every medium and platform around you, it's most commonly used to describe a group of people who comprise your total support system. The people who laugh with you and cry with you. The people who are there for you.

"Tribe" is plural, indicating it's more than one person. It's intimate, indicating these people are more than acquaintances. It responds with communal wisdom, indicating your tribe gives you direction. It's a loyal group, indicating it's based on stable friendships. It's nurturing to its members, indicating it goes beyond traditional friendships. It's unified, indicating its group thought is similar to yours.

Today's "tribe" is a modern example of believers in community as described in the New Testament. It's a group of people who meet together regularly, meet each other's needs, and take responsibility when one of the group needs help. They share a common goal or perspective.

So, I'd define a "tribe" as a group of people who know you well and who are loyal, give you good advice, nurture your soul, and hold to the same values you do. Your tribe can be a group of friends who share a common interest, like my niece, Livvy's tribe. Most of them are young moms, and all of them are involved in one particular direct marketing company. Their shared interest was fertile ground for a tribe to develop.

My friend, Amy, recently lost her grandmother, and on social media, she referred to her family--her grandmother's descendants--as a tribe who supported each other in their time of need.

The last example is my own tribe: a group of ladies, most of whom attend my church and serve on a women's committee with me. They are the women who will pray for me on a moment's notice without demanding the full story. They are the women who text me randomly throughout the day to check on me, to say they are thinking of me, to see how I'm feeling, or to share a blessing or a prayer request. These are the people I know I could go to at any time of day or night with any kind of issue without fear of being judged. These women are my tribe.

Left to Right:  Robin, Me, Diane N., Amy, Nancy, Jean. Not pictured: Cinda and Diane G.

Now, why does it matter if you have a tribe and who they are? It matters because you become like your companions. Proverbs 13:20 says this:

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
    but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

My tribe is a group of women who generally hold the same values I do, worship the same God in the same way I do, and live life the way I do. That's important because I don't want to be influenced or counseled to behave foolishly or sinfully. With these ladies who hold the same values as I do, I know this won't happen.

Here are some verses from Proverbs that give us some guidelines for what our "tribes" should look like.

Proverbs 27:6 says this:

Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
    profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron,
    and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 24:6

For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Proverbs 27:9

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.

I want to be part of a tribe who tells me the truth, even if it hurts. I want my tribe to sharpen me and make me better. I want a tribe who gives me wise counsel I can trust, and who makes my heart glad. I want a God-approved tribe, and I'm so thankful that God has placed these ladies in my life.

Is your tribe God-approved? Are you better because of them? Are they better because of you?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

What Does it Mean to Be Brave?

brave [breyv] adjective brav-er, brav-est. possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance.

Before I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, I never thought about such things. Brave people were mostly warriors in sci-fi movies who fell on their swords to save nations. Or they were dying people in human interest stories who made lasting impacts before they passed.

They weren't people I knew, and they certainly weren't me.

Then suddenly people started talking about being brave. Even my niece, whose husband was deployed, started wearing a necklace that said, "Brave" on it.

And I thought, there's no such thing as being brave. If you have to take the next step and it leads you through a swamp, you simply take the next step because you don't have the option to just stop. There's no bravery there.

That's how I viewed my disease. I'm not brave for walking through it, because, really, what choice do I have? You have to have a choice in the matter before someone could call you brave. And I made light of the whole concept of bravery. I believed bravery was not a valid label for anyone to wear.

Then one day the fog lifted somehow and I understood: Brave isn't the action; it's the attitude behind the action.

In other words, it's how you face adversity, not whether you face adversity. We all face trials; that's not being brave. Being brave is facing them with courage, strength, grace, and peace.

Suddenly, I have new respect for the word brave. Suddenly, it's a valid, personal label. Suddenly, I want to be brave in my disease, brave in my writing, brave in life.

Yes, I want to be brave.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Don't Let Me Be...

...that kind of person.

Lord, don't let me be the person who rejoices when another is caught in wrong-doing. Don't let me be the person who thinks being right is more important than doing right. Don't let me be the person who sets about to uncover the unlovely in others, even if it helps prove my point.

Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV) says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Lord, help me rightly respond when
  • A politician of the opposing party is caught in a lie.
  • Someone who has wronged me is caught up in a tragedy of life.
  • That person I struggle to like is found with fault.
  • Others mount a public charge against one who is unintentionally wrong.
  • Social media "friends" attempt to sweep me along into their diatribe against policy, politicians, authorities, retailers, and 101 other things and people.

Lord, don't let me take delight in these circumstances. Remind me that all I am is only because of you. Repeat to me that I am not better than another of your creations. Restore my heart to loving and building up instead of tearing down. Release my desire to be right. Replace it with a desire to be single-focused on the task you have for me. Redeem me when I fail.

And while I do these things, Lord, help me stand firm against sin. Help me tell the truth, but let it be done in love. Help me recognize wickedness and call it out in a way that honors You, not me.

It's a fine line to walk, this task of not rejoicing in someone else's wrong-doing, but at the same time, calling out sin. How do we know the right way to approach wrong-doing? Here are some principles I am going to incorporate to help guide me and keep me true, because I am prone to arguing and "needing" to be right.

  1. Will my comments influence another person to do right? Or am I publicly railing against a politician or political party because I want to be heard, or win a debate?
  2. Do my comments point to God? Or are they structured to make me look good?
  3. How will I feel if I can't convince someone of their error? Will I be saddened because of their spiritual condition, or will I be angry because they didn't listen to me and respect my opinions?
  4. Am I sure I'm right? Maybe I should begin by examining God's Word and my own heart.
  5. Is the Holy Spirit prompting me to address this wrongdoing? Or am I simply looking for an excuse to tout my own opinion or win an argument?

Every wrong doesn't have to be addressed. Every fault doesn't have to be brought to light. I am not tasked with righting the world. I'm only tasked with keeping my own heart right with God and acting in accordance with His Word and the Spirit's leading.

Lord, don't let me be that person who rejoices in another's fault.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Word for 2019

Have you noticed a trend in how people are approaching the new year? It used to be common practice to establish new year's resolutions, but in the last few years, I've seen a shift. Many people are choosing a word or a phrase to carry with them into the new year.

I've never been one to make new year's resolutions because they never lasted more than a week, but I am intrigued with the idea of a guiding word or phrase. So much so, in fact, that I decided to jump on the bandwagon with a phrase of my own.

It all started when two different friends posted the same "game" on social media, asking their friends to comment with a guiding word that started with the first letter of your first name. So, if your name is Susan you might post "shine." If your name is Bethany you might choose "balance."

I chose to comment "dream." What began as a game on social media took root in my heart and I couldn't shake my new word. A couple of days later another friend posted a status about praying for the impossible. I knew then that my phrase was complete:

Dream the Impossible.

This phrase carries so much meaning in so many ways. I had been boxed in at work for so many years that I forgot how to dream; forgot what it felt like to find a bright star, set your sights on it, and head towards that star tiny step by tiny step. I forgot what it felt like to look beyond today. I forgot to what great heights a dream can carry you.

I want to remember how to dream. But I don't want just any dream. I want a BIG dream. I want a dream so big that you might call it impossible. I want a dream so big that only God could make it happen.

I want to dream the impossible.

What do I want to dream of? I dream of writing and publishing a book. I dream of being well and winning over Parkinson's Disease. I dream of having insurance to pay for tests I need to have done. I dream that my husband could come home from his second job and truly enjoy retirement. And I dream that our financial needs would be met on a monthly basis

Dream the Impossible. We serve a God who specializes in those kinds of dreams.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Week of Pillars


The end-of-year holidays aren't even finished and my body already hates me. I have eaten candy, sugar, chips, junk food, soda pop, punch, fried food, and dairy at four parties so far this month, and this evening we are going to our friends' house where they'll try to unload more sweets on us. And finally, we'll have more junk food on Monday night for New Year's Eve.

And then there's my house...oh, my! We have been gone almost every day, and "Christmas" is still strewn all over the place. And, just to be perfectly transparent, here's proof:

I'm really not one for making big New Year's resolutions, or turning over a new leaf, or crash dieting to start the new year, but something has to be done! I think it's time for me to hit the "restart" button; to take away permission to self-destruct, and start feeding my body and soul healthful, nourishing things.

So, how, exactly, does one accomplish that kind of restart?

I have five pillars I resort to when life is out of control, and these pillars never fail to bring me back to center when I'm in a spiral. I usually adhere to these pillars for one week, until I finally start to feel solid ground under my feet again. I call this my "Week of Pillars." Here they are:

Pillar 1:  Eat at home. Every day, every meal, every time for a week. Eating at home slows the busyness, improves the quality and nutritional value of what you eat, and helps the family talk to each other again.

Pillar 2:  Daily devotions. It doesn't matter so much where you read in your Bible as it does that you just read somewhere every single day, and preferably at the same time each day. It doesn't have to be a huge passage, and it doesn't even have to be from the same book of the Bible every day. Reading your Bible daily for a week will pull your mind and heart back from the temporal to the eternal. It will reset your focus on what matters. And it will finally cause you to be quiet before God so you can hear His voice again.

Pillar 3:  Establish a consistent bedtime and wake time. Just do it. It will bring routine back into your life and it will provide an anchor for your day. Chances are, if you have been eating like I have, your body is longing for rest, nutrition, and hydration. Give yourself the rest you need, establish a schedule, and re-learn the discipline of routine.

Pillar 4:  Stay home. For a whole week, don't go anywhere you don't absolutely have to go. When you get home from work, stay home. Period. Don't run out for coffee. Save your Christmas returns until next week. Don't even go to the grocery if you can make do. Come home, stay home. Your mind will begin to rest, and finally, it will clear. You'll make yourself busy at home, and suddenly, the house will be picked up and home will be a place you want to be. Stay home for a week.

Pillar 5:  Drink water. Every time you feel bloated or angry at yourself for what you've done to your body, drink water. Every morning when you get up, drink a glass of water. Every time you mess up and eat one of the dozens of candy bars lying around your house, drink a glass of water. And every time you drink water, remind yourself of its healing benefits, its cleansing power. Imagine every glass of water erasing something you wish you hadn't done or eaten over the holiday. Pretend each glass of water is a fresh start, purifying you from your past indiscretions. Drink water. Lots of water.

I have used this "Week of Pillars" for years, and not once has it failed to bring me back to center. I'm not dramatically skinnier or more spiritual or more organized at the end of the week, but I am more settled, more disciplined, and more ready to start my year when I finish my "Week of Pillars."

Give it a try and see if it helps make your heart and mind ready for 2019. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Very Worst, Very Best Christmas Ever

Just for fun... if you have a little person in your care, they might like you to read this story to them! This is the true story of how I found my little teddy bear when I was 6 years old.

The Very Worst, Very Best Christmas Ever

Once upon a long, long time ago, an almost-new little brown teddy bear started out on a great adventure with his little boy. It was a cold, rainy December day when the very worst thing and the very best thing happened to that almost-new little brown bear.

The day of the great adventure dawned dark and gloomy, but that didn’t matter to Little Boy. At first light his eyes bounced open wide. He squeezed the little brown bear and said, “Wake up, Bear! Today is the day I am going to visit Santa Claus.”

Before he could go on his great adventure Mama said Little Boy had to make his bed. And so he did. He crawled up on the bed to smooth the wrinkles away, but when he slid down to the floor, there were more wrinkles than before. But Little Boy didn’t mind.. He was going to see Santa.

After his bed was made, Mama said he had to eat his breakfast. And so he did. He chewed his bacon and toast as fast as he could until Mama made him slow down. But Little Boy didn’t mind. He was going to see Santa.

After he ate his breakfast, Mama told him to brush his teeth. And so he did. He left little drops of green toothpaste on the sink so he wiped them away with his washcloth before Mama saw them. But Little Boy didn’t mind. He was going to see Santa.

After he brushed his teeth, Mama told him to put on his coat and hat and scarf. And so he did. His scarf got tangled in the zipper of his jacket and he asked Mama to help. But Little Boy didn’t mind. He was going to see Santa.

Then Little Boy asked a question. “Mama, can I bring Bear?”

And Mama said yes. Little Boy and Bear didn’t know this was the beginning of the very worst thing.

In the car Little Boy hugged Bear tight. He had practiced being good all year and now he practiced what he would tell Santa when he sat on his lap. Little Boy whispered into Bear’s fuzzy, floppy brown ear all the things he wanted to say. Cold hard raindrops made a snapping sound as they hit the window, but Little Boy didn’t mind. He was going to see Santa.

Mama steered her blue car into the shopping center where Santa’s house sat in the corner where the sidewalks met. Little Boy looked around. Santa was having a very busy day, and Mama had to park far away. Mama and Little Boy and Bear stood together at the back of a very long line and they waited. And they waited. And they waited.

The rain kept raining and the wind kept blowing until all of them were rain-soaked and cold and tired. Little Boy started to cry, so Mama found a dry place for them to rest under a tent-like canopy outside a toy store. Mama set her bags and her purse down on the dry sidewalk under the canopy and Little Boy set Bear down in the store window sill. They all rested and waited until the rain stopped, then Mama picked up her bags and purse with one hand and took Little Boy’s hand with the other. And then the very worst thing happened; Little Boy was so excited to see Santa that he forgot to pick Bear up from the windowsill. Bear could only watch as Little Boy faded into the busy crowd.

Bear tried with all his might to throw himself off the window sill, but he couldn’t move even one inch. Bear tried to call out, but he couldn’t make even one sound. Mama and Little Boy were fading farther and farther away and Bear could only cry. Little tears fell from his plastic eyes, but he was already so wet no one could tell.

Bear waited and waited but Mama and Little Boy didn’t come. Bear was wet and cold when he had a sad thought: no one would ever call the almost-new little brown bear almost-new again. Because he wasn’t. Even if he dried out and warmed up, he feared he would never be the same. He was wet clean through to his stuffing.

The windowsill where Bear sat was close to the ground, and people on the sidewalk passed right by him without even a glance. He had never felt so alone. He hoped Little Boy and Mama would come back for him, but in his little bear heart he knew better. The rain had started up again and the wind blew cold against the windowsill where Bear sat.

Quite suddenly Bear found himself eye to eye with a little blonde, brown-eyed girl. She was tugging on the arm of the lady next to her. “Mamaw, look! A little teddy bear, and he’s all wet. Please, can I take him home and dry him off? He must be lost. If we don’t take him, what will happen to him?”

Mamaw hesitated and the little girl spoke quickly, “Please Mamaw...look how sad he is.”

“Well, honey, we don’t know where he’s been or what kind of germs he’s carrying.”

“But Mamaw, you can clean him up, can’t you?” The little girl clearly had absolute faith in her Mamaw. Bear missed his little boy but he was starting to like this little girl.

“I suppose I can.” Mamaw hesitated and the little girl grabbed Bear.

“So we can take him home with us?” the little girl asked.

If Mommy had been here she would have said, “We’ll leave him here in case his owner comes back for him.”

If Daddy had been here, he would have said, “We’re not taking that wet thing home!”

If Baby Brother had been here, he would have screamed and cried and no one would have listened to the little girl at all..

But Mommy and Daddy and Baby Brother weren’t here. Mamaw was here. And Mamaw said, “Yes, honey, we can take him home,” then turning to the bear she said, “Okay, let’s get you home and cleaned up, little fella.” Mamaw put her purchases together in one shopping bag, then swept Bear up and deposited him in the empty bag.

Bear heard the car door slam and felt the car moving, but it was dark in the bag where Mamaw had put him. Little Girl was asking if she could get him out and hold him, but Mamaw said, “Not yet.”

Then Little Girl said, “His name is Fuzzy, Mamaw. That’s because he was almost new and I can tell he was Fuzzy before he got wet,”

“That’s a good name, Honey.”

His little bear heart surged warm and he would have smiled if he could have. Fuzzy! His name was Fuzzy. He had never had a proper name before. Little Boy had just called him Bear.

When they reached Mamaw’s house, she wasted no time cleaning him up. Oh, the things she did to that little brown bear! Mamaw used sprays and powders and washcloths and towels and hair dryers until she finally pronounced him clean.

And it was then that the very best thing happened to Fuzzy. Little Girl picked him up and she never let him go. She slept with him and she dragged him from Mamaw’s house to her own house. She set him up on the bed every day so he could see when she came home from school. He met her other dollies and stuffed animals, and soon became fast friends with them. He had never been so loved in all his life.

He was so loved, in fact, that over time he lost his little red mouth. Little Girl took him to Mamaw’s and she made him a new one. And then he lost an eye. Little Girl took him to Mamaw’s and she made him a new one out of an old button. When his stuffing started coming out under one arm and then under the other, Little Girl took him to Mamaw’s and she re-stuffed him and patched his torn places with cloth the color of his fur.

Years passed as years always do, but Fuzzy and Little Girl remained the best of friends. Fuzzy began to lose his fur. And Little Girl grew up. But she still tucked the little bear into bed with her every night. Sometimes when she was sad she would hug the little bear tight and he would get wet with her tears. But he always knew just how to make her feel better.

In time, Little Grown-up Girl got married and had children of her own, but she never forgot the little brown bear. As a matter of fact, every Christmas, Little Grown-up Girl reads the story of the Very Worst, Very Best Christmas Ever to her own children.

And, to this very day, every morning when Little Grown-up Girl opens her bedroom closet, she looks up on the closet shelf and blows a kiss to Fuzzy, the old, raggedy, almost-new little brown bear. And Fuzzy winks right back at her with his best button eye.


Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Meditations

Early Morning
Christmas Meditations

It’s too early to be late;
And it’s too late to go back to bed.
I look outside and down the hill.
Even the highway is silent, black.
I’m awake.

So I tiptoe through the house,
Turn on all the Christmas lights
And sit in front of them,
Cuddle under a blanket,

We have a new tree topper
Made of branches and vines.
It’s rustic and simple and warm,   
Not quite spectacular.
A star.

It reminds me of the honesty
Of that first Christmas night:
Tired mama, desperate daddy
Young, overwhelmed, uncertain,

Unfamiliar countryside,
Bustling people, pushing, loud
Mama begins to cry,
Daddy sees a hostel and calls out to
The innkeeper.

I don’t know if it was a cave,
Maybe it was a just a house
Where people and animals slept
But I know there was no room
For a baby.

Not even for a little tiny person
From the house and lineage of David,
Not even for a baby whose name
Was God with Us, Messiah,

How can a person be at once so tiny,
Be so kingly, so qualified, still so common,
The joy of peasant parents,
Meant to carry the destiny of the world
On His shoulders?

Before He was birthed in Bethlehem,
Before time, when he was I AM,
His days were allotted, chosen, assigned.
He would be misunderstood, unjustly accused,

A heavenly baby wrapped in humanity,
Baby with a burden of knowledge,
Born with a mission, a purpose.
Was there ever a moment
Of innocence?

I look again at the star
Resting atop our tree.
Lowly symbol, humble beginning
Baby now exalted, God of the universe.

All our toys, our paper and bows and noise,
The self-gratification, intolerance,
Willful, selfish focus, the expectation,
Oh, God, forgive us.
How could we?

So great a sacrifice ignored,
Humble beginnings exploited
God of creation abandoned
Gift of life pushed away,

God forgive us our failures,
Make our unwilling minds remember,
Our selfish hearts repent.
Empty us, so you can fill us with
Your love.

It’s still too early to be late;
And It’s too late to go back to bed.
I look at our tree topper, our star.
My heart sings with joy. I am alive.
I’m awake.

--Dory Oda