Friday, September 22, 2023

Enduring the Burden and Gift of Living

What's the bravest thing you ever did?

Getting up this morning.

Cormac McCarthy,  The Road

Be honest now, have you ever felt like this? I have...for many, many years. As a matter of fact, it's hard for me to remember a time when I haven't felt like this...

You see for years I have dealt with anxiety and depression, stealthy enemies that crept in and smothered my emotions and thoughts with fear and doubt. Too ashamed to talk about it, I did all I could to ignore and overcome them. My heart cry during that time was, I can’t find my way home so I labeled this season, The Dark Night of My Soul, though really it should’ve been, The Dark Days and Nights of My Soul.

During those years I carried guilt. What was wrong with me? I had so much to be thankful for! A beautiful home, a loving husband, kids and grandkids that brought joy, gardens, books, you name it, they were all a part of my life. But in the midst of all of the blessings there was always a knife, poised and ready to puncture a hole in any happiness or joy that dared to creep in. So I learned to dance very quickly, attempting to keep one step ahead of the despair and darkness. But at some point every dance becomes exhausting and you have to stop and rest. And that’s when I decided it was time to find my way home or I couldn’t go on.

There was a mantra that I would repeat to myself over and over again every day, Just do the next thing. Whether it was getting out of bed, walking through the bedroom door, taking the dog out, throwing in the laundry, there were many options of next things...things that made me feel I was alive and that there was a reason to go on living. But the journey looked long and hard and wearying. How long, Oh Lord...please, please meet me in the pain.

Why am I sharing this? Definitely not because I like to be vulnerable. But because I think there are others out there who are in the same situation and could use a word of hope. Like an infant starving for its bottle, arms flailing, frantic to find nourishment, we all want to be at rest and at home, not only in our own selves, but in the arms of the one Who loves us and is greater than anything we are experiencing.

So now is where I tell you about a book I recently discovered...a book that I wish I had years ago, though God knows it wasn't even written until this year: On Getting Out of Bed, The Burden and Gift of Living’ by Allen Noble. When I first saw it at Barnes and Noble I admit I thought, "How can any book so small be valuable? The answers I need would be contained in a tome of at least a thousand pages." So I walked away and left it there. When I got home it haunted me, so I looked it up online and read the reviews.  And parts of the book. And I knew...I knew it was the answer to my heart's cries all these years. It couldn't come in fast enough!

The book begins with two facts: First, that life IS hard. It can be so painful and monotonous and empty that we cannot begin to comprehend it until we are right in the middle of it and even then it doesn’t make sense. Human existence inescapably involves suffering. This suffering is the normal experience of being in this world. Beauty and love and joy are normal too, but so is suffering.  In a strange sort of way that brought me comfort, knowing that what I was feeling was normal!

Secondly, our being in the world counts for something…our choosing to get out of bed day after day after day says something…to ourselves and those watching us. It says that we are valuable, that our lives are valuable, that we are good because God declared it, even when it’s hard to go on, even when life doesn't feel good, even when goodness seems unimaginable. The bottom line is, life is valuable because God created it. You are valuable because God created you. And all He does is Good. We are not mistakes! Through our suffering and perseverance, through our rising and falling, choosing to trust Him one choice, one day, one action at a time, we testify to others there is value to living. No matter what.

Is life easy? I wish. At times it can be unbearably hard. The older I get the more I realize that I don’t have answers. I used to think I did…for everything. Once I knocked up against the truth that I can’t live my life on my own, that I desperately need not only a Savior but a Helper to guide me, it became normal and okay to be needy. And accepting that truth, along with my imperfections and weaknesses gives me the courage every day to wake up and turn to Him as my only Hope. This may seem weak, but really it’s empowering. Empowering enough to give me the courage to get out of bed one day at a time, acknowledging that He, and His Word and His Power have never failed. Never have. Never will.

I wish I could give you all the wisdom and truth of this book in my measly blog. But I can’t because it’s a story God needs to write on each of our hearts as He teaches us more about Himself and who we are in Him. I’m not sure we ever truly live until we know those things, and even then we will spend a lifetime coming to understand them.

I need to finish...before I thought of putting all of these ramblings down in this blog I sat in my rocker, caressing two heavy round rocks that I had found when we were up in Maine recently. I brought them home for the reason that they meant something to me, though at the time I’m not sure I understood what that was. One is a large wishing rock, dark on both ends with a wide, perfect, white line running around the middle. The other is a rock speckled with mica that glints in the sun. As I sat there rocking, I ran my hands running over them, feeling at peace. It was then that I realized that one of the reasons I chose those rocks was because of how well rounded and unique they were. I have always been fascinated by rounded rocks, softened sea glass, and polished shells and what it took to make them that way.

In that moment I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me, ‘Your life is like these rocks. Your sufferings and trials and tribulations are rounding you out also, softening you, removing your rough edges. These rocks appeal to you because of what I have done in them. You can trust me to make something beautiful of your life, a work that will testify of my goodness, faithfulness, and love.’

So that is the gift I leave you with, my friends. The truth that no matter what we are going through, what our lives look like, He will work through it all and perfect that which concerns us. Because He is good. And He loves us. Forever and ever. Amen.

PS~ Get the book. You'll thank me for it. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Neither life nor death nor boat trips…

My husband and I are among the strange breed of people known as Birders. We like to watch birds, study birds, learn from them and especially feed them using all our hard earned money.

Most of our vacations/trips are based on birds. Where they are at that time and what’s there determine where we will go. It’s not everybody’s idea of fun but we love the camaraderie of birders and it gives us opportunities to bond, travel, and most times to have fun.

That’s why several months ago, with our 45th wedding anniversary coming up, I decided to purchase two tickets on a pelagic—a deep sea boating trip to spot birds…birds that often live, breed, and die out on the deep open ocean waters and can only be seen there—out of Hatteras on the Outer Banks of NC. I knew it would make my husband happy and it did. And I was glad it made him happy as it gave me a mite bit of trepidation. I swear he was born in the ocean, boat in one hand and fishing pole in the other. Me? Give me land or give me death.

So for months we planned, figuring that the better prepared we were, the easier things would go. This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing and by gosh, it was going to be perfect!

We pictured ourselves on the bow of the ship—think Titanic movie, which, btw, we have never seen—wind in our hair, arms outstretched embracing the wonder of it all, eyes lifted up to behold the rare birds hovering over our heads. We were laughing and life was good. 

The reality? Hanging over the railing as we hurled whatever was in us into the deep blue sea. All day. ‘Keep your eyes on the horizon and you’ll be fine’ was a lie. When we watched The Big Year with Steve Martin and he found himself in the exact same nightmare, his arch-rival standing next to him saying, “Pitching and tossing, pitching and tossing” I thought it was hilarious. It’s not. Not in the least. 

Sea-sickness = the desire for death. I went down for the count first…my sweet husband strong and well, fetching wet wipes and holding my hand as a lifeline….reminding me I needed to live for the sake of the kids and grandkids and the dogs. 

For a brief, glorious moment, early in the trip, not yet at peak sickness, we sat together on the deck listening to calls going out for one rare bird after another- a White-tailed Tropicbird, Shearwaters and Jaegers, and Petrels, all life-birds for us. When not vomiting, I cheered and applauded along with everyone else. I may not have been at my best but I could still embrace the wonder.

At least until I turned to my pale, sweaty husband and realized he was going to faint, which he did, onto the deck floor. The rest of the trip he had a great relationship with the bottom rung of the railing.

At that point I realized that this was not going to end well. Whereas before he could be strong for me, now I needed to not only be strong for myself, but for him also. I could feel my blood sugar tanking (bad news for a diabetic who couldn’t hold anything down-water and meds included) and my prayers become urgent and passionate. All I had was Christ and at that point I sure hoped He would be enough.

By the time we were told, 8 hours into our trip, that we were finally returning to land…2.5 hours away…I wasn’t sure if I wanted to shout Hallelujah or throw myself over the railing. I took comfort from others who had been through the same thing and yet were alive to tell about it. I did not take comfort from those who for the entire trip stood at the railing, expensive cameras pointed to the sky, joking and laughing like it was the greatest day of their lives. Bless them.

Anyway, we survived. Once the boat docked, I wanted to bend down and kiss terra firma but my legs wouldn’t let me. I think I threw her a kiss instead. As we staggered back to the car and tried not to gag as we drove past the church fish fry we had hoped to attend, we went back to our cottage, wrapped ourselves up in blankets and went straight to bed. Different beds because my husband collapsed horizontally across the big one. Happy 45th Anniversary to us.

The next day found us sitting in the screened-in-porch, still unsteady, slowly sipping coffee, hoping the worst was over. By then I had had time to process what had happened and believe it or not I was happy. Definitely not for the way our anniversary went…I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. No, that I was alive. And my husband was alive. We were survivors, we had survived! Together! While my husband kept apologizing for the disaster, which I assured him was not his fault, I blew his mind by saying I’m glad it happened!

This trip made me realize…

1- What doesn’t kill you can make you stronger. When my husband sat next to me, holding me upright, wiping the vomit from my mouth, anchoring me with his hand and words of encouragement, I couldn’t have loved him more…not even if he took me to a 5 star Michelin restaurant. That my friends is love.

2- Marriage will never be a smooth ride. It can’t be. It’s made up of two sinners walking through a broken world together. There will be ups and downs, risings and fallings, tossings to and fro. But once you’ve made the commitment to board the boat and you’re in waters over your head, there’s no option to get off. 

3- Marriage is also full of wonder and take-your-breath-away moments…children, pets, family parties and vacations, homes, gardens, things that you have heard and seen and done that have drawn you closer to one another and the heart of God. All freely given and gifts of greater value than anything you will ever buy…the deep purple color of the Gulf Stream, the intake of breath when seeing a rare bird, Flying Fish sparkling as they jumped over wave after wave. Priceless.

4- You can’t do marriage alone…you not only need others to cheer you on, you need God to give you grace and strength. Every. Single. Day. It’s His way or the highway. And trust me, it’s a rough road without Him. There was one man, Liam, on this trip who, on a previous trip, had spent his entire day at the railing. And he was supposed to be one of the guides! He took one look at us and chose to come alongside us…encourage us, make himself available to us…all because he wanted us to have a good trip in spite of the circumstances. Every marriage needs a Liam. And we need to be Liam to other marriages.

5- A circle of three is strong. Somewhere along the journey you realize that the hard times bond you together and the good times make that bond stronger. There is nothing that can take you down for the count because with God for us, who or what can come against us? I can’t tell you how many times when one of us has been weak, the other has been strong. And when both of us are weak? God will be our strength…a perfect picture of that boat trip. 

6- After 45 years of marriage I would do it all again. And I don’t say this lightly as I now know what that means. Marriage costs. Dearly. It’s not for the faint of heart…the honeymoon is on a limited time basis and after that there is a long, long stretch of life…the beautiful and ugly…the heartbreaking and joyous…laughter, tears, anger, disappointment, boredom, and moments that take your breath away. But somewhere on the journey, you realize there’s nobody you would rather live life with. That be you, Ted.

I confess as I disembarked, I swore that I would never, ever be caught dead on another pelagic. 

But then again, as I was leaving the boat, I heard someone say, ‘Go to Montego Bay in California. There are no waves… it’s smooth sailing and you’ll see all sorts of amazing birds and whales and marine life that you won’t see anywhere else.’

Hmmm…we’ve never been birding in California…

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

What to do, what to do?

Yesterday somebody asked what I thought about a situation. I know what I felt. But that doesn’t always end well.

I struggled all night thinking about it and praying about it and woke up this morning and realized the answer is, ‘It’s not about what I think, it’s about what God says about it.’ And that allowed me to let go and rest that I could trust God‘s Word to speak into the situation.

It’s been a while since I’ve read through Proverbs. It’s been a while since I have loved the Word. Struggling through Covid and depression for the last several years has made me feel as though I’ve been living in a bubble…one that has been hard to pop and get out of. But one day in church the questions were asked, ‘What do I love the most? Where do I invest my time and money and energy?’ And in that moment, the bubble burst and everything came into focus. With great sadness I realized that what I should love the most I do not love the most. And it grieved me. From that moment on, I set my mind to choose Christ, His Word, and time with Him as my priority. Was it easy? No, not at all. I hadn’t realized until then how a spirit of compromise and laziness and lukewarmness had entrapped me. Making any change for God is a battle against the world, the flesh and the devil.

Now it’s not like I haven’t read the Bible or didn’t know how to pray. The truth is, I had just stopped loving those things and desiring them. I had allowed other loves to take their place. But God, in His great mercy, knew that apart from these things I would not be set free to walk in light and life and joy again. Of all the choices I made, spending time in Proverbs has given me the greatest blessing.  It’s provided me with all the tools I need to rise above this world…a veritable smorgasbord on how to think and live for God. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought, ‘If I can just apply this to my life, I can walk in faith and hope and victory.’

It’s hard to make Godly choices, isn’t it? It’s hard to deny the flesh and do what God says. It costs us something. But sin cost Him everything. And He knows the destruction sin inflicts on us, our families, and others. And He loves us too much to leave us steeped in it. 

I had a second revelation this morning that goes hand in hand with the first one: We are only asked to speak His Truth in love. What someone chooses to do with it is their choice. And if it’s rejected, they are not rejecting us, but God. Much as we wish we could, we can’t make people desire truth or walk in it.  Some of us are called to plant seeds, some to water them, and some to harvest them. But each of us must do our part.

I need to confess that sometimes I am tempted to say, ‘Heck, everyone else is doing it. Why even bother?  God doesn’t seem to care.’ We look around us and we see so much that doesn’t line up with what God asks of us…people doing what is right in their own eyes and seeming to get away with it. But just like the wheat and the tares, God allows the bad to grow with the good for a season. But do not be deceived, there will be a sorting someday. Like it or not, agree with it or not, we cannot ignore the truth:  that in spite of what we feel, or see around us, or are tempted to do, we, as His children, are called to be a Holy people…bought at a great price… to live lives that honor God and testify of His amazing work in our lives. This is the hope we can offer to a lost and dying world. Otherwise we are no different than the world.

I haven’t written a blog in a long time. But I felt burdened to write this one. We all need each other desperately whether we realize it or not. We’re called to walk alongside one another, encourage one another, and challenge one another on in holiness. One day at a time.

One choice at a time.

One word at a time.

But under it all, is the mandate that we must love. We must love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and we must love others. Love takes different forms and appears in different ways, but if we do it His way, it will be always be known as Love. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Knowing God

I’m sharing this from a FB post I put up. Since it’s so similar to a blog…albeit a mini one…I thought I’d put it here also. And yes, I have a real blog in the works…😉


Question- Suppose we who call ourselves by His name do not know Him? Rather a self-constructed idea of who we think God is? Or what we want Him to be? Or what our culture has turned Him into? 

I’m reading The Knowledge of The Holy by Tozer for a class. My first thought was, after initially skimming the chapter titles, ‘Oh, I’ve known this stuff for years.’ I lied. I am blown away by what I am learning. 

I challenge you to read this book and not come out changed…and repentant…with the same awe and honor and respect that inspired the worship of God in saying, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.’ And all that means. And it means everything. 

There is not a chapter in this book that has not caused me to sit and think deeply about what each attribute of God means in my relationship to Him…just this one chapter on the Transcendence of God, which was my reading for the day, included this…

“Wherever God appeared to men in Bible times the results were the same—an overwhelming sense of terror and dismay, a wrenching sensation of sinfulness and guilt. When God spoke, Abram stretched himself upon the ground to listen. When Moses saw the Lord in the burning bush, he hid his face in fear to look upon God. Isaiah‘s vision of God wrung from him the cry, “Woe is me for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips.

These experiences show that a vision of the divine transcendence soon ends all controversy between the man and his God. The fight goes out of the man and he is ready with the conquered Saul to ask, “My Lord what will you have me to do?” Conversely the self assurance of modern Christians, the basic levity presented in so many of our religious gatherings, the shocking disrespect shown for the person of God are evidence enough of deep blindness of heart. Many call themselves by the name of Christ, talk much about God, and pray to Him sometimes, but evidently do not know who He is.” 

After reading this, one of the first things that came to mind was an article that I read the other day by Anne Lamott about how upset she was at a coach praying at the 50 yard line. I’m not going to go into the whole thing, you can read it online, but one of the things she does is use some of the names she has used elsewhere for God…the great universal spirit, the cheeseburger, Gus, Not Me, and a slew of other ones that sound cute but in reality? I wonder if she would actually call God these things in a face-to-face encounter with Him. I’m thinking not. 

Suppose knowing Him is the most important thing we can do? How would it change me? You? The world? Suppose NOT knowing Him has eternal consequences?

We hear all the time that God is Love. And this is true. But His love is demanding and it came at a great price to Him and it costs us something. And He’s so much more than love. He’s also Just. And Love and Justice walk hand-in-hand. Who is this God we profess to follow? To love? Is there any higher calling than to grow in understanding of Him? 

Oh, and those old English quotes at the beginning of each chapter? Nobody said you have to read them. Just saying…😉

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

No, hiding is not an option

Like many of you I own a dog. Or better yet, it owns me. Matter-of-fact, three dogs own me. And my heart.

Now don’t get me wrong, if I speak Christianese, I know Christ owns my heart but there’s something about a warm and snuggly body pressed close and a hopelessly devoted look from the eyes of a puppy who would lay down her life for me if she had to, though I’m not exactly sure how a Chihuahua would do that? Adore you to death? Anyway, it’s wonderful to be worshipped even if I don’t deserve it. And this is my state as I begin this blog…

We just returned from 10 days in Arizona. Well, it ended up being 11 days because the airlines couldn’t get their act together nor could nature so the trip took a little bit longer than we planned. During this time away from home, and all its obligations and responsibilities, I had a chance to look and listen with new eyes and ears. I have to admit that I left home discouraged, teetering on depressed, and wondering if I would even have a home to return to the way things are going in the world. But I went anyway, figuring if the world did blow up, I’d rather die doing something I love. 

So here I am, two days after returning home, thankful the world did NOT blow up…yet anyway. My house is in chaos, remnants everywhere of all we did on said trip: cameras, binoculars, bird books, treasures picked up along the way etc. My floors have drips of doggy pee from one dog who has kidney disease and scattered rice and chicken, now dehydrated, from meals that kept them alive while we were gone. I know I should be up and about getting things done since we have appointments this afternoon, but in the scheme of life I don’t think it really matters. What does matter is a puppy pressed tight against me wanting to be loved. And I’m more than happy to respond.

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I’m not sure why except that maybe I didn’t have anything to say. Or that my brain was too jumbled to put into words what my heart was hearing. Or I can blame it on Covid-fog, which I still struggle with. I really thought, like most of you, that 2022 was a new beginning…old things would pass away and all that jazz. But the old things are still with us and we’ve managed to pick up some new crisis’ along the way. Add the old and the new together and we have the makings of an entirely new creature, one that seems uncontrollable and able to morph by the hour, dragging us down as it does so.

When I left here I was dealing with anger at the rape of so much land nearby and the steady overtaking of new developments and people moving into the area thinking we have what they want. But the more people that come, the less of it we have. When we moved here, I-485, the perimeter expressway around Charlotte, didn’t exist. Now, in typical government hindsight, the-powers-that-be have realized that though they did eventually see a need for said expressway, they should’ve made it with more lanes.  So now they are widening the road to accommodate all the people who decided to make this home, resulting in utter chaos and traffic jams and dangerous driving conditions, not to mention putting concrete dividers between the roads. Grrr…a perfect death trap for any animal trying to get across. Yeah, the dream was becoming a nightmare and getting out of here seemed attractive.

And let’s not even talk about the suffering all around me and throughout the world. Every day, my heart broke over the damage sin was inflicting on people and animals and creation. I felt like I was suffocating under a blanket of evil and I was tired of trying to breathe...very, very tired.

And I was angry. And God knew it. 

Last week, as we stood high on a hill overlooking the Catalina valley, I told Ted that I was born to live in Arizona. Which isn’t true because God knew where I needed to be born etc. etc. (thanks Bill Gothard) but it was a slight consolation to me that it could’ve been a cosmic mistake that I ended up on the East Coast rather than the Southwest. The open spaces and vastness of the nighttime sky bring healing to my soul. I don’t feel like I’m suffocating. So many draws tempt us to move there…endless hiking and outdoor activities, an active art culture, beauty that takes your breath away. Not to mention that during the trip we discovered there are no handymen within an hour and half of where we were. God, is that you?

I know, I know, it’s not perfect. God knows the Phoenix area has been overdeveloped, though granted the developments are well ordered and attractive to the eye and the roadways are maximized for use…six lanes seems to be their favorite number. And Tucson, ditto. And water issues they will have with them always. I consoled myself into thinking that maybe all the people who made the mistakes on the East Coast have moved out west and have learned from their mistakes and are doing it differently. Or not.

Anyway, we spent a lot of time birding and when you’re birding you meet a lot of interesting local people. Over time, one of the things that we heard again and again started to get to me. It seems they have the same concerns and issues out there that we do here. Chemical companies poisoning the land, other industries taking more than they give. And across-the-board there are less birds and mammals and diminishing, healthy environments for the birds and wildlife to live in. It hit me that this is exactly the same bad news we heard while birding in Texas last November. So it’s not just Waxhaw…things are getting worse and not better. No matter where you live.

Well then. 

I allowed all this gloom to rumble around in my head for the next several days. I felt like a child who knew there was scary things outside the bedroom door, so they hid under the covers with a flashlight. You know, the ‘I can’t see you so you’re not there’ mantra. It can be applied to any area of life that you’re struggling with. Just in case you didn’t know.

So now I’m going to fast forward to what this is all about. I think I could sum it all up in one sentence: You can run but you cannot hide. And that’s what I have been wanting to do for the last, well, let’s say two years. Run away from what’s happening here, what’s happening in the lives of those I love, what’s happening in the world. But what Arizona did was show me that I can go to a different location… which by gosh by golly is absolutely breathtaking…but I will have exactly the same problems: people can still be stupid, the world is still messed up and heading for eventual destruction (though I do hope it’s thousands of years in the future), I can’t change people or fix them and I will still carry with me all my imperfections and broken and shattered dreams and hopes. And sin nature. Everything will just settle down in a different location. Darn.

While we were away, I took a video while standing on a hill in Catalina, remarking how incredibly beautiful it was and how it was giving me a breath of fresh air and how we had figured out a way we could make this our new home. Which at the time was true- we had been shown a place we could live in and there was plenty of work for Ted. I posted the video on the family page. Later, when we came home, my granddaughter wrote me and said they had watched all the videos. She then went on to ask ‘Is it true that you’re really going to move there?‘No, I replied, because we would miss all of you too much.’ Her answer? ‘Phew’. That says more than anything I’ve written thus far.

So how shall I carry on? I’m thinking maybe the anger I feel at what’s happening in this world could be channeled into some hands-on work. Instead of hiding under the covers, I could start stepping out of the bedroom and into a world that desperately needs involved people- people who know God and who, though their gifts may not be many or mighty, are willing to work alongside God in whatever area He deems best. Yes, it may break my heart. My empathy level is through the roof, and watching or dealing with suffering, especially with animals, can incapacitate me. But God knows that, too. He will never ask more of me than I can give. The secret is I need to be willing to give.

I’d like to encourage you. If you’re brain dead, experiencing a deer-in-the-headlights moment, or wanting nothing more than to curl up in a fetal position clutching your favorite food and/or drink, I get it. On any given day, one or more of these describes me perfectly! But knowing that God sees me and doesn’t judge me for my fears, or weaknesses, or inability to get it right most times, gives me hope that maybe there is a way through this all…a forward motion, one baby step at a time. I can write a letter. I can send a check. I can be proactive in issues that I care about. And that God cares about.

Years ago I read a chapter in a book called The Holy War. She talked about how her empathy paralyzed her from taking part in anything that could be a solution. I underlined most of that chapter because that’s so true for me also. I think her bottom line was… 

Satan wins when we hide

Dear ones, it’s time to come out of hiding. We can’t save them all, or solve all the problems, or make everything right but we can be a part of the solution and I think that’s all God asks of us…

Be His presence.

Amen and Amen. You are loved, dear one. Now let’s get out there and do some damage to Satan’s kingdom!



Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Taking Control of Christmas

So, what does Christmas look like to you? 

As I sit here at the beginning of the Advent season, dogs snuggled on either side of me and a newly placed naked Christmas tree in front of me, I wonder how this will end. 

Like you, I’ve experienced a crazy last couple years and everything seems sideways. I don’t remember what normal was two years ago but I’m convinced that there has to be a better way now. 

I’ve been scrolling through Google looking at minimalist Christmases. This all started last night in the wee hours of the morning while I lay there and thought of all I needed to do to get the house decorated for an upcoming family get-together. Not to mention friends and others who will be stopping in over the next week or so.  God forbid that my house should be in a state of chaos, boxes everywhere, half-finished projects on every surface. As I lay there in bed, tears rolling down my face, I realized something had to give. This isn’t how I want to celebrate Christmas, nor is it the reason I celebrate Christmas. Christ is my reason and my heart longs to draw closer to Him and not be so exhausted physically that I don’t care about anything more than survival. 

I read a couple of things that made me stop and think…

One of them was being Intentional…intentional about what brings joy and peace into our home. You mean that is an option? 

The second was that we could do things Differently. Just because we’ve done something year after year doesn’t mean we need to keep on doing it. That was a freeing idea to me as I am a diehard traditionalist.  

The third was just Decorating One Central Room. Now I like that idea! I tend to decorate living room, dining room, bathroom, kitchen, guest bedrooms, etc. As I think about all the work that will take, I want to crawl into a corner and die. 

So this year I am determined to take control of Christmas. I’m tired of being under the influence of our culture, my past, and especially my expectations of what should be. Ever since I was a child in New England, I have clung to this notion that it’s the most wonderful time of the year and it should look that way. But I don’t live in New England anymore and I’m not the same person I was. And things do change, don’t they?

My biggest struggle? This crazy notion that I will disappoint people because God knows I live to make people happy, especially the grandchildren who have always known Grammy's house as a sparkly, colorful, winter wonderland. But something tells me that they would rather have a Grammy who is joyful and who has time to spend with them, making memories with crafts or games or baking rather than running on empty.

So now I’m daring to think, decorating wise, What makes me happy? A Christmas tree makes me happy. And after looking at scores of trees online and how they could look, I realize I have freedom to decorate the tree anyway I like! This year I think it would be really cool to actually see the tree! Considering we cut her down and gave her a place of honor in our home, I think she’s beautiful just as she is. And yes, I do call all my trees 'she' (smile).

Another thing that brings me joy are twinkling white lights and candles, poinsettias and greenery, even if it’s just a vase of cut branches and berries. All these things restore my spirit instead of drain it and help me to be reflective, especially towards the real meaning of Christmas. It will be incredibly hard not to open all those boxes of decorations that represent years of memories. Really, what kind of person doesn’t use their traditional Christmas ornaments? And would leave them to languish unseen? Seriously, are they going to cry in disappointment? (eye-roll) Change is hard for me but I think this is worth the struggle. Not just for me, but for my dear husband who would love to have an unstressed wife for the next six weeks!

I’m thinking the world won’t end if I do Christmas differently this year (shocking!). And if I enjoy this new freedom, I may choose to let go and ask my children and grandchildren if they would like any of the decorations that have brought me joy in the past but now no longer fit into my life. I love the idea of passing on things, but only if they want them and will find joy in them. Do unto others as you would have others do onto you!

Please know that this is a personal journey. It reflects probably, in a bigger way than I realize, my desire to take control of many areas of my life that I have let go. If you love doing Christmas in a super big way and it looks totally different to you, I say go for it! And just as none of us likes the same foods or decorating the same way or wearing the same clothes, Christmas, which is a super intimate time of the year, should reflect who you are and what is important to you. I’m just a little late in getting around to that!

Thank you, dear one, for allowing me to ramble. I wish you a blessed Advent season, filled with the mysteries of Christ and His coming. I wish you, more than anything, Joy. You are dearly loved! ❤️

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Suppose you could live the life you were called to live?

It is blessedly quiet here this morning. All the puppies are sleeping, including the one who sneaks into our bedroom when I get up and hides herself in Prissy’s bed, making what I call a Puppy Burrito of herself. Whatever. If it makes her happy, it makes me happy.

I decide to take advantage of this gift of peace and quiet and see if I can turn some thoughts rolling around in my mind into a blog. Assessing the situation and the probability of success, I tiptoe to the couch and slowly pull my iPad to myself. I turn and very s-l-o-w-l-y sit back down on Ted’s Lazyboy, where any sleeping dogs can awaken to see me and know that I have NOT abandoned them, nor do I need them to secure the area and protect me. Lord, have mercy.


So my question for the day is, How are you at trusting in God? 

If you’re like me you’ll quickly reply, Doing great thank you! 

Perfect! Now show me what that looks like!

And this, friends, is where the rubber hits the road...visible actions that show what we really believe, whether it’s an honest, complete, trust and reliance in God, or a well-held-onto sense of self-reliance that ebbs and flows with our emotional state. 

As the Good Book says, As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. For all the world to see...

I heard a sermon last week, the gist of it being, ‘What one thing do you need to change in order to live the life you were called to live?’

At the end of it, my husband and I looked at each other and he said, Stop working! which I completely understand as who doesn’t want to be free of all burdens to live a carefree and flexible lifestyle?  Well, unfortunately that’s not going to happen, I replied, doing everything I could not to roll my eyes. He had a point but I’m thinking that’s not what the Priest was asking...he was looking for something obtainable. Sure my husband could stop working, but I don’t think it would end well for us...

So when my husband turned and asked me what my one thing was, I was hard pressed to identify it. I told him I need to think about it. 

So I did. For all of one day.

You see, I had a decision to make...a time sensitive decision, meaning I couldn’t ignore it or put it off indefinitely: Should I or should I not go with my sister to Nevada/Utah for a week in October? My nephew, Zachary, who with his dance partner does this amazing thing on ice skates, would be competing in Las Vegas. This trip would be an opportunity for me to see him, and then from there to head to Zion and Bryce National Parks for a week with my sister. Knowing how much I love her and him and the Southwest, it really shouldn’t have been that hard of a decision, right? 

Well, it was. As I looked at all the pros and cons of this opportunity, the What-Ifs began their endless chanting...clamoring for my attention...reminding me of all the things that could go wrong while I was away. And not only to me, but to my husband, my dogs, my home, and on and on until I had pretty much established plane crashes, traffic accidents, sickness, starvation, and everything short of a nuclear Holocaust or Yellowstone erupting occuring while I was away.

I became tense and snappish, with depression trying to squeeze its way in to join the party.

It was then that I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the one thing I need to get rid of is Fear. If I ever want to live a life of peace and trust and joy, it had to go.

Well, it just so happens (read: Divine Providence) that I am leading a Zoom study now on the book Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen and the current chapter is...ready? Unafraid. I do believe that there are no coincidences that are not Divinely inspired. This one chapter had a destiny to be read by me for such a time as this. 

The premise of the chapter was simple. When you feel the weight of Fear settling on you…and your mind begins to spiral… Stop. Look. And Listen. 

Stop.  Whatever you’re doing, take the time to acknowledge the Fear. Don’t let it skulk around the edges of your mind, shredding your peace.

Look.  What lie is Fear telling you? It’s so important to identify the lie so that you can…

Listen.  And ask the Holy Spirit what God has to say about that lie. And then go to battle against the one who only comes to seek and kill and destroy...your life, your peace, your hope. 

It’s that easy! The enemy knows it but sure doesn’t want us to know it also. 

For me, it was believing the lie that I was in control of my life, and only by being in control was I safe...and not only me, but everyone and everything I loved. It was up to me to keep it all together.

The truth?

That God is Lord over all and that all things...everything...are in His control. All He asks of me is to trust and rest in Him and His faithfulness and love for me, no matter what comes my way. 


With tears running down my face, I humbly confessed this revelation to my husband, emphasizing how sick and tired I was of being held captive to Fear...afraid to try new take chances. I desperately wanted to come out of hiding and live again. 

Being the godly man he is, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Now you have to go. Just to show you are no longer fearful!”

You gotta love this man!

So yes, I did decide to go on the trip with my sister. All my fears and insecurities melted away before the trust I placed in God. I chose to rest in the truth that even if the worst happens, God will still be in the midst of it. And if the best happens? We’ll be 2 crazy almost-old ladies singing off key as we drive, stopping at every unique coffee cafe, eating Southwest food for every meal, and standing side by side in awe of the incredible, heart-gripping beauty around us.

And to think I almost said, No.

Sitting here today, encouraged that the puppies slept the whole time I wrote, this was what I opened to in my Bible. It was like a hug from God. A hug saying, Welcome Home, my Beloved. I’m so glad you’re here...

You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; do not stray, 

or else you may fall. 

You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not be lost. 

You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.  

Consider the generations of old and see: has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed? 

Or has anyone persevered in the fear of the Lord and been forsaken? 

Or has anyone called upon him and been neglected? 

For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; he forgives sins and saves in time of distress.

Ben Sira 2:7-11

In a chapter entitled Trust in God.