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.