Friday, October 09, 2009

The Last Post and The First Step

Okay, so we are finally here at this moment of saying...well, not so much "good-bye", but "God Speed, my friend". I hope you don't mind that I dragged out getting to this point of the last post. I needed time to ease out of this and ease my heart over parting with blogging...for now.

It's the last post, but its the first step. It's my chance to decompress and de-web-ize myself. It's the first step back to anonymity and quietness and another step towards being still and knowing that, yes, He is God. He's in control. He's not that far away. Closer than you think. He makes us able to close doors and open new ones...without fear.

For those visiting, ironically perhaps, for the first time here, I'd like to suggest you browse through my old posts topically. Faith Fuel is still here to encourage, inspire, and help revive your faith, your confidence that God loves you and is looking out for you.

On the right side here, you can look through all my posts by clicking on the topic that most interests you. Whatever I share, and whatever I have shared, I do -and did- with the desire that you feel your faith being revived- if you ever feel weary.

And now I'm off to experience the abundant life. I'm pressing onward. I trust you all will too. And if I ever get stirred up to start a new blog, you can be sure I will post here any updates- in the future- if that should happen.

For now, I'm off to experience some quiet time. It isn't my voice that you need anyhow. His voice will always ring out clearly. It's amazing how sometimes you can even hear God in the most unusual of places, and at critical times.

I have loved chatting with you all. You all know that I'll miss you, my blog friends.

And now, I'm off, heading onward, higher, and always taking that first step... every single day.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Letting Go and Holding On

Okay, this is my last book review here on Faith Fuel- and what could be more appropriate than to review Sheila Walsh's book, Let Go ?

Sheila writes in chapter 9, "One of the scariest things to do on this earth is to voice that we have a problem. Shame tells us to keep the secret, but then who is holding the keys to our prison? When we decide that it is time to tell, we find that the keys have been in our hands all along."

Well, here at Faith Fuel, its always been about sharing what's on my mind, sharing what I think is on God's heart for us, sharing with each other what we're struggling with.

I don't think any of us should ever stop sharing what we're going through. Sheila Walsh is right- that it's time to let go of the burdens and let go of the things that hold us back from experiencing the abundant life.

She is gutsy and in this book, and particularly in chapter17, she shares honestly her personal situation that prompted the writing of this book. That it involves tight finances, unforgiveness, and the flat emotions of depression easily helps any reader identify with the author- no matter how famous a speaker or Christian personality she is.

This is the gift right here in this chapter- the opening up of herself, her struggle to let go of "fixing" everything (I know all about that), to let go of mentally rehearsing what a good plan would be (my mind is exhausted, frequently, because of this very thing).

"When from the depths of our hearts we can tell God, 'I trust you,' heaven celebrates, hell shudders, and we are at peace." She's right. And one way I am expressing my trust in God is to re-examine where I need to march on, and where I need to wind down, close up shop, and be still. Just be still. Just keep my mouth closed and in silence contemplate the wonder of it all.

I'm letting go of baggage, of blunders I've made, of botched up plans. But I'm grabbing on to God's love even tighter. I'm holding on for dear life- but He says its for my own dear life that He is really the One holding me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thank You, Alex

It was almost 4 years ago that my son mentioned to me one day that I should write a blog.

"What in the world is that?" I asked him.

He told me it was like having a place of your own, on-line, where you share your thoughts and write about whatever you want to. He kept urging me to do one, to do a blog. I was going to say "Little did he know" but I think it was a lot that he knew.

And then instead of just explaining the blogosphere to me, he went a step further and set this one up- the one you see here. It was all because of my son that I opened up, came out of my shell, and talked to people all over the world about the things in life that confound us, the faith we want to capture for ourselves, and the connections we want to make with people and with God- if only we knew how.

Faith Fuel began because my son introduced me to not only blogging, but the part of myself that I would find here in these blog posts. Sometimes I would start writing about something, not knowing that I was wrestling with it deep inside. Sometimes I would find a great release, like a wind under me lifting me, if I went a little deeper, shared a little more honestly and out loud and here- on this blog.

My son reads this blog and has the posts automatically sent to him every time I update the blog. One thing that I feel truly sad about- about ending this blog soon- is that this connection between my son and I, this on-line connection, is coming to an end.

Maybe in the last couple months, when I first realized I didn't want to continue Faith Fuel anymore, maybe this is why I kept writing, kept pluggin away. It wasn't- and it isn't- a chore. But it is something that has come to an end, to a close. Just like the way my son brought his high school years to a successful close, and is now away, far away, at college.

When he first left for college, it wasn't just deep sadness I felt. It was fear- because I thought I was losing him. I felt the world calling him out of my arms and into its frenzy and its fun. You can't hold a child forever in your arms- even if you can always love him.

I feel sad about ending Faith Fuel only in the sense that I don't want to lose the connections I have made with so many of you. I don't want you to think I am pulling out of your lives. I am, instead, taking a quiet sabbatical, and finding not just my voice again, but the deepest desires of my heart.

My son, Alex, knew, and still knows, about the desire of my heart to encourage others through my writing. I'm so glad he introduced me to blogging, because in reality, he was introducing me to all of you who have visited Faith Fuel.

If you leave a comment today, please leave it for my son. Tell him that you're glad he got me started on blogging. Or tell him that he has a very opinionated mother and how in the world does he stand her?! Or tell him that you wish he could get his mother to be quiet! Or tell him that he's a wonderful, insightful, loving son who makes his Mom smile even when she's holding back the tears.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Greetings from Somewhere Near the Yukon

Every year I have more admiration and empathy and respect for my parents, who raised five very different and opinionated children who are now extremely different and highly opinionated adults.

On top of all that child rearing, my dad was a fifth grade teacher. He taught young squirmy pre-pubescent kids for over 30 years. So on those days when he'd come home from school in a particularly bad mood, and something we did set him off, and he'd yell, "That's it, I'm leaving! I'm going to the Yukon"- I didn't blame him in the least. For wanting to leave. I just didn't understand the attraction that the barren Yukon had for him.

But I have had my days where I was ready to leave my house in a mess, my kids in their bad mood, and get me to someplace- anyplace- as long as it wasn't stuck where I was. So I began to understand the attraction the Yukon had for my Dad. Not to mention the fact that I got interested in the Iditarod and found the idea of racing sled dogs in an icy wilderness a most attractive idea.

But just to let you all know, I am not going to the Yukon. Not exactly. I am not marching off in a huff or in a disgruntled mood or even in a sense of relief that I get to get away from the blogging world. (Okay, I take that back- I think there is a little bit of relief at the idea of getting away from the Blogging world and getting very quiet and very unknown, if only for a little bit of time).

Instead of me marching off to the vast Unknown, think of me sailing off in a canoe, dozing and relaxing, while I wind up getting further away from shore and unafraid to do so. I'm sailing into Change, into Closure, into something way better than the Yukon. It's just that I don't know what it is called.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ending Well

There's a ton of courses and books out there about how to start a business, start a new career, start a promising relationship. But there's so little that teaches us how to end well. No one wants to talk about endings anymore, other than how to get a divorce, how to file bankruptcy, or something sad or difficult like that.

But what about how to end a blog? Or how to end a career to start a new one? How do we do that? How do we learn how to end well? Like Job, who died when he was old and full of days, I want to know how to end well.

Let me tell you a few things about this blog. This has never been a highly trafficked blog. It's had bits and spurts of traffic, and its had lots of inquiries about advertising. I only added the advertisements you see here, recently, because it was part of a potential writing relationship that required my blog to be monetized and set up for advertising.

Sometimes I think people have wanted to have the success they thought I had here. I have maintained a rather healthy life span of over four years writing this blog- and I know that many blogs don't make it that long. I have enjoyed the comments and the questions from readers. I love to know what people are thinking, how they are feeling, what they are dealing with.

I started Faith Fuel because I really wanted to inspire and champion the spiritual and concrete dreams we all have. There are not enough people cheering each other on, in this world. There is a lack of camaraderie and fellowship and encouragement. We need more of this.

But Faith Fuel was also started as a way for me to put into words what I struggle with, in my journey of faith, and what I know many of us struggle with. We all have fears. We all have times of doubt, and sometimes long seasons where all is dry as dirt.

How do I end Faith Fuel? I'm not ever removing the blog from the web. It will always be here, I think. But I will be ending, soon, in a month or two, the daily and weekly postings. How do I end this well?

I'm not ending it because it is flawed or because it has failed. I don't think this blog ever had a plan to succeed, but more of a plan to just be. I'm ending this blog because it has come to the end of its life span, of its usefulness in your life and in my own.

I'm not ending this blog with sadness. There's a smile on my face. But its like the smile my Mom has on her sweet face. She is falling more and more. Her health is failing. She is frail. And she is strong. Her life creeps to a close here on earth but its bursting into life at the same time as she sets her sights on heaven.

I want to watch movies all the time, lately. Not sure why except that I'm looking to see how something ends. Does it end well? I always ask that when someone tells me about a movie I should see. "How was the endingl?" I ask. I want to know if the movie ended abruptly or tragically or without hope- cause if it did, I don't want to see it.

I want to know about endings where things come together that you didn't see happening in the middle of the movie. I want to know how to succeed in finishing ...strong. The best movies I've seen lately, I am cheering inside throughout, and I see at the end a beautiful occurrence of grace. I might sigh and wipe the tears from my eyes, but I am smiling at the end.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beginnings and Endings and the Important In-Between

It's not unusual, that at a time that everything and every one is off to a fresh start (my son back at college down south, my daughter at a new public high school) , that I feel in need of one myself. A fresh start. It's like I'm an overgrown flowering plant, and I need a pruning and dead-heading (I believe that's what its called- not sure, because I don't have a green thumb. My nickname is plant killer).

I have loved writing this blog, and have never regretted the name of the blog. We all need fuel for our faith. We need shots of inspiration and doses of encouragement and buckets of grace to live a victorious life.

But lately, I just have this feeling like I am stuck in a rut, with not only my writing, but also what I write about. Sometimes I feel like there are new avenues for me to explore and I am holding on to too many things, too many roads that I've already traveled.

Faith Fuel is not ending. Not yet, at least. Not today at least. But I can't say that I will always be here, under this title, with that little fireplace widget flaming and brightening the page. I think there's new subjects, deeper explorations of various intriguing life matters that I may want to get into.

I'm getting old. But I don't want to age. I don't want to get set in my ways or set in stone, or God forbid, forget that when the stone was rolled away,that Life burst forth and is calling us onward, upward, higher...and to new terrain.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Let's Chat about That

Fearless. Just the word itself makes you stand tall and boldly. Read Max Lucado's new book, Fearless, and you'll really get charged up. If he never did anything more than feel the need to address this crushing tidal wave that infiltrates society and our homes and our lives, he did a good thing. But of course Max Lucado did more than contemplate the topic of fear- he went on to write another solid book that many will love and savor and return to, time and again, when the force of fear strikes.

Chapter One was my favorite. I love how he depicts the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat, and Jesus' "premeditated slumber...In full knowledge of the coming storm, Jesus decided it was siesta time...". Can you grasp that fact without seeing Jesus as heartless? If anything, maybe it was in view of our becoming bold and stout hearted that Jesus slumbers through a storm so our fears will arise and speak out and be known. He does want to know what we are afraid of. He can handle it. And He will handle it- whatever it is that is crushing us with fear.

One of the best lines of the book, and it's in chapter one, is when Lucado voices for us our problem with how fear takes hold of us- sometimes even as we are calling out to God. "We begin to wonder if love lives in heaven."

"If God can sleep in our storms, if his eyes stay shut when our eyes grow wide, if he permits storms after we get on his boat, does he care?" Yes, He cares- and somehow we've got to ask for Him to demonstrate this. He does not get offended when we do this.

For us to know that Love does indeed live in heaven, and that this Love will see us through what we go through on earth, we've got to tell God everything we fear. It's not just your blessings that you should count, it's also your fears- and perhaps its best if we "Name them one by one."

We've been told that what you concentrate on grows bigger. But it's also true that what you hide in the corner of your mind and heart surges in reality. Nothing goes away by pretending it is not there.

So tell God your fears. Talk about them with Him. It just may be that the more you tell God everything on your heart, that you will wind up being the one slumbering blissfully as He handles the raging storm around you.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Are You Hungry?

I noticed that the happier I get, the more I talk about baking and recipes and cooking. And if you look closely at me, you''ll see that I don't really eat all that much (well, for the most part, I don't)- but that doesn't stop me from thinking of food and sustenance when I'm thinking of good times.

My Mom doesn't cook anymore. She doesn't do much of anything anymore except to smile and love you with those blue eyes of hers looking at you with quiet joy. But Mom used to fill our house, growing up, with food- lots of food, hot food, weird recipes, cream of wheat hot breakfasts, hot apple crisp for dessert. Mom cooked and cooked her way through all our ups and downs of family life. And she made me think that nothing could be better than to be loved well and be well fed.

I try to do that. I try to love my kids and my husband and feed them as though I had no other way to show love than to cook and bake for them. When I'm especially burden-free, I cook up a storm. The kitchen becomes a mess. I'm covered in flour. But I'm happy and there's something good to eat at the end of it all.

And at the end of a day, I want my loved ones to feel full: full of happiness, full of peace. I can't bear the thought of children starving anywhere. And I can't bear the thought of a child starved for attention either. There's something haunting about someone who aches for love and cries out to be noticed.

That's why I love that old hymn about "Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more... Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole". I realize that God is not only in the business of feeding His children, but He loves to feed us; He delights to feed us. We can open our mouths to heaven like little birds chirping in a nest and know that something good is coming every time we cry out to Him for whatever it is that we are, deep down, hungering for.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to Business

Okay, I've stabilized. Not as close to tears all the time. I think watching My Fair Lady on DVD, with my daughter the other night, really helped cheer me up. I can't believe I still remember all the songs, all the words.

I've even danced around the house a little bit, in a light hearted way with heavy clumsy feet. But the key thing is to give in to joy any time it wants to spill out of you. And a couple of text messages from my son have given me the sense that we're really not miles and miles apart emotionally even if we are physically.

I have the feeling that this is going to be a wonderful year (and for me, the year seems to start in September with all the back to school, back to business type of movement that takes place). I'm already thinking of apple picking, making Chili, baking pies, Thanksgiving dinner new recipes that I can try- and I do try new recipes, much to my husband's chagrin, the day I have company over. I'm a daredevil. I'm adventurous. I'm up for a challenge. (That's my inner mantra going on).

God is giving me the spirit of an overcomer. And even though life is not just about overcoming obstacles and challenges, it does seem like you can't be too much of an Overcomer. There's no such thing as too much victory, I think.

Sweet Victory. Sweet Memories. Bright Hope. New Day. A Promising Tomorrow.

And throw in a luscious piece of chocolate cake (which I just ate), and you've got the makings of a happy camper who's about to take on another mountain...and with gusto.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Can't Write Much, I'm Cleaning

I'm a yo-yo lately: I keep swinging between an overall sense of well being and a sense of sadness that won't go away. I've had a great summer. Surprisingly, it might have been one of the best summers our family has had. Not because of taking any big vacations (we didn't) but because we had a lot of togetherness all summer- harmony, peace. Never has it felt sweeter to be a family. Joyous. Creative.

Of course now that our son is back at college, we don't have that "together" feeling anymore. Thus, the sadness. It aches. And I thought it wouldn't- because this is his second year away at college.
But I still miss him so. Terribly.

He tried to help me not miss him. The last two days before he left were a bit stressful and Alex did his best to remind me of what a pain in the butt he can be. But he's a beautiful, wonderful pain in the butt- and I miss him. Still.

So I can't write anymore otherwise the sadness will engulf me. I've got to get busy. Start cooking. Vaccuum. Those things always distract me. And if I clean long enough, it'll soon be Thanksgiving and then we'll all be together again. Family. Joyous. Creative. Making Pizza. Wonderfully Together.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Special Arrangements

I love Country Home Magazine and other Home and Decorating magazines for this very reason you see here: this gorgeous photo of a floral arrangement I doubt I could ever "arrange." But I'm good at staring at beauty and salivating over it.

I'm also good at arranging things such as dates, appointments, reservations when making a trip, prompt bill paying, and packing.

You should see the great job I did of packing up my son for college. He doesn't care about things like clean boxers and contact solution and medicines all labeled in a box. But I care. I care about these things. And I know he'll care when he gets a cold or runs out of clean laundry or when I get the phone call and he'll ask if I packed his contact solution because he can't find it. And I'll tell him, "Yes, Alex, I took care of all that. It's all there. It's all been arranged."

I'm a Mom- and like the title of this Country Home photo "Special Arrangements"- I make special arrangements every day. I'm proud to do so. I don't see them as menial tasks. These are the profoundly simple but beautiful things I do to show that I care. They don't have to see it this way- the people for whom I make all these special arrangements. I just have to remember that these simple tasks I do are for special people I love and arranged out of love.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back to School

This is going to be one busy week. I don't know why I am doing all this laundry and sorting and packing because when my son gets back to his college campus down south, it'll be the end to all that neat organized arrangement of things. His clothes will be everywhere. He will be everywhere (on campus and off campus on his jaunts to concerts). And I will be back here, up north, missing him, and wondering how he is doing.

But hey, I'm a veteran now. This is his second year away from home, at college. This is my second year of missing him but also enjoying the fact that my son is launched, off and running, on his way, and all those other cliches that let you know one era of life has ended and another has begun.

But I'm happy. I'm not crying or mourning the fact that he's leaving. He's as much part of my heart as ever, even though we spend more and more time apart. This is what it means for him to be an adult, and this is what it means for me to be the mother of a child-now-adult.

What it also means is that my praying has changed. How I pray for my son, now, as opposed to when he was a child, is so different. I pray for him to have wisdom, good judgment, sober thinking- because I don't need to pray that he'll enjoy life and grab it by the tail, cause he's already doing that.

And so I'm going to live well and strong as well. There's a lot more for me to learn and experience- even if I'm not at a college campus.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Autumn Aspirations

Because Fall is coming, soon- and you can almost feel it in the air-
I may just start:

-posting recipes for apple crisp and apple pie and apple turnovers

-getting out my boxes of fall/winter clothes and remembering what I have (it's like Christmas 'cause you're pulling things out of the box and exclaiming, "Oh, I love this sweater! I forgot I had it!"

- looking at new recipes for chili

- baking bread, again, daily- and not caring that the kitchen is steaming hot

- making a Christmas shopping list

- getting back to work on my book (it's a novel)

- thanking God that through every season we go through in life, He is there, with us, leading us ... onward.

Friday, August 07, 2009

From One Season to the Next

I'm sporadic in my posting lately, I know. It's just that I've been busy, racing around, involved in a lot of things. Instead of the lazy hazy days of summer, I am experiencing more of a Spring time renewal. Things are growing: like some new relationships I have, possibilities for income, my Meyer Lemon tree sapling my brother Mark gave me, and my appetite (for some reason I want corn on the cob almost every night for supper, and then lots of salty popcorn later on in the evening).

In less than a month, our daughter will celebrate her 15th birthday, my husband will drive our son back to college (a lo-o-o-ng 14+ hr journey) and my husband and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. I'll probably be playing that song "Celebrate good times" loud and clear.

I'm encouraged by the newly found interest my son, Alex, has in good health- and hoping that we won't have any trips to the emergency room this coming year because of his asthma or bouts with pneumonia. Not if my Dad can help it: he has loaded Alex up with bottles of vitamins and fish oil pills, and I'm sure the bags of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits will be coming next. It's a good feeling when others are aiding you in your pursuit to strengthen your child- even if your pursuit is practically pushing good nutrition down their throat (it's all out of love, trust me).

It's almost mid August, and I'm not sorry at all that summer is coming to an end. It's been a good summer, a healing summer. We never did get to the ocean for our annual vacation. It was tight financially for a while. But it was never tight or thin with lack of love. There's been a lot of joy, togetherness, pizza making, celebrating (even if its just celebrating the little things). It's been a rich summer, golden and bright with hope.

And Fall being the Harvest season, and somewhat visible already, has me feeling very expectant, very alive with hope, and very much glad to be alive.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Dangerous Prayers

These last couple days I feel like I've been galloping on a fast horse, hanging onto my hat, and yelling out, "Whoa!" as I go thundering through interesting terrain at a hundred miles an hour. I'm not calling out Whoa so that the horse will stop- it's actually more an exclamation of surprise, wonder, exhilaration and a bit of mystical fear- all at the same time. Amazing things have been happening in my life lately. Absolutely amazing and surprising things. It's been an exhilarating ride.

It could be that I have been praying dangerous prayers, not realizing that they are dangerous. I don't mean dangerous as in bad, but dangerous as in risky, explosive, powerful. I didn't think of myself as a Risk Taker with a capital R, but I've stepped into the realm of Faith and miracles and unexplainable occurrences. And it all started when I delved into the real meaning of faith, doubt, skepticism, and unbelief. I found out where I am in that rushing current- and discovered that though I am prone to being skeptical and mistrusting, I don't want to be that way- and that counts. It counts as being one step closer to walking in Faith.

It really does matter what you want to be- even if you are not already expressing that reality. I want to be a trusting child, quick to perceive and believe the good that God has in store for me. I am becoming that trusting child- even if I am forty something years late in the process.

I looked back through my journal this morning and discovered that over the last couple weeks I was praying about Faith and deciding to walk in Faith; deciding to not only be a believer but be a big, bold believer. Here's some of the prayers I've been praying:

"I believe in Your perfect timing, Lord. I trust that You arrnage things perfectly. Please be pleased with my faith, Lord"

"I'm going to declare, Lord, that 'I hear the sound of abundance of rain' even though I'm speaking this in the midst of a drought." (1 Kings 18:41)

"Open my eyes to see the unseen realm of Your resources, Lord"

"I am ready to believe you Lord" (John 20:27)

"I am going fishing, Lord- even though I am discouraged" (John 21)

"I will launch out into the Deep- because I believe You, Lord"

"I will pursue knowing you, Lord" (Hosea 6:3)

And the most dangerous and explosive of prayers is when you declare this- because you really, suddenly, truly believe it-
"I really do believe that with You anything is possible!"

(And by the way, these are just the prayers that I've been praying. Who knows what others have been praying for me?!! Oh, the things we don't know and the things we don't yet see!!)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

And You Shall Receive

Yes, it's true: we often have not because we ask not. But then again, we often find when we're not even looking- because sometimes we just don't know what we're looking for.

I am always looking for answers, I know that. It's just that sometimes I don't know the questions I am subconsciously asking God- and thankfully, He does. He does know what I am always looking for, what I am in need of, what I need right now.

After my phone call, the other night, from my friend who was in need of some serious prayer, I got thinking about how her problem with her teenager began, at some point, and she probably didn't know a problem was beginning. She couldn't really "see" something bad beginning.

But lately I have seen that I don't often see when my Answers are beginning- the Answers that I have been praying for, as well as the Answers that I didn't know I was requesting.

God reads our signs for "Help" no matter how misspelled they are or how misplaced they are. He can see when we are asking for help even when we don't realize we are. I am seriously encouraged by that.

I've begun to get quite comfortable with asking God, approaching Him, requesting help from Him. I'm becoming an Ask-er. No, that's not right. What do you call a person who asks God for help...a lot? What do you call someone who goes speedily to Him without worry that they are bothering God? What do you call someone who has no problem approaching God with every little thing that is on their mind?

Maybe you just call this person His child- His very loved and precious child. And that's what every single one of us can be. Just ask Him -and He'll tell you it's so.

(Photo credit:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

For Her

I'm still kinda reeling from my phone call last night with a friend who I haven't heard from in a year or so. We became close, years ago, when I was living in her town (see, it was never my town because I had a feeling I was not going to be living there forever).

She and I are nothing alike and yet very much kindred spirits only because I care about family and my relationship with God with the same intensity she does. She called me last night because she was at the end of her rope. I loved how she did not even try to make small talk and try to catch up with me first before she plunged into the details of the agony and the trial she was going through- all because of a child, one of her children. It might as well have been one of mine- that's how I groaned inside over what her daughter was going through.

We talked for a long time. There weren't any answers to be given, or any recognized solutions, except the request I made that she try to talk more with her daughter about what the root of her pain was.

At the root of it all, at the bottom of it all- that's what we have to get to. We have to. Because if we never get down to the deep dark dirt of what we're really reacting to or running from, we don't know anything except that we are flailing and falling and nobody knows why.

I told her I would pray. And I don't mean the kind of prayers that are neat and nice and sweet. I mean the kind of prayers where you are warring, travailing, beseeching God, not letting Him forget for a teeny tiny second that we need His help, that we have to have His help, and that there must be a way for Him to make a way...for her.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Favorite Thomas

I have a nephew named Thomas who is the most agreeable teenager- always cheerful, capable, successful in his studies and athletic pursuits. I wonder, sometimes, if his temperament is prone to being basically trusting, optimistic, and therefore, a bit happy-go-lucky. This type of temperament probably has its weaknesses in other areas, perhaps; but certainly not in the area of being agreeable and quick with good will toward others.

I don't know what the historic famous Doubting Thomas was like, temperament wise- but we all know, from here to eternity, that he doubted. He really had a hard time acknowledging the risen Jesus as just that- risen.

Jesus told him "Stop doubting and believe" and I've been thinking, then, that maybe it's been quite unfair to always refer to him as Doubting Thomas when in reality, he became a real Believer. A big believer. So much so that they say he was the only Apostle to go outside and beyond the Roman Empire in order to proclaim the good news of the Gospel. Now, that's what I call a believing believer!

To go from being doubtful and not trusting to being trusting and believing is no small thing. It might just be one of the most herculean of accomplishments. It might just be the thing that I want most, right now, in my life. This is where I want to grow. I'm a believer- but I want to really believe, be quick to believe, and be ready to believe.

Another version words this admonition this way "Be not ready to disbelieve but to believe" giving us the understanding that there is an inner preparation we can do to become the kind of person who is quick to believe the things of God. Are you ready to believe? Or are there suspicions and fears in you that get activated every time you hit a faith situation requiring something more than rote procedures?

If God is moving in your life, one way you'll know He is has to do with the number of opportunities you seem to get to either believe for good, trust Him that He wants to help, see Him make a way where there seems to be no way. Count the number of problems you're facing, and you can also count the opportunities for miracles, for faith being activated, for God being pleased- because it's either trust Him that He's ready to take you successfully across this mountain of a problem or pull back in unbelief, think twice about all those verses proclaiming His love and care, and keep your eyes on the looming problem, and not on Him.

I can easily be a Doubting Thomas- but I've lately decided that I can also be- if I choose- the Thomas who went beyond the safe regions to go where no Apostle had gone before. I could be the one who started to doubt easily and decided that what good does that do? Doubting is easy. Doubting is something that comes naturally to us. But believing and trusting is for those who want something more powerful than every day mundane living.

I'm ready to believe God in such a way that I won't miss out on the chance to become something I know I should be: fierce in faith, committed to a higher path, in need of godly oxygen- because it's onward and upwards and there's no turning back. I have decided.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When You're Unclear ........................... about Faith, Doubt, Fear

On a more serious note (well, certainly more serious than how to avoid baking disasters - see last post) I never realized how many forms of unbelief were out there. And not just "out there" but in me as well. Seeds of doubt and seeds of faith have been germinating deep inside me and now I'm paying the price for this ruinous combination.

You just can't go forward in life- when you're taking steps backwards at the same time. Without realizing it, I have been participating in a dance where confident belief takes the first step, doubt and hesitation take the next, reproach for my unbelief takes another forward step, and then downright skeptical and harsh unbelief go next. This is an ugly dance. (What can I say? Not since my disco days have I been noted for any grace on the dance floor.But back in the late '70s and early '80's, I was quite the thing, whirling around on the dance floor and feeling alive while I dance to "Staying Alive").

It isn't just making a decision about my daughter's place of schooling that has got me in a tizzy, but add to that employment and financial decisions, not to mention our house on the market and whether we should "push" harder to get it sold, and I've got a number of decisions to make. My husband and I, together, have these joint decisions, and then we each, separately, have our individual career paths to consider.

So I've been praying. Slightly pleading. And proclaiming a lot of God's promises. And then perjuring myself when I doubt and reconsider whether God is really on my side. Oh, I know He loves me and all that, but sometimes there's something in me that suspects God's love is a tortuous type that majors in trials and minors in grace.

I've been studying these words, trying to get to the root of them: Faith, Doubt, Unbelief. I never knew there were so many ways one could disbelieve God- but there are. You can downright refuse to believe, or you can start out believing and then waver in unbelief, or you can believe God and then reconsider whether you were right to believe a certain thing, or you can reconsider and suspect that God is after something else in you.

The more introverted type- such as I am- tend to do a lot of inner thinking that surges and rises and torments, and nobody knows that you are exhausting yourself to death in trying to figure out what to do, what to believe, what decision means you are operating in Faith.

There are at least four words, in the New Testament, that have to do with the word doubt or unbelief- but that have distinct definitions. You can't just tell someone not to doubt without explaining what Doubt looks like, and what Faith would mean in their situation.

There's lack of faith or being uncertain in faith- before you make a decision. Then there's a type of unbelief that has to do with lacking confidence in God's will to help you, or His ability to help you. Then there's skepticism- which causes you to reconsider your faith , your prayers that you sent up with smoke signals and lots of pleading. And then, of course, there's the worst kind of unbelief which is the obstinate refusal to believe God, a superior type of thinking that mocks God's abilities when compared to your own.

I imagine there's countless ways to believe and to disbelieve God. But at the root of our expressed faith or unbelief are the reasons why we will, won't, choose to, can't, wish we could, BELIEVE GOD. Everyone has a unique set of circumstance, personal history, mounting inner conflicts, and reasons why they are where they are- when it comes to walking in faith and moving mountains by faith.

Here's where I encourage myself. It seems God deals more stringently with those who refuse to believe or are skeptical to believe. (Repentance is the prescribed cure for these nasty expressions of arrogance or bitterness). Then there's God's gentle wooing ways with those who are confused (and we do a great job of confusing ourselves), and with those who are vacillating- like Peter who confidently stepped out of the boat, in faith, and began walking on water and THEN realized he wasn't a water-walker by birth. Faith rises up and tells us we can be more than what we were- and Doubt reminds us that what we were was, at least, safe.

So what I am now doing is every time I am battling doubt, fear, unbelief, as I try to make some big decisions, I question what is at the root of it all. Is it an issue of what I can do, or an issue of my estimation of God's ability and His will or intention towards me? Am I dragging my feet when it comes to trusting Him or am I refusing to trust? Cause where I fall and stagger, He is merciful. But where I stand and fold my arms across my chest in stubborn refusal to believe or even try, He is not pleased. He is not running towards me- because I am not running towards Him.

So never mind the actual decisions I need to make. I gotta get down to the nitty gritty root of my decision-making system. It beeps a red alert when Doubt rises and Skepticism grows. And I've got to pay attention to how I decide, not the where and the when. Because the question of Faith (do I operate by it?) is the question that's answered by how we're living right now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What a Recipe!

It was a work of art: a triple layer, homemade apple spice cake with layers of frosting and a an extra thick coating of frosting on top. I was kinda proud of my accomplishment. And of course, as usual, I had not exactly followed the directions to a T. Which of course yielded a variety of reactions.

"Delicious!" my friend Mary Ann said (and it sounded sincere- her praise). She asked for the recipe and began copying it down.

My daughter took a bite and said bluntly, "The frosting has a funny taste to it."

My son ate it. Downed it, is more like it. And asked for seconds.

My appraisal of it? Well, come to think of it, the cream cheese frosting did have a slight kick to it. A bite to it. I didn't think anyone would notice if I added a little sour cream to the frosting when I was whipping it up. I had run out of cream cheese, and didn't think I had time to get my son to drive to the grocery store and buy some for me. So on my own (belligerently independent and crazily creative) I add a big dollop of sour cream, thinking that "it's white, thick, creamy in texture- this should work!".

I won't do that again- add a bit of sour to something sweet. At least, not if I can remember in time not to do so. But realistically speaking, I'm sure this will happen again.

Not with a cake recipe, but with a relationship. One sour remark can affect a sweet relationship. But here's where I take heart: no relationship is ever that sweet, that perfect, that it cannot withstand a bit of sour reality.

The relationships I value the most are exactly the ones that have withstood the tough times. These relationships have seen me at my best and my worst- my sweetest moments of grace and composure, and my sour moments of impatience and sharp critique.

Lately I've been valuing these dear ones in my life. They are the ones who eat my crazy botched up recipes (thanks, family), come over and hang out with my husband and I (thanks Tony and Mary Ann), meet me at a cafe for coffee and conversation that always gets me back in my saddle again (thank you, Mu).

These people share with me their painful moments so that I am not alone in mine. They let me know that as imperfect as I am, there's something worth pursuing when they see me, contemplate knowing me, and decide the sweet and the sour are all part of the recipe.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Wisdom of Solomon

I have a decision to make about one of my children. Nothing big. Just a decision that will affect the rest of her life. Just a decision that will affect her level of confidence, her outlook, her sense of self. She's 14 going on 15. Ask yourself this: what was the most pivotal time period in your life? What time period would you most want to re-do and get right? Where did the hurt and handicaps come in? Chances are it was the period in your life between age 12 and 20: the teenage years.

My husband and I need to decide where our daughter should go to school next year. Where should she spend her high school years? Should we continue homeschooling? Should we try the local but humongous public high school in town? If we could come up with the money, should we go back to private Christian school?

It's not a question, so much, of where would she get the best education. Your teenage years are not just about getting the best education. Ask anyone who had a hard time as a teenager- "Yes you felt suicidal and you had no friends but did you get a good education?!!" and they'll look at you like the nutcase you are.

Healthy minded people value education as much as they value a sound mind and an active, normal social life. Navigate the teenage years, again, and tell me what you want to get right this time. Do you want to memorize more Shakespeare quotations or do you want to be the kid with the friends and the smile on his face? Do you want a higher GPA or do you want to make better choices in relationships and involvements? Do you want more courses this time, or more positive experiences where you grew in confidence and strength of purpose?

Is it just me, or were our teenage years more powerful, problematic, and pivotal than our parents first realized? Back when I was a teenager, everyone went to public school. You just put up with what ever was going to come your way. No parent wrestled with choices of education and things-that-can-go-wrong like we do now.

Of course the catastrophes, back then, were somewhat limited to teenage pregnancy and drug addiction. Now you can add in a huge increase in teenage suicide, anorexia and bulimia, cutting and self-mutilation, all kinds of sexually transmitted diseases, bullying to the point of inducing suicide. Oh, it's a beautiful life.

Now I'm not saying this runs rampant in every high school. There's a lot of wonderful things happening in school as well. It's just that there's a lot we parents see and there's a lot we don't see or don't hear about. You really need the wisdom of Solomon to help navigate your teen through the teenage years.

You need to be pro-active and discerning- but you mustn't be paranoid and overly protective. You need to challenge your kid to stand up and grow in confidence- but you also need to know when the bruised reed is breaking. I know so many parents where their child broke under the strain of something, and they did not see it happening till the final crack.

Apparently this wisdom of Solomon is something we can also have- according to James 1. If we lack wisdom, we're supposed to ask God for it. He's supposed to give it to us- and give it to us without ridiculing us or mocking us for how uninformed and unprepared we are to deal with things. The one caveat is that we are supposed to ask in such a way that our belief of receiving it is evident. No fooling God.

This kind of wisdom we are asking for is not a mystical crazy eight ball that helps us make our choices with a flick of the wrist. It's a practical wisdom. It's prudence (an old fashioned word). It's having the right application of knowledge. It's insight into the situation you are facing.

It's not just the teenage years that are so critical. Anytime you are dealing with a situation of many sides, many challenges, many chances for error- you need wisdom. You need it badly.

I often think of King Solomon and all his splendor (and all his wives- no wonder he needed wisdom). I think of the times in which we live. I think of all the choices and all the catastrophes and crises that people face. I think of how we need wisdom more than ever. And then I contemplate how much wisdom do I already have? Is wisdom really even quantifiable? Can I even tell when I am operating in wisdom?

These are the questions I have that I'm not even sure Solomon himself could answer. I need to make some decisions. I'd like to know the future outcome of what I decide before I decide it- but that's not gonna happen. So what I'll do for now is keep holding my hand out, my head up, my eyes open, and ask and search for that wisdom like a hound on a rabbit scent.

The hope I have is in the generosity of God's plan to give that wisdom. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him."

I think God's going to hear from me a lot more than He ever did from Solomon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So You Think You Will Dance?

Maybe it's because he's seen my mother , his grandmother, so shaky and frail that he got a bit alarmed at what happens as we age. Or maybe my son is going to be a future fitness tyrant enthusiastically barking out orders to flabby flailing people trying to get in shape. Whatever the reason, Alex has decided that I must get in shape; that my bones are weak, my muscles minuscule, and nothing will change about this unless he helps me.

Help me, he does. He texts me throughout the day, "Have you done your exercises? Have you done your push ups?".

I text him back- "Leave me alone. I'm reading". And I smile, shake my head, get up, and then drop- and do 10 push ups.

Ah, the joys of doing what you should do- because someone is making you do it.

I'm glad, though, that he's gotten me into this daily habit. I feel stronger. I'm flexing my little arm muscles a lot and gleaming with joy over my accomplishment. I am woman. I am strong. I am under house arrest if I don't do my exercises.

At least I can accomplsih this. Even if I can't navigate the career path, the Path to Your Success- at least I can become less flabby and more firm, resolute, fixed on being a muscular mom and not a marshmallow of a thing that ages more rapidly than I should.

I'm exercising. I'm working out. And it only happened because someone made me do it. Someone harassed and hounded me to do it- and it was for my sake that my son did all that prodding. It's for my good. The more I work out, and see the results, the more I'm glad I'm doing it.

I think that this happens a lot, in our lives. Sometimes we start doing something we never intended to do. We wound up doing it because someone intervened, the circumstances became such that we had to, or we were given a loving push off the cliff and found out we Or rejoice, if we had to. That's what the prophet Habakkuk tells us.

3: 17,18 Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Because of the devastation due to the Babylonian invasion, this was a bleak time for the believers. I think of the devastating economy and unemployment figures and notices of plants closing and I think, yes, it seems like an invasion. Bad news poured in and pillaged our land. Nothing is blossoming and blooming- like it used to.

And then we read the prophet saying, "YET...". Yet will I rejoice. And more than that, he says, "I will joy in the God of my salvation." Literally, it translates out to something like "I will dance for joy in the God of my salvation."

I've seen people holding signs, "Will work for food" when I've visited spots in the inner city, and even when I was living in Spain, years ago. The things we will do- when we're hungry. When we're out of luck, out of hope.

But in this passage, it's like the prophet is saying, "Things are bad. They're so bad and so bleak, that I'm out of hope. YET, I'm that desperate for a morsel of goodness, a mouthful of sweet sustenance, that I'll do anything. I could say, 'Will work for food'- but there's none to be had. So instead, I'll declare, 'Will dance for joy'- cause I may just need joy more than anything else."

I consider doing this. I think of how I've been working out... for the sake of getting muscles. And then I think, no, that's not right. I've been working out for love's sake. My son cares about me. He worries about me getting old and frail and falling. He wants me to be strong. So he prods me to work for muscles. Work out for strength. So I do. I post a sign as I start exercising: "Aging woman. Will work for muscles. "

Then I put on some loud boisterous music and stretch out some more, take a deep breath and exhale. I look up. Heavenward. I post another sign- that I want God to read. "Tired Christian. Will Dance for Joy."

And then I start dancing with great expectation at what will come next.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Take a Deep Breath

Wonderful things and terrible things happen in the middle of the night. Every mother knows this. Oh, the thoughts that run through your head at that time of the night- namely 3am- when your 19 year old son is not home yet: you think of the worst, pray for the best, and get ready to give that kid of yours a real talking to when he finally does drive in at 4am.

Only as soon as I heard his car pull in, I turned over in bed, heaved a sigh of relief and a prayer of thanks, and decided to give him the talking-to at lunch time. Or whenever he was going to wake up and tell me all about the concert he went to and how great it was and didn't-I-like-his-t shirt and all that. He'll smile at me and kid me about my overwhelming concern for him, and I'll sigh and roll my eyes at him and care only that he is alive and well and testing the boundaries of freedom, safety, and life. That kid of mine keeps me hurdling through life, yelping out prayers, looking upward with frantic eyes at times, and stumbling...forward...hopefully.

Now my soon-to-be-15 year old daughter does just the opposite. She organizes me. Prods my memory. Reminds me to take the bread out of the oven before I burn it. Cleans her room routinely and smiles while she does it. Tells me not to forget the doctor appointment. And all that. Her way of grabbing life by the throat and engaging it is not quite the way my son does it. Hallelujah for the small reprieves God throws our way.

But I do learn from both my kids. My son teaches me to take the foot off the brake and press on the gas. My daughter reminds me of the safety of stop signs. It's like I have two voices reminding me to "Get going!" and "Go safely" all at the same time- and I'm not sure you can always do both.

You can't always navigate safely and avoid all danger. Sometimes you can avoid a good amount of trouble- but you shouldn't think you'll never have a sleepless night or a frantic day of waiting for good news. But nor should you think that careful planning and good thinking can't help you sail on a little more safely and surely- even as you sing "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life".

Good mental health is the awareness that life is a bit dangerous- and that you don't develop a sick love for danger, but maybe a bit of respect for the way that danger makes your heart beat faster to the point that you remember how very alive you are. Too much safety and sameness can make you as powerful as a clogged drain and as dull as an overstuffed cat.

Speaking of cats, my gardener brother is thinking of getting one (or a dog) so that his garden won't be overun with voles. But after yesterday, I think I wouldn't mind having a couple of those cute mice-like creatures in my backyard (especially since I have nothing growing there but weeds).

I saved the life of a vole yesterday. As soon as I spotted it in my brother's garden, I regretted exclaiming what I saw because my brother protected his green organic paradise with a vengeance. I pleaded for its life.

"We'll have to move it far away from the garden, then- if you don't want me to kill it" he said.

I grabbed an empty pail and he prodded it and plopped it in the pail. It was still.

"You gave it a concussion!" I wailed.

"Nah, he's just staying quiet cause he's afraid".

Fear not, I thought compassionately- trying to convey to this creature that it would not end badly. But how do you let a little vole know that though he feels in great danger, that the hand holding the bucket is a gentle one- not a striking one.

We drove down the street, pulled into a little parking lot next to some woods, opened the car door, and turned over the bucket. The vole sat there. Stunned. Dazed. Afraid. Delirious with joy, perhaps. He was alive. The moment of danger had passed. He would go on another day.

And that's what I'm doing today.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

So Tell Me About Yours

It's a bit misleading: the photo, in the last post, with "Family" staring out at you, and me talking about "throw it away, throw it away". I wasn't alluding to throwing away your family- but there are times when I've wanted to run away from them. From my family. The one I grew up in- not the one I have now.

The family I have now is of my own choosing, for the most part. There's my husband, Bill, and my two kids, and our dog, Harry- otherwise known as Harry Berry, Boo Bear, or just Boo. This is my family. And while God picked out the two kids He gave us, I am in complete agreement with Him that these are the two children I would most want to have out of the heavenly pickings that I suppose there were.

But the family I grew up in- well, I had nothing to do with selecting them. And they would say amen to that too. We're a motley bunch. There's five of us kids- now grown adults with kids of our own, except for my one bachelor brother who, I doubt, will ever marry and have kids. His choosin', you know. One of us is a strong choleric leader, one is a quiet gardener, one is bossy and loyal, one is tender and opinionated, and one is helpful and needy of attention.

The older I get, the more I don't really get along with them that well; we don't see eye to eye on things. But I see, now, why this is so: it's because I'm still changing and they've changed and we keep forgetting that fact. We keep wanting to see each other as we once knew each other, instead of getting used to learning who each other is becoming.

Sometimes it's a bit lonely being surrounded by people who supposedly know you, and at the same time, don't know you. With the exception of one brother, we all live within five miles of each other. But we're not the Brady Bunch or Little House on the Prairie.

I loved those T.V. shows when I was little. I have always loved the Ideal: the idea of an Ideal Family, an Ideal life. There seemed to be no end of families I knew that were ideal or almost perfect. Or so I thought. Then as the years passed, the idea of the Ideal got tarnished, thank God.

I think one reason why people tend to confide in me about their sorrows or struggles or strained homelife is that I don't ever get surprised at what can go wrong in a family. I'm not surprised, very often, at what can go wrong in any enterprise, any group or church or unit of people. If there's a bunch of people, there will be a bunch of opinions, ideas, and varying expressions of thought.

Expect variety and expect the unexpected when it comes to family life. Forget the idea of there being a black sheep in every family; cause most likely there'll also be a polka dotted one too. Sometimes I'm the rebel in my family and sometimes I'm the peace maker. And sometimes I forget who I am, when I'm with them, and sometimes I remember who I am because of being with them.

One thing I'll always be is a part of them. That's because it was God's choosing- many years ago- and lately He keeps telling me it's time that it was my choosing as well.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Throw it Away, Throw it Away

(photo by

I've been organizing- if you can call it that- my email in-box by trying to unsubscribe to the many emails that are coming in that I don't want. I call this pruning, or streamlining. I got an email from which has a tag line, "Clean. Neat. Easy." and that one I decide to keep subscribing too.

It makes me feel good, momentarily, to get rid of junk and unneeded things. But this temporary feeling is just that- temporary. Soon I feel overwhelmed by clutter- both in my inbox and in my house.

I know where I get this from- this need to prune and purify my surroundings. I grew up in a small house overflowing with people: five kids, several cats, a cousin living with us, and two parents. When we moved to a larger home, when I was in second grade, it felt like we were moving into a mansion. I took deep breaths of privacy and peace. But these bits of privacy and peace were always temporary as well, because I shared a room with a sister, and because no matter how big a house is, it does not mean all will be at peace.

One habit my father developed, that I now realize was in reaction to this chaotic brood of his, was to mandate a weekly streamlining of our lives. This happened almost every Saturday, or when things started to feel crazy in our home: my Dad would make us go to our rooms and throw away 20 items,...or 100 items if he was really stressed that week! My sisters and I learned how to count a piece of thread as an item, or a rubber band, or a button, so that we could retain as many of our belongings as we could. We really didn't have a lot of stuff. We didn't own much junk. We shared our clothing. So what could we possibly need to throw away?

This need to suddenly cleanse and purify our supposedly cluttered surroundings has never gone away. I'll visit my Mom and Dad and it will usually come up. I'll be sitting in my Mom's room and smiling at here as she's resting in bed. She's so frail, now. She smiles a lot, but she sleeps a lot too. Her life long battle with depression has worn her out. She still looks heavenward, but I can see that she has an increasing connection with the Lord and a decreasing connection with us, here on earth. It's obvious that we are not going to have her forever.

And in the midst of thinking that, while my Dad is sitting there in the room with us, he'll suddenly say "Your mother's room needs cleaning. Her closet needs someone to go through it and throw away the junk. Will you do that?"

I'll look around the room. There might be a few articles of clothing on the rocking chair, and a few toiletries arranged on the dresser. Her closet has some clothing in it, all hung nicely on hangers. Where's the junk, I think? What do I need to throw away?

But I already know the answer to that. I can remember painful times, sad times ( throw them away, throw them away) and I can remember times where stress reigned in our home and not peace- in spite of the fact that there was never a family more committed to each other, more intent on being a family (throw that away, throw that away). I know why my Dad goes on these de-cluttering binges. I know why I get a momentary high after I've cleaned my house, wiped the countertops clean of crumbs and dust and the things that speak of dirt and decay.

I want peace and order in my life. I want a mind that is clean and clear. I want a heart that is free from bitterness and regret. But you don't get that from clearing your home of debris and junk. You don't even get that by going once or twice to counseling or a therapist or a priest. It takes endless forgiving and releasing, and forgiving and keeping that which is good and letting the rest go.

There's nothing wrong with a clean, organized, beautiful home. It's just that the only way it can stay perfectly clean perfectly organized and decluttered, is for people to live in it perfectly. Neatly. Robotically.

Our homes reveal our pain and our promise for hope. Our homes reveal the strain and stresses of the challenge of living. Our cluttered desks reveal that we get more information and details from bill collectors than we often do from those we love.

But this is life. And life is messy and clean, chaotic and peaceful.
It all depends on where and how and who and when...and then it starts all over again. Throw it away, throw it away- the junk, the pain, the bitterness. But I can't throw away the evidence that I am alive and imperfect and hopeful, all at the same time.

I want gleaming counters and clean bathrooms. But I've decided messy kitchens are good too. And closets stuffed with gifts and mismatched clothing and odds and ends are not going to make me fall apart. I'll go for clean and order, whenever I can, but I'll also go for the grace to be able to cope with clutter and chaos- because it does happen every now and then. And I'm done with trying to make it not be so.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Sometimes when you wearily ask God to point out a way, where there seems to be no way, He does something different instead: He gives you a moment of refreshment so that you can get back on track. Cause you find out, later, that you're doing just fine- it's just that you were getting a bit stale and worn.

I have been feeling, lately, about as creative as a turtle going through menopause. Sluggish. Slow. Unenlightened.

And then I get this award. (Sigh). It's beautiful. Undeserved, I think, but certainly appreciated. Just what I needed.

And the fact that the award itself- the design and the color- is so much up my alley of what I love, decorating style-wise, makes me think how much God wanted to cheer me up. (I'd love to walllpaper my bedroom in that pink toile-like pattern in the award).

Thank you, C. Nick at A Provision of God . I am touched and smiling inside. And feeling creative again.

Okay, now I have to list 7 things that I love and then pass the award along to 7 of my fellow bloggers.


1. When God surprises me with a big, fat, huge YES when I was expecting a No.
2. When someone says "I understand"- and they really do.
3. A foot rub with peppermint lotion
4. Pizza Night with my family
5. Reading a Good Book that takes me into another world and returns me to my own with increased hope and understanding
6. When someone stands up for someone in need, at the risk of their own comfort
7. Inner Peace (Peace like a river)

Now this is the part of getting an award that always gets to me. I hate to select only a few people to receive something that many people deserve to get.

Can I do it this way? Can I expand the award base?

I'd like to pass this award on to the 38 Readers ("Followers") listed on my side panel here. These readers, of their own volition, chose to follow the postings here on Faith Fuel. They're like fragrant pineapple-scented chewing gum that sticks to you- and I'm glad they've stuck to Faith Fuel and want to follow what happens here.

So each of you Blog FOLLOWERS, please receive this award and post the 7 things you love. Let's visit their blogs and get to know each other more! These are some of the Followers of this blog:

Kelly's Ideas
K.Frangeskos, Jesus Knows You Best
Jeremy Belter, Fitness in the Fast Lane
Shanchere, The Cracker Lady

and more ...............................................................................................>>>>>

Have fun visiting these great people. And thanks again, C. Nick. Now I'm off to have a very creative, fruitful, inspiring day!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Big D

Can I just say one thing-only one- about the show, The Bachelorette, which was on last night? I promise that I'll get back to more serious, noble pursuits and not discuss any more such trite and foolish things as how a woman chooses a future mate, how she sifts through the personal information these men present to her, how she discerns who is really there for her and who is using this moment of fame to further their fortunes. NOT!

This IS serious stuff. This is not fluff. I know, I know- it's a T.V. show. It's a reality show. It's produced and edited and reformatted to entice viewers and to sell advertising and all that. But I'm talking about the main verb here of what Jillian is doing in this show: she is deciding.

There is nothing frivolous about decision-making. How you decide on something is how you either live, thrive, suffer, survive. Decision making is Key. Good Decision making ability is a key to a successful, fruitful, prosperous life. Read the book of Proverbs and you'll see it's all about the wisdom and foolishness of man's decision making.

HOW you choose something (or someone) and WHY you choose something (or someone) says a lot about you. I belabor this point a lot, I know. And it's because I look back at my own life and see that the majority of painful times I went through had to do with not only the decisions I made, but more importantly, the liberty I felt- or constraint- in making those decisions.

If there's anything I want for my teenage daughter, it's wisdom and the ability to choose wisely. Even when it comes to Faith, and understanding God's love for us, you have to choose your response to God's Love: will you accept it? Will you decide it's real and that you can believe it and rely on it?

"Choose you this day..." and the choices are many each day we live. Forget Reality TV for a moment. Forget the foolish drama that is played up on these shows. The real drama of life is already occurring every time we decide what we will do, what we believe, who we trust. I'm just glad that the Who I Trust Decision was settled along time ago.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Forward, March!

I'm famous! At least I was for a moment. Well, only if you happened to be watching our local news, and only if you watched it at approximately 5:15pm yesterday. For one moment, there I was, in living color: me, the introvert, on T.V.

I had gone to a local career fair, yesterday, and there was a TV news crew filming the participants. I kept trying to step out of sight of the camera, but somehow, when I wasn't looking, they zoomed in on me, smiling, shaking hands with a Human Resource Rep, and looking very intent on what the person was saying to me.

I was intent on our conversation. This meant more to me than being on T.V. because what does a moment of fame get you? Nothing, really. (Especially since my family and my best friend didn't even get to see me on T.V.). But a new job, a new career,, that will get you somewhere!

I'm one of those people who know what I love doing, but don't exactly know the name of the job I should have. I could probably enjoy a number of different types of jobs, and I have, over the years, done a number of interesting things. So, it's been a little hard, over the years, getting on a career track and staying on track.

My bigger goal has been to stay on track spiritually and emotionally and to have a healthy mind. What can you do, for a job, if you are crippled in your thinking, hampered by debilitating fears, held back by self sabotaging behaviorial patterns? Not much.

I'm never going to stop writing and speaking and teaching, when the situation calls for it. But I have been seriously considering going back to school and getting my Masters Degree in Counseling. It's funny how we use the term "going back to school" as if this is a step backwards.

I probably have missed many steps forward precisely because of this: that they seemed like they were a step backwards rather than a step forward. Onward Ho! Forward, March! These are all the expressions that need to be in the vocabulary and mindset of anyone who wants to make significant progress in their life. There'll be many opportunities to advance- but they're often disguised as something else. And this is where I ask the Lord for a clear mind, a discerning spirit, and tons of courage to take the next step forward, no matter what that looks like.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Surprise, Surprise!

Sometimes I feel like I should join a Support Group called Introverts Anonymous. The reason why this group would meet anonymously and be known by first name only is because everyone in the group, including myself, is an introvert disguised as an extrovert. Nobody ever believes me when I tell them I'm an introvert.

"But you're so cheerful and outgoing!" (Because most people think introverts are morose and ominously quiet!)

"But you're so talkative!" (As if introverts don't like to share what's on their mind!)

I share what's on my mind all the time. Maybe you can tell that- if you've visited here off and on over the months. I can easily articulate what's on my mind, what's bothering me, what I'm thinking about, what I'm hoping for. I've been articulating my thoughts for 40+ years. It's just that for the first 14+ years of my life, my diary was the main recipient of my thoughts.

Even then, being a quieter kid did not make me more of an introvert. An introvert is someone who refuels by being alone- or refuels better by having enough time alone as opposed to being with people all day long. Introverts can be very sociable- trust me on this. We can be pleasant and conversant. It's just that if we have to converse TOO much, we'll soon want to withdraw and get some time alone. We want to recalibrate our inner thermostat.

Give me a quiet beach and some good sunscreen and an iced tea and a good book- I will be one happy camper. (No, don't take me camping, please. I did enough of that when I was younger and in my mind, it's an arduous type of enjoyment, if you ask me. And remember, if you ask me, I will tell you what I think!)

Why am I bringing this up? Recently we were chatting with a couple that we've been getting to know better, and one of them could not believe me when I told him I was an introvert. His mouth hung open in disbelief. (Apparently we were doing enough chatting, and I was doing enough expressing of my opinions, that I did not look like the quintessential introvert!)

But you can always find tell tale signs of my introversion. For example, good bloggers post a lot of photos, and in particular, a lot of photos of themselves doing things, doing crazy things, smiling at the camera, etc. I don't like to post photos of myself. I'm an introvert, remember?!

Sometimes I want to share some thoughts with the world, and then leave the world behind and just be alone. Sometimes I want to hang out with loved ones and hear all their thoughts and laugh and joke around. But then I'll feel a need to get some time alone, by myself, later on. Maybe it's my way of getting my stability, getting my base line.

The only reason I bring this up is to mention that Christians can be introverts or extroverts. Surprise, surprise. And one of these is not holier than the other. Don't be over impressed by the gregarious hospitality of someone who invites someone to come stay with them for a week. If this person is an extrovert, they may not be straining at all in doing this. They're not more pious than an introvert who goes out of his way, out of his comfort zone, to reach out to someone and spend the day listening to them.

You really can't always tell when people are operating out of their comfort zone. Sometimes people are doing something that takes a great deal of faith and effort- and you would never know it. And sometimes people are doing wonderful things that everyone can see, and maybe they already have their reward, as Jesus said.

Now, I don't want anyone clapping their hands for me or commending me- BUT if I decide to post some photos, particularly of myself, I just want you to know it was a big step for me, being the introvert that I am! And if I don't wind up posting more photos here,'s cause I'm an introvert. I kinda want to stay hidden.

But I'll still keep chatting with you all here- even if you don't see my face, you'll hopefully see my heart. Everyone is welcome here at Faith Fuel- whatever your burden, whatever your hang up is, whatever your social orientation is. Extroverts, Introverts...God calls us all to Himself and we all shed our layers of protection the closer we get to Him.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cooking Up a Great Father's Day

I love Saveur magazine's tantalizing recipes. These appear in my email inbox every day and tempt me to think I can make every day...gourmet.

I asked my husband, yesterday, what he wanted for father's day, as far as food goes. I was thinking Lobster because I noticed our local supermarket had lobster on sale. I think it was 5.99 a pound. (I just wanted the claws and the tail, drenched in melted butter, and ...wait, I'm getting ahead of myself).

He said a thick steak on the grill, or shish-ka-bobs with lots of sweet grilled onion and green peppers. He's definitely a meat and potatoes type of guy. So that's what he was thinking about yesterday.

We wound up making our homemade pizza, though- and it was probably the experience of making it, together, that my husband wanted- more than the taste of pizza itself. Maybe this is when we really feel like a family and look like one. (We're a messy family, for sure. The cheese was everywhere!)

Hope all you Fathers out there had the best Father's Day Ever!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Oh, That Smells Good!!

Sometimes in trying to fix a problem, you create another one. It happens all the time, in high and low places. Or in the case of our house, which is situated rather high on a hill, the problem occurred in the lower level of our housel.

I'm remembering this problem because yesterday we had another showing on the house. I was careful to clean and neaten up the house but at the same time, not create the problem that I did when we first listed the house.

We were having a Broker's Open House and I was getting the house ready for what would be a real hard nosed critique by these savvy brokers who were coming. I thought I did everything right, until the written critique came in a couple days later. There were some glowing comments about our house having a lovely "alpine setting" and some other nice comments. But there were two comments that referenced something similar to Marcellus' comment: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark".

I had vacuumed the carpets with a borrowed vacuum cleaner (ours was broken) that had not had the filter changed in a while. A long while. There was a dank musty odor left over after the vacuuming that I had not really detected in my frenzy to get the house ready. Here I had freshly vacuumed carpets (yeah!) but a nasty musty odor at the same time (oh no!).

This seems to happen a lot in life. You try to do something good but you sometimes cause a problem in the process. I think God has a lot of compassion for us when this happens. In fact, I would venture to say God has more compassion and grace for us, when this happens, than we do for ourselves.

But I think one thing God is not too compassionate about is when we deliberately disobey, or faithlessly want to retreat or return to old addictions, old problems and patterns of the past. And I think God has to be very firm with us when this happens. He has to thunder at us, in warning, when we want to sabotage our progress.

When the Israelites were in the desert, they really got God's dander up when they complained of His lack of provision and referenced that they, at least, had some food back in Egypt. God rains down a new type of food, called Manna, and He gives them the provision they had complained He doesn't give. But he does test them, as well. (It's for God to test us, not for us to ever test God).

He tells them, through Moses, not to gather more than what they need for that day. In other words, every day now, they were going to have to believe and trust and have faith that He would rain down the manna. And some did not want to trust Him. Some did not want to have faith that He would provide. So they gathered extra manna to hoard it for another day. "And it bred worms and it stank".

This odor of unbelief is a lot different than the bad smell of a botched up plan to do something good. I try to comfort myself with this revelation every time I start to do something good and wind up failing at it or fumbling around. Maybe I could even look at my botched up progress as something that still smells like a beautiful fragrance to God. God loves it when His children step out in faith- even if they later fall and skin their knees.

But if I do something out of fear, out of unbelief, out of a deliberate refusal to trust what God has already proven Himself faithful in doing and providing, over and over- then I not only disappoint God, I also have a musty odor. To Him. It could be that sometimes God sighs and says, "Something is rotten in the state of Lauren's mind- because she doesn't trust me". Ouch! I don't want that said of me either. (I know, I also said in one of my recent posts that I don't want it said of me that I'm so heavenly minded, I'm no earthly good. So now I'm accumulating things I don't want said of me!)

Some of you might be saying, "Lauren, just go out and buy a new vacuum cleaner and you won't go into these ruminations!". But just for the record, my broken vacuum cleaner was a brand new one that I just bought! Not new enough to be under warranty and return it, but new enough that it made me mad it wasn't working already.

Still, after cleaning out the filter and the bag of the borrowed vacuum cleaner, it still has a bit of a musty odor. I need a brand new vacuum cleaner. (I might get that one with the ball that easily glides around corners. How's that for how advertising gets you!). Whatever I get, I not only need a new vacuum cleaner, but I need new faith for each day. It's a gutsy faith- not the kind with a serene smile and a passive stance.

Because while my house had a momentary problem with this, I don't want any unbelieving stench coming from me. I want God to not only see me approaching Him, but to smell me a mile away! He'll take a whiff of my operative faith and instead of scrunching up His nose in displeasure, He'll smile at the fragrant aroma of my fresh Fiery Faith.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I really don't have anything against this guy personally. But I don't care for Wes too much. But it's not because this guy is shady or dishonest. He seems to be pretty clear about his goal of becoming a country music star. I just don't think, though, that Jillian is hearing this guy when he talks about his music career and the needed publicity and the fact that he's getting some very good publicity by being on the show, The Bachelorette.

Most of us who are watching this Reality Show are well aware of Wes' ambition. He's not exactly writing it in big letters on a billboard for Jillian to see, but he is fairly clear about his desire to be a famous singer. If he sings that song, "They say that love- it don't come easy" one more time, I might throw something at the screen! But Jillian just loves it when Wes sings. She thinks he's singing for her. He's not.

This is where the "wise as a serpent" admonition comes in. This is where we need to think on our feet, and not just let our heart rhapsodic hopes of love. This is where we need to dig a little deeper when it comes to assessing someone's intentions, their ambitions, their addictions.

My teen age daughter and I get to do a lot of discussing when we watch this show (and I get to do a lot of editing too! Not everything that takes place on the show is what we accept as normative for our lives). We talk about how you have to go a little deeper when it comes to seeing someone's true colors. And it's perfectly acceptable to be somewhat reserved, somewhat appraising when it comes to evaluating what someone wants from you, who they are, what they are offering. You don't have to hug everyone the minute you meet them. You can look for substance, depth, honesty, integrity- and when you find it, the hug you give someone means so much more.

Here's to hoping Jillian takes another long hard look at Wes. Here's to her seeing how much he wants a music career- maybe more than anything else. More than he wants her. And here's to Jillian, and every other person who has had to realize a painful truth, but then because they did, they were better off. Much better off.

Monday, June 15, 2009

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

Bill and I had friends over Saturday night and we had a rousing good time: lots of talking and conversing and questioning and debating and eating. One issue that came up was whether or not Christians do better deliberately trying to do business with other Christians. My personal point of view was that if I have a business matter at hand, I seek out the best business advice, the best rep, the best firm- I don't care what their religious beliefs are. I sounded very "secular", I know.

Our friend had a different feeling on the matter. He thought that you would do better doing business with someone who held godly convictions, and that they would deliver the goods, so to speak, more so because of their spiritual convictions and beliefs. That you could, as brothers or sisters in the Lord, hold each other accountable to God's higher standard of doing things.

I just think it muddies the water. I've become more pragmatic in my golden years (!) and by that I don't think "less spiritual". I think it's godly to be practical. I think it's godly to do business in an excellent manner- and yet I've met and known outstanding business people who did not hold my "godly" beliefs, and I had a better experience, sometimes, than if I had done business with a Christian.

I'm not saying all Christians are lousy business people. Really, I'm not. But I've known a lot of Christians who were trying and sincere, and yet fumbling and mixed up at the same time, just as many non Christian business people can be. I've also known atheistic business people who had integrity and clear objectives, and I've known well meaning Christians who tried to evangelize and manage contractual obligations, poorly, all at the same time.

Why am I bringing this up? Who knows?! But maybe this conversation we had with friends is more of an important life matter, to me, than I realized at first.

When I visited the Yahoo Finance page this morning, I saw this article headline "7 Signs a Stock is Ready to Slide"- and it made me think of how people slide and fall and how we don't always see it coming. It made me remember the times I've gone to do business with a Christian, expecting the experience to be smooth and clear, and I was shaken up by how screwed up the relationship got and by how bad the business advice was or how inept the person was. I didn't see the signs that the transaction was getting botched up royally. And I was mad or hurt or shocked because I thought that the person, being a Christian, would then be an ideal person to do business with.

No one is ideal, though. No One. Sometimes I feel like apologizing to the world at large for all we've botched and bullied in the name of Christianity. And sometimes I feel like yelling at the world and telling it to give us a break for being human, fallible, stupid at times, and dim witted. Sometimes I'm embarrassed by how much I've grown and matured because it means that I was so stupid and dull and slow to see. It means I had a long way to go- if I am now more mature. A long way.

But everyone has a long way to go. It's just that I think we Christians sometimes forget to remind ourselves, and the world, that we're in that category as well. We have not arrived. Just because we "know Jesus" or we've "seen the light" doesn't mean that we are not still, often, sitting in the dark and thinking it's bright enough.

So if you have a business matter today to attend to, my advice is to seek someone who is grounded in the facts, and more than sincere in their aim to help you. Sincerity is not enough. You have to be clear about how cloudy you can be. You have to remember that the best help is given when the objectives are met, the transaction is straight forward, and the outcome is that you feel you were helped, not defrauded, not preached to, not short changed.

I want to be a better business woman. I want to be a clear minded citizen. I want to be sane and cogent and clear on all matters- religious or practical. Because the last thing I want said about me is that I'm so heavenly minded I'm no earthly good.