Wednesday, December 16, 2015

When Christmas looks like a pile of broken pottery

It was only yesterday.

Or a lifetime's hard to remember now.

At the time it was all too real, and I wondered if I would live through it.

But as you can see, I have.

Like they say, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Amen to that.

We were living in southern Mexico at the time, working at a Bible Translation Center.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

But the one time I want to talk about today is a time that comes back to me...

Christmas after Christmas after Christmas.

Probably because I need to be reminded...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

And then there was Light!

It's that time of year...the time of year when I get asked the same question over and over and over again, "What do you want for Christmas?"

This morning as I was rummaging through my stack of Advent devotionals wondering which one to use this year, two questions kept running through my mind...

"My daughter, what do you want this Christmas? What is your heart's desire?" 

And that made me stop. And lean back. And stare out the window at the nativity on our deck and the golden ornaments swaying in the breeze high above it.

What is my heart's desire?

I want those I love who do not know You to find their hope and joy in You this year...not in the transient things of this world.

I want the lonely to be embraced. Acknowledged. Known.

I want the hungry to be fed...not only physical but spiritual that lasts not just for a day, but for all eternity.

And a million other things...

But what I want most is You...and for the world to see You in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, glitter and decorations, noise and fervor.

Christ in Christmas.

That is my heart's desire...To know You and make You known.

But how, Lord?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Leaning on a reed? Timber!

You know how in the Bible when something is said three times that it is very, very important?

That you need to pay attention or you are going to miss something you shouldn't?

Like Holy. Holy. Holy.

That means Holy. To the max. Holy inside out, through and through. Super important!

So I'm wondering if it works the same way when God smacks you in the face with the same truth three times in one week?

Is He trying to get your attention?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

I've been going through one of those know, those times where you are slogging through a minefield rather than skipping through a daisy field?

Where you know you're heading somewhere because you are following that very tiny itsy-bitsy light in front of you...

But the process is so slow, and the terrain so unknown, that each baby step is an adventure in faith?

Now I have been trying my very best to be patient. With myself. And especially with God.

But sometimes it seems like nothing is changing.

So I can become a wee bit impatient...

Wanting to take things into my own hands to move things along. You know, help Him out a little.

Not good.

Not good at all.

So what is this "three-times-inflicted-lesson" that God smacked me with? (Don't blame God, I deserved it!)

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don't lean on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Prov. 3:5,6

Oh, I love that one! It's so easy to quote to others!

But when it comes to saying it to myself...HA!

So, the order of events...

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What the world is dying for

Quiz time! How would you fill in the blank below?

A world that dies for a lack of____________.



Nope, neither one of those, though sadly both are true.  But I'm thinking of something else.

Love. That's the word I'm thinking of.

A world that dies for a lack of love.

I read that this morning and it has been haunting me ever since...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I wish you a puzzling and perilous situation, dear friend

So here I sit on Hilton Head Island. On vacation. From my problems.

At least that's what Bob says in the movie, "What About Bob?"

Vacation are for fun and freedom and memories. Not problems.

But the funny thing is, problems don't take a vacation....they come along for the ride wherever we happen to be...

Like ticks attached to a dog's leg, they climb on board and hold on for the ride.

Even on Hilton Head.

So that is what I was thinking about this morning...sipping coffee as I sat on the patio overlooking the lagoon, a Hawk careening towards me with a Crow in hot pursuit.

I had just read something in my "devotional of the week"...The Hungering Dark by Frederick Buechner...

"We must be careful with our lives, for Christ's sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world, and so they are very precious and what we do with them matters enormously. Everybody knows that. We need no one to tell it to us. Yet in another way perhaps we do always need to be told, because there is always the temptation to believe that we have all the time in the world, whereas the truth is we do not. We have only one life, and the choice of how we are going to live it must be our own choice, 
not one that we let the world make for us."

Yeah, I know, not the most normal thing to think about while in paradise.

But it was put in front of me and I would have had to have been been blind to miss it...

"We must be careful with our lives, for Christ's sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world..."

Yes. I agree. With all that is within me I agree.

Unfortunately, such revelation usually only comes when I am in a puzzling and perilous situation. 

Such as the other day...

When I was told in no uncertain terms by my very determined husband and daughter that I WAS going to the Minute Clinic NOW for a cough that kept me from breathing....

Or I would be grounded forever...or at least for the rest of this vacation.

At least that's what I heard them say.

So, being the accommodating person that I am, I dropped them and the boat off at the boat ramp and trucked on down the highway to the nearest clinic...

Eager to receive the much-need antibiotic so I could breathe again...

Only to be told that it could be a pulmonary embolism and I needed an X-ray. NOW. STAT. Or else.

IF I even made it there in time.

Yeah, Okay. I get it. As I raced further off the island to another Urgent Care with a real Doctor and X-ray machine awaiting my arrival, all I could think of was, "Who is going to get the fam and the boat? For Heaven's sake there is a thunder storm approaching and they are out on the open water!

And what about my kids? And grandkids? Would they ever know how passionately I loved them and how proud I am of them?" Maybe I should scribble a quick note on a napkin and leave it in the car to be found at a later date...

Oh God, I really don't want to die.

Yes, that was a eyes-wide-open-wake-up moment for me. One minute I'm in my cushy little condo doing things I love, and the next I'm potentially heading for the grave.

But the good news is, as you can see, I did NOT die on this island... 

And the person who told me I could have a pulmonary embolism was delusional...and should not be allowed to speak ever again...

And the kindest of aged doctors who told me why it was not an embolism, but bronchitis, was the most wonderful person I had ever met. I will travel from Charlotte any day to have him treat me again!

My daughter, a Paramedic through and through, was furious. 

I allowed her to rant and rave while I tried to breathe, knowing that all she said was perfectly true.

But in the back of my mind, something nagged at me.

And today I discovered what it was...

"We must be careful with our lives, for Christ's sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world..."

I really need to go back and thank that incompetent person who made a completely incorrect diagnosis.

Yes, she cost me another doctor's visit. And a whole lot of stress.

But she also gave me a gift...

The reminder that, as the Bible says, we are as a flower of the field, here today and gone tomorrow.

That I only have promise of time to come.

So I need to live my life. Love it. Give thanks for it.

For my sake and the sake of those I love. 

And especially for Christ's sake.

For it is His gift to me.

One day.

One glorious gift of a day of life.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Seeing God in others

This morning I reminded God that it has been like two weeks since I have written a blog...

I'm sure some of it has to do with having had two granddaughters here last week, ages 1 and 3.

It was all the joy, fun, and work that I remember from my own kids...

TIMES 100 since I am way, way past my early 20's!

I remember smugly saying to my son when they first arrived, "When they nap I will clean, and cook, and do laundry and write!" 

I was delusional.

What I did do was sleep on the monitor next to me...

Probably drool coming out of my mouth...who knows.

Let's say I now have the GREATEST RESPECT for all those who are raising young children!

But anyway, back to the blogging dilemma.

I know it's not like people are waiting with bated breath for a new blog to appear...

The phone is not ringing off the hook, nor is my inbox full of inquiries as to where am I!

But in a way, blogging is my sharing with you what God is teaching me.

Either He hasn't been teaching me, or I have been too tired to hear.

Either way, I have had nothing to share.

Until this morning...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In His time, dear one, In His time

This has been a lousy year for Monarch least in my gardens.

There was one in the early Spring, and one several weeks ago who met his Maker on the same day I found him.

I've done everything I can to lure them in, but ultimately the problem is that they are endangered and there just aren't a lot of them out there.

I'm not going to go into the reasons why...suffice it to say I am humming the song, "Oh When Will They Ever Learn?".

So when I found a post on the Birds and Blooms Field Editor FB page of a Monarch cocooning and hatching out, I was drawn to it a Monarch to Milkweed.

I remember years ago, when Monarchs were abundant, watching the same process take place in my yard.

I would diligently mark each twig with yarn that had a cocoon on it, count the days, watch for telltale signs that their emergence was imminent...

And then sit there all day watching them come out.

Yes, it does take a lot of patience...but that glorious moment when they broke free, wrinkled and shriveled and shaking?

I would sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" to them as I gazed on in absolute wonder.

Only God.

But today, as I watched the video, I saw it a little bit differently.

Maybe because of where I am in life now.

And what some days feel like.

Today I watched with different eyes.

Yes, the glory and wonder were still there.

But this time there was some weird kind of anthropomorphic identification thing going on,

Big words for, "I feel your pain, buddy."

I had to wonder, "Does he ever feel afraid?"

"Wonder what is going on?"

"Raise his little tiny eyes up to his Maker and hope He sure knows what He is doing?"

I would.

At 2:31 into the video, when he's shaking and his world is changing and he can't turn back...

And he can't see the future...

And the darkness is coming...for many, many days...

I wonder...

Monday, August 3, 2015

Melting down in the wilderness

Last week I had a meltdown.

Not the kind that come from being too hot...though that would be a good excuse this summer.

It was an

Yup, and all over a pizza...

A Frozen. Gluten-free. Cheese. Pizza.

The kind no one should have to eat when they want a pizza.

So let me paint the picture for you...

The weekend before we had traveled up to Lookout Mountain, GA for 3 days to see our son and his family.

No problem was totally fun.

We arrived home very late Sunday night and I woke up early Monday morning to Vacation Bible School.

I'm glad it's already capitalized or I would have to do it...such a momentous undertaking deserves capitalization. Two hundred people together for five mornings...picture it...and me, an introvert amidst all the chaos.

So, Monday- Friday, kitchen labor at VBS.

The next Saturday morning we head out yet again for a different part of GA, this time for our Grandbaby's first birthday celebration.

More fun. More people. More commotion.

I thought I could handle it...but my thinking was a little cloudy by then.

It wasn't until Sunday dinner time, when my gluten-free pizza decomposed in the oven, dripping its gooey ugliness all over my daughter's oven that my own meltdown began.

Now in order to to fully paint the picture I need to let you know there were 15, yes, 15! ordered pizzas piled up on the counter near said oven...all warm, and fragrant, and ready to eat.

But not for me.

No, my dinner was melting down in the oven...a precursor to what was to come...

So what does a meltdown look like, you ask?

Flinging the smoking pizza out of the oven and into the sink, and then beating the life out of it with a spatula.

And then, with tears running down my face, grabbing the nearest Gluten-Full pizza and scarfing it down.

That's what a meltdown looks like.

Okay, so that was a fun story wasn't it?

Except it's all...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Choosing to walk the talk

I should be cleaning my least clearing the counter so I can make dinner tonight.

I should be doing laundry, watering plants, preparing for tomorrow.

I should be chipping away at whatever it takes to keep things rolling here during a busy VBS week.

But I can't...not right this minute.

I have to write this blog.

Some call it the "Muse".

I call it the Spirit.

And when he calls, I have learned to Stop. Look. Listen.

Like a train racing down the track, my mind is headed for a destination that will only unfold as I write.

But I do know this...

It's going to be a one-way trip and there will be no turning back.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Talking cats and what we can learn from them

I have a cat.

Well, four cats, but I only want to talk about one of them today.

Because he is the one that every morning speaks to me about Jesus.

I used to think he (the cat, not Jesus) was a pain in the neck.

But not anymore.

Let me tell you why...

Like most of you, I had established a morning ritual of what, at its best, could be called "Devotion Time."

I like that lends an air of credibility to my attempts to draw close to God.

I knew what Devotion Time should be, but that's not always what I did.

What I did do was a little of this, a little of that...always accompanied by a strong mug of coffee...

Some Bible...

Some inspirational reading...

Some meditation...

Some prayer...

Some sitting-and-staring-out-the-window.

Everyday it was different, a jumble of whatever I felt like doing that day.

I feared I would fail the "what-a-spiritual-person's-Devotional-Time-looks-like" test.

And for the longest time I struggled with that.

So, I would gird up my loins and try harder. (See, even I can talk the talk!)

Until that day my cat talked to me, 

And I finally understood.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Repeat after me, "I am a beautiful butterfly!"

I must be out of my mind.

But I read something this morning that blessed me so much, I have to share it with you...

In spite of the fact that my kitchen is half-painted and totally torn apart, cabinet contents in boxes scattered throughout the house...

And I have a Bible Study tonight...

And I am leading one tomorrow night and and need to prepare for that...

And I have company coming for the weekend.

Nothing like a little motivation to get things done!

Anyway, back to what's important.

This morning I read something for the study tonight that was such a beautiful visual I have to share it with you.

It comes from the book, The Good and Beautiful God, from the chapter, God Transforms...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I got that joy, joy, joy, joy!

I don't know how it is where you are, but it's been crazy hot here lately. I think today I'll take one of our eggs up to the road and crack it open and see if it's hot enough to cook it. Just for the fun of it. I'm getting desperate...

Our chickens are sadly hilarious, walking around with their beaks open wide and their wings outspread. I'm thinking of giving them a bath, but that may not end well.

No rain in the last three weeks means the hose and I are spending way too much time together....dragging it around like a dead carcass, muttering what I wouldn't give for an irrigation system.

And the flower containers I joyously spent the springtime filling? Their cries for help send me scurrying outside into a wall of heat at least twice a day, moving them from place to place, hoping to hit on the right combination of sun and shade in an effort to keep them from giving up the ghost, and me from losing my sanity.

But what's a person to do?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

On going home

Today is going to be tough.

I don’t like goodbyes.

What I like is the anticipation and excitement of a “hello”.

Yes, I know another hello will come after a goodbye, and you can’t get one without the other, but still you can’t convince me to like them anyway.

Tonight we fly home.

For eleven days now I have anticipated this moment...homesickness has been washing over me like waves on all the beaches we have visited recently...the gravitational pull for all I know and love growing stronger every day.

The only problem is, I know and love what I have here also.

My heart is divided, and no matter which way I look, it hurts.

We have been crazy busy. We haven’t stopped since the plane set down in CT eleven days ago. Non-stop memory-making has been our goal, and my body and mind and emotions tell me we have succeeded.

Now there isn’t anything left to do now but tie up loose ends here, get on the plane, and go home.


I was talking with someone the other day about home...about how wonderful it is to want to go home. To love your home. To have a home.

And then this person asked me, “But what about when you don’t want to go home...when you would rather not go home?”

And I stopped. And thought. And this weighty question has been heavy on my heart for days.

What then?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Seriously, God?

Sunday absolute favorite time of the week...a Mayberry-kind-of-feeling.

We were all in a semi-conscious state after a busy week, so I thought a movie was in order.

Flicking our way through Amazon, we found something that looked interesting...Rabbit Hole. We read the synopsis, pressed Play and off we went.

By the time it was done, there was dead silence. And a desire to weep. And hug someone.

And never let go.

I couldn't stop thinking about it.

And now I really can't.

For later that day I heard that a worship leader from a nearby church, Gentry Eddings, and his family were returning from a wedding when an 18 wheeler plowed into them from behind. Their 2 year old son was killed and his wife, Hadley, 8 months pregnant at the time, was rushed to deliver their baby at a nearby hospital. And it looked like he would make it.

This tragedy put flesh on what Hollywood had only dreamed up.

If I hadn't seen the movie, I don't think I could put my mind around the valley they were entering...the raw pain of what was thrust upon them.

So I prayed. And wept. And thanked God that by His mercy their unborn child would live. That there would be some consolation in this tragedy.

But their unborn son didn't live. They got empty arms. Again.

Seriously, God?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ending well and other cemetery musings


I hate them.

Well, not always. Sometimes, like a visit to the dentist, they are a mercy.

But other times, not.

Other times they put a period where you only want a comma.

Take this book I am reading for example...Soul Gardening, Cultivating the Good Life.

From the moment we met, in a used bookstore in Charlotte, I knew we would be the best of friends.

For over a month now I have carefully doled out the pages to make it last as long as possible. Every morning it became an act of my will to put it down when I longed to read on.

I knew someday our relationship would have to end. It was inevitable. Yes, I could make it last longer by limiting my reading to sentences, and then words. But that is no way to end a glorious read.

Laugh if you must, but I had tears in my eyes this morning as I drew it to me one last time. I was about to say goodbye to a friend who had brought me joy and insight and laughter.


Whether it's a good book or movie, friendship or life. They hurt.

Recently we vacationed on Hilton Head Island. We've been doing it for years, along with our children and now their children. A glorious week of family, fun, and memory making.

In the midst of all the festivities, I always make time to bike to a favorite spot of mine...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Picking up starfish and other 3 a.m. meditations

It's 3 a.m.

Do you know where your cats are?

I know where mine are...

They are outside our bedroom door, wailing like banshees because we won't let them outside.

I hate this time of year.

Well, any time of year when it involves cats.

But especially this time of year...when the baby birds leave their nests and my cats think it's a smorgasbord on tiny little feet.

My apologies to those of you who adore cats.

There are cat lovers. And dog lovers. I am a none-of-the-above-lover.

So, you rightly ask, how come you have cats?

Because I am a sucker.

Because my heart is too big.

The same reason I do so many things.

Almost ten years ago, a friend found three adorable, innocent kittens alongside their mother in the middle of the road. The mother was dead and they needed rescuing.

Enter sucker. Me.

My daughter, bless her heart as they say in the South, needed a kitten. Or two.

I admit it's the third one that's my fault. I mean really, how can you say "yes" to two siblings and not the third? It would be like splitting up a family. Sigh.

And that, friends, is the story of my life...

Hi, I'm Arlene. I'm a sucker for anything hurting or broken. I want to save the world, and by golly, I'll do it or die trying. I'll even give up sleeping for a month if need be!

It's a sickness I inherited from my mom. Yup, she's to blame...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

10,000 reasons for your heart to sing!

I don't normally write two blogs in one week.

When the Spirit whispered this morning that I need to write this blog NOW, I flinched...

My first thought was, "But I have already written one blog this week! No one is going to want to hear from me again!"

And then He reminded me that it's not me who writes these blogs, but Him.


So, this morning I was playing catch-up in the book we use for Wednesday night Bible study: The Good and Beautiful God - falling in love with the God Jesus knows.

Now don't abandon me here...I'm not going to go all preachy on you.

But I am going to entice you to do some thinking as you move throughout your day...

With eyes wide open and an expectant heart.

As I wrote in a previous blog this week, times of sorrow and loss and challenge can hit us in the gut and leave us reeling...

And wondering, "Where is God in the midst of this?"

Good question.

The answer comes in knowing God...His nature...who He is.

Faith is not blind...we do not hand over earthly treasures to someone we do not know.

That is called foolish.

In the same way, we cannot trust a God we do not know.

How can we know God is good, when all around us we see brokenness and pain and suffering?

But what else do we see?

It depends what we are looking for...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Magnificent Heartbreak

Wherever humans garden magnificently,
there are magnificent heartbreaks.
 Henry Mitchell

Forgive me, Henry, but I'd like to make a substitution...

Wherever humans live magnificently,
there are magnificent heartbreaks.
Arlene Tencza

We attended a wedding this past weekend...the glorious culmination of many years of waiting and praying and dreaming on the part of two people.

As I sat there watching them come together for their first dance, arms wrapped around one another, eyes dripping love and adoration, a song popped into my mind...

And hot tears began to flood my eyes.

My son noticed, and asked gently, "Mom, are you sad?"

Yes, yes I was.

Because I had just finished remarking to someone I hadn't seen in years, how tragic it is that it takes weddings and funerals to get us together.

And because I have learned that life is full of snapshots...fleeting moments like these...

That we need to pay attention to, or they are forever lost.

Gifts we need to embrace and hold on to...

To give us the strength to get through the storms that will inevitably come.

And ultimately, the day we will hear the news that stops our hearts and puts a period on the life of someone we love.

Yesterday I walked into church and shared with my Priest what a great plant sale he had missed that Friday, but how I was sure having a day with his grand-babies more than made up for it.

"I never knew it could be so wonderful!" was his ecstatic reply.

"Yes, and with great love comes great pain," said I, as he knowingly nodded his head.

You see, right before church, I had heard of a tragedy to the EMS community, of which my daughter and many of her friends is a part...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ready or not, This Is Your Life!

I am going to date myself...

Remember the TV show, This Is Your Life? 

"Each week, an unsuspecting celebrity would be lured by some ruse to a location near the studio. The celebrity would then be surprised with the news that that they are to be the featured guest. Next, the celebrity was escorted into the studio, and one by one, people who were significant in the guest's life would be brought out to offer anecdotes." IMDB review

I was pretty young and impressionable when I watched that show...pigtails and plaid jumper, black patent leather Mary Jane's and white lace socks...sitting in front of a black-and-white TV on an avocado sofa.

Saturday morning cartoons, Lawrence Welk, My Three Sons, The Dick Van Dyke show...

I grew up on a veritable smorgasbord of what are now TV classics.

And I loved them all...still do.

But I have to wonder now how impressionable I was then...

For instance, in one Brady Bunch Show there was a contest to see who could keep the cleanest house...a judge would stop by unexpectedly to rate their home, and if they had the cleanest house, voila! they would appliances I think. You can only imagine how that played out!

I was so naive, that for many years I thought this would happen to our family day, someone would knock on our door and, with checklist in hand, determine whether our house was worthy of a prize.

I wanted a prize so badly that I worked hard at keeping our house spotless.

You got one ever came...but we did have a clean house.

Silly, I know. Childlike...

But back to the series, "This is Your Life"...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Don't like? Don't want it? Get rid of it! Or not.

"Does something have value only because it's useful?"

This question pries itself into my not-yet-awake mind as I sit on our deck, watching a Spring morning come to life.

It's a riot of activity, and colors, and senses are on overload...

Nearby, a Chickadee is singing its heart out, hoping to attract a willing mate.

In the front garden a Thrush is joyously sending up sprays of water from a birdbath, popping its head up once in a while to see if the other birds are jealous.

Screams from a soaring Red-Tailed Hawk above, and a Barred Owl in the woods behind, silence all activity for a moment.

You could hear a pine needle drop.

Until all is deemed safe, and the feeding and mating and joyous ruckus continues.

This is my favorite way to begin my day...

With the help of a robust cup of coffee, my senses are wooed to life...

And the thoughts and questions begin to ramble through my mind.

And that's how the "usefulness" question started...

I was watching a Chickadee hop down the branches of the Persimmon tree next to the deck, heading for the weathered birdhouse hanging from the lowest branch.

Many years ago we had planted that Persimmon tree in high hopes and expectations...and with an ulterior motive...

That someday it would produce succulent fruit that would lure birds in for our viewing pleasure.

At least that is what is was supposed to do...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How to suffer by keeping your mouth shut

Every fourth Sunday of the month I go through agony.

Self-induced agony at that.

I know it's coming, and I can't avoid it.

Nor do I want to.

Nursing Home Sunday.

From the moment I receive the Scriptures for that week, my mind becomes preoccupied...everything else takes a back seat to "Whatever am I going to say?".

For a woman who loves words, this should not be a problem!

It's not like there will be a crowd...usually a dozen or less residents show up.

And most of them won't hear what I'm saying.

And if they do, they will likely forget the message long before the end of the day!

Usually it goes something like this...

I pray. I study. I write. I pray more fervently. Lose some sleep. Wake up Sunday morning wondering what I have gotten myself into.

Who am I to think I have anything to say?

I don't.

And that's the whole point.

Every. Single. Time. I stand there and am amazed.

By faith I open my mouth.

By grace the miracle happens...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

When you're just not seeing it

Recently, I found a treasure at a used bookstore...Soul Gardening: Cultivating the Good Life.

It's one of those books that calls my heart and soul to "come and dine".

Today the author shared about the first time he planted a seed...and it took me back...

To when I was a child, holding my first seed...rolling it around between my fingers...wondering how something so small could ever grow to look like the flower on the seed packet.

I remember the scene so well...the noble rock behind me, which seemed so big at the time. The field of grass spread before me. And a little hole in the ground that I had grand dreams for.

I think it was a Hibiscus....because I remember thinking if I grew enough of them, I could make a necklace.

All I know is that the packet promised that if I put that seed into the ground, out would come this HUGE BRILLIANT flower.

It took my breath away.

So, with the faith of a child, I planted it, placing it gently in the hole and covering it...patting it like a small kitten, content that I would soon experience a miracle.

Day after day after day I ran to my rock and sat on it, staring intently at the site, believing with all my heart that my flower was going to poke up from the ground, any second now.  

But it never, ever came.

I remember standing there, feeling betrayed...wondering what I had done wrong. It was supposed to be so different.

I returned to that site many times over the next year...always expectant. Always hoping. Even in the snow of winter.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Is it worth it? Does it make a difference? I'm glad you asked!

Sometimes I want to quit.

Not life. Blogging.

On days like today I it worth it?

Questions pop through my mind like popcorn in a hot air popper. Is anyone reading it? Does it make a difference in anyone's life? What ever made me think I have anything to say? It's all been said before. Somewhere. Someplace. By someone who can handle words infinitely better than I.

The world will go on if I never strike another keyboard key.

Pity party? Maybe.

Or maybe something deeper, something I need at times...the doubts and discouragement that God allows into my life to drive me back to Him. To realign my vision, to forge a deeper trust and faith in Him. And not myself.

As a frail, weak-kneed human, it's so easy to forget why I do what I this case, blogging.

I can grow weary. Disillusioned. Unsettled. And that's when doubts and discouragement can set in.

Like wheels on a car that have hit too many curbs, I begin to wobble.

I need to be realigned.

In the past, like any tried and true New Englander, I would have picked myself up by my bootstraps and pressed on.

Until the day came I was too tired to even bend over and find those infamous bootstraps.

That's when God showed me that doubts and discouragement can be tools in His hands, if only I will see them that opportunities to search my heart and try my motives.

To see if I am still on His track and in His will.

And if I am, to recommit myself to Him, renewed and strengthened to press on in His power.

And that brings me back to this blogging thing.

Why do I blog?

Several years ago, when God and I were spending a lot of time together wandering in the Wilderness, He planted the desire to blog into my dry and barren heart.

Three years later, He finally allowed that desire to break ground and come forth...with a purpose I never could have seen back then.

You see, this blog isn't written only to bless and encourage others, though I am so thankful if it does.

And it's not just a way to be faithful in using the gifts He has given me, though that brings me great joy.

No, there's another, stronger, what-my-heart-beats-for purpose. He's known it all along, but it's only recently that I've come to understand it...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Walking in Truth or truth?

I have this crazy besetting sin.

Well, not just one...sigh...I have many.

But today I am going to talk about one particular that can drive me crazy.

Ready? True confession...I am obsessed with truth.

Now you may not think that is a bad thing, but I am living testimony that it can be.

For instance you say? Bear with me, non-photography-type people...

Let's talk about Photoshop. No, it's not a place you go to online to shop for photos to decorate your home with.

Rather, Photoshop is A) a noun, as in the program "Adobe Photoshop".

Or B) a verb...Pho·to·shop ˈfōdōˌSHäp/verb/to alter (a photographic image) digitally using Photoshop image-editing software. "The pictures have obviously been Photoshopped." 

And this is where it starts to get sticky for me...where my truth obsession starts giving me myopic vision...myopic as in "unimaginative", "uncreative", "unadventurous", "narrow-minded". Ouch.

You see, as a budding photographer, very budding, I have been trying to reach a conclusion about the need to photoshop my pictures.

I mean, really, shouldn't it be possible to get the picture right the first time and not have to play with it later?

And doesn't altering any of the qualities of the picture make it "impure"? Give a false representation of the reality?

My "truthy" self cannot bear such a thought!

Some of my justifications? Let's take two of them...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

To feed the monster or not, that is the question

This is definitely not the type of picture I usually lead my blog with...agreed?

But it's necessary to get you where I want to take you.

Because today I want to ramble about a subject that none of us are too fond of...discipline...especially the self kind.

I hear those rumblings..."Yes! Just the topic I wanted to hear about today! And the monster picture? Right up my alley. Now, let's see if I can find a more edifying blog out there"

I understand. But bear with me...if you want to find out about the monster, you'll need to keep on reading!

So, what do you think of when you hear the word "discipline"? If you're like me, I bet certain things come to a child I was spanked, sent to my room, put in a corner, or made to sit next to the teacher's desk for an entire day. I won't say how many times I had a bar of soap put into my that was the absolute worst!

The truth is, I always knew I needed to be disciplined...I just didn't like it! Even though I was told it was for my own good, I still pouted and complained and got angry. Thankfully those who loved me continued to discipline me, saying they loved me too much to leave me the way I was.

Is it any wonder then, as we become adults, that God continues this process? After all, He loves us passionately and desires that we be conformed to the image of His Son. And discipline is one way He accomplishes this...always because He loves us and knows what is best for us.

But that's not the discipline I want to talk about today, as important as it is. No, it's that other kind of discipline...the hard one. The one where it's not done to us, but where we get to do it to ourselves!


And this is where it gets hard...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The secret to great pictures...and life!

It was a restless night.

I tossed and turned, going over and over in my mind why the blog I had spent all day writing was just not working.

It was dead. Lifeless. Gray. Like what would greet me when I finally got up and parted my bedroom curtains.

Slipping from my bed, I debated...leave the lace curtains closed and keep hope alive, or part them and look upon another dreary winter's day.

And the brush pile. A product of last summer's cleanup,  we had never taken the time to burn it and rid our yard of its eyesore.

It sat there. Day after day. Mocking me every morning. Ugly. Unfinished. Unnecessary.

Like me.

And my blog.

As I parted the curtains, I prayed...Oh Lord, don't let me slip. I need life, your Life. All I hunger and thirst for on the outside, is only what I desperately need on the inside-- You.

And then I saw it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

For Heaven's a whale!

Yes. A whale. Not a cat. Or a dog. A whale.

I see those eyes rolling. That finger hovering over the Delete button.

Bear with me.

So, I've committed myself to learning photography. Got the camera. Lens. And all sorts of other goodies that make you a photographer.

Except for the skill. For that I've been watching a course by National Geographic called "Fundamentals of Photography". Gotta start somewhere.

I love the guy teaching the course, Joel Sartore. Not only is he talented, he's real. And encouraging. And makes me feel like I can do it. And best of all, he's honest.

Okay, this is where the "petting the whale" thing comes in.

During one of his lectures, he puts up a photo of a Gray Whale off the Baja, on its back, having its tummy rubbed by a small group of spectators. Joel was there on assignment to photograph the whales, and this one, never having been hunted or shot at, was super friendly. Amazing!

But what was even more amazing in that photo, was that behind the spectators and the whale there was another boat, overflowing with photographers, standing, leaning, crouching, faces hidden behind their cameras and long lenses. Sadly, they missed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pet a real, live, whale. All they were after was the perfect shot. Chances are they got it. But at what price? Will they ever have another opportunity to pet a whale?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Are you an Innie or an Outie?

Come on. Confess. Your secret is safe with me.

You know which one you are. Or maybe not.

Innie...Introvert? Outie...Extrovert? That is the question.

No, really, I'm not jesting...I'm going somewhere with this, so bear with me.

For years I thought I was an extrovert. I saw how the world valued strong people, people who walked tall and carried a big stick. Spoke loudly. Banged on their pulpit with force. People who knew what they wanted and got things done.

I tried my best to be like those people...the ones who have an "E" as the first letter of their Meyers Briggs Test. "E" as in Effervescent. Enterprising. Energetic. Extrovert.

I spent a lot of time and energy trying to live the life of an extrovert...throwing parties, running a business, getting involved in causes. Directing what energy I had into doing what I thought was necessary to be successful.

But all the while I found myself seeking solitude. I devoured books on the hidden life, the quiet life, the monastic life. Books on meditation and prayer. My soul would utter a sigh of contentment each time I finished one.

I loved walks and talks and book reads with my children. One-on-one conversations. Gardening. Hiking. Writing. Creating beauty. These are the things that made my heart sing.

So why did it take me so long to figure out the obvious? That I was not an extrovert, nor would I ever be one?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Waiting on God in the winters of our lives

I woke up this morning thinking, "If I don't see some sunshine and color soon, I'm gonna lose it."

I know many of you in the far north are thinking, "Seriously? You live in the SOUTH! What are you complaining about? Try three feet of snow and face-freezing temperatures and thick gray skies... day after day after day!"

Been there, done that. My condolences to you.

My problem is, I don't do winter well. Anywhere.

I know there's a reason for winter. A God ordained purpose.

But a lot of it has to do with waiting. And that's another thing I don't do well...wait.

Yes, I've learned patience throughout the years...God has been very good at answering that prayer.

Now maybe I need to pray for the grace to wait. To wait for that which I know will surely come.
But I have a feeling I am waiting for something far more glorious than a passing spring.

That the winter of my discontent-- with myself, our country, our world, serves a far greater purpose.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Mirror, mirror on the wall...


I have a love/hate relationship with them.

I know I'm supposed to love looking into them.

Gazing at myself in doe-eyed amazement at how drop-dead gorgeous I am.

At least that's what Wall Street says.

I just need a little of their help to make myself that way.


What I see when I even look in a mirror are things that show me "the old gray mare just ain't what she used to be."

That the new 56 will never be the old 29.

No matter what tune Wall Street sings...a siren song that says it's all about what we look like.

Funny, that's not what God says.

He's more concerned with Who we look like...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

For all those who have ever asked, "Why?"

Have you ever asked "Why?"

Better yet, cried out, screamed out, whispered, "Why?"

With tears streaming down your cheeks.

And a heart so heavy that it feels it could fall right out of your chest.

I'm thinking if you are living and breathing you have.

Many times.

It's a cry that has echoed down through the ages.

A question that often times seems unanswered.

Or maybe not.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's more "F" word!

I bet I know what you're thinking..."YOU say the "F" word?"

Yup. More than I should.

Usually it's only in my head...a silent mantra that no one else hears.

Debilitating. Discouraging. Defeating.

The "F" in "Failure."

It usually appears with its strong-armed cohorts: Coulda. Shoulda. Woulda.

Sounds like a dance beat.

But it's not.

It's a death cry to who I am.

Beloved. Child of the King. Worthy of dying for.

All it takes is one mistake. One thing done wrong. And the record kicks in...

"You're a failure. You always have been and you always will be."

This tirade would continue until I was a soggy-eyed, weak-kneed mess.

Worth nothing.

Just what the enemy wanted...

Putty in his hands.

But then he met his Waterloo...