Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Taste of Cake Batter Chap Stick


It was from across the room, the smell of cake batter was hitting my Olfactory Receptors (aka my “sniffer”). Causing an immediate craving for frosting and sprinkles. Much to my surprise the smell permeating the room was coming from my friend’s daughter’s tube of Chap Stick. Hardly being able to restrain myself, I reached out asking her to pass over the product. Not sure if my lips were truly in need or my stomach for the tasty treat. I apply.

Rubbing my lips together, resisting the urge to lick, I put the cap on and toss it back across the room. Moments later, and much to my surprise, my eyes catch an utterly repulsive scene.

I should have known borrowing Chap Stick from a seven year old was not a good idea.

No longer was the balm being used for her “lips”, rather to rub as some sort of topical ointment to her scab covered kneecaps. My immediate response was to wipe off my mouth, but unfortunately my sub conscious was tricked into thinking it was some yummy dessert, and had already sent my tongue to a taste test. Licked dry, my lips were ready for a second coat.

While driving home, continuing to think about what just happened, I start to giggle. Although the thought of putting scab juice all over my lips was far from anything I would ever do, it was pretty funny. I quizzed myself, wondering if I would have used the Chap Stick with prior knowledge of its “other” use?

Absolutely NOT!

That clichĂ©d phrase: What you don’t know won’t hurt you, brought me to wishing I didn’t know about the knees. Challenged by this, and thinking beyond the seven year old and her Chap Stick obsession. Often times in life, it’s just easier “not knowing”.

It’s crazy how God uses these silly life jokes to humble us and bring us to our knees (literally). I couldn’t help but be challenged by what I can/cannot handle “knowing” about the people God puts in my life. There are definitely times friends will share personal struggles, and by no means I can love them and help them through their trials. And thankfully, I have friends that God has put in my life to reciprocate the same thing.

But what about those people in my life, the friendships built on the surface, fear keeping away from exposure to the “ugly”? Wondering how I will react when the repulsive side is shared, the sin/the struggles, we avoid the deep cut into reality. The news is shared, leaving us to react. Do we quickly want to wipe away what we heard? Pretending as if not to be affected?

All sin is repulsive! As humans we tend to rate sin. Judging the affect it may have on society. I find peace in knowing God never bats an eye at my sin. He forgives. God sent Jesus to pay for this sin, in full. He loves me through my dirt, through my struggles. It’s when we turn from this sin that God’s arms are wide open, waiting for us to fall into his embrace of grace.

As Disciples of Christ, we are to love like God first loved us. A simple task? Far from it. As Christians, in loving those God puts in our lives, we have to be willing to hear their sin. The same way God heard ours. Loving them through it by extending grace. Willing to leave the Chap Stick on, even prepared to reapply. Far from comfortable I know, but mirroring that of God is no easy task.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Tale of a First Timer


A Weekend at Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference: 
Four years ago I began to write. I called it coping. I shared with others my love story through words, woven in through life challenges. Peaking in through a windowpane, I allowed others a glimpse into my “not so normal” life. 

Write more my readers urged. Responding out of encouragement, I did. Never considering the seed God was planting in my heart, a seed that with little water would take root. So I’m here for water. Seeking a well. Eager to draw up what the Lord will provide.

Just a few days ago the journey to the well began. I couldn’t get the faces of all the editors and agent’s that I was about to meet out of my head. What will I say to them? What’s my “pitch? Do I have a pitch? Will they like my pitch? Oh my goodness what am I doing? I contemplate not going. What’s the worse that can happen, they say no? Finding comfort in this reality, I press on.

It was 2:10pm on Thursday, running a good two hours behind schedule (as normal).
Checking the oil level under the hood, I get in the car with grease on my fingers and sweat on my brow. Pulling out, I honk and wave allowing all the neighbors to know, I was on the road!

After a short six-hour drive up Interstate 5, to Santa Cruz, California, I arrive. Dropping off my bags, I make my way to lunch. The conference begins and the passion around me is palpable. Hearing story after story, tale upon tale. People got straight to business. The voices, some deep, some high, are filled with inflection, winning over their audience of their ever-creative masterpiece.

Sitting at lunch I begin the first conversation; a much dreaded dialogue. My heart begins beating out of my chest. I find I am wearing a smile that to a stranger looks genuine, but I know it’s filled with fear and insecurity. What are they going to ask me? What are they going to say? My plate’s filled with salad. I have no appetite.

“This is it God! You brought me here. I’m all yours. I can’t waste your time.” I pray under my breath.

I introduce myself, quickly followed by questions intended to steer away from the obvious. Finding out where people live, marriage status, number of kids. Deflecting at its best.

The young girl next to me takes a bite of her food. Not long to chew at all. She swallows. I see her out of the corner of my eye glancing over at me. I look to the nearest clock, hoping we are almost out of time. Here it comes! I feel it, she’s about to ask me something, and it isn’t about my grease stained fingernails. “So, what are you writing?” (Just like the famous rap song “Whoop There it Is”). The pit in my stomach grows and my palms begin to sweat.

My insecurities rooted in this new passion of mine to write. I can’t help to notice the confidence of everyone in the room. In this moment I feel God’s peace over me. Whispering in my ear, “you love to write, I’ve made you a writer, enjoy what I am blessing you with. Be calm. Be still. I am with you.”

As I sat at that table, immersed in a “writer’s world”, my comfort grew. God brought me to this place, asking me to be a steward of his words and my testimony. So that is what I am here to do. I’m scared. I’m unaware. But I’m ready.

I take my attention off the clock. Look my neighbor straight in the eyes. I answer her question with confidence. Leaving my fear for the enemy to choke on, I choose to honor my God. This could be the beginning of a journey to a calling I never knew I had.

 The day continues and dinner roles around. Plates piled with green beans, roast beef, and a slop of carrot soufflĂ© (whatever that is). Writers eager and nervous to share with the chosen one; the editor or agent of their choice. It was time to pick their brain, or pitch our story. We wait for our invitation to begin.

Everyone’s sat. The agent leads the table with a welcome, encouraging us to enjoy our evening as a family. We make our way around the table for introductions.

Nervous, preparing to “win” her over with my idea, I wait as the writer ahead of me starts us off. Appearing to listen, I find myself murmuring what I have to say under my breath. Wavering between the table talk and my inner voice, I catch wind of a conversation that startles my thoughts. I lean forward, all ears.

“We, as agents, aren’t really looking for memoirs or books that incorporate some degree of trauma/life tragedy, not wanting anything with heavy topics.” WHAT! That’s precisely what I have. That’s what I have been working so hard on. All these women I’ve been interviewing, turning their stories of life by storm into a narrative non-fiction. NOW I find out they aren’t looking for books on these topics! Hoping my face doesn’t display the utter shock through my fake smile. I keep listening.

 In between bites she continues, “I would love to have someone submit something they wrote about a dog.” A DOG! What the heck, who writes about a dog? Aren’t those books for the pet store? For children? Discouraged and frightened by the new reality, I struggle to finish my dinner.

Returning to my room, I can’t stop thinking about what I just heard. Confused. This was just one agent, and they can’t all think this way. Trying to get my thoughts back on track, I struggle. Something she said I was responding to. I didn’t know what. I didn’t know why. All I could do was go to sleep and wait on God.

It was an hour before my alarm sounded. I wake abruptly. Finding myself sitting straight up in bed, blurting the words: I have a dog, I HAVE A DOG!

I have a terrible dog. A dog that eats socks and throws up boxer shorts. A dog, that arrived in my husband and my life, shortly after our wedding day. Expecting to be fostered by us as a potential companion dog. Benefitting from my husband being in a wheelchair, the dog would learn so much. But with a hyperactive personality he quickly became a “companion school drop out”. Good thing since we fell in love, not willing to part. We have spent the last eleven years with this crazy mutt. We’ve walked through life with him by our side. He’s a not so average dog, for a not so normal life.

That’s it! This dog is going to share our story. The story everyone keeps telling me to write.

That day. That dinner. During our family time around the table. God gave me strength to share but more importantly to listen.

There’s no doubt I will be here next year. Because I will have story to share about MY DOG!

-Thank You Mt. Hermon!

*Also, I'm excited to say a publisher WAS in fact interested in my book! Working on that for now, your prayers appreciated. 

Shine ON! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Search for Sunshine

It’s behind locked doors, in the darkness and stillness of her bedroom that her thoughts, her feelings, her fears come alive. She sits, she stews, she wonders, what will happen; what will come next. As she hears the rumble of intense conversation seeping in from her parent’s room next door, she struggles to escape her reality. It wasn’t long ago, family took on a different meaning. Now torn, fractured, undone, the past only leaves for memories and envy.

The torment of change, life long adjustment, was swarming in the thoughts of this young girl God had placed in my path. In this moment, it was her inside out, upside down life that carved our conversation. Her loneliness, confusion, and anger seeped into our discussion, her goal; to appear tough, unaffected, and normal. But how is that possible when your parents, the one’s you’ve put your trust in, the two who so long ago became one, were about to divide?

Her reactions, her reflex, took her down a road of harm, not harm of self, but of spirit. Turning to earthly comfort, rather than heavenly. Allowing the negative influences to effect personal decisions; music, friends, movies, language… She recognized the lack of God and godly choices in her life. I challenged her. She shared her need to return to youth group at church, engage more in her Christian School’s weekly chapels, and the desire to stop hanging out with friends that detract her from her focus. Aside from making these adjustments to her environment, what she shared next left me feeling empty, frustrated by her tainted reality.

This sweet girl, through her loneliness, felt she had to go to these certain places, hang with certain people, and sing certain songs to find God. This broken little heart, so lonely, so lost, spent several months in this family storm, feeling a distance from her maker. I had good news to share…

It was at this point in our conversation God threw me a little nugget of His wisdom. A thought so clear, a thought I, personally, have never even considered. I shared with her about my husband’s accident when he was 18 years old, leaving him unable to move, laid up in a hospital bed for months as his body healed. During these many days, God was there with him. Although he could not physically attend church, or flip through the pages of his own bible, God did not leave his side. God is not a place! It was through my husband’s stillness, inability to lift his arms and legs, moving only his head, that he felt the thick presence of God. Not only a time used to heal his body, but a time God strengthened his heart. Many nights and moments left in his room without visitors, lost in loneliness, discontent about the future, and grief over reality. God met him there and turned his tragedy into a testimony of grace and love.  

Sometimes we need to be in a dark spot, a dark room, for God to show us light. Sometimes we need to be lost, lonely, afraid, to hear his voice leading us closer to him. It’s never a fun moment to share such hurt in the life of a friend, let a lone, a teenager. My heart throbbed, but God replaced it with joy, as he was able to shed light on her dark situation. Through his love, through his grace, he cares. We will hurt, we will stumble, He will pick us up, and that day I got to witness just that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Set Free

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”- Mark 4: 35-41

I remember teaching this particular story in Mark a few years ago in our Children’s Ministry. After reading the scripture and talking about these verses, I recall the children responding in shock. Totally baffled by why the disciples, who time and time again witnessed the power of Christ through his love and healing of people, would still react in doubt and fear. Even the children recognized Jesus’ presence in the boat, questioning the disciple’s lack of faith.  

It seems so obvious. It’s so easy to recognize where the disciple’s fell short in this situation. I too, reacted that way, thinking out of my “oh so mighty” mindset, “if I were a disciple I would have totally recognized Christ and not been the slightest bit worried.” Sometimes it takes personal experience and individual storms to bring you to the foot of the cross, humbling you and focusing your attention on Christ, and not your own abilities. It’s out of our own fear, doubt, hopelessness, and worry that our reactions are based.

Recently, I have leaned on these verses differently, a bit more realistic, recognizing my personal weakness to trust in Christ, not far from that of the disciples. After my husband Jeff and I completed the adoption process of our son Arie, we couldn’t help but reflect on the flawless process and experience we were blessed with. No hiccups, no setbacks; God poured his blessing on us in a way that was truly amazing.

After riding that wave of excitement and being absolutely amazed of what God had done for us, fear began to creep in. It was nearing the time when we said we would apply for our second adoption. There I was, like the disciples, just leaving the shore where God so obviously revealed himself through his faithfulness to my family. The farther I got away from that experience, the more I grew weary of what was next, anticipation of a storm was weighing on my heart. Could God really do this again? Would he do it again? It was so perfect the first time, why would he make it so easy the second?  Questions of doubt filled my mind. The application for the adoption sat on the table. Every day I would pass by it, my nervousness grew.

I have seen so much hurt, brokenness, and sadness in my friends who have experienced a different God-given adoption journey. Their pain became my fear. I doubted God. I was sinning through my lack of trust. Could I have really forgotten all he had just done for my family?

It wasn’t until recently I was in a worship service where God brought me to my knees. It was that moment, Christ stood his ground; shouting in my ear, “Have you still no faith?”  As I sang and laid my burden at my Lord’s feet, I surrendered to the lyrics:
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns,
Unending love, Amazing Grace!

I felt God’s presence, I still do, his peace and unending love for my family. That peace, that grace, does not mean there will be no storm, but I’m ready! My chains are gone. I am no longer carrying the burden of my sin. I have been set free. The adoption application is in no longer on the table; it is signed and mailed. Because of God’s grace, love, and peace we are entering into uncharted waters, that only He can control. God’s love for me has no end. He can do it again. He will. In his perfect way. In his perfect timing.