Thursday, September 3, 2020

Motherhood...

I recently read a biography of Susanna Wesley, the mother of Methodism. (7 Women by Eric Metaxas)
I learned a lot about her.
Her husband was a loser.
Nine of her children died.
She lived in poverty.
Her house burned down...twice.

Life was not easy for Susanna Wesley.
But she focussed on the education of her children.
She made it her life's work to teach them about the Lord
Susanna Wesley knew the sacred importance of motherhood.

Her son, John, founded the Methodist movement, leading to a world-changing revival. The abolition of the slave trade, child labor in England, laws against cruelty to animals, caring for the poor, and many hymns we still sing today, can be directly credited to her children--and to her faithfulness in mothering them.

The author ends the story of her life this way:
  
    "Anyone believing that the life of a woman dedicated to her family must be less than optimal cannot know the story of Susanna Wesley. Despite poverty, illness, a difficult marriage, and heartbreak in endless forms, she used her intellect, creativity, time, energies, and will in such a way that can hardly be reckoned. The world in which we live owes much of the goodness in it to her life."

This biography encouraged my heart as a stay-at-home mom.
Susanna Wesley's life is an example of mothering through the trenches with a focus on the eternal.
Though imperfectly mothered, her children understood the grace she grasped with both hands.
Through adversity, she trusted God and wasted no opportunity to share her faith with her children.

So moms, be encouraged.
As you struggle through yet another challenging day,
Or wonder if you're missing an opportunity to do something more,
Or feel as if you've already failed,
Or wonder if all of your efforts will be worth the sacrifice...
Fear not.
You are doing important work.
THE most important work.

Psalm 127:3
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.



Monday, August 24, 2020

A Transformation...


The transformation is complete.

I knew I was about to be transformed, but I thought it would happen with intention and awareness. 

It didn’t.

Ever since I found out I would be a grandma, I knew my heart was turning to mush. 

I anticipated the feelings of overwhelming love.

I thought the transformation would happen when I held my grandchild.

It didn’t take that long…

I sat at outdoor church with my friend, her baby, and three-year-old.

I held the baby and watched her daughter play. 

Her daughter found a pile of that soft, cool dirt that feels so nice on your feet. 

She’d taken her shoes off and was running her toes through that wonderful dirt.

I encouraged her, “Is it soft? Doesn’t dirt feel good on your feet?”

Her mother wasn’t happy.

I was a little surprised when her parents whisked her away to clean her feet and hands. 

I wasn’t surprised they’d do that, but it didn’t occur to me in the moment.

Then she was back in the dirt again, and I smiled, then caught myself. 

What am I doing?

They just cleaned her up!

It was at that moment, I realized. 

The transformation is complete. 

There is nothing a little one can do that isn’t adorable. 

They’re precious - especially when they’re covered in dirt when they shouldn’t be.

I didn’t mind.

I’m not mom. 

It was a little taste of grandma-life—a spectacular freedom—undeterred by time or decorum or rules imposed by parentals.

The house my kids grew up in, fraught with rules and schedules, and “no,” is now grandma’s house. 

The land of “Yes.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Wake-Up Call

Note: I originally wrote this post four years ago. It is even more relevant today.
Who could have known the turns our country has taken in the last four years? 
We have yet another wake-up call...will we answer? 

I’ve been very passionate about the election. 
I’ve had strong opinions about the candidates—and my opinions have changed and re-changed as accusations and videos and emails have dropped like so many bricks.
I’ve been upset and anxious and…I hate to admit, faithless.  
Until recently. 
At some point in the past couple of weeks I couldn’t stand it any longer.
I had to let it go.
I woke in the night and prayed…night after night.
And peace has covered my anxious heart.
Peace and a humbling conviction.
The words that come to mind as I pray are…
Be bold.
As I’ve pondered and sought answers I’ve discovered that we are in this predicament due to our own complacency.  
We dropped the ball.
We shrugged our shoulders at depravity.
We winked at sin.
We have listened to false teaching.
We have looked upon ugliness.
And then we have the audacity to ask for favor in this election.
Now that we find ourselves facing the consequences of our negligence, we ask God to save us?
That’s one kind of bold, I suppose.
Brazen is the word I would use.
God doesn’t owe us the president of our choice.  
He gave us this incredible country founded by men of faith and principle.
Maintained by bravery and ultimate sacrifice.  
We’ve let it rot.
This election is what’s known as a wake-up call.
Wake up, Christian!
Stand up!
Buck up!
No matter what the outcome of the election is, we have to get busy with the work we were put here to do.
We have to stand up for righteousness.  
Tell the truth, even when it’s not easy.
Love with grace.
And…be bold.

2 Peter 3:8-12
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.

It doesn’t matter who wins the election.  
What matters is what we’re doing to share God’s saving grace with the lost.
Our country did not end up in this condition because we were actively doing God’s work.  
We fell asleep on the job.
I fell asleep on the job.
I’m awake now. 


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Many years ago, something strange occurred in my neighborhood. 

A minivan parked on my street and a woman sat in the weeds, staring into the field.

I noticed her as I took the kids to the bus stop. 

I waved. 

She waved back and continued staring.

She was still there when I came home that afternoon.

The next day another lady parked her car on the street, sat in the weeds, and stared into the field. Curiosity overwhelmed me. 

“Excuse me,” I ventured. “What are you doing?” As the words left my lips, they seemed a little abrupt, but I live in a small neighborhood in the country. It isn’t everyday strangers park their car on my street and sit outside in the rain and weeds, staring into a field.

“I’m trying to rescue that dog,” she whispered, pointing.

I hadn’t noticed the dog.

In the middle of the field, a filthy mutt stood alone—his ears and nose raised as he peered above the tall grass. 

My kneejerk reaction was to climb through the barbed-wire fence and collect the dog so the lady could get on with her life. Two different women had spent two days waiting for the mutt to come to them. As a busy mom of three teenagers, I couldn’t imagine spending one day sitting in the weeds watching a dog, much less two.

Instead, I asked, “Is it your dog?”

“No.” The woman’s eyes didn’t leave the field.

“Whose dog is it?”

“We don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“The dog is timid and won’t allow anyone near. My friend rescues dogs, and we’re trying to gain his trust so we can give him a home.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. But this seemed a little over-the-top as dog rescues go.

The two women spent two full weeks sitting by the side of the road, staring into the field, waiting. I didn’t bother them—they didn’t want to be bothered. Their sole purpose was earning the trust of the dog. They had food, treats, and water. Sometimes I watched them from an upstairs window. The dog inched right next to them, eating from a dish of food. I saw them touch the dog and stroke his back. But even while they had hands on him, they didn’t force him into the car.

Honestly, I honored their patience but questioned their sanity. Who in their right mind would spend literally every hour of daylight for weeks on end to pursue a stray dog? Eventually, they all disappeared. I assumed the women succeeded.

I’d forgotten about the women and the dog until recently. They came to mind, and I chuckled about the seeming silliness of it. Then I heard a whisper… 

God offered His take on the situation.

“You know, that’s what I do too.”

My inner chuckling abruptly stopped. I pondered what He meant. God sits in the weeds and waits for us? 

Aaaah…yes, He does.

God waits for us to accept His gifts of love, grace, and forgiveness. He is kind. He does not grab us against our will. He is gentle and patient—offering exactly what we need, adoption into His family. 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)

God loves us—he doesn’t leave any of us alone in the field of our unbelief. He wants everyone to have the choice to come to Him—to be rescued—or not. He waits in the weeds, the rain, the wind, in the stench of our filth, guilt, and shame. Do you see Him? Do you hear Him calling your name?

About a week later, the dog reappeared in the field and the ladies to the side of the road. This time, they disappeared after a couple of days. Perhaps the dog was testing them. Do you really want me? Are you really who you say you are? Do you really care about my life? The ladies’ persistence proved their love.

God’s Word says, For the wages of sin is death—thankfully, it doesn’t end there.

But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

God proved His love when He sent His Son to die on a cross. He took the penalty for our sin, and all of our shame onto Himself.

On Easter morning, He conquered death and rose from the grave. 

Jesus offers us the gift of eternal life. All we have to do is accept it.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

We aren’t so different from that dog—we’ve all been a little lost, dirty, hungry, and skeptical. We all need to be rescued. This Easter, as we celebrate mostly alone, know that you are not alone. God is reaching His hand to you. The weeds may be tall, but we only have the length of our one precious life to trust Him. Will you?

May you grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. (Ephesians 3:18)

 

 

Monday, August 26, 2019

100-word Photo Story*


            “He’s smart and handsome, and he’s traveled the world,” Shirley promised.
            Mary wasn’t getting any younger. She was game for any date—blind or otherwise.
            She arrived at the grange hall at precisely six o’clock, dressed in her Sunday best.
            “Hello, Mary.” Her boss strolled in the door behind her. “Did you finish the filing before you left work?”
            “Yes, Mr. Dickson.” Ugh. Why is he here?
            Mary excused herself and escaped to the hallway. 
            Shirley appeared around the corner. “Mary, he’s here!” She pulled her by the arm and introduced her to her date—Mr. Dickson.
(97 words)

* I love old photos. Many of my stories are inspired by them. I invite you to write your own stories...and share them with me in the comments (100 words or less). You may use the caption or tell a completely different story! Have fun!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Perfect Verse.

I like to write the scriptures...literally.
The other day, I copied this verse:

Hebrews 12:13...make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

It spoke to me.
I wasn't sure why.
I use a study bible, but there were no notes on that verse.
Plenty on the verses before and after, but that verse floated in mystery.
After reading it five or six times, I moved on.
But I pondered it that day and the next.

I recently wrote a new little prologue for my novel.
Two pages of fun before the first chapter of the book.
I liked it, but something was missing.

How do I make it fit...make it comfortable?
I prayed about it.
Lord, I know this is right, but it seems out of place just sitting there before the first chapter.
It's a whisper of hope.
My readers need it before diving in.
As I prayed, it hit me...
Start with scripture.
But what verse?
I thought about it.
And then I remembered the verse that jumped off the page.
They jumped and jumped, and I couldn't figure out why.
Now I knew.

My main character has been hurt.
She is nurturing bitterness as a prized possession.
But what does Hebrews 12:13 say?
"Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed."

Knock me down with a feather.

She wants to be healed, but it's become comfortable to hold on to the hurt.
Ouch. Been there, done that.

Will she move to the straight path so what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed? You'll have to read the book.
Maybe, just maybe it'll be published one day!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Be still...

Today I am editing a scene in my novel about striving.
The striving has to do with forgiveness...
Nurturing bitterness as a prized possession.

We do that.
We protect our hurts.
They're real, after all.
Legitimate.
No one would argue they're not
But it doesn't help us to do that.
It stops us.
We cease to move forward and wear ourselves out in the deep mud of striving.

Forgiveness is a thread running through all of our stories.
We've all been hurt.
People are like that.
We hurt each other.
But we hurt ourselves by striving.

I write to tell stories of God's grace,
But as I write, I learn.
I learn about forgiveness when my character forgives someone who's not apologizing.
I feel the burden lift as the words flow onto the page.
She's finally free.
And I ponder...
Am I free?

Are you?

Forgiveness is the key to unlocking peace that passes all understanding.
Yet we think we're comfortable clinging to our hurts.
We don't know what's possible.
We haven't tasted freedom.

If we don't forgive others, God will not forgive us. (Matthew 6:14,15)
Ouch.
If for no other reason...
But there is more to it.
That freedom.
Prying satan's claws off a stronghold.
The lightness of liberty.

Are you clinging to hurt?
Are you tired?

Be still and know that I am God...Psalm 46:10
Let it go and know that He knows.
He understands.
He saw it all.
And He doesn't want you to carry it any more.
Take His freedom.
Unlock peace.
Forgive.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

My Cathedral...

Those of you who know me, might know I'm not a flamboyant worshipper.
Worship time is one of my favorite parts of the church service.
But...
My hands don't reach for the sky when my heart overflows.
I might clap, but only if someone else claps first.
Singing is something I do rather quietly...I think...I hope...
I don't want anyone else to hear me.
(You're welcome.)
I might sway a bit or close my eyes in worship but that's as crazy as I get.
Whoa there.

I have a hang-up.
I confess.
Sometimes I want to raise my hands.
But, I don't.
Why?
Partly because I've been annoyed by flamboyant worshippers...
People who disregard personal space and stick their arms in front of others as they reach for the heavens.
Really?
And partly because flamboyant worship can be deceptive...and that's all I'll say about that.
(I'm being real here.)
And...I know me.
I don't want to be fake - to raise my hands to appear to be worshipping when my heart isn't in it.
(I might have done that once or twice.)
And I don't trust myself to mean it when I'm in a crowd of my friends and acquaintances.

Just being honest.

But I do have a no-holds-barred cathedral.
No one else is there, yet people are all around.
It's just me, God and whatever worship song is playing.
In my car.
Not every time I'm in my car, but sometimes.
I don't doubt my heart when no one will know and no one but God sees.

I turn up the radio and belt out my praise.
It's loud.
I sing.
I cry.
I pray.
I raise my hand...only one, because Jesus won't LITERALLY take the wheel.

I stop singing at stoplights if it's a crowded intersection.
Then, when the light turns green,
I laugh,
And sing some more...

I don't think I'm the only one.
Is your car a cathedral?

Monday, May 20, 2019

Coffee with Gentlemen (The time I had coffee with scientists and confounded them with a 5-letter word.)


            I sat at a table for four with my coffee and breakfast sandwich in a crowded coffee shop in Connecticut. As I sipped my coffee, two gentlemen came through the door and one approached me.
            “Young lady, would you mind if we sit at your table?” 
            I liked him immediately. Having recently let my hair go back to its natural gray, the word young—in reference to me—was delightful to hear.
            “Not at all,” I replied, waving them to the chairs on the other side of the table.  
            “Thank you, it’s not often people are willing to share a table these days. I’m Robert and this is Rex,” he said, pointing to his companion.
            “I’m Heather,” I said. “Nice to meet you.”
            They got in line and it wasn’t long before they joined me, and the three of us began to chat. 
            “Do you come here often?” Robert, a short, balding man was the first to speak.
            “No, I’m on vacation from Washington State.” I replied.
            “We were just there,” he said, glancing at Rex. “For a climate symposium, brilliant lectures, very academic.”
            “Yes, we very much enjoyed it.” Rex was tall and thoughtful. The quieter of the two.
            “That’s wonderful, isn’t the Northwest beautiful?” I couldn’t hide my PNW pride.
            “Oh yes, it’s lovely,” Robert enthusiastically agreed, “What are you seeing while you’re here?”
            I told them what I planned to do and see, and then they had some suggestions for me—which went something like this…
            “She should see the blah blah blah,” Robert said.
            “Oh yes,” Rex agreed.
            “She could get there by boat I think.” Robert added.
            “No, they don’t have boats there.”
            “Yes they do.”
            “No, they stopped running a while ago.”
            “I think they do. I’m sure of it.”
            “No, remember, we read about that in the paper. They stopped running the boats last year.”
            Long pause. “Oh, you’re right. I do remember that.”
            After no less than five of these old-married-couple exchanges, it occurred to me that the men were, in fact, married. 
            “We're planning to visit Yale,” I said.
            “There’s a restaurant near the library, a vegetarian place, it’s lovely.” Robert said.
            “Oh, are you vegetarian?” I leaned in. “My son is too, he used to be vegan—but not the militant, save-all-the-animals kind of vegan.” (I should have inserted my foot in my mouth right then, but I’m typically tardy in doing so.)
            “Vegan is difficult but yes, we’re vegetarian and we do advocate for animals.” Robert said. He told me of his tour of a Perdue chicken farm and the horrors he witnessed. I redeemed myself by sharing that I keep a small flock of spoiled hens, none of whom would find themselves on my dinner plate.
            “We should get some chickens,” Robert said to Rex. 
            “You think so?” Rex shook his head. Dressed in a suit, I could see he wasn’t the chicken-farmer type.
            I took a bite of my dead pig and chicken embryo breakfast sandwich and felt a little foolish doing so.
            They told me about a lecture series they’d recently attended at Yale—explaining that they were scientists. “It was quite enlightening.” Robert said. Rex nodded quietly.
            Then Robert asked the question I always dread. “What do you do?”
            I took in a breath and said, “Well, I was a stay-at-home mom for many years and then I wrote a novel. I’m working on revisions.” I looked back and forth between them for a reaction. They smiled and nodded.
            “What is the name of your novel?” Robert asked.
            “The Grace Writers.”
            “The what?”
            “The Grace Writers.”
            “The great writers?”
            “No, grace.”
            “Excuse me?”
            “Grace.”
            “The Race Writers?”
            “Grace.” I said the word loudly and clearly. Up to this point neither Robert nor Rex had any trouble hearing what I said, so this exchange was a bit odd to me.
            “G-R-A-C-E?” Robert asked, spelling the word for clarification.
            “Yes, The Grace Writers.” I smiled and took another bite of my death sandwich.
            “Oh.” Rex gave Robert a look. Robert returned the look and their body language told me our conversation was over.
            Robert turned to Rex. “As I was saying earlier about time-space continuum…blah blah blah…” 
            I’ll be honest, as I finished my coffee and listened to his observations on the evolution of time and space and the dimensions therein, I was taken aback by how one little word had abruptly ended our conversation. 
            Grace had confounded the scientists—and the end of our enjoyable conversation confounded me.  
            I’ll grant them—grace is hard to understand. It’s mysterious and startling—not scientific in the least.  
            I hope my sincere enjoyment of their company allowed them to see people of faith in a different light. Perhaps they noticed that we’re not all that intolerant of those with differing beliefs—that we can be on opposite ends of the spectrum of belief, but still enjoy coffee together…so long as they don’t mind dining with a carnivore.
Micah 6:8
This is what the Lord requires of you: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Surprise!


Sixteen Easters ago,
Our yard was abuzz with eight kids hunting Easter eggs.
It was a beautiful day.
The adults watched and basked in the sun, talking, laughing and enjoying the day.

Then it happened...
A low hum on the horizon.
We looked around, nothing.
The hum grew louder and then the cloud appeared.
A dark mass of bees, like an airborne amoeba slowly moving through the air.
We gathered the kids on the other side of the yard.
We watched.
It was amazing.
Scary and amazing.
We'd never seen a swarm of bees before.
Then they stopped...in a tree in the yard.
A living, humming blob of bees.

We called a bee wrangler.
He was THRILLED to help us on Easter Sunday.
No, really, he was.
Free bees? He was here in a heartbeat.
We spent our Easter Sunday watching a beekeeper do his work.
It was so interesting.
When he was done, he took his box of bees and went home.

A couple of months later my doorbell rang.
The beekeeper stood on my porch with a jar of honey.
Honey from "our" bees.
How sweet!

I tell this story because I don't want to forget it.
Also, you never know what a day might bring.
This Easter Sunday, keep your eyes and ears open.
Something amazing might be humming on the horizon!

He is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Locked In...


I volunteered (or was I voluntold?) to chaperone at the Youth Group lock-in...an all-night-long party.
On its face, being locked into a church with 50 (yes, 50) teenagers, and staying up all night (translation: do not sleep under any circumstances) to ensure their safety and welfare, sounded a lot like torture.
But I did it anyway.
(This is where I admit that sometimes I volunteer to do things I don't want to do, because deep down, I still struggle with the misconception that I must earn God's favor. For the record, that's a bunch of bunk.)
My attitude wasn't great when I agreed to volunteer a few weeks ago (I might have whined), but as the day approached, my excitement grew...
Not about the stay-up-all-night part, but about the getting-to-know-the-kids part.

So I ordered a quad latte and showed up.
Those teenagers, they taught me a lot while I didn't sleep...
  1. They're magicians. 17 pizzas disappeared in a matter of minutes.
  2. They are 50 different stories...interesting, funny, sad, inspiring, hopeful stories.
  3. Many kids are seeking family (they may not put it that way), because they don't have a stable one. They're looking for a place to belong...to be accepted. 
  4. It's so cool to see 50 kids paying attention...listening intently to the message.
  5. It's utter JOY to know students were impacted by the message...that it begged more conversation.
  6. Even shy/insecure/quiet kids will stand up in front of 49 of their peers and SING! (I would NEVER have done that at their age.)
  7. They're BRAVE. (See #6.)
  8. They're supportive of each other. They cheer for each other. (See #6 & #7)
  9. They're HILARIOUS. Oh man. So many kinds of hilarious. One kid took it upon himself to hide water bottles in the most clever places all over the church. Why? Because all night long, every time we found one above a doorframe or in a high windowsill, we laughed. Genius.
  10. They like to talk to adults (to older adults with gray hair even). Did I, when I was their age? I don't think I did. I don't actually remember adults reaching out to talk to me (it was a different time). And, since I'm on the subject, teens are FUN to talk to. They're interesting, open, curious and kind. They answered my questions...and truth be told, I can be nosy.
  11. They want someone to be interested in them. (See #10.)
  12. Some kids do not need caffeine...period...cartwheels at 3am, running at full speed through the church at 4am...I'd like a teaspoon of what they're having, please.
  13. There are EXCELLENT student leaders in the TGW youth group.
  14. It is VERY satisfying to be included in their world...in their games.
  15. It is even MORE satisfying to be sneeringly accused of murder and killed as a result of their utter disdain of your deception while playing their game.
  16. But it is the MOST satisfying to get away with murder(s), after playing many rounds of Mafia BEFORE being killed.
  17. It's fun to watch kids include each other, get to know each other and enjoy each other's company hour after hour.
  18. Sitting makes one tired. Standing or walking or talking helps one stay awake (caffeine at 3:30am doesn't hurt either).
  19. The dedication of the youth staff is inspiring. They care deeply about the kids. They love them utterly. TGW youth are so very blessed!
  20. It is BEAUTIFUL to watch kids (who haven't slept) happily clean a great big church after having messy fun all night.
  21. Laughter makes time go by faster. It was the fastest awake-all-night of my life
  22. I take great pride in the fact that I did not so much "power nap" for 5 minutes, yet young whippersnappers curled up as early as 1am because they just couldn't stay awake...you snooze you lose. ;)
  23. My "wall" is 5am. Good to know because I would do this again. I'd stay up all night all over again. They're so worth it.
I don't write this for any other reason than to encourage you. If you have the opportunity, volunteer with youth. I realize it might not be for everyone, but I think it might be for more of us than we think!

The biggest thing I learned is that you don't have to be "cool" or "up on all the things" to be a youth volunteer (I've never been accused of being cool). You just have to step out of your comfort zone and open up your heart...or agree to do something you don't think you want to do...and see what happens.

Those kids nudged their way into my heart as I yawned through the night and I couldn't be happier about that. They are the future of the church, the future of our country and they are about to be adults, deciding if God - if God's people, are worthy to associate with in the future. Knowing we care about them will go a long way in helping them decide! 

Motherhood...

I recently read a biography of Susanna Wesley, the mother of Methodism. ( 7 Women by Eric Metaxas ) I learned a lot about her. Her husband w...