Friday, October 31, 2008

Thank God For a Change

I can sense that things are changing for us, for our family. Circumstantially. Things are also changing nationally, economically, politically, I know. We will see more change right after election day. But Bill and I are seeing a fork in the road for our own immediate situation. Our lifestyle of piecing together a living through carpentry jobs (Bill), bits of speaking and writing (me), house renovation and resale (which is every two-three years or so)- this pieced-together quilt of a lifestyle has been useful but its about reached its end.

Sometimes you can just sense that change is imminent. Often this terrifies us, but sometimes its a very peaceful perspective- because God has been whispering this to you for a while now, and you are not surprised that a change is coming. I'm so thankful that He prepares me for what's ahead. Even if I don't feel prepared, I am prepared. I tell myself that a lot now. I am prepared by Him, I say to myself, and I feel so thankful in a whole new way.

See, I never really understood what Thankfulness was. I had been trained in some Biblical and bizarre thinking when I was a child growing up in the Church. There were wonderful but wacky people in my life (and I say that respectfully cause I am often wacky myself)- and these people were trying their darnedest to live right, please God, walk by faith, be thankful. Its just that they were having trouble with understanding thankfulness as well. Thankfulness was a conundrum of piety, gratefulness, guilt, and fear. Fear that you weren't thankful enough. Guilt that maybe you hadn't said it enough. Piety- because you were saying "Thank you Lord" all the time, as if checking it off a list of To Do's. This was the common thinking of Being Thankful that I first grasped: it was by an act of your will, not really a response of gratitude.

One way to be thankful was to thank God for everything- and I do mean everything. The thinking was to give thanks "in all things" and that meant thanking God for every trial and trouble and bashing you might have received. Literally. "Lord I thank you that I got fired from my job, cause You must have a reason" was what your prayer should be if that just happened to you. As a child, it didn't make sense to me. And as an adult, it still didn't make sense to thank God for cancer ravaging someone, thank God for a fire that burned your house down.

One dear woman I knew battled anxiety so much she used to tremble just talking to you. But she was determined to thank God for everything and in everything. She loved ministering to children, and she used to lead them in this exercise before they got to the fun part of singing. The exercise was this: say "Praise the Lord" ten times in a row, real fast, with a smile on your face. And the kids would do this-as well as the parents sitting in the back of the room. What were we praising Him for? Nothing in particular at that moment. But by George, we were praising Him, we were thanking Him. Even if we said it in a rush. Even if she led it with jittery arms and a frantic look on her face because she was fighting anxiety that day.

But then I too have had those days where things are so scary and tense that all I could do was say "Thank you Lord. Praise you Lord" over and over like a mantra, trying to calm my spirit and appease a God who I thought needed to hear my thankfulness over and over. But I don't think He was really that pleased with how I said it, or that I said it over and over. I think what God saw was a woman who was trying to connect to Him through that awful cloud of fear and darkness that sometimes threatens to get between us and Him.

Does God care that I'm thanking Him if I don't feel thankful, if I'm just doing it because I know I should be thankful? I think what He may be after is having us learn to see and discern what the reality of our blessed state is- and then we would truly be thankful, if we saw this truth in an eye-opening revelation. Maybe He's after my eyes being opened- instead of my mouth being opened and declaring words of thankfulness because I know I should be- even if I'm not.

These last couple days I've suddenly seen the reality of my blessed state. Really seen it. I feel the love my husband has for me. I see how my daughter glows with excitement for life and learning. I hear from my son that he's working out in the weight room and that his muscles are growing and he is strong. I see my own body and I can walk and pick up things and I have hands that can stroke my daughter's long hair and arms that can hug people. I have a mind that is active and alert. (You know how active it is). I get to learn new things. I get to discover new truths. Isn't that incredible?

I have just begun to open my eyes to these things. And so maybe I have really just begun to learn what thankfulness is. Yes, this lesson started when I first realized that enough is enough, that I can be satisfied. But now the lesson is progressing to me realizing that I have more than enough. More than enough strength and more than enough preparation for whatever changes lie ahead. And now in this very tense time we're in, I'm thanking God... for a change.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Enough IS Enough!

I'm simmering right now. No, I'm not steaming hot and angry. What I mean is- I feel like I've been working on something, in my subconscious, and its starting to form, starting to come up into my consciousness as an idea, a sentence, a direction. Lord knows I need direction right now. I've been praying for direction, for guidance. And Monday, during the day, a word came to me. Just a word. But I let it simmer in me for a while, like the chicken soup I made last week. (First time I had made homemade chicken soup in years. And I suddenly remembered that the longer you simmer it, the deeper the flavor, the richer the taste).

Here's the word I've been thinking about- Enough. That's all I got on Monday. And then I met with Mu, my dear friend who always cuts to the main point without any need to placate me or prepare me for truth. She knows that as agonizing and unpleasant as Truth is, I still always crave it. It's the only way I know I'm dealing with Reality- if I feel like I've heard the truth. Mu always shares fragments of truth with me, like little odd snapshots she takes of me and I go home and look at these pictures and see something about myself that I've never seen before.

By Tuesday morning I started to think about a passage in Proverbs 30 that is not very well known or loved. It talks about the leech and how it has two "daughters" that always cry out for more- Give me more. And then it says "There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, 'Enough!'". And then it lists these four things that are never satisfied: the grave, the barren woman, dry land, and fire. And I could almost swear I heard my name being added to that list, as if God had an afterthought upon looking down at me. "And add Lauren to that list. She is never satisfied. She never says, 'Enough!'. She forgets to say, 'Oh Thank You Lord! That's enough for me, more than enough' ".

Talk about getting Truth spoken to you. And no one was in the room. No One but me and the whisper of the Holy Spirit which can sometimes feel not so light and whispery but more like a heavy belt of truth that He puts around and it pulls you down to the ground of Reality. Cause sometimes you have to go down before you can go up.

This passage, the commentators say, is talking about covetousness and greed. But I saw something here in this passage that I never saw before. I saw that greedy, complaining, selfish people don't start out looking that way. They start out just not being satisfied, ever, with whats given to them. They would be the one at your tea party who would forget to say "enough" (with a pleasant tone of voice) when you're pouring their tea. And then because they didn't say they had enough you kept pouring and then the tea went everywhere and made a mess. And the mess would be your fault, not theirs- or that's how they would see it.

When is it ever enough? I'm asking myself that. See, my son just got through his second bad cold since he left for college. And he didn't lapse into a major asthma attack or have to go to the hospital because it turned to pneumonia. This is wonderful news. This is a miracle. Is it enough for me to be happy about this? Or will I quickly wave that aside and say, "Now, about the next problem; about the checkbook, Lord, and the bills we have to pay, and the jobs Bill needs....About that, Lord" and act like its not enough that He spared my son from major sickness.

What about the bills we have to pay? Yes, they're looming before us. But at least I spread out the bills on the kitchen table which is in my nice little kitchen which is in the house we own (okay, the bank owns it with us), and the house is solid and dry and situated on a wooded lot in a safe town with lots of state troopers and security cars that patrol the area, keeping little old me safe and ...satisfied? Is it enough? It is enough for me?

I suddenly realize that the challenges before me do not have to do with bill paying, employment, self-employment, financial security, whether or not to pursue writing or go get a full time job in sales...These are not my real challenges, my problems. My problem is that behind all these challenges and obstacles and questions, I have a heart that quickly forgets what God did for me yesterday, last week, last year. I forget all these breakthroughs and miracles and grace moments because in the very moment I am in, I look around and forget to say, "This is enough for me, Lord. It's more than enough."

Cause if I did look around and saw all that I have, I would realize my cup overflows, that He is my Shepherd, that surely goodness and mercy follow me around like a hound dog on a trail and there's no way I will ever get goodness and mercy to stop following me all the days of my life. He has said it is so. And that's enough for me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Taking a Stand

"On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, All Other Ground is Sinking Sand...." That's not what I was thinking when I snapped this photo of my son this summer. That's not what he was thinking either when he climbed up on that rock and asked me to take the photo.

What we were thinking this past summer, while on vacation, was "Ah,..." and taking deep breaths of ocean air. We were thinking how good it felt to be alive and how good it was to be together. And also how hungry we were, and where was the next good place to eat?

Now summer is over. Winter is almost here. The markets have crashed. Times are lean. We're apart- Alex is down there in Kentucky, we're up here in New York, he's sick with another cold and I'm watching to see that it doesn't turn dangerous, Bill is feeling the precariousness of being a self-employed contractor, and now...more than ever...I want to remember that rock, that boulder, that Alex stood upon.

I want to fix that image in my mind so that my knees don't feel shaky and my heart doesn't race in anxiety. I want to see that rock and let it remind me that I already know- know too well- that "all other ground is sinking sand". So maybe it's time to know the rest of that old hymn; to know that chorus so well that it goes over and over in my mind till my heart leaps up in faith, in agreement, and my eyes can see clearer skies on the horizon.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What We Will Be

This morning I could not settle down with my journal and my thoughts. I penned a few words and then stopped. I stared at Harry and wondered why he is prancing around so much lately, why he suddenly wants to play, now, more than he ever has. He has turned from couch potato into Mr. Frolic and Fun- and just at a time in my life when I feel as interesting as a cold pancake left on a plate.

So I skimmed through my old journals, forgetting that this always jars me. I hate to remember so vividly what I struggled with. I hate to look back and see how things floored me, when I know they should have sailed right over my head with me smiling and saying, "Oh, I'll just let God deal with that." I hate to see how I struggled to just get trusting before God and open to the people He brought into my life. The Introvert in me rears her head loudly in my journal.

Is there such a thing as the sin of guardedness? Cause I think I may have trouble with this. I am not an easily trusting person. And while I may quickly smile at you if we meet for the first time, that doesn't mean I am open to getting to know you. It's nothing personal. It's that I'm guarded. Very very guarded. Like I have a sentry posted about my heart and they've been ordered to shoot if anything invades this delicate area.

If the fact that I am a Christian as well as guarded seems like a conflict of interests, it is. I know that. God is interested in loving the world through me. I am interested in not getting hurt, not getting walked on, not getting used.So this is a problem. For me. Not for God. Because He tells me continually that I have no right to be guarded, not since I gave my life to Him.

But if you were once guarded and now you know Him, what should you then be? Free as a bird when it comes to loving people and trusting them? Vulnerable and naive as a two year old prancing out into a busy road, unaware of the opposing nature of the cars racing toward her? Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 Jn 3:2.

So I'm sharing this with you just so that you, dear reader, don't give me too much credit for sharing what I do with you here on this blog. I've been honest about what I write but I still have been guarded and reserved. I like to call it being wise and prudent. But God has been telling me, lately, that I'm just being guarded. Selfish. That I need to open up and stretch further when I share what I do. That's called giving of yourself.

And I intend to practise this new understanding I have of "Give, and it shall be given unto you". In fact, I am going to get radical about giving of myself, being open to new relationships, new ventures with people I have yet to meet (Deep breath here). This may cause changes in my blog, and maybe changes in who reads my blog. But it won't change the fact that God has always been the radical One when it comes to loving people and giving His all for them. I'm just trying to keep up with Him as He opens His arms, wide, to the world.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Door Number One

"Honey, the Nectar of Love is ready" my husband whispered into my ear this morning, and with that pronouncement, I arose and went to the kitchen to hold that beautiful cup of hot coffee and sip it gratefully. The fact that he gets up first to make the coffee for us is so appreciated. But the fact that he knows what morning coffee means is even more touching to my soul: it means that its time to talk, to connect before we part ways for the day. It's quiet and dark and the dog is very sleepy and usually curled up on the chair near the couch where I sit with my feet in Bill's lap and my head in the clouds of dream land tinged with morning reality.

My husband is a great listener and I have been spoiled. I've had 24 years of being married to a man who finds my imaginative mind fascinating rather than overwhelming. For the most part.

But lately he has noticed I am coming up with fewer ideas and plans and scenarios of "if A then maybe B because I think it could lead to C". He sees that I am a bit more hesitant to discuss any past issues or bring up an old memory. The past is the past. I want to let sleeping dogs lie- and that's what they want to do anyhow so why not let them?

My daughter is the one who is revving up her imagination and zooming off in all kinds of directions. I'm watching her creative zeal and remembering when I felt like that. It's not that I feel like I'm boring (but then again, you tell me!) but I feel like I've gotten to a place where I'm just pleasantly out of ideas. Out of ideas, mind you- but not hope.

I have more hope now than I've ever had before. Yet the funny thing is I've never concentrated on that word much. Faith is, obviously, a word that I talk about a lot. I see it as an action word, a verb, as well as a noun. I understand that Faith needs to be activated. That without faith we can't please God. I also know how much we have to LOVE each other. That love makes the world go 'round. That God so loved the world that He gave..... But what about Hope?

Sometimes I think that Hope is rather like the middle child: overlooked, quiet, but definitely there. What is the function of Hope? If these three remain, as 1st Corinthians 13 says, Faith, Hope, and Love- what is Hope doing in the mix if Faith moves mountains and Love conquers all?

I see Hope in a whole new light, now. This light is shining because I've gone through a quiet period, and have had dark times of frustration as well. I'm very familiar with failure, frustration, and the need to always be fixing things, solving problems, and having a Repairman mentality. It's not I am Woman Hear Me Roar but more like I am Lauren How can I Fix This? And God has been telling me, lately,"Don't you see, you can't. You can't fix yourself or your life or your kids or your future. Life is not about fixing things, Lauren".

Which brings me back to Hope. What hope do we have if we can't fix things? What hope does the world have if we don't fix all our problems? And what, exactly, is Hope, then, anyways?

For me, I am finding out that Hope is the door that opens to you when you have gone through the Valley of Trouble (Hosea 2:15). Hope is the ability to expect good- when you would have no earthly reason to do so. And Hope tells you how to define what good is, even; because Good is not always what you initially thought it was.

It might be good that you're going through trouble and difficult times IF it means that you arrive at some life-changing conclusions; conclusions such as Life is not about Solving every Problem. Life might be more the journey of learning how to see How Much He Loves You- which is the journey that keeps your heart alive with Hope.

Monday, October 20, 2008

How Long is Your Quiet Time?

I want to thank Gi for recommending my blog for so many awards. She has touched my heart. But I've also been wrestling with a bit of internal conflict over this. I love the idea behind blog awards, how they encourage bloggers and help you to know that your voice is heard (and this really comes in handy on the day when you find yourself talking to your dog, telling him about your life, because no one else is listening!). But there is some protocol with receiving awards and taking responsibility for that award's intention and passing that award onward. I'm terrible with protocol. I'm behind on my social graces and visits to other blogs.

If you want a lovely Biblical phrase to explain how I feel right now, I would say I am hid in the cleft of the Rock. But a more accurate description is that God has cornered me, I have holed up in my house, things got very quiet in my life these last couple months, and I am now getting a bit used to this monastic existence. Ask my best friend, Mu, if this is true: I think I have seen her only once since my son left for college in late August.

And just when I finally got used to the quiet time God had put me in (it might even be called a Time Out), I got a couple interesting inquiries this month, out of the blue, concerning my writing and my blogging. This happened just when I had been journaling for a week about laying down my need to write, laying down my desire to write a book (or two or three). I had even contemplated ending my blog, Faith Fuel. There wasn't anger or frustration or resentment over this concluding thought. There was, instead, a sense that God had called me down a quiet, untraveled path for no other reason than to take me away from the need to have my voice heard.

I am one of five children, second to the youngest, and I'm the middle daughter. I had a great need to have my voice be heard when I was growing up, but I didn't say much. It was hard to get a word in. And besides, "Holly",my imaginary friend and diary, was such a good listener, and my father wasn't, and I didn't have any idea of who I was yet. So I didn't say much.

Then I married a beautiful quiet man (well, quiet in comparison to the loud, volatile family I had grown up in), and he had the time and was interested in wanting to know what I thought, how I felt. Along the way, these past 24 years, I started to grasp that God's love for me was a lot like my husband's love for me. God was opening my heart up and I started to pour out my thoughts and my hopes and...I didn't want to stop talking to Him, telling Him my dreams, trusting Him with my deepest thoughts.

I've grown and I'm not that quiet girl anymore. I've had no fear, these last number of years, about writing out my thoughts, talking out my ideas, expressing my wishes. I've been verbal and I've been emphatic and I've been expressive and I gesticulate a lot when I talk. But in the last couple months, I've gotten quieter. I'm not speaking monthly at Women's LIFE, like I was. I'm not sending out articles or trying to let my voice be heard. And I got weaned of the need to be heard.

Other than writing on my blog, I've been contemplative and quiet, a bit somber in my solitude but not sad, really. I might have been a tad depressed dealing with my son's absence at first, but then it turned into this extended Time Out period from God- and I didn't get put there specifically because I was bad and had acted up terribly. I know that. I think God put me in Time Out so that I would know the sound of His Voice and quit caring about the sound of my own.

I don't know whether I'm about to be taken out of this Time Out or whether I'll be in this cozy quietness for a while longer. But I don't feel hurt or betrayed by God- even if I might have at first. I had always read that Jesus spent a lot of time continually withdrawing from crowds in order to be alone with His Father, in prayer, in soul searing reflection. They were literal times of him kneeling on dry ground, in prayer, perhaps so that his heart would not become dull and dry.

I might not ever have a book published and my voice may just go as far as this blog. Then again, it could wind up shouting from mountain tops or across radio air waves. Who knows where and how God will let your voice be heard? I just know I have to give my all to hear His voice. And if I hear Him better holed up in my house, homeschooling my daughter, spending lots of time alone and in reflection- then so be it.

"It's ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God- but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people- and this is not learned in five minutes," writes Oswald Chambers. I am an ordinary woman living an unnoticed life- for the most part- and yet my existence is noticed by the Creator of the Universe and His eyes are on me, so I'm all ears. It's His Voice that I want heard round the world, after all. His Voice.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Ah, Saturday. It's a day of bliss and repose for Harry (the same as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...) but for me its a day to roll up the sleeves, plunge my hands into hot soapy water and clean- clean as though my life depended on it, clean with a vengeance, just clean!

I don't think there's any real spiritual value in cleaning house (meaning that you don't get extra credit with God), but I don't think cleaning lacks value. It lifts your spirit, sometimes, to tackle a job- such as the pots and pans in the sink- get it done, and know that you've accomplished something.

Because of the immense weight of national and international problems, you can sometimes think you have little to offer to this world. There are raging economic problems and complex political agendas and there's gaping needs in certain segments of the population and there's just plain greed and fraud in other segments. And then here I am with a messy house, a lazy dog, a world in need of such prayer, such help, that before I can even pray I feel overwhelmed, like what will my little prayers do for this big world?

And then that's when I feel like I haven't even addressed what I will do for my own little world I live in: will I clean it, at least? Can't I even try to make some order come out of the mess I sometimes live in?

Yes, I can, I tell myself soberly. I can do something about this little tiny bit of the world I live in. I can beautify it a bit, clean it up, make it cozy and warm and inviting. And if I do that, then when someone comes into my home, I might just minister to their spirit a little, calm their frazzled nerves with some hot tea and a nice chat on the couch (after pushing Harry off of it). I can do something about the world I live in. And having done something constructive about my little world, I might just sense that there's more I can do. I might believe that when I pray- when I apply myself to prayer because I believe He hears and answers them- something happens.

'Cause something just happened when I went to work, cleaning, scrubbing, rubbing. My hands went to work, yes; but my spirit started to see and believe that beauty can come out of a mess, hope can arise out of confusion, peace can come even though we live in a troubled world.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wild Turkeys and Wisdom

This is exactly what I saw yesterday afternoon. Well, not in this caricature form- it was the real thing. A huge wild turkey was pounding away at the basement window of our house, looking like he was frantically trying to come into the house!

But I didn't know that this is what it was, at first. It was such a racket and such a pounding noise that I heard, that I soberly told Abby, "Wait here, and if I don't come back up in five minutes, call 911". I was going to go downstairs and check out what I heard. I honestly thought it was either a bold thief or that the UPS guy had gotten stuck in my garage or something and was hysterically pounding on the door.

So I went downstairs and there in front of me was this huge wild turkey. I have to tell you that they are the most ridiculous looking of all birds: tiny, tiny head, flubbery red thing rolling around their neck, huge wings waving but getting them no where really- just short little distances. This turkey was apparently in a crazed panic, that's all I could think. While the others (there were about twenty of them in my backyard) kept their distance and strolled around the yard eating whatever specks they saw on the ground, this bird was slamming himself against the window and going for...what? Did he think if he came into the house that I would offer him a cup of tea and a foot massage? This silly bird's cousin was going to be on our Thanksgiving dinner table in another month or so! So why was he approaching our house and pounding on the window to come in?

The things we do when we're flustered- you don't want to know. We've all been there. If I get upset and panicky, I lose all sense of the ground under my feet. I know all about flapping my wings only to get a few inches further into my panic than I already am. I know all about persistent, frantic action that not only gets me no where but actually takes me into dangerous territory. So when I looked at that wild turkey repetitively pounding himself against the window, I thought, you poor silly thing. Please, God, don't let that be me.

I had actually just quoted this verse to a friend recently, and it suddenly came back to me, "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm" (Prov 13:20). I had mentioned this verse to my friend when we were discussing how to choose the right advisors, the right financial experts, to listen to. In this crumbling economy, how do you know who really has the right advice? Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. Yet there's the sense that we have to do what we can, when we can, to preserve our assets and protect what little we may have. That's why everyone's sense of alarm is up. Some of us are so riled up by panic that we could look crazy and act rashly. I don't want to do that. And Mr. Turkey was kind enough to remind me of that.

I think the Wise are those who do walk, and not race about frantically. The Wise are able to take step by step through dangerous and critical times because they don't carry the weight of the world-or the future of the world- on their shoulders. They walk with Him, the One who holds the future. And anyone who knows Him well can walk steadily when the times get crazy and people start to act like wild turkeys.

Thanks to Mr. Turkey, I have gotten a picture of what I could look like if I "lose" it. I don't want to lose it. I don't want to panic or fear. I want to walk, wisely, and trustingly- even if I have to keep taking a deep breath every step I take.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

At the Sound of His Voice

Harry is no longer in mourning. The daily accidents have stopped. He's no longer looking depressed as he lies on the couch, just sleepy and bored. He'll come up to us now and put a paw on our lap and sit there waiting for us to do something. "You want to go out?" I'll ask him, hoping he'll do his potty time outside instead of these erratic and pungent episodes he'd been having indoors.

But no, he doesn't want to go out. Now, instead, he's bringing us into the living room where his stuffed orangutang is lying on the carpet. He looks up at us and then throws the orangutang into the air and starts horsing around. He wants to play. Harry wants to play because he's happy and no longer mourning over our son's absence.

This happened, I think, because of us skyping with our son on Friday nights. We go into Alex's old bedroom which has been semi converted into an office. We all sit in front of the computer screen with the little camera on it and then -presto- Alex comes on the screen and his voice fills the room.

Harry can't actually see Alex. They say dogs can't see TV or computer screen images. But Harry hears Alex's voice. He hears Alex say, "Ha-a-a-r-ry! How ya doing!" Harry looks around the room, his floppy ears alert and inching upwards in anticipation of seeing Alex. He still won't see Alex for another month or so, but he's heard his voice. Just hearing Alex's voice every Friday night has changed Harry's disposition from gloomy melancholy to joy and prancing around the house.

Now Harry is daily playing with the orangutan, which is really Alex's old stuffed animal. We took it out of Alex's boxed up things and gave it to Harry the week after Alex left for college. Harry looked at it and then sighed. Several weeks later he was still just looking at the stuffed orangutan. But now, in the last couple weeks, he plays with that thing daily. I mean really plays with it- tossing it in the air, chewing on it like a steak bone, and then ferociously growling while he whirls it around the room. Oh, he's fierce. He's alive. He's out of mourning- all because he has heard the sound of his master's voice.

And that reminds me that maybe that's all I need too, to go from mourning to dancing around the room like I have no cares at all. I don't need to "see" God or see how He is going to work everything out. I just have to listen, hearken unto Him- if you want to get all King James-y. And when I hear His voice echo in my heart, everything in me perks up and my bones feel strong and I feel alive and willing to be fiercely steadfast in my faith.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Get Home Safely

I'm trying to figure out how to do this: my niece is getting married at the end of November down in Nashville, and my son will be coming home for Thanksgiving break right about that time. Do I fly him home as I am flying down to the wedding? Should we all drive down to Nashville, then slip on over to Kentucky, pick him up, and then head home? Will Bill be able to get away from work (and thank God He has work right now) or should I just fly down with Abby?

The key thing is we need to celebrate our niece/godchild's wedding but we also are trying to figure out how to get Alex home; how to get him home safely.

I'm about to head out to my daughter's rec basketball game this afternoon and then I'm going to do one of my favorite things, as of late: grocery shopping. I don't know why it ministers to my soul so much, but so much goes through my mind as I shop for food: thank God we have money to buy food, thank God we have such abundance to choose from, remember last Thanksgiving and how rich and full we felt?, and oh, I can't wait to see my son and cook for him and hug him tightly. Thinking of cooking for my son makes think of all the ingredients I need for bread, for cakes, for my special chili recipe. I whiz through the grocery store with zeal and feel like a kid in a candy shop.

I have a favorite bagger that I look for. His name is Dan. I try to get in the check out line where Dan is the bagger because he's so sincere, so invigorated to do this simple job of packing the groceries carefully in bags-paper or plastic. He might be slightly handicapped concerning his IQ but there is nothing limiting about his joy and his vigor as he packs the groceries and always, always asks me if I need help out to the car. The day I looked at his name tag and answered, "No thanks Dan. I'm all set," he beamed with joy as someone said his name. That's all I did. But he felt significant and important. He wasn't just a bagger- he was Dan, the greatest bagger there is. And that's why I look for him.

I also look for a certain guy at the deli counter. He's farther away from me and maybe its my old aged memory or my bad eyesight, but I haven't been able to read his name tag. But I do know this about him- he's a loving, caring man, and maybe a father. I think that because this is what he says every single time I have taken my package of sliced cheese or honey ham as he hands it over the counter: "Get home safely." He doesn't say thanks for shopping, or have a nice day or come back again. No, he says, "Get home safely." I always feel loved and blessed when he says that to me. There might even be days where I really don't need any honey ham or sliced turkey and yet I am still waiting at the deli counter looking for the man who speaks about our desire to get home where we are safe and loved.

I think of my son far away at college and I care about his journey through life, his journey back home to us for Thanksgiving. I care about any fellow traveler who feels like life is hard and the terrain too rough for them to handle. And even if my words are powerless to improve your journey, my prayers are not. Your prayers are not. So keep on praying. And don't forget to bless someone today with a little benediction that I learned from the man at the deli,

Get home safely, friend.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Vocabulary Lessons Part 2

"What does satiate mean?" Abby asked me yesterday as we began a new unit of vocabulary words. She pronounced it like sat-i-tate and I could tell she did not like the word already. Too hard to pronounce. Too archaic, she thought. I immediately told her that it was one of my favorite words. And then that beautiful verse rushed into my mind and I shared it with her:

"And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD." Jer.31:14

Nobody's satisfied anymore, it seems. I know I rarely feel satisfied with my life, with my house- flat and boxy as it is. I don't walk around, normally, thinking-Oh, how satisfied I am with life! How rich I feel! No, I usually walk around thinking about the next issue I should deal with, the next bill I need to pay, the next problem on my list.

And of course, right now in our nation's dire economic straits, I would be as silly as a slow turtle crossing a busy highway if I felt satisfied and happy and at ease. But that's not what this verse is talking about. It isn't a horizontal look around us that we are to take, and then an upward look of gratitude. It's the opposite.

I am supposed to take an upward look first and see the Provider whose grace is sufficient for me, and then take a look around me and see how God will affect my life with with His goodness. Then maybe I'll notice the shiny quarter on the ground- like my daughter always does ( I swear she'll be able to fund her way through college with all the money she "finds" in front of her). Then maybe I'll see the love offered to me by those who care about me. Then maybe I'll realize how rich and full my life is in spite of the fact the the headlines tell me I am diminishing and joining in the national depression that's supposedly right around the corner.

There may be bad things right around the corner, but there's God's goodness raining down on me as well. I will be satisfied with His goodness. That's not only my statement of faith. It's also my intention to obey. It's my intention to see it- to perceive what He says is there. Abundance. It's not a word most people will be talking about right now. And that's why it's going to become one of my favorite words.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Vocabulary and Vacation Time Lessons

Okay, so I did want to hole up this morning, like a turtle cloistered in its shell, but I made myself shower and then make the bed. I did it, by faith, and then I was glad.

Next I'll be going over new vocabulary words with Abby, thankfully saying good-bye to last week's words of holocaust, annihilate, recluse, cloister, pandemonium. There's been enough pandemonium, nationally and world wide, to last us for quite a while. But we also had two important vocabulary words that I treasure right now: omnipotence and omnipresent. And even though I don't literally see God everywhere, He is- and He's powerful and capable of taking us through any kind of storm that comes our way.

I've decided to also mentally and pictorially re-visit our vacation time we enjoyed this summer because I think there's more lessons for me to glean. I remember coming home from our week at the North Shore feeling changed; not just refreshed, but literally renewed. I had a new way of looking at things, and a new hope that I was not as lost as I had felt I was.

And now with the way things are in the political and economic world, I need to know, more than ever, that I am not lost, that I am not rising or falling in security and strength according to the world's estimation of how things are. One minute the news tells us that we've passed a bill and things should go well, the next minute the headlines shout out that all is plunging like a roller coaster car falling off its tracks. I could feel very lost right now- if the news, the world markets, the leaders of this world dictate my future. But they don't.

So here I am, ready to go through Abby's lessons for the day, and it seems God has a lesson plan for me as well. According to those wonderful memories of our vacation, He is taking me through the simple steps of seeing something in its reality and acknowledging the application for my life.

God is reminding me of the turtle we fell in love with on our vacation. We picked him up and held him, and he didn't creep back into his shell in fear. He poked his head out and I think he was actually smiling. He must have known that the strong loving hands that held him would never let him fall or crash.

And that's all you have to know, sometimes: that when the world is shaky, God's hands are not. He holds you, firmly, lovingly, and you are therefore more than okay.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Ride it Out

If you feel like you're in a sea of trouble, you just might be. It doesn't ever help for someone to tell you that you're not at risk... when you really are. I haven't even read the headlines this morning nor has the stock market opened and plunged further. But I already know I'm at risk. We all are.

That's why I'm remembering how my daughter Abby tackled the waves on a cold, gray day this past summer vacation- and how my husband and my son and I sat on the beach and watched her. My idea was to stay safe on the beach, dry but not warm, because the wind was fierce and angry that day. Her idea was to go right into the foam and fuss of it all and experience it that way.

I think that's all I can say today. It's another cold, gray fall morning, and I'm remembering that cold, gray summer day at the beach not too long ago. I'm remembering that the beach was almost deserted, that the wind chilled us down to the bones, and that my daughter entered in to the sea and rode the waves and smiled because she was not afraid.

"Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Is. 41:10

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Taking Inventory

Today is very dark and gray. I don't want to think about world events or national headlines or even my own dilemmas and decisions I need to make. Today I just want to make homemade bread and something sweet, listen to my daughter turn the pages of her book (she is really "into" reading, lately) and contemplate how I can make a decent supper without continually glancing over at my son's empty spot at the table and sighing repeatedly cause I miss him so much.

"He was a pain, Mom," Abby reminded me this afternoon as we headed out to the library.

"I know- and I miss that Pain, very much. " I smiled at her and she saw that I really hadn't forgotten how much trouble he was at times, but nor had I forgotten how much joy, laughter, and craziness he brought into our family. Oh, and loud music too- he brought a lot of that into our home. And tall, lumbering friends who were always hungry.

I am already anticipating Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, and the sounds of him being home. I don't care how bad this economy gets or if we have roasted mouse for dinner. What matters is that we'll be at one table, with one objective in mind- and that's to give thanks for being together again. So I'm beginning my Thanksgiving mood right now. I'm going to capitalize on the fact that the bad economic news lately has actually caused me to take inventory of what I do have.

There are some things that a bad economy and plunging stocks cannot take away from you. Actually there's a lot that can't be taken away from you- no matter how dire the times. "I've got peace like a river", "joy like a fountain", "faith for today and bright hope for tomorrow"- and that's just a couple things that immediately come to mind thanks to all the good hymns and spiritual songs that went into me all these years.

I'll spend the rest of the day thinking of some more things I've got going for me. I'll think about all these real blessings as I get ready to bake Madeleines- these little French cakes that look like sea shells. They're sweet and spongy and they go great with a good cup of tea. I'm so glad that when times are tough, the tough start baking. Or singing. Or dancing a victory dance in spite of the dark gray skies.