Monday, June 30, 2008

With Bells On -- Hope Chronicles 52

I invested in some trinkets yesterday. One is gold and silver. The other is black and white. They have dangles and make faint jingling sounds. The best part about them is that they are lovingly inscribed.

However, my cats are less than thrilled with said trinkets -- especially since they went around their necks. Yes, I've had my cats for awhile but they've never worn collars. My rationale has been that they are indoor cats so they really didn't need them. Still, there was that one time Mali darted out on the deck. It was the middle of winter and she stopped immediately -- surprised by the cold snow.

When I went to She Speaks, a friend of a friend kept an eye on them for me. I warned her that when Mali sees you coming she will perch on the edge of the couch right by the door. Generally, it is a greeting. She wants her chin rubbed and her ears scratched. But I'm still cautious -- in and out the door quickly.

Having given her that warning, I decided that it might be best to get them collars with their name and my number. They both have the invisible microchip, but it would take an x-ray to figure that out if anyone even thought to take a stray cat to the vet to have that checked.

So, now they have some outward identification.

Katy and Mali aren't sure what to make of it. For safety, the collars detach if they get caught on something. They also came with little bells. Add to that the id tag and there is a faint jingle where ever they go. They both spent much of yesterday making cautious movements because of the sound their movements suddenly made. And there was lots of unhappy tail swishing at this new development.

A year and a half or so ago, my sister came to visit. At that point, I only had Katy. My sister had no interest in the cat. Unfortunately, cats are typically most drawn to people who are not interested in them. Add to that the stealthiness of cats, and my poor sister was continuously on guard. Katy would suddenly jump up from behind the couch . . . . Well, it didn't go well and I was continuously told to, "GET THE CAT!"

So, now my dear ones will be announced by bells.

Just as I had those tiny pieces of metal engraved, God engraves His name on our hearts. Our hearts are sealed for Him.

So, what about the bells? Is there anything that announces to others that we belong to God? In 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NIV) it says:

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity like men sent from God.

We are the aroma of Christ. To those who have turned their back on God, it is the smell of death. But to those who are searching, it is the fragrance of life. Wow. Am I the fragrance of life? Do my actions, my words, my attitude ring true with that thought?

Maybe it is a look I give a coworker or a complaint I make. Maybe it is a snide remark. Maybe it is just set in my shoulders that says, "Stay out of my way." I know sometimes, I do not "announce the good news."

So, I am asking God to remind me that I am His. I am asking that I will hear faint bells or smell heavenly smells in all that I do and say to remind me that I am His ambassador. May it remind me that where ever I am I have "bells on." May I be consistent with whose I am!

Free Image Hosting

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dozens of Uninvited Guests

It happened last night. When I got home from the bookstore, I grabbed some juice and went to rinse it in the sink. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Was that speck moving? Wait, that one was moving as well. I flipped a brighter light on to confirm my suspicion that I had uninvited guests: ANTS.

There was no long line parading in to indicate the source. I looked all around the kitchen and they seemed to be located near the sink. I grabbed a paper towel and tried to smash them, but they are so tiny that they easily escaped.

Then I spied the duct tape on the table because that is where everyone keeps their duct tape. In a flash, I peeled off a piece and rolled it on top of those uninvited guests. It did the trick. For safety sake, I took it outside to the trashcan.

Sigh. I've had to do it a couple more times. And just now I spied one in the downstairs bathroom. I am not happy. They need to go! Before I drop a bundle on sprays and traps and such, does anyone know the best brand or way of taking care of these tiny pests? It has to be pet safe because keeping my cats out of harms way anywhere in the house would be next to impossible.

Pest solutions invited!

Free Image Hosting

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mountaintops in Perspecitve -- Hope Chronicles 51

The last few weeks, my She Speaks prep has consumed my time and energy. As I write that, I am struck by the thought, "When have you let God consume so much of your time and energy?" Hopefully, it was for God's glory, but so much time an energy went into the book proposal and the talks and the packing and the fretting over being liked or not liked while I was there, . . . . Now, I am post She Speaks by four days.

In my InterVarsity Christian Fellowship days, I often found there to be an immediate slump after big events. I would be tired and grouchy and irritable. While I admit, I'm starting to have a bit of a slump (I'm a bit on the touchy side today), there was none of the immediate, overwhelming deflation that I have previously encountered. I'm not sure why that is and it isn't that God didn't meet me in those earlier events. I believe He did.

But I experienced something profound this past weekend -- God utterly delighting over me. I know He probably always has, but still it was so sweet . . . . Part of me didn't want the conference to end. I half thought moving to NC might not be so bad or maybe I could join some of my bloggy friends in their neck of the woods. But then I would miss my friends and church here.

She Speaks was a mountaintop experience. But I have learned that most of us do not live on "mountaintops." While those times are refreshing and wonderful, most of us are called to live out our walk in the daily things of life: mowing the grass, interacting with coworkers, doing the laundry, making dinner, running errands, . . . . These things may make us say, "Can't the mountaintop experience go on forever?"

Scripture tells us that Moses met with God as a man meets with a friend. Yet, even Moses had to come down from the mountaintop and he was greeted with God's Chosen People dancing around an idol and grumbling about how much better life back in Egypt was. (They were a thankless lot!)

And then there is Elijah. 1 Kings 18 and 19 Elijah sees God work in mighty ways. But he freaks when the king's wife takes a bounty out on his head. (Okay, I might have been worried too.) He flees and God eventually leads Him to a cave on a mountain. He actually whines (in my opinion) to God. My version: "I've done all this for you and they've killed all these people and I am the only one left. Did you hear me? Now they are going to kill me!"

God does not get into a test of wills with Elijah. Rather, God tells him to "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." There is a great wind that shattered rocks, an earthquake, and a fire. But God is not in any of these. But then there is a gentle whisper and Elijah stands at the mouth of the cave and God gives him a glimpse of Himself.

And God asks again, "Elijah, what are you doing here?"

Elijah repeats the litany.

God responds, "Go back the way you came." (Get back to day to day life). He goes on to promise that he is sending Elijah a partner and that Elijah is not alone -- there are 7,000 who still worship God.

So, post She Speaks means getting back to day to day life.

But it also means remembering all that God did there. Just as God reminded Elijah of the 7,000, I am praying He will continue to remind me of all that I learned and experienced and the fellowship I experienced. I've been making a list. It's now 5 journal pages with bullets to help remind me when things get tough.

Like Moses and Elijah, most of us are not meant to live on mountaintops. But we are called to remember them. And through remembering them we can be strengthened in the day to day life and even in the valleys. It is in remembering that we often find that glorious thing called hope.

If you went to She Speaks or even if you didn't, what is one strengthening memory you have? Please leave it here in the comment section or a link to the story on your site. I look forward to hearing how God uses the mountaintops to prepare you for day to day life.

Free Image Hosting

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sign Post

Sometimes I am really struck by someone's post. Early this morning or last night (my life is a blur at the moment) I read this post at Lysa's. I know many of you read Lysa's blog already. But if you haven't read this post on prayer and some behind the things at She Speaks, click here and read away.

I've done this "Sign post" thing once or twice before. I may have to do it more. There are some amazing things going on out there and I would hate for you to miss them.

Free Image Hosting

The Whimsical Side of She Speaks

Pam and I traveled together. It was so nice to have someone to travel with!

I learned lots at She Speaks. The top serious things I learned were:

  • God SEES me.

  • God sets the lonley in "families" and these gals really felt like family

  • God has given you a unique story that only you can share.

There, that is the reader's digest version.

But then there were other funny things I learned. Some I should have known.

  • Just because there are automatic toilets in the conference center as well as automatic towel dispensers DOES NOT mean that the water is automatic. You can rub your hand under the faucet as long as you want and as often as you want, but if you do not turn the handles it will not work. You will look foolish if you stand there too long. But the conference mantra was "Grace, Grace, Grace" so even if you look foolish you will still be loved.

  • Southern rule of cooking: If something tastes good, it will taste even better fried. Hences the oblong thing on my plate during lunch at the airport. I had a barbecue turkey sandwich, potatoes, and a FRIED pickle. It was actually tasty. It had a bit of a kick to it.

  • There is a 3oz rule for carry on stuff. My toothpaste was too big. Once the lady said that, we figured we just needed to check the bags 'cause I definitely hadn't packed right. So next year, She Speaks should send out a post on travel stuff -- airline rules. :-)

  • I never turn my phone off. Thankfully, someone traveling with me knew how to get it powered down and powered up!

  • If you opt to eat at a Sonic restaurant you eat outside in your car. It is only drive up. However, I do recommend their shakes.

  • I still talk in my sleep. (Grace, grace, grace from the roommates.) Happily, God must have been giving me good dreams. I was heard to exclaim (among other things), "That was just beautiful."

  • I can time myself but I cannot be timed by others. Seriously. I freaked when given the time signals. My 3 minute talk came out 2:19 because the 1 minute left signal flustered me. My 5 minute talk was 4:09 minutes. Happily, they both got good ratings. I guess I learned to wrap up quickly!

  • If you thank hotel staff, they get somewhat embarrassed.

  • Bloggers are some of the funniest people you will ever meet. Lelia is even more of a stitch in person than she is on her blog. Michelle has a sweet presence about her. Nikki is beautiful, sweet, and charming. I would love to get together to lunch with her. But NC is a bit far . . . .

  • The P31 Team Rocks! They are just a great, fun group of women who loved on us all. I hope they felt loved back! This is a picture of Leah, Wendy, and Melissa. Like the rest of the team, they worked tirelessly. I am thankful for them.

    I think I've got most of my She Speaks stuff out there, but I can't promise. I have a notebook with 3 pages full of neat things that happened at the conference! So, they might get worked in here or there.

Free Image Hosting

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Hope You Dance -- Hope Chronicles 50

I've never been much of a dancer. But the theme song for me at She Speaks was Lee Ann Womak's I Hope You Dance. The applicable words will be in centered in color. Consider them the background music to this post!

I hope you always keep your sense of wonder
May you get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger

Here's my confession: I've never been much of a makeup person. Seriously, at 13 my mother was more interested in me wearing make up than I was. I've had occasional spurts where I've worn it, but I've never understood mascara. Maybe it's that I have dark hair and my lashes are naturally dark. (Which is convenient because I might look odd if they were red or blond or something. Things just wouldn't match!)

May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love never leave you empty handed

But the weekend before She Speaks I talked to someone about makeup and all that. The talk included mascara. Since she gave me little sample things of it, I decided to try it out. That Sunday I wore it to church along with some purple eye shadow. A dear friend asked me what had happened to my eye. The poor guy thought I had endured some injury. So, I was a bit wary.

When I dressed for my Friday appointments, I used the purple eye shadow and mascara again. I was careful to check with my roommates that it looked okay . . . .

My first appointment went okay. They told me to email my proposal. Smile. Big smiles. Big wash of confidence leading into my second appointment.

Let's just say, that one didn't go as well. At first I thought it was going fine. But maybe I got too chatty because in the end they didn't want to take it and didn't want it emailed.

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens

I managed to keep it together on the way out the door. But then I got teary. However, the thought of actually crying and making the mascara run helped me keep it together. I most definitely did not want to look like a raccoon when I finally met all my bloggy friends in person in just an hour or so.

So, the moral of the story is that if you are feeling weepy wear mascara to help keep the tears under control....

While that is the end of the mascara bit, it is not the end of the story. I had arrived the night before and Melissa Taylor had told me I could have a third appointment if I wanted it because some people had canceled. She thought I should grab another one. I had flown all the way there, so I wasn't about to let that opportunity slip by. That one was scheduled for Saturday.

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
When you get the chance to sit it out or dance
I hope dance. I hope you dance. I hope you dance.

So, here I am on Friday not wanting my mascara to run and I got to the blogger reception. Yes, that was pure fun! I mentioned to Lysa that my second appointment had not gone well but that I was keeping it "in perspective." Her response was that she thought such and such publisher still had openings and I needed to go check.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance.

Since I'm very obedient, I marched back up the stairs -- blinking hard because of the nerves and fears and trying to keep the tears back. I had to wait to talk to the gal in charge up there. She kept saying, "I'll be right with you." But keeping publishers and chatty women on schedule was a bit dizzying. I chatted a bit with Glynnis and then actually the nerves got the best of me. I left.

Living might mean taking chances but they’re worth taking
Loving might be a mistake but it’s worth taking
Don’t let some hell bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out reconsider

I walked back down to the reception, but I ran into someone else from P31. They told me I should go back. So, I trotted back up the stairs. I finally got to talk to the gal in charge. We scheduled an appointment for Saturday at 6:15 PM. I was walking back down the stairs when she called after me. "Amy, she wants to meet with you NOW." Apparently, her appointment hadn't shown and there were 8 minutes left in the slot. There's not much you can say about your 53 page baby in 8 minutes, but I must have said something right. I was told to email it to her!

Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance

I felt much more coherent on Saturday. I talked really fast because even 15 minutes wasn't feeling like enough. But, I was told to email it!

And then Sunday rolled around. I was meandering through the breakfast area when I was stopped by publisher number 2. She had changed her mind and had thought about it since Thursday. Would I email it to her?

When you get the chance to sit it out or dance
I hope dance. I hope you dance. I hope you dance.

Can you hear the music? It's my prayer for you as well.

Free Image Hosting

Monday, June 23, 2008

She Speaks, God Delights

I had to be at the airport at 8:30AM on Thursday for a 10:15 flight to O'Hare and then our jaunt to Charlotte. One of the gals with me had rented a car and we made our way to the hotel.

I kid you not. My feet had barely touched the asphalt parking lot when I was warmly greeted, by Lysa Terkeurst and Holly Good from P31, "Amy, I'm so glad your here!" I had been a couple years ago and been on Lysa's site and she had left sweet encouragement on mine. It was such a treat to be greeted so warmly right from the get go. Pam, Karrie, Rachel and I flew in a day early, so it was nice to be greeted even before things started officially.

Holly, me, and Lysa

Their sweet greeting was just the beginning. I finally met Melissa Taylor in person. She is simply beautiful inside and out. Lisa Whittle startled me with her greeting as I was sitting at a table putting my talks together in the lobby. She is another beautiful person -- real and caring. And then I ran into Renee. She greeted me, invited me to lunch, encouraged me, and moved me to tears with her talk Saturday night.

Me with Melissa Taylor

Renee and Me

And then there are all the bloggers I met. I shall tell you more about them as the time goes on. If I write everything this minute, my computer will overload. Let's just say there were 560 dreams that were lifted up to God There were 560 beautiful women. There were 560 women who are dearly loved by God.

Friday night I sat at a table with 7 other women. A woman across from me asked about my blog. I said that it was called, "God's Work In Progress," but that the address was The woman to my right, exclaimed, "AMY L BROOKE! I'm having dinner with AMY L BROOKE!" At first I thought she was teasing me, but it turns out she has read my little corner of blogland and was genuinely pleased to meet me. I can say, no one has ever greeted me quite like that.

Very often I feel insignificant, unnoticed, overlooked. But it felt like this weekend that God was saying, "You are significant. You are noticed. You are never out of my sight. My beloved, Amy, I SEE you." It came in the form of the arms of these wonderful ladies at P31 as well as the attendees.

I often panic in a crowd when I am by myself. Saturday night I sat with some bloggy friends. Renee brought a profound message. I laid my doubts and fears at the foot of the cross. Melissa was there to hug me, and I cried on her shoulder and got snot on the sweater she had borrowed from Melaine (sorry, Melanie), and then made my way back to the table and sat and listened to the music and God. One by one the people at my table left for the evening and still I sat. The worship leader came back out to sing just a couple more songs.

I found myself standing at that empty table. The new thing for me was that I was completely okay with that. I was standing in the throne room of God. He kept repeating, "I see you. I love you." I wanted those moments to go on and on.

The room was finally almost empty. They flipped the harsh lights back on. I stopped to talk to Lysa for a moment. She went to hug me and I warned her, "If you hug me I'll probably start leaking again," so we opted for a brief hug. I said, "I'll try to say this without crying. Two years ago when I came, I felt loved on. Things with my family are always difficult. This year when I came it was more than feeling loved on. It has been like stepping into a family. I have never felt so delighted in."

Lysa said what others would reiterate throughout the conference. "When you came two years ago my heart broke for you because you were so lonely and I knew there was nothing I could do . . . . But I've watched you blossom the last year over the blog. God has changed you."

God has patiently and faithfully worked in my life the last couple years. She Speaks confirmed that change to me. And it gave me a glimpse of heaven, where we will all delightedly say, "It's you! I've been so wanting to meet you!"

Yes, there is more to share: meetings with publishers, the talks I gave, eating fried pickles because "everything is better if it is fried," the difference between southern and northern humor, and lots of fun anecdotes. But the biggest thing I want to give praise to is knowing in a new way that God delights in me and that He sets the lonely in "families." I caught hold of those two things in a new and profound way.

Free Image Hosting

Thursday, June 19, 2008

2 Words to Change Lives

One of the most positive things about working at the Barnes and Noble has been the people. I do not know if it is B&N culture wide, but in my store, there is a consistent demonstration of appreciation. "Thank you for getting up to cash-wrap so quickly." "Thank you for jumping in and helping Peggy with that cart." "Thank you for coming in when you weren't scheduled . . . ."

I have never been thanked so often for doing my job! It's what they pay me for. But thank you has a way of changing our perspective and in turn our lives.

I've generally been polite and said "Thank you." But now I notice myself doing it more and more -- particularly with people who may not get thanked. The other day I was at Meijer. One of the cashiers had been very helpful on something. I stood in line at customer service to tell the manager. In some ways it wasn't a big deal, but the manager noticed that I stood in line to tell him. He said, "Usually, the only time people come here is to complain."

On Monday I called Barnes and Noble's main office. I told them I just wanted to let them know how much I appreciated the "Thank you's" from all the managers and what a good working experience it has been because of it. They said they would pass it on to the regional person. Last night I ran in to grab a card and Mary (general manager) expressed her appreciation that I had called someone and told them that. Like the person above, she said they usually only hear something if it is negative. I told her that I could have just let her know, but I wanted someone bigger to know what a great job they were doing.

Many of us will be traveling the today or tomorrow and home again on Sunday for She Speaks. Travel stresses me and I get impatient. But I am going to remember how much thank you has meant to me and look for people to appreciate. I think it might change my whole travel experience!

Will you join me in the quest for showing appreciation even if someone is just doing their job?

Free Image Hosting

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In the Midst of Printing

I am in the midst of printing the edited version of my book proposal. Alas, after all that work, there were typos and such.....

Now I am babysitting the printer. It either jams or runs out of paper....

I am having a bad case of nerves right now.

What if the airline loses the luggage? Maybe I should just do the carry on thing. Maybe I can borrow one.

What if something happens to the cats while I am away? I know it sounds silly, but the thought is there. Seriously, about 80% of the time one or both is watching for me in the window. What will they think when I don't come home for several days? I know I am being overly sensitive.

What if I don't find the thingy for my talk? I want to use said thing for an illustration, but three stores and no thingy.

What if I can't talk intelligently to a publisher? Seriously. What if I clam up?

What if I lose the proposal?

I've had an intermittent rash the last couple of days. I'm not sure why.

I showed the proposal to someone and specifically told them they didn't need to read it. I really just wanted the "Oh, it looks great factor!" (I care about content, but at the moment I am stressing about presentation.) She started to skim it. At first I didn't mind, kind of was okay with it, but after a few minutes my nerves got the best of me. I exclaimed, "Enough! I hate it when people read my stuff in front of me!"

She laughed and flipped through the last bit. She said the last part was really good! Ha!

I did promise she could read it, that I would print her a copy but she cannot read it in front of me. There's just something about watching someone pour over something you've put your heart into....

So, I'm going to have to bite my tongue if the publisher flips through it. If I talk funny when you meet me at She Speaks it is either that I have a funny accent (I don't think I do, but you might!) or I've bitten my tongue so hard it is swollen and I can no longer enunciate!

Look forward to meeting some of you and sharing with everyone when I get back!

Free Image Hosting

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hope's Choice

Here she is, the object of all my work the last few weeks. I use to write papers for classes and such without much thought. I wrote a thesis. Once, I helped write 4 chapters in a book. But, as a friend who writes said when I mentioned the struggle I was having, "You're a bit out of practice!" Yes, I blog consistently, but blogging and chapter writing are two different things.
The proposed title is Hope's Choice. I'm proposing 12 chapters totaling 40,000 words broken down in to 4 content sections. With the proposal, you have to write 3 sample chapters. I did the following chapters: Hope Deferred -- When Life Doesn't Measure Up; Fixing Our Eyes on Hope; and Hope Transforms Relationship with God.

With all the work and steam coming out of my keyboards, it seems that she should be a bit bulkier. But then, there are only 3 chapters out of 12. She is only a quarter of what she will be!

I went to church and came home immersed myself in the Fixing Our Eyes chapter. But, I got stuck, so I retreated to my bed and set the alarm for an hour. I laid there praying, thinking, dozing. Suddenly it got really dark and windy. As I sprinted to my computer the rain had started and my computer was doing an abnormal shut down. I couldn't remember if I had saved all that I wanted. PANIC!

I had visions of a story my friend Jill tells. She was working on her last book. The computer crashed. It had already been a trying day. Mark came home to find Jill eating the chocolate frosting out of the can. She was in need of some comfort food.

I had saved. But it did prompt me to also save each piece to a flash drive.

The conference is called She Speaks but it should be She ____________ and fill in the blank.

I would list the following:
  • She jots notes on odds and ends
  • She writes, deletes, writes, deletes
  • She spends all day writing, forgetting the laundry, the dishes, the cats
  • No, wait. She can't forget the cats as they are on top of the desk trying to get her attention
  • She prays
  • She edits
  • She obsesses
  • She worries
  • She HOPES

Still much to do in the talk department. And I'm sure I will not be able resist editing a bit more.

And then there is packing....

Oh, and trying to figure out my "face." I often go natural, but have begun to think a little makeup might not hurt. I have some. I've been experimenting a bit with that and the hair.

Today, at church, a good friend and I were talking. We were kind of side ways from each other. He said, "Oh, my gosh, what happened to your eye?"

"Make up"

"Oh, yeah. It was just the light. Really it looks good."

Sigh on my part. I didn't think I had done that bad of a job.

"It's just the light. Really. I think I'll stop talking now....."

Probably wise.

But it prompted me to get Jill's opinion on the makeup. (Did it look like someone hit me?) She liked the purple eye makeup and the bit of mascara (I never do mascara or eye makeup). She thought it looked fine! But then the lights were up higher....

He's forgiven, but I have to give him a hard time about it.

We'll see if I decide to risk it at She Speaks.

Oh, and then there are the talks. Let's not talk about them. They are more undone than done. Lots of thoughts but little on paper.

Please keep praying!

Free Image Hosting

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Secret Choices

I was raised in an abusive homes and abuse thrives on secrecy. While I've spilled that secret, I am still very private. Lots of times, I just don't even think to tell someone something. It doesn't cross my mind because it is "private." Perhaps a better word is personal.

I worked in ministry for 11 years. Hearing students' wounds was something to keep between me and God. (Unless, of course, there was any danger.)

Add to that the fact that I have an MA in counseling. By law and ethics, that stuff is confidential.

I don't think of myself as a natural gossip. I just don't tend to repeat very many things.

Knowing all of that, I am always a bit befuddled when someone tells me, "Please don't repeat this." Generally, repeating 95% of things wouldn't cross my mind.

There is a difference between secrets and confidentiality. A secret was the abuse in my family. Confidentiality is a professional thing. But the two blend together for me at times. Today, I've decided I don't even like the idea of secrets. They cost too much. No, that doesn't mean I'm going to tell everyone everything I hear. Rather, I have felt the sting of secrets kept today in a fresh way.

I won't air it here (that would hardly be right or fair), but I found out today about a secret choice a friend made. Had I known for sure the path she was considering, I would have waved big caution flags, jumped up and down to get her attention, and possibly made nuisance out of myself for a brief time. But I would have known it was her decision and after saying my bit, I would have let the issue rest with her. The sad fact is that no one seems to have known about this huge decision she was making. Did she have opportunity to share? Yes. She chose not to.

I am beginning to believe that if something doesn't fall into the fun surprise category that secrets are dangerous things. In this case, I think she knows it is a wrong choice, possibly even dangerous, but she was bent on doing it anyway. If you don't discuss it with anyone, you won't have to deal with anyone balking at the decision. It makes it much easier to go through with what you want.

But if you have to keep it a secret, do you really believe in your heart that it is a good decision?

Have I done my share of keeping secrets? Yes. And I'm not even talking about the abuse here. I've made bad decisions and gone on making them and keeping them secrets for a long time. Honestly, the heartache they caused was exponentially worse than any satisfaction or warped pleasure that came from the decision behind the secret.

So, if you are at a crossroads and are making a decision, please seek counsel from those who are wise around you. Yes, it is still your decision, but remember the above question. If it must be done in secret, is it really a good decision? God is a God of light.

Sorry for the sermonette today, but it has weighed on my heart since early this morning.

Free Image Hosting

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Coveting Your Prayers

If you've been reading, you'll be familiar with the fact that I am going to She Speaks. I am overwhelmed at this point. There just feels like there is so much to do. I've opted to do a combination between the speakers and writer's track. My book proposal and my two talks are in various pieces of done (or undone) and scattered across the desk, the book bag, various places on the computer, and the floor.

For the book proposal, you have to include a chapter outline and three sample chapters. I originally did the chapter outline in bullets but then spoke with someone and they suggested short paragraphs. That has been redone.

And then I had to pick three out of the twelve chapters on my heart to write about. They are all important, but I am thankful that I only have to have three completed. They do not have to be in order, so I decided to go with the ones that I could not get off my brain.

Sigh. One of them happens to be what I consider one of the more challenging. (Maybe that's why I couldn't get it out of my head.) It's Hope Deferred: When Life Doesn't Measure Up. It is something that gets me where I struggle. How do you keep hoping when things don't seem to come to fruition? How does that impact your relationship with God.

So, I've gotten that one finished -- I think. It's a mix of personal experience, the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac as well as "the hope deferred" verse (Proverbs 13:12). It's tied up with Psalm 42. I feel like it covers a lot of territory.

But just seeing it all written out makes me feel a bit vulnerable . . . . Do I really want to give this piece of my heart to an editor? While I feel vulnerable about some of the other pieces as well, this one seems very big tonight.

I don't typically ask for prayers here, but I thought I would tonight:

  • Pray that the sense of vulnerability wouldn't get in the way if that is what God wants me to share.
  • Pray for my time management.
  • Pray for the ability to write and prepare well over the next few days.
  • Mostly pray that God would teach me as I prepare.


Free Image Hosting

Sunday, June 8, 2008

God of Purple Daisies -- Hope Chronicles 49

Last May I was in a very difficult spot emotionally and physically. My friend Mark came by to help me with the lawn. After finishing mowing my lawn, he suggested that we plant flowers in the two cement containers out front. I wasn't against it, but I was somewhat hesitant. I had never gardened. My father took care of all of the outdoor type things. I wondered if I would be able to keep them alive.

We hopped in Mark's truck and went to Mark's favorite store, Mendards. We picked up purple and white wave Petunias. They settled in fast and completely spilled over the pots. Even though I felt a bit like I had the idea of flowers thrust upon me, I found that I enjoyed having them.

This year I ventured out on planting them with two little girls I know, Grace and Elena. I wasn't totally sure what I was doing, but thought we could manage it. Along with the Petunias, I bought two plastic containers to set on the back deck. I opted to fill them with orange and white daisies. I had seen white daisies but never orange before. They turned out very cheery and with the warmer weather have really perked up. I love watching them dance in the sun.

Today I came home from church and began to water the flowers. Much to my surprise, I found a perfect purple daisy nestled in amongst the orange and white ones.

I have seen white daisies. I have seen orange daisies. But I've never seen a purple one. It seems that when we think we know all about how God works, He takes the time to surprise us. In the midst of the business of life, it seems like a gentle reminder that God takes a personal interest in me. He numbers the hairs on my head and knows that my favorite color is purple. It seems He painted it just for me . . . . What a hopeful thought.

How has God gently surprised you lately?

Free Image Hosting

Friday, June 6, 2008

Chronicling Hope and a Question for YOU

I'm off and visiting other blogs (when I should be writing), but I have to come back to my blog to pick up a few links. As I was doing my blog hopping, I noticed the top of my blog archives says "111". That means that I have blogged here 111 times. Because I like even numbers, I'm making this blog so that it will be 112!

But really, when I started I thought I would blog once or twice a week. The pictures and quotes are a bit misleading (back dated to make the links at the navigation bar at the top). I really started blogging here in early December. That means I average a blog every couple of days.

That is kind of amazing to me. Even more amazing is that people read and leave nice little comments. I love the give and take of it.

What do I blog about? Everything. It seems that my life has turned into one big, bloggy event. Everything is fodder for the blog. And it has increased my fascination with my camera. It's so fun to illustrate.

So, really, what do I blog about:

  • My cats. It's amazing how prominently they are featured and that they provide so much material.

  • Friendships. Relationships are huge for me. I'm always trying to think through those.

  • Singleness. Though, while I mention it some, this hasn't been as big of a pull for me as I thought it might. However, I've appreciated all of you married people out there leaving your words of encouragement.

  • Kids. I love kids, so my adventures with them -- if it is ice skating or watching them nap on the couch with a cat -- all go into blogdom.

  • God. This blog is meant to be about God's work in the day to day things of life. As I've sought to write about Him, it is amazing all the ways He has shown himself to me.

  • I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this blog is about HOPE. I started it on a mission to write weekly about hope. Of those 111 posts, 48 are hope related or part of what I call Hope Chronicles. A friend told me the other day that she starts reading and wonders how I will bring it around to hope. (The Hope Chronicle title gives it away.) Yet, she said that I always manage to, that I come at hope from all different angles.

As I've sought to prepare, God keeps bringing this image to mind:

Isn't it amazing where things grow? Rocks wouldn't seem to be a good flowerbed, but here they are with just a little soil. With God, we can find hope in the most unlikely places.

Writing about hope has been my way of combating depression. While, I still do the other things to help, it has been the first time I've made such a concerted effort to turn the wave of my thoughts. It has been a blessing and a wonderful choice.

I'm going to She Speaks. I'm working on a book proposal about hope. It's not meant to just be for those who are depressed. I want it to reach a broader audience. But, I need 3 chapters. I've got some ideas and have started and stopped various things. But now I am starting to panic. It is so close....

I thought I would ask, if you've read some of my stuff on hope or even if you are new to my site, does any one stand out to you? No, I'm not asking you to spend hours reading -- unless you want to. But if there was one idea that grabbed you and you remember it, could you leave me a note? I'll hunt down the specifics. Just jot something like -- "The difference between your cats being a princess or stray" or "Your thought about the moon" or "Riding horses."

While I have the ideas and somethings started, I think this would help me know what speaks to people and some encouragement as I stay up late and get up early to write and to speak. (I opted for the speaker's track officially, but I'm really doing a combination.)

I'm going on June 19th. And the conference starts the late afternoon of the 20th. But since I'm there early, they gave me early appointments on the 20th (11:30 and noon) for my book proposal. I am meeting with an agent and the representative from Howard House.

Please pray!

Free Image Hosting

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Lame Shall Leap -- Hope Chronicles 48

As I wrote in a post last week, I enjoyed the new Narnia -- Prince Caspian movie even if they did add and change a few things. It's made me want to go back and read the books and see what lines up.

Please indulge me. I do know it is a story. But today, it somehow got into my mind how odd it must have been (even in a pretend sort of way) for Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy to go back to England after being in Narnia. How odd would it be to grow up and be kings and queens in a magical land and to suddenly be thrust back into your old life? Would your adult self feel strange to be thrust back into a child's body? Would something about you, your experience, feel as if it pushed against the boundaries of the normal world?

The movie lets on that the children were feeling pretty dissatisfied with ordinary life. Peter even got into a fight. (I checked and that bit isn't in the book.) It seems "realistic" though. To go from being king to an ordinary boy would be a hard change!

I think there is a piece that relates to our life as Christians. I have, at times, had "mountain top" experiences. These are places where you feel so close to God that you cannot help but be changed. In the Old Testament, Moses met with God as a man meets with a friend. It so changed him that his face radiated God's glory and he had to wear a veil. In some ways, his experience with God pushed against the boundaries of a normal, ordinary world.

When have you felt changed by being in God's presence? As I mentioned before, I often think of it more in terms of those special get-away type things. But it doesn't have to be that. Moses met with God every day. As Mose met with God, God expanded his understanding of his glory.

We may not visibly glow as Moses did, but do our lives push outside the normal boundaries of the everyday life?

For me this week it has been learning about compassion. I don't believe in coincidences, so when God brings me in contact with three disabled people in one week, I suspect there is something to be learned.

The first was when I was walking on Monday. There was a man pulled up to an outside table. Well, he was actually pulled up to the bench in a wheel chair. Since he couldn't get closer to the table, he was hunched over and leaning forward to eat from the bench. Both of his legs were in casts. He dropped his fork and let out a string of curses. I came upon him from the back. He was genuinely surprised when I picked it up for him. He thanked me, but then I moved on.

The second was in the office. We often find that we speak a different "language" than some of the people coming in. They use words for documents and procedures that have different meanings than they intend. It frustrates them and us. I was helping a man at the counter. He kept ducking his head in what I thought was an odd manner. But over the course of our 15 minute interaction, he finally had to look at me. I realized that one eye was completely white like the white part of the eyeball missing the iris and pupil. Something told me, "Don't look away. Everyone does that." I'll admit that it was disconcerting. But I met his gaze and explained once more. This time, my explanation, took hold.

The third was as I was getting on the elevator. A man got off. He was drenched from the torrential rain we had just had. As we were in the lower part of the building and he looked bewildered, it was easy to conclude that he was lost. I asked, "Can I help you find something?" He slumped a bit and then held out the sodden papers and gestured. He couldn't hear and didn't seem to be able to speak.

They were tax papers. That is not my area. I glanced at the papers and motioned to him to follow me to an office I thought could help. I picked the right office, but the woman at the counter wasn't about to let me go. She talked to me rather than him. I didn't know if he read lips or not, but the angle seemed like it would be awkward. I found myself grabbing a pen and paper and jotting things to him. He seemed relieved to have the means to communicate. But just like the woman at the counter, he turned to me and had me relay it!

One of my favorite Bible stories is when Jesus feeds the 5,000. It says that Jesus had compassion on them. Compassion is more than feeling sorry for someone. It is coupled with a desire to alleviate the suffering you see.

All of the instances I related were actually very small instances compared to what they look like here -- a couple minutes to fifteen or so. And it's not that I did any wonderful things: picking up a fork, making eye contact, and jotting some sentences. The bigger thing, I think, was being moved by compassion.

It struck me after the last instance that all three ailments were ones that are mentioned in connection with Jesus:

  • "Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy." (Isaiah 35:6 in a prophecy about the Messiah)
  • "In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see." (Isaiah 29:3)
  • "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped." (Isaiah 35:5)
  • The healing of the deaf and mute man in Mark 7.
  • All of the healings probably apply.

Jesus came to save. But He also came to make us whole. Each of these men represented some aspect of that awaiting promise to me. We may not have wholeness yet, but we will. Jesus has too much compassion on us to have it any other way. He is moved by our suffering. When we let ourselves be moved by compassion for others, I think it pushes against that normal, ordinary kind of being in the world. While I didn't work any great miracles, God did let me alleviate some suffering in some small ways. There is hope in knowing that God chooses to use us at all.

And of course, there is hope in knowing that our souls that upon coming to know God, in some ways, have become too big for our frail bodies will one day be released into Jesus' waiting embrace.

Free Image Hosting

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Look

While I like to feel pretty, I am low maintenance when it comes to hair and make up and all that. I am not a girly girl. As a result, my last haircut was in late November or early December. Of course it has grown. As it has gotten longer, I went to my default -- pull it back in a barrette. Soon, it would have gotten long enough for a ponytail. I didn't have long hair much as a child. My mom didn't want to fight the thick curls. As an adult, I've liked it longer but not wanted to fight the curls either. The longer it has gotten, the more I threw it back in a ponytail.

So, it was starting to lengthen. I began to envision the ever ready ponytail but decided I didn't want to go that route. I called my friend, Jill, to see if she had any thoughts -- longer or shorter or what? Since I wanted a real change, she suggested I go see Sally.

Sally was brilliant. I have never had someone ask me so many questions about what I wanted, liked, used, . . . . It was great. The new look will take a little getting use to, but I think I like it. I can wear it straight or curly. Today, Sally styled it straight and explained how to do it. She also encouraged me to call with any questions and said that I could come in again with my things to get the hang of it.

Sally was a gift. To top it off, Jill went with me. I don't think I've ever had anyone go to a hair appointment with me and give input. Then we were able to grab a quick bite. So, here are the pics:
I took my camera so I could share it with you. Before:


We'll see how I do at fixing it tomorrow! But I like it!

Now, if I could just learn how to keep my eyes from bulging up into "frog eyes" when smiling for the camera. Sigh.

But it was a happy afternoon. In spite of my frog eyes, I was told what wonderful hair I have -- thick and curly. I think both Sally and Jill had a hard time believing how much of it there really was!

Free Image Hosting

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Behind Those Eyes -- An Open Letter

Dear Lisa,

I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know your little girl this last month or so. You were so right when you wrote how beautiful she is! (For those reading this open letter, the little girl is Lisa Whittle's newest book Behind the Eyes.)

Thank you for unmasking, as you put it, the "great charade of womanhood." Your honesty helped me look at the places where I pretend rather than risk being real.

Can I share with you a few of the things that touched me?

First, I love how you write from your heart. While you share that you recognize "Ms. Confidence" in yourself, you also take risks and are vulnerable. I know that you may not meet many of your readers until heaven, I think it still takes courage to put your soft spots out there in such a public way.

Second, I identify with some facet of each of the personification you put forth.

  • I am a perfectionist at heart. I demand it of myself and always have. When I was in undergrad, I was disappointed with a 3.86 GPA. In grad school, I managed the 4.0, but found that even that didn't satisfy. You see, I fell short. There was a special test at the end and the top 5 would graduate with "honors." (As if the privilege of getting such a great education wasn't honor enough, I was dismayed to be only in the top 7.) I write that only to say that I am a harsh task master with myself. While I wouldn't say it so boldly, at times it spills into my relationships and the standards I set there.

  • Ms. Confidence is a face I also wear. While I may often be the "soft one" in relationships, I do not have many close friends. For most of the world, I quietly pretend that I have it all in hand. I keep people locked out.

  • I cannot say that I exude Ms. Happiness, but I do recognize parts of her. I cannot let someone know that something is wrong. If I do, I do so apologetically. "Yes, this awful, horrible thing just happened but it really isn't so bad and I'm really okay and I'm sorry to bother you with it and I'll just let you go now."

  • Ms. Spirituality -- yes, I know her too. I loved the years I spent in ministry. But at times, I confess, I may drop that bit of information as a means to impress. "Yes, 11 years serving God in full time ministry . . . ." It's not every time, but some times Ms. Spirituality is behind it. Perhaps it is even in sharing obscure Bible trivia. Yes, we are to know scripture but the reason behind it is not to impress!

Third, thank you for giving voice to the feelings we conceal. I resonated so with that chapter that I read it twice! Loneliness and jealousy are my biggest vices. Loneliness drives me to look at everyone else and say, "Why didn't they invite me?" My jealously is largely relational. I struggle to simply be happy when someone is able to steal away some time with another friend. I recognize it as a barrier to relationships. It adds enough weight to what should be a buoyant relationship to sink the ship. But I am working on it and growing. Thanks so much for sharing about your friendship! It sounds special indeed.

Lastly, thanks for sharing the "real deal." I love the way you reveal God's heart in those last chapters. I love what your wrote: "God already know that He accepts us just as we are . . . with all of our failures and faults and insecurities, but He was us to know that -- really know that." I pray that what God is doing through you will cement that more firmly for every woman who reads your book.

Thank you for sharing the truth. It does, indeed, set us free.

Free Image Hosting

Food Wars

In an attempt to fight a slowing metabolism and lose some weight, I've been packing my lunch religiously since the first of the year. This winter I took homemade soup and an apple. As the weather has changed the last week or so, I've moved to a sandwich and an apple as well as a healthy walk. (I don't want to be confined to a microwave and a spoon and bowl.)

Today was not my day. I realized too late that I didn't have any deli meat and would have to resort to peanut butter and jelly. I love peanut butter in cookies and such. But even as a kid, I didn't take to PB&J. But, it was all I had on hand, so made myself a sandwich.

Said sandwich and apple was left on the kitchen table. I didn't realize it until too late and decided I would have to go out but make a wise choice on what I grabbed.

It could have worked, but it was raining at lunch. I don't mean a sprinkle. It was torrential and I didn't think my umbrella would even do much good. I was hungry, so I opted for a pop and M&M's. Seriously, there was nothing else. Okay, I could have had water, but I was tired from a late night at B&N and craved the sweetness.

My lunch was mysteriously missing when I got home. Okay, that isn't quite true. I found the remnants of the Meijer plastic bag, a shredded napkin, and an otherwise untouched apple on the floor. Guessing that my ravenous little monster had made off with the sandwich, I looked all over the kitchen, living room, and under the beds while she ate her dinner. Did she eat the plastic sandwich bag as well as as an entire sandwich? Was I going to stumble on cat puke at any moment as a result?

Stowed far behind a couch I found this:

I'm not sure how Mali managed to eat the part in the middle, but I am sure that she ingested some plastic. (No cat puke yet, though! I think she must have an iron stomach.) I am glad she didn't eat the entire thing, but given where it was stowed, I will wager she was saving it for later! I'm just thankful that the plastic appears to have saved the carpet.

Thus, I wage daily food wars on two fronts.

First is with Mali. Everything edible and some inedible things must be securely stored. If I make cookies, I no longer leave them in Tupperware on the counter. They must got into the cupboard or the container will be knocked on the floor and gnawed on!

My other one is with my choices. I've hovered between losing 17-20lbs since the first of the year. Five weeks ago, I decided I wanted to lose another 10 before She Speaks June 20-22. Nothing is budging. I need to declare the war more loudly. While losing another 10 in two weeks and keeping it off probably isn't realistic, I will work towards 4.

I've fudged on my pop only every 2-3 days declaration. This may mean I need new resolve.

And hopefully it won't pour at lunch so I can walk!

Free Image Hosting