Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Yes, But Does It Have To Be So Hard?" -- Hope Chronicles 38

After reading the first 5 chapters of Lysa's book at Lelia's site, you have to believe that saying "Yes" to God is the right thing to do. God has our best interests at heart, so why is it so dang hard?

I could totally relate to Lysa's story of the catastrophes that befell her when Art hurt his knee and was laid up for weeks. The fall of 2006 I fell off a horse and broke my tailbone. (Don't laugh at people who need to sit on big, yellow, donut pillows. They totally help.) I couldn't do anything without being in pain.

Fast forward about 5 months. Aunt Amy decides to play Hide-and-Seek with Anna (age 5). I know that Anna has gone upstairs. I decided to sneak as stealthily as I could up those stairs and sneak up on where she was hiding and grab her and have her scream in glee. Let's just say, I was the one screaming and it wasn't in glee. Always use all of your foot when walking on stairs and not just tip toes. Sigh. I got to the top and slipped and tumbled all the way down to the bottom. I sprained an ankle, a knee, and fractured 2 fingers. I'm telling you, watch out for the cute 5 year-olds. They are dangerous! No. It was no one's fault....

So, I could totally relate to Art being laid up. The part that has freaked me out is that there is no one to take care of me! Art has Lysa . . . . .

Within a month, a friend had died suddenly. I did okay at the visitation and funeral. I was a wreck the week after. I couldn't go to work. I couldn't keep anything down. I lost 14lbs in 8 days. I had to go to the ER to get hydrated. Seriously.

I called two women from church. I told them exactly what I needed -- checking up on. I would call Becky at 8:30 AM and Mindy at 7:30ish PM so that someone knew I was alive! If the couldn't get me or I didn't get them -- call out the cavalry.

It was a very vulnerable feeling. I hated it. But it did teach me something about asking for what I need and God's provision. In the midst of it, my pastor and friend came and planted the prettiest purple flowers.....

I loved Lysa's point about needing to have God's purpose, His perspective, and persistence. She writes "A real sign of spiritual maturity is looking to God not for comfort and convenience but for purpose and perspective." When we do that, everyday things have more meaning. Lysa writes, "I am convinced that Satan wants to keep my perspective in a place where my heart is discouraged and my mind is questioning God." I can so relate to that. I've shared before that I struggle with depression. I think it is Satan saying "Look at this bad thing" or "Look at how awful this situation is" or (my worst fear) "Look you have to deal with it all on your own."

A wise man I was talking with tonight said, "There are 3 who know me: myself, God, and the devil. God works for my good. The devil tries to prevent Him. Whose side am I helping?"

The choices we make are so huge even in what seems like little things. Something bad may happen, but I can choose to find God in that situation. It might not be easy. It might take some looking, but God is in the middle of everything. When I am in sync with God, it often means I'm in the middle of messes too. But hopefully, I am working with Him to fix whatever situation is going on. Saying "Yes," to God is worth it, but some time I wish it didn't have to be so hard!

So, in closing, my prayer is for God to change that perspective from "But does it have to be so hard?" to "Thanks God for being here with me!

The choice I've been making this year is to focus on hope. I think the devil has tried to test that a little, but I'm still focused on it and the one who gives it. I'm working on changing my perspective long term.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Anyway -- Hope Chronicles 37

A few weeks ago at Lisa Whittle's site, she encouraged us to share a "get real" moment. Those are the moments where we share what is really going on in our hearts and minds and souls. I thought I would share some of what I shared there and maybe elaborate a little.

My get real moment is "pretending it doesn't matter." I do this in a variety of ways. One of the quickest things to come out of my mouth is to say "I know that's stupid or silly" about something I have said or done or thought. I don't judge others this way. It never crosses my mind to do so. But with myself, it is second nature. I'm trying to watch it and not do it so often (or someday at all), but you may need to call me on it. The reason behind saying it at all is that if I say it first it might hurt less if you say it.

I don't know that I hear others say those words about themselves to the extent that I do. However, I also think that women (and probably men too) are great pretenders. We play the game of It Doesn't Matter Anyway.

In elementary school, we are not asked to play and we say, "It doesn't matter, I didn't want to jump rope anyway."

I went to exactly one dance in junior high and high school. It was in junior high and even though I didn't have friends to go and hang with, I bought the line from the teachers that it was for everyone and anyone could come and it wasn't a date kind of thing. I still remember the cafeteria being emptied of tables and chairs and the beat of the music. I think I lingered in there watching everyone dance for about an hour. I was too shy to just join in what even seemed like a group dance. I spent the next two hours sitting on the curb outside in a patch of darkness waiting for my mom to come pick me up. Though I told her I'd had loads of fun, my mantra in my head those two hours was "It doesn't matter anyway. I didn't want to dance anyway. I don't like dancing anyway." Since I had never really danced, this was pure presumption on my part.

By the time high school rolled around with "Homecoming Dances" and later the prom, I had made myself so busy running a thriving babysitting business that I could easily say, "It doesn't matter anyway that I wasn't invited. I couldn't have gone anyway. I've been booked 3 months out to sit for so and so."

It mattered to my mom that I didn't go to the prom. Even though the arrangement my parents had worked out with me was that I got a certain amount each month that I budgeted for lunches or clothes or school supplies or gas or whatever, she offered to spring for a dress for the prom my senior year. I was actually mildly amused by how seriously she took it because I was so versed in it doesn't matter anyway that going was never an option in my mind. She could take care of the dress, but it would have been a dress that hung in my closet. No group of girlfriends and certainly no boy was planning on including me. So, I told myself, "It doesn't matter anyway . . . ."

I was in chorus my sophomore year. There was a special singing group for juniors and seniors. I sang second soprano. Even though it felt like a risk, I tried out. And when I didn't make it, it confirmed the belief that I couldn't sing and that it was silly to try out and what had I been thinking and I didn't want in it anyway because it would take away from my studies and I wanted to get into a good school. I didn't want it anyway.

As an adult I have the same mantra about various things, "It doesn't matter anyway, I didn't want the house with a white picket fence and the kids would ruin the carpet anyway and a husband would drive me nuts. It doesn't matter GOD because I didn't really want all that anyway."

Or it doesn't matter anyway about that job. It doesn't matter anyway that a friend is moving because we weren't that close anyway. It doesn't matter anyway . . . .

Or sometimes I say, "Okay, I wanted all that but God, you are enough anyway" and that is a pretend too. I say it because it sounds more Christian and accepting.

But when I pretend in whatever way, I wall off bits of my heart. While I shouldn't wallow in things, when I pretend -- or perhaps lie -- to God and others that it doesn't matter anyway, I squash hope. I forget to let myself dream. I close myself off to possibilities. I refuse any comfort because who needs comforting when it doesn't matter anyway? Squashing hope and dreams is spirit deadening because it limits life to what is immediately before you and it forgoes any real communication with God about what is really going on.

God would rather hear me say, "I want it all -- the kids, the husband, the dog, the in laws everyone complains about, the very best friend I can call at 2:00 AM. And God I know you are suppose to be ENOUGH, but sometimes I want it so and it doesn't feel like you are enough." When I'm honest to say that, He invites me on his lap and tells me He knows and reminds me that He is enough but it is okay to have those feelings. They are longings He built in me. And He invites me to wait a little longer to see what He will do -- not a promise that all those things will come the way I think they will but how He might use hands, my life, my heart and meet me in a way I can never imagine.

It is best not to pretend those things don't matter anyway because when I pretend like that, I wall off my heart and do not let Him comfort me. And I risk falling into the pit of doubt that says He is holding out on me, keeping back the best. But God doesn't do that. He knows it all matters. He wants to hold all the things of my heart. But He needs to be free to meet all those dreams in anyway He chooses. I need to trust that any which way life goes, God has my best interest at heart.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

If I Had Only Known

Sometimes, others have already said it so much better than we ever could that it seems necessary to borrow their words. Carolyn Arends is a Christian singer/song writer. This song sums up the end of things with Bill for me. Here is a snippet of it:
If I had known only known
That you'd be leaving here so soon
I would not have been so flippant
When I offered you the moon.
I would pull my chair up closer
To the railing of your bed
Chosen much more carefully
The words I said
I would ask you for your stories
I would tell you mine
I would give you much more credit
I would take more of your time
There's so much I left unspoken
If you were here right now
Oh, I would love you out loud
Carolyn Arends
Love You Out Loud
Album: This Much I Understand

If I had only known:
  • I would have held your hand more often
  • I would have called you more just to say "Hello" even if we would be seeing each other in just a few hours.
  • I would have laughed when you tried to tame my crazy kitty Katy into coming to you no matter how late it made us for dinner
  • I would have pressed to meet your family sooner
  • I would have let you help me with more things instead of trying to be independent
  • I would have snuggled more
  • I would have told you more about my thoughts and feelings. Oh, it wasn't that you didn't it ask but just that I am not a natural talker.
  • I would have made you more cookies and peanut butter pie.

If I had only known that you'd be leaving here so soon, I would not have been so shy. I would have loved you out loud.

If you were here right now:

  • I'd let you help with flowers for the yard
  • I'd actually cook for you
  • I'd tell you how hard it was to have you go so suddenly
  • I'd laugh with you about Mali's antics. She would have you wrapped around that tiny paw.
  • I'd let you comfort me on some of the strange turns my life has taken
  • I'd tell you about the book I hope to write
  • I'd drive you crazy holding your hand
  • I'd laugh more
  • I'd smile more
  • I'd be the one to try and sneak the kiss
  • I'd count every second as a treasure

And, yes, I would love you out loud . . . .

Bill died April 23, 2007 from an aortic aneurysm. We had met at church. Our first date almost turned into a group outing. I was standing with Emily when he approached me and asked about a concert in Peoria that night. Assuming he meant a group outing, I turned to Emily and asked her if that sounded like fun. He graciously said that more people would be fine. But Emily caught on more quickly than I did and she declined.

When he picked me up he noticed that I didn't put the garage door down. I explained that it was broken and I had no clue what to do with it. The next day he came by to fix it for me. I was making cookies, so he stayed for some . . . .

He fixed that sill garage door 3 times! Third time was the charm. It hasn't broken since.

But I suppose instead, it's my heart that got broken to have him leave so suddenly. It's been a year and I still remember. It's been a year that was really hard in places, but my heart is healing. I'm making it through.

Bill brought me laughter and a feeling of connection that before I had only ever dreamed could happen. Without Bill I might have given up that the connection even really existed. While it hurt to say a sudden "Goodbye," there is hope in knowing that mystical connection is fact not fiction and even I can dare to reach out for it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sometimes the Little Things are the Big Things

Sometimes the little things are the big things. Oh, they may look little to us, but they are big to someone else. We may do them almost flippantly (though I'm not sure that is the word I'm looking for) without knowing the profound impact they have on those around us.

About 3 weeks ago, I finished up the Financial Peace class at my church. I provided dessert that night -- chocolate chip cookies and Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie. Both were a hit. On Sunday, Mike said to me, "You should make that pie for community group." At our next group meeting, I showed up with the pie. Mike said, "You'll never know what that means that you brought that."

We didn't have time for a lengthy discussion. And part of me didn't know what to make of it because it was just pie. But the more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me that it wasn't the pie that was the important piece. The important slice was that I listened and responded appropriately.

I told someone about the rough weekend I had. It was just an emotional blur. I can't say I really know her, but yesterday she called just to see how I was doing. I would have loved to talk to her, but she ended up getting voice mail. Still, that voice mail was enough to lift my spirits a bit. I'm sure it was something little to her but it was a big thing for me.

Everyday we have the opportunity to do little things that may (unbeknown to us) be big things to someone else.

Tech Tip From a Tech Wanna Be

I usually leave the tech tips up to Amy at Split Decisionz but I found this and thought I would share!

Maybe all of you already know this. Maybe I'm the last one. But I found out the other day that we now have the capability of scheduling our post times. (No more fiddling with the time at the bottom so it says you are posting on Wed when your post really went up on Tuesday!) You can pick and ta da!

Here's how:

You sign in to "Blogger Draft" and you can write posts ahead of time and then set a time when they will be published. You sign in at http://draft.blogger.com/home

You write the post like usual and then at the bottom you click on "Post Options" and it lets you pick the time it will appear. I thought this was cool. In your list of posts, you will see it labeled as "scheduled."

So, if you are writing a series and want one tip a day to show up but have time to write on Tuesday but not Wed., Thurs, Friday -- you can still have posts show up then! Cool, huh?

But of course, you will always make time to read the wit and wisdom of your bloggy friends!

Locking Eyes With Hope -- Hope Chronicles 36

I dread it when I hear that a stretch of road I normally traverse is going to be "under construction." In theory, these projects are meant to help in the long run. In the short run, they are headaches in the making. And if your part of the world is anything like my part of the world, "construction" on even a tiny segment takes forever.

Roadblocks was what came to mind as I was reading for the on line study at Lelia's of Lysa Terkeurst's book, What Happens When Women Say Yes To God. (If you want to join the discussion or read other's thoughts, just click the button at right.)

I even had a bit of a stumbling block/roadblock on Monday. I had a doctor's appointment and was using my lunch break to accomplish it. (To my credit, I had let them know I might be a few minutes late coming back.) Sigh, maybe that was a prediction. But I'm usually in and out. It's a routine kind of thing. The fall of 2006 my iron was extremely low and for whatever reason, my body wasn't absorbing it from food or pills. I had to get it intravenously like eight times! At which point, my iron count was probably high enough to set off a metal detector! Now I go in every 4 months or so to see how much ground has been lost (usually 60-100 points). It was so high when they gave me those treatments, that while it is still dropping it is now in the "normal" range.

But my usual in and out turned into a sit and wait. I don't do sit and wait well.... Part of it for me today was, "What were they thinking at work?" I had already told them it might be a possibility, yet I felt myself get more and more anxious about it. And God brought to mind Lysa's words where she spoke of the gatekeepers Acceptance and Rejection. Rejection, criticism was what I feared if I lingered to long even for a necessary appointment. Acceptance is what I craved. As Lysa so aptly wrote, both gatekeepers require a lot (the fear of not being able to continue to perform or the lure of being constantly let off the hook because I don't measure up).

Lysa challenges us to choose worship over worry. Worry is a great roadblock to me. I can find worry in everything. When things are hard, the worry is ten times greater. Lysa writes:

When we worship in these hard places, we are reminded that none of this is about me -- it's all about God.

I want to have a heart that automatically looks to worship instead of worry. But a lot of my worry comes from where my eyes -- physically (counting the dollars and balancing the checkbook), emotionally (what are people thinking or saying about me), and spiritually (my own inability to be "good enough," worthy enough for God) are looking. I look at storm rather than the storm calmer.

Lysa uses a beautiful illustration of her youngest daughter Brooke. Brooke is Lysa's child who most needs touch. Once, she was in a dance recital and the part she anticipated dancing got switched. In tears, she searched out her mother. Lysa knew she couldn't be on stage with her daughter but she said, "Lock your eyes on mine and Mommy will touch you with my smile. Don't look at anyone or anything else . . . . It doesn't matter if you mess up. What matters is that you keep your eyes on me the whole time. We'll do this together."

I need to lock eyes with the heavenly Father. It has been a difficult few days and that seems hard to do. I'd like to hide and pull the covers over my head. But I am choosing to lock eyes with Jesus and choose hope by doing things like taking spring pictures over the weekend or calling a friend when I need it or reading all the antics and wise thoughts of my bloggy friends. In these ways I am locking eyes with hope.

And not only am I trying to dance, God is dancing and singing over me. The smile never leaves His face when my eyes are locked with His.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." -- Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Monday, April 21, 2008


Jenny has tagged me to share 7 random things about myself. So, I'm being a good sport and going to share with you some randomness about my life. However, I've not had much luck with tagging other people, so I think I will skip that part. Hope you aren't too disappointed Jenny!

7 Random Things That No One Really Needs To Know About Me

1) I am an identical twin. I do mean identical. Last fall my sister attended a conference in a different state where several people from my church were helping out. She was a bit annoyed when people exclaimed, "Amy, I didn't know you were going to be here!" When her son was about 1 I went to visit and he was with his dad. He jumped from his dad's arms to mine and then looked over at his mom and started crying. The poor little tyke was so confused!

2) I took horseback riding lessons for several years as an adult. Eddie, the horse I was put on, had a phobia of concrete. If the saddle was on and the girth was tight, he would fall down and think that he couldn't get up!

3) My sophomore year in college my parents moved to Japan. We had never moved, so this was a huge deal. But it also meant I got to see several places I might never have seen before: Japan (of course), Singapore, Fiji, Australia. I also spent a semester in England and made it to Switzerland and Italy. As a child we did the Canada thing and I've crossed the border into Mexico but really just saw the border town.

4) The first boy I liked was John Fry. We were in the same preschool. He was a year younger. I don't know whatever became of him. But my sister and I had it all figured out. Being twins, we shared everything, so we were going to both marry him. I would live upstairs and she would live downstairs. I'm not sure where poor John was going to live because even though we liked him we were still of an age to believe that all boys had cooties.

5) Oddly enough, when we were growing up, there were several years where we had a foster child in our home. Her names was Michelle Fry. (I don't think she was any relation to John.) She was reunited with her family about when I was in the 5th grade. I haven't had contact since, though for some reason I think her family moved to North Carolina. I wonder about her sometimes.

6) With the exception of cake batter, I really don't have much use for blenders, beaters, and what not. When I bake, most things are stirred with my hands. So, if I give you a recipe and it says hand mix I mean the 10 finger kind of mixing.

7) I've been writing all my life. When I was 10, we got a little blue type writer for Christmas. My twin and I began epic novels on that thing and shifted to the computer some time in high school.

I don't know if any of that counts as interesting, but it is a little bit of randomness about me!

Too Funny!

I don't intend to jinx anything, but I'm declaring that spring has arrived! In honor of that when I got home from work, I did the celebratory throw open the windows jig. Katy (my shy and timid one) was thrilled. But then she has been through this a time or two. She claimed the choice spot on the window sill where she can see and hear and smell all that spring has to offer.

In contrast, my fierce Mali took refuge on the stairs! It's been over an hour now and she has finally gotten on a box beneath the window and keeps popping her head up and down to check if it is safe. My guess is that it is the noise from the cars going by that has her spooked! Very funny since she tolerates the noise and antics of small children so well!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Trading -- Hope Chronicles 35

It seems like it has been a long time in coming, but it appears that we are finally trading winter for spring. That feels like hope to me! So, I thought I would share a few pictures from this winter and my outing today into spring!

The playground down the road is silent and lifeless during the winter.

Today, the playground was teeming with life and a pick up basketball game.

There are no flowers in the winter. Well, this is my yard. With a friend's help, I had flowers for the first time last year. I'll have to see what I can muster this year.

But I found these beauties dancing in the slight breeze while on my walk.

These have been my valiant allies when I shoveled what seemed to be our every 7 to 10 day snow storms. While I welcomed their comfort and warmth, it is time to retire them to the basement for a season.

My toes are excited to trade them for these pretty pink sandals. Alas, they are not suitable for days at work, but I suspect I'll make good use of them in the off hours! I felt pretty and fun in them today at church!

As much as I am enjoying the change in seasons, I am also aware of restlessness in my heart. As all Christians are continually being transformed to be more like Jesus, I pray the same is true of my heart. Though it has meant some tears the last month or two, I hope it means that spring and new growth are abiding there as well.

What is your best picture of spring? Post it and leave me a comment and I will come see!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tender Hearts

I have high expectations for myself. In school it was A+ type work. In terms of relationships, it is being trustworthy -- let your yes be yes and your no be no kind of stuff. I am also a completely confidential person. This is probably a mix of things. In my family growing up, everything was a secret so I learned not to share. That probably wasn't so healthy. But then there is also the piece that I worked in ministry for 11 years and dealt with student's private lives so there were things that had to be kept confidential. And then I got my MA in counseling, so everything is private there! But it also slips into my relationships. I just don't tend to repeat things -- not even to say, "Don't tell anyone else but . . . ." We all know how that works.

I am also intensely loyal and tend to go out of my way to help people. Until last weekend, I thought this was mostly about helping people I knew well and cared for. A friend pointed out that I tend to respond that way to everyone. For example, there is a single mom in my community group. I do not know her at all. We've never said much more than "Hello." Part of it is the timing when she joined, I had to miss several weeks, so there hasn't been much opportunity. She recently told the group she was looking for a sitter because her regular sitter is going to be out of town for a week. I immediately said that I might be able to help because of the odd hours of my work schedule but that I needed to look at my schedule.

I looked at my schedule and found that I had some things already scheduled. I could definitely help one day and possibly rearrange life on a second day.... I began to problem solve how I could totally meet the need -- even considering using some vacation time. My friend pointed out that I respond that way to a lot of things but it isn't necessarily my job to meet every need that comes my way -- do what I can but don't turn into a Chinese acrobat with all kinds of contortions. I cannot be all things to all people.

All of that sounds somewhat positive, doesn't it? Loyal, caring, confidential, helpful. It is but there is a catch. Those are expectations of myself but I am realizing that I put those expectations on others as well. When the need isn't met or confidentiality is broken or whatever . . . I am extremely hurt.

I believe that God has given me a tender heart. It makes me see things that other wouldn't see and respond in ways that other might not respond. But a tender heart can also be easily hurt. I am finding the need to sift through what appropriate expectations are and where I perceive a slight when there might not be one.

The Velveteen Rabbit is a great book. In it the Skin Horse explains real and why it doesn't often happen to toys that break easily or have to be carefully kept. Real is when you get shabby in the joints and your fur has been loved off. My thought lately is that I may have to be "too carefully kept" to develop the friendships I long for. So, I'm praying that God would help me with my expectations, that I can give to my heart's content but not have the same expectations of others. I think the tender heart is a good thing. I just don't need it so easily broken.

Never Uncalled For

I have the most interesting conversations at Barnes and Noble. The other night, between waiting on customers, another bookseller and I were chatting. She had picked out a couple of cards and said, "I never know if I should get my husband's father's wife a Mother's Day card."

Without a thought, I quipped, "Kindness is never uncalled for." I've thought on that the last couple of days. I think it is true. Sometimes we worry about what is "correct" by someone's definition. (Even though we are unsure who the mysterious someone is!) So, we hesitate to do the kind thing even if it is a $2.00 card . . . .

I'm not saying that I always get it right. I don't. Sometimes I worry about how something will be received -- too much, too little, whatever.

Hearts at Home is held in March in Illinois. Some of the Proverbs 31 gals were going to be here. I had contact with one over my She Speaks registration. On a whim, I emailed her to ask if she and the two others would like to come to my house for dinner or go out the night before the conference. It took a few days to hear back. As soon as I sent it, I worried about what she must have thought. It's not like she knows me. Still, it seemed like a friendly thing to do. I went back and forth on if I should have invited at all.

But the idea of kindness never being uncalled for -- it might have quieted some of those thoughts.

They already had plans, but she said to make sure I said "Hello" during She Speaks.

When insecurity or whatever is nipping at your heels, remember that kindness is never uncalled for. I hope you'll follow your kind impulses.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hope That's Hard To See -- Hope Chronicles 34

I have never been good at trust falls. If you don't know what those are, it is where you perch backwards to a group of people and then fall (flat as a board -- it is important not to sit) into their out stretched arms. As a group, they will catch you.

Perhaps I should be even more honest. I've never been able to actually accomplish one. It doesn't matter who is doing the catching or the encouragement of the the crowd, I cannot make myself fall backwards into their arms. I'm also quite sure that I couldn't do it face forward either!

However, I feel like life is one big trust fall at the moment. It is now over 6 weeks of not sleeping well. I'm tired and it's hard to focus. I really just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Life seems riddled with conflict from various sources. Finances are a mess. Don't even get me started on taxes. Yes, they were on time, but . . . . Everything in life seems to be working against me.

But that is where hope comes in. Hope is hard to see right now. It is incredibly hard to feel. But hope is more than a wish, more than a warm feeling. Hope is a found in the person of Jesus.

I've been reflecting on the two men walking on the road to Emmaus. They were distraught -- and rightfully so. But they were so focused on their loss, that they didn't recognize the risen Lord.

It seems that focusing on our circumstances does that at times. We see the trees but miss the forest. Yes, Jesus had died on the cross, but He was ALIVE and walking beside them.

God, unblind my eyes so that I can see you in the midst of all the circumstances pulling at me. Lord, you are the source of hope. Take my eyes of of the details of life and put them back on you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Separation From God vs. Yes To God

I am doing an on-line book study with some other women. It's been great. If you want to join or just read comments, click the button at left to go to Lelia's site. We are reading a book by Lysa Terkeurst called What Happens When Women Say Yes To God.

Here are my thoughts:

If you are a Christian you have had to say "Yes" to God at some point in your life -- "Yes, I am a sinner and yes, I need your salvation God." But saying "Yes" on a daily or even moment to moment basis is a difficult, even a monumental task. Given everything that God has given us, you might not think it would be so hard, but when I am honest, I have to admit that it is.

In chapter 4, "You Never Know How God Will Use You Until You Let Him," Lysa writes, "Only the pursuit of God's righteousness leads us to His best." God always wants the best for us. When we seek God -- pursue -- God's righteousness that leads us closer to God. But sometimes this can be a scary place.

Jesus went to the poor, the weeping, the sinners, the prostitutes. They aren't places that I normally want to go to. But God calls me to those places.

As I was reading, I was reminded of a woman I worked with whose two boys were in foster care and she was 8-9 months pregnant. I did fairly well with many of my clients even if I didn't agree with their choices. But this woman grated on every nerve I had.

We were not obligated to transport parents. In fact, it was common to expect them to make their own way to visits and appointments. For many of my clients this meant the bus. Even though our city isn't huge, getting from point A to point B could take and hour or more. They were dropped off down the road and then had to walk the rest of the way to our facility.

It was hot and sticky and after the visit, she had to walk back down the road and stand and wait for the next bus. She asked me if I would drop her down the street. It was not one of my better moments and I said, "No." I rationalized it as a natural consequence for her choices. I rationalized it that I didn't have extra insurance and I was using my own car and if something happened she would undoubtedly sue for every dime she could get. But really, it was just that I didn't like her.

I didn't like her. Ouch. That haunted me the next several days. The next week, I asked her if she wanted me to drop her at the end of the road. But God said, "That's not quite enough." Though it lengthened my day, I began to drive her across town and then transport the little ones to the foster parents' home.

I can't say that anything miraculous happened. I left the agency before the case closed. But, in saying "Yes" to God in those moments, I began to see her not simply as a client -- and one I didn't like -- but as someone who was made uniquely in God's image. If it were Jesus who needed a ride, would I hesitate? But then God reminded me that it was Jesus who needed the ride.

One of the things that struck me was Lysa's comment that Satan's name means "one who separates." Indeed that is what he does. He is constantly pulling and tugging and enticing us away from God and His best for us.

In church today, the altar is usually in plain sight. My church doesn't even necessarily have an altar per se. (We use a horse trough for baptism!) In Jesus' day, a curtain separated the altar from public view. When a priest would go in, they tied a rope around his foot in case something would happen and they would need to drag him out.

But when Jesus died on the cross, the temple curtain was torn. It is so specific that it says from top to bottom rather than bottom to top. We could not rip it up and reach up to God. So God, reached down and made the way.

Lysa writes, "The truth is the name of Jesus causes us to pause and redefine ourselves. The truth is that love compels us to embrace the calling to be Jesus' ambassador. The truth is freedom to soar above this life and learn to live beyond ourselves and our circumstances." I sense the dangerousness of it, but "Lord, make me pause in that redefining way. Lord, help me choose to embrace your calling on my life and to say 'Yes' every moment."

It's easy to say and harder to walk out. There are some situations right now that aren't very pretty in my life. I won't air them here, but please pray that I would say "Yes" in a moment to moment way and that I would choose that over separation from others and, most importantly, separation from God."

One last thought from Lysa that touched my heart:

With God's amazing love settled in our heart, we have His power to keep our faith steady and to experience lasting hope and joy independent of our situation.

It's true -- God wants it all. and it's in exchange of what we want for what God wants that we experience the adventure and freedom and power of saying yes to God.

I want that. Do you?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Acquainted with Sorrow

I rarely answer my cell phone when driving, but when it rang that April afternoon, I answered. I almost didn’t have to. I answered, knowing instinctively what the news was. My friend asked me where I was and I explained I was driving back in town from an appointment. She told me to call her when I was back in town.

When I had left the hospital for an appointment in a nearby town, Bill had been “relatively” stable and I had planned on going right back. But I drove home instead because I knew, as my friend would confirm, that Bill had died.

Bill and I had dated for several months, spending daily time together and talking about the future. At the end of March we took a break, but I anticipated getting back together. In April, Bill (at the age of 41) had an aortic aneurysm. He lingered for a few days, but never regained consciousness.

Recently, I came across a book, Amish Grace by Kraybill, Nolt, and Weaver-Zercher concerning the West Nickel Mines Amish school shootings. I fell upon a passage regarding the Amish and the grieving. It explained that in public settings, Amish who are grieving wear black. The length of time that they wear black depends upon their relationship to the one who has died. What struck me was the reason behind the wearing of black. Simply put, they wear black to remind others in their community to take special care of grieving.

How different from our fast paced society! We don’t say it, but there is a compartmentalization of those who grieve. While the grieving may be intently cared for a few days after the death and funeral, it is a struggle for us in our busy lives to care well for the grieving over the long haul. And it is a long haul. Experts estimate that grief takes 18 months or more.

Bill was not the first person in my life to die. I’ve lost all of my grandparents at various ages and my mother when I was just twenty-three. I’ve lost people quickly and have experienced death that has lingered. Neither is easy. As I’ve grieved Bill, I’ve gone to a grief support group and met others who are grieving. Here are the top three things I’ve learned about those who grieve and how to help them.

Keep asking how you can help. Better yet – don’t just ask but pitch in. Your friend may not know at first how to tell you to how to help, but keep asking or think of things and offer specifics. This could be helping go through belongings or writing out thank you notes. It could mean making phone calls. I’ve learned from those in the support group that death is complicated. There are forms to fill out, names to change, wills to find, people to contact. If you have the time and energy, help with those nitty-gritty details even if you have never done it before. Your friend may not have done it before either, but it will help to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

Stay connected and have a ready ear. Especially if your friend lived with their loved one, the sudden isolation can be staggering. For those who have lost both parents, there may be the sobering realization that even though they are adult, they are now an “orphan.” Be willing to listen to stories about the loved one or even the death over and over. Be patient. This talking it out is part of “framing” the grief. Eventually, this part of grief moves from something handled daily to that which can be hung on the wall. It’s still there, but it no longer takes center stage. Rather, it can be taken down periodically and good as well as sad remembrances can be shared.

Care for the grieving over the long-haul. Write down the date of death and write a reminder in your calendar 1 month, 3, months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months out. On those dates, send a note, make a phone call, or have a cup of coffee. For some reason the “threes” are particularly hard. While no one can tell me why that is, those who work with the grieving and those that grieve know that it is. My theory is that those come with the changing of seasons in most areas and are a reminder that the loved-one is no longer present.

When we walk with the grieving, we walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (KJV). In John 11, Jesus learns that his friend, Lazarus, has died. When he sees Lazarus’ sister Mary weeping, it says that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33, NIV). And in versus 35 it says, “Jesus wept.” (NIV).

I am fascinated that Jesus wept even knowing that he would raise Lazarus from the dead. He was moved by Mary’s grief and wept with her. I think we often shy away from the grieving because we don’t want to feel such raw emotion and don’t like not knowing what to do or say. Be yourself and let yourself be moved by your friend’s grief – to weep with them, to listen to them, to serve them, to be Jesus to them.

Bill died April 23, 2007. As might be expected, he has been on my mind a bit lately. I'll probably share more about him over the next week. He was a special person in my life -- a gift even if I only had him for a short while.

Sorry if this is a bit more "article" sounding. I wrote it to submit for publication, but I thought I would share it with you as well.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Where Memories Are Kept

I have known for a while that the time was coming, that soon a piece of my life would be no more or at least not in the same form. Even though the cover had been loose for a time, it was hard to see the cover completely torn away from this much used book.

With most things in the kitchen, I make do. I cobble things together, sometimes shooting an email to a friend to find out what is really meant by "browning" or "saute" or any other cooking type word. However, I do really well with baking. My specialty is chocolate chip cookies. Though I've given the recipe with explicit instructions to numerous people, aside from my sisters no one has ever managed to duplicate them. Someone with whom I reguarly share my cookies, recently bemoaned the fact that I had brought them. She is on a "plan" and cookies aren't part of them.

The book in question is my mother's old cookie cookbook. It has her name and the year, 1979, signed on the opening page. While there are hundreds of recipes in the book, it naturally falls open to the stained and dog eared page that announces "Best cookie of 1945" and my blue sticky note doubling the recipe.

I am not a great collector of things. But when my mother died many years ago, I snagged her cookie book for my own. There is always a bit of nostalgia in using it.

The thing that makes it precious are the memories it evokes. My mother was hard to please and I often wondered if I was ever good enough. She rarely said, "I love you." But the one way I knew her care was in the baking. When we were young she would tease that the cookie or brownie fairy had come while we were playing outside or at school. We would eat them warm, oozing with chocolate.

My sisters and I are far flung. They have married and have children of their own. There are in laws to see on holidays and no one wants to travel at Christmas -- prefering that their children wake up to see Santa's presents under their own tree.

I am graciously and warmly included at a friend's. But at times the talk will turn to "remember when . . . ." At times like these it seems to me that when one goes home it is to where the memories are kept. Home is where the shared memories, the shared past, binds hearts together.

While I cherish the newer memories I make with friends and their families, my heart still yearns for the emotional place, home, where memories are kept.

This was written for this contest.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Cat's Pajamas

As many of you will recall, I recently solved the case of the mysterious missing pj's. Things have continued to turn up missing. Last night, I found two pot holders under the bed. So, if it is not in a drawer, it is obviously fair came for Mali to run off with!

I've been telling people all about Mali's antics and the tricks she is learning. I told my friend Debbie about the missing pj's. She couldn't believe I disturbed Mali's nest. (In my defense it is the middle of April and tomorrow in central Illinois they are calling for snow showers! I need fleece. ) She suggested that I could have some of Lucas' flannel pj's that he has recently outgrown. Tonight after community group, I asked Lucas (3 years old) about it. Lucas is fascinated with Mali, so he was thrilled that his pj's were going to go to her.

Yes, my cat now has pajamas. Is she a pampered pet or what?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tug of War

The last time I was involved in a tug of war was when I was a college student at camp. We did it in the sand by the bay. Everyone kept yelling, "Dig in! Dig in!" While this was probably good advice, it wasn't all that helpful in sand unless you had a pretty good size trench. The whole time we were stepping on each other and falling down. I have no clue which team won but I do know I didn't enjoy it at all. Later when I went to camp as a staff, I opted out of that event!

Today I talked to Julie about a conflict I'm in with someone. She made the observation that we appear to be in a bit of a tug of war. She had some great advice. She said, "If you want to end a tug of war, you can lay down your rope and walk toward the other person." I struggled with that a bit after she said it. My emotional gut level reaction said that I should "dig in." When I dig in, I don't usually just do it with my feet. My trench has to be at least waist deep!

Julie is one of those people who can say things softly but still get the point across. Much of the time, I spoke about not feeling "safe." SAFETY is HUGE for me. I think there is some element of that involved. But Julie just said, "I cannot tell if you aren't feeling safe or if you have dug your heels in."

Honestly, I think it was some of both. I'm still not feeling totally safe regarding the situation. But, tonight I sent an email in an attempt to "lay down my rope and walk toward the other person." We'll see what happens.

Even though it doesn't feel totally safe, some of the angst about the situation dissipated in sending that email. Perhaps, it is simply because I am choosing not to tug back. Depending on the response I get, I may have to keep choosing to let that rope lie there rather than pick it up. Even if the other person tugs it a few more times, there shouldn't be much harm (as long as I don't grab it back) because tug of war by yourself is completely useless and I can't imagine anyone keeping at it when no one is pulling back.

So, I've laid down the rope and now I have to wait and see about a meeting in a few days. Please pray for me to let that rope stay right there on the ground and be able to trust God for the sense of safety I need.

Are you in a tug of war? What do you think would happen if you stopped tugging?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Scandalous Hope -- Hope Chronicles 33

I am really enjoying working at Barnes and Noble. (The pay could be better, but the atmosphere is great.) I worked 1 day in the last 4 days but have popped in there 3 out of the 4. Today, I went to pick up one of Lysa's books for someone.

I was hailed to go to the register at the other end of the row of registers. As I was going, I mentioned that I was picking up a book and the manager snagged it for me. It was, as is customary for special orders, wrapped in white paper. She said, "You know we have to check it out." I laughed and said, "Yeah, it's pretty scandalous stuff."

When she handed my purchase to another bookseller, Will, to ring up, she said, "Yeah, it's really racy all right." Will looked pretty perplexed. We do see some racy things come through our lines, but I don't think he would have put What Happens When Women Say Yes To God in that category!

Speaking of that book. I've been reading it on line at Lelia's site with some other women. It's kind of fun to read everyone's reactions. I picked this copy up to give to a friend.

But the chapter and the Barnes and Noble banter got me thinking. We don't typically think of Christianity as scandalous. Scandalous is the affairs of public figures or whatever is happening with Brittney Spears or any number of stars on any given day. Scandalous is all about money and power and sex. Honestly, we are so saturated by it, that it takes more and more degrees of "scandal" for anything to register.

We are the frog in the pot of water. Put a frog in a pot of boiling water and it quickly jumps out. Put it in a pot and then slowly turn up the heat, the frog will stay put while it boils to death. Culturally, it is the same thing.

Shouldn't Christianity be scandalous? Shouldn't Jesus followers be the talk of the town? Too often we aren't. We are milk toast not spice. Jesus created a "scandal" most of where He went:

  • To start, His entire birth was a scandal -- unwed mother kind of stuff.

  • His lineage could be considered a scandal. It includes Rahab, the prostitute, and Ruth, the Moabitess. God chose not to have His son come from a "pure blood" line.

  • He talked to known sinners and tax collectors. He even had dinner with them.

  • He didn't put anyone ahead of anyone else just because of who they were. For example, when Jarius' (a big wig in town) daughter is ill and dying, Jarius comes to him in a panic. Jesus stops for a woman -- a lowly woman -- who had been bleeding for 12 years.

  • Jewish people weren't big on cemeteries in that coming in contact with the dead made someone unclean. But Jesus travels across the Sea of Galilee to cast out a legion of demons in a man that the town really had no use for. Jesus healed him and instead of marveling at that and praising God, they got angry about their pigs. They cared more for pigs than people.

  • He challenged the religious authority of the day. He let them know when they had things backwards.

  • He was gentle with children but capable of enough anger that He overturned tables in the temple courtyard.

  • He went out of His way to talk to the Samaritan woman.

And the list goes on and on. Jesus was gentle with those who needed tenderness but didn't mind shaking up those who needed to be shaken up a bit.

In What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, Lysa talks about radical obedience. In some sense, it is being willing to do whatever God asks even if it doesn't make sense to our culture, our friends, our family, or even ourselves. Lysa writes, "Obedience becomes radical when we say, 'Yes, God, whatever You want,' and mean it. We release our grip on all that we love and over it back to Him, who loves us more." That is hard to do, but it is the heart of the matter. Do we love God enough to give Him all that we hold precious and dear -- finances, family, friends, dreams, hopes . . . .

There is saying about the news: If it bleeds it leads. The power and hope of the gospel is that Jesus bled for us, He paid a blood debt we could never pay. Few of us really comprehend what that means at the core. Or if we glimpsed it when we became Christians, it's lost it's power as it has become "familiar."

A friend sent an email to me recently. It was about a prof who taught religion and sensed that the class didn't grasp the reality of the cross. Anyway, he brought donuts to the class and asked the first person if they wanted one. They said, "Yes." He had one of the other students do 10 push ups so the first could have a donut. And so it went through out the class with the same student doing the push ups. Soon, students were saying they didn't want the donuts because they saw the exhaustion on the face of the student doing the push ups. They were becoming horrified that their donut was costing so much. But the prof had one student do them anyway. In the end He said, "Now, wouldn't it be a shame to leave that donut sitting on the desk after all that was paid for it."

Perhaps, we should all be horrified, scandalized on a daily basis on what our salvation cost Jesus. If it bleeds, it leads. Maybe we should remember on a daily basis that Jesus died and rose again. And since He loved us enough to bleed and die for us, shouldn't we follow His lead with radical obedience? Shouldn't He be the talk of the town because we are loving prostitutes and junkies, caring for widows and orphans, standing up for things in small and big ways in our jobs and schools and communities, getting our hands dirty, changing the way we spend our money, our time, our talent, asking God for His direction even in the mundane things of life, . . . .

Shouldn't we be creating a daily scandal because we have a scandalous hope?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mystery of the Missing PJ's

We are in the transition from winter to spring in central Illinois. However, last week, it was still - in my opinion - pretty cold. I also have this thing about comfort. I love my fleece pj's. (Getting to wear fleece is one of the few good things about winter.)

Last Tuesday night I went to put my snugly pj's on. It had been a hard day. I had a migraine and all that kind of stuff going on. I wanted -- I needed --my comfortable pj's. Much to my dismay, I could not find the pj bottoms. Typically, they reside with the top waiting for me on the bed. I had done a load of laundry, so I checked to see if they had gotten thrown in there. Nada. I looked all around and couldn't find them. I thought that maybe it was that I was tired and that I would find them on Wednesday

Wednesday -- no pj's. I still had the top but that wasn't working for me and my summer nightgown wasn't cutting it. I added an additional couple blankets and bemoaned that losing a pair of pj bottoms when you are the only one in the house is surely a sign of losing your mind as well.

Tonight, I dropped something on the floor. As I was picking it up, I noticed that a book had slid partially under the bed, so I knelt to retrieve it. Low and behold, I found a treasure trove of odds and ends -- most importantly pj bottoms -- that have turned up missing one by one over the last couple of weeks. Most of the items were cloth -- socks (that I had assumed the dryer had eaten), a sweat shirt that I had no clue where it had gotten to, 4 hand towels, and a scarf. They were all balled up in a neat little nest of sorts in the very center under the bed.

Mali is my scavenger. She is a stray at heart. I thought that it was mostly confined to food, but it appears otherwise. No, I'm not just picking on Mali. It's just I've had her growl at me over a dishcloth before. I had assumed that it was because it had just been used and smelled like food. Never assume anything. These items were all relatively clean (if you discount the cat fur). She apparently needed them for comfort.

Just like Katy, Mali typically shares my bed with me. (Actually, they get the lion's share.) But apparently Mali wanted a bit of space to herself . . . . So, if I start to complain about missing items, please remind me that I live with a scavenger and I should check under the bed and any other hidey hole a cat might use.

Case solved. Thankfully, I don't have to worry that I'm losing my mind!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

On Finding Flowers

It's just begun to get warm in central Illinois -- just jacket kind of weather. The grass is still mostly that dead brownish-yellow of winter. So, a few days ago I was surprised to notice what looked like a couple purple flowers in the middle of my yard. I didn't have time to go investigate, but I've noticed them the last few days as I've whizzed this way and that.

It's also been a rocky week emotionally. Mostly, it is because I took a risk earlier in the week in a family relationship. I had actually gone back and forth for over a month about if asking this particular thing of this person was "wise" or not. On one hand, I knew it would sting emotionally if it didn't turn out the way I hoped. On the other hand, I thought that if I didn't try, didn't ask, I would always wonder. In reality, I would be shutting the door as surely as the "No" I feared.

With a prayer, I sent my request via email. I tried to think through all the things that might be a hindrance and addressed them upfront. That was Monday. I waited all day and then on Tuesday and Wednesday. Finally, I got the response Thursday late afternoon. It was what I had feared -- a "No."

Part of me says, "At least I tried." The other part of me says, "But it hurts!" I've batted it all back and forth all weekend. And as I drove home from church, I found it creeping in again.

As I came out of the garage, my attention turned back to those flowers. I went over to have a peek. They were indeed purple flowers, but to my dismay, they were plastic. Fakes. Finding flowers when you least expect it seems fun. Finding fake flowers, well it's just a bit of a bummer!

This afternoon I had a shift at the bookstore. A woman walked up. She was wearing glasses. The skin above her glasses and eyes was all red. I was about to comment, "It looks like you got a bit of sun on your face." Luckily, God stilled my tongue. And she began, "I know you probably don't take returns, . . ." I tried to say that we did, but she pressed on. "But there are extenuating circumstances." I pulled a book on multiple pregnancies from the crumpled sack. "I miscarried yesterday," she said. The redness was not from sun but tears.

My manager was standing right there at the time. We both assured her we would take it back. But she wanted to look at something else perhaps about miscarriage but she hesitated too. My manager took her to the right section and helped her find a book, . . . .

It just puts it all in perspective. Does the response I got still hurt? Yes. But I cannot imagine losing a child or perhaps more than one at once.

And as for the flowers I took as an affront upon finding they were fake . . . . Well, no one put those there to fool me. In fact, the idea of there being purple flowers there was kind of fun and an encouraging sign of spring -- of things yet to come. They added a dash of color to a dreary landscape. Even if they were not real, I can be thankful for that and the reminder that spring and summer and real purple flowers are coming.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Six Word Memoirs -- Hope Chronicles 32

What can you say in six words? There is a new book out that says a lot or at the very least makes you wonder some about the person who wrote it. It is titled NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: SIX WORD MEMOIRS BY WRITERS FAMOUS AND OBSCURE.

I know about it because of working in the bookstore. It's one of the books we are "encouraging." I'm not sure it is one that I would personally pick, but it does garnish a little interest. Not sure if it is urban legend or not, but the story goes that someone once challenged Ernest Hemingway to write a story in six words. He reportedly wrote "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn." Thus, the idea for the book.

At the bookstore, the rage has been to come up with your own six word memoir. They usually elicit more questions and quizzical looks than anything. My first try said more about where I use to be than where I am at: Phobic horse, anxious dog, grandiose delusions. (1. I use to take lessons on a horse with a phobia of concrete 2. I had an anxious dog at the same time that was on anti anxiety meds 3. I swore that if I had a parakeet it would have delusions of grandeur and think itself an eagle.) Not so great since it took 5 times as many words to explain.

I finally settled on one today. Drum roll: Born pessimist choosing to find hope.

I think I was born a pessimist. If I wasn't born that way, early life experiences taught me to suspect the worst. But this year I am taking that journey of hope. I am choosing to find in amidst the ups and downs, the thrills and disappointments of life.

I've only been at it since the beginning of December -- just about 4 months since my first post on hope. And I am finding it to be a choice. It's an attitude that says that God is present in the midst of every heartache and every laugh. Sometimes it takes a bit of looking to see His fingerprints on the situation.

There is a juvenile detention center in town. It has struck me several times that it sits right next to a popular summer water park. I wonder if it is torture to those kids to see others having so much fun and not be able to join in. I think it would be hard! I imagine there are two ways of dealing with it: pulling the blinds and denying it's there, squelch the longing or gaze out the window and dream and plan for the day when you could join.

As a pessimist, I probably tend to be the first. But I like to think my journey of hope is making me the second. I want to be one who in the darkest of nights turns my face to the east because I know that is where the first rays of the sun will crest. Psalm 121:1-2 puts it this way:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Is your soul downcast? Look to where you know your help will come from. Eagerly anticipate in spite of everything in life that may tell you it is foolish. Turn your face to the warmth of the coming sun and the coming Son. There are no cliffhangers with God and His word is true.

What would your six word memoir be? Will you share?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Won't You Be My Neighbor? -- Hope Chronicles 31

He called us friend and put on house slippers and a cozy sweater. He talked to us (but never down to us) and took us on make believe adventures. I'm dating myself, but Mr. Rogers was an integral part of my early life. And he always asked, "Won't you be my neighbor?"

We weren't close to a lot of people growing up, but I did at least know who my neighbors were on the left and right and catercorner and across the street and several houses up . . . . I knew who the parents were and which kids to avoid and who might want to play a game of tag.

It appears that it is less and less like that today. I live in a row of town houses. I know the people on either side and a couple down the alley but not many more than that. Still, I was totally caught off guard by two calls today at the office.

I work in the county recorder's office with deeds and mortgages and all that type of stuff. A gentleman called up and wanted to know why the site needed a password and user id. (It was locked down last summer due to social security numbers being on older mortgages and miscellaneous documents.) I explained how he could get a user id and password. As part of the process I asked him what he might be using the site for. "I want to know who my neighbors are," is the answer I got. Hmm. Apparently, each year, for some reason, he takes a survey of the names of the people who live around him.

Not 10 minutes later, I got a call from a woman who said that the house next to her had been foreclosed on and she wanted to know which bank now owned it. I told her that to do a search I would need the parcel id number or the name of her former neighbors. She had no clue as to the name of her neighbors.

Hmm for second time in a day. Hmm. Seems like a plate of cookies and a handshake would do more than looking on line.

But, perhaps, I'm not the best one to talk. While I do know a few people, I don't know them well. Even at church I can be reserved.

Every Sunday we have KidStuf -- the children's church. I've been helping with that. There is singing and dancing and laughing and skits. It's great fun. I'm not particularly coordinated. So, sometimes I skip the dancing. But lately I've been taking pictures and when you are up front taking pictures you are more visible and it's more conspicuous if you stand there like a bump on a log.

But a couple of times, we have done a partner dance. And though I would like to duck out, I've noticed a child without a partner. I can overcome my fear of being a klutz to make a child smile, so I've found myself ducking less and dancing more.

I need to have the same perspective with "big kids." My thought with the children is always, "What can I do to make them happy or more comfortable?" Now what if I translated that to the adults around me? I think it would pass along hope in little ways.
And wouldn't Jesus say that everyone is our neighbor? So, friend, "Won't you be my neighbor? I'd like to get to know you!"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Goal and a Prayer

Just a very quick post. I'm off shortly to the book store. They called the other night and asked if I would come in for a couple hours tonight. They are having a special event for the Autism Society. They said I would either be at cash-wrap or in kids. I called back after we got off the phone and talked to one of the managers. I told her either would be fine but that kids might be a good fit given my counseling background. I'm not sure they realized I had that. Not that I would do counseling tonight or anything. But, I told her I may be less likely than most to be put off by unusual behavior.

Autism spectrum disorders are being diagnosed more and more. There are a range of them -- severe and some just kind of quirky. But I know the value in each child feeling valued even if they cannot seem to make eye contact with you or on the other hand grab you out of the blue or if their conversation seems to go round and round or they get mesmerized/stuck on the way the light falls in the room.

I volunteered for 5 years with a behaviorally disordered child. I'm trying to think if his diagnosis fell onto the autism spectrum. I'd have to look. But he would drum and twirl and get "caught" by various things. I was forever redirecting and coaching and encouraging. It wasn't pure autism, but he definitely had some traits.

My goodness, he's probably 17 by now. When I think of him, I always think of the first time I met him. He was stick thin in a dirty white t-shirt and red gym shorts. His blond hair hung just a bit in his eyes. I would ask him a question and he would look at the woman working with him for the answer. But as our comfort grew, that woman stepped out. Soon we were going on outings in the community. I was teaching him how to talk to other adults like at the Steak and Shake in town. We would sit at the counter. He would ask me about the things he saw. I didn't know the answers, but I taught him how to ask the employees. We were such regulars, they started giving us a personal frequent buyer deal on Hot Fudge Brownie Ala mode. I later learned that every Friday (the day I usually came) his teacher at school would hear an hourly announcement that it was "Amy day."

So, I don't know that I will be in kids tonight. It seems like that would be where I would have the most interaction. But I've had some interesting conversations with children at cash-wrap as well.

My goal and prayer is that tonight I make at least one child feel valued and set one parent's heart more at ease in some way. I have no idea what that might look like but that is what I find myself praying at the moment. I thought I would invite you all to join me.

I was a little disappointed to find that they actually put me at cash wrap, but decided that I had told them and God to put me where needed. It was relatively slow. There was another woman at cash wrap as well. I had shared with her previously about volunteering for 5 years with one child. She has been volunteering for a year with a child. She shared with me that she is thinking about stepping out of that even though it is only an hour a week. I got to talk some more about my time with my kid and all the changes I saw. She said, "Yeah, every time I think about quitting I think about how you stuck with it for 5 years!" I had no clue that it had made an impression on her. I had only shared it with her because she was doing something similar. But it was encouraging and I think she might have new resolve to continue.

8:55 rolled around and the Autism Society event was wrapped up and I was just about to log out. A family walked up and the other woman was ringing. The little boy was 7 or 8 and he started talking to me. First it was, "Why is it dark?" And then he looped into Star Wars and Darth Vader and he got stuck in the loop of whatever it was he was trying to express. I could tell his dad was eyeing me for my reaction. But I was delighted to talk to him -- which probably encouraged him to keep going. His dad started to apologize after the seventh cycle. I told him there was no need and it was my pleasure. And it truly was.
I think my time with the other woman and this little guy were both answers to my prayer. One didn't look the way I thought it might, but then just at the end, God gave me a little taste of what I had hoped for.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Just a Minute and the Choices We Make

It has been an emotional roller coaster around here. (Even the cats have been fighting and I've had to separate them!) I've never been a huge fan of roller coasters and I hate the emotional ones even more than the real ones. But I've been an up and down and all around physical and emotional mess.

I called the doctor today about a bit of the physical. I knew when I called what the answer would most likely be -- stress and let us know if it continues. Right. I will do that. It's just managing the stress that is the key. Since I haven't been sleeping well for about a month my ability to manage anything is truly taxed.

I also called someone else to touch base and bolster my emotional reserves. As soon as I got them on the phone, they said, "I only have a minute . . . ." Honestly, I could have taken that two ways.

  1. She doesn't have time for me.
  2. She only has a minute and has chosen to spend that minute on me!

Somehow, even in the midst of sleep deprivation, I'm choosing the second. It feels significantly better than the first. And given my history with her, it is probably the more accurate of the two. I know she would have given me more than a minute if she had the time and that is where her heart lies.

It did get me thinking some about the choices we make. Sometimes we just feel badly because we just feel badly. That is all there is to it. Other times we exacerbate it by the choices we make. Can you see in my example how one would have made things worse? And it is far from who this person is.

I still feel blah and out of sorts and overly tired and have a headache and all, . . . . but in making that mental choice I feel cared for rather than abandoned. That, my friends, is huge.

Is there a place in your life where there is a choice to be made in how you see something?