“Her Name Was Lolita…”

My son recently adopted a dog who had been rescued from a puppy mill. It is likely that she had been left in her cage for great lengths of time, sitting in her own excrement, filthy and used solely for the gain of another. She had been treated like an object who had now outlived her usefulness; discarded and abandoned; unwanted and unloved. We braced ourselves for severe behavioral problems and extra training. Her foster home wasn’t even sure she was fully potty trained, and said she showed signs of the food anxiety so often exhibited in animals who have been treated inhumanely and have had to fight to be fed.

Even her name seemed to be a sentence to failure. It was Lolita, which means “sexually precocious young girl.” We decided that our first act of love was to change Lolita’s name, therefore cutting off all connections with her past. Her name is now Lola, meaning, “sorrows” or Lolo, meaning “goofball.” My son and I gently trained her to recognize our voices and respond to her new name. We were thrilled when she began to run to find us when we called her.

Our little “goofball”

Within 24 hours of adoption, Lolo surprised us all. From the first full day, her desire to please her new masters drove her to be careful not leave unwanted “packages” in the home. She cuddled and snuggled into our arms whenever we were sitting, and she ran around the house like a kook when one of us came home.

The whole experience has reminded me of when Jesus said that those who have been forgiven much are more grateful than those who believe they are not in need of much forgiveness. And though Lolo’s past wasn’t her fault, she seems to understand the depths of what she has been rescued from, and in response, has become completely and deliriously devoted to her deliverers.

How many of us, upon our rescue by Jesus, had been:

  • Found captured in a cage of our own or other’s making?
  • Left to feel dirty and unlovable?
  • Called names that led us to identify with things we were never meant to believe about ourselves? 
  • Discarded after our abusers deemed us no longer a part of their plan? 

Like Lolo, our desire to live in a way pleasing to God should be rooted in response to His great love and enriched by deep gratitude for the extremes that our Master went to in order to rescue us from sin and separation from Him. When He calls, we should be leaping and jumping in excitement for the adventure that awaits us. When we rest, we should be as closely snuggled in His arms as we can get. We should believe in who He says we are, rather than the who we were when He found us.

We all have a choice. We can either allow our past to cause us to be broken and bitter, or broken and better. We can, like Lolo, choose to respond to the love of our Master and become all that He has called us to become. We can allow God to “rename” us from forgotten to begotten; precocious to precious; trashed to treasured. We can allow God to train us as we follow His lead and learn to recognize His voice. Most significantly, we can, for the love that God has shown us, leave our pasts behind and joyfully experience our adoption in Him.

1John.3. [1] Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Show Me Your Glory…Even Though I’m Afraid

I love this song.
It is the cry of my heart.
…except for one line. “I’m not afraid.”
because I am afraid.
and shouldn’t I be?

His voice makes the earth tremble.
He is the Great Judge.
He holds Life and Destruction
and considers them like a chef considers which spice to use.
He says that no man can look upon His face and live.

That’s frightening.

I only know that God longed to show His people His glory
long ago
in a desert far, far away.
But they were too afraid.

And it made Him sad.
I don’t want to make Him weep over my rejection of Him.
Is my fear essentially rejection?
It was for those desert travelers.

I wonder what it takes to be a Moses?
To be chosen to commune with God in a deeper way than the masses?
But did God choose Him, or did He choose God?
Moses, with his asking?

Do I only have to ask?
and then have the courage for the answer?
It is true, I am afraid,
but I think I’d risk that fear to see His glory.

Jacob saw God in the face of His brother Esau.
He saw glory in a common relationship.
He risked death and unforgiveness to see glory there.
Am I willing to seek Him in the face of another?

Jesus saw the glory of Solomon in lillies,
And David has directed us to the stars.
Saying that the heavens declare His glory.
Because the stars sing, you know.

And their song declares His glory.
Does my song declare His glory?
For I am reminded by my sister that I sing because I have a song.
Not because I have the answers.

And my heart cries, “Show me your glory!”
And my Love answers, “My glory is all around you!”

…sharing a playdate with Laura:

 

Necessary Enoughness

It’s afternoon and cool air still rumples the pages of a notebook, and takes a spin with hanging fern baskets. The wind chimes tinkle, birds chirp, lawn mowers hum and a breeze kisses my forehead as I listen to an airplane scrape across the sky.

I am amazed at how much more I enjoy these moments now that there are fewer of them. Not long ago, I was home all day and failed to capture the beauty of my own front porch. Now that I am working outside the home it seems that my quiet at-home moments are condensed like frozen orange juice before water is added. Strong and full of flavor.

And then a thought comes to me, it is difficult to fully enjoy what you have more than enough of.

Even in the world’s financial markets, the surplus of an item reduces its value.

How can I keep value and still have my “barns be filled with plenty”?

And what do I do about God? After all, He is the God of more than enough. How do I keep from devaluing Him? Taking Him for granted the same way I overlooked summer sweetness in my own home?

Perhaps I value my full barns when I share their contents with others…my more than enough food, more than enough clothes, more than enough grace.

The “Amazing Grace” wind chimes are at it again, swaying and swinging while all the while singing. And I remember Ann’s words, “All is grace.” My more than enough is grace, and His grace is more than sufficient enough. The thought occurs to me that the answer is once again, “blowin’ in the wind“, and I am touched by His enough-ness, filled to overflowing and determined to value every moment of it.

The Tale of the Cannibal Squirrel

Yesterday, I witnessed an amazing thing. I wish I had a camera so that you could see it. Buddy, my dog, was begging to go outside, and as it was a perfect sunny morning, I stepped out onto the deck with him. He started to bark at two squirrels crossing an electrical line behind our house. One of the squirrels scolded him profusely, the other laid flat on the wire, tail hanging limp. Buddy lost interest. I did not. The first squirrel began pacing away from and toward the still squirrel. After several minutes, I ran in to get my phone and prepared to call animal control, suspecting that something was wrong with the rodent who refused to move. When I came back they were both gone. My eyes followed the line to the tree where I knew the squirrels had their nest. The healthy squirrel was jumping from line to tree with the other squirrel of equal size in its mouth.

I had been praying when all of this happened. I was asking God for direction because I was preparing for the Write To Publish Conference and was feeling frightened and unprepared…stuck in the middle of many tasks not sure which direction to take. I found myself frozen, much like the flattened squirrel, tail hanging limp. After I received my new job, I felt uncertain about where this left my writing career and I didn’t know whether I should move on toward the goal, or forget the whole thing.

As I continued to research squirrel behavior for this post I found several disturbing articles. I thought that my squirrel was being friendly, and helping his fellow furry friend. What I found instead was horrific! The truth is that squirrels are cannibals, and the little beast was carrying the other squirrel to its demise. I thought that the horrible noises I had heard were the healthy squirrel crying for his injured companion. Instead, I found out that the screams were from the injured squirrel being eaten alive. I felt sick. I assumed that I was getting a beautiful revelation about how we need to help each other when one is too frightened to continue alone, and instead I had a tale of a cannibal squirrel.

But then, I thought about that paralyzed squirrel. It would not move forward. It would not fight for the ground that it had conquered. I think that I can tend to be like him, and when I let the enemy terrify me that way, I allow him to destroy me. The truth is that God has equipped us. He has equipped us to move forward. When we look back, we become like Lot’s wife and we are destroyed. Moving forward keeps us from being eaten alive by our fears and by our enemies.

The fact of the matter is: I haven’t finished either of my novels. I have very little published. But…Phil. 3:13 says,

I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…

What lies directly ahead for me?  The Write To Publish Conference.  So, I will spend the bulk of my days this next week preparing for what lies ahead.  What is that “one thing” that I need to focus on?

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus, the author.  Jesus is an author!  He knows what it is to have an incomplete work set before Him, because that incomplete work is me!  Jesus, the finisher.  He knows how to finish what He has started, and He will help me to do the same.  He finished for the joy that was set before Him.  I will finish for the same purpose, the joy of completion.  Because it is this joy that makes the suffering of the journey worth it.

I wonder what would have happened if the injured squirrel would have pressed forward to what was ahead instead of stopping dead in his tracks?  I am determined to keep moving, even if it is at a crawl.  I focus on moving forward with the tasks that I know He has placed in my hand, and because He is an author and a finisher, I can be too!

 

 

Love In An Elevator – The God Version

I have a story I hope to tell you soon. A story that has been in the making since the time that I was born. A story that will probably change this space, forever…and so it is bittersweet. Although I would love to gush forth all of the beautiful details, discretion begs me to wait.

Photo courtesy of Mark Coggins

Sometimes it is in the waiting room of life that the real work is done. Change of heart. The labor of patience. And then come the words, “The Doctor will see you now.” It is at this time that the real butterflies begin, as you wait in the office clothed in a hospital gown that barely covers you, and you feel exposed and nervous about your future. What will the doctor say? Will your life be changed forever by his words?

photo courtesy

Recently, I found myself in a high speed elevator, actually the world’s fastest elevator. After stepping into the tiny room, with far too many passengers, the door closed. The air seemed suddenly compressed and I felt slightly panicked. I was going to be translated almost 100 floors in less than a minute. I would travel confined to this tiny room full of strangers for pilgrims. The floor suddenly met my heart. And once the elevator began to move, I couldn’t tell whether it was going up or down. I wished that I could change my mind. I didn’t really need to see three states away, did I? But the doors were shut tight, and there was no turning back. And actually, other than the occasional popping in my ears, I couldn’t even tell that I was moving…Until the stop, when my heart was reintroduced to the floor. And when the doors opened, the people around me began to file out. As I stood on tiptoe to get a peek at the view, I saw a hint of blue sky. Suddenly the ride seemed worth it, because as I crossed the threshold from the uncertain and unplanted elevator onto certain and solid ground, I found that I was somewhere completely different than where I had I started. “Todo, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” I whispered. Because in a moment, I had been transported from a world of black and white reality to a 3-D movie in technicolor far above the clouds; a world in which I could see clearly everything for miles.

photo courtesy of wallg

My life has been like that as of late. A few months ago, I was grieving the end of an era. I felt frightened, because I wasn’t sure what the purpose of my future would be. The focus of my every day for the past fourteen years had been home schooling, my children, husband and family. One by one, each of those roles have changed. For certain, I will always be a mother, but the boundaries in this position change with time. Of course, I will always be a wife, until death do one of us part. Obviously, I will always be a daughter, until one empty day sees my lonely body looking down on freshly opened dirt. But now that my youngest has completed her high school work, my husband has a new job which rarely sees him home, and my widowed mother is a whole state away, my place in the world, has become ambiguous, at best. I thought that maybe my purpose on planet earth was completed. My elevator jolted to a stop.

But in actuality, it just started to move. For I had been on the ground floor for so long, that I was terrified to leave its comfortable confines. At first, I was certain that this elevator was going down, down into the depths of despair. Then after the initial jolt, when floor met heart, I was positive that I was going nowhere. Occasionally, my ears would pop and sometimes I even felt a little dizzy, and I wondered what was happening. Was I ill? Maybe I was dying. What were these strange sensations?

Instead, I suddenly felt my knees buckle…the doors have opened and I can see a hint of blue, and the promise of where the elevator has taken me….I’ll let you know soon…

Where have your elevators taken you in your lifetime?

262. For faithful friends.
263. For the Shepherd’s leading (even when I don’t recognize until years later.)
264. For an amazing church.
265. For our neighborhood Bible Study.
266. For the Heights co-op.
267. For shopping dates with my girl.
268. For grills that keep cooking mess down.
269. For the Holy Spirit who reminds me that it’s all about Him.
270. For SELAH co-op
271. For dates with the Holy Spirit
272. For inspirational ideas.
273. For the best women’s conference EVER!
274. For marriage in innocence…
275. For the privilege of serving Him.

Counting with dear Ann:

…sharing a playdate with Laura:

…hanging out with L.L.: On In Around button

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Jesus Loves the Person You Can’t Stand

I am attending the Bella Conference, Fresh Colors this weekend…so you’ll have to read this oldy but goody! This is one of my all-time favorites…

Photo courtesy of Alex Proimos

Maybe the person is at work, or at school. Maybe you dislike an entire portion of society, ie. the smelly guy on the bus. Or maybe, and this is the worst of them all, you live with someone you don’t like! Whatever the case, it’s startling how often I hear “Christians” say they hate someone, or dislike a family member. Even more often that this, I see Christians ignore entire portions of their own world. They conveniently ignore the bum on the corner of State and Lake Streets. They sit as far away as possible from the smelly man on the bus. They look upon the scantily dressed young woman, whom they suspect to be a harlot, with disgust. They try with all their might to get out of serving in the nursery when their turn comes up, because they, “just don’t do diapers.” I know, I am ashamed to say, I’ve done all of the above.

Have you ever stopped to ask the bum his story? Whether it’s a true story or not, it’s sure to be interesting and will show a window into his soul. Have you ever thought that maybe the smelly guy is homeless and hasn’t had a shower because he has no bathroom except McDonald’s? Did you ever consider that perhaps the young woman you are so quick to judge may have run away from a sexually abusive father and had no where to turn?

My writing mentor, Madeleine L’Engle said this:

“If Jesus came today, would we be any braver, any more open, any more willing to give ourselves to his love, than were those who cried out, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’? Would we be any more willing today to allow him to love all kinds of people, even those we don’t much care about?
That, of course, was part of the problem–Jesus’ friends. They were not the right people. He went to the wrong dinner parties (his first miracle took place at a big party). He loved children, and let them climb all over him with their sticky little hands and dirty little feet.”

If Jesus reached out to these “untouchables” in our society who are we to ignore them? Who are we to define them as untouchable?

Every once in a while, my Salvation Army roots leak out. General William Booth said,

“Look for yourselves. The surging sea of life crowded with perishing souls rolls up to the very spot on which you stand. Leaving the vision, I now come to speak of the fact – fact that is real as the Bible; as real as the Christ who hung upon the cross! as real as the Judgment Day will be, and as real as the Heaven and Hell that will follow it.

Look! Don’t be deluded by appearances -men and things are not what they seem. All who are not on the rock are in the sea. Look at them from the standpoint of the Great White Throne, and what a sight you have! Jesus Christ, the Son of God; is in the midst of this dying multitude, struggling to save them. And He is calling on YOU to jump into the sea – to go right away to His side, and help Him in the holy strife.

Will you jump? That is, will you go to His feet, and place yourself absolutely at His disposal? My comrades, you are rescued from the waters; you are on the rock. He is in the dark sea, calling on you to come to Him and help Him. Will you go?”

Here is my favorite Keith Green song ever. Please listen. Someone’s life depends on it.

The Answer My Friend, Is Blowin’ In the Wind

In the distance, the hill glows gold with tiny sunbursts. I smile big, quite sure that the happy face was inspired by the dandelion…not Forest Gump. And yet, this felicitous flower brings great unhappiness to most people. My neighbors are constantly at war with them. They spray, dig and curse them. They give me the evil eye for not paying a man to spray toxic chemicals to choke out their existence altogether.

It’s true; they are far less attractive in the seed stage, the stem limp and gray-green with white wispy feathers waiting to waft on the wind. In it’s most empty moment, when all that is left is a translucent stem, a seed is sent on an errand. It may be transported in the calm of a warm summer breeze, or it may have been reluctantly flung from the grasp of its pin cushion in a violent storm, but the seed leaves it’s comfort zone nonetheless.

I’ve experienced times when I have felt limp and gray-green, useless to anyone. I’ve felt unwanted and empty, as though I’m losing more of myself with every core shaking wind of change. But then comes His breath on a breeze…and it picks up the remnant of me like a dandelion clock, ready to make a colorless fluff into a plush splash of light, a replica of the Son, thorns and all. And I see that all along…the answer was blowin’ in the wind. Even though I feel worn out, and frail; used up and dead; He can still take a tiny part of me, carrying it on a whisper, and plant it, spreading splashes of sunshine. Not everyone will enjoy the spillover. They might try to dig it up, because it is different. But there are those, who will enjoy it for what it is…and smile.

I Corinthians 15:36 – What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first.

Sharing with goosebumps with Jen:

And dear Emily:

and darling Ann:

A Call To Worship From A Drunk Man


The air was heavy blue with mist when I heard him singing. Was that my son in the shower? It was not. Did my neighbor have the radio blasting in his warming car? He did not. “Who is that singing?”, I thought. I opened my front door, and there he was. A young man, singing his heart vulnerable at the top of his lungs. The birds were his choir, and the distant train whistle his constant baseline. Together, they were performing a simple symphony, one in which this meander-er both directed and participated. I looked at the clock, it was 5 a.m.

I am half certain that he was drunk, for what other reason would someone be so uninhibited and oblivious to what others would think? But then I wondered, what if I was that full of joy and intoxicated with the beauty that is present in the moment called, “Now”? Because when we celebrate the “Now”, it is then that “Now” becomes present; a gift.

The fragrance surfing the breeze was pregnant with green, and aliveness. What better reason to sing? And what better way to be awakened than a serenade to the world? A call to worship so to speak…”Come and gather, for this moment must not be wasted!” the young man proclaimed with every note.
He was at the end of the block now and the blue landscape had turned grey in the distance, but he was still singing on his journey home….and so will I.

What To Do When You’re Facing A Giant

Today I have my first grown up interview. All of my other jobs have come to me. I am pitifully under-qualified. They would prefer someone with a degree. I have none. The only place I’ve ever worked is Dunkin’ Donuts and church, unless I count that short stint at Casual Corner and the bank. I haven’t worked in an office in twelve years, but that is what makes the whole thing so exciting. I’m in way over my head. That’s always been the best place for me, the deep. Most of the time I haven’t chosen to go there, but rather, have found myself under stormy waters against my will. However, this time, I’ve chosen to wade into the deep.

This morning, I was reading I Samuel and the story of David and Goliath came alive in a whole new way to me. I noticed seven things I could use to face the giant of “what should this former home school mom do with her life, now?”

1. Find out what the benefits are to facing your giant. David asked to hear the reward for killing Goliath. He wanted to hear it a second time. Maybe he already had his eye on Saul’s daughter, or maybe he was excited about his family being tax exempt, but something in that list inspired him and (en)couraged him to overcome the obstacle set before him.

2. Resist the temptation to fight your giant with the weapons of others. God has made you uniquely you. When we try to do things the way other people do, it just doesn’t fit right, just like Saul’s armor didn’t fit David. In fact, in the New Living version, David says, “I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” Then it says that David picked up five stones. This was a weapon he was familiar with.God has equipped you. Use your equipment.

3. Notice how God has been training you.God doesn’t leave His children hanging. David wrote a poem about this in Psalm 144:1 (NLT) “Praise the LORD, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.” David realized at some point that all of those years protecting those sheep were useful for something even more significant. They were training his hands for this battle. The assignment that God has given you may seem everyday and mundane. But the truth is that this very thing may be your training for an upcoming battle! I have long lived by the mantra, “Do what is in your hand to do, today.” When I do this, I know that I will be prepared for the future because of my obedience and action today.

4. Recognize the battle as the Lord’s. You are not strong enough to beat your giant, but God is. And perhaps, unbeknownst to you, He has been preparing you for this day. David did not have an armor bearer. He didn’t have any armor! But he had something so much more powerful, He had God on His side.

5. Be confident. David talked trash to Goliath. He told him exactly what he was going to do to him in no uncertain terms. He could do this because the Lord was his confidence. Proverbs 3:26, says, “For the Lord shall be your confidence, firm and strong, and shall keep your foot from being caught [in a trap or some hidden danger].”

6.Run at your giant!Stop avoiding it, run at it! David ran toward Goliath as fast as his legs could take him. Sometimes if we take our time, we’ll talk ourselves out of it. Go for it!

7. Reach into your own skill set. When the time came, David found himself “reaching into his shepherd’s bag.” David was able to pull what was familiar and practiced out of himself when he needed it most. He was prepared. He could pull a trick out of the bag. What skills has God trimmed you with? What can you pull out of your bag in time of trouble? Don’t believe that His preparations haven’t been enough. You were made for this!

I’m thrilled to be at this place in my life. The position that I’m applying for isn’t my giant, but trying for the position is! I know God has a future for me one way or the other…after all, how could I write so much if I’m working all of the time!

What is your giant?

Sharing with my friend Jen today:

and dear Shanda:

The Dishes – A Formal Event

I had an epiphany doing what is ordinary, even mundane, tonight. We had Easter Dinner 2.0, fine china and all::Ham, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and strawberry poppy seed salad. When conversation landed and plates were scraped clean, it was time to do dishes. They offered, but for some reason I declined the help. Instead, I started with the glasses and a sink full of almost scalding water capped with Ann’s bubbles, and it came to me. Why not make an event out of doing the dishes? So I blasted Mozart, and lit a candle, and enjoyed the method of it all; the music and it’s repetition, the order of washing: glasses, then plates, then serving dishes, then pans, and finally silverware after changing the water once. And then, I realize that what is usually a chore had become an event worthy of printed invitations and gowns. And He accepted my invitation: the invitation to my Ball of the Dish Washing. The ball where I served my family with the ordinary, only the idea He stuck in my head made it all extraordinary. So we danced in the kitchen, He and I.

Sharing with my friend Jen today:

and dear Shanda:

 

 

and hurray!  We’re back with Emily!