Saturday, December 31, 2011

self control: an introduction

Pilates.  Everyone is doing it, so I plop in a DVD and give it a go.  I like the nice-and-slow for this 40-something body.  Not complicated like step aerobics, in which I attempted to do myself bodily harm by trying to move my feet onto the step and twist and turn and down again too fast -me in the mirror faced one direction while everyone else in the class was facing the other.  I can do Pilates in my living room, and it seems to cause as much pain the next day as did step aerobics, so I don’t feel I’m cheating myself out of exercise.  Mari Windsor, with her cheerful smile coming from her already-toned body saying, “Stretch –a little farther, a little farther.  For me it’s never enough.”  The exercises are always the same on the DVD, day after day, but one day my hands get closer to toes than they did the day before.  This week I can stretch a little farther than last week, which makes me want to try to stretch even farther.

A slow stretch into strength and flexibility and abs to be proud of.  “Contrology” is the word Joseph Pilates coined to describe the mind controlling the movements of the muscles.

So many areas in my life out of control.  Too much television.  Too much sugar.  Too many words to the wrong people at the wrong time.  Not enough house cleaning.  Not enough attention to people.  Not enough vegetables.  Spending out of control.  Lack of discipline to make a meal every night.  Lack of self control everywhere. 

Everyone feels it.  Everyone lacks the control and talks about the lack every day.  Guilt because of not accomplishing what should have been accomplished -again.  Guilt because of doing what should not have been done –again.  Apologizing to God.  Apologizing to people.  Guilt everywhere.

And with the guilt come attempts.  Monday morning diets.  New Year resolutions.  I’m not going to speak like that to my kids ever again.  I’m only going to be on Facebook for five minutes at a time.  I’m not going to buy anymore of those.  I’m going to finish my list.  Valiant attempts to change, to gain self control. 

Followed most often by failure. 

And with failure comes hopelessness.  I’ll never be able to control what I eat.  I’ll never control what I say.  I'll never control how I speak.  I’ll never.  I’ll never. 

And with the I’ll never comes why try.  Why try again?

But one day I did try.  I stretched a little farther, a little farther.  And this time it worked.  And because it worked I was able to stretch farther the next time.

And because it worked I’m writing it down for you.

Nice and slow.  I encourage you to stretch, just a little bit at first but then a little farther.  Contrology. 

The secrets are in the Bible.  Good news:  In the Christ-filled life we are able to achieve a toned life.

Follow my blog this year as I write a few times a week about living a self-controlled life.  Not because I've achieved it but because I finally have hope that I can. 

Friday, December 30, 2011


It was sixth grade, and I had to make a bug collection for science class -a miserable assignment for a book nerd who generally avoided nature.  I managed to collect the bugs, but you will not believe what they traveled to school in after I asked dad to help me with the display.

All the bugs were laid out on velvet-covered Styrofoam encased in a hand-built, wooden case that had been sanded, varnished, and glossed.  There was a lid with hinges and a latch to close it -and inlaid glass so you could view the bugs without opening the door.  Dad's idea of helping me with my science project.

Every time I ask God for help I get the same thing.

Way more than I asked for.
Way better than I imagined.

Over the top.   

Genesis 1:31.  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


On December 24 my aunt and my mom both finished.  Each one held a tattered-edged, read-the-Bible-through Bible.  They read day 365 and closed the book with a smile.  I felt a longing and a determination rise up in me.

Earlier in the month mom had asked if I wanted anything special for Christmas, and I asked for a read-the-Bible through Bible.  There had been a few times in the year when I had seen these ladies slip away from the crowd and open theirs.  I want that.  I opened the 365-day Bible Christmas morning and held it in my hand.  Again I feel the longing and determination.  How could I be a different person next Christmas if I were to completely read through this book?

I cheated and started early, assuming that somewhere along the line this year I would have a bad day and not get the book cracked open.  Now only 364 days to go. 

I read Matthew 1:5.  The middle of a list –all the moms and grandmas and great grandmas and great-greats in the line of Jesus.  “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.”

Boaz was a good man.  Attentive, compassionate, merciful.  A redeemer.  All we see is his tender care of a woman.

And only one word describes how he knew to treat a woman that way. 


What if my only fame some day is my name in a list.  And what if my entire life is only described by the influence I have had on the life of someone else?

And I know it’s this 364 days-left-to-read that will shape how my name reads on the page some day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I started playing the piano for church when I was in sixth grade. (I wasn't very good. The pastor's wife often gaspingly requested that I slow down my playing so the congregation could breathe occasionally.) I was always really nervous to get up and play the piano, even though I loved playing. My hands would turn to ice and get all sweaty. I sat next to dad every Sunday, and before I would get up to play he would grab my hands, put them in between his, and gently rub them until they warmed up. He could read my anxiety.

I woke up with anxiety this morning. My little girl leaves the nest this year. Is she ready? Am I ready? Will there be money to send her? Work hasn’t been so great lately. Will we be really short on meeting budget in January? Responsibilities press in -need to clean house, need to write lesson plans for teaching, need to take down Christmas decorations. So many need-to’s.

Hands turn to ice and get all sweaty.

The promises of God reach over. Callused from years of working. They grab my cold, anxious thoughts and start to rub. Warm and strong. Calming.

Psalm 139:5-6. “You hem me in –behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me…”

Monday, December 26, 2011


I watched my sister-in-law try to unpackage a toy for her daughter on Christmas Eve. It took her 15 minutes to get the large play horse ready for play. It was tethered to the box it came in. The mane was secured in plastic. The saddle and bridle were secured with plastic. Every little accessory was secured in plastic. I watched her curly-headed daughter hover through the entire process -anxiously waiting until she could hold that beautiful horse. She was never more than a foot away from her mom the entire time. Watching. Hands eager to touch and play. So close but unable to enjoy it yet.

Genesis 1:2. The earth was formless and void. The Spirit of God hovered over the surface waters. Trembling. So close, yet the word had not yet been spoken for things to be.

Hovering. This word in Hebrew also means to have a feeling of tender love, to cherish. The Spirit of God trembled over the surface of the waters, ready to love. Anxious for the people to exist. Like a mother who touches her belly in the ninth month, imagining the face of the child she
loves but hasn’t seen yet. Ready to hold him in her arms. So close yet unable to enjoy the love yet.

A new year approaches, and I picture the Spirit hovering over my life -trembling with a feeling of tender love, ready to speak the word of creation on my coming 365 days. What is He anxious to do in me… through me. I look into the dark and formless void of 2012 and hope. Speak, Lord.
Say the word that will bring light and life and green, growing things in my new year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

two places

There are now 12 people gathered in this house for the holidays. Every nook has someone
sleeping in it. I wake up early, as is my habit, and lay in bed for an hour enjoying the quiet. Soon the house will be people everywhere, laughing, cooking, relaxing, sitting in front of the fireplace, wrapping last minute Christmas presents, football game on the television, little girls running around the house. A peaceful chaos.

As I lay in the dark and stillness of the morning, I begin to pray. Thinking of a few Bible verses
I’ve been memorizing. Talking to God about what I hope for next year. Wondering if what I want to do lines up with what He needs me to do. Thanking Him for a warm house and cozy bed
when it’s -10 degrees outside.

Faces appear in my mind, people God has brought into my life in the last several months. A woman alone trying to recover from cancer. A young man staying in our home on the weekends.
A high school student who is having a hard time. My daughter who will leave for college when
the calendar turns to 2012. My son who I need to let grow up. My husband who will preach the Christmas sermon tomorrow. The album of faces is thick. So many people whose lives intersect with mine, and their difficulties and challenges weigh on my mind and heart. What can I possibly be or do that will make a difference in their lives? I pray about that. Lord, how can I love them all?

There are two places my life toggles between:

The quiet hours of prayer. Asking God to give me a bigger heart. Confessing my impatience and lack of understanding and weakness in caring for people. Lifting up each name and all their burdens. Casting those cares on the Lord. Filling up my own soul with the presence of God.

The busy hours. People everywhere I turn. Trying to love. Giving a hug. Listening. Overlooking faults. A word of counsel. Putting down my tasks to be with someone. Looking for the right
words to give. Seeing the hurts of so many.

It was the life Jesus lived. People - toggle to solitude - toggle to people - toggle to solitude -toggle to people. The one requires the other.

Friday, December 23, 2011

the cloud

Here we are in the van driving to Wyoming, the smell of Cheetos and sandwiches hanging in the air. Caleb has loaded podcasts for our listening entertainment, so we hear two guys talk about the future of the internet. They start discussing "the cloud", which is a new concept to me, but I guess there's an internet cloud out there that does stuff for us (I hope that jargon isn't too highly technical for you.) For example, Caleb buys a song on iTunes from his iPod, and the cloud automatically sends the song to his computer at home. Jayme's a little freaked out and is making plans to move to a primitive country. I say ominously. "The Cloud will find you there, Jayme."

But it makes me think of prayer. If we can comprehend a man-made cloud that acts on our behalf, is it impossible to imagine there is an invisible God who sees us, hears us, and who can act when we talk to Him?

With the cloud, the end user doesn't need to understand the workers of everything that provided the service to him. He just knows stuff got done.

We have such confidence in the internet. We go to it with great expectation, and the majority of us do not care or even want to know how it allw orks. The end result is all that matters.

What a great image to take with us when we pray. We don't have to see. We don't have to understand how it's all being worked out. For those of us who love God and who are living for His purpose, we only need to know the end result is always going to be for our good.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


We packed the van last night. I hate packing for Christmas vacation, because everything takes up so much room. Gifts quadruple in size with tissue paper, boxes, and bows. I think of how much easier it will be to pack on the return trip when everything has been stripped down to just what it really is.

This time of year wearies me. Christmas quadruples in size with all of the wrapping. Parties, cards, gifts, sweets, surprises –enjoyable things individually, but combined they make my soul tired.

On Christmas morning we will fill large garbage sacks with paper, boxes, and bows. It all goes to the dump. And each person will tuck away the treasure he has received.

I am ready to slowly loosen the tape and pull away all that is external about Christmas.

Let me hold in my hand the gift itself.

Give me Jesus.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


It’s a few days from Christmas, and I’m sitting in front of my computer trying to write profound words about giving and living for others. I watched my very favorite story yesterday, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and I was tempted to quote Marley about the chains we forge in life and how man is meant to walk the earth and help his fellow man.

But the truth is, I overheard my husband talking to my dad on the phone last night. When he
hung up I said, “What did dad want?” Matt said, “I can’t say.”

And all of a sudden my inner 6-year-old was showing, as I jumped up and down in the kitchen. “Why can’t you say? Why can’t you say? Is it something for me?” He would only smile. And I hugged him and said, “I love getting presents.”

I love getting presents more than most young children do. I try to put on an outer maturity of
selflessness, but when no one is looking I’m under the tree to see how many presents have my name on them.

We should focus on getting at Christmas. For God so loved the world that we get Jesus. We get joy. We get love. We get peace. We get a spirit of self control. We get grace. We get mercy. We get forgiveness. We get help. We get company.

And like gradeschool children who compare gifts after the holidays, maybe all the good we do our fellowman during the year is nothing more than bragging it up.

“Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me.” Jeremiah 9:24.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Dear Grandma,

Thank you…
for homemade pizza and Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights.
for sneaking us squirt guns.
for using a warm washrag to wash dinner off my face.
for every new dress hung for me on the sewing room door.
for pulling out tap shoes and the accordion in the kitchen.
for teaching me to find something to compliment about every garage sale customer.
for graham crackers dipped in whole milk before bed.
for endless games of Chinese Checkers.
for giving me a fun report card on my sewing lessons.
for the bowl of cut-up fruit you always had on the kitchen table.
for teaching me to put a touch of “The Ritz” on everything.
for hosting the search and rescue for my hamster in your house.
for the new robe every Christmas.

Thank you…
for showing me how to tell God thank you for every single good thing that happens in a day. A
parking spot. A squirrel in the tree. A word from a stranger. You disciplined me to thank God for everything, and this from a woman who survived the depression, survived being left by a
husband, survived caring for and losing a second husband, survived poverty. You could have been a bitter, angry old lady, but you chose a soul of gratitude instead. Thank you.


the shop

Dad’s retired now, and every weekday morning he goes down to the NAPA auto parts store. I think he’s personally responsible to make fresh coffee there every day. It’s a guy’s version of a tete-a-tete at Starbucks.

Dad has a huge workshop behind the house. He originally built it with the intent of making his own airplane, but at some point that must have become unfeasible. It’s a sweet shop. Expensive machines that do stuff line the walls. (If you’re a guy reading this, I apologize. You probably wish I could give you details, except I just don’t care.) From several places along the ceiling there are drop-down air hoses. That’s pretty cool, probably.

Dad can fix anything. He has an engineer’s brain, but he also has a creative flare that allows
him to come at problems from a different direction than anyone else.

So dad brings home strays from NAPA the way a little kid brings home stray animals off the street. They all have something broken that needs fixed, and no one has the part or everyone says it’s beyond repair. But dad says, “Well, let’s have a look at it.” And before you know it he has created a new part from scratch and the thing is fixed.

It’s the truth of Christmas. As the angel Gabriel told Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Imagineering. I love Disney for the gift of that word.

I don’t think we can be Christians without a child-sized imagination.

Last weekend I watched my mother-in-law and her sister walk among Alzheimer patients at the
nursing home, talking to each resident with the most tender love and cheerfulness I have ever seen. Some residents drool and can only make unintelligible sounds. Some stare, seemingly lifeless. What an imagination it takes to picture these end-stage Alzheimer patients as people.

Peter Pan. He only had to regain his imagination. “You’re doing it, Peter!” And Neverland displayed all of its color and delight.

Like a boring adult I see the people in my world only as who they are at that tick of the clock.


Jesus looked at people and saw what they could be.


What an imagination Jesus had, to picture me, in the magic of His mind’s eye, as someone who could one day be holy.

At a time of year when imagination is most in demand, to believe in santa and elves and a North
Pole, may I have an equally wild imagination to picture who a person could be through the power of Christ.

the drill

Tornadoes are a real threat in Texas. Once I was eating in the cafeteria, and a tornado came up
unexpectedly. It touched down on the baseball field directly behind the cafeteria, and then it went over where we were eating, without damaging anything, only to touch down again in a nearby parking lot. I went to music class after lunch, and someone came in and whispered in the professor’s ear. “Field trip!” she said. Our entire class tromped over to the parking lot, to see that the tornado had picked up a car, turned it upside down, and placed it back down in between two cars, without a scratch to either of the cars beside it. It’s hard to imagine wind with this kind of power.

So the next year, when the announcement came over the intercom in the dorm that there was a tornado warning, I wisely followed the seasoned Texans to an interior hallway with no windows. We waited there for quite a while until the danger had passed.

The week before Christmas is not unlike a tornado. Traffic is swirling, wrapping debris is flying everywhere, whole families are picked up from normal routine and placed back down in parties and concerts and malls. Faster and faster it goes, until it feels like it could suck you out of the ground by the roots.

Yesterday I found myself pulled by the immense force of Christmas expectations, with anxiety
rising as I thought of all that needed to be done, so I found an inside room with no windows. Several times yesterday I pulled away. I picked up a book that talks about giving thanks to God in every moment, and I read for a little while when I could have been attacking the list.
An inner room of worship.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10.

Friday, December 16, 2011

empty roll

I used the last of the toilet paper yesterday. (I’m not sure what you were expecting to read.) Probably since the beginning of toilet paper, which, according to Wikipedia, was used first by the Chinese in 6th century AD, there has been conflict within the user of the last square about
whether to replace the roll or leave it for the next guy to do. I actually stared at the empty roll and wondered, if I were to replace it, if the next person in the bathroom would give thought to appreciate my action.

Do small acts of service have significance?

A few nights ago my husband and I grabbed oranges and sat down on the couch together. He got his peeled quickly and then unexpectedly handed it to me in trade for the unpeeled. It was like getting a box of chocolates from an admirer.

God came down to earth and took the form of a servant. In the Bible we read about
Jesus’ great acts of service –forgiveness, healing, raising people from the dead. I wish we could see the small acts. John said there just wasn’t enough paper in the world to write it all down, but I wish there were just one chapter in one gospel that talked about the small acts.

Maybe, without being asked, Jesus cleaned up the tools at the end of a day of carpentry. Maybe He helped His mom carry a heavy basket of produce. Maybe He offered to get the firewood while the disciples rested.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” I wonder if that
begins with changing the toilet paper roll.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

not a fun game

I was a choir nerd in high school. You know what I mean. I lived in my world, and the jocks lived in theirs -never the two shall meet. Then a cheerleader joined choir, and we got to know each other.
It was the Friday of a big football game, and the whole school filed to the gym for a pep assembly. The cheerleaders got up to do the normal, embarrass-the-jocks game, except my new cheerleader friend thought it would be fun to include me. Mor-ti-fied by hearing my name called, I went down to the gym floor and lined up with the populars.
The bat game.
Put your head on the bat and spin around 15 times and then try to walk across the gym. (Are you not moaning in agony for me as I tell this story? It's making my stomach hurt just remembering.)
I'm feeling that same feeling again today, vulnerable and exposed. Have you ever been going along just fine and then all of a sudden you feel like you just took 15 turns around a bat in front of a room full of people? I don't know why I feel that way today.
After the assembly, one friend walked by me in the hallway and gave me a look of compassion -no words, just a look that let me know he understood how I felt and that he cared. That look helped me breathe again.
What stabilizes us when we are hit by a wave of insecurity? We need a friend. Someone who gets us.
Hebrews 12:2.
"Fix your eyes on Jesus..."

trainer level

I have a treadmill in the basement, but I approach it differently than the rest of my family. They all have this ridiculous desire to push themselves, to set a higher goal each time just to see if they can reach it. Matt's always telling me how close he came to breaking his record from the last time. Whatever. The only thing I care about is if I can sit down with my jeans buttoned. Please tell me exactly the least amount of exercise I can do and still keep a decent figure for a 40-something woman.
I did realize recently, however, that on Personal Trainer I and II workouts I was barely breaking a sweat anymore, so I asked Matt to give me a husbandly mandate to bump it up to level III. As much as I didn't want to, I realized it was time to push it a little harder. I did it. Hated it. But I suppose my abs will thank me later.
My relationship with God is pretty solid, but I have this feeling I've gotten pretty comfortable at I and II. It's impressive enough to toss around in a conversation, but I know I'm hardly breaking a sweat anymore at those levels.
On the Personal Trainer Workouts the treadmill gives me three little beeps to let me know the incline and speed are about ready to change. I'm getting those little beeps from the Holy Spirit in my soul right now. I feel like I'm bracing myself, getting focused to make sure my footing is solid, because it's time to bump it up to a new level.
Christmas festivities are happening all around me, but on the inside I'm trying to prepare myself. 2012 -level III. Ugh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


It was my first semester in college, and I was heading into finals with my first-ever F. Zoology was just a step beyond the reach of my brain. It was written and taught in the foreign language of science, and I just couldn't comprehend it.

I was going to school on a full scholarship that demanded a certain GPA be maintained. I was paralyzed with fear, wondering what would happen to my scholarship if I were to fail this class. Worse than imagining losing my scholarship was the stomach-knotting worry of what my dad would say when he heard I was failing.

I finally worked up the courage to dial the numbers home. I talked to dad and told him of the coming doom.

He heard me out and calmly replied, "So?"


"So?" I said.

"So? Tell me the worst possible outcome of this situation" he said.

"I could go on academic probation."


"I'll have to retake the class. It's a required class."


"I might lose my scholarship."


(I found a tutor and passed that class with a C+.)
God is not flustered by our crises.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

hands together

I played the piano in the Alzheimer wing at the nursing home today, a little music while the residents were being set up to be fed. I tried not to take it personally when one woman started crying while I was playing (I didn't think I was that rusty) or when the woman to my left started snoring. Tough crowd. But one woman was very coherent, and they wheeled her up close to the piano. She had a huge smile the entire time I played. After every song she clapped and told me how beautiful the music was. She was frustrated when she would try to clap, though.
"I just can't clap very loud. I wish I could clap louder." I looked at her fingers twisted from arthritis.
"You're clapping loudly enough" I said.
She said, "Not for the way I feel, though."
My body and mind are well. My feelings for the Lord go deep. Am I clapping as hard as I can?

best law ever

Two Christmases ago Matt gave me a gift certificate to shop for a little black dress. We spent a few hours looking online and finally landed on a simple little velvet number. The gift came with the promise of a date, so when it arrived in the mail we planned a Friday night, and Matt took me to an expensive restaurant. Linen tablecloths, shrimp on ice, glasses that don't require a lid or a straw. It was nice, really nice. I loved the low lighting and the lengthy time to talk and dream about everything in life. Life is busy and often routine. It's so good to pull away and have special time with Matt.
I love commandment number four. "Be careful to dedicate the Sabbath day, as the Lord your God has commanded you." On Sunday morning I dress to the hilt in my soul and meet God in low lighting, with a cup of coffee in one hand and my Bible in the other. The one day I make no to-do list. Permission not to make the bed. Laundry can wait for tomorrow. Time to talk -about some of the frustrating things, some of the fun things. Time for a little bit of dreaming. Remembering how much I enjoy God's company.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I'm obsessed with makeover shows. My current favorite is Restaurant Impossible. This massive, drill-sargent-of-a-chef goes into failing restaurants to turn them around. The restaurant owners are in debt, with no customers coming in, and they all have in common hopeless defeat and weariness. Makeover shows all follow the same line -a brutal confrontation with the truth of the failure, massive upheaval and destruction of the old, restructuring and rebuilding, panic (can we do this in time?), followed by The Reveal. In 24 hours the restaurant staff is re-trained, the restaurant gutted and remodeled, the owner's perspective changed, and the food made perfect. And when I cry at The Reveal every time it's because inside I'm jumping up and down- "So it is possible!" Anyone who is in Christ is madeover. The old is brutally confronted and torn out. Everything is made new. You can open your eyes now.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

paralyzed by joy

It was a warm summer night and the end of my week-long visit to Matt in Montana. I was so ticked. Twelve hours I drove from Wyoming to visit him, with sure confidence of receiving an engagement ring during the week. My hopes were crushed during an afternoon stroll through a pawn shop, though, when we casually looked at wedding rings and he said, "When I get you a ring it won't look like that." Hmmph. On our last night together he took me for dinner, but the poor man had yet to learn the ways of a woman who has waited too long to eat. Not knowing my engagement ring was tucked in his pocket, I made him stop at a gas station to get me a snack. Now he was ticked. Despite that rough start to our evening, at the top of a ski slope overlooking the Flathead Valley, he proposed.
And then I was useless. After three eternally long years of dating I finally had a ring. And I couldn't see anything else. I went back to work at the grocery store in Wyoming and scanned soup --aah, my ring --scanned broccoli --aah, my ring --scanned deli meat ---aah, my ring. When you finally get what you've always wanted it makes you smile when you shouldn't be smiling.
It's happening more frequently. Bouts of incapacitating joy. It comes immediately after I've done something that I know makes God happy. And that makes me happy. Bill Hybels says it's "sensing God's smile on your life" when you've been obedient. In the last 24 hours I somehow managed to do several things in a row that I know are exactly what pleases God. And I was useless all day. I kept finding myself staring off into space, reliving my moments of obedience, the same way I stared at my engagement ring and tried to relive over and over the moment when Matt opened the little velvet box.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I was riding so fast, with the neighbor boy, Johnny, on his bike right beside me.

"Race ya," he said.

I don't remember if I was winning. I do remember when my front wheel hit the end of the pavement and the beginning of the gravel. The handlebars stopped, but I didn't.

It was my first experience having the wind knocked out of me. The next thing I knew I was in dad's arms, and he was carrying me back to the house.

"Are you gonna die?" he said.

"Yes" I sobbed.

That laugh -the one where his eyes crinkle in the corners and his head tips back just a little. "No, you ain't gonna die."

He put me down gently on the couch and patched me up.

When we get hurt, God's perspective is different than ours.

Justin Bieber

We were watching some of Michael Buble's Christmas special tonight (don't judge me), and he brought out Justin Bieber near the end of the program. Matt said, "Look at those girls". Weeping. Reaching out -hoping he would touch their hands. And I remembered a particular someone who felt the same way about Shaun Cassidy (google it). Every girl longs for the same thing -to receive a look from the guy. I told my husband it's his long, lingering, I-only-see-you look from across the room that still stops my heart after 20 years. And it's what I've found in my relationship with God. His look. His attention. What every girl longs for.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I just had a traumatic 24 hours. I went to a baby shower, and one of the hostesses didn't show up. It wasn't like her to forget something like that, and she lives out of town, so a few of our number went to see if maybe she had gotten stuck on snowy roads. When they got to her house her cars were there. Her purse and all of the shower food she was supposed to bring were there, but she was gone. My stomach tightened. After a search of the house and its perimeter, we finally called the sheriff. After a few intense hours she finally walked in the door of her home. She and some friends had gone to get a Christmas tree. Their car had gotten stuck, and it had taken them six hours to finally get themselves free and get out of the woods. My whole body felt the relief when I heard her voice, and I went and had a good cry. Thank God she was okay. The next morning I woke up and was going to put the finishing touches on a 12-week Bible study guide I had been writing for our church. I had spent weeks writing it, almost a dozen hours just editing it, and I was ready to send it in to the church office for publishing. I opened up the document to find a blank screen. Nothing. I searched for a long time but still couldn't find it. I had a physical response to the loss and started shaking. I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. After half an hour of shock I went to the computer again and was able to recover the document. Once again I had a good cry of relief. I'm praying God will grant me that same visceral reaction when I meet people who are lost without Him.

Monday, December 5, 2011

more than required

Because we're a pastor's family, Christmas Eve is a work night. We're usually involved in the Christmas Eve services and don't get to enjoy each other until later that evening. Last year was different. The church decided to provide a meal, in between the two evening services, for those who were working in the services in some capacity. When our family walked into the room for dinner we had a wonderful experience. The couple who cooked the meal had made a taco buffet, but they had covered the plastic tables with white linen. The tortillas were made from scratch. The guacamole was homemade. They kept hot churros coming. There was a huge bucket full of ice and fun-flavored bottled soda. What I had thought would be a quick meal in between services turned into a party for my family. Instead of being apart on Christmas Eve we ended up together around a beautiful table with fun food. Because the couple who provided dinner was so thoughtful to create a special meal with finishing touches, our family was given the gift of laughing and relaxing together at a time when we weren't expecting it. I think about the tasks God has given me. What if I push myself to do a little more and a little better than what I've been asked to do? What difference will I make in people's lives if I add finishing touches to every task God gives me?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

if it still works

When Grandma passed away a few years ago, I helped go through her things. I came across something that caused me to pause and stare for a long time. I can't get it out of my mind. It was a cardboard, gallon-sized ice cream bucket. From the time I was young I saw that paper bucket sitting in a corner of a room being used as a garbage can. It saw decades of use. Why didn't she buy a new one? As I stared at the bucket I walked down the aisle of Target in my minding, mentally shopping for a beautiful new garbage can for Grandma. Why didn't she replace that bucket with something pretty? And then I wondered why I feel the need to replace everything with something new.

Friday, December 2, 2011

before you shop...

Today I played some Christmas carols on the piano for a senior-adult luncheon. Before I got up to play they had a time for people to share what they remembered as their favorite Christmas gift. One elderly man took the microphone and said, "An orange." He said when he was young an orange was a very rare treat. As he spoke he got choked up and had to stop for a second. His Sunday School was giving an orange for anyone who memorized a Bible verse. He tearfully described earning that delicious orange and slowly savoring every bite. When he was done eating the orange, he put the peel on the furnace so it would dry, and then he chewed on the peel. He said, "We just don't know how rich we are in this country."


I grew up in Wyoming and went to college in Texas. I often had painful bouts of homesickness. I remember once letting tears slip during a Rocky movie because it was filmed in the Tetons. A guy next to me fed me kleenex all the way through it. Another time I was crying so loudly my friend could hear me from another room. Later that day I came in to find she had hole punched so much white paper it completely covered my bed. She said, "Look -it snowed! Don't be homesick!" One day I was particularly struggling with missing the physical touch from home -having dad hold my hand in church, hugs, sitting by mom on the couch while we watched a movie. I was walking from the school post office back to my dorm, and I was calling out in my heart to God. "Lord, I miss being touched. What I wouldn't give for a hug from one of my parents right now." Just a few seconds later I looked up to see a friend walking toward me. She stopped right in front of me and said, "You look like you need a hug." Right there in the middle of the street she gave me a long squeeze. I'm convinced God cares about the loneliness of my soul.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

three words forward, two words back

Language is to me like a large pizza is to my 14-year-old son. When I was growing up I read books until I had headaches. On trips mom would bring a Reader's Digest and would turn "It Pays to Increase Your Word Power" into a family competition (which she always won). Part of the decor in our living room was a dictionary. In conversation, if a word came up that caused us to argue the pronunciation or the meaning, one of my parents would grab the dictionary to prove who was correct. In college I took a linguistics class that I found way too exciting. I loved the lesson on tongue placement for each letter. Who cares about that? One of my favorite Christmas gifts was a 20-pound set of Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. So why is it that I'm so good with words, but I said something completely insensitive to my friend last night? Why can I spell salpingo-oophorectomy (medical transcription!), but I can shoot off an email that tears somebody down? The Bible says every word of God is flawless. His words are light and life and sustenance. It really would pay to increase my word power.