Friday, July 31, 2009

Bits of Truth...

Bits of truth come to me at the strangest times. I had just returned from viewing the latest adventures of Ron, Hermione and their friend, Harry Potter and was driving home. The rainy evening fit the mood perfectly.

The movie reminded me how much I disliked the sixth book in the series - and the parts of high school I really didn't care for either!

I don't dislike the series, nor do I dislike the characters. The mention of their names reminds me of a sweet period of time when my children - "Ron" and "Hermione" - affectionately referred to me as "Harry".

It was the "darkness" that I struggle with...

And sitting with the memory of that darkness, driving home in the rain, I began thinking of darkness and light and other such opposites. I thought about love and truth and considered "indifference" as their opposite.

Words spoken in truth and love hold great power to change. Apathy, not so much. Indifference allows persistence of the status quo. Nothing changes. There is no growth.

In my world and in my life, I need the truth to be spoken: clearly, directly, bluntly if need be. I need to hear it, I need to see it, I need to live it. I may not always LIKE it at the time, but without it, what remains is darkness...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Peace, Silence and 4:13

I hear all sorts of stories of divorce. There appear to be as many variations on the theme of "cooperation and co-parenting" as there are people.

I am fortunate. My divorce is amicable, and my ex is an involved and supportive father. It's not a perfect situation, but it is better than many.... perhaps better than most. I thank God for that!

I also thank God for making Himself very, very present in my life as I was walking through that process. It was a definite Philippians 4:13 experience. I could not have done it alone.

Twice a summer (at least!), I experience another 4:13 period. My children go stay with their dad for a week at a time. I have no concerns for them while they are away. I know they are being well cared for and well loved. But, I also know they are not HERE.

On the surface that may seem like every mother's dream. And yes, the idea of it - and even the first couple of hours - are wonderful! But then the reality sinks in .... as does the silence.

Gone are the never-ending "Mom, Mom, MOM!!" choruses, and the thoughts of preparing meals on a kids-stomach schedule. I can fall asleep knowing I will not awaken with the thump of a kid's arm across my forehead. But as every mother knows.... something is not right. There is something missing here, and I long for their return.

May He make His presence known to me in the peace and stillness of my home, and bring peace and stillness to my heart.

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Got Nothing....

"A long day" only begins to sum up the day. It actually began in the early morning hours. Both of my children had fallen asleep on the futon that I had been sharing with my daughter. Rather than move my boy-child, I elected to sleep where he had been - on a slightly over-sized chair with the ottoman pushed up beside it.

The previous few nights with my daughter had been a seemingly non-stop assault of arms, elbows, and (literally) fingers up the nose... MY nose.... HER fingers.... She managed to sleep through the event. Me, not so much...

So, I figured, once I got propped right, I might score a better night sleep alone in the chair than sharing the bed with her. I was not prepared for her 3am declaration to her brother: "You are NOT supposed to BE HERE!!" Nor was I prepared for her to crawl into the chair with me.

Oh yes, of course, I considered moving onto the futon - but the boy assaults with his arms AND legs.

Suffice it to say, the return trip home - including changing planes in Philadelphia - was challenging. I called upon much prayer, much reliance on the grace of God, and the strength that is beyond me.

Somehow, when I get to the point where "I got nothing", He so willingly provides.

We had a wonderful visit with family....

Yet, it is wonderful to be home as well.

And, as always, I am grateful for Him doing for me....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Returning Home and Returning Home

The day was spent with my children and my mother - touring the town where I grew up. My mother still lives there, but traditionally, we stay with my younger sister when we head up north.

It was very clear early on in the trip that my daughter shared some interest, but my son was WAY more interested in finding out what happened next on National Treasure. As we drove through my old stomping grounds, I'd holler out to them: "This is where I taught Uncle George to catch frogs!", "This is where I went to elementary school", "This is where MY best friend when I was your age lived..."

We drove past my childhood home, each of the schools I attended and visited my father's grave site. I was amazed at how much remained the same - and how much had changed! Names I recognized, houses I recognized....

I have been gone nearly as long as I lived there, so there is a certain 'detached' feeling in the process. Yet, as I turned down street after street, there was a certain familiarity. "I like this street, it's 'cozy' ", my daughter says. Yes. It is.

I was truly blessed to have been raised where I was.... and I am blessed to be where I am now.

I returned to my hometown, and now I return to my home. Middle Tennessee. My home. My neighborhood. My church. My village.

It has been a wonderful visit, but I am happy to be home.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Day at the Shore

We'd spent the day on the Maine Coast. The kids were enjoying climbing on the rocky shore. The youngest of the seven cousins was holding my hand, helping me navigate the boulders. He's four years old and lives on Cape Cod.

As we were walking and talking, I asked him if he lived near the ocean. After a little thought, he said "uhm... yes. But not THIS ocean" I just left it at that. To him, it was different.

It got me thinking again about perspective, and how I view the world. While the rocky coast of Maine and the shores of Cape Cod do appear different, and many miles lie between them, it is the same ocean.

It is so much larger than I can possibly wrap my brain around. It has intricacies that I can't even begin to comprehend. The whats and whys and all that it entails blows me away. Much like God.

Again, I am reminded that the world is bigger than my little corner. There is much I don't understand. Many whats and why that go unanswered. Much I must trust to Him who does.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fields of Worship

Picnic Mountain was named by the eldest cousin. He was a preschooler when they purchased a piece of rural Maine. In the beginning, nothing existed but the trees, a brook that ran through them, and the field on the hillside by the road. They'd pitch a tent and picnic in the field.

Since I have been interpreting, I have taken Sunday mornings to spend some time in the field. With the songs that will be sung at church that morning on my ipod, I head to the hillside to worship with my church family.

At the appointed time, several hundred miles away, I join them in worship. Surrounded by grass and flowers, I stand before God, singing, and signing.

Thank You God for some time with You, with my family of origin and with my church family.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On the Surface of the Water

Skimming the surface of the lake, searching for loon, exploring the shoreline with the evergreens standing tall. It's a part of our visit that we look forward to ever since my sister got her kayaks.

It's quiet and peaceful in the midst of God's beauty. The water is cool and the sun warm on our faces.

My kids like to take turns sitting in front, which allows for some one on one time with each. "Mom! Look at that!" they'll say as a school of fish swim beneath us. They dangle their fingers along the water's surface as I paddle along.

Being a little boat on the big lake helps me keep things in perspective. The vastness of the lake a mere blip within the vastness of God. Beauty surrounds me. Peace is everywhere...

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things....

We have established many traditions while visiting Picnic Mountain. We go to the lake - kayak, swim - we catch frogs in the brook, and all take turns in the air swing and hammock.

One of our favorite traditions, however, is taking a drive to Wayne, Maine to a little ice cream shop named "Tubby's".

It sits on the strip of land between Androscoggin and Pocasset Lakes. At the far side of the parking lot, on the edge of the water, is a seating area where we eat our frozen treats. Afterwards, the adults can sit while the kids jump off of the boat dock into the water.

My kids always choose to have sprinkles, and I always choose to have an ice cream flavor that I can't find anywhere else. "Tree Hugger". Yes, I know, those of you who know me well must find this very amusing... but, if you ever tried Tubby's maple walnut with oatmeal, you'd understand! For a scoop or two of some "Tree Hugger" (plain, no sprinkles), I am willing to align myself with that stereotype - especially since it fits me so well.

I have an affinity to nature and the woods in particular. It is one of the easiest places for me to find God. The stillness and the beauty both call to me, as the cares of the world slip away.

I'm pretty sure God is somehow aligned with Tree Hugger ice cream as well.... if nothing else, proof that he loves me...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Choosing Prayer over Panic

Life has been a little busy lately - despite my efforts to slow down. But we've begun the end-of-summer-finale, and will soon be getting back to the school year schedule.

We'd made the trip several times before - every summer since my kids were born, for sure! Nashville to Providence - Southwest airlines. I was tired for sure - tying up the loose ends had left me only four hours of sleep before the alarm would go off to get us on our way. UNfortunately, there were also four interruptions during that time.

But as I sat on the plane, preparing to take off, I thought of all I had to be grateful for. First and foremost for my friend who had willingly driven us to the airport to make a 6:30 flight. But, I also recalled previous trips. The years when I was traveling with two infants, or toddlers and all the equipment they require for travel: stroller, car seats, diaper bag. "Difficult" was an understatement. A challenge that I of course accepted, and one that always reminded me that there are good people out there in the world, willing to help - especially if carrying a car seat down the gangplank will allow them to pre-board.

But, I digress. There I sit, half-dozing, thinking how grateful I am that the kids can walk and can carry their own back packs, only have boosters and can potty independently. A breeze in comparison to previous years.

The plane had been unusually quiet for a Southwest flight - no humorous adaptations to the safety regulations, just straight forward service. Finally, I could feel the pressure in my ears as we began our descent. The captain came over the loud speaker ".... as we make our descent into Philadelphia...."

My brain hung on one word: Philadelphia. I knew on our return flight stopped in Phili, but was sure heading out was a direct flight. I tried to remember the itinerary - what it said. All I remembered was it lay on my printer still. I knew we only had one boarding pass, so we weren't changing planes. I was PRETTY sure I'd picked the right city off of the monitor to find our gate. I was PRETTY sure they wouldn't let us on the wrong plane after scanning our boarding passes. Still I tried to wrack my brain for at least one bit of evidence that we were not going to be stranded in Phildelphia.

To my mind returned the memory of the year we had flown into Manchester, NH, and up until 3 days before our arrival, our rental car was reserved in Rhode Island (Thank you God for fixing THAT one for me).

But as I sat there, wondering.... HOPING that this flight was going to continue to Providence... I realized I had two options: I could worry, or I could pray. I chose the latter. "God, please let me have not messed up our reservations!" "Please calm my heart about this..." "If we ARE stuck in Phili, help me to trust You and not totally freak out", "Oh, and God, if you see some of the flight crew, send them my way, so I can ask...."

Not long later, our wheels touched down, and we taxied to the gate. I sighed relief when they asked for the "through passengers to remain seated", and I hear the word Providence.

YES! Oh Yes! Thank You, God....

... and thank You for my wonderful travel companions!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Wendy House

I love witnessing a dream become a reality. It's been this way for my sister and a little bit of Maine wilderness.

She purchased the land several years ago, and every year add "a little something". Shelter and a flush toilet was HUGE on the list of improvements. But, the parts that I really enjoy are watching the way my sister creates gardens and view points. The paths she has created and the areas where the kids (of all ages) catch frogs.

Her goal was a place where family and friends could come, visit, unwind and enjoy life. For many years, it was "unplugged" - no TV, no games, no cell phone.

We've been every year since my children were born. From the day we leave, they ask "how many days" til we are back at "Picnic Mountain"?

It's her Wendy House.... and it is magical. And today, you'll likely find me either in the hammock, or in the air chair on the porch - surrounded by family, loving life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wait and See

My friend and I had gone to see the movie "Up!". It was an epic tale of an old man and a young scout trying to earn the only badge he was lacking: "helping the elderly". Watching the story unfold, are witness to the tender moments in the lives of this old man and his bride: their friendship, their love, their dream and the old man's promise.

Suffice it to say, I wasn't prepared for it to evoke such emotion. But, wow! It was sweet and delightful.

We left, said goodbye and I got into my car. The radio began playing Brandon Heath's "Wait and See". I'd not heard it before. The chorus perfectly summed up the movie... and life.

There is hope, for me yet,
because God won't forget,
all the plans he's made for me
I have to wait and see,
he's not finished with me yet,
he's not finished with me yet

Monday, July 20, 2009


It's hard to believe that it is been a year now... and thus nearly 18 months since I decided...again. Both days remain clear in my memory.

But first, a little history. I grew up in the church - but not really in a "church-going" family. I went, starting in Sunday School, through high school. I was involved in the "Focus on Youth" group, and in the "Puppet Productions" ministry. I rang hand bells for a while. And, Sundays, when I was not at camp, I was seated in a pew.

In 9th grade, we had "confirmation" class. We joined the church and were baptized if we hadn't been as infants. I was 15. Confirmed. Baptized. Didn't think anything more of it.

CERTAINLY didn't think any more of it in the years after high school. I never got connected in anything remotely resembling "church" in college, nor in the years after graduation. It was too hard, I reasoned, since I worked every other weekend. I'd frequently sit down and write in my journal - "soul search" I called it, but much of it was calling out to God. I just didn't know how to listen... or live.

It wasn't until nearly a decade later, after I'd been divorced for the first time, and moved to TN that I found a church home. It was there that I got involved in Women's Bible Studies. I had no idea who Beth Moore was, nor Priscilla Shirer, or any of the other "Big Names" in the world of bible study.

My walk with God had begun. It intensified at the time of my second divorce, as I daily cried out for guidance. And took time to listen. For a long time, I let Him drive. I was along for the ride, it was all I could do. "Show me what to do today, Lord..." "What do I do with THIS [information]?"

But it was March of 2008, when, I woke up shortly before four a.m., SOBBING... My first words were "You died for ME!"

That evening, it snowed - and yet I still joked with my friends at the bible study: "Call Pastor Matt - Let's go to the river!" (I say 'joked', but I'd have gone... cold, snowy, moonlit...oh yes! I'd have gone!)

I waited until July, when my church gathered for the annual creek baptisms. Not far from my house, I drive over the bridge and look to "that spot" nearly every day. It's peaceful there. I love it that driving past it brings to mind my walk with God. Where I've been. Where I am. Where I'm going. It continues. Day by day. "Life focus You", I'd signed that day... "want, want, want, life focus You".

May I live my new life in a way that honors and glorifies Him.

And yes... that's me... my right hand anyhow....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In the midst of it all

Wednesday of the not-so-local Vacation Bible School week, I spent some time listening to music on my ipod as I cleaned some of the junk out of my car. I was still feeling very "stalked" by God - knowing the way things had been playing out was as it should be... whether I liked it very much or not.

I'm not sure if it was because I really wasn't actively listening yet, or if He was purposefully waiting to show me. But, none-the-less, the song that I resonated with spoke to me.

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak

And at the end of the three hours, I sat waiting for my children. The chorus was replaying in my head, and my hands would sign a phrase from time to time. As I signed "To be still and know that You're in this place", my hands did something different. Rather than signing "here", I touched "heart".

Yes, He's in that place - my heart - pulling the weeds, shaking the dirt up again. "Preparing fields for rain". Call it what you want. I'm just grateful to know and remember that He is in the midst of it all.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tending the Fire

It couldn't have been more perfectly planned. It was an unusually cool evening for July - the kids were with their dad and I was likely not working the next day. The breeze had died down, and I had the longing for a campfire on my heart!

I love a fire - I like to watch the flames dance. I love the smell that lingers on my clothes and my hair. I love the warmth on my face - especially when the night is cool on my back.

I gathered my ipod (and speakers), a glass of water, a box of matches and the quilt my great-aunt made me when I was a kid, and headed out to my backyard into the sitting area I had created. There, in the middle, sat a fire bowl - and a woodpile!

It was time for some one-on-one time with God. I had had a few bits and pieces this past week, but none where I didn't have to be back "on duty" as mom within an hour or two. This was a whatever-goes time. I show up, He shows up. End of agenda.

With the fire lit, I began my favorite fire-pastime: tending it. I sat for a long time, mindlessly snapping the twigs and branches and adding them to the flame. I'd watch them ebb and flow depending on the size, placement and timing of the sticks added.

My ipod played worship tunes with the crickets singing in the background. Some I sang, some I signed a phrase or two between sticks, and others I wiped tears.

I thought of how similar relationships are to the fire in front of me. They need tending. The consistency of the flame depends on the consistency and the quality of that being added. Sure I could let it die down a bit, and build it back up - but it took more work on my part than if I had just continued to nurture it.

I am grateful for the opportunity to take some time with God - to just be. To enjoy the night, the flames, the embers. Crickets. Stars. The vastness of the night sky.... and in the midst of it all: God-and-me.

Thank You, God for meeting me...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Independence and Transparency

I hesitate to write this post - and honestly, have put it off for a few days...

Those who know me "in real life", know that I am "Independent to a fault". I also try to remain very "transparent" - especially in areas where I struggle.

These two things - independence and transparency - are pretty dichotomous. And, would you believe, also the two things about which God is very actively "stalking" me. The reason I hesitate, is there are people "in real life" who read this and love me enough to confront me on it. But, I'm learning - one will kill me, the other will make me strong.

So here I go. "Independent to a fault", that's me. If I CAN do it, I will. If I CAN do it without help, I will. And, even if I THINK I MIGHT be able to do it, I will try. I laugh now to think of the time I tried to load my grill into my minivan when we moved. It's a nice big grill - side burner and all. I managed to get it up onto my knees, balanced on my lap, before I lost my balance. It was the slow-motion backward fall that sticks in my mind. I landed gently onto one arm - so it's now me, backwards, two legs and one arm on the ground, grill still on my lap, LAUGHING hysterically, thanking God for lowering me gently and begging for help up!

This time, as I read The Shack, I am writing down lines that speak to me. One that knocked me square between the eyes reads: "When we choose independence over relationship, we become a danger to each other". Guilty as charged. In the midst of our marriage series, I of course think back to the days of raising infant twins. Sure, I COULD manage most of their daily care - so I did...and very rarely asked for help.

Independence leads to isolation. It builds walls around my heart, disconnects me from others and from God. And I don't mean the type of independence I'm trying to instill in my children - brush your own teeth, dress yourselves. I'm talking the kind of independence that shadows truth - the kind that attempts to make up for vulnerabilities and protect our hearts from disappointment.

I am better at the aspect of independence that tries to force it's way. As I sit here now, I'm very aware that I will likely not get the overtime shifts I signed up for this weekend. It seems that He thinks I need time with Him more than I need the money right now. I would be lying if I told you I accepted that gracefully. I struggled for some time with trying to figure out how I could possibly work a different floor or a different shift....I think, as of now, I may have accepted it. Maybe.

But I still struggle with allowing others to help me... of being willing to risk and hope and trust.

How's THAT for transparent?! It's a little scary sometimes, but it is the only way that I can live in truth. It keeps me honest and "real". It helps develop humility. It keeps me truly connected to others, and allows others to see my struggles, the traps into which I have fallen... and the glorious ways that God has worked in the midst of it all - in spite of me!

Independence and Transparency. One will kill me, the other make me stronger. Why is it that the world has them reversed? My strength is in my weakness - in those moments where I am willing to allow Him to step in...or send others here on earth to minister to me as well...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Dance

I remember my heart skipping a beat the first time I heard it mentioned. It was on my answering machine, two days before camp started. Some man I didn't yet know calling to tell me the theme for the dance at camp would be "the 80's". I'm sorry, the WHAT? Fortunately, he called twice - once for each of my kids, so I had the opportunity for the idea to sink in. A dance. My kids at a dance. Oh boy...

At least I'd be there.... My thoughts then shifted to the 80's. What did we wear? I lived through those years, but certainly don't remember what we wore. I threw in a shirt for my boy and dance outfit for my girl. It would have to do.

The night arrived. After dinner, everyone scampered back to their cabins to prepare. One by one people began to gather on "the patio". I looked at their get ups. Every so often, I'd see one that I knew had nailed the period. I looked and understood why I'd repressed those memories! Yowza! Viva la "Flashdance"!!

I was also very aware that night that I was one of two people who was old enough to remember the 80's. From someone used to being "the baby" in the crowd, it was a little unsettling. When I realized that some of the kids' PARENTS were still in diapers in the early 80's, I quit pondering it so deeply.

It was warm that evening. They had brought fans and big buckets of ice water for the campers to keep cool. Once everything was prepared, it began! Songs that I haven't heard in as many years blared through the speakers. Michael Jackson. Bon Jovi. It started with an ice breaker, then some free dance time and of course a competition between the two rival groups within the camp: The Blackhawks and The Thunderbirds.

The kids laughed and danced. I wandered around taking pictures. I went in search of my son, since I know how he loves to move to music! It's usually pretty amusing! I found him with his first partner - the broom and laughed out loud. OK, this might not be so bad. I'd found my daughter with her cabin-mates circled around, dancing, until the second she saw me. She then stopped and pointed her "don't look at me!!" finger my direction.

I spent more time taking pictures, embarrassing my daughter and waving to the kids who had a tendency towards homesickness. All seemed well.

I stepped outside briefly to cool off, dab a few cotton balls in ice water to hand to the kids to help them cool off as well. Cool kids equal non-upset tummies, which equals fewer visits to me - the nurse - after the dance.

The music changed, the tempo slowed. I recognized the melody of Garth Brooks' song "The Dance". I went back inside, intending to touch base with my children to see how they were enjoying themselves.

When I saw my son, I froze. There he was, slow dancing. With. A. Girl. Now, don't get me wrong, I WANT him to dance with girls, .... one day.... I was just hoping for a little more warning. I just stood and watched for a while, totally at a loss for the right words, or even the right thoughts. Do I let him continue? Do I cut in? He was doing a good job at following the D.J.'s directions to "keep space for Jesus", and he was doing a good job at dancing. But still.... oh my.

On the tails of having finished the book on raising Godly boys in an ungodly world, it made me very aware at how quickly my children are growing up. Right before my very eyes!

I got to ask some questions later. "What's her name?" "I don't know...." "Don't you think you should?"

He got to tell me "the girls want to dance with me because they think I'm cute", which opened up a whole 'NOTHER conversation about how people look at us compared to how God looks at us. To his credit, he did know that God looks at the heart and that it's more important what God sees than what people see.

The night continued - the girls continued to fight over my boy.... literally. I continued to watch, protectively.

As he danced the last song - another slow one - again, with "room for Jesus" in between them - I stood there and prayed in ASL (American Sign Language).

"Protect my son.

Give us both wisdom.

Help me to know how and when to have the conversations we will need to have, and please, please, please give me the words..."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Seeing a Difference

Its not often that I seriously think of writing a thank you note to a health care provider. Generally, I'm healthy, and seek care only for health maintenance purposes. I have been blessed with wonderful providers, and have no complaints re: care, but my most recent exposure was amazing!!

This week is vacation bible school at the church where my children attend when they are with their father. My son VERY much wanted to go, so I agreed to the 40 minute commute each way, plus the three hour study time. It's a hunk of time out of my week that I'd love to put toward unpacking, laundry, housework, yard work and RE packing, but I also see the value in helping my kids be comfortable at their dad's church too, so off we've gone. (And, yes there is an awareness that God has cleared some time for He and I to spend together....especially after Sunday morning's events...I'm sure of it!)

I have tried to make a list of the errands that I can do in that part of town while there in class (as well as some quiet time). One of the things on my list is my annual eye exam. I was particularly wanting to get this done this week since we will be heading to visit my family in New England next week, and I'm on my last pair of contacts.

As I dropped the kids off at "Destiny Airways", I called the vision center to see what the odds of an available appointment during the few hours my kids are at the church. I was amazed when I could be seen that very day!

As I walked in and met the optometrist, I told her how happy I was to be able to be seen that morning. "You must be having problems?" I said, "No, actually, but we're going out of town, and I'm on my last pair of lenses. I like to have a spare". She asked about my prescription history and how it had changed at my last visit. We joked a little bit about me finding myself holding things out a little farther to read these days. I hadn't thought about it, but in discussing it, realized it was true. She laughed and said "Yes, God designed our eyes for reading, not for seeing far away...." "... but then there's the driving...." I added. She nodded, "Who said that God was perfect....?" At my silence, she said "Oh, yeah... HE did."

Long story short, it was the most fun I've had while getting my vision checked in AGES!! I even love my multifocal lenses (that would be "bifocals", folks!!) Seriously, it's like being a kid again! I can SEE.... really, really SEE!! Amazing! (And amazing at what I took for granted as 'seeing')

I've come to discover that the print in my bible isn't too small or fuzzy after all!! SCORE!!

Thank you, God for this woman of joy that you brought into my life - and her reminder to me that You are perfect!! (I really needed her perspective!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Your Boy.... Your Girl....

While I was at camp, I had an opportunity to read.... lots and lots of opportunity! Fortunately, I brought several books: my Bible, The Shack, and a pair of books by Vicki Courtney - Your Boy and Your Girl.

I've had the Courtney books for several years. They came highly recommended, and I continue that legacy - they were wonderful! I especially love the subtitles: "Raising a godly son/daughter in an ungodly world". How true... and how on my heart lately!

Your Girl was the first one I completed. It was the one I felt the most urgency to read at the time. Perhaps it's just a "girl thing", but my girl is the one who seems to demonstrate the strongest desire to grow up FAST, and wants to demonstrate how "grown up" she is through her style, her wardrobe and her behavior.

It was a refreshing combination of cold hard facts, biblical truths and an easy read. I have made a mental note to copy her daily prayer suggestions into an easily accessible "cheat sheet" as a reminder to me to pray specifically for my children.

The Your Boy book was equally well written - much of the statistics were the same, but there was more focus on online security and helping a boy recognize Godly qualities in his female counterparts.

What I didn't realize as I read them that God's timing would be perfect. I finished the Your Boy book Friday afternoon. That evening, at the camp dance, I was shown that perhaps it is my boy who will need this information more quickly!

Thank You, God, for leading me to these books, and to remind me gently that I need to begin these conversations immediately!

(More on the dance soon! Oh my....)

Monday, July 13, 2009

I Wasn't Expecting THAT....

I knew Sunday morning would be a 100% trusting God time. I hadn't been back from camp for 24 hours yet, had barely looked at music for the service, and of the five songs, two I didn't know by title. The other three, I recognized, from a long time ago.

As I always do, I arranged the worship songs into the leading places on my ipod shuffle. As I showered, I listened to the music, hoping something would come to my hands. A few lines from a chorus here or there I remembered, but I'd need to really look at my lyric translation pages during rehearsal.

In my head, I though I'd toss a pair of songs to my interpreting partner. When she walked in, I knew it would be me interpreting. It was easy to see that she wasn't feeling well.

Fortunately, I had looked at the songs, and copied those I didn't know to sit to translate. During rehearsal, I knew my repeated "God_help_me" prayers were being heard. He was meeting me here. Thank you, God.

We elected to not interpret the sermon, as there were no deaf people in the congregation. Retrospectively, I am glad! Apparently I was meant to listen.

As I sat, listening to my pastor teach about the roles in marriage out of Ephesians 5, I could feel it starting. There was no shifting in my chair or crossing and uncrossing my legs that was going to improve the matter. I could feel it in my chest, and the best I could do was let the tears fall and hope the snot wouldn't be unmanageable.

I wasn't prepared for another return of "grieving my marriage". Thus far, I had made it through the series - convicted and instructed - but not broken-hearted. There had been a few tears, and much crying out to God, but not this.

Front row, left of center stage (fortunately sitting and not interpreting!), wiping tears so I could see to write down the things that struck me as he spoke, I sat.

During the final prayer, I asked for peace - at least for the final song. I needed to stand before God and finish the service. And as I stood there, "singing" with my hands - eyes 100% closed and voice 100% off - I was amazed at the perfection of the lyrics: "I stand before You now with trembling hands lifted high. Be glorified."

I left, literally, with trembling hands. I trust, as I continue to walk through this with Him, He will "Be glorified in me....". God willing.

Ephesians 5:22-33:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Back to Camp Life

I must admit, I was a little nervous. It had been over 20 years since I'd set foot in a camp. What if camps had changed as much in two decades as the rest of the world had?

That was only the beginning of my "what if..." list. The rest began with "What if I wasn't any good at "camp nursing"?", "What if I was appalled at the number of medicated kids?", "What if my kids hated it?", "What if...", "What if...."

Somehow, I figured most of those were just fear talking, and all would be fine... but seriously, the number of medicated kids really, really concerned me. I was afraid I'd be disheartened.

So, I did all I knew to do.... I prayed. For lots and lots of things. For wisdom and endurance for me, for health and safety for everyone at camp. I prayed that I would handle my responsibilities with grace. I prayed that the fact that we were meeting at camp would lessen the "re-entry syndrome" we experience when my kids return from their dad's.

I also requested prayers from friends. General prayers for safety, health and wisdom, as well as more specific ones from time to time.

I arrived to find the camp without power, and my living quarters had recently treated for brown recluse spiders - traps still in the corners of the building. As I put my first load of belongings into my residence, I picked up my cell phone. I text'd a few praying friends two specific requests: restoration of power and protection from spiders. (both were answered!)

Not long after, campers began to arrive. Some excited, some apprehensive. The first night was busy with paperwork and preparations, but it steadily transformed itself into the camp life that I know and love. Laughter, teamwork, kids being kids. Full, deep breaths of fresh air. Beautiful days. Peaceful nights.

It was a wonderful, wonderful week - I learned much. With time to sit and read, pray and reflect, He had time to speak to me... and I had time to listen (when I wasn't searching for my camera battery charger!)

We had fun. We made friends. We were challenged. We're looking forward to next year!

But, I can tell already....until then.... I'm going to miss "rest hour".

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Amen and Amen...

It was a WONDERFUL week at camp!! I couldn't have asked for more - perhaps a little more in the "remembering" department - for example, say that I wouldn't be home until this afternoon! DOH... Oh well... "another opportunity to embrace my imperfections".

Suffice it to say that I learned much(more later!) and my prayers were answered regarding the whole experience. All the fears that I had prayed about were answered. Campers and Staff (for the most part) stayed safe and healthy! Very few visited for homesickness.

The week was best summed up in my response to a question my son asked as I was packing my things from the nurse's quarters. He had picked up a bottle of lice shampoo and he asked if I would have to give it to the campers. I told him "no, I'd have to help them wash their hair". He then asked "did you have to?" "No." I replied. "Why not?"

"Because there is a God in heaven who loves me VERY much!"

Amen and Amen!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Camp Jewell

The summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I became staff at Camp Jewell in Colebrook, Connecticut. It was my first adventure in a co-ed camp - previously, I had stayed within the realm of the Girl Scouts - and it was my first experience on staff.

For the entirety of three summers, I worked at Jewell. The first year was spent in the office, and on "Linda's rock", the other two, as counseling staff.

I worked with the youngest girls - eight and nine years old - for two weeks at a time. I have campers that I will never forget: their sweetness, their innocence.... their homesickness. I will never in my life forget the one, who when I first lay my hand on her shoulder nearly jumped out of her skin. My guess was that her life had been a little harder than most, on many levels. Apparently, we connected over those two weeks, for at the winter reunion, I heard my name being yelled. I turned to see who had called me, and I see this child IN THE AIR, preparing to hug me for all she was worth.

I connected with the staff as well. Many of the staff, I kept up with for many, many years - a few I am in touch with still. The memories are right there, waiting for a song or a word to bring them forth. Say "short sheets", and I think of Gordon, "Prince" reminds me of the day the reveille tape *SOMEHOW* got exchanged for a copy of "When Doves Fly". (which then flashes the scene into my head of the camp director SPRINTING up from his residence to the office). The letters "O" "A" "C" remind me of friends and a silent trip from Connecticut to Maine that I would have missed if I had been on time.

They were wonderful years - years that changed my life for the better

I thank You, God for the opportunities and relationships that were developed at camp. May I connect with campers and staff alike, and seize, without hesitation, the opportunities you lay before me.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vineyard Sailing Camp

One of my most memorable places on earth was tucked into a little corner of Lagoon Pond, on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Vineyard Sailing Camp.

I was a little older - an official teenager when I was there! It was a wonderful combination of sailing, swimming and biking. We'd sail in the Ragatta and "Set spin" at a kite festival in Oak Bluffs, and ride our bikes to spend the day in Edgartown.

I developed a wonderful friendship with one of my counselors, Mimi. We met my first year there, and kept in touch through nearly three decades since then. She touched my heart in a special way, and became a mentor of sorts through my adolescent and early college years.

My second year there was more challenging. I spent most of my two week adventure in the infirmary, only to find out upon my return to the mainland that I needed my appendix out! That is another story in itself, but it led to my decision to pursue nursing.

Mimi rode with me, delivered me safely from camp to my mother, on the ferry ride.

Had they not closed the camp the following year, I am sure I would have continued my "camp life" on the Vineyard.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My First Concert.... DOH!!

It was my second summer at Camp Jewell, my first as a cabin counselor. Nearly twenty, I was still very shy and feeling awkward in my own skin. One on one, or with a small group of eight and nine year old girls looking to me for guidance and structure, not a problem. But a group, a crowd, or my peers... AAAACK!!

It was also a time in my life where I spent a lot of time crying out to God - though I wouldn't have called it that at the time. "Soul searching", I'd say. Hours and hours of journaling. Hundreds and hundreds of pages. Literally. Hours and hours of solitude - trying to connect to my self - or God - hoping to find a way to connect to the world.

It was near the end of the summer. The four cabins of eight and nine year olds - boys and girls - joined together for a wilderness campout: roughly 64 kids and 10 adults.

We set out of Main Camp, carrying our belongings, to a clearing in the woods not far from Ranch Camp. Kids were taught how to spread out their sleeping bags and "hug a tree" if need be, and finally, they were all tucked in.

Several of the staff volunteered to stay near the campers, while others gathered to chat a ways away. I grabbed my pen and paper, and headed off on my own. Across the creek I found a spot to sit and reflect. For a while I wrote, glancing up from time to time at the flashlights across the water - more staff joining the chatting group.

I soon got lost in the sound of the creek. It had been rainy, and there was plenty of water singing as it danced around the rocks of the New England creek bed. I began to hum along with the water. Before long, the words to the camp songs I'd grow up with were coming forth. "Today" and "Dona" and "Spider's Web". Quietly at first, then increasingly louder. Just me and the water.... or so I thought. The lights had long quit flashing at the campsite, and all was silent.

When I was done, I quietly snuck back to my own sleeping bag and drifted off to a peaceful wilderness sleep.

The next morning, as we packed our things, one by one, the staff came up to me: "I didn't know you could sing...." I stared in disbelief and curious amazement. Later, I learned that my peers had been silently sitting across the water, listening to me sing...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Camp Songs.... of course!

One of my favorite activities at camp always involved a campfire. Sitting, talking, singing. There are several songs that have stuck with me through the years, written on my heart, or deep in my memory bank.

They all taught me something important about myself, or the art of living.

One of my very favorites is entitled, Today.

"Today, while the blossoms still cling to the vine. I'll taste your strawberries, I'll drink your sweet wine. A million tomorrows shall all pass away, e'er I forget all the joy that is mine, today...."

It was such a gift to me in the years that I was constantly living for the next moment! I'd rush right through what was going on, anticipating the next thing. What I didn't realized was that I was speeding through - without fully experiencing - the joy!

Another of my favorite songs was The Human Touch. It was a song that we used as part of a closing ceremony, whether it be the last day of camp, or the last song for the evening campfire.

It begins:

"It's the Human Touch in this world that counts, the touch of your hand in mine, that means far more to my fading heart than shelter, bread, and wine...."

It helped me to realize what is truly important in life - people. Loving each other. Be there for each other.

I pray that I remember the power of touch this week - and to cherish each moment with all of these children!

Thank You, God, for this opportunity!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Camp Memories

As I prepare to spend a week as "Camp Nurse", with my children as campers, I thought I'd share some of my camp memories through the years. Starting, of course at the beginning.

I have vague memories from my very first experience as a camper. One thing does stand out, though: I had tried to roll all my belongings up in my sleeping bag - like a good Girl Scout would. On my way from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, it managed to unroll in the bus storage compartment . I recall being embarrassed as a "tween", watching my things being tossed from the back of that compartment, gathering them and trying to stuff them into my sleeping bag to carry to my tent.

Despite that beginning, I returned to camp every summer for several years. I spent my first summer at Camp Wabasso in New Hampshire as a camper - and later as a Counselor-in-Training. In between I spent two years on Martha's Vineyard at the Sailing participating in camp activities, the second in the infirmary.

I took one summer away from the camp tour entirely, spending six weeks in Mexico. But, I soon returned to Summer Camp life as staff at a YMCA camp in Connecticut.

I learned much about myself, and relating to others at camp. Memories from those years are cherished and held close to my heart. It only takes a song or a campfire to bring me back.

As we begin this week, I'll share my wish for my children: That they create wonderful memories, create new friends, and grow in ways only camp can encourage.

I'll also ask for prayers (again): for me and all of the children who will be there this week.

God bless us every one!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Last Minute Details

We are preparing an adventure, the kids and I. I will take some time internet-free, but have set up a few days of blog posts I hope you will enjoy!

Since summer for me has nearly always included summer camp, I have chosen that theme for the days that I am away from my computer.

Please do pray for us as we attempt to create yet another family tradition! I am a little nervous, truth be told, and pray for wisdom on my part and health and peace for all involved!

I will have more stories and pictures soon, of that I am sure! I feel God's presence all over this. He has already given me a little task to do on top of everything else!

Thank you God for this opportunity!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Day in Trauma...

I've been in nursing for twenty years now. It's hard for me to believe because saying that makes me sound older than I feel. I have done a hodgepodge: Cardiac surgery, ER, Home Health, Surgical ICU, but by far I have spent the most time in the world of Trauma. The past decade, I have been in an Advanced Practice (Nurse Practitioner) role.

Typically people start to drop their jaws or say "wow, I could never do that" when i say that, but, you know, it's just my "thing". The thought of being behind a desk for eight hours per day is more than I can handle. I consider doing some substitute teaching at my kids' school, and then reality hits: me and 18-25 elementary aged children with no escape route... No can do.

In my Advanced Practice role, I do more advanced assessment, management of care, looking at the big picture, and preparing towards discharge than hands-on care. I began this holiday weekend, however, as a bedside nurse.

Periodically, I pick up some extra work as a staff nurse on the Trauma Unit. To me, it's a "win-win" situation: Either I have a FABULOUS day or I am more grateful for my usual role.

This day was both. It was a very busy day. The acuity was high, and there was a lot going on. By mid-afternoon, I made the comment that "We've done about everything but CPR today....". I was "Shhhhhhhhh!!!" 'd from all directions by people at all levels.

I was reminded again of one of the reasons I love trauma. It keeps my life in perspective. When I think I'm having a bad day, I just go to work. Suddenly my personal drama is nothing, and is overshadowed by gratitude.

Secondly, in my time, I've seen some rather dramatic and miraculous recoveries. People, who by all standards should have died are alive and talking.

Yes, there are some pretty sad stories (and a few pretty entertaining ones), but there are enough miracles to keep the enthusiasm and hope flowing. God is working - and He's still got plans for these folks!

As I recuperate from my busy shift, and the holiday weekend progresses, I wish you all a safe and happy Fourth of July! Please wear your seat belts, helmets and life jackets and remember that guns, knives, bats and alcohol don't mix.

I extend my gratitude to those fighting overseas, and to those fighting in a different way here at home, working hard to care for those injured in different ways.

May God keep you safe.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hosanna in the Highest....

I am currently being "stalked" by a song. More specifically, the words of Hillsong United's Hosanna are running through my head - probably, most likely, with assistance of "repeat play" on iTunes.

It is a song that touched my heart the first time I heard it. It moved me to tears during band rehearsal. It was brought to the forefront of my mind as it returns to our worship set.

The thing that is interesting to me is that I am aware of a different line calling me this time around. Last time "We're on our knees...." is what struck me. Today, "Heal my heart and make it clean...."

Life changes, I suppose. We move forward.

Today, I ask, "Heal my heart and make it clean...." again and again and again.

Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Lens of Distortion

Not long ago, my Facebook status read: "Linda... wonders how the world became so deceived".

It was one of those moments when the absurdity of calling Fast Food, or the remote control a "convenience" hit me. And, yes, I am all about "convenience" sometimes - not so much the remote control, but for sure the microwave, the ATM and instant messaging. I have bought into much of what the world has sold, and now I am trying to untangle from it.

Multi-tasking is the norm, as is an over-booked schedule. "Me time" is considered selfish or frivolous, and the thought of just sitting around talking is "BOR-ing".... especially to the younger generation.

For me, growing up, Sundays were "family days". I hated it. Nothing to do. No friends. I couldn't even text or IM them. If I was lucky I could squeeze in a phone call. Sometimes, we had an adventure - most of the time, we had to create one, my siblings and me.

I wonder what has happened through the years. How did the priorities get all twisted up? I wonder if people realize that families are falling apart, and our attempts to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps" are for naught. Instant gratification and lack of acceptance of responsiblity for the consequences of our decisions are killing us. Literally. It's as if the lens we look through is being made fuzzier and fuzzier, rather than clearer and clearer.

Perhaps, we need a new optometrist! As I continue on my journey of being "Stalked by God", I am becoming more and more clear on many, many things in my life that need refocusing: The importance of my family. The importance of face-to-face , real-life interaction with others. Service. Gratitude. Unstuffing the schedule. Making time to be with God - to intentionally focus on Him, be with Him. Rigorous honesty. Humility. Willingness. Prayer. Time to listen and reflect.

With each shift of the lens, the image is clearer. It has to happen. I am deceiving myself if I ignore it.

May I look. May I see and hear clearly. May I stand firmly in my conviction. May my heart remain open to listen and to learn. May my focus be on You. May I follow where you lead.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reflections on Love....

I was talking with a friend of mine about love - specifically the fact that just because someone doesn't love us they way we think they should, doesn't mean that they don't love us with all that they have.

I remember, growing up, feeling like my little sister was "Daddy's little girl". I was the oldest at home, expected to set a good example, and "get out and shovel!" At the time, I longed for a little bit of what she had.

Looking back through three decades, and a lot of growing up, I realize some of the blessings I have received from my youth. My position in the family, my experiences, all woven together into the "me" that I am today.

The day that my father died changed my whole perception of things.... love especially. It was as if suddenly, I had this deep knowing that my father truly did love me. There was a part of his heart dedicated to just me. He had shown me over and over again, but I hadn't seen. I was looking elsewhere.

In that process I also developed a deeper understanding of verse "Love never ends". Everything that my dad did, or did not do, that expressed love to me still exists. It is a part of my being. It is a part of the way I live in the world - my perception of it. It is passed on through me to my children and those I encounter in the world. I am sure it affects me in ways I don't even realize.

If I extrapolate that a little bit, I am humbled. My Heavenly Father and His perfect love must affect me similarly: part of my being, my perceptions, my life.

The question then becomes, how do I accept it? Do I gratefully, with open arms - and open heart - accept what is given - or taken away? Or, do I sit, arms folded, and pout because what I am receiving is not what I had hoped for, or dreamed of?

Probably - in all honesty - a little of both.

But, as I evaluate the days and weeks, the moment by moment, and the years gone by, I hope that I can be intentional about loving. It is important. It does make a difference. It doesn't have to be extravagant. It can be life-changing... truly,TRULY, life changing. It has been for me.

May I live in the world, remembering all the love that has been sent my way, and continue to send it on it's way. May the ripple continue. May I be a living example.

Love Never Ends.