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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Leaning In

The Horror

More terrible news yesterday. Gun violence in yet another public arena. This time, brutality on the West Coast, ending with loss of lives and shattered peace of mind for those who survived.

This one strikes close to home. My sister lives in California and I work with the special needs population, which was victimized by this unspeakable crime. Not that my personal connection to this atrocity should matter. The real heartache is, I ache because these stories are becoming so commonplace that it's hard to make myself ache over them anymore.

What to do? I ask in dismay. Wanton mass murder seems the order of the day: Oklahoma City, Columbine, Nickel Mines, Newtown, Charleston, Colorado Springs, etc., etc., etc. Notice, I deliberately didn't mention the Twin Towers and the Boston bombing. Why? Because at least the scoundrels who perpetrated those acts weren't our own countrymen. The ones I cited, and probably this most recent one, were carried out by fellow Americans on their own people.

Several times a year, my students practice lock down drills, huddling in dark corners of shuttered classrooms, hoping they never have to actually use the skills they're learning. This is the world we've inherited, the legacy we're leaving for our children.

Again I ask, what can be done?

The Prayer 

First and foremost, I pray. For all concerned. The innocent and the guilty alike.

Before anyone accuses me of being a bleeding heart, let me clarify. I pray also for justice and consequences to the fullest extent of the law, despite any claims of repentance uttered by perpetrators. That's God's job to sort out. Ours here on earth is to stand in the way of these criminals killing again. But, since I'm not in the role of dispensing justice this side of heaven or in the hereafter, I pray for the next best thing: changed hearts for malefactors in the making. It's based on a simple botanical concept: remove, re-root, and replant. First, I ask the Master Gardener to remove sin and replace it with Christ's righteousness; then, re-root the organism in living water (the Holy Spirit's infilling); and ultimately replant the new believer into surroundings that will foster growth and maturity.  

When all is said and done, I've prayed for the wrongdoers and the victims, direct and indirect, for in the wake of every massacre, collateral damage is done. People die (the obvious victims). Others survive the carnage, but are forced to live with horrible memories. And family members on both sides of the crime lose loved ones to the grave or prison. Nobody wins.


The Action

But prayer is a catalyst for God-directed action, which brings me to my second step: continued writing. Every page I turn out, in one way or another, is meant to prick readers' hearts with Christ's truth. This, along with whispered messages of hope and encouragement to the young minds God has entrusted to me at home and at school, is probably my greatest contribution to society. Oh, I sign petitions and make phone calls to Capitol Hill. I vote. But, like the old man on the beach who kept tossing starfish back into the ocean, I make my largest dent one organism at a time. I tally victories the same way, and how sweet those occasions (however few and far between) when one realizes one's intervention has helped rescue a drowning creature. Lest I become discouraged, I recall Harriet Tubman, Corrie ten BoomOskar Schindler and Irena Sendler, whose "one victim at a time" efforts yielded untold descendants of the people whose lives they saved. I like to imagine Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jonas Salk descending from the loins of some of the folks whose prayers were answered in the form of frail masses of DNA simply doing their part.

The Leaning

Finally, and overarchingly, I simply lean into Christ. This is perhaps the most difficult step, but no less crucial than the other two. I'm reminded of the first and, if I can help it, last time I will ever ride a motorcycle. The experience was harrowing to say the least. As the passenger, I had to depend on the driver in front, who instructed me to lean with him into every curve. This advice smacked of danger and disaster, and ran counter-intuitive to every impulse in my body that wanted to remain upright! I had to lay aside my doubt and fear and muster trembling trust in the one who did the steering. By trading in my comfort zone for what seemed unnatural and unwise, I actually participated in keeping us and the bike safe. Who'd've thought?

Conclusion

The last thing I want to do is offer pat advice. I don't understand why God allows these heinous crimes, and I haven't the first idea how to offer comfort to those affected by them. Sadly, I am personally acquainted with three individuals who have lost loved ones to murder, and I consider it a privilege to support them in the ways I've described. Beyond that, I shake my head with the rest of you ... and weep.

Check out Matthew West's Do Something ~ and then, go out and do something!

Monday, November 30, 2015

OBE or OBEY?

A friend at church has coined the acronym, "OBE," which stands for "Overcome by Events."

I like that. I like it a lot. Especially today, when nothing I've touched has come out right, and several things have come out wrong, starting with this morning when I put the phone in the refrigerator (thanks, younger son, for posting the photo on Facebook, alongside of the ones you took of the turkey I set on fire on Thanksgiving). 

But I digress...

I'm choosing to add a "Y" to my friend's acronym, and change the meaning as follows: "Overjoyed by Elohim and YHWH."


Anyone care to join me?



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Setbacks


"My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition to the king; 
my tongue is the pen of a ready writer."

            Psalm 45:1

Yesterday I had the privilege of helping dear friends pack for a move. This is their third relocation in about as many years. It's exciting and scary at the same time. This represents a new beginning, with all that goes with it.

In this case, a happy reason sparked the change - a new career. Oftentimes, however, new beginnings stem from setbacks. I, myself, am in the midst of one. I'm rewriting my novel, Belabored, having gleaned advice from wise and gentle shepherds, who assured me my concept is strong, but the delivery needs some tweaking.

Over the past few months, while praying about how to revise my book, I did a lot of reading. I especially enjoy biographies, as they inspire me to persevere through difficulties. In God's wisdom, He steered me to the life stories of Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, all of whom faced rejection and revision challenges time and again. In studying the details of Wilder's publishing journey, I was surprised to learn her editor insisted she completely rewrite her second book after her first met with great success. I've somehow always subscribed to the notion that great writers, once having "made it," cause such a stir that publishers come clamoring for their every word, even random scribbling on restaurant napkins.

It doesn't seem to work that way. 

I have to say I'm rejoicing in the journey. As the rejection slips mount up for my "firstborn," a collection of essays entitled, Unleashed: Reflections of a Dog Walker, and articles I submit seem to vanish into cyberspace with nary a whimper of interest, I feel undaunted. The latest casualty was a long and tortuous application I compiled for a friend who is more than deserving of professional recognition. The thumbs down came last Friday.

Why am I so happy? I feel positively ebullient. Whereas I've been low on energy since the school year began, at this point I can't wait to get home to my keyboard to start tapping away. The words are literally right at my fingertips, and ideas awaken me at night and have to be recorded. Like an injured athlete tasked with relearning all that was once second nature to him, I feel myself rising with defeat - inspired, optimistic, expectant.

This must be what success feels like.

"It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you must also complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there may also be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have."
                              2 Corinthians 8:10-12

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Endings and Beginnings

Morsels for Meditation...: Endings and Beginnings Part 2

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dump Cake ...

... is an easy, delectable dessert made up of layered ingredients, each yummy in its own right, which when combined, make for a sensory splurge rivaled only by little wonders like Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon.

Fear not. The above will be the only mention of confections, so you won't have to go scurrying into the kitchen to break any dieting endeavors. I use it only as a metaphor for the varied morsels I plan to serve up in this post. I've been away from blogging for a few weeks, concentrating instead on a book proposal for my "firstborn," a collection of essays entitled Unleashed: Reflections of a Dog Walker. In the interim, God has been hurling little idea pellets my way, any of which could warrant its own article. Since I don't have time for that at the moment, I'm going to fling them all your way and hope together they form a tasty treat worthy of the read.


Tasty Treat #1: Turtle Soup

"Pray without ceasing..." 1 Thessalonians 5:17

"Be prepared in season and out of season... 
 2 Timothy 4:2

If there were a tortoise and hare competition, I would definitely be rooting for the former. I'm one of those annoying people who gets wet in the pool one fingernail at a time, complaining all the while about the frigidity of the water. When at long last I'm immersed, I'm immediately ready to jump ship, head for shore, and snuggle in my beach towel.



While this spectacle may be amusing at the swim club, it's a hindrance in other aspects of life wherein one is called upon for swift, sustained action. When we have the luxury of time to make a decision, it is appropriate to proceed cautiously and prayerfully. Sometimes, though, life comes at us fast and furious, and we have to draw on a bank of prayer which we have amassed preemptively to make a split second decision. It is at those times we have to shrug off the turtle in us and make room for the hare.



Tasty Treat #2: Facebook Fricassee

"We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." Acts 6:4

"Without ceasing, I make mention of you always in 
my prayers ..." Romans 1:9


Facebook is nothing if not a great time waster. I've emerged dazed and disgusted with myself more than once when I realize I've just thrown away an hour of my life scanning meaningless status updates about what someone on the other side of town cooked for dinner. Meanwhile, my own pots and pans remain silent as I sit glued to an electronic social life that is anything but.

On occasion, though, I get it right. These are the times I respond to someone's cry for prayer, right then and there. Anyone can promise to pray, but how likely are we to remember after we move immediately on to the next person's new profile pics and shared files? How much better to heed the following suggestion:

"Let us pray, let us pray, everywhere and every way
Every moment of the day it is the right time
For the father above, He is listening with love
And He wants to answer us, so let us pray"

~ "Let Us Pray" by Stephen Curtis Chapman

I find it expedient to drop everything and utter a prayer right over the air waves, so to speak. If, as we proclaim, we are not ashamed of the gospel and of being ministers of that gospel, why not type an actual prayer in response to someone's request for it?

Along the same lines, I was shocked to realize the other day how many times I laid aside time with God to check my phone. Either I received a text or thought of one I simply had to send immediately, before the impulse left me. When all was said and done, I had interrupted my business meeting with God no less than a dozen times to attend to fleeting earthly business. Imagine how ridiculous I would look if I reversed the dynamic and told my employer I needed time out from my job every time I felt the inclination to pray or encourage a believer. I'd be job hunting in a heartbeat! Yet, I thought nothing of putting God on hold so I could foster earthly relationships. With His help, I aim to improve in this area.

That's all for today, readers. I hope my musings are not too scattered or diverse for you. I suspect your palates are eclectic and can handle the buffet I laid out in this somewhat random fashion, knowing I tried to offer savory samples that would both nourish and satisfy.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pedigree of a Savior 2

A friend recently challenged me to read through the Book of Matthew, an account of Jesus' life with which I thought I was very familiar. Interestingly, there's always something new to be learned when one revisits previously studied material. As I'm delving into this gospel, I'm seeing old truths that for me are new.

Scandals


God placed the Messianic line in the wombs of many less than reputable women. Chapter one of Matthew lists Jesus' genealogy. Scattered throughout the long list of His progenitors are five women whose accomplishments included prostitution, adultery and foreign birth (Ruth hailed from Moab, a nation which descended from incest following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and carried on generations of strife with Israel). How amazing that, of all the "nice" women God could have listed in Jesus' birth record, the ones He saw fit to mention by name were scandal-ridden. Eight times as many men are listed in this chapter as are women, and the one thing that small female fraction had in common was an undesirable background. Yet God used these women with checkered pasts to be vessels of salvation. 

Dreams


God used dreams to accomplish His purposes and warn His people five times in the first two chapters. Five times! I read these pages just about every Christmas, yet I never noticed this glaring fact. The dreams fall into categories of: 


a) guidance superintending the family into which Jesus would be born, and b) life and death warnings which direct the hearers either to do or not do something which will ensure the Son of God's earthly survival.



Obedience

In order for divine guidance to make a difference in the recipient's life, obedience is crucial. In the aforementioned dreams, Joseph and the Magi acted on the information God delivered to them. The Lord roused these men in order to impart instructions, and they lost no time (but they did lose sleep) to follow His leading. 


What Sin Disgraces, Grace Displaces


I find hope and a call to action in these texts. What sin disgraces, grace displaces. Simply put, God loves to use underdogs and transgressors to carry out His plans, and He may use supernatural means to reveal them. Most importantly, if we are willing to be used, we must stand willing to obey.


For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Pedigree of a Savior

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Eating of the Crow

I recently found myself in the unenviable position of having to chow down on crow.

No one likes eating crow, but it’s particularly unpalatable when one has had previous encounters with that tough old bird that didn’t end well. This was my problem. My mind kept returning to past confrontations that I didn’t see coming and handled poorly, and how upset they left me for days. Often, I had to do damage control after the fact, trying to clean up what I could discern as being my fault, while still holding others accountable for theirs. It’s a delicate art that I’m uncomfortable with, and quite frankly try to avoid.

But I had exploded about a triviality, which was actually masking a bigger issue, and both called for reparative conversation. Still, I couldn’t help imagining dire scenarios in which family relations would be irreparably severed, and silence would take the place of communication that was hard won and fragile.

I didn’t relish digging into this dish.

Even so, the deed had to be done, for, as is often the case in such matters, others’ fates depended on the restoration of harmony.

First, I solicited prayer. I have a number of faithful prayer partners in my life, who can be counted on when I hit the rapids. This being one of those times, I pleaded with those fellow journeyers to join me on the raft, and bring lifelines.

Next, I prepared what I wanted to say. This is a basic planning tool, but one that helps me feel more in control of an out of control situation. The simple act of putting pen to paper (yup, I do it the old-fashioned way) somehow calms me and allows me to corral the fearful thoughts that scatter my peace.

Yet, even after seeking the Lord’s wisdom and organizing my mind, I felt immobilized. How would the other parties react? I felt helpless, knowing I had to make some kind of move, but afraid to proceed.

Admitting defeat, I hung my head. The only way through this mess was, well, through, and through was exactly where I didn’t want to go.

Here is where it’s helpful to have Scripture memorized, as sometimes it jumps into your mind just when you need it. In this case, verse 11 of Psalm 77 came to my rescue. I know nothing of Asaph, except that he must have felt cornered at some point, too, and took the time to write about it: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago.”

Boom!

I work as a paraeducator, which is a fancy name for a teacher’s aide, and one of the skills we teach our students is how to summarize a reading in 20 words or less. Asaph must have taken our course, because he boiled down the whole theme of his poem in those 17 words. The opening of the piece explains his distress leading up to that resolute statement of faith, and the subsequent verses give illustrations proving the point.

I now knew what I had to do. I sat down again and got busy writing. This time I wasn’t mapping out a strategy or making crib sheets. Instead, I filled two pieces of paper with example upon example of God’s faithfulness to me during past battles. Meetings where school administrators bullied me, ticking off grievances against my kids, and I struggled vainly to explain that I was doing my best as a single parent, but God made it a job sharing position for a reason, and I was literally down one man. Unpleasant encounters with bosses and coworkers. Difficult neighbors. We all have such experiences, try though we might to avoid them. Trouble finds even non-confrontational people like myself, but when met with faith and fortitude, can produce greater amounts of both.

I also included nail-biting experiences that weren’t self-defense opportunities, but, rather, growing up challenges. Times when I had to speak in front of a group or meet with people of authority who held sway over my future. That is, at the time it felt like they controlled my future. Looking back, I realize almighty hands held and still do hold all the cards, and no tailor-suited individuals or gaffes on my part can change that celestial mind.

Tucking the list into my pocket, I pulled up a number on my phone.

“Can we sit down and talk?” came out of my mouth.

And so began the eating of the crow.



Friday, July 10, 2015

Senseless

My neighbor's dog is deaf and blind. She used to have hearing and vision, but age has taken its toll on this "short person in a fur coat."

We've known this beige, wide-eyed shih tzu for 12 years. Her name is Dusty Miller, and she's comforted everyone in our family at one time or another. When my father lay weak and helpless on what would become his death bed, Dusty curled up at his feet. When my sons had a bad day at school, they went down the street and scooped up Dusty. 

Now Dusty finds the most enjoyment being in familiar surroundings because she's minus two of her senses. We carry her up and down stairs and guide her in safe directions when walking. 

Tonight I took Dusty out to "do her business" so her "mommy," Anita, could do some business of her own. As usual, I steered her around obstacles and out of harm's way, nudging her onto grassy surfaces so she could do her thing. I watched with great interest as Dusty circled and sniffed and even poked her whole face into the earth beneath her. 

She was compensating for what she didn't have, calling on her senses of touch and smell to make up for that which she lacked. 

As I've mentioned before, I'll be attending the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference at the end of this month. I'm working hard on the second draft of my novel, Belabored, but to be honest, it's not coming together as I would like. I've requested information from expert sources to make the book ring true, but it's a waiting game. Other people have lives and to do lists also, and my priorities aren't necessarily at the top of those lists. Oddly enough, the world doesn't owe me anything, and it certainly doesn't have to spin on my timetable. 

So what's a girl to do? Here I am, trying to serve the Lord, using my talents to shed light on a very important subject (abortion), and I'm running into stop signs. But we don't sit at stop signs endlessly, do we? We pause, evaluate our surroundings, and use our best judgment to move ahead when an appropriate amount of time has passed. 

That's just what God's been guiding me to do. Instead of waiting for material I don't yet and may never have, I sense He's instructing me to move forward with what I do have. I have a manuscript which needs revision. So I'm revising. I have a conference for which I can prepare. So I'm preparing.

Like Dusty, I'm figuring out how to work around my deficiencies, and not let them render me senseless.


"If there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have." 
2 Corinthians 8:12


For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Weeds 2

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Digging Deep

My friend Robin is good for what ails me. This week I'm doing her a small favor, and she just did me a huge one. 


She pulled me out of quicksand. She reminded me that of course the world is full of turmoil and of course it's going to hell in a hand basket (literally) because the one who's behind all its workings hails from there. But she also reminded me that "greater is He that is in [us], than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).


Yesterday I posted how sad I feel that someone I love is doing the unthinkable - she's burying her son.  Later in the day, I learned some other distressing news that shook my faith in a big way. 

But it only shook my faith in human beings. The God of the universe is still right where I left Him.

Don't misunderstand. It took me 24 hours to figure out that the gospel hasn't changed just because someone I trusted let me down. 

Did you catch that? Someone I trusted.  

What unriveted me was the fact that, yet again, I placed my faith in the wrong arena. It doesn't belong in man. It never belonged in man. Man does what man does, and will continue to do. Man sins.

Christ does not.

But where does that leave me, trust wise? I mean, am I supposed to go through the rest of my life never trusting anyone, any situation, worst of all, myself and my own judgment?

Yeah. Yeah, that's about right. But don't stop reading because there's a happy ending.

I've often joked that the only thing predictable about me is my unpredictability. I rarely do things the same way twice. I smile at old episodes of Columbo (if you're too young to remember that 70's crime show, it's worth hunting down on Netflix), where often the addled-seeming cop catches killers because the murders they stage contradict their victims' habits. Columbo's strategy would fall apart if he were investigating my life. Many of my habits are the opposite of habits, which is why I lose my keys on a regular basis and can never remember where I put things in the refrigerator.

Similarly, the only thing trustworthy about human beings is their untrustworthiness. If that sounds cynical, so be it. Christ rebuked the religious leaders of His day for turning God's law into a "living document" that changed with whatever wayward whim their hypocritical hearts felt like following. Paul called out the Corinthian church for their abysmal record in the holiness department. The Bible doesn't close its eyes to humanity's fallen state, so why should I?

The question, then, becomes, what do I do with this life? 

At times, I feel like hiding my head in the sand. Other times, I hang it in shame that I share Christ's name with so many who besmirch and defile it. In all honesty, my own spiritual walk has crooked angles just like any other believer's. My failings may not always be obvious or newsworthy, but I'm not fooling almighty eyes.

The only thing I can trust is the one who never sinned and promises to guide me into all truth. That means that, while human minds and actions are flawed at best and evil at worst, I have a direct pipeline to infinite, good wisdom. "Good" meaning pure and clean. Enriching. Edifying. Perfect. Divine. And that wisdom belongs to someone who carries me even when this world tries to lay me flat.


In the meantime, I'll keep sharing God's truth with little folks and reminding older folks that the truth they once learned is still true, if more than a bit tarnished by its bearers. I'll do my best not to be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21), realizing that Christ's sacrifice at Calvary did and still does trump His doubts at GethsemaneIn short, I'll try to dig deep into the infinite pockets of "wealth" God has entrusted me with to make other lives a little richer. 


Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 
Hebrews 13:8


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Grief 2

Today my dear friend is grieving the loss of her precious son. 

Hence, I am grieving.


As John Donne observed, "any man's death diminishes me" in a very real way. Somehow, we feel the truth of Donne's statement more when it hits close to home.

I'm going through all the usual stages of disbelief and raw pain. 

What? I just saw her a few weeks ago! Everything was fine then. How could this happen? How can I help? What can I do or say that will show this person how much I care? 

Then, like a jolt of electricity, There but for the grace of God go I.

I had an argument with my own son this morning. Not a very important argument, surely not worth all the fuss I kicked up. Not worth leaving in a huff as I did, being sure to do my best to make him feel like a worthless piece of garbage. 

Surely not worth that. Nothing he could do warrants that kind of treatment.

After I got the news, I picked up the phone and called my son and told him just how much he means to me. I think he understood. I hope so.

This week, I'm doing my best to teach first graders about the God who loves them so much that he sent His only son to die for them. Working in education as I do, one develops sort of an eye for kids who may be headed for trouble. A little too willful. Doing their own thing. Rebellious. Too old too soon.

I try not to label children based on their behavior - people did that to my kids when they were growing up, and it angered me - but there are warning signs that just jump out at you. I find myself thinking, "Lord, don't let me hear that insert name here does insert dangerous or life-threatening behavior here once he sheds his baby fat. Don't let mread about this kid's missteps or unnecessary death down the road. Keep Satan's hands off this child!"

Families are breaking up and society's breaking down. Too many kids aren't escaping the fallout from the world they're growing up in. I pray the kids I'm teaching this week at Liberti Church of Newtown Square's Vacation Bible School will take with them the life-altering news that there's more to this world than this world

And I pray their all too human instructor will be able to look past naughtiness and see instead hearts that Christ died for 2,000 years ago.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6


For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Grief


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Weeds 2


To date, I have well over 100 pages and close to 50,000 words strung together for my novel, Belabored, which I hope to pitch to hungry agents and editors at this summer's Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference.

That is my plan.

It may or may not be God's plan.

It most certainly is not Satan's plan.

While some may protest there's no such thing as evil incarnate, I would posit that it stands to reason if there's a God, there has to be His opposite.

I mean, didn't Newton prove that?

Satan is not someone I spend a lot of time dwelling on, because I consider my time more productively spent focusing on the one who bested him at Calvary, and promises to best him again at the end of time as we know it.

Still, he's a force to be reckoned with, and not someone I'd care to go toe to toe with in my own strength.

Yet, that's exactly what I've been doing for the last month or so.

While my novel is most certainly progressing, it's also stalled in many areas. The writer's curse, I suppose, is an ugly conglomerate of waiting, procrastination, discouragement, and bad self-talk ("You, the next Harper Lee? Come on! Really? Your book's nowhere near finished, and you think you're gonna pitch it this summer?").

As I huffed and puffed behind our old-fashioned push mower recently (yup, we're one of those families), I marveled at how my sons manage to get a nice, clean cut out of those overtaxed blades. They seemed no match for the stubborn dandelion weeds that simply refused to bow to my wishes. Furthermore, I couldn't help but notice that the ones I did manage to sever were back in full force a mere 24 hours later (either that or they had some pretty fast growing relatives who showed up to mourn the loss of their kinfolk).

Now, that is just wrong.

I mean, when someone spends upwards of an hour cutting the grass on a hot, sticky day, she expects the lawn to look mowed for at least the better part of the next day.

Not happening.

So I got out there with my clippers and tried to tidy things up.

Then the rains came and, well, you know how that goes.

No matter how hard I try, those tenacious weeds aren't going away.

In the midst of those pesky interlopers, though, stand some pretty stalwart little flowers. I'm not a gardener (my idea of planting is throwing some perennials in where I have an opening and hoping for the best), but even I know the difference between a bloom and a weed. This is some sort of wild flower robed in virginal white and adorned with tiny little blossoms, none of which would bend their elegant necks to the blades of my mower.

Did you catch that? They hung in there, despite the cutter's best efforts.

The thing about mowers is, they don't distinguish between organisms. They hack up both beauty and beast in one fell swoop of their mangling teeth. So it really comes down to the plant's tenacity as to whether or not it's going to survive.

I'm thinking I have to choose whether to pattern myself after the flower or the weed. Either way, Satan's gonna come after me. But being allied with the master gardener gives me a distinct advantage over the weeds.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Weeds

Morsels for Meditation...: Tenacity

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Impasse

I've been experiencing an impasse lately, on many levels. I guess it's been obvious I've been off the radar for months, but there's been a good reason for that. I'm writing a pro-life novel called Belabored. I finished the guts of it over the winter, but there's still a lot of work to be done in the way of revision and fact checking. I'm sort of in a holding pattern, waiting for interview responses and still trying to find sources whose brains I can pick to ensure the book's credibility.

I think this is the flip side of writer's block. I'm going to call it writer's wait.

I don't mean to whine (well, maybe I do - the post is called "Impasse," after all, so I may as well explain how I got there), but this waiting stuff really is for the birds. I'm a pretty proficient waiter, having waited for things like marriage and motherhood and scads of other milestones and non-milestones much of my life. In fact, it's only in recent years that I've learned how to turn the waiting into productive action, sometimes disguised cleverly as prayer and inaction. 

Then there's the matter of worry. My family experienced a serious crisis recently, followed by several disappointments of varying shapes and sizes. I don't do setbacks very well. I generally like to do something once and have it stick, so to speak. I get annoyed and frustrated when things don't go as planned. No crisis I've ever known has stuck to my timetable or played by my rules, so the aforementioned events have upset my equilibrium and played havoc with my emotions.

I found myself at a point of "where do I go from here" this past weekend. I complained to my son, who offered a listening ear and no small degree of comfort, as he always does (bless his 18-year-old, about to graduate and go into the big, wide world unfettered by Hovercraft Mama, heart). He immediately plucked Captain Janeway and Commander Ryker, two Star Trek Christmas ornaments who sit atop our doorways, from their regal perches, and ordered me to draw strength from those compelling characters. He then did what he always does, offered his services around the house, even though he's got a wicked case of Senioritis, with AP exams and finals right around the corner. 

Bless his heart.

But I was one hurting, discouraged puppy, and needed to take a few more steps. 

During the worst periods of my life, I've found great help in counting my blessings. In so doing, the clouds somehow part and make way for some pretty significant sunshine. 

So I took paper and pen and started scribbling. By the time I was done, I had a sizable list, not least of which was the fact that we weren't harmed or robbed when our back door was left open all night recently! Oft unnoticed things like safety and security, Providence and provision, take on greater importance when committed to print. 

Maybe that's why I'm a writer.

It also didn't hurt to take the day off and "play" with my youngest sister, Roz, who obligingly bought me frozen yogurt and helped me goof off while her dog, Sadie (everybody's blessing), gave off peaceful vibes and made everything seem better. 

I still haven't figured out how to avoid stress while keeping up with the news. I'm sure that's part of the problem, but I'm no longer willing to shut my mind to the great problems of the day in order to keep a phony grin on my face. Frankly, I'd rather force my features into a half smile while realizing this world's not my ultimate home than hide my head in the proverbial sand, as I did for too many immature years.

Today is the National Day of Prayer. My friend and I will be showing up at some events and making our voices heard alongside other believers who also refuse to pretend everything's fine. We'll continue to rise early most mornings to lift our voices to heaven, trusting that the one who hears those prayers will also answer them. And we'll commit to the great concepts of the Serenity Prayer, which help us figure out what's our business and what belongs to God.


 I'm beginning to see a break in my impasse.




Saturday, February 28, 2015

Stupor - Almost

There, that got your attention, didn't it?

The brutal facts are as follows: I had a rough week on a number of levels, none of which are life threatening, thank goodness. Still, annoying, time-consuming and, did I mention annoying?


So when I came home yesterday, my son asked what I planned to do with the open evening looming before me. He knew the answer before asking the question. Seeing his mother propped up in the recliner, spoon in one hand, peanut butter and two bananas in the other (yup, that's my idea of a binge now that I've sworn off sweets after the scale and I had an ugly tête-à-tête), he saw the handwriting on the wall.

"I'm gonna watch TV!" I announced with the tone of a cirrhosis-livered sailor threatening a two week bender.


My son knows me. He knew what my plans should have been, as I've been bragging all month about how Belabored, the novel God laid on my heart, is almost finished. He's been dutifully tracking its progress and spurring me on, bless his almost 18-year-old heart. But he also knows when to shut up and bring me another jar of cholesterol.


Thus, I commenced my four hour vacation with Jack Klugman, AKA, Dr. Quincy, the crime-solving coroner. He and I stayed put in my living room until the call of nature forced me to abandon my easy chair.


Once upstairs, I realized I had a choice. Being in no mood to dispense pearls of wisdom to as yet unknown readers of my would-be novel, I knew writing was out of the question. Still, I've been putting off reconciling my check book (another fascinating Friday night option), so I sat down and did that. Then I decided to ring up the phone company and get frustrated over their unwillingness to hand over a new cell phone for nothing but the simple joy of keeping me satisfied. I argued with them for about 45 minutes, vociferously proclaiming my good customer status and insisting it wouldn't break them to waive the $40 start up fee they now charge for upgrades. They didn't see it that way, but I did manage to heap a new resentment onto my growing list of complaints for the week. It's always nice to stay on top of things.


When all was said and done, I had paid bills, filed the PHEAA application, responded to old emails, and changed my sheets. I didn't do anything rash like make a meal for my son so he'd have a nice homecoming after a long day of school and work (I didn't want to get too carried away). But I'm pleased to say that those mundane chores, in an odd way, cleared the decks for me to get back to writing today. 

I'm learning that sometimes just doing the next right thing can, in my case, lead to the next write thing.



Check out Newsboys' Rescue


For more like this, check out: 


Morsels for Meditation...: To Whom Shall We Go?


Morsels for Meditation...: The Mom Thing



Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Ethan

Check out David Crowder's How He Loves

I don't usually start out posts by referencing a song, but this time I have no choice.

We sang this in church today, and I found myself tearing up. Not because of the lyrics, because the world is brimming with phrases that send chills down my spine. Not because of the artist, who wears his disheveled look like an old satchel and croaks out words with the vocal finesse of a bullfrog. Surely not because I was overcome by some temporary emotional rush, for if that were the case, the overwhelming sense of gratitude would have dissipated rather than grown stronger, as it has, over the course of two decades.

I wept because I have lived the truth behind the words.

Eighteen years ago, I was facing single parenthood and dreading it. I had no clue how my little family would survive, and less than the requisite mustard seed of faith needed to believe God had a clue.

And yet, all these years later, I stand amazed (no, let me amend that, I need to sit down for this revelation) that my heavenly father did just what He said He would do in verses like: 

"I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants
begging bread." ~ Psalm 37:25

and

"A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation." ~ Psalm 68:5

Perhaps the most daunting piece of my situation was the fact that I was raising not only a preschooler, but also a newborn. Five-year-olds can go off to kindergarten, so at least Mom can count on half a day to accomplish little tasks like earning a living. Five-year-olds can feed themselves and put on their jackets and dial 911 if Mom succumbs to exhaustion. 

Infants can't do any of those things. My Ethan hadn't even been born yet when I realized something was way wrong with our family picture, and he was only six months old when my nightmare became reality. On top of these difficult beginnings, he wasn't the easiest child to raise. One of his earliest full sentences was uttered in reply to my request that he perform some Herculean feat like taking his plate out to the kitchen. In wide-eyed wonder, he unashamedly declared, "I wouldn't wanna have to work!"

Things got worse before they got better. It quickly became apparent that my bright child (who, because of his superior intellect, I had high hopes of advancing right from pre-school to first grade – yeah, right) was neither gifted nor interested in becoming gifted in the wide world of social interaction. Not only did he not fly under the radar, but I have voluminous email files from teachers and principals who didn't know what to do with a student whose bluntness was exceeded only by academic laziness. We darkened many a counselor and therapist’s doorstep. I sought out role models among family and friends to point him in the right direction. All these people and programs helped immensely, but at the core was a heart issue.

My Ethan has a stubborn streak, honestly come by, which informs and drives and makes him hard to reach at times.

That stubborn streak is also the very thing which will make him a fantastic teacher or lawyer or street cleaner, for all I care, as long as he aims it in the right direction.

Anyway, as I was reveling in Crowder’s music this morning, it struck me that one of the biggest ways God has shown his love for me was in giving me this second son, when it was all I could do to manage the first, and providing the family and resources (I still shake my head in wonder at the unexpected ways He provided resources, but that’s another article) and sheer, white-knuckle perseverance needed to move this little pain in the butt from point A to point B.

And let me tell you, this guy has most definitely landed on point B. I could regale you with stories of his accomplishments, but I don’t want to be one of those moms. Suffice it to say, he’s not the same kid – er, make that, young man – he was even a year ago. He’s someone I look forward to spending time with. Someone I can rely on. Someone who knows all my flaws (heck, he put some of ‘em there!), and loves me anyway.

Someone I’m proud to call much more than my child – rather, a very dear friend, and the greatest evidence I have to date that not only is there a God looking out for me, but also that He loves me enough to sometimes give me more than I think I can handle.


Ethan Z. Williams's photo.
                                       Ethan Zechariah Williams, 2014

Friday, January 16, 2015

February

I know, I know - it's only January. But bear with me, as the Lord laid something on my heart today about these dreary winter months. For me, the worst one by far is the second month of the year, so I'm focusing there.

A deceptively warm February 40 years ago saw my beloved father experiencing a near-fatal heart attack. I can never forget learning, after enjoying an overnight visit with a school friend, how my mom, hands full with three minor children, no job or even driver's license, elected to leave me an extra day in the company of relative strangers while she dealt with the crisis. I remained there, blissfully unaware that my dad lay critically ill while I dressed Barbie dolls.


Fast forward 20 years to February 1991. I shivered on a cold gurney, awaiting surgery which would remove the remains of my unborn child who had died before ever leaving the womb. Although the calendar said I was only 14 weeks pregnant, this baby already had a name - Abigail - and a huge place in my now broken heart. In short, I was devastated. I remember desperately waiting for the calendar page to turn so I could shudder off the cold, bleak month that had claimed my daughter's life.

In February 2003, my precious mother took her last breaths, following years of frail health. Metastasized cancer diagnosed the previous fall caught us all off guard, and swept her away from us in less than three months.

While it stings to revisit all this sorrow, I find great comfort in recalling God's mercy during those desolate periods. In wandering through each pain-filled song of my life, I find ample evidence of amazing grace rippling through every aching chord.

After Dad's heart attack my sister Jane, whose goodness is rivaled only by her practicality, bought Mom driving lessons, rendering her less dependent on her ailing husband. Dad remained with us, mercifully, another 30 years, longer than any male in his immediate family, although his health was irreparably damaged. He was blessed with good quality of life, thanks to the grace of God and the benefits of 20th century medicine. He lived to see all seven of his grandchildren grow out of diapers and into their school years. The realization that we almost lost him made him that much dearer in our eyes.

While nothing could bring back my Abby, family and friends rallied to bind up my wounds. My sister Jo Ann, herself ready to deliver her second child, realized the seeming unfairness and understood why I couldn't bring myself to visit newborn Madelyn when she arrived March 1. Instead of insisting I celebrate my new niece, Jo and her husband Scott, whom I consider a brother, sent me a glorious begonia with coral blossoms that reminded me life could still bloom even in the starkest winter. For her part, my sister Roz took me out for an expensive haircut, with the thought that a new look might bring a smile to my tear-streaked face. Best of all, the following February found me weeks away from cradling my own darling Aaron, who made his entrance March 16, 1992. Five years later, almost to the day, his precious brother, Ethan, came on the scene. February, indeed, gave way to marvelous March.

When Mom was in the last stages of her illness, Jane packed up her suitcases and nursing skills and boarded a flight home across the country. She made it in time to tend our mother and say goodbye. Roz's husband Tom, also more brother than brother-in-law, came to the rescue, hauling Mom's debilitated body up when she would slip down in her hospital bed. In the aftermath, I cried on the phone with my counselor while emptying Mom's closet. That dear lady wouldn't take a cent for our phone session. A neighbor who had never before been kind cleared snow from our driveway, and others we barely knew sent flowers and showed up to her memorial service. We didn't get through unscathed, but neither were we forsaken.


In every season of grief, almighty arms held my family and me high above an abyss of uncertainty and pain. Those arms aren't going anywhere anytime soon. 

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath 
are the everlasting arms."
Deuteronomy 33:27

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Disappointment

I experienced a disappointment of sorts this past week. It set off the opportunity to clomp around with a chip on my shoulder, feeling irritated and wronged. The Lord, I muttered to myself, is playing games, dangling carrots He has no intention of letting drop into my expectant mouth. 



On top of this disagreeable development, I returned to work after a long and satisfying winter break (in my youth, we called it Christmas break, but that was back when society still smiled on nativity scenes and religious expression). Note, I'm not cuing violin strings to tremble for a spoiled state employee who enjoys long summer hiatuses. I'm merely stating the fact that it's tough to go back after vacation, especially as my job assignment is of a variable nature, and changes are the norm this year.

All that said, the other night I had what I think may have been a mini-panic attack. I felt my heart fluttering and emotions swirling. I could sense my jaw clenching and blood pressure jumping in the presence of family (who had nothing to do with the situation and were just being their sweet selves). I knew I was in a bad place. I decided to go to a quiet space and just deal with the agitation gripping me. 

I sat down and talked with the Lord. I asked blunt questions He may not have appreciated an underling voicing, and wrote Him letters of annoyance and complaint. In short, I poured out my frustration and resentment at His monumental gall in trying to train me in the boot camp I signed up for when I asked Him to save me.


You know what? Nothing changed. The carrot still wavered, although at a certain point I made a conscious decision to stop reaching for it. Work was still challenging, but I'm pleased to report the Lord met me each day on the job and together we completed the week (in fact, many aspects were quite rewarding). 

Nothing changed - except me.

"'Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'"
Jeremiah 33:3