Monday, March 31, 2008

Saying "Wait" -- Hope Chronicles 30

I've always been a bit of a saver. When I was a child, my allowance always went into the pottery type doll bank that sat on my dresser. When I was 10, my parents took us to start savings accounts. As we got older (early high school), my parents started upping the amount of money they gave us. It was agreed upon that that everything (school clothes, Christmas presents, etc) came out of that money. I never asked my my parents for extra. And then I also babysat a ton. Money just seemed to come easy.

Even after college, things have been tight at times, but it has always seemed that there was enough. If I wanted something, I saved here and there for it and got it in a reasonable amount of time. But, money has been extremely tight lately -- we are talking months and months. I thought I had it all figured out.... And I probably made some bad choices.

Last week was a struggle emotionally. There is a certain item I would like to update. I've started stuffing a bit here and there in the envelope and last week went just to look. Bad move! First, the item was more expensive than I had anticipated. Second, it was on sale -- only until Saturday. So, I did the figures in my mind and then on paper and redid them about seven times.

That sounds smart doesn't it? It is unless you base a significant chunk of your figures on "If this happens and I get this many hours . . . or I don't eat . . . ." You get the drift.

But Saturday, I woke up feeling VERY blah. I tried the figures one more time. And I recalled that it was only on sale the rest of the day! And, of course, getting it would make me feel better. (Feelings are the basis of all great financial decisions -- not.)

And since I'm taking Dave Ramsey' Financial Peace class I went to the bank and took out some cash. I drove to the store and parked the car. And just as Dave says, it's hard to part with cash. I sat in the car and counted it. It was all there and I already knew that. But I also knew I would be paying in a significant increase in stress if I used it all. Some of it was legitimately scrimped and saved on fun money but some of it should really go towards bills.

Feeling a bit dejected I drove back to the bank and redeposited what I had taken out and went home and stowed away the savings toward the coveted item . . . . It may not be on sale when I have enough in a few months -- but as the saying goes, at least I won't be "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Two days later, I feel a little more peaceful about it. I'm so glad it's not on sale anymore!

But it is hard to wait. The world says we need everything now, now, now. It's not just with our finances. Even our food has to be fast. How did we ever manage without microwaves?

Often we fall into the same trap spiritually. We want the growth now or the problem zapped or . . . . But God doesn't often work on our time table. Sometimes He says, "Wait."

Think about Abraham. God told him that he would make him into a great nation and that his descendants would out number the stars. It was a solid and true promise, but there was a long wait involved. In fact, Abraham didn't see it fulfilled until he got to meet God in heaven and watch it unfold from there.

Waiting is hard. But God never promised us a quick, speedy journey. Rather, He promised to be with us along the way. As we wait, we wait with eager expectation with God and that is the basis of our hope.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Odds and Ends

It's late -- 12:12 AM to be exact. I'm tired but my mind is going. I actually just got off of work at the bookstore about 40 minutes ago. I've been on my feet for 5 1/2 hours. So, this post may be a bit off from my usual posts. It's an attempt to declutter my brain so I can sleep.

Working at the bookstore has been interesting. Actually, working at the county has been interesting too. Anytime you have an ounce of customer service to perform -- its interesting. You learn a lot about people.

Anecdotes and Observations:

  • Communication is harder than you think. I'm coming to believe that listening is a lost art. Tonight, a girl bought a book. She wanted to spend the remainder of her gift card after we had already completed the transaction. She grabbed a chocolate bar with raspberry filling and had me use the card for it. I told her she owed $1.24 as the card didn't cover the entire thing. She began almost frantically looking for another item to total $1.24. Clearly, she didn't understand, had missed that she owed rather than still had money on the card.
  • In every business you get the regulars and the um, shall we say, irregulars. Tonight, we had a gentleman show up in his shirt, shoes, socks, and underwear -- briefs to be exact. He spent a long time reading on how to become a success. It made a coworker wonder if any of the books covered the importance of wearing pants . . . . This same coworker pointed out that the sign only said -- no shirt, no shoes, no service. It left out pants!
  • For my other job, I set up user accounts for the website. It's not as hard as it might sound. Anyway, I cannot begin to count how many people I have talked to who call and say they are having trouble with the site yet they have not actually tried putting in their user id and password that I emailed to them. It's almost if they assume that it won't work so they don't try it out.
  • At 11:15 PM it is impossible to alphabetize. This is particularly true when coworkers start naming off random letters to help you lose your place.
  • I work in a secular book store. Still, I would have thought that someone would have thought that a book on the Dali Lama might be out of place on the Easter table. Just a thought....
  • The saying goes that "The customer is always right." I think this is a gross overstatement. Customers will argue over the smallest thing even if it is printed in black and white. You can explain all you want, but often they won't listen until it comes from a manager. Sigh. This includes arguing over a 20% discount on a $1.50 paper.
  • For the county, we reject documents that don't meet certain standards. We print off a gold sheet that tells the company exactly why the document was rejected. I don't know if they don't read the sheet or just think that if they send t back through without having changed a thing, that it will magically make it. Some things get rejected several times for things that would be easy to fix.

You just never know what people are thinking (or not thinking)....

Friday, March 28, 2008

Take a Child by the Hand

There is an old French proverb that goes, "Who takes a child by the hand takes a mother by the heart." I don't know it from a mother's vantage point, but I understand it as one who has invested in children.

Today in the county office I work in, I got to play it out. We don't see very many children in our office, but a mom came in with two little ones in tow. One looked to be about 4 and the other about 2 1/2. She wanted to drop off a Quit Claim Deed to be recorded. While it is not always the case, we see these a lot when there is a divorce in the works. One spouse "quit claims" solely to the other. (There are other reasons as well, but this can be the situation.)

I started examining the document and noted that a couple things were missing. I double checked with a coworker who actually knew the mom from a distance in high school. He came up to help as I was explaining another form that needed to be filled out . . . . And the kids ran in and out the door and down the hall and spun on the stool. Mom picked the little boy up to keep him corralled and tried to listen as I explained. But listening was difficult since he was now sitting on the counter and kicking his feet and trying to figure out an escape route.

Since my coworker had walked up, I decided to opt out of the explaining. I held out my arms to the little boy and said, "Want to come see me?" To mom's surprise, he did. So, I invited him and his sister back to my desk where I let them pick out cat pictures (used page-a-day calendar sheets -- great for scratch paper or impromptu gifts for awed children) and transformed a piece of paper into an origami swan. (Something I learned from my second grade teacher many moons ago!)

They were thrilled and mom thanked me twice. I feel like even in that small interaction, I took her children by the hand and took her by the heart. I gave her a moment's peace and possibly a sprinkling of hope. I'd like to think I did that.

I don't believe in past lives, but if I did, I think I must have been a preschool teacher at one time. In another life, I was probably a lion tamer since I am so in to teaching Mali tricks at the moment. Maybe the two go hand in hand -- taming preschool children?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

$2.62 and the Rules -- Hope Chronicles 29

They do not provide parking where I work. Free unlimited parking is about 3-4 blocks away and possibly more depending on when you arrive. If you park closer, you have to move your car every 90 minutes and then it cannot be moved within a 1 block radius or you get a ticket. (This happened to a coworker.)

There is a parking garage immediately across the street, but it is run by the city and there is a monthly fee. It's more expensive to pay by the day. Anyway, the walk is good for me. However, rain, snow (There is some in the forecast!), and sleet make me willing to pay on the particularly blustery days or when I have to hurry to be somewhere after work. There have been a rash of those days this week.

Two days ago, the parking attendant mentioned to me that since the rails were up, people were exiting without paying. He told me, if the rails are still up tomorrow, just go out the back where there isn't an attendant and that everyone else was doing it.

Okay, I had noticed the rails were up, but it had never dawned on me not to stop to pay. I also didn't know about going out the back.

Yesterday, as I got in my car I had the debate. The rails were still up and the parking attendant had suggested the back way. But I found that I couldn't do it. I had chosen to park in the garage for convenience and I owed.... I think I truly surprised the attendant when I told him I just couldn't do it. He gave me a genuine smile and said, "Just when I get ready to give up on humanity, someone does something nice!" Paying $2.62 (it was my short day) never felt so nice!

As you have surmised, I follow rules. Part of it for me is respect and if I think the rules are for my benefit. I've had a few people comment, "You drive at 10 and 2!" in reference to my hand position when driving. That's what my driver's ed teacher told me to do 23 years ago. He also told me not to eat while driving because you can't really see over that Big Mac. While I do occasionally do this, I try not to and get anxious enough doing it that it is a deterrent. I've never had a speeding ticket. Yes, I play by the rules.

I was an Interpersonal Communication major in undergrad. I remember learning about a study that was conducted on children on playgrounds. Researchers discovered that children on playgrounds without fences (rules) hovered together more in the center of the playground. When there was a fence, the children explored the entire playground. The fence/rules provided a sense of safety.

I think the same is true of rules for us as Christians. God provided the rules not to put a damper on things but to give us a sense of safety. While sometimes the rules may seem to chafe, ultimately they are in place for our good.

The hardest time to follow the rules is when we doubt the intention of the one who created the rules. Isn't that where Satan attacked in the Garden of Eden. He didn't come out and say that rule is silly or wrong. Rather, he suggested that God was holding back on Adam and Eve. He made them doubt God's character.

We can find hope in knowing that God's intentions towards us is always, always for our best. Knowing that sets us free to be who God created us to be. And following the rules even when you could just go out the back may turn in to an unlikely witness!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Not Why but Who -- Hope Chronicles 28

Katy, my older cat, loves to sleep next to me. I lie on my side and hold the blanket up and she curls up next to my tummy as I let the blankets gently cover her. Often, I can't hear her purr, but as I rub her belly I can feel the vibrations, the contentment. It's a soothing ritual the two of us have developed.

As you have guessed, I like cats. I also like useless bits of trivia. Without using Google see if you know the following:

  1. Only one type of cat lives in a group and it is _________.
  2. The first state to ratify the constitution was _________.
  3. The first female doctor was _____________.
  4. Why do hummingbirds hum? (No, it isn't, he he, that they don't know the words)
  5. The movement to get women the right to vote began in 1848. How many years did it take to achieve it?
  6. How many stripes are on the American flag?
  7. What Midwestern city adds coco to it's famous chili and what is the brand name?

Stop right now and write down the answers. No peeking as I've put them at the very bottom. I'll send a small gift card to whomever gets the most right first. (You can only play in the next 48 hours!) You are all on the honor system.

That was a long prelude to what this post is really about -- that "Why?" question. Even more than knowing useless bits of trivia, I like to understand the why of things. I like to know why it works and why you don't do it this other way. I like to know why things need to be this way rather than that way. I don't know that I actually pestered my parents so much with the questions. (I would have gotten immediate consequences if I had not had immediate obedience.) But, to the extent I was able, there was a quest for "Why?"

Even today, "why" still comes into play. Please don't tell me to do something without explaining the reason behind it. In my mind, comprehension is everything.

I don't think I'm that far off from a lot of people. I may do it more than most in day to day interactions, but when the really big things happen, we all find ourselves asking "Why?"

November 2006 I started dating Bill. After the first date, we pretty much saw each other every day. We hit a rough patch the end of March, but I anticipated getting back together. I didn't think it was a forever break. I thought we both needed to get our bearings. After all, we had been moving pretty fast over the last several months -- to the point that we had spoken of marriage. Bill had vowed, "I'd marry you tomorrow if you'd let me."

The middle of April Bill suffered an aortic aneurysm. His gentle heart split open. They managed to do surgery and he lingered a few days, but he never truly came around. I got to talk to him and pray with him in a one-sided kind of way, but we never had the final conversation that I longed for.

When it first happened I went to a grief support group for a time. Eventually, I needed it less and less. But tonight I went back. That year anniversary is coming quickly and I don't want to be caught off guard. Anniversaries can be tricky to navigate.

Lots of people in the room had much more recent losses than mine -- November, December, January. And several expressed "why" questions. "Why so quickly?" "Why with all the medical advances?" "Why wasn't I there at the very end? I only left for a moment."

It was interesting because everyone in the room tonight expressed some type of faith. That hasn't always been the case. I came away thinking that "why" questions have their merits, but the better question is "Who?"

  • Who walked this earth and is intimately acquainted with our grief? (Isaiah 53:3)
  • Who wept when His friend died? (John 11:35)
  • Who comforts those who walk through the valley of the shadow of death? (Psalm 23)
  • Who prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies? (Psalm 23)
  • Who has compassion on the heavy laden? (Matthew 11:28)
  • Who rejoices over us with singing? (Zephaniah 3:17)

Knowing the "why" pales in comparison of knowing the WHO that is Jesus who has welcomed our loved ones home and stands with arms open wide to comfort us in our grief as we wrestle with the "why". Just as Katy snuggles in close to me, we can snuggle into Jesus.

And I was serious about that small gift card! Leave me those answers..... and then check to see if you are right!


1. Lions 2. Delaware 3. Elizabeth Blackwell 4. It's the sound that their wings make from moving so fast. 5. 72 years with the first legal voting happening in 1920 6. 13 -- one for each of the original colonies 7. Cincinnati's Skyline Chili -- very yummy. Of course, I grew up on it . . . .

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My Hope Is Built -- Hope Chronicles 27

As a college student, I fought the whole idea of singing hymns. They seemed antiquated and outdated. Just before my senior year, I spent a summer at InterVarsity's Student Leadership Training (SLT). It was fun and stretching month. While we sang more contemporary songs, there was also a healthy dose of old hymns mixed in. I came to love some of the theology in them.

Now, I am in a church where we mostly sing contemporary Christian music. Much of it has merit, but it doesn't have the anchor of hundreds of thousands of Christians through the ages singing it. Many of our worship leaders are younger. About a year ago, I was trying to put power point together for the service. We were going to sing Amazing Grace (one of the few hymns that make it in). I asked about which verses and he rattled off numbers. But when they sang, they seemed to skip one. I forget which one it was and I called his attention to it because it meant the numbers he had given me didn't match up. He was genuinely surprised it was a real verse and not something someone had recently made up!

The last few days, I have been thinking about this song -- My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less. It's never been one of my favorites. If hymns come to mind they tend to be Amazing Grace, Be Thou My Vision, And Can It Be, Great Is Thy Faithfulness.... So, I've been a bit surprised to find this hymn rattling around in my brain.

"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness." What amazing words. While I know they are true, I also know that I find myself falling into the folly of thinking that there must be something I can do to "be good enough." I don't necessarily come right out and say it. But there is a "worker bee" mentality to me. If I can be kind enough, helpful enough, smart enough, good enough.

But that's where the second part comes in -- "no merit of my own I claim, but wholly lean on Jesus name." Nothing I do has enough merit. That is a humbling place to be. It really flies in the face of the American ideals -- the rags to riches, work hard enough, it only matters that you tried . . . .

While God may appreciate our efforts to get to know Him, He knows that in and of themselves, they are never enough. He knew that if my efforts were placed on the scales of justice against my sin, it would never be enough. So, He gave us the cross.

And it is more than enough for me and you . . . . So, while those things I do are good and God does call us to serve each other, I need to still my worker bee mindset and rest in knowing that my hope is built on Jesus blood and righteousness. No frantic trying is needed. For when Jesus died and rose again, it was simply -- enough.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Redeem -- Hope Chronicles 26

I love words. I love stringing them together to create meaning. I love beautifully crafted sentences that make me pause and read them again. For good or evil, words also have power. I try -- though I don't always succeed -- to be careful with my words.

Perhaps it is my love affair with words that makes my heart trill over the opening of the book of John. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." Jesus is the Word. God spoke and the world was created. I love that.

Our language (individually and as a culture) show us what is important to us. Did you know that the Eskimos have 32 different words for our single word "snow"? Thirty-two! I can only think of a handful of words that have to do with snow: snow, flurries, sleet, freezing rain, blizzard. Four to five words (depending on how you count "freezing rain") compared to thirty-two. That speaks volumes as to the centrality and importance of snow to the Eskimos.

I'm always fascinated to learn the original Greek or Hebrew word for something. As with the Eskimos, sometimes there are multiple words for something we lump into one word. What is it that makes English or American culture just lump things together or always look for the short cut. Here's my anguished prediction, in a matter of years, we are going to completely de-evolve into just using letters as if we were texting -- bff, lol, dml, and xyz!

This week God has had me thinking about the word "redeem." From a purely cultural/secular standpoint, what do you most readily think of redeeming. Coupons was what I first came up with. And what do they usually have written on them. "Not redeemable for cash" or "No cash value." In other words, it is only good for this one particular item on this particular time and probably you have to buy two or more . . . .

But that is so far from God's perspective on redemption. Christians may know this, but does it ever impact our view or use of the word "redeem"?

I looked up redeem on the internet. Here is some of what I found:

  • to exchange for money or goods
  • to discharge or fulfill (as in a pledge)
  • to make up for; to make amends
  • to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom.
  • to deliver from sin and its consequences by means of a sacrifice offered for the sinner.

The last two -- release from captivity and deliver via a means of sacrifice for a sinner -- both closely fit the Christian concept of redemption. We are released from the captivity of sin. Jesus was the sacrifice on our behalf.

I don't know the Greek or Hebrew for it. But I think even those two definitions are somewhat lacking. Yes, there is a release paid for by a sacrifice. But more than that, I think it is a making whole of something that was splintered and fragmented. Our relationship with God was splintered and fragmented. Jesus brings us back into a "whole" relationship with God.

To be truthful, it is probably a "becoming" because we probably couldn't handle being thrust directly into God's presence at this moment. But is a "becoming" with the assurance of the the final end.

So, I have two questions to ponder. First, am I leading a "whole/redeemed" life? Second, am I helping those around me to lead that kind of life?

One of my favorite quotes from CS Lewis is this:

"It is a serious thing to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship or else a horror and a corruption such as you meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long, we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of those overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealing with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people."

We can have hope because we are redeemed and whole. May we be mindful to help those around us to that redeemed and whole place safe in God's hands.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Two Sides of the Same Coin -- Hope Chronicles 25

Last night at the bookstore, I was talking to a coworker. I told him that on Saturday I had purchased a hula hoop and that I was teaching one of my cats, Mali, to jump through it. He remarked, "You can't teach a cat tricks." (For photographic proof see Mali doing "up".) I told him that I had, and that Mali had walked through the hoop numerous times and jumped through twice. His response: "Are you sure she just wasn't humoring you?" Maybe, but I'll take it.

Dogs are pack animals and probably do perform out of a desire to please as well as accompanying treats. The only cat that lives in a group is a lion. So, cats are fairly independent. It can be a trick to figure out their motivation and harness it. Our motives in things are often mixed. I think Mali enjoys the interaction as well as the treats....

My parents were always very concerned about appearances. As a result, they belonged to a local church not out of faith but because it looked good. We went on Christmas and Easter and a few other times during the year. But, we weren't what you would call regulars.

The church we went to confirmed kids when they got to the seventh grade. To be confirmed, you had to go to special classes for a year. My parents decided that my twin and I would have to go. (I'm thankful for that because it is one of the ways God drew me to Himself.) However, they didn't want to go with us. So, they took to dropping us off and picking us up and were genuinely surprised we liked it and even asked to go to youth group.

I was extremely shy and quiet. I didn't necessarily mix all that well with the other kids. However, I craved the interaction with the youth leaders. But even this was overshadowed by how quiet I was.

Every Sunday morning all the youth gathered to pray together before heading to Sunday school. About 40 of us stood in a circle and held hands and one or two people prayed. One Sunday Bob came up to me and said, "I'm going to have you pray for us." Fear over rode my normal respect for authority. I told him that I couldn't. He told me that I could. I told him that I couldn't. We went back and forth with this about four times before he turned and walked away.

Everyone circles up. Bob announces, "Amy is going to open us in prayer this morning." Silence. Absolute silence unless you count the sound of my heart. You see we only prayed twice a year at my house -- Thanksgiving and Christmas. And then it was always my dad who said the prayer. So, I had never prayed out loud. Bob announced for a second time that I was going to pray. I was mute and totally crimson. Another youth leader finally jumped in and opened the morning with prayer.

I tell that story not because Bob was a bad guy. Though, I do think his approach was a bit misguided. I tell it more because I took him totally off guard. I still catch people off guard. I bend, bend, bend, bend, SNAP -- they've run into a brick wall. They are always surprised when they suddenly meet resistance.

Some people would call it sheer stubbornness. There is probably some of that in there. But when you're on the same side of the brick wall as me, you're likely to see it as perseverance. Stubbornness and perseverance are, I believe, two sides of the same coin.

I've been thinking about it some the last couple of weeks. Without some perseverance, some stubbornness even, I don't know that I would have survived. There had to be some core of hope willing to hang on to every shred of light that sliced into my darkness.

At other times, I may be my own worst enemy. For example, in the youth group story. Bob pushed. While that wasn't the right thing, my reaction was to swing completely and totally the other direction and never look back. I didn't pray out loud in a group until my sophomore year in college. What sweet times of fellowship did I miss out on all those years?

Even now there is a situation I am trying to make heads or tails of. I guess the question that may shed the light on it is what is the posture of my heart? Is it a hope filled response (perseverance) or a fear filled one (stubbornness)? I'm not sure yet, but it is something to ponder.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

There's A Party Going On Right Here

There's a party going on right here! As I mentioned yesterday, I have Jill's boys for the weekend since it Hearts at Home. We've been having a fun time. I picked them up after school and we headed back to my house. I tried out a new recipe from a book (Taco Pie). (It was just average. I should have used one of the tried and true ones off of Lysa's site! However, the cookies were a hit.) Then I had a Financial Peace class and the boys went with me and just hung out. We got back to my house a little before 9:00 so we put in a movie. They had never seen Horse Whisper, so that is what we watched.

I'm not sure what time they got up. But when I went down about 9:00 they were read for breakfast. They watched some Hannah Montana and That's So Raven while I showered and changed and then we went to run some errands. In the process of running the errands, I gave them a couple options of what we could d0:
  1. Eat lunch out and go skating and eat dinner at home
  2. Eat lunch at home, go skating, go go a movie, and eat dinner at home as well.

They opted for the second. We had quite the party with Alex and Addy there as well.

I'm glad I brought snacks. These 4 skinny, growing kids, went through two bags of cookies, a bag 0f chex mix, and 4 granola bars!

Never say I don't entertain kids well! And it did go well. Everyone got along. The only problem was a bully on skates that was bothering Alex. Koyla talked to him and asked him to leave Alex alone. He did. But he started bothering the younger ones. Soon Addy was telling me about how he liked to stop quickly in front of people to make them fall. I asked her if she had told the rink guards, but she was feeling shy. I got their attention and together we reported the kid. It turns out that he is a regular who often gets kicked out.

Mindy came and collected her girls. I took the boys to Spiderwick Chronicles. Good if you like fantasy type stuff. And then we came home and they were allowed to pick casserole, or hot pockets, or little pizza, or pot pie for dinner. (I'm the only one that ate the casserole.)

Now, we've all showered and are watching TV. Bed time is coming as we have to be up early tomorrow for KidStuf!

Maybe this is my organizational gift: organizing fun stuff for kids.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I have never been what one might call organized. I envy people who are. Still, Lysa said that any of us could participate and I can't resist even if it is slightly embarrassing! So, I'm participating in the swap and hop.

Not being organized was learned at a young age, so it is a very hard habit to break. My mom would say, "Clean your room." At 10, I interpreted this as "Put everything under your bed." My mom never thought to look there, so I never got in any trouble for it.

It has caused more stress as I've gotten older and had to deal with adult things rather than the box of collected rocks, dolls, yarn, and other odds and ends. I spend a good deal of time looking for things. While I am trying to get better at this, it isn't going so well.

I've been working at Barnes and Noble as a sub. I started there over the holidays to pay for Christmas. The one idea I've gotten from them is RECOVERY. Everyone who works there typically hates it, but I think it has it's merits. It happens periodically through out the day, but more intensely at night the hour before the store closes and the half hour or so after the store closes. Basically, it is thoughtfully helping all the books find their homes again. Here is how it goes:

  • The store is broken into zones. Everyone gets a zone to concentrate on.

  • Everything has a home.

  • You carry a PDT (little computer) and scan the books without homes to find where they go.

  • Said books get put in their proper places.

  • To really do a good job, you actually run your hand along each shelf of books and straighten them. If there are big gaps, you face some books out. (Especially your favorite authors that you might know!) Authors don't pay for this like they do space in the front of the store. It's all up to the bookseller.

I need to apply these principles at home. If I did, it would look like this:

  • Everything has a home

  • Do a zone or room a day

This is what my life actually looks like:

When company comes I use boxes and bags to get that into:

And then the table looks like this:

I had to do this today because I have a friend's two boys coming for the weekend. Jill is speaking at Hearts at Home. (Please pray for that.) My annual contribution is keeping her kids for her. Hence the cookies.

I've had it suggested before that when I bake, I should make extra and freeze the dough. So, I did do that today as well. It's freezing right now. (Balanced a bit precariously, but I know not to open the door quickly.) In a bit, I'll put them in a container.

The other thing I do manage to do, is keep files on the computer organized. My pictures are in files labeled by year or type like "Shots to use on the web." My emails are also organized by ones I want saved: Blog tech tips, Blog info, Names of Friends, etc. I can manage to do that but not the physical organization on a regular basis.

I'm blessed that even thought I'm not organized, God manages to use me anyway.

I need to run. I have two boys to pick up and entertain for the weekend! Can't wait for a chance to peruse your ideas!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The One Who Waits

It was one of the hardest aspects of the job. It had to be done, so I did it but I hated it. Every Wed. morning I would get to the office early, go in and grab a car seat, and head out to pick up a little 2 1/2 year old. He was always excited to see me. I would pick him up and transport him back to the office for a visit with his mom.

You see, I spent several years working in foster care. It's a high stress job with little pay. But most people do it because they believe that some of the most vulnerable in our society need protecting.

Supervising parent-child visits came with the territory. Hence, the early morning trek to pick up this little guy. On good days, we would arrive back at the office and I would watch him and his mom interact for two hours (awkward but necessary) and provide helpful direction (typically ill received) when needed.

But the bad days came more often than the good days. We would arrive back at the office and settle in the waiting room to wait for mom. More often than not, she didn't show. After 30 -40 minutes, I would help him back into his coat and return him -- sobbing -- back to the sitter. It always broke my heart. How could she not come? She only got 2 hours a week with her son.

The foster parents actually had to reroute to avoid driving by the office. As sure as he would see the building his hope of seeing his mom would rise and then plummet when they didn't stop. He would begin to wail.

I confronted the mom (and the many others like her) on missing the visits. She was flippant. He was little. What did he know? And then came the excuses: missed the bus, got up late, forgot, just couldn't make it and couldn't bother to call. With permission, I finally instituted a policy for her and other parents that routinely missed visits. If the visit was at 8:45 AM, she had to be there before I left to pick him up. It meant she spent half an hour waiting, but it spared that little boy the sheer disappointment he felt when she didn't appear.

I've been thinking a lot about those foster care days. When ever I have a recurring thought, I think it is God's way of reminding me of something. In this case, I am reminded of how eagerly God awaits our time with Him. He doesn't miss. There aren't any no shows on His end.

And when I miss, I think He has all the disappointment (maybe even more) of that little guy.

And I am convicted that though I know the importance of regular time with my heavenly Father, I take it too lightly. There is an errand to run or someone to call. I wake up late and have to rush to get out the door. I always promise -- tonight I'll make time. But then the evening comes . . . . It's so easy to over look it in the business of life.

Here is to a renewed commitment of daily time with Him. He's always waiting for me and you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Random Posts

My apologies to everyone who has subscribed and may be getting some seemingly random and outdated posts -- some blank. Anne McClane is helping me revamp my site and I needed to created the links to get it set up. The content will be coming.

I can't wait until I can show you what she has done. It is so cool!

Hooray Anne!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Change of Heart -- Hope Chronicles 24

I don't know if most bookstores do this or not, but the one I work in lets you borrow hard-cover books for 2 weeks! The management keeps the dust jacket. I've never done it before, but Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult recently came out. I'm on a budget, and since this a hardcover, it isn't in the budget. Since I'm only part-time "seasonal" (they call me in as a sub), I didn't know if the borrowing policy would extend to me. Happiness -- it does!

So, I've borrowed Change of Heart. Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite fiction writers. (Before you go out and buy her stuff on my say so, I don't know that she is a Christian. So she doesn't necessarily write from a Christian perspective. Some of her stuff is rather "edgy," and I'm not sure I would recommend a few of her books. Other books, I just absolutely love and have read numerous times. More specifically, My Sister's Keeper.)

What I love about her later books is that she completely gets you in the mind of the characters.

And I love the way she strings words together. Sometimes it makes me catch my breath and go back and read it again. It's beautiful.

So, I've just begun Change of Heart. I'm hooked. I want to know, need to know what happens. (But I turn the pages very carefully since I have to return it.)

Gist: June has endured more pain than many can imagine. Her first husband was killed in a car accident but she and her daughter were spared. Her second husband and her daughter were killed by another of the main characters, Shay. She gave birth to her second daughter after they were killed. And her daughter, Claire, needs a heart transplant.

I know it is fiction, but at the same time, I also know that life can sometimes look like that -- one sweeping tragedy after the next.

About 60 pages into it, June muses, "Life has a way of pointing out, with great sweeping signs, that you are looking at the wrong things, doesn't it? It was when I started to admit to myself that I'd rather be dead that I was given a child who had to fight to stay alive." In the same chapter she talks to Claire and Claire points out that the only thing she is allowed to do is read. Claire says, "I bet a saint can play softball."

June: "So can a girl with a heart transplant."

"But Claire wasn't listening; she knew that hope was just smoke and mirrors; she'd learned by watching me."

Of course, I zeroed in on the hope statement. I think hope by the world's standards may be smoke and mirrors. But I don't believe that it is so with Jesus. So, I've been thinking of how I might (as if I might meet her) challenge June's perception.

There was no smoke and mirrors about the cross.

There was no smoke and mirrors about Jesus rising from the dead. A couple things point to that. If the Romans stole the body, why didn't they produce it when Christianity started to catch on? If the disciples stole the body and made it up, why would they have been willing to die for something they knew was a lie? I don't think they would have been.

Maybe more compelling are the things in my life -- my change of heart. I came from a home that wasn't Christian, yet God showed Himself to me. I came from a home that was abusive. I'll admit that at times, that has meant that I have struggled to see God as a loving father. I could easily see Him as a distant King. A loving father? No. But God has shown me that a bad copy does not invalidate the original. And God is the original. I came from a home that was isolated and lonely and scary on a daily basis. I still struggle with those things some, but God is my safety. He has given me some great friends. He has helped me move out of the shadows and into the light. He has given me strength to stand up for my convictions. He has begun to redeem my brokenness. There is no smoke and mirrors about that. It is hope.

Smoke and mirrors are magic tricks, slights of the hand. Hope is about Jesus stretching His arms out on the cross and then one day stretching His arms out to welcome us into his presence.

What evidence is there in your life to refute the idea that hope is merely smoke and mirrors?

Hope Contest Winners!

First, let me tell you how much I appreciate all of you participating! That was such an encouragement to me. I wish I had a little something for everyone! But I'm trying to live on a budget. Still, I got caught up in the moment and when I ordered the prizes I decided on 3. (Luckily, I get a discount at the bookstore I ordered from.)

The winners are (by the casting of lots) -- drum roll --

Congratulations. I couldn't decide between two books. So, Ann and Melissa are getting (by luck of the draw) Exquisite Hope by Ann Barnhill. A friend gave me a copy for Christmas and I've enjoyed it. Becky will be getting Hope Has It's Reasons by Becky Pippert. I read this book a number of years ago and recently discovered that a couple of years ago it was revised and updated. Some of the ideas in it have always stuck with me.
Both are excellent reads.
I recommend them to anyone thinking about hope!
Also, be sure to read all the insightful comments left here. There were some good ones and they have spurred my thinking about hope. I plan to share my thoughts on your sweet thoughts soon. So, check back regularly or if you want you can subscribe. I'd love it either way!
Thanks for giving me hope and encouragement.
(Ann, Melissa, and Becky -- please email me at with your addresses so I can send you your prize!)

Lastly, Jody left me a comment and I tried to get to her blog so I could email her the recipes. Jody, if you read this, please email me at the above address so I can send them to you!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Child's Faith, A Mother's Heart, and Daring to Hope -- Hope Chronicles 23

Several years ago Julie was driving back to visit her family with her children. The oldest was in the third grade. She pulled out a yellow legal pad and announced that they were going to make a list. This got Julie's attention. After all, it was spring and Christmas was many months away. Julie inquired as to what the list was for. Her daughter announced that it was a list of things they wanted in a husband for their mom. (Sorry, Oprah, this little one was way ahead of you on love lists!)

Her younger daughter started off with things like money and a nice car. With all the wisdom of a third grader, her older daughter said, "No, he first has to be a Christian." And then, after getting the younger girl more focused, they moved on from there.

Recently, Julie's girls (now both teenagers and the older one a year away from college) were cleaning out their memory boxes. Her oldest found the list that Julie had stowed there. "Mom," she said, "he has all these things." You see, Julie remarried a few years ago after dating her husband for five years! He was patient enough to wait around for her to be ready.

I got teary as Julie related the story. She rushed to say, "I didn't tell you that to make you cry!" I know she didn't but I didn't know if I dared to hope. Sometimes it feels easier not to hope than to have a hope and not see it fulfilled.

What are the things you hope for but can't see yet?

This week a friend looped me in on some communication she was having with another single woman. This is a portion of the email she sent:

"I want to encourage you that you can still be a mother in a non-traditional way. My friend, Amy, is 39 years old and never married. She, too, sometimes gets down about her desire to marry and have children. But I want you to know that she has so connected in my kids lives that she often mothers them. She takes them for fun outings. She watches them so my husband and I can have time. She has had some deep conversations with them when they've asked deep questions."

I was touched by my friend's words. "She has so connected in my kids lives that she often mothers them." In my separate conversation with Julie, I asked, "So why did God give me a mother's heart and empty arms?" Julie suggested that maybe it is just a "not yet" and that I needed to keep myself open. To think that it is a lost cause closes off my heart to possibilities. She wanted me to make a list.

I know some of you reading are not single. But I hope you can still relate. What is it that you so hope for that it scares you because what would happen if that dream didn't come true?

It is hard to hope and not see how that hope might be fulfilled. Sometimes people try to make you feel better and say, "God has a better plan for you." They mean well, but sometimes it can make it feel harder. I do know that God doesn't take that longing, that hope (whatever it is in your life) lightly. Scripture recognizes the weight of it. In Proverbs 13:12 (NIV) it says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."

It's okay to have that longing -- whatever it might be for you. It's okay to sometimes feel down about it. But be careful. Don't make it into an idol. (An idol is anything that takes center stage instead of God.)

So, some of that is okay. BUT, God also calls us to turn our eyes to Him. I'll only quote part of Psalm 42 here (8-11), but I encourage you to look at the whole thing:

By day the LORD directs his love,

at night his song is with me—

a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,

"Why have you forgotten me?

Why must I go about mourning,

oppressed by the enemy?"

My bones suffer mortal agony

as my foes taunt me,

saying to me all day long,

"Where is your God?"

Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Savior and my God.

Even when my dreams feel far away, I am called to put my hope in God -- to praise my God and Rock. So, I thought about all the kids I've "mothered" over the years: Elizabeth, Hannah, Jonathan, David, Billy, Theresa, . . . and I could come up with quite a list if I really looked back and took stock. In that perspective, my arms have been anything but empty!

Julie also reminded me of Sarah in the Bible who went to great lengths to have a child and really made things worse than if she had just waited on God. I'm like her in wanting to just make whatever happen. And Julie said, "Don't be like Sarah. Don't laugh at God." (Genesis 18:12-16).

So, I'm daring to hope. And though it feels risky, I started that list. Meanwhile, I will not waste the mother instincts God has given me.

What will you dare to hope for? What will you do while you are waiting and trusting and praising God for whatever may come?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Don't Forget!

Hey, just a "Hello" to everyone stopping over from Lysa's! Thanks for visiting. My recipes are one blog down.

But while I have your attention --Please enter the hope contest while you are here. Click the candle at the right and it will take you to that post. All you have to do is leave a quote or scripture or a thought about hope. You'll win a book about hope. I've narrowed it down to two, but I'm still deciding which to send.

I hope you'll come back tonight or tomorrow for some of my Hope Chronicle posts. I meant to get one up this morning, but I've been called into work from 10-6! Yes, this a good thing since it will help me pay for the flight to She Speaks. If you don't know what that is let me tell you that you need to go! It is awesome.

More later!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Something Yummy and Healthy and Something Just Plain Yummy

Hello to all who have linked over from Lysa's Thanks for visiting. I can't wait to visit your sites and see your recipes. First, let me tell you that both of these recipes get A+ in great taste and A+ in simple which is a necessity since I'm relatively new to the whole cooking thing.

In January I decided I needed to work on saving money and losing some weight. To do this, I've been cooking and have cut out eating out by about 85%. I've lost 16lbs! The first recipe is a healthy soup that you can make in a slow cooker. The second is a recipe I found on line at Hershey's and made and gave away. (Definitely not diet friendly but apparently extremely tasteful. I believe I had the person I made if for say it was "sinfully good.")

OH, yeah, and I'm hosting a contest this weekend. Click here or the candle picture at the right to go to the contest. I'm focusing on hope this year and have been writing posts I call "Hope Chronicles." The contest involves leaving your favorite quote about hope. You'll win a book about -- hope!

Chorizo Soup (I got this off the Weight Watcher's site and have tweaked it a bit. It's called black bean soup there but that doesn't seem like the main thing in it to me or anyone else I've fed it to, so I'm calling it Chorizo Soup. Chorizo is a Mexican sausage. A serving of soup is about 3 points if you are into Weight Watchers.)


  • 2 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1lb chorizo (Check the meat section. I had to ask because I had no idea what it was! I can get it without the skin otherwise you'll discard that.)

  • 2 medium garlic clove

  • 2 small onion

  • 2 small sweet red peppers

  • 2 small green peppers

  • 30 oz canned black beans

  • 30 oz fat free chicken broth

  • 15 oz canned corn

Chop up peppers and onion and mince garlic.

Discard chorizo skin and brown in a nonstick skillet. Add onion, garlic, and peppers and saute over medium heat 5 minutes.

Add to slow cooker along with beans, broth, corn, and spices. Cover and cook on low heat 4-5 hours.

I've really enjoyed taking this for lunch along with an apple. It is slightly spicy but even my friends who don't like spicy stuff have really enjoyed it.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie -- adapted from the Hershey's site


  • 1 cup Peanut Butter

  • 8oz package cream cheese

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1 8oz tub frozen, non-dairy whipped topping, thawed

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • 2 chocolate graham cracker crusts, pre-made or 1 9oz graham cracker crust

Soften the cream cheese. (Hershey's says to beat it until fluffy, but I've never had luck with that -- but knock yourself out. It just gets stuck in the blender for me!) Beat with peanut butter, milk, and vanilla on medium speed.

Stir in powdered sugar.

Mix in the whipped topping.

Melt chocolate chips in microwave and mix into the other mixture. Spread into the two pie crusts, cover and refrigerate 3-4 hours.


Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope to get to know you.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

You Just Gotta Know The Language

I have vertical blinds over the windows. Unfortunately, when the blinds are down, Katy (one of my cats) likes to pry her body through the blinds so she can see out the window. I try to leave them up during the day, but at night I like them down so people can't see in! Katy was just pawing at the blinds and starting to wiggle her way between them. (She has broken a couple of them doing this and I don't have the finances for new ones at this time.) I yelled and was ignored. I then tried calling to her and patting the bed to get her to come over. No luck. I dug in my purse for scratch paper and threw a wad of paper -- anything but get up.

I don't know what possessed me. I had enough (but still not enough to want to get up), so I whole heatedly HISSED in my best imitation of an angry cat. I've never tried that before, but it definitely got her attention. I don't know what I said in "cat," but Katy scampered under the dresser! I guess you just gotta know the language -- even if it is "cat."

It's been a day. That is, honestly, all I can say for it. It's been a day.

I haven't slept well since Saturday. Amy on no sleep is no good! I'm not totally sure what that is about but, I've averaged 3-4 hours a night. That is not enough to function on coherently. I drag myself through the day but at night my eyes pop open.

At the moment is 6:30PM. I'm exhausted and would like to go to sleep right now. But research would say that wouldn't be wise. So, I'm sharing my tiredness with all of you!

But hopefully tonight I will sleep and tomorrow we'll have more happy, hope-ish, type thoughts!

Don't forget to enter the "Hope Quote Contest." Click on the candle picture at the right to read about it and leave a quote as a chance to enter the contest.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


One of my favorite books is called My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Actually, I like many of the books that she writes. But the last one, 19 Seconds, was disturbing. It was about a fictionalized school shooting. The week after I read it the Virginia Tech shootings happened. I like her writing because of her ability to put me inside a character's head and heart.

My Sister's Keeper is about a 13-year-old girl, Anna, who sues her parents for the rights to her own body. She wants medical emancipation and to be the person who decides if she will donate a kidney to her dying sister, Kate. Anna was conceived specifically to be a matched donor for her sister. Her entire life has been lived in the shadow of her sister's illness. In the book you hear from Anna, her parents, the lawyers, and her brother.

I wanted to share an excerpt from Anna (p.299).

When you are a kid you have your own language, and unlike French or Spanish or whatever you start learning in the fourth grade, this one you're born with , and eventually lose. Everyone under the age of seven is fluent in Ifspeak; go hang around with someone under three feet tall and you'll see. What if a giant funnelweb spider crawled out of that hole over your head and bit you on the neck? What if the only antidote for venom was locked up in a vault on the top of a mountain? What if you lived through the bite, but could only move you eyelids and blink out an alphabet? It doesn't really matter how far you go; the point is that it's a world of possibility. Kids think with their brains cracked wide open; becoming an adult, I've decided, is only a slow sewing shut.

I think she is right. On one hand, outgrowing Ifspeak is functional. If your ifspeak is only related to negative things, then it could cause a great deal of anxiety. On the other hand, out growing ifspeak limits us.

For kids, anything is a possibility. They dream BIG. When I was a kid I was going to be a dolphinologist (not that there is such a thing), keep the dolphins in a pool outback, have six kids, and the kids would daily help with the dolphins. By studying the interaction of my kids and the dolphins, I would break the barrier to intelligently communicating with these remarkable animals and win lots of awards. That was my primary dream. I also considered becoming the first female president.

As we grow up, reality slowly sets in. They just don't let people keep dolphins in a pool outback. We find we are limited by our rules and regulations, finances, intellect, abilities or lack of abilities, circumstances, . . . .

As I was thinking about this quote, I wondered if we are also often limited by our faith. Yes, you read that right. Sometimes we are limited by the things we put our faith in -- other people, our abilities, whatever. Where we need to put our faith is in God. With God all things are possible. There are no limits. The one who created the universe can overcome every obstacle. But sometimes we don't let Him. Sometimes we don't even ask or if we do ask it is halfheartedly, not really believing . . . . That's not to say that God always says, "Yes." But I do think we put limits on God.

Sometimes when I pray, I pray very specifically. If God doesn't answer directly with my proposal, I think He hasn't answered. Maybe He has but the answer is packaged differently than I anticipated.

Ifspeak. I think it is about faith. What if I truly believed in every fiber of my being that God loved me? What if I could truly lay all my burdens at His feet? What if I trusted Him with all of who I am? What if I responded to those "flashes" of ideas? How would it change my live and the lives of those around me?

Ifspeak. I wonder if it is a language I can relearn . . . .

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


It's March 4th and it snowed in Central Illinois. It's March. Doesn't that mean spring?

I suppose, technically, spring doesn't officially start until the middle of March. But, I am so looking forward to it.

To usher spring in, I've decided host a contest. (I've never done a contest before.) But I want the contest to reflect this hope journey that I'm on. So, here is how you enter. Leave a comment with your favorite quote or verse having to do with hope on it. Though it isn't required, you may also tell me why it is your favorite! (And tell me where it comes from -- passage, book, speaker.)

This will help me out as I continue to think about hope and help me as I put together the Hope Chronicles.

I will put all the names in a hat and pull a name on Tuesday, March 11th to select the winner. The prize will be a book on hope! (I'm still working out which book on hope it will be.)

I hope you enter!

If you'ld like to hear from me regularly by email, put your email in the email subscribe box to the right. It digests daily and send you an email when I've updated.

I'd love it if you would help me promote this contest. Just link the candle photo to this post.

For those who are new to blogging, to leave a comment, click the link below that says "Your Thoughts" and a box pops up. You will leave your comment in the box and you need to select an id. It can be anonymous but it might be hard for me to let you know if you win, so if you go anonymous, check back next week to see if you won!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Picture -- Hope Chronicles 22

I don't know how long it had hung there. But it was there during my student days with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and then my 11 year tenure on staff. My guess is, though I haven't been back in years to check, is that it still rests on the wall in the stairwell at InterVarsity's Cedar Campus. Even though it was a simple charcoal sketch, it never failed to catch my eye and my heart.

It was sketched in black on white paper -- a picture of the sea. You could see above the water and below the water. The artist had drawn the bottom of the sea littered with an inner tube and bit of trash and debris. But the heart clincher for me was a simple sign, slightly askew, in the bottom right hand corner. It simply read, "No Fishing."

In that simple picture, the artist caught the condition of the human soul in two ways. First, he noted that our sins have been cast into the sea. Micah 7:19 says, "He will again have compassion on us. And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all ours sins into the depths of the seas." Notice that God doesn't say that he hurls them into a shallow creek. He casts them into the deepest seas. If we are in Christ, our sins are no more. They have been hurled away by God and buried in the depths.

Secondly, the sign points to our second propensity. Sometimes, we cannot leave well enough alone. Instead, we dig out the fishing gear and sling our poles over our shoulders and head out to the open water. Once there, we fish and fish and fish until we catch something on our hooks. With all the persistence of a seasoned fisherman, we refuse go home empty handed.

Why do we do that? It's not like we really want the rubbish off the bottom of the sea. If anything, it is a burden -- once discarded -- that we pick up again. God cast it there with good reason. He knows that we have been redeemed, that we aren't who we once were. But we go fishing because at some level we doubt that fact. We fear that the sin we confessed isn't really wiped away. We fail to trust the one who freed us from that sin. In doing so, we stifle hope.

I'm not saying that we should never look at our past. Our past informs our present. However, if I just looked at my past with human eyes, my heart would be so heavy I would never manage to struggle out of bed. The sins, the abuse, the pride, . . . would weigh me down so I couldn't move.

Rather, when we look at the past, we need to play close attention to the camera angle. Is it focused on us and our sin or is it focused on the God who redeemed us? Some of the pieces may sound similar in each story, but in reality they are vastly different. One is a picture of despair. The other is a picture of hope.

If you feel the need to look at the past, check the camera angle closely and always let God take center stage. That is where we will find hope in the past, present, and future.

When you find yourself wanting to go fishing, heed this simple sign. It will make all the difference in the world.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Running Circles -- Hope Chronicles 21

It was one of those gorgeous warm spring days. I was thrilled that it was warm enough and light enough in the evening that I could take my riding lesson on Eddie in the outdoor arena. As I brushed him and tacked him up, I noticed that he seemed spunkier than he had in awhile. He was an old horse, and the cold slowed him down.

We were having a great lesson. Eddie moved easily and was responsive to my commands. It seemed to me that we cantered effortlessly. There was no balking at jumps. Eddie seemed to be enjoying the ride as much as I was.

We were only using the outside edge of the arena. Several jumps were clustered at one end waiting to be moved into place for an upcoming show. We took our jump and turned to the left and Eddie inexplicably picked up speed. I tightened and loosened my grip on the reigns several times in a command to slow. He ignored me. In fact, he picked up speed!

Kristi was yelling for me to slow him. I was yelling back that I was trying! Squeeze, release. Squeeze release. But Eddie broke into a gallop. (Please note that while I had been taking lessons for awhile, I had never galloped! Canter was fast enough for me.) It was hard to hear Kristi over the bounding of his hooves and the even louder bounding of my heart.

I desperately tried to remember every instruction I had ever been given. Stay loose -- if you tighten your legs (an instinctual response on a runaway horse) you are actually giving the cue to go faster. Trembling, I managed to pull my leg away from his body. Pull back -- I tried to get his attention with several sharp tugs to the reigns. Circle and make the circles smaller and smaller -- it's harder to go fast when running in small circles.

So, we circled -- my legs swinging as much as I dared and me jerking on the reigns. But we were at the far end of the arena with all the jumps. I didn't dare head to the open area at the other end of the arena. It might give him the idea we were "heading home" -- an idea that made him pick up his step even on the coldest of days.

And we circled and circled, but I couldn't figure out how to make the circles smaller without having to go over a jump. I loved cantering the jumps, but I didn't think I could manage to gallop over one! Kristi continued to shout instructions and twice tried to jump out in front of him to get him to slow. But not knowing what she was doing, I veered away -- afraid that he would trample her.

Ten minutes later he finally began to slow. When he slowed enough, Kristi grabbed the reigns and I slid -- legs trembling -- to the ground. But I was also laughing and proud of myself. I exclaimed, "I've never galloped before! That was exciting! I can't believe I managed to stay on!" With Eddie firmly under her control, Kristi managed to laugh too. One of my difficulites in riding was learning the balance aspect and the fact that I sometimes gave up and let myself fall when I thought it was inevitable. (My first few falls were really minor and didn't hurt much, so I learned the wrong lesson with them!) Kristi remarked that I seemed to have finally gotten the whole balance thing down as well as the staying on at all costs.

I've been thinking a lot about that the last few days. I know I've been oddly silent in my posts. (Heavens, my last post was Tuesday!) But my emotions have been galloping about and it has been all I can do to gather my thoughts. Life is like that evening ride sometimes. We can't slow down emotionally or physically or spiritually. We just keep hurtling on at a neck breaking speed.

But there are some life lessons from that night as well:

  • Stay loose. Just like when I was on Eddie, this is easier said than done. I know that when my mind, my anxiety, my fear starts galloping off it's hard to slow it. Paul gives us excellent advice in Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (NIV) One thing that I have done in the past is make a "Happy Thoughts Journal". God reminded me of it this week and I dug it out. It is a notebook where I only write positive, motivational quotes. But I've also put pictures in there and copies of encouraging emails from friends.

  • Pull back. If life has just gone crazy, it's okay to pull back for a bit. As the psalmist says, God leads us beside still waters. Jesus knows what it is like to be overwhelmed. He made it a regular practice to get up early and spend time with God in prayer. Obviously, we can't just abandon every responsibility, but if we get creative we may find ways to have the calming and restoring moments we need with God.

  • Circle in smaller and smaller circles. I get overwhelmed and I start looking at everything and I get more and more overwhelmed. Too often we try to manage life by stuffing our mouths and swallowing life in gulps. Break down the things that need to be done into bite size pieces. Early last summer I was in the throes of depression and totally overwhelmed. A friend told me what she tells her children when they are faced with a room that is cluttered with every toy they own. "Start with one toy and go from there."

  • Listen to those around you. Honestly, I don't know what I would have done if Eddie had pulled this escapade when Kristi wasn't around. I couldn't catch everything she said, but it was enough to know she was shouting encouragement. Seek out encouragement from those around you. If you're like me, sometimes this is when you are tempted to skip church or whatever else. Don't. This is when you need it all the most.

Here's to a weekend to relax and gather my thoughts and prayers and leaving the old week behind and starting anew.