Thursday, December 20, 2012

Favored- Part Five


Hey, dear friends,
     Below you will find the final post of the year. As I write this large snowflakes are falling outside and pine branches are bowed with heavy snow. A white Christmas is a shoe-in. I wanted to take a moment to wish you and yours a blessed and merry Christmas. Rejoice in our Savior's birth. Fall on your knees in thanksgiving for the life He led. And, bow your head in praise for the sacrifice of love He made on that splinter-filled cross. Our world is not at peace. Our country is in mourning, yet because of that divine birth, spirit-filled life, His holy death and finally the empty, hollow tomb, we, who believe, have hope. My prayer for you is that you live that Hope everyday. Embrace it. Make it yours. Allow it to transform you into a light, a city set on a hill, a beacon for the hurting to run toward. Merry Christmas and God bless you...

The actual birth came swiftly.  Before Mary and Joseph knew it, they were both staring into the tiny face of a squirming God.  Lying on his mother's belly, the infant found his thumb while trying to focus his eyes upon his mother.  Joseph began the ritual of wiping the infant down with salt and cautiously swaddling him in the clean cloth.

             Many of Mary’s questions were answered at once--he was just a baby; no bright flashes of Gabriel; and yes, she could not deny the presence of God all about her.  She knew that if she could but scratch the air only slightly, God would be visible just on the other side.

            The new mother glanced between her newborn and her speechless husband.  Which was more precious to her now?  How quickly love expanded to include a child.  The three of them bonded instantly and irreversibly became a family.  That was just as much a miracle as the conception thought Mary. 

            Tears began streaming down her cheeks spilling upon the infant's round head.  Mary lay back on her bed of hay while cradling her son in her arms.  Joseph wrapped them both in a blanket and stepped outside into the night air in relief.

            Mary looked into the scrunched face of her baby.  His cheeks were as the soft moss on the banks of a stream.  His fingers smelled like new grass in spring.   God had indeed favored her with such sweetness.  Yet, Mary dared not fool herself--the price of favor was also usually bought with sorrow.  But she would not think of that now.  She was tired.  The infant was drifting to sleep.  The mother pulled her son near to her face and whispered,  "While you are in my care, you will be safe, my love.  My soul exalts you and my spirit has rejoiced in God, my Savior.  My little one, I will give you the best part of me forever.  Whatever you call me to do, I will do.  Wherever you call me to go, I will go. ” 

            Sleep came swiftly to mother and child.

            While the heavens dance, twirled and cheered, God smiled.  Hope was born on this day, and the God of all creation proclaimed it good--very, very good.

                           The Beginning.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas in Newtown

As I sit in the early morning light looking at the tree lights and the garland on the banisters, I am filled with a contentment I don't deserve. Today, funerals begin in Newtown. I've heard several interviewed from there that Christmas has left Newtown. However, I'm praying that now more than ever those dear folks feel the true love and spirit of Christmas as they mourn and lament their losses. The baby that was born those many centuries ago is now mourning with them and walking among them. He is in every home, every darkened living room, around every Christmas tree whose lights have been turned off. His arms are sagging from fatigue as He continually embraces and holds up broken hearts. His spirit will not leave the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary. As those folks work hard to straighten classrooms and erase the horror that took place there, that baby who grew into a Savior, now bends his knee in every nook and cranny as if He were still in the darkness of Gethsemane.
Dear ones, embrace all that is good. Pray for those broken hearts on the hour. Pray for our country as we all mourn the loss of innocence. Pray for the turning of hearts, the yearning for goodness, the longing for a faith that is true and steadfast.

Pray. Pray. Pray.
Now more than ever, it is appropriate and healing to remember the babe and the birth of our Hope…

FAVORED- Part Four
For months, Mary pondered all these thoughts in her heart.  And Joseph?  What must he be thinking right now thought Mary?  Moving about her, Joseph could not have been more attentive or loving. Yet his shaking hands told her, he too, was bewildered by it all.  Moving silently about her, he’d deliberately touch her hand or arm whenever he could.  He constantly rearranged the straw about her in whatever way she wished.  She must be making him crazy, she thought.  During the pains, at time she called for him to comfort and then the next minute, she’d be irritated and order him not to touch her.
The salt, extra cloth and little water pot she brought with her were lying close at hand.
            “Now, Joseph, when the baby comes, you must wipe him down with the salt and wrap him quickly in the cloth,” Mary instructed through gritted teeth.  The pain was now constant.
“I cut the cord first, though, right?” asked the nervous husband.
Mary just looked at him and rolled her eyes.  How many times did had they gone over this in the last hour? 
A few minutes later their foreheads touched and for a brief second they were able to shut it all out.  It was the two of them, just Mary and Joseph.  But the pain did not allow them much time as it grew fierce and demanding.
Mary concentrated and squeezed Joseph’s hand.  How many hours had they laid awake at night sharing their thoughts--preparing themselves for this very moment?  Mary now knew that nothing could prepare anyone for this…

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Favored- Part Three


“Now in it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census everyone to his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.”   ~Luke 2: 1-6

“Hold me up, hold me up!” urged Mary.

            Joseph rushed to his wife’s side and did as he was told.  What he feared most had happened.  This baby was going to be born without aid of mid-wife or his mother-in-law.  A prayer was never far from his lips.

            Mary held her breath and waited for the pain to subside.  The straw-filled stable floor beneath her was becoming more than she could bear.  It itched.  It was hot.  It was sticking to her. The child within her would wait no longer.  Mary had felt the pangs of labor all day during their journey.  At times, riding upon the small donkey was excruciating and she’d chose to walk.  When walking no longer was possible, with Joseph’s help, she’d return to the moist, swayback of the animal and once again endure the jostling ride.

            Mary longed for the comforting touch of her mother, but knew that this way was best.   The census gave them an excuse to leave home.  The timing couldn’t have been better.  Except for her cousin, Elizabeth, no one knew of the secret of this child’s miraculous conception.  It’s incredibility and un-believability caused Mary to wonder constantly about what kind of birth to expect.  Because of her uncertainty, she wanted no one from her family to witness it.   Would the angel, Gabriel, attend?  Would God, himself, show His face and catch the child in His own arms?  Would the sky burst open when the baby drew in his first breath?  What would the Son of God look like?

                                            TO BE CONTINUED...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Favored- Part Two...



            Mary got out of her bed and stood in the middle of the room.  She looked straight into the face of the angel.  His words pulsated through her veins like a bulging stream after a storm.  Gabriel’s words were not lost.  She grasped their meaning.  Her betrothed, Joseph, would not be this child’s father.

            “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” she asked.

            “Gabriel looked down upon the girl.  She did not shake.  She did not flinch.  She stood facing him-- solid as a soldier given a command. 

Comprehending.  Understanding.  Never had he been face-to-face with such faith.  It made him feel as if it should be she with the wings.

            Gabriel lowered his eyes in reverence and explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.”

            Mary stood still, almost unable to breath.  She had been chosen.  God had looked upon her with preference.  She would give birth to the one who would de-throne David.  She would mother the Messiah.

            Again, Gabriel felt the confidence of the girl.  She penetrated his being and comforted his own spirit.  No wonder she was the one.

            “Your cousin, Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age,” he said to assure her; even though he knew it was not necessary.  “She who is called barren is now in her sixth month.  You see, nothing will be impossible with God.”

            Mary never doubted.  She smiled at the thought of Elizabeth, her beloved Elizabeth.  Childless and humiliated for years--now carrying a child ordained by God.

            To Gabriel’s surprise the girl knelt down and said, “Behold, the bond slave of the Lord.  Be it done to me according to your word.”

            The Messenger fought the urge to touch her.  Her unquestioning faith filled him up.  Now that he has been in her presence, the charge she is given almost brings him to his knees.  How plausible it sounded in the heavens! But now, looking upon this tiny woman--the one who would balance all inside her womb, Gabriel was overwhelmed by The Plan of the Most Holy.  Nagging in his soul was caution--lurking behind every doubt would be the Fallen One.

            He longed to stay, to never leave her side.  He wanted to protect her with all his might, to stand guard and not allow danger to even shadow her.  But he knew he must leave.  His assignment, for now, was done.

              For a second longer, he beheld the favored one in his sight.  Never had he seen anyone so radiant and so accepting of her destiny.  Never would he encounter it again.
            And, then he was gone.

            Mary waited alone.  She did not have to wait long.

                                               TO BE CONTINUED...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Favored- Part One


LuLu wanted me to tell her THE story. You know the one about the baby, the manager, the miracle, the angels and so forth. This is the time of year when that story sees a lot of light. It’s a grand story, a true story, and a story that is told around the world. There is so much more to this story than gets told, of course, but here’s my version, at least the first part of it. The next few blogs we’ll complete it. Pedal along with us as we return to the time when Hope was born…

            Gabriel hid among the clouds and waited for the signal.  His abundant wingspan was cloaked by the moon’s shadow.   Waiting was the hardest part.  He knew what he must do.  The importance of his mission awed and humbled him all at the same time.  The Holy of Holies had waited centuries for this moment.  Now with the flash of a star, he would put into motion the beginning of Glory.  But first he must wait for the all clear.  The Fallen One must not be allowed to interfere tonight.  Even if he tried, he’d lose.  But the Father wanted this moment sacred.  No mocking.  No tantrums.  That is how it must begin.

            Mary could not sleep.  The night was too dark.  The quiet was too quiet.  She got up and went to her window.  The moon was almost completely obscured by clouds.  No stars could be seen.

            Suddenly an opening formed and a star shot across the sky.  For a brief moment an illuminated path could be seen in the clouds.

            “How beautiful,” whispered Mary.  Her grandfather had told her about stars that that lit the night with fire, but this was the first she’d ever seen.  It must be a sign that all is well, she thought.   Content with that, the young girl went back to bed.  Just as she straightened her blanket, she heard a voice from the corner of her room, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.”

            Suddenly all about her became as brilliant as if lit by the sun itself.  Standing before her was the most handsome being she’d ever seen.  Glowing, pulsating, not moving but constantly moving.  His grand wings circumference the chamber corralling the brilliance so that it could not leave the room.  Gone from her sight were her window, her nightstand, and her oil lamp.  Just her, the bed and Gabriel.

            How she knew his name, she didn’t know.  But he nodded to her and comforted her with a smile.

            “ Favored,” she asked?

            “Do not be afraid, Mary.  For, yes, you have found favor with God.”

            Mary was troubled.  In her maturing wisdom, she knew that being ‘favored by God’ was not always a good thing personally.  Whirling before her were her fathers Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph.  Hard lives.  Holy leaders.

            Gabriel continued his declaration, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”


Monday, December 3, 2012



Long before I met LuLu I wrote a book. Twelve years later, I’m still very proud of that work. I remember once traveling to York, Nebraska and taking a pit stop at one of those gas stations/restaurants/gift shops. In the wee hours of the morning as I’m making my way toward the ladies room, I walked past a display and did a double take. Right there in the middle of store was my book. It was a nice moment. If it’s okay, I’d like to share a few paragraphs with you….

Have you ever been called by God to do something really hard?  Like forgive someone when you didn’t want to.  Love someone you didn’t like.  Smile when you’d rather stick your tongue out?

You see-- being chosen by God usually means tough stuff is ahead.  It usually mean you’re going to have to take a few hits, endure some pain, and get your hands dirty.  Being favored by God means you’ll eventually have to follow him to the river, through the valley, across the desert and finally to the hill.  In other words, being favored by God is a privilege that will most likely break your heart.

On the other hand, being favored by God should bring you to your knees in thanksgiving, have you skipping along the roof tops with joy, and dancing in the streets with the most delicious abandonment.

Yeah, you’ll be tired, dirty, sweaty, and achy, but when you sit down at night your heart will be busting to sing.  It will be dipped in a sweetness that can only happen when one has walked directly behind Jesus--footprint for footprint.

Being called means you’ll love a betrayer.  Forgive an adulteress.  Feed the hungry.  Clothe the poor, and have only one pair of sandals.  But it also means that at the end of the day you’ll eat a hot dinner prepared by the Christ, himself. And if need be, he’ll even spoon feed you and wipe your chin.

God only calls the great ones.  Great by his standards--not ours.  He’s partial to grandmothers, mothers, daughters, cousins, aunts, housewives, widows, seamstresses, queens, slave girls, and shepherd’s wives.

A pliable heart and willing spirit seems to be the only qualifications.  Even then, God has a way of softening the hardest of hearts and coaxing the most stubborn spirit to His way of thinking.

Being favored by God will hurt.  But in the end, heaven’s gate will open when it sees you approach, angels will applaud your entry, and God will call you by name.

Hang in there, the best is yet to be.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Angels are out there...


LuLu-ism #54: You've got all you need... bless others who don't.
            That Christmas, she sat in our living room in the most comfortable chair we could find.  She was a large, old woman, and she talked funny.  Why mom insisted we invite her to Christmas dinner was beyond me.  My brother and I were instructed to mind our manners or else.  So after watching her inhale enough mash potatoes, gravy, cornbread stuffing and lemon meringue pie to ground Santa’s most reliable reindeer, we sat by Mrs. Parks and listened politely to her stories.

            I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere between pie and more pie, this generously-sized woman captured my heart.  We became fast friends that day and were to remain so until her death right before my wedding. 

            Her stories of her homeland, England, entertained me for hours.  Her hearty laughter and wicked sense of humor touched my core and awakened in me the most delicious possibilities.  She was a free spirit, a true woman of God and the best storyteller and dream planter I have ever known.

            That Christmas I learned many lessons.  Big is beautiful.  It pays to be polite, when your mother gives you that look, and true blessings are usually never expected.  But blessed I was by a very wonderful, very precious angel.

            This Christmas it could pay you to entertain the unlikely.  I know for a fact, angels are out there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Saddle up...

Nellie Rose- #8

Right now I’m living on overflow. My cup is so full I’m afraid I’m going to topple over. If you followed the blog last week, you know that Nellie Rose debuted on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Grandchild # 8 arrived before the midwife could and my son had to deliver his own daughter. Sweet mother Erin did her part as well and was fearless. She’s an amazing woman and mom.
So, what’s next? How do you follow something so wonderful? How do you keep from having a huge letdown after so much activity and joy? You don’t have to have had a new grandchild for the holiday to be full and all consuming. Family, children, food, and friends coming together to celebrate are such a gift. But… there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?
When the living room clutter is cleared and all the sheets washed and towels folded and put away, how do you get yourself back on track? As you know, this old gal has been on a quest for better health for quite some time now. Nothing like a huge twenty-pound turkey surrounded by dressing, mashed potatoes and homemade bread to challenge the calorie count.
You thank God for the joy. You thank Him for the bliss. Then, you throw the covers off, don the sweat pants and before you body has time to protest, you hop on your pink bike and pedal down the road. Break’s over. If Nellie Rose is going to get to know her grandmother, her grandmother was got to stick around. She’s got to be healthy enough to duck-duck-goose, to ring-around-the-rosie, to squeeze toes and take the piggy to the market. That little girl and I have tea parties to attend and patty-cakes to throw in the pan.
Ain’t no pecan pie gonna cheat this MeMe out of play dates with her girl. So, it begins again.  Saddle up, LuLu…

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Welcome Nellie Rose

Me and Miss Nellie Rose. She's about 30 minutes old here.


Dear Ones,
     Grandbaby #8 arrived today. A true day of Thanksgiving. Blessings to all...
See you next week....

Nellie Rose Cleveland
8 lbs. 10 oz
22 1/2 inches

Monday, November 19, 2012

Do I give You joy?


Thanksgiving Morning

Before my  family awakened
I began to form a list entitled
Reasons For Gratitude.
Then, halfway down the page
I pensively wondered--
Lord, do I give You any reasons
To be thankful for me?
                 ~ Ruth Harns Calkin
            "Father, do You ever prepare a feast of thanksgiving because I am?  Do I give You joy?  Are there moments in the day when You swell with pride and think, ‘That's my child!’
     "I cry.  You comfort.
      I lie.  You forgive.
      I hit.  You hug.
      I cheat.  You reimburse.
      I falter.  You carry.
      I turn.  You reach.
      "So, why do I feel that the oceans roar in my honor; that the highest mountain has my name on it; and that the gardenia's sweet smell reminds You of me?"
      "I am called the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  But You molded the earth, and under Your fingernails the clay still lingers.  It was Your lungs and Your kiss that awakened life from nothingness."
       "I know love.  You lived it into existence."
      "Do I give you any reason to be thankful for me?  Barely, at best.  But thankful you are, so blessed I am."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Save Biker Deb...


LuLu-ism #52: If you ignore your pink bike for too long… she will get revenge.

LuLu here. Yeah, I know, you haven’t heard from me in a while. There’s a reason for that: I’m in the garage gathering dust! I am not a happy pink bike.  Biker Deb has wimped out on me. “It’s too cold….it’s too windy… the Cowgirl hurts!”
She needs your help, folks. She’s fallen off the bike. Not literally, but you know what I mean. She’s at a crossroads. Her journey to better health has hit a snag. She missed a day of riding because of bad weather which has now lead to two weeks of not riding her pink bike… me! But that’s not the worst of it. Biker Deb has this flawed philosophy that when she messes up in her exercise program she might as well mess up in her eating choices, too. She needs a good swift kick in the Cowgirl… and I need your help to give her one.
Biker Deb needs inspiration. She needs encouragement. She needs accountability. She needs quotes. Yeah, you heard me…quotes. She’s a writer. Words mean a lot to her. Help save Biker Deb from herself. Send her your favorite inspirational quotes… quick. You know the ones I mean—the little sayings, stories and quips that put a fire in your belly, that push you off the couch and onto your bike (preferably a pink one). Sayings that convict. Stories that touch. Quips that make you want to embroider them on a pillow or tattoo them on your forehead.
It’s critical, friends. She’s at the point where she either throws up her hands and sells me in a garage sale, or she gets back in the saddle and Girl-up. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been on the brink of losing everything we’ve gained. Help us.
I will not be happy if I find a tag tied on my basket that reads, “Make me an offer.” Biker Deb and I are soul mates but half of us have lost their way. I’m counting on you. Get me back on the road with a happy biker in my saddle.
From the garage,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"When I grow up..."

"When I grow up, I want to be a dog!" proclaimed my youngest son when he was just little bitty.  He held on tight to that dream for a very long time.  I was starting to worry that maybe he would marry a poodle or something. 
When I was young, I wanted to grow up to be a veterinarian and own Walter Farley’s Arabian black stallion. I didn't come anywhere close. 

Dreams change.

We make decisions along the way that have dictated where we are now.  While some dreams as worth holding on to, others should be allowed to give way to the people we didn't expect to be. 

I am surprised by who I am but not disappointed.  I don't lay awake at night pining away for a lifestyle I do not have.  I've made choices.  Some of the paths I've chosen have been deliberate; others I have eenie-meenie-minie-moed my way through.  Yet, when I look back over the brush I have trampled and the broken branches I have left in my wake, I find that God did not take his eyes off of me once, and I did and have done the best I could do.

I accept who and what I am.  Sure, there are things I want to change, but there's no one else I want to be. 

That son is now 33-years-old, and no, he didn’t grow up to be a dog. But, he does the best monkey imitation I’ve ever seen. And, he wrote this great song about a squirrel once. However…we do have to constantly remind him not to scratch behind his ear with his foot…


Thursday, November 8, 2012



 When my children were little, every day I’d send them off to school with an assignment:  Learn something new.  So when my first grader came running home with backpack flying and shoelaces flopping and declared,  "Mom, I can spell spit!"  What could I say?  It was something new.

            My "wonderment" is decreasing with age.  You know the  "Twinkle- twinkle-little-star-how-I-wonder-what-you-are" kind.  Aging is hard on my body, but it's much worse on my spirit.  I'm lazier.  I give up more easily.  I don't initiate.  I stay put.

            Kids are full of questions and adventure.  They rejoice in presents and the discovery the gifts bring.  We adults are given presents every day, but much too often they sit unopened and discovery is pushed aside.

            What keeps us from opening our gifts and taking a peek?  Is it fear?  If so,  are we afraid of failure or success?  We have the power to move mountains, but it's been a long time since I've met anyone who even wanted to.

            How long has it been since you learned something brand new, or explored, or just wondered, "Why?"  Come on!  Untie the ribbon.  Take the lid off.  Close your eyes and hold out your hands, you may be in for a big surprise!
After all, LuLu wouldn’t be in my life right now if I had not of decided at age 60 to start riding a bike.

            You LuLu is waiting…


Monday, November 5, 2012

Foretastes of heaven...


“I created you with the capacity to experience foretastes of heaven.”                                          ~Sarah Walker- Jesus Calling

The other morning while reading from the devo book I’m using, that quote stuck with me. Foretastes of Heaven… what could that possibly mean? And, had I ever felt like I had experienced anything like that? Once I starting thinking about it though, all of a sudden I was overwhelmed. I’ll list a few for you…
…. The look of pure, eager love on my groom’s face as I walked down the aisle towards him… heaven came near.
… The births of each of my sons and the first time their tiny fingers wrapped around mine, the world became perfect… and, heaven came near.
  Every time my 85-year-old mother wraps her arms around her 61-year-old daughter, I experience unconditional love… and, heaven comes near.
… Every time a sunset takes my breath away … heaven comes near.
… The mornings I wake up after a storm, throw back the curtains and am greeted with the most perfect shade of blue painted in the sky… heaven comes near.
  The hope that flooded my heart when my husband’s last PET scan was cancer-free… heaven came near.
  Riding LuLu on a summer morning as the earth first yawns… heaven comes near.
   The perfect ‘bite’ of sweet and salty… heaven comes near.
    A prayer uttered in private, mixed with tears and longing… heaven comes near.
   Standing in a hospital room as I watched each son hold his first-born, and a tiny fist reached up and… heaven came very near.
Foretastes of heaven… are all around us if we just … look.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Little Thngs...


After a several days of sniffling and body aches I woke this morning feeling a bit better. There is life after a very bad cold. As I sit in my ‘girl chair’ (a big, overstuffed blue flowery chair in my office) and look out my window, I see a blue sky. The hot tea I’m drinking soothes me. The house is quiet and warm. Life is good.

Reading my horoscope this morning in my girl chair it said to be thankful for the little things because they are what are truly important in life.

Personally, I think horoscopes are silly.   Still, I get a kick out of how many days in my life I was suppose to meet a tall, dark, handsome, stranger and come into money. 
Anyway, for once I agreed with what I read.  I know that the little things in life are more important than money and power.  But it seems I spend a lot of my time trying to convince myself of that truth.  Usually it's when I want something I can't have, or lost something I really didn't need.
I do believe it.  The tinkle of a distant wind chime, curtains blowing in the breeze and a bluebird sitting on the fence post are simple reminders of a wealth that can't be bought.  A hug from a sweaty, happy child and giggles brought on from being squirted by a lawn sprinkler are what make summer, well--summer!
A dandelion offered in love makes up for all the roses given in deceit.  A surprise party that was truly a surprise and a shared soft drink on a hot day can't be beat. And, a comfy chair, hot tea, a healing body and sun breaking through the clouds should be valued above all riches.
The best things in life are free.  The little things in life are priceless.

May you day be filled with little things,


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I am with you....

The message is always the same. God says, I am with you. I am with you. I am with you. As our neighbors to the east uncover their heads this morning, I pray they are ever reminded of this. The storm that ravished them through the night still is wreaking havoc with rains and floods. Lives have been lost. Lives have been saved. But, God did not leave them. He did not duck for cover. He did not run for the hills. He stood His ground right beside them in whatever room, attic, closet, rooftop they huddled, He was there.
That is a message hard to grasp during a storm, whether the storm is literal or figurative. “If He’s there, then why didn’t he do something?” we say as we shout and shake our fists heavenward.  I’m not wise enough to answer that question for you in any scholarly manner. All I know is that when we hurt, He is the first to weep. He is the first wrap his arms around us. For some reason, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that if God loved us; he’d never allow anything bad to happen to us. 
Does the word Cross ring a bell? Did He not love His own Son? Of course He did. Yet, look at the sorrow and devastation that ended His life. No, bad things happen to good people. It’s called life. God put life into motion with the instructions to find our way home. Of course He didn’t leave us alone to wander in the desert, so to speak. He has given us a Light to follow. A Shepherd to guide. A Shelter when it storms.
Darkness does come. Sheep do get lost. And storms do rage.
His promise is that He will stand with us no matter how wet, torn, crippled, weary, broken, or lost we become. He will place one hand over our hearts and the other around our shoulders and will lead us home.
However, home isn’t here. The Home awaiting us with slippers, a cup of hot chocolate and a warm blanket is a place where storms nor death no longer have  power. Until then, we must set our eyes on the Light. Grab on to the Shepherd’s staff… and walk on.
 I am with you. I am with you. I am with you.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Every day...


Yesterday, LuLu and I spent some time together. It was a quiet ride through the countryside. The air was still and was penetrated with muted bird chirps and the rustling of fallen leaves. We even biked through some clear puddles in the middle of the road. I smiled.
 The earth all around was getting ready for a long, soothing nap. As I pedaled along I was reminded of a mother and how she tucks her wee one into bed right after lunch. His eyes are droopy, but his spirit still wants to throw one more ball, or jump off one more chair. With patience, she cuddles him to her and carries him upstairs to a warm, soft bed. She cups his chubby cheeks in her hands and kisses his nose and eyelids. Then tucking him in under furry covers, she takes his dimpled hand in hers and breathes a quick prayer for rest and sweet dreams. Finally she kisses each plump finger. In the doorway, she blows a kiss and says, “ love you” and pulls the door closed… almost. 
God is putting his earth down for a nap. His kissed the trees asleep. He’s cuddled the animals into their warm nests and with a blown kiss he closes the door… almost. He still wants to hear if something needs attending. He eagerly awaits for the eyelids to open once again.
Aren’t we more important to him than birds and trees? Of course. Every day, He does the same for us. Every day, he cuddles us to Him. Every day He cups our faces in His gentle hands. Every day, He offers a prayer on our behalf. Everyday, when all has been spent, He says, “love you” and pulls the door closed… almost. Everyday, He waits just on the other side and listens for our cries. Every day, He eagerly awaits…
Every day…


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 23, 1971


October 23, 1971- Pinellas Park, FL- 
6 p.m.-  

She stood in the nursery/cry room in the back of the church building having an out of body experience. Her best friends, one since childhood and one since freshman year in college, flitted around her like bees dressing her with the precision of soldiers going to combat. Her sister-in-law of two months was already in her purple and Ivory bridesmaid dress and holding her veil like it was made of spun gold, waiting for the signal to raise it overhead and crown her with it. Her mother stood nearby and watched through tears that made her daughter seem to shimmer as if in a dream. It was ‘go time’-- the day of fulfilled dreams.

The young bride finally clothed in traditional white heard the harmonizing singers begin just outside the nursery door. Whispered voices had been passing the closed small room filled with baby beds and colorful mobiles for over thirty minutes. College boys, uncomfortable in tight cumber buns and rented cuff links, were on task escorting guests to either the left or right of the aisle. Her ladies-in-waiting giggled. Her mother kissed her on the cheek and gave her only the look of a mama who wanted to shout with joy and weep all at the same time could. Her daughter was marrying a good man. Her baby, however, was leaving her and changing their lives forever.

As the bridesmaids began their slow promenade toward the altar, the bride’s father stepped into view and placed her arm in his. His tears had dotted the chest of his starched white shirt. Never had she seen him this spiffed up. Gone were his khakis and steel-toed work boots. His thermos and black lunch box sat at home, replaced by a carnation pinned to his coat and shiny patent-leather shoes. A moment of panic when her contact lens slipped out of place on the stream of her own tears. Order restored. Dad saves the day one last time.

And then… there he is waiting at the end of an aisle she had been raised walking down, running down, and skipping down all of her life. But, this one last walk would take her to the end of the rainbow. He stood looking back at her as if she glimmered and had silver, wispy wings. She could tell it took all of his youthful patience to wait in place as she slowly came toward him. He wanted her. He’d won her. His love for her was an answered prayer.

She took his hand and in that moment, in the touching of fingers, warm palms, and wildly beating hearts, she gave herself, freely, openly and forever to the dark haired, southern, soft spoken man who would become her husband, the father of their sons, and the man who would keep the promises made that day for the next forty-one years. Happy anniversary, Gary Marlin. Your bride still has no regrets.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet my friend, Adrienne...

Morning, Gang,
Campers getting ready for a parade this summer
  I have another friend I'd like you to meet. I met Adrienne a few years ago at Wisconsin Christian Youth Camp. She was our cook and greeted us with every meal with the most beautiful welcoming smile (and the food was great, too!) Along with Lynne, Adrienne and I became accountability partners in our quest for good health. You're gonna love her...

Hello, my name is Adrienne
This past ten months with Deb and Lynne has been an adventure from which I find myself in awe of God’s love and His care and also in awe of the love of His servants.  It has been a revealing and powerful time for me to say the least.  
     I have been on a diet for most of my life.  There were times I actually needed to gain weight, but still strived to lose (this is not one of those times).  I have tried Weight Watchers, T.O.P.S., Atkins, The 7-day juice fast (woke up at Dairy Queen on the 3rd day) the cabbage soup diet, Jenny Craig and I had a moment,  I hired a personal trainer and incorporated the Bill Phillips eating plan (lost 32 pounds on that one…then my mother died and I ate them back- and then some!)  I used lean cuisine (lovely little appetizers!) and of course slim fast (the chocolate-royale shakes are delicious...  I gained twelve pounds), I have spent over 10 years in therapy, often talking about my weight, and I walked on fire with Anthony Robbins (only my wallet suffered burns).  All of these programs have very good attributes for someone who has a fairly normal relationship with food, however,  this past 10 months have shown me that God and I have some work to do before anything else.
     I am so very thankful for these two ladies and for their support and their prayers to the Father on my behalf!  I am grateful for the safety I enjoy and cherish as we share our deepest frustrations as well as our victories!  At this point I am down only 18 pounds in 10 months.  That could be discouraging to me and surely would be if not for our amazing God and these two wonderful ladies!  Thanks to the kind but firm nudges from my dear sisters, I am finally actually beginning to peel back the “layers” and get to the heart of my emotional eating and all that it represents. 
     To me, food (besides being fuel the body needs to sustain life) is a liar!  I spent most of my life believing that feeling full was the same as feeling safe. I was eating and swallowing feelings too big to deal with, and the food deceptively convinced me it was there to help me avoid pain.
     In the past few months, with help and understanding from God and my sisters, I have been encouraged to open a door which I have kept locked tight and guarded for many years!   As the contents are starting to be sorted and put in their proper places, as the layers are peeled away and the fog begins to clear, I find myself feeling the relief and forgiveness I never thought possible. Through this, I have been able to actually feel the prayers of my precious sisters!  The urgency to swallow feelings is slowly being replaced with the love, clarity, and forgiveness of a Perfect Savior.
  This week I began a Zumba class with some ladies from church.  After the first workout I drove home and grabbed the dictionary.  To my surprise, ZUMBA is not a 4-letter word.  This morning was supposed to be a day off from Zumba, but my friend, Danielle and I did 20 minutes anyway (instead of the normal 45).  Zumba is hard work, but I know I have been placed by His ever so patient and loving hands with a group of ladies who will love, encourage, support and pray for one another. 
An accepted repugnance that still plagues our society today is the bigotry toward those who are overweight.  The bulk of society views overweight people as disgusting gluttons who lack self-control.  While there may be some truth to such an assumption, I would bet my size 12 jeans that almost every single fat person you see is carrying a load of hurt, betrayal, guilt, remorse, fear, and anger that is unbearable.  Every single one of their excess fat cells was born of desperation to ease the unbearable-whatever.  The overweight woman walking down the street may be stuffing the re-occurring nightmare of the sights, sounds and smells of an abortion clinic many years past. She could be in a vicious cycle of attempts to extinguish memories of one who was supposed to be a protector in her life, but instead betrayed her in the worst possible way. Or, the overweight woman you next see could be fighting a horrific battle as she holds the memory of her precious son who went off to fight for our liberty –but never came home.  We just don’t know the story in the fat cells, and we would all be much better served to say a prayer for her/him.  Pray that those struggling and fighting to get back to a healthy weight will blessed by our gracious God with wonderful friends like I have been. Pray that His love surrounds them. 
  Zumba in the morning, friends – then a chat with Deb and Lynne via e-mail.  God is good-ALL the time!
“Right here, right now, in the center of this wound-I have been betrayed by whom and what matters and what I’ve got left is food.”   - WOMEN FOOD AND GOD  by Geneen Roth
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13