Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Precious Friend and Fellow Believer

This is my friend Ernie from work, and his lovely wife Sandy, and both of their bikes. I met him at a mid-week Bible study group at work in 2005. He is one of my dearest friends, the person who introduced me to the books “The Shack” and “Cat and Dog Theology,” and the person that I was able to sing some hymns to in an empty downtown condo earlier this year. We go for a walk at lunch once a month, and it’s something I look forward to and enjoy tremendously. Ernie is one of those extremely rare individuals who sees and seeks God’s glory in everything, and who reaches out to and accepts and unconditionally loves all people from all walks of life.

He is a pastor and one of the founders of a ministry called
Independent Christian Bikers, which puts out a newsletter every month. One of the regular contributors to the newsletter, and also a ministry partner, is Ed “Chef” Sykes. Chef Sykes is a prisoner and has been for many years. When Ernie and I walked in March, he had just gone to visit Chef Sykes for the first time, and he was Chef’s first visitor in over 10 years. (Chef's children stopped writing several years ago, too. He hasn't had a letter from any of them in four years.)
When Ernie and I walked in April, he had just been to visit Chef Sykes for the second time--to attend the prison's Easter service with him. I was profoundly and deeply blessed by his account of the service... How authentic and spirit-filled it was, in spite of (or maybe because of) its location. I've often thought to myself (especially after reading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers) that in many ways, prison must be freeing. Freedom from at least some forms of temptation. Freedom from a frantically hurried and busy schedule. Freedom from the ups and downs of the economy. In many ways, freedom from self and the constant pull towards worshipping self above all else. It didn't surprise me to hear how profound the service was, and I found myself wishing I could have been there to worship with and enjoy the fellowship of these two brothers in Christ and the Spirit of Christ Himself in such a profound way.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Other Gender

As a Christian woman, wife and mother, having male friends has become increasingly difficult and complicated over the years. There are a couple guiding principles that have materialized in my heart in recent months that make sense to me regarding friendships with the opposite sex. One is, my husband has to be aware of it and completely okay with it. Secondly, the friendship should enhance and strengthen and protect my marriage, and the marriage of the other person (if there is one.)

So as much as I can with my own limited understanding, I try to consistently search my own heart, thoughts, desires and motivations, in an effort to identify and eradicate any traces of impurity, and so that the boundaries of the friendship can be tweaked if they need to be. This is a constant challenge and balancing act that sometimes feels like an exercise in tight-roping. But in my own life, friendships with both men and women are becoming increasingly precious to me, so even though it’s difficult (and sometime painful) to find and maintain all of the appropriate boundaries, the blessings of these relationships still far outweigh the challenges. I know that God is helping me with this, because, after all, relationships are precious to God, too.

Something I've been wanting to do a long time...

On my break today, I went outside and sat in the area where the smokers sit. I’ve thought to myself many times that smokers are far more conversationally oriented and down-to-earth than non-smokers. So today, rather than go somewhere by myself to read or whatever, I went to the smoking area and was able to meet someone who has worked in the same building as me for a couple of years, but that I have never met before.

Ever since I first thought about doing this a few months ago, I’ve allowed fear to keep me from doing it. Fear of rejection. Fear of what other people would say. But today I realized that those fears were unfounded, and I’m looking forward to going back. God is good. J

(This photo and the photo in the post above are both from the Internet)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hard Pressed, but not Crushed - II Cor 4:8

I try hard not to be a whiner. But since the purpose of this blog is to chronicle my journey, I would be doing myself and my kids a disservice not to include a post every once in a while about the challenges we’re wading through, both myself personally, and all of us together as a family.

Sometimes when someone asks me how I’m doing, if there’s a Bible readily available, I’ll say, “I’m doing 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9.” And then they’ll laugh or smile and look it up, and invariably they’ll nod sympathetically with a solemn expression and say something like, “Yeah, I hear you… That’s exactly how I feel, too.”

Like so many other people, we’re struggling to make ends meet financially. My kids are outgrowing their clothes. Their shoes are worn out. We’re rationing milk and juice and limiting everyone to one serving at meals. Luxuries have been cut back to almost nothing. We’re limiting showers and baths in both frequency and duration. We’re buying generics whenever possible. My own clothes are threadbare and falling apart (the ones that fit, which aren't many...) I recognize that learning how to live more simply and inexpensively, and to be better stewards of water and electricity and other resources are all good things... I'm praying that after this time of struggle is over, we'll continue to live by these lean principles.

Praise God, my mom is going to start taking care of Michael and Rebecca, starting today. That will save $1,000 per month in daycare costs, which means we’ll be going in the hole by $1,000 less per month than we were before. But we’re still going in the hole.

And this situation presents another difficulty… My mom had only one child on purpose. She had her tubes tied right after I was born, because she didn’t think she’d be able to handle more than one. And now here she is, committed to watching a pretty but dramatic four-year-old girl and a very sweet but demanding two-year-old boy, day in and day out, all day long, for a year and a half, until Rebecca starts Kindergarten.

My mom is really anxious about this, and I don’t blame her. She probably feels about this the same way I would feel if I were to be assigned a job where my primary job duty would be public speaking… Yuck. The thought literally makes me want to barf. I feel so guilty and so sad for asking her to do this. It’s a service of inestimable value that we’ll never be able to repay, and for which I am humbly grateful. I pray that God will richly reward her in every possible way for her willingness to make a personal sacrifice of this magnitude for our family. I know that He will, either in this life, or in the life to come. I pray that He will also show me how and give me the grace to ease the burden for her as much as possible.

A few weeks back I was involved in a process-enhancement team at work. I felt honored to be a part of the team, and it was an enriching experience in many ways. But it put me so far behind in my own duties that I still haven’t gotten caught up. And instead of getting better, the problem seems to keep getting worse. I feel like if I could just get caught up, it would be pretty easy to stay caught up. But “caught up” has proved to be quite the elusive creature, and I feel terrible about the quality of my work as I'm trying to get as much as possible done in the shortest conceivable amount of time.

The battle of the bulge is still very real and ever more troublesome. Because I destroyed my metabolism by starving myself, God only knows if anything I ever do will have any kind of positive affect on my figure. I realize there are many other health benefits that make a health and fitness regime worthwhile, but for some reason I’m just not able to work up much passion or enthusiasm for those benefits. Summer is coming, which means that women will be wearing cute shorts and summer outfits, and it’s going to be hard to combat the envy, frustration, disgust (with myself), and self-pity that those daily reminders will conjure. Especially because I know how important having an attractive wife is to my husband (and to most men), and that he’s going to spend the summer trying hard not to be disappointed.

He and I are going to be going on a trip together for a few days in May to a warm climate (no cost, it was a trip he was given through work, which is a blessing), but the last time we went to a warm climate during a time when I was heavier, all I can remember is feeling hideously uncomfortable the entire time. I know that it’s a heart issue in myself that needs to be dealt with, and that I should be able to be so content in who I am in Christ that none of this matters, but, sigh…I’ll be surprised if that heart issue is fixed before we go, or any other time in the near future.

My husband has been under unbelievable pressure and stress for years on end now, and his body is beginning to show the signs. He’s been having stomach problems that have been getting progressively worse over the last couple of months. He’s lost 16 pounds in the last month or so without even trying. He’s not sleeping well. He's doing his part to try to stay healthy--he eats relatively healthy foods and takes supplements and attends church faithfully, and his attitude has been surprisingly good throughout everything that’s been going on. But I wish there was more I could do to help him, and those things that I could do that he would really, truly appreciate seem to be beyond my grasp right now.

My daughter Rebecca was chewing on one of her fingernails the other day, and her teeth broke the skin next to her nail. Her finger proceeded to develop a strep infection that, if it hadn’t been dealt with by the doctor, would have resulted in the loss of her finger. Her poor little finger is red and painful and peeling right now, but is on the mend, Thank God!

My mom has medical and prescription expenses, but is not covered by insurance, and is not old enough to be covered by Medicare or Medicaid. She also has other health care and dental needs that are not being addressed right now, and are simply being ignored, because we have no resources with which to address them.

There’s so much I want to do, and be, and become. I want to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with God all the days of my life. I want to be the wife He created me to be, and for my husband to be satisfied with me and our relationship and marriage. I want to be the mother my children need so that they will open their hearts and lives to God in real, personal ways and find their satisfaction in Him. I want to work alongside God as He works out His plan to bring about His Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. I want to do something to ease the suffering in the world. I want to instill in my children a vision for the future that God wants to bring to pass, and a hunger to be a part of what He’s doing instead of constantly looking for temporal, selfish, and fleeting satisfaction in the moment.

I want to be faithful with all that God has entrusted to me, including my house and yard. I realize that a huge part of my problem is time-management, and that only I can make this better. I’m praying for energy, motivation, wisdom, understanding, creativity and time with which to study this topic, to comprise a plan that is clear and workable and sustainable, and to put it into practice. But it feels like the more I want and pray for and strive towards these things, the more they all slip through my fingers.

I feel like a failure in every single area of my life, except dental care. I somehow manage to brush and floss my teeth most days. Thank God for small victories. :)

I feel like a selfish spoiled whiner, but I actually do feel better after having vented even just this much. There's more going on than this, but I am unable to communicate about it in this format. I'm glad that God in His mercy will never let me go, no matter how bad I mess up my life, or the lives of those around me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Arbor Day Celebration

Yesterday I took my mom, Stephen, Becca and Michael to the Finch Arboretum here in Spokane for an Arbor Day Celebration. We visited booths relating to gardening and various "green" practices, and we also attended the planting of a tree--a Sassafrass tree to be exact.
The lady who was responsible for the planting of the tree was doing so in honor of her daughter, Susie, who died. There are many trees in the Spokane area that have been planted in her honor, and those trees are part of what's known as "Susie's Forest." I love that... It reminds me of the kingdom of God in that Susie's Forest isn't all concentrated in one place, but is spread out amongst other trees and vegetation, just like the kingdom of God is spread out throughout all the world, like yeast in fresh bread. We even got to help a bit with the planting of the tree by shoveling dirt back into the hole that had been dug. Michael wanted to use the shovel all by himself, which was a little funny to see, because the shovel was considerably taller than he is and probably weighed about as much as him, too. But he was determined. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but my camera battery ran out of juice.
The bottom picture is from our living room... I was entranced with the new buds on the bush outside the window and the sun shining on it. It was taken at a time when all of us were ravenously hungry for spring, and that bush in the front yard was about the only thing with new growth on it. I like the picture because of the color combinations and contrasts. I've decided to experiment more with my camera. If I can us my own photos more, and the photos of my friends and family, I think I'd like that better than using the work of strangers all the time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why "Echoes" is so important to me right now...

I used to be in bondage to the “I’m not going to read it if I can’t own it” trap… However, recent events have opened my eyes to see the beauty and value of libraries (of which I believe there is going to be an unparalleled one in Heaven). I’ve been having a hay-day going to the Spokane Public Library downtown, and to the Spokane County Public Library in the Valley. But there are parts of the books I’m reading that I know I’m going to want to have access to later on, after they’ve long since been returned to their rightful owners. So “Echoes” has become a treasury for me – a collection of mind-renewing, spirit-inspiring writings that God has used and is using to change my life from the inside out. One of these days there’s going to be a mad rush of entries on that blog… Perhaps it’ll be today! J

(Photo from my friend Katrena, owner of the blog "My Father's Beautiful World.")

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My Mom's Sweet Offerings

Shortly after my mom moved here, Spokane was buried in snow for a couple of months, so her car sat under a pile of snow for quite some time. Once it was thawed out again, the first time she drove it was to take Megan somewhere and take her car to the gas station to put gas in it because it was almost on empty. But while she was at the gas station, her car stalled and wouldn't start again, so Keith and I took our truck and went and got her and towed her home. The car didn't work after that, and we thought it was because of some electrical problem that would probably cost more to repair than the car is worth.

So Mom decided to sell her car to the junk yard and cancel her insurance on it to save us the $37 per month we had been paying on it. She got $50 for the car, which is the first money she's had in months. She brought it to me holding it like a treasure and said, "This money is the life money of my car." She was choked up. She really loved that car. "I can't do anything ordinary with this money. I tried to give it to your father, but he refused to take it." Then she tried to give it to my husband because he's been paying her bills since she got here. But he wouldn't take it either.

So together she and I gave half of it to Charity Water and half of it to "Faith Comes by Hearing."

Her offering reminded me so much of this passage of scripture:

1 Chronicles 11:15-19: "Three of the thirty chiefs came down to David to the rock at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. David longed for water and said, "Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!" So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD. "God forbid that I should do this!" he said. "Should I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives?" Because they risked their lives to bring it back, David would not drink it. Such were the exploits of the three mighty men.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Meditating on Light

When the sun is shining on my side of the Earth, even if there’s cloud cover, as long as the air is clear of fog or smog or dust, I can see everything there is to see from horizon to horizon (from my perspective) by the light of that sun. The sun is so bright and so full of energy, and it’s not even close to being the biggest star in the universe. Wouldn’t a person think that with all those huge blazing balls of energy and light out there, that outer space would be a place of light instead of darkness? But when I look outside at the night sky full of stars, there’s a whole lot of blackness out there, in spite of all of those blazing furnaces. But even then, is all of that blackness really black? No, it’s just empty space that looks black to our eyes. (Literally empty… no air. Nothing. What IS all that space out there? Is it anything at all?) So what we perceive as being the brightness of day on Earth, when our side of this beautiful planet is facing the sun, is really not so much the brightness of the sun itself, but the reflection of that brightness from the land, water, buildings, atmosphere, etc. There are deep and meaningful spiritual implications in all of these observations, and I’m asking God to open the eyes of my heart that I might see them (and Him) more clearly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Tale of the Labels

One of my jobs at work is putting labels on the cases of the cassette tapes that are used for the audio recordings of our City Council meetings. I used to use a typewriter to manually type the dates and lengths of the meetings on the labels. Then we upgraded to labels that are made for the laser printer that is nearest to my desk. I was excited when we first switched because using Microsoft Word to generate the labels is a lot more user-friendly and a lot faster than using the typewriter. Until I discovered that the printer was eating the sheets of labels. Somewhere between the time the sheet of labels is fed into the printer and the time they’re supposed to come back out with the printing on them, they were getting hung up and jamming the printer.

Finally, in desperation, after having wasted 5 or 6 sheets of expensive labels, I laid my hands on the printer and prayed that God would help everything to work properly. And, Praise His name, everything DID work properly! The next several times I printed labels, I laid my hands on the printer and prayed the whole time the labels were printing, and everything worked beautifully. Then, after about 5 such experiences, I forgot to pray for the labels and the printing process, and you know what? They got hung up again. So now I pray for the labels and the process every single time with my hands on the printer the whole time, and so far, it’s worked every time. Dozens of times. Thank You, Lord! I appreciate this because it reminds me that He is involved in all of the details of everything, all the time, whether we recognize His presence there or not.

(This is another one of Katrena's roses. I love the contrasts in this photo.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Why do I love photos of nature?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially this week and last week, when my life has been so busy, hectic, noisy, chaotic, confusing and overwhelming. When I’m feeling especially panicky, simply looking outside—at a sun-kissed tree, or the river swollen with spring run-off, or the ducks and geese dwelling together so peacefully in Riverfront Park—settles my spirit and quiets my mind. And when I’m looking for photos to post on my blogs, I’m usually irresistibly drawn to simple, colorful, light-filled pictures of nature.

I’ve been thinking about why that’s true, and here are some of the reasons I’ve come up with….

All of Creation exists to give glory to the Creator. Trees and flowers, grasses and mountains, rivers and lakes and oceans, air and water, stars and galaxies and solar systems, and all living things in the physical realm give glory and worship to God simply by existing and being what they were created to be. Nature is innocent and uncomplicated. (Not to say that it’s not intricate, because it seems to me that mankind hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of the ingenious intricacies of this universe.) But there is no premeditation in nature. There is no evil intent or hypocrisy. There’s no deception. And in addition to all of those things, there are many aspects of nature that are simply breathtakingly beautiful, and, at least in my life, God-breathed beauty is a healing, energizing force. Sometimes I pull up my blog simply to scroll through it and see the pictures.

(My friend Katrena [My Father's Beautiful World] read this post on Friday and sent me a bunch of rose pictures she has taken. This is one of my favorites of the ones she sent me. Thanks, Katrena!)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


So much has happened today that I want to write down before I forget.

This morning on the bus, I sat next to a lovely lady who normally doesn’t take the same bus as me, but “just happened” to take it today. The bus was full and she asked if she could sit in the seat next to me, to which I delightedly said yes. She’s going to college, majoring in psychology and anthropology. Very soon she’s going to be going on a 6-month trip to Israel where she will live with an Israeli family and spend time working in offices devoted to community and social services. Her church here in Spokane has a sister church in the town she’s going to be staying in there in Israel.

She was telling me how she’s not content to settle down, get married, have kids and be a soccer mom. She hears the cry of those in need and wants to remain single so she can focus all of her energies there without distraction. I told her I want the same thing for my own kids… Not that they NOT get married, but that they not get married for the wrong reasons, and that they can feel free to stay unmarried if that’s the path they feel God leading them on. I believe with my whole heart that meeting this precious young lady was a divine appointment, even though I don’t think I’ll probably ever see or speak to her again. May God’s will be done in her life, and may His face shine upon her and bring her heart peace.

* * * * *

A friend of mine at work shared a story with me. The other day, she and her 3-year-old son were walking in her neighborhood a few blocks from their home. They walked past a church and her son asked, “Whose house is that?” My friend said, “That’s a church. That’s God’s house.” Her son replied, “That can’t be God’s house. God lives in my heart.” Then he picked up a rock from the parking lot and took it home. The next morning, my friend’s husband asked her son where the rock came from, and her son replied, “It came from His house.” (With a big emphasis on the word “His.”) My friend said her son has begun asking all kinds of questions about God that have caused her to begin to ponder her own views about God. Needless-to-say, I was incredibly delighted to hear this story, especially from someone that I've never heard speak about God before. God is good.

* * * * *

At least twice today God sent me the same message. Once through my friend Danielle of Danielle’s Realm, and once through a meeting I attended. The message is that I can’t hope to take care of the people around me if I’m not taking care of myself. The same exact illustration was used in both situations: During the sudden depressurization of an airplane cabin, it’s crucially important to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before we try to put it on someone else. We tend to think, "Oh, no... No matter what anyone says, I’d certainly put the mask on my kid before I’d put it on myself." But we don’t realize that it can take only 10-15 seconds to pass out from sudden depressurization... If we're passed out, we're not going to be very helpful to anyone, are we? Not to our kids, or our spouses, or anyone else around us. This principle is also echoed in a book I just read, portions of which I hope to post on my blog "Echoes" in the near future.

* * * * *

I've been feeling overwhelmed with life lately. I know that I need to get my eyes off the circumstances and focus on Christ, because I feel myself looking at the waves and sinking deeper and deeper into them. All morning this morning I prayed to see Him more clearly, and kept singing the chorus of "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" to myself over and over again.

During our prayer meeting at work today, I almost didn't pray out loud at all. Because I usually only pray out loud when I feel confident that what I'm going to say is going to come out smoothly and be somewhat agreeable. But at some point, I started praying, near tears, with a quavery and breaking voice. I believe it was God giving utterance to the deep cries of my heart. I prayed to see Him more clearly, and that He would direct my gaze towards Himself. Then others prayed that, too, for me and for other people who are also going through difficult, chaotic, noisy times.

Not even an hour after that, I read a poem on The Souls of Men that God spoke to me powerfully through in direct response to the pleadings of my spirit. The poem was written just yesterday. And this verse was quoted in the same post: "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek." Psalm 27:8. God is GOOD! (All the time!)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Oh God, please help me.

Doubt. Confusion. Stress. Floundering. More doubt. With brief glimmers of light and truth and hope and joy mixed in here and there.

This about sums up my life at the moment. I apologize in advance for the chaotic nature of this post, but chaos is a word that accurately reflects my state of mind, so I guess a chaotic post is appropriate.

Friday night my husband and I were having a discussion, and I ended up getting really angry and screaming at him at the top of my lungs in the middle of a public area until my throat hurt. I’m not going to share the words I screamed at him, but I can honestly say that after they came out of my mouth, I wanted to die. Literally.

After I was done being angry, shame and remorse and regret attacked my spirit like white-hot swords. I kept thinking over and over again about blogging, and how I continually tell people that blogging is a powerful way that God speaks to me, and is a vital mind and spirit-renewing tool in my life. And I thought, if that is true--if it is really, really true--how could such horrid, black, disgusting ugliness still be lurking in those deep places of my being, after all these years and all this time? If who we are in the fire is who we really are, then I am a snake not fit to continue to breath this good air or ever again feel the sun on my face.

That’s when I decided to delete my blogs and swear off blogging forever. I actually logged on to Google with that intent, but then something (or Someone?) stopped me. Instead of deleting my blogs, I posted that short post (and I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to Fred and Laura and Joseph for your very kind and encouraging comments. They truly were three of the bright moments of hope and joy in the midst of the pain of the last few days).

This situation was just one part of a season of stretching and groaning and discomfort.

The other week I did something, which I am not yet at liberty to share, but which I was absolutely certain that God had told me to do. I knew that many people would view it as foolish and would advise against it, so I didn’t tell very many people. Because even if they had advised against it, I was certain enough that it was God’s voice I was listening to and following, that it wouldn’t have mattered what they said, anyway. Needless to say, I did do that thing which I felt God was leading me to do, and it remains to be seen what the end result will be. But from a merely human perspective right now at this time, it looks like what I did truly was stupid and foolish and could have devastating and long-reaching effects in the lives of many people. And yet I still feel that it was God’s voice I was following, and that if it wasn’t His voice, then it calls into question all the other times in my life when I was certain I was hearing His voice, but perhaps I actually wasn’t…? God help me.

Last week I was involved in a team event at work that will change the way our corporation does things on many levels. When the new process is unfolded and put into practice, I know there will be a lot of questions and probably a good number of criticisms, and I have never done very well with either of those things when they were on the spot and in person. I do better with them in writing, typically, when I can take time to comprise and organize my thoughts and weed out the knee-jerk reactions. My confidence is shaken, my heart and stomach are in a state of upheaval, and every foundational belief I have ever held dear is in question.

Except for this: God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. And Christ died on the cross to bear the wrath of God for our sakes, for my sake, and rose again triumphant on the 3rd day to break the power of sin and death, for the eternal glory of God. I’m clinging to those rock-solid, irrefutable truths like a lifeline. God is good, and I trust Him. Amen.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Last post?

This might be my last post. I almost deleted all of my blogs tonight, but I decided not to, since the whole point of them in the first place was to record my journey so my kids could have record of it. If I don't post or comment for a while, or ever, please don't worry. Just pray. God's will be done in all things. Signing off...