Wednesday, November 18, 2015

everywhere. everywhere. everywhere.

"Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."  (Matthew 12:34b)

…later that night, i held an atlas in my lap, ran my fingers across the whole world and whispered, where does it hurt?

it answered


-Warsan Shire

There are so many thoughts and feelings swirling around my heart these days.  This morning as I drove, an old song came on the radio and it brought tears to my eyes.  The lyrics, familiar and poignant, by Helen H. Lemmel, follow: 

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see? 
There's light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, 
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth 
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace"

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O'er us sin nor more hath dominion-
For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you- He promised
Believe Him, all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell.

Warsan Shire is a Kenyan born, Somali-British writer of a mere 26 years. I don't know her theology but her words speak eloquently to the multiple acts of terror around the world. They also remind me of the  truth that "hurting people hurt people."

While I recently posted my sense of gratitude for serving a God who calls us to love vs one who calls for violence and  murder,  I was pierced, this morning,  by the last lines  of Helen's song:

Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell.

What can we do? What can I do?  "Go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell."

Yes.  I can post platitudes. I can pray for Paris and Kenya and Lebanon and Syria and all the world,  ("everywhere everywhere everywhere") but if I don't follow that up by sharing the good news of the gospel to this hurting world, if I don't love them enough to say there's been enough dying because it only took ONE life to save us all, then, I am that clanging cymbal spoken of in Paul's letter to the Corinthians.  

So,  for all the hurting people, the refugees, the innocent prisoners,  the martyrs, the orphans, the forgotten, the fallen, the hungry, the sick and  even  the terrorists themselves, l pledge today  to do what I can- to do more than I have done.  Our enemy is  successfully convincing these hurting souls that murder is the answer.  We believers need to do a better job of convincing the world that Jesus is the answer.  JESUS.  He gave His life, so that we might live.   That hope trumps  terror.  Every. Time.   

Let's stop shaking in our collective boots.  There is good news.  We will not be moved. We can share the hope we have...the gospel.  He's the answer.  Someone you meet today needs to hear it.  Take what Jesus freely gave us and give it away.  Right now, where you are.  Be light. 

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The REST of the Story...

In Disney speak, "It's a brand new world".  After decades of going to work daily and answering to the powers that be, I handed in my resignation and planned for what Paul Harvey called, "the rest of the story."  I gave a month's notice.  In my resignation letter,  I expressed appreciation to my final employer for the opportunities I'd been given, the relationships that were forged and the privilege of serving with a team of  genuinely caring individuals doing great work that mattered.   I wished for them God's blessing as they continued the work I would leave behind.  
To quote myself (and why not?) 
"It's been a high calling--it's just no longer mine. "  
(more about that in another post)

In what seems like a mere twinkling of the eye,  two months have passed.  It really is a "brand new world!" The most frequently asked question has been, "so, what are you doing? "   Mostly I reply with a smile and a wink and the words "Whatever I want."  It just flies out of my mouth.  It's a joyous thing. I'm not gloating, just enjoying.    All that aside, for those of you truly  interested in more details, here's a stroll through  some of the things (in addition to posting again) that have been keeping me occupied  these last eight weeks.  I share it with you #because I can. 

'Got this close to Dr. Ben Carson and his wife, Candy and heard him speak.
This was the beginning of Beef Bourguignon.  I've done a LOT of cooking…
With some savvy sous chefs….
'Not gonna lie, I've eaten  a little pizza with the littles…

Took some long walks with some short legs…

Took a KickBoxing Class with my Sister-In-Love, Christine
Took a little  road trip with the husband to see our Michelle…
#becausesandiego #notengland 
Hung out with some famous folks…
Stopped to smell the roses…

Made a new friend in my own back yard,

Enjoyed lunch at Terranea with peeps I love…
Enjoyed the artist at work
I've read a LOT of books. I could only hold a few…
Adjusting to being home with this guy everyday and trying not to drive him crazy.

Celebrated a birthday with the fam'

Story is not over…more to come...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

We Plan and God Laughs

It wasn't the vacation we hoped for.  Nor the one we planned. To say I wouldn't change a thing would be silly, but, it was still was what we intended: a mission of mercy but also a gift of grace. 

A little over a year ago, the call came from our dear 82 year old friend, Jean.  She began with faltering voice saying, "I have some bad news."  The conversation revealed that her beloved husband, and our dear, sweet friend, Jack, had died after a sudden and awful illness.  

Bereft that we were so far away, we made a conscious decision that we would not jump on a plane to fly cross country in order to attend Jack's memorial service.  We knew there would be a massive amount of caring, loving people who could and would be there for those immediate and difficult good byes.  Instead, we sent heartfelt cards and a care package designed to comfort our friend  while putting off  plans to travel to her.  A few months down the road when everyone else had returned to their lives and homes and our Jean would welcome the company, we would travel to be with her.

With that in mind, my sweet girl and I juggled our calendars and planned our trip to Maryland.  The husband would mind the home fires and we girls would wing our way to our old home town and our sweet Jean.   

We were just  a little worried when several days before our scheduled trip, one year old Minnie showed signs of a virus of some sort.  Suffice it to say it was messy and it involved a fever.  Next, Ruby, age 6, got an 8  hour dose of what took Minnie several days to conquer.  But, it seemed that  we were nearly home free. Then, as fate would have it,  the night before our flight, my girl started feeling icky. Lying on a pillow on the kitchen floor icky.   Then there was a  monster headache and all the aforementioned symptoms.  

A decision was made that the husband and I would collect the little ones and they and I would brave the flight alone, giving Momma a day to rest and recover.  And we zipped into action. Oh. My. Did we zip! 

The husband delivered us all to LAX and somehow  a then six year old, 15 month old and I navigated three suitcases, two back packs and a big orange purse to curbside check in.  (Thank you, Lord, for curbside baggage check!)  We sailed through security and were at our gate with time to spare.

The flight was the proverbial can of sardines.  We had two seats for two little ones and myself and we snagged an aisle and center seat.  A lovely Indian woman was relegated to the window seat and proved to be an angel in disguise.  She immediately introduced herself as Julie, and spent a good part of our five hour flight entertaining six year old, Ruby, while I juggled Minnie.  All in all, we managed well.

We arrived at BWI to meet our dear friends Rick and Patricia, who not only picked us up but came armed with car seats for our little ones and provided a portable crib for Minnie to use.  They delivered us to Jean's warm home on the Crofton Parkway.  We were exhausted but, delighted to have reached our destination!

The next day was spent  visiting with Jean in her warm and beautiful home.  She bustled around like a wet hen making sure we had enough to eat and anything and everything we might need.  Late that afternoon Amanda arrived, declaring she was good as new! Having recovered overnight,  she arrived along with her hubby who was able to join our adventure between work assignments. 
Jean and Ru at the O's game!

He made plans to take us all to an Oriole game in Baltimore, and procured tickets.  It was such a fine night.   My last trip to an O's game was when the stadium was  brand new and my own parents were with us.  It was sweet to recall being with them in that place and now to be there with my girl and her little family and our Jean.  We did it right,  with hot dogs and cheering and the seventh inning stretch.  And, our team won!  (Thank you, boys!)  It was a lovely night with Jean, who hadn't been to a game since prior to Jack's passing. 

When we got home, we talked through our plans for the coming week…there'd be ribs for dinner that night and dinner in Baltimore at Heninger's, a wonderful restaurant in Fell's Point, owned and operated by Jean's daughter Jayne and her husband, Kenny. There would be shopping, because Jean is a Giver (yes, that's a capitol G) and she was determined to lavish gifts on Amanda and her girls.  On Saturday, we'd all be going to Patricia's home for a gathering of old friends who would be coming to see us.  The week was full of promise and we were so excited!  

The next morning, my friend and personal chauffeur, Patricia, whisked me off to breakfast while Amanda and the girls visited with Jean. We headed to Bob Evans for a monster meal, complete with grits. (have I mentioned how I love grits?)  We sat and talked over eggs and bacon and grits and coffee.  We laughed until we cried.  We have the luxury of having shared life together from the times when  our children were small.  I remembered delivering a baby gift for her youngest, Cal (who was recently married) and ice pops for her older children. Back then we were sure if we did it all right that it would turn out all right.  We were hopeless romantics, no?  But, we agreed that although life gets messy,  we still believe, that when all is said and done, it WILL be all right. Because Jesus said so. 

We're still banking on that. 
Making fun on the grounds of Prince of Peace Church

By the time Patricia delivered me back to Jean's, the tide had taken a nasty turn.  Jean was sick. Messy, ugly, in her room and beyond-comfort sick. There was nothing to be done but to offer liquids and prayers for her recovery.  But there would be no ribs that night.  Instead there would be Panera's finest and a trip to the church next door for the kids to play on the swings.  There would be a walk to what was our former townhouse and the sweetness of seeing starfish in the upper windows. Clearly there are kindred spirits now living there. 

By Friday there was no improvement. I urged a visit to the doctor but Jean resisted.  Even so, she insisted we go shopping as planned.  We left for a few hours as ordered.  As instructed, Amanda found a pair of new boots and some small treasures for the girls as well.  We returned with more Panera, this time chicken noodle soup.  By the time we returned, Jean was up and about and attempted with little success to take some in.  By now I was getting more concerned that she was dehydrated and still not up to par.  

In the midst of all this, our normally cheerful and amiable Minnie, was uncharacteristically a little bear!  She was cranky and angry and not warming up to anyone.  She wanted to be held constantly and produced another low grade fever.  Mother Mary!  Make it stop! (May I interject here that by the end of this week she would have produced not one, not two but, THREE new teeth, two of them molars.)

By Saturday morning, I was insistent that Jean MUST go to the doctor.  She gave in, but only on the condition that WE not take her.  She was insistent that we go to the planned gathering.  So, she arranged for her dear friend to take her to the ER.  We agreed with the caveat that she would call us from the hospital the moment she had any diagnosis.  

Off to Annapolis we went, and we had a wonderful afternoon with so many dear and thoughtful friends.  We sat on Rick and Pat's screened in porch and enjoyed cold drinks, wonderful eats and sweet fellowship with a swarm of sweet friends.  There were pictures taken, horses nuzzled, walks in the forest, a dip in the pool for the kids, childhood friends reunited, lives caught up on, memories relived. Oh. It really was a slice of heaven  and I am so grateful for each one who came. Each and every one were a blessing. It is humbling to know they came to see us. 

And in the middle of it, a call from Jean.  They had taken her in immediately, hooked her up to an  IV to hydrate her and sent her home with the assurance that the virus would run its course. (Thank you, Lord!)

As the day wound down, our friends, some who drove great distances, made their way home.  There were lots of hugs and some tears.  Can I just say it was awesome?  I know that word is so overused. But, for me--it just was. 

Amanda and her girls proceeded back to Crofton and I stayed behind for my one must do. People!  A girl cannot visit Maryland without partaking in a meal of crabs from the Chesapeake. So, after they hosted this wonderful afternoon, Rick, Patricia and I went in search of a big brown paper bag full of freshly cooked crabs, covered in Old Bay spice.  Upon returning home, we covered their table with brown paper and newspapers.  Butter was melted.  Beer was poured.  Mallets were poised. Oh. My. Stars. Patricia says you have to eat crabs at least once a year to make sure your immune system is still intact.  Friends, they were every bit as wonderful as I had recalled. A lot of work for a little bit of crab, but worth every minute.  Try it. You'll thank me. 

When we had cracked all the crabs and eaten every delicious morsel, my hosts graciously drove me the 12 miles back to Crofton, via my favorite and most scenic drive, Route 450 , from Annapolis.  THE most beautiful drive through the most lush forest. By the time I got back, I walked into the site of  Jean, sitting upright with a smile on her face, in her chair, and Amanda at her feet, looking at photos from years gone by. A favorite featured the ever  fashionable Jean poised in front of a microphone, lead singer for a band, back when she and Jack were young. We listened as she shared stories of when Jack first called for a date and Jean telling her mom, "Oh, that Jack Irvin called."  Not excited.  She was a party girl and he was so quiet and--"boring"!  But, it turned out, they were perfect for each other.  Imagine that.   And they shared a wonderful life together.  This was what we had come so far to celebrate.  A life well lived in perfect harmony. 
Jean, Amanda and Minnie, "pre-storm"

Finally. We had done what we came to do.  Sharing in the sweetness of the life they made together.  Reminisce about dear Jack, the love of her life and our dear friend. It was the sweetest of times. 

We left the next afternoon.  In some ways is was the vacation from hell. (Yes, Minnie was cutting another tooth and yes, our flight was delayed. ) 
We were all a little testy on that flight home, as I recall.  But,  I can't help thinking that in spite of all the curve balls,  we lived our mission.  We went to show our love and hopefully some comfort to our dear friend.  Much of what we'd planned to do was shelved.  We didn't get to Heninger's but, we  did enjoy the key lime pie Jayne made and generously sent for us. Jean didn't get to take us shopping but, we had time to enjoy what was once our home town, to walk the parkway, swing on swings, take a peek at our old house, Amanda's first elementary school and enjoy sitting on Jean's deck under massive trees,  making a multitude of paper fans, singing songs and reading stories.    

When all was said and done, it was a vacation we'll never forget, with a friend who has made an imprint on our hearts that will never be erased. Mission accomplished.  


Monday, October 13, 2014

Why I'm Deleting The Good Wife from My Playlist

Let me start by saying I've been a fan of Julianna Margulies going back to her ER days with that Clooney guy.  She was captivating as Carol and I was thrilled to hear she was in a new series.

The premise of The Good Wife was immediately intriguing to me- a good woman done wrong by her corrupt husband and her battle to maintain her dignity, protect her children and build a new life for them and herself.  They had me hook, line and sinker.  I've been a fan from day one. 

The acting, cast and scripts have been consistently superb.  The cliff hangers never fail to take my breath away. (Will!)  Even so, today I deleted TGW from my DVR playlist.  And though I have been thoroughly entertained with every single episode, I had to do it.  

There are  many reasons, including the trivial treatment of and the ridiculous and trite references with regard to Christianity.  Additionally, the attorneys who blithely represent the worst of the worst;  drug dealers, murderers, liars, thieves and worse, don't seem to have any hesitation about making a living (and a good one at that) by defending and protecting those who prey on those weaker and less "connected'.  

How different this story might have been had at least one of the great characters had any misgivings about those issues. In the beginning, I had hoped that Alicia would find her way back to happiness and that she would bring some goodness to the ruthless partners in the law practice she joined.  I wished that she would be a roll model for her children, she who had for so long been  in the  shadow of a husband who failed to value the treasure that was their family.  

I guess I kept hoping that at some point, good would win out, at least once in a while.  It didn't happen. Still I watched faithfully.  So, what was the tipping point for me?  

Honestly, a big part of it was a conviction that has been tugging at my heart for a while- a sense that I spend  far too much of my precious time watching too much television in general.  Then,  I watched what was my final foray into TGW.  

It wasn't one thing. It was an accumulation of things.  When Alicia  agreed to run for State's Attorney knowing full well that her campaign seed money was "generously" provided by a ruthless drug king pin, I wondered what had happened to her.   Alicia's life is no longer admirable or hopeful or wistful.  She is a mess, out of touch with her children and with no loving  relationships outside of her workplace.  She has no support system.  She's a rock. She's charming but, with no warmth, regret or hope.  She's strong and controlled and beautiful on the outside. But, she's empty on the inside. 

Frankly, I realized that I no longer like Alicia. Instead, I pity her.   Furthermore,  there's not one character on the show I would want to be friends with.  While they are fascinating from a distance, they are individually and collectively out for themselves.  Loyalty only comes into play when it relates to their professional endeavors. There is no caring. No compassion. No goodness. None. Good isn't winning out over evil.   

Alicia has turned into her husband, Peter, and I cannot bear to watch it anymore.  I'm saying goodbye to the Good Wife because she isn't anymore. 

Grateful for the wake up call. I can do better. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Epiphany~Only ONE

This might not sound like much,
But, I had this thought, today.

There is only One. 

'See,  I've been wrestling with a pretty big issue. 
In the midst of it, I've been looking for that one person,
That white knight  or fairy godmother, who would fix things.

You, know: 
Right what was wrong. 
Find the missing pieces.
Forgive every failure,
Redeem what was lost. 

I used all my power and influence and found it lacking. 
I reached out to this one and that, with no satisfactory response.
I complained. Grumbled. Whined. And yes, I even prayed.
 (imagine that.)

And, then, as if in answer to prayer,   I spied a new potential "savior" on the horizon.
 I secretly rejoiced- sure that they held the key
Confident that they would see all, know all and understand all clearly.
They were gonna be the fixer-upper. 

But business as usual prevailed. 
Hope waned. 
Frustration grew.
Anger flared.
Disappointment turned to resignation.

And then it happened. 
The light bulb burst forth light.

There is only one Savior. 
Only. One. 

If I put my faith in any human being,
I will know disappointment. 
They will fail just as I so often do.

They will fall short and I will not feel heard or  respected or valued. 
There is no earthly one who will never fail. 
There is only One. 

Yesterday, today and forever. 

Only. One. 

And One's all I need. JESUS.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Ordinary Days~Extraordinary Moments

My heart is fairly bursting with gratitude today at the end of an ordinary week filled with extraordinary moments…

The realization of what a blessing it is to know your life's purpose (because when you understand that, you know where you're going and can enjoy the journey-no matter the twists and turns it may take to get there)

Genuine, heartfelt worship --(thank you Benny Oke and the Sounds of Worship)  (because when you enter into true worship, it's a joy that fills your soul and carries you for days!)

Protection from two near misses on the road (because sometimes it's out of your hands)

Laughing pillow to pillow with the husband before we slept last night (because it makes for sweet sleep and pleasant dreams)

Good work with good people living out a mission statement that matters (because that doesn't happen everywhere)

Little arms reaching up for me (because it's as good to hold as it is to be held)

Coming to grips with "what's the worst that could happen?" (because it makes me realize where my hope must always be and allows me to rest in that)

Texting with my girl late at night (because I love sharing her heart and knowing what to pray for her)

The realization that all my fears, insecurities, failures, struggles, pains and faults aren't meant to keep me down but to cause me to  lean into the One who can lift me up (Because sometimes I lose sight of the fact that He's the One who can redeem them)


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

With all due respect, Oprah...

The sleeve on my chai tea featured an Oprah Winfrey quote:  

"Be more splendid. Be more extraordinary.  Use every moment to fill yourself up."

I'm sorry, Oprah.  But, with all due respect, you've got it wrong. 

The self-esteem movement has yielded us a generation of young adults who have grown up believing that they are the best, most special, finest, smartest and strongest in the history of the world. Splendid? Extraordinary?  I think not.  And, by the way--maybe it's time to stop spending every moment filling ourselves up and start emptying ourselves out

The God who walked this earth didn't consider Himself "splendid".  He didn't encourage us to be more "extraordinary" and He most certainly didn't tell us to spend every moment to fill ourselves up.  So, sorry, Oprah.  I know you mean well, but, the truth is, lots of well meaning folk speak a lot of drivel. It sounds nice, but, it's dead wrong.

Chew on this…

"For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."  Jesus, Luke14:11

Jesus reminded us that "without Me you can do nothing."  John 15:5

We are not called to be splendid or extraordinary.  We are called to "have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called."  Eph 4:1 

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself." Phil 2:3

The goal, dear Oprah,  is not to be splendid. Not to be extraordinary. Not to puff ourselves up.  There's a whole lot of that all around us.  And, as your friend, Dr. Phil, might ask, "how's that working for ya?"

Some better advice might be found in Paul's letter to the Philippians.  The goal, he lays out is more about self-sacrifice than about self-love.  Less about grabbing all the gusto and more about pouring ourselves out as an offering of gratitude.  More about being a servant than being the center of the universe. Heck, he said it clearly-

"Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.  He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!  Having become human, he stayed human.  It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privilege Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless obedient death…Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever." (Phil. 2:7-9 The Message)

We are tempted day and night by the ways of this world. To be the best, to make the most, to attain fame, to be magnificent or splendid or extraordinary.  But, none of that comes by filling ourselves up, but, instead by being filled up by the Holy Spirit of a Holy God who fills us with His power, enabling us to step back and step down in order that He might be glorified.  

It's a battle to step back from it.  We are bombarded by those encouraging us to focus on ourselves.  It sounds good, but it's not right.  

My challenge?

Be more humble. Be more self-sacrificing. Use every moment to give yourself away.

Now that would be both splendid and extraordinary.