Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sun, Water, Kids, Rides and God

We had an awesome day. One that I'm sure we'll talk about for months and years to come. My friend and I drove our kids two states away to a WONDERFUL water park. (Don't let the "two states away" part get you - we drove through the skinny parts so it wasn't bad!)

It was definitely a God Day: the weather was perfect, four of our five admission tickets had been given to us. We saved $5 on the last ticket AND received $5 each family (toward a meal in the park) for donating canned items for the food bank.

The kids were all patient, the rides were AWESOME and everyone agreed that we had chosen well to spend the day there. We also decided that we need to turn it into a "Tradition".

At one point, the girls wanted to play in the wave pool, but my son wanted to play in a water-slide area. We adults split up, divided and conquered. I ended up at the water-slide area.

There were several slides and several places where water just dumped on our heads as we tried to navigate our way up the rope mesh netting ladders to get us to the top of the slides. At first my thoughts were "oh! this is COLD" and "OH! that was my HEAD!" But then - after my first trip down one of the slides - the grown-up had been replaced by a younger version of myself. We had a BLAST.

As the water-park was closing, my son asked me, "Mom, what was YOUR favorite part of the day?" I thought through each event. It certainly wasn't the fact that I ALWAYS seemed to end up facing backwards on the tube rides... always... It wasn't that I was able to "catch some air" on the mat race event... Those were both cool, but....

I looked him right in the eye and said "It was the Mom-and-boy time we had today." His face lit up as he said "MINE TOO!!"

Thank You, God for yet another opportunity to connect with my kids, for keeping us safe, for hours of laughter and memories for a lifetime!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

God's Chess Match

I sit here, filled with gratitude at the way God has been teaching me lately.... and how it is SOOOOO not what I was expecting. It has been difficult work, no doubt, but He has blessed me with people who have walked beside me every step of the way.

Imagine the audacity to even engage in God's Chess Match*. You know the game. He does this so I do that, and expect Him to follow with the next "appropriate" move. Well, much to my surprise.... I am SO far off track, it's hard to believe we're playing on the same board.

Quite honestly, I have been a little afraid of the current sermon series on marriage. Neither of mine were shining examples of a "Godly marriage", and God often chooses my time on the interpreting block to speak to me. Each week I stand up there, surrender my hands, and PRAY that I will continue to be able to interpret if He chooses that opportunity to teach me.

Each week, I find myself so, so grateful. He has been gracious and pulled me aside to point out the things that need examining. I prepare myself for the public spanking, and He deals with me privately. Gently, but firmly, He says, "Look...."

Sometimes, I am horrified as I look back, and then humbled to the point of immobility, to know that even *that* has been forgiven. Even *that*, Christ has accepted for-for me. No public shame or removal from His presence. Instead, there is grace, hope, forgiveness and love.

There is also not a petty dismissal - "ah, that was years ago, never mind that...." It needs to be looked at, examined, confessed, repented. If not, it seems to just sit there - in the dark corners of my heart - weighing me down, until I am ready - or willing - to do so.

So patiently, He waits, continuing to "stalk" me... to show me, convict me. There He stands, arms extended, waiting for me to lay those things at his feet - to forgive myself - so I can walk a little lighter in this world. Peace, Joy, Hope, Forgiveness, Love: all there. Waiting.

Waiting for my move.

This past week, it has been me, face down before Him. "Here... take it....It's named, it's awful. I am so, so sorry..... and I'm ready to let it go".

(... and then, silently I listen, expecting Him to whisper, "Check mate")

*Thank you, friend, for that visual.....

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Whispers and Shouts

I had a friend say to me that she is planning on doing something if God doesn't scream "NO!!" before then.

Several hours later, as I was cleaning (literally and figuratively) my house, I took pause to that. Her words stuck with me. "Hmmm...", I thought. Perhaps she should listen for God to whisper "yes" rather than screaming "NO!!" before she acted.

Perhaps I should do the same.

How many times have I acted on my own, so sure that He would stop me if it shouldn't be, rather than waiting to hear a whisper of agreement? How many times am I so focused on what I am wanting or planning to do that I couldn't possibly hear anything but the loudest disagreement from God? Words of caution could easily go unheard or ignored.

I know with my own children, as I watch them grow and experience their world, they come upon many many decisions to make. Often times they don't hear my gentle words of caution. Sometimes, I realize they just need to feel the consequences themselves.

I wonder how many times, He has looked over me, shaking his head saying "Sweet Girl, wish you had listened to my voice...."

As I prayed for her, I pray for myself: May I have ears to hear, and a heart able to listen....

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bragging on my Boy

It's now about three months since my son began karate instruction. At first, I think his motivation was to be with his friend who had started a few months before. Truth be known, that was one of the Moms'-conspiracy motivations as well. They tend to have boundary issues with each other. We knew the instructor would nip their in-each-others'-space thing in the bud.

Time passed, and he soon learned that he really liked karate. I watched him day after day, learning to focus, pay attention and "shine".

He has learned his kicks, blocks and punches, but more importantly, he has learned about self-discipline, respect and perseverance. He can still be a wiggly seven year old boy at times, but watching these character qualities develop in him has been a gift. He is thoroughly engaged during the class focusing both on his skills and learning life skills as well! Watching him walk out of class, after giving the instructor a high-five, and his assistant a big hug, standing a little taller and smiling a little broader, warms my heart.

He has worked very hard during class, and he has incorporated some of these Black belt qualities at home as well. This week, perseverance has paid off. He received his yellow belt.

I am very, very proud of my son. I am also very, very grateful to God that we found this particular school. Like so many other wonderful gifts in my life, it seemingly just "appeared".

Thank You, Thank You, God.... for my children, and the path that you have us on....

Friday, June 26, 2009

Discovering Opportunities

Honestly, I think shopping at Wal*mart with my children is the closest thing to hell on earth as any scenario that involves me and two living children. Yet, I had the "opportunity" to do just that this past weekend.

We were shopping for a side to bring to a church dinner and snacks and drinks for their summer water party with their friends. Of course I was being bombarded with "Mom, can I have....?" "Mom, I *need*...." and "Mom, Mom... Oh, LOOK! Mom...." I mean, seriously, there is a reason I hire a sitter to shop solo and take a yoga class: it makes mental health a possibility!

Yet, in the midst of that there were teaching opportunities. I got to show my son why I don't buy the milk in the yellow carton. It was actually kind of sweet to see his jaw literally drop in disbelief when he saw the difference in the price - especially when he looked and saw that the store-brand was also "Vitamin D" milk.

There were similar teaching opportunities with my daughter. And, another opportunity to connect and learn together. I know why I avoid it - it's exhausting and overstimulating - but, having done it, I am grateful for the opportunities that were presented.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad....

He was born on June 25, 1928 and grew up in Lexington, Missouri. Oldest of two, the only boy. His father immigrated from an island off the mainland of Greece. His mother, born and raised in Lexington.

As a young boy, he developed meningitis with resulting blindness. But that didn't stop him! He grew and studied and maintained his independence for a long, long time.

He taught me much over the years. He encouraged my independence, my education and my writing. He taught me not to fear hard work. I learned both through his example and by his lack of it.

Little by little, he gave away his joy to depression, though you could catch a glimpse of it again in the presence of his children and grandchildren. He had a deep, joyful belly laugh that would compete with any Santa Claus, but he had an equally deep melancholy that could invade and overcome the room. His presence was felt either way.

He loved birds, and storms, travel and world cuisine - though, try as I might, he'd never try sushi! Not even his own words - "How do you know you don't like it if you don't try it?" - couldn't win him over to the experience.

Recently, I found a few letters he had written to me while I was at camp and in college. I literally LAUGHED OUT LOUD and the absurdity that was his sense of humor.

He died several years ago. Even in his death, he taught me: Of love, of peace and of wisdom.

Happy Birthday, Dad!!

Know that you are missed.... and loved.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

50 Ways....

When the shingles blew off my roof - lots and lots of shingles - my mind of course went to the cost. The roofer thought that insurance would cover at least the back of the house - which for me meant a thousand dollar deductible.

While * technically * I have the money, it was not mentally allocated for roof repair. It is allocated for about six other home improvement projects - all of which I'd prefer to a new roof. One day I will decide which one takes priority!

If I could classify it as an 'emergency', then there would be another source of funding, but, I cannot. One of the hazards of working in a level one trauma center for two decades is the word "Emergency" takes on a new definition. Roof replacement - in my eyes - is an inconvenience.

So, I sat there trying feeling a bit overwhelmed. Saving a thousand dollars seems like a huge, insurmountable task. I sat there and asked aloud "God, what do I do?" An idea came to me as I sat there: reframe it.

I posted on facebook that I was "....thinking of 50 ways...." I got a few comments that quoted the song about leaving a lover. But, no, I was thinking of 50 ways to save $20.

The economy being what it is, I thought I'd share some of the ideas.... If you've got some to add, I'd love to hear them!!
  • Drive past the drive-thru (need I say more?)
  • Stick to the shopping list
  • Clip and use coupons
  • Clean air filters regularly - and in the process, realize that the reusable one that I thought I had messed up a year ago trying to get it to the right size is TOO BIG, not too small. Fix it and return the new one I just bought to replace it - $21.08!
  • Bring lunch (and dinner) to work rather than buying it
  • Eat out of the freezer - I mean, seriously, there's food there, it's time it was eaten!
  • Wait to buy -I'm currently waiting on end of season clearance sales for a few items - most of which will end up waiting til NEXT end of season, I'm sure
  • Cancel the sitter once/month
  • Check for promotional codes for free shipping, etc. with online purchases (I just Googled it and found free shipping from Land's End)
  • Reuse, Reduce, Recycle
I wish I had noted this one earlier:
  • pick up the slip-n-slide - even though it's still a little wet - before the dog climbs the fence and escapes and turns it into confetti.
Then a few ideas on earning a few more bucks:
  • Teach a couple of extra yoga classes (that one fell into my lap - thank you God!)
  • Sell a few things on ebay, half.com -
  • Sell the kids gently-worn clothes and passed-aside toys at a local consignment sale - my favorite is Encores and More North!
I know that money flows in and out, like water. I also know that none of it is "mine" anyhow. I do try to be a good steward, but I certainly have some room to improve.

Oh - and in the mean time. The insurance adjuster recommends simply patching the area. So, now I'm down to less than 20 ways....

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Watching the Storm

I had planned to walk my dog that evening, but I could see the front moving in ... F A S T! I'd noticed the dark clouds as I left the Y, but still hoped I would have time for a speedy trip around the neighborhood. No such luck.

I thought, I'd at least walk a hat that was forgotten at our house that afternoon four houses down. As I started down the driveway, a car pulled in. Hat delivered in about six steps.

Clearly, I wasn't supposed to walk. I looked again at the storm. It was absolutely incredible! It was close to dusk, but went from daylight to darkness in a matter of minutes. The dog still on his leash, we walked through the house and onto the back deck. From there, we could watch it coming.

The wind blew, the trees shook for a long time with no rain. The clouds fascinated me. I simply stood there, watching. Alternating shades of black and white, swirls of gray. Layer after layer of cloud passed by. Periodically, the sky lit up with distant lightning. Still I remained, experiencing the wind and the feeling in the air that proceeds a storm.

I was interrupted by a though: "GO GET YOUR CAMERA!" I'm sure it was a sight. Storm raging, (but still no rain!), and me, there, snapping pictures of the clouds!

I suppose it's no stranger than me sitting on the front porch with popcorn and an iced tea once the rain began! What a show!

Thank You, God for the storm.... and the safety I have experienced within it!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Flash From the Past... Connecting to the Present

Yesterday I began one of those conversations that would change my relationship with my son. He continues to be incredulous that there was no such thing as a home computer when I was his age. No computer, no cell phone, heck, no ATM.

He is forever trying to tell me about his latest adventures on any of a number of Zelda games. He starts his soliloquies with the phrase, "Mom, do you want me to tell you about....". No pause for breath, no pause for a response from me. I have learned that means " Mom, please listen to me, I've got a lot to tell you about....."

And then he begins. He may as well been speaking to me in a foreign language for as much as I understand.

But this day, for some reason, I said: "You know, Jacob, there was this game that I ** REALLY ** loved when I was younger". Silence. "Uhm, I thought you said there weren't computers when you were a girl." "There weren't. I was in college."

And it's true. I spent more hours playing the game that I should admit to. When I told him there were no graphics, again, silence. "Uhm, no *graphics*?" I may as well have told him there wasn't any oxygen on Earth when I was a girl. Both are apparently equally incomprehensible.

I began to describe in as much detail as I could recall over a couple of decades the game Rogue. On a whim, I Google-searched it. Voila! Rogue, in all it's antiquated glory! "Can I try?" he asked? "Sure". And there I sat, watching my son play a game I hadn't thought about in 20 years.

A little later that night, my daughter asked me to pull out the Chronicles of Narnia books that I thought I had. Turns out they were the Hobbit series. But, I also found my Little House books. The pages have yellowed with age, but the pages are intact. We open the front cover of one of them. We both smile as we see, written in my young girl handwriting "Linda Lorantos" followed by my street address and phone number. Below that was a picture of a girl, very similar to the ones my daughter draws these days.

The look on her face and in her eyes was one that showed that a brick in the wall of "My-mom-was-NEVER-a-girl-like-me" had been removed.

As she snuggled in my bed, reading about little Laura Ingals -who happens to be the same age in the story as Amelia is now- she said the sweetest thing. "Mom, all of the nights that I'm sleeping ad you're sleeping, and the whole world is sleeping, and all the days that I'm alive and the nights that I'm alive, I'm thanking you so, SO much for finding these books for me". Wow.

I have been feeling the need to connect with my children in more meaningful ways. I know that the relationship bonds we create now are the ones that will get us through their teen years and beyond. They need to be solid. Our life together must encourage and support strong, faith-based ties.

Thank you God for providing two wonderful opportunities.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

For the past 30 years, I have been searching for the perfect Father's Day card. Most are either too gushy, or humorous to the point they don't convey any fpertinent message. Some had the right feeling to them, but included things that my dad and I never shared.

Finally, after all these years, I have found it. The perfect card. Ironically enough, my father died nearly five years ago. Still, I bought it. It's sitting on my desk, in a basket of important notes and special cards.

It was at the time of his death that I really began to appreciate the wisdom that he shared as a father and the depth of his love for me. On the airplane, all alone, heading back to Massachusetts, the truth of the leading statement of 1 Corinthians 13:8 reached the depths of my heart.

My father had loved me dearly. The love that he showed me, continues on...and on... It never ends. Never. Love never ends.

So, there I stood, at Wal*mart, holding this card. When I opened it and read the inside, I knew it was the perfect card. It says:

"Love you back, Dad.
Happy Father's Day"

So, to all you fathers out there - and all of you who have fathers, or will one day be fathers - Happy Father's Day! May you love and be loved.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
--1 Corinthians 13:7-8

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Full Summer Day

Ah, the fun-filled days of summer! We certainly had a fun one this week! The day started at the pool. We ran into several friends there and stayed several hours.

The kids love to swim and play and do hand-stands and collect things underwater. For me, this has been the summer I've been waiting for.

For the past several years, as I have taken non-swimming infants, toddlers and preschoolers to the pool, I have reminded myself that ONE DAY, my kids would be able to swim well enough that I didn't have to have a constant eye on them. My friend and I still do the frequent 'eyeball' to be sure they're all playing well and above water. I have never believed it is the lifeguard's responsibility to keep my children safe in the pool.

But this year - they both passed their swimming tests, and have full privileges for pool use. This year, I get to balance my time between playing with my kids and talking with my friends. It is delightful!

From there, we went to Wal*mart to pick up a side for the church cookout, and drinks and snacks for the gathering of friends they're having early next week.

Just enough time for a quick shower and change before we headed to church for an evening of family fun. Burgers, hotdogs, pot-luck sides and desserts. The adults sat and talked or watched the excitement on the hillside.

Our church sits at the top of a hill. The immediate surroundings are grassy, with an edge of trees and shrubbery. Down the grassy hillside it was unrolled: A thick, wide, LONG slip n slide. A sprinkler and baby shampoo assist the youth in their journey down to the bottom.

Laughter and cheering, and the sound of comfortable conversation. Certainly, a wonderful day!

Thank You God!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

God's Big Backyard - Service in Action

I love to see my church family in action. This past week has been such a great blessing - surrounding 'the storm' of course! It has been our Vacation Bible School - which we call "Backyard Bible Club".

Looking around, at first glance, you'd notice some amazing decorations, and a bunch of kids having a wonderful time as they learn about service.

For those who do not know, this is a "youth led" event. The middle and high school students are in charge of running the event, with adult mentors. They lead the worship, teach the bible lessons, and engage the younger children for two evenings.

From that perspective, there was so much more that I noticed. I was aware of each of the older youth using their gifts in their own unique ways. I witnessed them fully engaged with the younger ones, pulling them into the bible stories, with enthusiasm. As they needed volunteers, hands SHOT up in the air, "pick me, pick me!"

Some led games, or worship songs with signs and actions. Others headed up the craft project each night, or served the snack. Behind the scenes, there were those who painted flowers, created paper ants, or hung leaves on the trees. Each person lending a hand, doing their part.

It was truly and example what they were teaching: service - to family, friends, neighbors, their community and to Christ. These past few days, they were living examples of being the hands and feet of Christ. Teaching. Leading. Encouraging. Serving.

I feel so blessed to be a part of a church that encourages, expects and allows the youth to be servant leaders. They have again risen to the occasion and done an excellent job!

I give an enthusiastic "Two thumbs up!!" and a great big "YEA GOD!"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Little Wind, Blowing through...

We had "some wind" come through here just the other day. I was at Wal*mart with some women from church, doing the shopping for the "Backyard Bible Club" (AKA VBS) this week. As I drove home, I noticed some branches down in my neighborhood, and one of my chairs had blown off the deck.

But, I was trying to get a few things done before I taught my yoga class and met a friend to see "UP" - a wonderful, wonderful movie- so I left the chair.

The next morning, I picked up the chair and noticed a little piece of shingle on the ground. Happens here from time to time. I'm pretty sure I said (aloud) "well, there's a little bit of shingle...". As I turned with the chair to return it to the deck, I saw another "bit" of shingle. I sat the chair down and shook my head in disbelief. There on the ground is a hunk of shingles.... a big hunk of shingles....

As I call the roofer, back and forth, through my mind run thoughts of insurance deductibles, budgets and the time I'd spent the night before going through, trying to find ways to give a little more at church. I wonder sometimes how it will all work out, and I remember Jeremiah 29:11.

Going through the mail, my new checks had arrived from the bank. I scanned the information for accuracy. When I saw it, I remembered I had added a slogan this time: "Great is Thy Faithfulness". A perfectly timed reminder.

And as I sit to write this, another reminder, a song: "I will praise You in this storm"....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

After 20 years.... something new

It's hard for me to believe that I've been a nurse for 20 years. Seriously, I had to do the math... twice! Most of those have been in the wonderful world of Trauma. Nearly half of them have been in Advanced Practice - meaning, as a Nurse Practitioner.

Yes I have stories to tell - many I'd consider fiction if I hadn't witnessed them myself. I thought I'd experienced pretty much everything - and came close to stating that as a reply to a friend's Facebook status just the other day. But, apparently, I was wrong.

I was making my rounds. I introduced myself to a patient I hadn't met before. He was a young man, newly paraplegic. I asked how he was doing and assessed his injuries and current status. After talking with him and his family, I was preparing to leave. I asked him "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"You could pray for me... if you get a bored second," he said.

I nodded and assured him that I would.

All of a sudden, his mother - who, I realized then, was staring at me - said "Oh, Honey! She's a believer!!"

Together, they said, "Will you pray for me/him now?"

For those who don't know me well, let me say now that praying aloud is NOT something I am particularly comfortable doing. I have been sent woman after woman into my life over the past few years who have modeled the art of praying aloud. I know that they have come for a reason, and so when I am asked, I always agree.

I took his hand, and there we prayed. As I was finishing my "Amen." there was a rap at the door. In walks a woman who I know is very bold and outspoken in her faith. She quickly realizes what we were doing when she entered, walked up beside me, and slid her arm around me for a quick hug.

She talked to them a bit, and SHE prayed - all of us hand in hand. Then, she sang. The rest of us had tears streaming down our faces.

When she was finished, I turned to leave. Before I go to the door, I realized there was something yet to do. I turned toward the dry erase board on the wall, looking for a marker. There wasn't one, so I pulled out my pen. On a paper towel, I started writing.

As I handed it to his mother, I said, "In case you need some encouragement". She looked at it. "Jeremiah 29:11. I know that one - that is my verse."

"Mine too"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Marriage Series....uh-ho...

We have begun a sermon series at church on marriage. I willingly admit that I am a member of the group which my pastor describes as "Divorced, with no intentions of ever marrying again". I also fully acknowledge that God may have other plans for me, and after I run for a while, I'll likely come around to His idea. But, for the time being, in this season of life as Mom-to-a-pair-of-school-aged-children, I am content as I am.

As I sit in the congregation, or stand interpreting, I find I can relate to many, many things that are said. I also find myself thinking "OH! If only [my ex] could hear this...." Would he believe it? Would he accept it? I don't know...

I do know that the series will be life-changing for me. I can sense that already. I know there is much for me to learn. Much for me to accept. Much to examine.

Arriving home this past Sunday, I emailed some thoughts to a friend of mine. I also asked for prayer that my heart would be open to what He has to tell me, to show me, to teach me. I prayed the same, and added a request that I be willing to have those parts that need extracting removed, changed and replaced with something new.

In my email, I also expressed some nervous anticipation, as I was about to mow my grass. Mowing is one of those mindless tasks, with plenty of "white noise" that helps me more easily clear my mind of the to do list and the internal chatter. Mowing is one of those times when He and I talk... and mostly, I listen.

As I began, I repeated my prayer for a willing, open heart - ears to hear, eyes to see, and the ability to let go of my ideas and let Him change me as He sees fit.

I thanked Him for the breeze, which made the mid-80's temperatures more tolerable. And then, I shut up. Back and forth across my front yard, I walked, changing the clover-field into a well-kept looking yard, one row at a time.

The breeze kicked up again, brushing the hair out of my eyes, and I "heard":

"Linda, I do not want to talk to you right now about your most recent marriage... I want to talk with you about your first marriage...."

I stopped dead in my tracks.


Guilty as charged....

It will be a very, VERY interesting series. Pray for me....

Monday, June 15, 2009

A "God Hug" Day

Perhaps you've seen this picture circulating by email... I've gotten it a couple of times now. Every time I see it, I feel it, and am reminded of the "God Hug" days that I've experienced in my life.

I had forwarded it to one of my friends with the comment that I needed to blow it up life sized.

Truth be told, my ideal "Good hair day" combined with a "Good body day" would have me looking like the woman in this picture. She reminds me a lot of myself, for some reason.

Sunday this past week was one of those "God hug" kind of days. I could just feel the presence of God and His arms around me, holding tight.

It started at band rehearsal.

My friend walked over and handed it to me - a blown up version of the picture in an 8x10 frame. It made my day. The original was black and white, but when I got home and set it on my desk where I could see it, I knew that I would be colorizing it later on.

And so I have. In a red sweater and blue jeans, there I stand. Held tightly. As I colored the sky blue, the sky behind me was turning pink and orange. The sun was peering through the tops of the trees as it set for the evening.

What really brought it to life for me, besides the color in "my" cheeks, was color on His hands. As they became more real, the whole feeling of the picture intensified.

I held my breath for a moment, and let it out slowly. Wow... there are no words.

What a gift I have been given. An overwhelmingly, inexplicably, wonderful gift!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shopping, Skirts and Fiction, ... oh my....

It's been a little weird around here lately. For one thing, it's very quiet. My kids are with their dad, and I am left to fend for myself.... and the animals. Extra time at work has been non-existent, so I'm focusing elsewhere...

On one hand, it's a great time for me to catch up on a few (better-done-kid-free) things: deep cleaning the house, and shopping. If you know me well, you know that the "shopping" gene that stereotypically hangs tightly to the "X" chromosome, is apparently is somewhat defective in my DNA. (Fear not, though, it has apparently self-corrected in my daughter!) It is a rare day that I CHOOSE to go shopping. Rarer yet is a day that I choose to go CLOTHES shopping. But I did.

That very evening, I had some time - after more transition of the garage into workable space (another good kid-free project!). I looked through my stack of books. Nothing was appealing. Then I realized, I was interested in reading FICTION. *whoa* I have read one or two fiction books over the past year, but mostly, I'm a non-fiction kind of girl.

The next morning, heading to the pool, ,was the third new and unusual thing: I put on a skirt. Jeans and Tshirt or Jeans and a sweater, depending on the season. Summer, I'll trade the jeans in for some capri's or shorts (preferably denim). But, oh no... A skirt. By my own free will, I donned a skirt. Granted, it was very casual - a black Greek-inspired pseudo-wrap thing that I'd picked up at Target. But still....(Honestly, I've tried to remember what other colors they had... I love it so much!)

So... life continues, moves forward, ever changing. Evolving. Growing.

It's a good thing....as long as I don't get caught up in the weirdness of it all... (now, back to my book!)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Survey says....

I got "invited" to participate in a survey today. The phone rang, and for some reason I answered it. Even odder, I agreed to participate in her survey. The questions were entirely too long and too political to go into here.

I was amazed to realize how many times my answer to the question was not included on the list of choices. There is not one person or one organization or one "fix" to solve the issues facing our world today. It is not someone else's responsibility to fix all of my problems. I need to be responsible and accountable.

Many of my "problems" aren't problems at all.... they are situations challenging me to grow and trust and believe. Sometimes consequences or responses to my actions. Always an opportunity at my feet.

I must make decisions in my life based on consideration of the facts, and the consequences, add a ton of prayer and step out on faith. I must walk daily knowing that I have accountability to and responsibility for many people and things: My God, My kids and My Self begin the list.

I have been greatly blessed in my life: not in "Stuff" or quick fixes or my wildest dreams come true. My needs are met, my wants are insatiable. The greatest gifts I have been given: unfailing love, mercy, grace and a model for everyday life.

Thank You, God...

Friday, June 12, 2009

In the Moment...

So, I'm sitting here, wondering what to write. Outside, it is raining, and the wind is intermittently blowing the curtains that surround my bedroom window. There is near-constant thunder, so I am sure there must be lightening.

Inside, we're cozy and warm. I'm at my desk and the kitten is curled up in the paper recycling box that sits at my feet. Since the power has flickered off twice, I have a candle lit nearby. The scent of "Lemon and Lavender" fill the room. In the background, the radio station from which I won the tickets is playing.

As the intensity of the rain increases, I pull up the "desktop radar". Guess it is a good thing I like storms: We're smack-dab in the middle of a "Severe Thunderstorm Warning". Yellow, orange and red light up the part of the county where I live. Surrounding us in every direction there is a "Tornado Watch"... Ah, yes, the joys of living in Middle Tennessee. That being said, my chances of being able to work a little extra tomorrow increase slightly.

Working or not working, either is just right. Extra money or time with a friend at the pool...

Life is Good.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Success? Failure? Irrelevant

I had returned home after a night of VBS planning meetings. First with the adults and then with the youth I am mentoring. The house was empty except for the kitten. The dog wagged his tail, hopefully, in his kennel, requesting my attention.

The laundry, neatly folded on my bed, begged to be put away. But first, I grabbed my bible, a snack and some matches, and headed outside. I lit the citronella candle and freed the dog. Returning to my seat, I flipped to the back of the Book. "The One Year Reading Plan".

I'd started late, and technically, I'm still "behind". I make some progress, then slip back again. I found my place and read a few days worth of the Old Testament, Psalms and The New Testament.

As I closed the cover, a page of notes I'd taken during a service I hadn't interpreted caught my eye. On the back was a sentence that had fascinated me then, and resonated with me at that moment as well.

"Something is being achieved irregardless of our perceived success or failure".

I needed to hear that.

I'd done a few things on my To Do list - but not as much as I would have liked.

I'd done OK with my food choices that day - but not as good as I would have liked.

I'd made progress with the laundry - but not yet completed the task.

Other things are undone that need to be completed.

With time, I believe they will be.... what I doubt is whether I'll ever have enough time.

But to remember, that SOMETHING is being achieved, gives me hope. My perception of "success" or "failure", "good" or "bad".... irrelevant. I can't see the whole picture. I only see my little part... and not always very clearly.

Help me to trust that Your will is unfolding - whether I can see it or not.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Family Time and Perspective

I am so grateful for my friends who help me keep things in perspective.

I was being impatient. We were an hour behind schedule, and we were walking the dog. I have been trying to instill the rule about "fulfilling our responsibilities before we have our fun" Which meant, we had to walk the dog.

For me, it's sort of a reminiscent thing - after supper (or early in the morning) we'd walk around the block (or to the local coffee shop). My dad and the kids. We learned about "happy telephone poles" (the ones that hummed from the electrical transformers at their tops), and whatever bird was calling at the time.

Apparently, to my kids, it's torture. They often lessen the pain by riding bikes or scooters. But this day, my daughter had chosen to walk (with a Popsicle, since it was "SOOOOO hot"). My son had chosen to ride his bike - sort of. He expected me to push him up the hills...his legs hurt... "growing pains".

About a third of the way through the mile and a half circle, I was about out of my mind in frustration. It was taking FOREVER. It was like being in stop and go traffic - with no traffic. About the hundredth time my son stopped peddling to ask me, "Mom, do you want me to tell you about.....?" I wanted to scream "NOOOOOOO!!!" It was a rhetoric question. He'd press on describing the different "bosses" and "masks" and "swords" in his new love of a video game. He'd also start peddling again, so whatever words were coming out were lost ahead of me.

Just before I was sure *I* was going to burst out in a meltdown, I texted a friend: "Please remind me that "walking the dog as a family" has to do with "family", even if it takes 30x's as long...."

"Yes!", she replied, "use the time to connect with Jesus and pray for the neighbors". It was a good plan - albeit, one difficult to initiate due to the constant interruptions. BUT, it got my head back in the right place.

I started brainstorming with my girl-child how we could water the garden AND her legs with the hose when we got home. When the cool breeze blew up behind us, I prayed aloud, thanking God for the coolness and the encouragement of pushing us forward on our journey.

I have been blessed with many wonderful friends - face to face and online. Each has a purpose in my life. All are heaven-sent. I am honored to know them.

Thank You, God, for those You have sent into my life!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"YES!" and Yea God!

So, I had just been telling my friend the story of God's faithfulness during my divorce process. All the crazy "coincidental" things that had happened.... how He has ALWAYS provided. How He still does.

And now, yet another example:

One of the things planned during our summer vacation is a day at a local water park. It's about a three hour drive, and we've coordinated with two other families to meet there for the kids to play. We plan to drive up for the day, play hard and drive back - partly to decrease expenses. I've also been searching for OTHER ways to cut expenses - especially pertaining to this adventure - to help lessen the $100+ hit to the budget.

Monday morning at 9 a.m., I was logged onto "Go There Do This"- a local radio-station sponsored discount ticket site. Usually there are 50% off coupons for this water park that are replenished on Mondays at 9 a.m. Not this week. Drat. I'd have only ONE MORE Monday to check in order for them to arrive in time for us to use them.

I had forgotten that I had "bought" raffle entries (for water park tickets) at the local Christian Music radio station site a few days before. I had a ton of points for entering "artist of the day", etc. into their "Listener Rewards" program. So, I traded some points for some chances at these tickets.

Monday evening, after a long day at the pool and an evening of yoga and grocery shopping, I checked my email.


Two tickets to the water park! YES! YEA GOD!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Redeeming Love

I was reminded recently of a book I read a little over a year ago (twice - in as many months.... yes, it was THAT GOOD!). It had been given to me by someone who enjoyed it so much she bought copies to give away. I felt the same way about it, and bought a few copies for distribution as well.

The book is Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers. It is a retelling of the book of Hosea set in more modern times - the gold rush era. That in itself appeals to me - I think I would have been very happy living in those days. I always had an affinity to Laura Ingals Wilder, too. But Redeeming Love is no Little House on the Prairie!

Angel, the main character, is a prostitute. While we have never shared that profession, I did very much relate to her character.... and the character of her heart, her fierce independence and her stubborn pride.

I also found hope in the way that true, Godly love - truly God's love - can begin to change a person. I have seen the way He has chipped away at the wall surrounding my heart. For sure, I am a work in progress, but I am thrilled to know that God ain't done with me yet!

Thank you friend, for bringing this book to the forefront of my mind.... it's on the top of the reading list (again)....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Start with One....

The youth at church are preparing for their "Backyard Bible Club" - known to others as Vacation Bible School. It is a youth-led event, and the role of the adults is to mentor the youth.

I will be working with the youth who are leading worship.... so there are two songs for them to learn. WELL... one to review and one to learn.

The one to learn has to do with service, and how overwhelming it can be to see all the needs of the world. It has the best line, though: "Start with one, and when you're done, start all over again."

That is going to be my plan of attack on my to do list as well. I will have a few kid-free days, and with the exception of a day or two at the hospital or doing massage, my plan is to make a huge dent in cleaning, decluttering and organizing. (and a "construction" project or two as well.)

But, when I think of all the things to do, I can quickly become paralyzed, not knowing where to start. I will have to get that song stuck in my head: "start with one, and when you're done, start all over again...."

Thank you God for my willingness to take on a task....Grant me perseverance to see it through.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Art of Self-Care

This past week has been really interesting for me. Going back further, I am aware of the subtle changes that have been occurring... Decluttering. Letting go of the past. Decompressing the schedule.

I have also been finding myself being exposed to the topic: Attracted to books on Self-Care, on disconnecting from the insane pace of the modern world, and of course, the sermon last week that spoke of living intentionally.

I have KNOWN these things for a long time. But this past week, something shifted. I became willing to participate in my own self-care more than ever before.

I'm not talking self-indulgence, here. I'm talking self-CARE. Taking the time and making the effort to sleep well, eat well, exercise well. Balancing time between work and play. Establishing a routine of quiet time - of prayer and meditation. Allotting time and energy for the things that are most important in my life.

Specifically, this week, my food preferences have changed. Seriously. I walked into the grocery store, and HAD to buy asparagus. It's FABULOUS! I am taking the time to prepare myself real meals. Making the effort to bring something if I am going to be away at mealtime (so I avoid the drive-thru).

Last night, after mowing the grass, I turned on the grill, and pulled out the piece of fish I had bought. When I purchased it, I thought it was salmon. But, as I opened the package to put it on the grill, I read "Rainbow Trout"... wow! kewl!! As I turned, having put it on the grill, a little voice inside me said "You're doing this for ME?" It was as if deep down, I was surprised that I was making the effort to care for myself so well.

It's not perfect... I'm still working on adequate sleep... And the schedule. Being a single mom to two active kids is going to push that envelope. But, you know.... I've woken up earlier this week than I did during the school year - I've had more energy and feel well. And, I'm getting things DONE....

I am amazed.... absolutely amazed. I don't know which switch flipped, but I am loving this.

Thank You, God, for not giving up on me!! You have been telling me this for years, I know.... Be with me now, and help me continue!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Great Huntress

Our home has been blessed by one more living creature. A few weeks ago, "Cassie" (or "Cassie-cat" or even "Cassie-role") came to live with us.

It was adventure in adaptation to begin with. She was still drinking mostly from a bottle, and try as I might, she wouldn't eat solid food. Well, that changed the day she chewed through the bottle nipple. She has successfully weaned herself from milk to soft to dry food.

She has also successfully gained access to the lower level of our house -day and night- as she proves herself trustworthy in the litter-box department.

She is also proving to be a mighty huntress. "Mice" (the green in the picture), toes, squawking toy parrot, doesn't matter.... she's got the * POUNCE * down. Big, small, she doesn't care. She is fast like lightening, and *pow* gotcha... then she's off again!

I hope the real mice that occasionally try to claim their ancestral rights to the land on which my house sits will take note of her presence.

She has blessed our home and our hearts with her presence...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Caught in the Midst of a Storm

It was the mid-day break between massage sessions. My son was being picked up from cub scout camp, which meant I had JUST enough time to walk the dog before he arrived home and we'd need to leave to pick up his sister.

It was hot, and I carefully considered whether or not I'd have time to shower again if I got too sweaty. I decided that the dog and I both needed a walk, and if I needed to shower, then I needed to shower. Somehow, it would work out.

I changed out of my work clothes into "play" clothes, grabbed the leash, and headed out. The sky was blue with a few scattered clouds. We started out on our mile and a half neighborhood walk. Soon I noticed a few darkening clouds and a haze on the horizon.

By the time we were half way around the block, the wind had picked up, and we heard the low rumblings of some distant thunder. Onward, we pressed. I was enjoying the coolness of the breeze, and anticipating the coolness on my skin as the first drops of rain would soon fall.

I love a storm. I love the feeling in the air, the sound the wind makes through the trees. I like the hush that falls over the animal world.

Soon, the first drops of rain appeared. Between the wind and the rain, the previously oppressive heat was now bearable. I stretched my arms out wide and hung my head back to feel the rain on my face. One hand held the leash while the other signed "wind", "rain" "loud" (thunder), "thank you" (God). I all but danced.

Needless to say, my concerns about being "sweaty" were unwarranted. If I needed to worry about something, I should have chosen "being soaked to the skin", "being pelted by hail", or "flooding the interior of the car through open windows".

But, no worries.... safely at home, I pulled a chair up onto the porch and sat - watching and listening - as the storm passed through.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Touching Lives....

I was in the midst of a day of massage. Literally. I spent nearly seven hours giving chair massages. Fortunately, those hours were split into morning and evening sessions.

About half-way through the morning session, I had one of those humbling moments. I had been asked to return to a business. I had been there two years ago, after their particularly stressful move. I was working on one of the employees - who, two years ago, was hesitant (to say the least) about receiving massage therapy.

It was during that session that I realized what a gift I have been given. Touch is powerful "medicine". Whether it be a hug, a hand or a few minutes of massage. It changes lives... sometimes for the moment, sometimes the change is longer-lasting.

We have come to find ourselves in a world of "personal space". Often so much personal space that many, many people are touch-deprived. I have the privilege of being invited into the closeness of human contact - both in the world of nursing and in massage therapy. There are great moments to be found there. But, with it comes great responsibility: Acknowledgment of the trust placed in my hands, and respect for and acceptance of the person I am working with to name a few.

It is an honor. It is a gift. Of that I am certain. It does change lives. But, what most people don't realize.... it changes my life too...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Walking Carefully... Living Intentionally

This past week at church was yet another opportunity for God to speak with me. He had already gotten my attention through the music, and the words and actions of my church family. So, when the pastor started speaking, it was no surprise that the words seemed chosen especially for me. It was further confirmation of what I have been hearing through other people and in my own experiences.

I have been increasingly more aware of all the ways that I need to "redeem the time". Sorting through the clutter of my life includes the way I use my time. What things are there, but either don't enhance my walk with God, or distract from it entirely? They just gotta go. The things that are important in my life and in my walk need to be priorities. Need to.

Of course that involves honest evaluation and some planning. Living intentionally. Walking circumspectly. It was all I could do to keep my hands from signing "examine" over my heart as I sat in my seat listening.

Examining my heart, my life and becoming more intentional in what I say and do. Creating an environment that is suitable for "God-connect". Time to read, to listen, to pray. Time for service, time for self. Time to work and time to play. Time for family and friends. Time to rest and recharge.

May I walk wisely. May you walk wisely.

Thank You, God, for the reminder....

Ephesians 5:15-16

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, (16)Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. KJV

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, (16) making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ESV

Monday, June 1, 2009

From Anger to Gratitude....

A couple of weeks ago, I got an anonymous note from a neighbor reminding me that my shed needed some attention. It had been a long, long day. I was tired. And now I was angry. I knew that the doors and trim needed repainting, and it needed it's last few rows of siding. I knew. It was even targeted as priority on the "to do" list once the rain stopped.

It was after 10 pm, yet my first instinct was to "show them", and go out and work on it. Who cares that it was too dark to see. Who cares that I was exhausted! Who cares that it was still damp from all the rain we'd had! I was mad and needed to DO something!

I wanted to find some scripture to paint on the area where the siding would go that basically said "lay off!" (though "have patience" is more likely in there!). But, no such luck. I couldn't DO anything at the moment. I had to just BE with it.

The next morning, I pulled out a piece of the siding to match the paint. I knew NOTHING about vinyl siding. Interesting stuff. I played with a little bit and found that one piece pops right on top of the piece already in place. SWEET!! - I wouldn't need 6 hands to complete the task!

The doors and trim painted easily. The siding wasn't bad, though at times a bit of a puzzle, trying to fit the pieces against the angle of the roof and around the vent. I was grateful over and over again that my parents made sure I was skilled with a hammer (and saw), an extension ladder, and willing to attack a task. One thing is for sure, I am not afraid of hard work....

I am also grateful to know that there are people just waiting for me to say, "yes! come help me finish it for good!" Two of them approached me at church this week to be sure I knew they were willing to help. I will let them - after the growing season - It is truly a "garden shed".

For now, it has regained it's curb appeal.

And yes - I did paint scripture under the now sided front:

Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV)

Lamentations 3:22-23 - The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (ESV)

1 Samuel 7:12 - 12Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, "Till now the LORD has helped us."

Although I prefer a more direct approach, I am grateful for the letter that fueled my anger.... it helped me over come my fear of never having worked with vinyl siding!