Sunday, September 30, 2007

Baking, Bull Riding, and Beyond

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It's been quite a day. I can't think of a better day to help me heal from the mess that yesterday was. The baking went okay, but everything else was chaotic- interpersonal relationships, communication catastrophes, mishaps and frustration, a teenager at odds with his mother, a daughter just trying to bake madeleines with her mom without getting her mom snatched away into a bru-ha with her son. A quiet husband- who could have spoken up and intervened to make peace, but chose the way he thought I should have taken- silent retreat. I do not retreat well- and I've got to learn how. Every battle raid is also a potential time for retreat- you've just got to know what's the right thing to do. Thank God for the evening and for fatigue- I slipped into sleep just knowing I was living a very real life with real problems. And then I slipped into la-la land and slumbered blissfully.

But today- what a glorious day. We all woke up and and by the time we got in the car for church, we were grinning at each other, happy to be at peace with each other again, thankful for grace for the day and forgiveness for the past. We get to church, and my husband and I were asked to pray for people as they came forward for prayer. (It was a special service at church). Praying for broken people with messy lives- oh, we know and understand what that's like. As I heard TD Jakes preach on TV the other night- you've got a beautiful, clean perfect life?- that's wonderful, I honor you, I applaud you- but you can't help me! Let me talk to someone who's been there, who knows what its like to live hurt and broken and get healed. Nobody wants to talk to a sinless saint- and besides, there aren't any!

Then we came home from church and took our daughter to the orchard (while suddenly studious, re-inspired son got to work on college applications)and ate hot cider doughnuts dripping with grease. (A bit of grease is good for you- it oils up your old joints). We came home, and I'm reading in bed when Bill yells up to me from downstairs, "Honey, your bull riding is on TV!!"

Now I am a fanatic about bull riding. My demeanor looks conservative but I am a wild bull rider inside.I love elegant tea parties, but I also get all excited about sweating ,brave men climbing on top of a 2000 lb. bull called Snortin' Harry or Kill Me Now (I made those up). All you have to do is stay on for 8 seconds- or possibly get stomped on, dragged around the arena, and get your guts kicked out of you. It is not for the faint of heart.

And deep inside, that's all I want to be- not faint of heart. Not a scaredy cat. Not someone who ducks out of the way instead of grabbing a charging bull by the horns.

Because in this life, you've got to be bold as a lion, tough as a bull, and tender hearted as a mother who can feel the pain in loving and letting go,

and go on anyhow.

Friday, September 28, 2007

On a Clear Day

It's a clear sunny day. This is how it looks when you look out my bedroom window where I write every day. My son took this photo a couple days ago. He's a creative, contemplative, stormy artist- son of a creative, contemplative, stormy mother.

I have no major problems that I know of, today, to tackle and hurdle over.What I have is life- before me- and in me- and ahead of me. So I'm going to do what I usually find myself feeling the urge to do when "issues" have settled down to a reasonable low roar, and the weather is almost cool and inviting enough to do so: I am going to bake. Call it my yoga.

I make homemade bread, pies, apple crisps, cakes....all sorts of delectables- but only when I feel things are not spinning out of control in my life. Of course many things are out of my control, but what I mean is, I bake when there is some semblance of order in my life, a tiny degree of sense and sensibility reigning in my home instead of manic panic and disorder of all kinds. (I know, I know, you all have organized, beautifully managed homes with no scenes or drama whatsoever.(smile) Leave me your comments on what that's like!)

It's fall, my favorite season of the year, school has started off rather well this year for my kids, and I am starting to get that "look through the cook books" urge. It's a feeling that beckons me to make home smell as good as it should feel: warm, inviting, and sweet enough to nurture you but not too sweet that you feel sick. So I'll be baking breads and muffins, banana cake and madeleines. Starting this weekend. Maybe starting tonight.

Because, right now, it's a beautiful day. "On a clear day you can see forever"- or at least you can see far enough ahead that you feel like today is a day that will let you do the little things in life that make life...good.
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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hope Floats...and More

Mu and I had breakfast together yesterday. Friendly's is a new place for us to go to, and we're testing out the ambiance, the sunlight level, and whether there's a quiet booth where we can get our talking done without too many eyes on us. We used to go to a local diner down the street, but we stayed too long (sometimes two hours or so) and we got the look "you're STILL here?" too many times, and got the message.

Mu, the beacon of wisdom, has spoken again, directly to the matter at hand in my life right now. She says my problem is that I need to rekindle my hope. Maybe I should say, my desire to hope. Because that's what I've been low on, lately. Mu can tell when I am safeguarding my buoyant hope and conviction of good, and trying to lay low so that if I get "decked" by a problem of vicious reality, I won't have too much farther to go...down.

That's the problem with not letting hope arise. Hope is like a red balloon sailing up above a crowd of people, and people look to see where the end of the string on the balloon goes: who is that crazy person holding on to hope? You know you only get knocked down if you hope too much, the world would scold us.

But my best fiend knows better than to tell me to play it safe in this world. When I play it safe- prepare for the worst, batten down the hatches, prepare for incoming fire, I only wind up lying low on the ground with my hands over my ears and my eyes shut in preparation of the worst. And that is not exactly a victorious battle stance.

Mu thinks I have to dare to hope for things to change in my life, and that if God did not show up the way I had hoped He would- in particular situations- don't be so sure He still isn't planning to "show up" in a new and different way.

Wikipedia says part of hope's definition is this: Hope implies a certain amount of perseverance — i.e., believing that a positive outcome is possible even when there is some evidence to the contrary.

We still discussed what direction I would take with my life if the doors did not open for a book contract or speaking opportunities. Mu is not someone who is out of touch with reality and the requirements of this life: a way to make a living, a career path that progresses, a place to live in peace- these are all necessary. She wants me to know that I might have to choose a new trail if the one I'm on finally ends and there isn't the result I had hoped for. But I do still have to raise my hope of seeing breakthroughs where I have experienced breakdowns.

I remember with longing a period of my life when I did have a major breakthrough- and God did it. He ushered in the change. He brought Bill and I together with a group of people who were all longing for God to change them. I was a part of a beautiful fellowship back in the eighties, where we would pray and cry with each other, minister to each other in insight and prophetic words of encouragement. We shared our real problems, candidly, with each other- and without fear. And when we worshipped, it seemed angels had joined in with us. There would be a roar in the building- and we would leave there trembling and shaken up- in a good way. I experienced healing in my heart, release from fear. It was a time I will never forget. It was a revival in my soul.

Just reading and thinking about renewals and revivals in history makes me long for a fresh move of God. We need one. I see a lot of stale, dry landscape in the Church at large. I see a lot of staleness in my own life as well. We need a fresh move of God. And we need Hope that He WILL move in our midst.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life
" Proverbs 13:12 says.

We need a rekindling of hope so that the heart of the Church is not sick, but rather, filled with longing for Christ- and HE SHOWS UP big time! Show up, Lord- Show up big and blaze through our stale, small lives and remind us again that You do a work no man ever could.

"Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness..."
and there is no greater wilderness than when there is no hope.

So I will let hope arise. I'm the one standing there, holding the red balloon,
sailing up high.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's Not an Option

Our family is dealing with several areas of our lives where we're pressing in by faith. These are not new issues. We have dealt with these matters before, and have not seen the breakthroughs,yet, that we need. "But we are not unaware of the devil's schemes"- and so we are not fully defeated, even if we are delayed a bit in our progress.

There is nothing so powerful as defeat- painfully powerful in its ability to lay you low, take you out of the game, take you out for the count. Whether you are a child, a teen, or an adult- makes no difference- the pain of defeat and denial is far reaching. It can take root in your life and causes you to start to pull back every time you approach something that even remotely looks like the matter that you failed in before.

Failure is not an option in our family.
I do not mean failing a test, or failure in a game, or financial failure. We've experienced all those. That happens to many of us- and does not have to be the end of the matter.

I am talking about failure to thrive
- that critical state where a person- even a tiny premature baby- has no will to go on, or such a weak system that they can not mount the assault against opposing forces in order to live.

Today there seems to be an even more insidious attack on the Christians will to live, his will to thrive, her will to go on
. I know because I battle this often, and many would not know it. I seem capable, strong, and industrious- and I am. But I am not impervious to pain- and Satan knows how to dig deep at tender spots in my life, at beloved loved ones who I can't stand to see hurt- and he makes me know he has power to cause damage. He does- that's the plain hard truth. But damage is one thing-failure is another.

Christians who fail are not Christians who get hurt or who make mistakes. Christians dealing with failure are those deliberating giving up the fight, taking off their dignity and worth and succumbing to despair and humiliation, and letting Satan dance on them with demonic delight.

NO WAY. Not in my life, not in my family. So when we experience times of sadness or times of temporary defeat, I am on the look-out that the enemy of our soul does not get a foothold in our lives. He will not take those I love down to the grave of despair and kill their spirit.

I have authority from Him to speak to the enemy and tell him, "When I fall, I WILL arise". I have authority to come with boldness to the throne, in "full assurance of faith...(and I) hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering" (Hebrews 10).

And then I start "to stir up love and good works". The enemy hates good works- and these are not pious deeds so much as they are aggressive actions of faith done in conviction of the Lord's power to PREVAIL.

It could be when that motorcycle guy prayed for me at that service months ago (remember that?) and I asked him to pray for BOLDNESS for me- it could be that I have more of that now, than even before.

I have need of it. And so do you.

"Therefore, brethern, having
boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus....let us draw near with a true heart in FULL assurance of faith...." Hebrews 10:19,22

Cause we are not going down without a fight. We are not failing to thrive.

That's NOT an option.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Repeat After Me: "Game On!"

I'm racing off to take one teen to the dentist for an x-ray after getting banged in the face on Saturday at a game, get him back to the soccer field (if the dentist says he is allowed to play), then race over to the school to see my daughter's first volleyball game this afternoon.

All this "game" urgency got me remembering something TD Jakes wrote in his book, Reposition Yourself: "We can use these experiences in which we're pushed to the wall to break through barriers and expand our playing field."

Just what all us mothers out there are dying to do- expand our playing field! As if we're not running enough, getting the ref's whistle blown at us (only in our case, it's a kid saying "Not fair, mom!"), and dying for a moment to sit on the bench and say as we gasp for air,"Let someone else take a turn."

But it's Game time. And our Life's hurdle today may be breaking through one tiny barrier of some kind.

Whatever it is, ...."game on".

Friday, September 21, 2007

"When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best"

"So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up) by itself is destitute of power- inoperative, dead." James 2:17 Ampl.

By faith, I have not gone to one of my son's soccer games, yet, this fall. Let me explain.

I come from a family of teachers and coaches, and it's really almost an illness we have! You can't go anywhere, to any family gathering or impromptu get together, without getting some kind of mini lecture or teaching. My father is one of the biggest culprits- an excellent school teacher and coach for over 30 years, a ball room dance teacher still, and a lousy listener. (Sorry, Dad- but you know that you are!) But I've got the "instructional" disease as well. At least my teenage son thinks so.

I can't even mention to him "you might want to use the towel to actually dry yourself" as he walks dripping, pouring rain almost, into his bedroom from the bathroom with the towel tied around his waist- or he'll give me this look, eyebrow raised, as if to say "Mom,... you're starting again!"

Starting what? That lecturing thing. Oh, that.

So I'm removing myself from places where I would gain too much info that would cause me to lecture, teach or coach my son in any area that he's already had enough of "it". I am not going to his soccer games right now. After 12 years of me cheering from the sidelines and anxiously watching to see when he gets put in- I am, instead, at home, during his game times. And before you throw the "bad mother" dart at me, let me tell you my son is quite happy about our arrangement.

It's not that I was an obscene fan of his. I never screamed ridiculously or yelled at the refs(although my husband and I used to have a friend there, a parent, who we did have to restrain!). My son loved hearing me cheer him on. It's just that when he didn't get played or when he left the game at the end, angry or frustrated, I would be too keyed in to how he was feeling. I saw it all happen. And my husband, (another coach/teacher/former pastor problem) was already pointing out what could have been done differently. It was all too much. Too much caring.(Remember that problem we discussed?)

So now when my son comes home from a game, there I am in the kitchen, humming a tune off-key, cooking up a big, hot meal (and hiding dirty pots and pans in the oven for my husband to clean later). I am ready and interested in hearing about the game- but not manically involved. I am able to handle whatever mood my son is in and I do not add any fat to the fire. The four of us sit down to eat, and I listen to what my son chooses to share with me- without taking on the pain or frustration of what he feels.

I'm trying to listen as if I was...a student, learning the secrets to a happy, healthy life. And one of the secrets is a "Hallmark" one. You know, "when you care enough to send the very best"? That one.

So for me, as far as my son and soccer, when I care enough to send the very best, I send my love and prayers to the soccer field- and keep my busy little body at home.

By Faith.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

There IS a friend...

We sat in the beautiful, blazing hot sun, yesterday afternoon- a rare thing for a fall afternoon in upstate New York. And for that alone, I felt wealthy. I lifted my face to the sun and just soaked in all that warmth. When my best friend arrived at the outdoor cafe, she sat down and then we dug in. Not into the food- although it was delicious- but the "issues" we were going to attack, our individual concerns, and mostly my current dilemma I was in.

My best friend is like Dr. Phil and ...?... rolled into one. Better than that. (You know, I can't think of a single female icon who is worthy of comparing to her). She is a consummate life coach without the formal training. And you know how we became good friends? It was right after 9-11, in a dark dismal time in our nation's life. It was a scary time in our own particular lives, because we were mothers afraid for our children's future; we were women who had not yet connected with someone who would walk with us through anything. I asked her to go visit a new store with me, right around the corner from the school our kids attended, and she said yes. Neither of us like to shop- and we haven't gone shopping,together, since then. But get together and talk? Oh, we do that quite well, and frequently.

Power to go the distance, unselfish concern, witty and intuitive, discerning and almost prophetic- that's "Mu", my best friend. Ask her to describe me and I'm not sure exactly what she'll say except that she thinks I'm the next best thing to Oprah or something like that. She "sees" me as a writer and speaker, already, and has provoked and prodded me towards a refining of my call, my dream- and will not take excuses.

Know what she did a couple years ago, when she thought I was dawdling around too much with all I said I wanted to do with my life, but wasn't doing? She told me we would get together weekly, she coming to my house, and I better have a chapter of my book written because that's what she was requiring from me - every week. I make her sound more demanding than what she is. Actually I'm the pushy demanding one, but she just does it with more subtlety and wisdom. It works well- this prodding and encouraging of each other, but always over coffee or something satisfying to eat, and hopefully under the sunlight- because she doesn't like gray days.

So yesterday, there we were. Me, feeling wealthier in the soul, beefed up in confidence and ready to go slay a lion. Thats usually what happens after an hour and a half meeting together. I usually joke and say "send me the bill for this counseling session" and she'll retort something about me already being behind in the payments. And yesterday I got thinking, if God cared enough to give me a one-woman support group and life coach rolled into one- who loves me and more than that, likes me- I guess He is insistent that I not faint, draw back or at least make any excuses that "I can't go on"- because

"There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother..."

and her name is Mu.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What I Know

I am happy to report that I know God saves and delivers. Some of you might think this is a statement someone makes when they first get to know the Lord, meeting Him as their Savior and coming into awareness of His undying love and merciful grace.

But I'm just talking about what I know, right now, about God. What I really know.In little ways that are very big to me, I have seen God deliver me.

Yesterday I fought a black cloud of despair over me. I had not had coffee with my best friend, I was alone most of the day, writing, planning and surveying our financial landscape and trying to come up with a game plan for more income so that we do not "go down with the ship". I contemplated going back to a full time sales job- even though it would mean postponing, again, my dream and call to write and speak full time.

I haven't worked a job outside the home since over 4 years ago, when I was working a sales job in insurance so that my husband could build our house. Did I ever tell you that we had a beautiful home, on 3 quiet, green acres- a place where I walked around, those first months living there, in amazement, thinking, "this is my home." I feel the same sadness and longing as the woman who speaks in an old voice at the beginning of the movie, "...I had a home in Africa." I had it, we sold it, we journeyed onward.

Let me get to the part where God delivers me from sadness and regret over what we had in the past, how we lost momentum, how we're trying to get it back but are not sure if we can. I know God is with me on this journey to get "over it" and get "on with it". I know He is because He's been filtering everything that happens to me, big and small, so that I see His heart even as I am being "tested." I can tell He does not want me to faint. I can tell He cares that I am encouraged- because everywhere I go, as I keep a running conversation with Him (that's the key), He is letting me- no, making me, see that this lengthening and strengthening of myself is all for the good.

I don't have to work it up- this faith. This morning I heard Him tell me so clearly He wants me to KNOW what He is doing. He is not trying to get me to go around the mountain one more time, needlessly, so that I learn patience and endurance. (I do have need of them, but they can't be the only thing I major in).

God, instead, is trying to get me off that circuitous path of never concluding correctly, and therefore not experiencing, the breakthroughs He has in mind for me- that will cause breakthroughs in my kid's lives and for generations to come. He wants me to KNOW, when all is said and done, that HE gives me the ability and power to prosper, to progress, to be a pilgrim of purpose in this world.

2 And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. ... 5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you....11 “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God ..... 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— 17 then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’
18 “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
(Deut 8)

What a waste of a wilderness experience if you come out of the wilderness and still don't KNOW Who led you through it, or what you were supposed to learn from it. God just wants me to know that I live by every drop of nourishment and provision He gives- whether its financial provision, or soul-provision: what gives me light when I can't see ahead, hope when I want to despair, and vigor and ability to prosper.

In the future, when I am at the pinnacle of things going well- in that moment, I should not be any less convinced or more convinced that He is with me. In either state, He gives me the ability to more than survive. His purpose in these darker days is that "He might make me know" that I live by all He gives me, and its more than enough to get back into the saddle...again.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Welcoming the Challenge...of Marriage

My devotion "Welcoming the Challenge" is featured at 5 Minutes for Mom/Faith Lifts/Marriage Devotions:

Casting Your Care upon Him

Today, for some reason, I'm remembering people and experiences that have taught me how to go onward.

I went to a ladies prayer group, years ago, and I think I might have been the youngest one there. That suited me just fine. These women were "oaks of righteousness" even if their limbs were frail and their faces lined.

The leader of the group saw to it that we did not just learn the Word and pray, but that we put all ourselves into our prayers. One way we did this was to cast our cares, literally. We went out into the sanctuary and spread out. Then we proceeded to put our bodies into our prayer as we sang,

"I cast all my cares upon You
I lay all of my burdens down at your feet
Anytime, I don't know, what to do-
I will cast all my care upon You."

Each line of that song had us moving, casting our cares over our shoulders, laying our burdens down at His feet symbolically; shaking our head side to side as we said, "anytime I don't know what to do" and then...casting our cares, throwing them all off, on Him.

What a precious memory I have. When times come that I don't know what to do- and neither do you
(Shake your head side to side in concern)
CAST ALL YOUR CARE upon Him- throw it all off
(now you're taking it all and with your arms casting it off in His direction).

After you cast your care upon Him, take a deep breath. Feel the joy of knowing...

HE can handle it

Saturday, September 15, 2007

When You Care Enough

It has come to my attention that I care too much. This is good news and bad news. The good news is that I have a heart, and I really care about people, especially my family. The bad news is that I struggle with worry and fretting over them, and I care too much, plain and simple.

I don't normally write on a Saturday morning, but everyone is gone today. My husband and teenage son are at a soccer tournament, and my daughter is out with one of my sisters "sailing" in the neighborhood.(That's our term for going to garage sales, or tag sales as they call them in Connecticut. You never know what you'll find at a garage sale and thus the joy and exhilaration of it all).

But they didn't all leave on a nice lovely note. First, my husband- who normally sleeps like a log- wakes me up at 3:45am. He can't sleep. He tosses and turns, gets up, walks around, and while I debate TRYING to fall back asleep, the other part of me is asking, "What is wrong? Why is he troubled?" I go out to the kitchen and we make coffee and talk. And talk more. Pray. And talk more. We're trying to tackle the issues of what we are called to, how we'll make a living, where we flourish best, where we have gone off course.... nothing heavy!

Then we race around, remembering our son has a soccer game and it isn't close to home. At the same time,my daughter is going to be picked up by her Aunt, and wants to grab breakfast before she leaves. It seemed my job was to launch everyone- as I was the only one not going anywhere that morning. But I felt stressed out over a certain child's lack of preparation the night before which meant that certain tasks were falling to me and I was trying to push them back on the rightful owner of those tasks. (Interpretation: teenage son was lazy and unprepared, and I was too available to help but didn't feel I should be!) I felt frustrated, raised my voice, and everything got done, eventually, BUT everything was a hectic mess.

Oh, they're all off, and the house is now silent- but what have I accomplished? It has become known to all that I care so much that it becomes a crutch for those who don't care enough about their life and, thus, their details, their outcome.

You know what verses come to mind? Two passages: one where we are told in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast all our anxiety on Him for He cares for us; and the other where Jesus tells Martha she is worried over many things, but only one thing is needed. She is admonished to care about one thing: seeking time in His presence while it is available (Luke 10:40).

Guess what? The word for "care" can be positive or negative. (merimnao, merimna) It can be godly concern, or it can be worrying , a distraction, preoccupation with something or anxiety over a matter. It obviously has a positive side to it because GOD CARES FOR YOU. God is perfect- So if He cares, He must be "caring" in an appropriate manner.

Cast all your care upon Him for He cares for you. (1 Pet. 5: 7)

I am supposed to care about my family but not care so much that it turns into worry or anxiety over every little thing. Yet God can care, about us, and He cares "perfectly"- When God cares, it never turns into worry or anxiety. He cares perfectly. Think about that.

I think there is a way for us, as Moms, as Wives, to care enough that we show godly concern-but not care so much that we are overly invested in that person's decisions and therefore the outcome. It can be selfish, really, when we "care" so much about someone and the decisions they're making. Sometimes it's just that we care that they choose well so that agony and problems over bad choices don't also spill over into our lives.

But if I care perfectly about someone, the way God does, I would care enough to pray, care enough to confront when I need to, and then after that?....I would take a walk, read the funnies, paint my toe nails, take a walk in the sunshine- all that because I know how to care just enough to love, but not so much that I kill myself in the process.

I do care- it's just that, for everyone's sake- I've got to not care so much.

Now, I'm off to paint my toenails a bright bold color, and then take a walk in the Son light.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"...To a Place Where We'll Be Safe"

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Safe and Sound

I hope you like the music playing on my blog right now. It's one of my favorite songs ever. (If it's not playing, scroll down a bit and place your cursor over the Sonific piano symbol on the right side of my blog).

It's called The Prayer.

I pray you'll be our eyes, and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise in times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer, when we lose our way
Lead us to the place, guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe....

Let this be our prayer, just like every child...
Needs to find a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe.

Everybody wants to be safe- in this world. Probably one of the first thoughts on my mind as I go to sleep is: "Is everybody safe?"- meaning, are we okay? Are we in danger- emotionally, spiritually, or physically? Are we "on track" for a healthy, whole life? Are we okay?"

It is rather sad to see a grown woman, like me, walking around desperately seeking security. (Not to mention occasionally walking around in broad day light with pajama bottoms and hair a mess- but you've already heard that account of me!)

I suppose my panic over being lost has to do with the fact that my parents left me when I was a three year old, and I was placed on an Auction block and auctioned off. Seriously. But don’t be alarmed, this wasn’t some foreign country and my parents weren’t evil- just forgetful.

I was left at an auction my family attended, my Dad thinking my mom had me, and my mom thinking my grandmother had me, and …well you get the point- I was left behind. My parents realizing this truth rushed back into the civic building where the Auction was taking place, and there I was, on the Auction block, the auctioneer jokingly asking “What am I bid for this here little girl?”

I like to think it would have gone into the millions, but I’ll never know because my parents walked back in, in the middle of the first bid, and reclaimed their child, only after a head count revealed child #4 was missing. (They never would have lost #5, my little sister Susan, because she was cute, I angrily asserted later).

Now add this traumatic experience to my other traumatic experiences and what do you get? A grown woman afraid of being lost or left behind. A grown woman who yearns to feel safe.

Yet, the only safe place is the place of Faith. Not blind faith. Not that phrase that people say, off handedly, "oh, just have faith", as if it was no trifling matter to have faith.

Faith is a gutsy conviction of the unseen hand of God on you, the call of God to you, and the way of God- through storms and raging rivers and circumstances that make you think you could never make it...without God. Faith believes God IS, and that God is looking for your faith to arise, and that He will be pleased when it does. (Hebrews 11) And it's rising up in me.

Faith. "...The evidence of things not seen,"... YET- I add. Because those who wait on the Lord not only renew their strength, they also renew their perspective of where they are, who they are, when Christ lives in them:

they are safe and sound.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pajamas, Dirty socks and Hope

I went running off this morning, my hair sticking up all over, clad in my "bad kitty" pajama bottoms, no bra, and holding dirty soccer socks in my hand as I raced out the door to try to catch up with the school bus that my son was on. He needed the socks for his soccer game today. And they weren't even clean socks, but who cares? They'll get dirty within minutes, is my thinking. The thing is to get the socks to Alex and then race home before any hidden cameras catch me and I wind up on some Bloopers show, uncovered, discovered, in all my morning glory.

Both kids are doing well back at school, but my daughter is especially organized, prepared, and on top of everything. It is such a relief to have one child, at least, who is reminding YOU, and not the other way around, of what must be done next. I believe she will be an excellent wife- and really, "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels." Proverbs 31:10. She helps me with my clothing choices and fusses over my appearance on those days when my theory of "a dab of lipstick will do ya" is not doing it for her!

Whether I look like a wreck does not concern me as much as whether I feel like a wreck. I have one sister who has polished her smile down to a science, knows how to face the camera in such a way as to get the best photo taken of herself, and rarely has a bad hair day. But I am not jealous of her. (At least, not jealous of that particular skill of hers).

I am a woman in need of inner peace above all else. If I feel at peace inside- even in bad circumstances- if I feel endowed with strength and I have regained some perspective that brighter days lay ahead, then I can run out the door looking like the wreck of the Hesperus,
and care not that my outer glory has so fallen. I look as young as I feel, I reason, and besides, hope is the great beautifier. It's the glory and the lifter of my head.

I open my car door and proudly walk inside my house, pajama bottoms and hair sticking out all over. I hope the world has seen me today- in all my glory!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's Getting Hot in Here

No, I'm not having a hot flash. More like a continued hot baking going on. That's because our basement somewhat flooded when my husband was working on the boiler. This happened several days ago, and he's had to dry out the basement using a dehumidifier and fans. They've been running for days and it creates extra heat that's rising to the main floor- and there you have me, sweating, heated up, and its not because of passion for life!

It also gets hot every time you go through a crisis. I should say, "a turning point". Which leads me to a little quote I want to throw in here. Just got this in an e-newsletter last night. Valerie Burton, Life Coach, sends these out, free, and you can subscribe by going to

I just wrote, the other day, about one of the definitions of crisis: A crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point.

And then here I get her e-newsletter, and this is one of the things she ends with:

"Notice the turning point that is occurring in your life right now. Make a decision to go with the flow rather than resist the tides of change."

It's rather hard NOT to notice the turning point! Things get chaotic, scary, perplexing. What you may have to seek hard to notice is the DIRECTION you should take at the upcoming turning point.

It's also good advice to "go with the flow". There is something to be said for being malleable, going with the flow- unless the flow takes you down the drain!!

We need wisdom in discerning whether something is God's flow or whether it's the flow of negativism, despair, confusion, leading to apathy, leading to giving up- I don't want to go with THAT flow, that chain of events.

Valerie is right- don't resist the tides of change. Change is good. Often it is sooo needed. But let me add, the tides of change can come in like a strong wave and grab you and pull you out to a sea of confusion, and in the midst of things, you can resist going down, resist going under- and well you should. Fight to keep your head above water. Fight. But don't fight the flow of necessary breaking away from the old, the outdated, the "over". For some of us, we just need to take a deep breath, look at that thing that mocks us and tries to get us to remember we once had something- and say,"It's over. Now onto the New".

What we need to go with is the whisper of God's touch, the burning bush that signals us to take off our sandals, the storm that suddenly appears even while Jesus is sleeping in our boat- and we should know "God is here. He's right with us". That's the flow we want to go with- even when all hell seems to be breaking loose.

When God says, "Get ready for a ride" he means get ready. It may start to get very hot. Old stuff may have to be shaken loose.

If you're at a turning point in your life, as I am, get ready to take a turn. It's up ahead. Do you see it?

Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Why Thank you! A Mid Life Crisis!

I'm reading a new book by TD Jakes, Reposition Yourself, as well as reading Thinking about Tomorrow- Reinventing Yourself at Midlife(by S. Crandell). Today my pastor preached a sermon about Peter, and and about getting out of your boat- your comfort zone. I'm getting the not so subtle message sent to me, from God, that I'm in a critical zone of potential change. This all makes me think that I'm about to have a wonderful, delirious midlife crisis

Now wait, this is good. Really. Here's why.

Everyone thinks "crisis" means catastrophe. But did you know that according to the Free Dictionary, the first definition of crisis has to do with something possibly positive?

cri·sis (krss)
n. pl. cri·ses (-sz)
1.a. A crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point.
b. An unstable condition, as in political, social, or economic affairs, involving an impending abrupt or decisive change.
2. A sudden change in the course of a disease or fever, toward either improvement or deterioration.
3. An emotionally stressful event or traumatic change in a person's life.
4. A point in a story or drama when a conflict reaches its highest tension and must be resolved.

A crisis CAN be an unstable time (b), it can be an emotionally stressful event(3)or a time of high tension(4). But it also can be, decisively so, a crucial turning point in your life. That's why having a crisis- a turning point- can be a really good thing. For some of us, it's about time things turn around- for good!

It's a waste to keep on having crises and have no resolution of mind concerning what you will do differently next time. It's a waste to go through a draining series of catastrophes and not decide to throw off an overcoat of fear that still did not protect you from a rain of trouble.

I can play it safe, and still not get a chance to play hard in the game of life. Or I could go out on the field, run hard, pull a muscle or even break a leg, and get taken off the field on a stretcher with a grimace of pain on my face and a blazing heart thumping in my chest- thinking, "I LIVED."

Mid Life Crises can be traumatic and embarrassing- if choices are made foolishly, desires not dealt with soberly, expectations not dealt with under the light of grace and truth. But a mid life turning point- I prefer to proclaim one of those for myself- is a time of second wind, "fresh wind, fresh fire" (thank you Jim Cymbala) and most of all, a better run in your second half because you know why you're running the race. And HOW to run, now.

1THEREFORE THEN, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, 2Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith ..." (Heb 12)

For me, stripping off anything that didn't serve me well in my first half of life makes sense. Every encumbrance, every habit or aspect of mindset that binds, constricts, and keeps me running-in place- has got to go.

Now, what exactly are these things I'm stripping off? Well, I'm carefully appraising the situation- my life- and deciding what they are. I've had a lot of encumbrances that I can see so clearly, as I look back on my teen years and college days, but I'm not as clear as to what the encumbrances are from my last decade. I've been a respectable wife and mother in my thirties and now in my mid forties- and I don't need to throw respectability out the window! But I do need to look at whether that's been the most telling thing about my life.

Probably my biggest encumbrance has been in not acknowledging my gifts and my calling earlier in life. I took too long to get to the place where I could say, "I'm a writer. I've always been a writer." And that isn't all that I am, but it certainly is an aspect of me that I've only recently released to the world- boldly, fearfully, but nevertheless I've been saying it out loud, and more so to myself: "I am a writer."

There are many things I am not. I'm not a salsa dancer or an interpreter for the U.N.- sorry, Dad. I'm not an avid home organizer- but I don't need to tell my husband that! I'm not a mild, soft-spoken mother who lets my husband deal with my teenage son exclusively while I sit in a rocker and knit- my teenage son rolls his eyes in agreement but there's a smile on his face. My 13 year old daughter has started to point out potential dangers as we are driving because she sees me discussing something passionately and wonders if I'm still on top of my driving. (By the way, she is the organizer.)

I can see that my kids are also wondering who Mom is becoming- and that's good! Life is not boring here at the Caldwell house. There are thoughts and plans and dreams to be contemplated and then acted upon. There are colleges to check out- for my son, and sports to play- for both kids- and houses to build again- for my husband. But for me, there is mostly a throwing off of every weight that hinders me.

I'm too old now to be encumbered. And I'm too young to slow down in the race. I'm looking at the Author and Finisher of my Faith...and I get a second wind.


Friday, September 07, 2007

And Immediately You're on Dry Land!

That's What Happens when you invite Jesus into your boat!

See my devotion over at Faith Lifts today:

Thursday, September 06, 2007

This is What He Wrote Next....

You know, I normally don't avoid writing on my blog. I usually have a lot to say. (My poor sweet husband can verify this truth). But today, with my two kids at school- their first day back, and my son in his final, senior year- there is a feeling I have of being....blank. Like a blank page. And I think it's because God is going "next". I've said a lot lately, pondered, questioned, pursued and initiated...and now God has some things to say to me.

I don't want to have a scene, like Job and his friends did, where God shows up and says, in effect, "My turn to talk. Now you'll all answer MY questions." If God did that, I would be in a faint on the floor- me and my flabby heart all a dither. I don't think I have a pretty swoon- (I've never fainted and feel a bit defrauded of the opportunity to be a damsel in distress).

But the distress of my soul right now has to do with me feeling tired and not wanting to feel guilty about that.I need a reprieve. I'd like a period of my life to begin where everything just floats along, no big decisions need to be made, no financial pressures arise, no scenes of conflict occur...just peace. Doesn't everyone?! We're all in some stage of a battle. Where are you at?

The heat of the battle is where soldiers faint, not so much from physical exhaustion as they do from mental and emotional weariness-to-the bone.

Depression can begin when we don't know what we're dealing with, nor know the weight of what we carry. Often we don't realize our load has been getting heavier and heavier. Someone should shout out- 'Hey, that's too much for you!" or we should say to ourselves, "I'm going to roll this burden off on Him- HE can handle it!" But that would take a cognizant awareness of our state, a thermometer into our soul which we pull out and say, "Hmmmm, I see...."

Often we DON'T see. We think we must be brave and strong and forget to remind everyone, ourselves included, that we're only as brave as we should be. Should I take on one more load and break the camel's back? Should I add one more burden when I should really roll them off - all off- my shoulders?

We should speak to the enemy of our soul who seeks to make us unaware of our condition, of our need for liberation, of our need for refreshment, that we've seen his strategy to make us blind to our condition. When the well is dry, it must be refilled. When our shoulders are drooping, we need to hear a good word. And if we can't find someone to speak that good word to us, then we must say it to ourselves:

"Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me" Micah 7:8

I can't even think "I WILL rise" if I don't know I have fallen. It's okay to have fallen down under the pressure, to get depleted. While It's not okay to make that your permanent state, it is something we go through at times.

I think people who get depleted can be the ones who are most ready for God to do a miracle in their lives. He can display His power and glory- and not just in renewing our strength but in reviving our soul so that it laughs again and is ready to fight onward. I feel the warrior spirit within me,rising, even now, just thinking about how God will revive my soul- make it feistier and bolder than what it was before.

The book of my life is open. God is about to write a new thing on the page. I lean over to see what it is- curious, hopeful, renewed even by the thought that GOD is going to do something in me. He smiles at me, commending me for wanting to know.

We should always want to know the truth...that sets us FREE.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Don't Stand There!

It's Labor Day- so I figured I should break a sweat and do something laborious. I went and played tennis with my father, brother, and sister. They were very patient with me having to stop and take some deep breaths. I really haven't exercised since I got sick in April with Mono and then had some minor heart problems. But the doctor said I can begin exercising now...moderately.

So there I was, whacking the tennis ball, serving up some decent serves once in a while, and trying to keep up with my father, who intelligently plays using his head more than he does his legs. He offered lots of pointers to me and some words of encouragement (like, "please don't die till you get off the court, Lauren". Just kidding!)

Then he offered the mother of all pearls of wisdom, and I heard it loud and clear. I had missed a ball that I should have gotten to. He stated simply, "That's because you were in No Man's Land. Either you go forward, or you step back- but you can't stay where you are."

I heard it loud and clear, and it had to do with more than just tennis. No Man's Land is a zone where I don't want to be. It's a place of indecision- but not because you can't make up your mind. Rather, it's indecision because you don't see what's really at stake, so you think you have time to vacillate, time to develop more courage before you decide to take a step, time to ....take more time. But you don't, really. Because the ball is coming toward you-fast- and you've got to decide where you'll place yourself for optimum contact with the ball.

The ball coming toward all of us is Opportunity. Opportunity can be a ball coming fast at you, a door suddenly opening that you've prayed for, or fruit on the vine- at last- that needs to be harvested,...NOW.

Carpe diem is a phrase from a Latin poem by Horace (Odes 1.11). It is popularly translated as seize the day, although a more literal translation of "carpe" would be "pluck" (pluck the day), as in the picking or plucking of fruit. (Wikipedia)

If I stand in No Man's Land, I can't really accomplish much. I'm in between going forward and stepping back- but I haven't decided which one. Often, as Christians, we stand in this No Man's Land because we think that to wait on the Lord means waiting, and waiting without any accompanying action or planning. We think waiting on Him is accompanied by sighing and looking at the clock- as if there is no other fruitful labor we could do while we wait on that one thing we long for and pray for.

I look back on my life and try to see where I have stayed in the No Man's Land, unknowingly. I can see times where it was just plain convenient for me to think I was waiting on God to move in my life- rather than to see that I had mountains to speak to, fruit that was ready to be harvested for Him, actions of faith that I had to take that would require me to step out, heart beating fast, faith.

Now that my Dad called it like it was in today's game, I've got to go a step further and examine the rest of my life. To a degree, this is the essence of Jesus' rebuke to one church in the book of Revelation:

14"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
.... 15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 21To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne."

I hear the Lord's tough love in this passage, and He's calling a spade a spade. It's interesting that He says "I know YOUR DEEDS, that you are neither cold nor hot." He didn't refer to the condition of the heart, but rather their actions, their deeds, as being reflective of their position of false -security. Maybe their deeds were meager or done half heartedly or with an attitude that they had all the time in the world to accomplish great things done in God's Great Name.

Could I be that way? I can think I am waiting on the Lord, basking in the lovely land of...waiting, of wasting opportunities to "overcome", but God calls it No Man's Land.

"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

Please understand my heart- I know we need to wait upon the Lord, tarry in His presence, gain perspective, leave behind our hurried schedules of action, action, action. But I've spent a lot of time in my life doing something that I thought was "waiting on God" and now realize that some of those times I was just excusing my weariness and deciding not to run anymore, deciding I didn't need wings like an eagle because I was not going to fly. I found it easier to bathe something in continual prayer and waiting on God but not expecting to mount up with wings in preparation of the upcoming flight.

I have played it too safely at times, ....but not anymore. It has been pointed out to me that I could be standing in No Man's Land, and I have a choice to make. My faith needs fueling- and I need to make it hot or cold. I take a deep breath. I look upward at Him, and see His eyes of love looking at me, infusing my spirit with fiery faith that enables me to overcome.

I step forward into the Faith Zone.