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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Meet my friend, Lynne...


Hey, Gang,
Remember when I told you that two other ladies and I had become accountability partners when it comes to getting healthy? Well, you’re in for a treat because I’ve asked both of them to guest blog for me. Today’s is from my friend, Lynne. She’s been a great inspiration and encourager to me. Oh, by the way, Lynne was brave enough to send us her before and after pictures. Enjoy…

My name is Lynne.  My bicycle doesn’t have a name.  Actually, the bike in the photo of me was borrowed during a Phoenix vacation last January.  In the 36 weeks since that picture was taken I have learned a lot about myself, my God, and lost 62 pounds.
I’ve wrestled with my weight since I was about 30 years old (complacency and babies).  Food, cooking, entertaining and nurturing – that’s a huge part of who I am.  I have been successful with four “big” diets in the past 35 years, but totally unsuccessful in keeping the weight off.
For three years I was quite ill with digestive issues (6 surgeries in 18 months) and beginning one year ago, I was released by my doctor and spent October thru December staring out the window watching the cardinals eat (and eating), praying, and trying to figure out how to get my life back on track.  As I was packing for three weeks in Arizona I realized that none of my clothes fit and refused to purchase a larger size.  I shed 10 pounds in the three weeks before we left for vacation, which inspired me to have a spa vacation in the sunshine.  First step, can I still ride a bike?  Yes, six miles the first day, then eight, and ten miles every day after that.  How warm is the pool?  Perfect.  One hour of water aerobics every day.  With my husband’s usual support we cooked most of our meals, and I was able to stick to 1200 calories a day with only two days off for incredible meals out.
With the support of my friends, Deb and Adrienne, I continued my program.  Upped the calorie level to 1300 (an inexact science) and worked off 400 calories a day.  Our daily e-mails served as a journal.  My body rewarded me with a pretty consistent two-pound weekly loss.  Now that I am within eight pounds of my goal the losses have slowed down (partially because I’m overconfident and getting a little reckless with my snacks).
Several things are at work here.  I have the support of my friends and family.  I don’t have children to cook for or the necessity of snacks or “illegal” foods in the house.  I am mostly retired and am able to plan my activities and take the necessary time to plan and prepare my meals and exercise.  I have the knowledge and economic means to prepare the proper foods and purchase a pool membership and a rec center membership now that the weather is moving me indoors.  This project has pretty much been a full time job.
The difference this time, though, is my ability to finally turn this weakness over to God… but not totally.  I have been known to pray with my hand on the refrigerator door and still let Satan win.  No guilt, but regret that I have not listened to God’s whispering.  For the first time in my life, I can “fall” or take a planned meal or day off and get right back on my program the next day.  My strength definitely comes from the Lord.
Eight pounds more and my God and I still have a long partnership ahead of us, keeping this weight off, along with all the other stuff that comes my way each day. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The perfect storm...

Our designer dog, Murphy and LuLu

Today’s blog is a public service announcement. I feel compelled to warn you about one more hazard of bike riding in the country during the fall of the year. I wrote about my last bike ride this past Tuesday. The wind got so bad I had to call the Hubs to come get me. So, it will serve you to check out which way the wind is blowing before you head out your drive way.  However, this PSA could possibly save you from a trauma from which you may never recover. I will only mention this once and never speak of it again…
Okay, so LuLu and I were tooling down the road a week ago enjoying the glorious sights of fall, when I look ahead and what do I spy? A manure truck in the middle of the road. It’s spraying ‘organic growth hormone’ over a cornfield that had been recently harvested and plowed under. I’m at the point of no return so I pedal on preparing myself as I practice holding my breath. Yep, it was bad on two counts: The smell and what I had to pedal over. It was a messy truck, making a mess if you get my drift.
I round the corner with the stench of organic growth hormone interwoven through every fiber of clothing I was wearing, with an extra bonus of LuLu’s tires slinging the stuff in our wake. But, oh, it gets worse...
It’s a busy morning. No less than five, yes, five, manure trucks materialize on my biking route all busy doing their thing. By the fourth truck I am one with nature. I’m convinced I will have to strip naked out in the yard the minute I get home and burn my clothes in the fire pit.
And, then I look down the road one more time and things start happening in s-l-o-w motion. I see it coming… the perfect storm. The fifth manure truck is barreling towards me. It’s large, looming and on a mission. Then, there’s me on my pink bike pedaling as fast as I can—one hand pinching my nose, the other clutched to the handlebar. And then there is the… wait for it… dead skunk in the middle of the road. It’s the Bermuda Triangle, the Black Hole, and Friday the 13th all rolled into one perfect nano second of bad luck. Aww, man! Worst ride ever!
So, you’ve been forewarned. Venture out on your bike on a fine autumn morning just after harvest time only if you dare. I’m telling ya, bike riding ain’t for sissies.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A lovely Autumn Bike Ride...Not!


Okay, so I’m riding along on LuLu and it’s a lovely, lovely fall morning. I decide that since it’s so lovely that I’ll go for it—fifteen miles. Once this is decided my brain and legs go on autopilot. My thoughts wander as ideas for the blog start popping up all over the place. Corn is being harvested around me, that should make for a good blog about what we reap we shall sow. I pass a house that, now get this, has a life-size, fully armored knight on a white horse sitting on his front yard. Talk about yard art. That’s good for about two blogs at least. I can get a lot of mileage out of the ‘knight in shining armor’ metaphor don’t you think?
As I’m riding along I begin to notice swirling leaves in the middle of the road and I actually get hit in the face with a couple of leaves. I’m sure I can squeeze a blog out of that—woman sucked up into the vortex of a… yada yada yada. Yep, the first seven and a half miles have been easy-peezy. It’s time to turn around and head home. I make this sweeping U-turn in the middle of the road to get LuLu’s nose pointed in the right direction. That’s when it hits me, literally. I’d been pedaling with the wind all this time. All those lovely thoughts about a lovely ride on an lovely autumn morning suddenly vanished as I found myself in a fight to not get blown off the road.
Do  you know the difference between a breeze and a wind? With a breeze your bangs are gently blown off your forehead as you pedal your bike along. With a wind, your cheeks are violently blown behind your earlobes… and stay there with no hope of ever returning to their natural state. My goodness, folks! Why hadn’t I noticed that I hardly had to pedal on the first leg of the journey? While my thoughts danced where they pleased, I had been heading for big trouble. Now I found myself seven and a half miles from home pedaling for my life… well not literally my life, but you know what I mean.
I flipped my gears, tucked my chin to my chest and pedaled like crazy for four miles. Finally, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I got off and walked LuLu for another mile. I tried getting back on after a bit, but it was no use, my legs were spent and *The Cowgirl wasn’t having it. Apparently, I had failed to memo her about this long ride coming up and she was none too pleased. She wasn’t going back into that saddle. No way. No how. I sent up a flare (translation: I called the Hubs to come get me).
Moral of the story: Marry a good man who’s willing to rescue you on a moment’s notice… and who will not laugh at you as you unpin your cheeks from behind your ear lobes. Now that is a true knight in shining armor.

* my butt

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Battle on.

Author Sarah Young writes in her book, Jesus Calling, “There’s a mighty battle going on for the control of your mind. Heaven and earth intersect in your mind; the tugs of both spheres influence your thinking.”
That quote scares the bajebbies out of me. Know why? Because on any given day I don’t know which is going to win. I like to think of myself as a spiritual person. I believe in God. I believe that Jesus is His Son. I read my Bible. I pray. I go to church regularly. I even know all the verses to Kum bah ya. Yet, there are days the world has a mighty tug on me.
~ There are days I’d much rather sleep in on Sunday mornings than show up at church.
~ I find myself, more times than I want to admit, watching a movie that dishonors God more than it honors Him.
~ Most days the homeless on the street corner are invisible to me.
~ I’m ashamed to confess that card of encouragement I intended to write still sits in my desk drawer.
~ If my thoughts would be projected on a PowerPoint, I’d have some embarrassing moments.
And the list goes on. However, I’m not a total ingrate. All of the above have also had me making the better choice, doing the humane thing, and Kum bah ya-ing with the saints. There are days I’m spot on, but you know what? I’ve notice that those days have one thing in common: I die to self. The battle being waged gets won on my knees.
I wished that realization would stick for all time. Unfortunately, each morning is a fresh battle and Satan has had a good night’s sleep.
The fight is on, my friends. Armor up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I love Research

FDR's remains returning to Washington, DC

I just remembered it was Tuesday.  Can you believe that? If you know me personally, it’s not a stretch. So, here’s what I’ve been up to: Yesterday, LuLu and I had a good ride around the block (three miles), and then I came home and did 125 sit-ups on Belle the Ball. Then, I sat down and wrote the rest of the day. Actually I didn’t write, I did research.
This morning, it’s back to the research and in a few minutes I’m going to start a chapter where my main characters learn that President Roosevelt has died. It will be one of those moment of ‘where were you when…’ I’m thinking about having my characters decide to drive the 191 miles to Greenville, SC to witness Roosevelt’s funeral train pass by. Not sure how feasible that will be for them though. Not too many people had cars back then and they definitely didn’t have enough spare change for gas for that distance. It will be interesting to see how the chapter will turn out.
Yesterday, I spent the day watching old newsreels of the funeral train. Over 700 miles between Warm Springs, Georgia, where the president died, and Washington, DC. Seven hundred miles of railroad track where thousands and thousands of Americans lined up to pay their respects. Farmers stopped plowing when the train past by their fields. Women picking cotton fell to their knees and lifted their hands toward heaven. Children were let out of school to wait by the tracks for a glimpse of the last boxcar in the procession that carried the president’s coffin. The bier that held the coffin in the Conneaut’s lounge (the name of the box car) had been raised twenty inches off the floor so that the coffin would be visible through the windows for all to see. Southern Railway System folks had to scurry to accommodate the late president’s unscheduled trip back to Washington. They did a masterful job.
I love research. I love being transported back in time. I love the thrill of discovery when I come upon a fact that had been illusive. But what I love most about research is gaining back what has been lost to me. History. People. Events. Where we’ve been prepares us for where we’re going. If we’re wise, we will take heed.

Wishing you a good day…