May, Week 8 of Massachusetts COVID-19 Protocol.
As soon as the campgrounds opened, we were among the first to camp. With each governor’s extension of stay-at-home orders, I had scheduled, rescheduled, and rescheduled again campgrounds in several New England states. Originally, in April, we had hoped to take our online learning on the road with a WiFi booster, but it made more sense, as COVID stats became apparent, that campgrounds were initially only open to seasonal and essential healthcare workers.
So, on May 7, we headed to the White Mountains to one of the first campgrounds to open in New Hampshire. We maintained mask and 6-foot protocols for COVID-19, and we “stayed at home” or inside our vehicle, but it was really fascinating to observe people so hungry to see other humans again in a relaxed setting where you could talk to your neighbor from site to site without also balancing the crazy stress of which direction to walk in the grocery line and worrying about stepping too close to the person pulling some cereal from the shelf.
Because prices were cheaper due to April cancellations, we landed a very nice site with a patio overlooking a pond. I don’t know who was more anxious to exit the dually and get out on nature’s path more—me or the dogs—but my heart and soul screamed:
Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God!
See, I knew God was there in our time of home-bound COVID-19 Isolation, but when I saw His Creation all around me, my eternally designed heart could feel our hands touch across realms of heaven and earth.
Oh God Oh God Oh God!
Having opened two days before our arrival, even the campground workers were starved for Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: campground, camping, COVID-19, dually, junior prom, masks, New England, New England camping, rabbit, rising senior, rising senior during COVID-19, shih tzu, stay-at-home, travel trailer, White Mountains
This title (and topic) has been floating around in my head and heart for quite some time now. Recently, I went to a Stephen Ministries conference where I learned quite a bit about the ministry end of this equation. But let me tell you: I’ve been on the other end too many times to count.
Today, I want to focus on that part of the story. If what I describe in this article has been a way you have personally interacted with someone, please know there is a learning curve. I have a lot of grace for that. I am not writing this to cause any shame.
But I have spent so much of my time, passion, and advocacy on the intersection of faith and mental health, that I can’t sit still and be silent. In fact, my small publishing house, Ground Truth Press, is due to put out a fascinating and very thorough book on this subject in a few months. I am so proud of the author who took the time to try to explain both “subcultures” (for lack of a better word) and why they do not need to remain polarized. She has taken great care to educate both camps on the other’s perspective/viewpoint.
Today’s words are my own, but when she approached me about publishing her manuscript, my soul screamed: YES!
Too much pain, too many misunderstandings, so much disillusionment on the topic of mental health, and I’m sorry, fellow Christians, but I’m referencing the inside of the church.
I’m so pleased to be part of a church body that is very committed to educating its members on mental health inclusion and ministry, but that has not always been the case. I have attended churches with a mindset that was openly hostile toward those struggling with emotional and mental health. I’m sorry to say that in more than four decades of church life, in this arena specifically, I’ve found the most support in secular environments.
I believe this can change. I know it can. In fact, I think the current title of this article can one day change. “Church” as a verb can have a positive connotation. Ministry to this group of fellow sufferers (we all suffer with something, right?) can be righted within the church environment.
How? Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: clinical depression, compassion ministry, depression, depression as a sin, don't sing songs to a heavy heart, faith, faith and mental health, heavy heart, hopelessness, is depression a sin?, mental health, mental health and the church, mental health inclusion, mental health ministry, ministry, pastoral care, pastoral care ministry, Stephen Ministries, suffering
I was sitting across the table from a good friend, sharing what I felt God was doing in my life—and how painful, but healthy, it was.
She’s the wise type, sitting there tuned in as an active listener, simultaneously praying, and waiting on God to speak to her. Sometimes I stare at her for a full two minutes before she responds. I’ll admit it was unnerving the first few times I experienced it.
And do you know why I love this so much?
Because she measures every single word that comes out of her mouth. It’s never flippant, casual, dismissive, arrogant, or half-hearted. She feels the intensity of every spoken word. And as they flow very slowly from her mouth, there is a soothing tone to them. It makes me feel so safe. It’s the exact reason I go to her for wisdom: Because she loves God more than she loves me and listens intently to Him, and because when she speaks, even correction, it has His loving kindness on it.
“I feel like I’m being scraped from the inside-out right now. This has been one intensely painful year. I feel like God is scraping my insides out.”
She stopped me right there, cocked her head, and said: “What do you mean?”
I replied: “He is digging out old wounds that no longer belong there. He wants to set me free.”
With that, I could see her shoulders relax. She knew what I meant—not that God was hurting me but rather that He was cleansing me. Restoring me. Helping me to let go of junk I was holding onto that was no longer relevant or part of who I am supposed to be.
I wish I could say the process was like a nice micro-abrasion cleanser, you know, the one with the gritty feel to it? But this? This was more significant than that analogy allows.
This was more of a Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Corinthians 3:16, all things work together for good, eternal value, God's kingdom, God's purpose, God's quarry, God's temple, know my thoughts, lasting foundation, new life, personal growth, psalm 139, quarry, quarry of God, redeem, redeems, refining, Romans 8:28, sanctified, sanctify, sanctifying, smoothing, temptation, those who love God, try me and know my thoughts
Proverbs 24:26, ESV
Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.
In an attempt to encourage a very dear person in my life after a loss causing her complicated grief, I wrote the following:
A thousand times over I admire _______ for facing his demons and working to give back good, however flawed and imperfectly. I prefer this a thousand times over to people who won’t get real with each other and who want to pretend all is well when it is clearly not. Reading the obituary made me admire _______ for things I cannot admire others for in that same generation. I will take “real” any day over faking it. The latter is an exhausting way to live.
Jesus hung out with the humble like ________ who knew they were messed up and needed Him. Those are my kinds of people.
My entire life I have been surrounded by people who feared being honest with and about themselves. Some of it may have been learned behavior, cultural norms at the time, and generational. The point of this article is not to lay blame.
Some of these people were in my church, my neighborhood, and my family. Some had significant influence over me. Some just passed through my life briefly. And like anyone else, I still meet people like this who, for whatever reason, are trapped inside themselves and hiding behind a façade.
We can argue that at any given point, all of us have a façade. Just look at social media, ha!! And sure, I’m going to be professional with a client and not let her know I just got my act together at 1 in the afternoon because I struggled to focus all day due to a concern over one of my kids. Maybe I showered for the first time in two days, my house is a wreck, and problems are dripping off every family member like a leaky faucet quicker than I can address them—if I even can. Yeah, not the time to share that, but that’s not what I’m referring to.
And, to be fair, at the other end of the spectrum are people like me who wear everything on our sleeves, consequently making more private people uncomfortable with our over-share at times. I get that. I really do. Private people are not wrong to be guarded or true to their nature.
The problem comes in when appearances Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: authenticity, being honest, being real, Ephesians 4:25, facade, false balance, false images, getting real, healthy relationships, honest answer, honesty, humble, humility, integrity of the upright, lie, living a lie, living honestly, pride, proverbs 11:1-3, proverbs 24:26, put away falsehood, rejection, speak the truth, transparency, trust in relationships, unmasked, vulnerable
In last week’s column about living honestly, I began writing a list of areas where God is calling me to be more truthful in my relationships.
Part of the reason for self-assessment is that sometimes we avoid speaking clearly and honestly out of fear of rejection, hurting someone’s feelings, or a sense of responsibility toward meeting needs and helping people. Truth-speaking is obviously always a good practice, but when we are confronting any area or issue that might be uncomfortable, it is especially important to be prayerful and to have built relationship.
My personal buzzwords in this season of my life right now are:
Is how I am handling this communicating care?
In my family life, areas of ministry, and both of my businesses (publishing and essential oils), “communicating care” is where it all breaks down for me. If I can’t do this well, I may as well pack it all up and go home. Even when my answer is “no,” “not now,” or “that is not a way I can help,” it is paramount that I convey kindness.
Close personal relationships are the polishing ground for the edges in our personalities and ways of interacting. Because we care more on that level, we are more invested. Good boundary-setting and clarity-with-kindness go a long way toward expectations being more realistic on both sides.
As a review, the first three ways of living honestly were:
- “I can’t help in that way right now, but I can help in this way: ________________.”
- “I care a lot about you, and because I do, I have some thoughts on this pattern in your life that may be causing you some trouble.”
- “__________ is an area of my life I would like you to stop speaking to me about because you do not have the experience or authority to weigh in there. However, I would continue to enjoy your thoughts on _____________ area(s) of my life. I find it so helpful to hear from you about that.”
The next three on my list are as follows: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: boundaries, boundary-setting, clear communication, communicating care, communicating clearly, consistent in my speech, constructive relationship, destructive relationship, do not let the sun go down, double-minded, double-mindedness, duplicity, Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 4:25, healthy boundaries, healthy communication, healthy confrontation, healthy relationships, honest relationships, honesty, integrity, living honestly, living with integrity, Proverbs 11:3, Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 29:11, put away falsehood, realistic expectations, relationships, speaking the truth in love, speaking truth, taking space, tongue of the wise, truthful speaking
Whenever I sit down to write a column, I ask God for guidance where to start. It’s not like He sits on my desk and audibly downloads ideas while I type. But I can tell you without a doubt if you want to know what He has me working on in my character and life, it is usually within these 1,200 words and very current.
So I sat down with a tiny piece of chocolate and my cappuccino and asked for a topic. The response in my heart and soul is usually along the lines of:
“Well, what am I teaching you right now?”
Me: “Well, patience, self-control, taming my tongue, speaking more gently, being slow to anger…..isn’t that the usual recipe of what needs work in me, Lord?”
“What is your main goal right now: the new level of a healthy spiritual life you are wanting me to bring you to?”
Me: “If I were to reflect on recent weeks, I would say: living honestly. Not people-pleasing. Only God-pleasing. Being true to who I am, what I offer, and what You tell me to do. Not allowing negativity to derail me from Your purposes.”
Living honestly. Hmmm. What does that look like?
Well, what first comes to mind is integrity. Keeping promises. Not promising what we can’t provide. Making good on our word.
Proverbs 10:9, ESV
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
1 Chronicles 29:17, ESV
I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.
Not stealing or short-cutting to take from someone else. Any time we so much as take a box of pencils from the office closet or a pack of gauze from the medical bin at work, we are costing someone else something for our own gain. We don’t have to be shoplifting to be dishonest. We can cheat on taxes or fudge our payroll hours.
I find it also dishonest to live with priorities out of whack. Want to know what I mean by that? If we live hand-to-mouth, and that paycheck needs to pay for our transportation and food, yet we have the latest iPhone but have to regularly ask our friends to help pay bills, we may have some dishonest representation of finances going on.
And what about misspeaking when we recount a situation that happened, stretching or altering the truth? In court, false testimony can dismiss an important case! Our words matter!
Proverbs 14:5, ESV
A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.
But living honestly can also mean Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: bear one another's burdens, being truthful, do not lie to one another, Ephesians 4:25, faithful witness, false witness, galatians 6:2, God pleaser, healthy boundaries, honesty, integrity, living honestly, people pleaser, prayerful guidance, priorities, proverbs 24:26, seeking God, speak the truth, speaking truth, test the heart, the lips of knowledge, truth, venn diagram, walking with integrity, wisdom
I actually wrote this right after Christmas 2018, but I recently revisited because in New England we have a delightful weeklong break in mid-February. You see, if I’m not intentional about the disruptions of everyone being home on break, our time off together can be an epic fail. Know what I mean?
Whether it’s a vacation you have planned, a school break, too many snow days in a row, or a holiday, time together does not have to be chaotic and tense. For our family, we actually needed it to go so far as to be restorative and healing. It was a huge prayer on my heart. If this is you, read on. Our holiday break a few months ago brought peace and refreshing in only ways God could have orchestrated.
I’m back—I think—for now. My Advent season went off the rails. In short: We are still troubleshooting causation of a significant health decline in one of my children, and we have seen more specialists than I have money for copays—but that’s a story for another day. We may be talking about parasites. Still waiting on that result. Why parasites? Because we spent two years on a tiny island in the South Pacific Third World a decade ago. And my child is not absorbing proteins—which pretty much screws up health on several counts.
We had a good Christmas. I hope you did, too. We are trying some new supplements while we wait out answers, and there was stability and peace. Even so, I simultaneously slapped the back end of 2018 goodbye with a firm “Harrumph!” (Thank you, Urban Dictionary!) while fearing that the New Year would drop us back where we fell around Thanksgiving: fearful, despairing, shaken.
So, as the high schooler and middle schooler went back to school, I found the quiet to reflect on what worked for us this holiday break. I do this in the hopes that next year, or any year where we need healing, we remember what to do, with any necessary adjustments.
I was going to give this column the title: The Healing Power of Family, but I could not bring myself to do it. It’s not that I don’t find time with my kids and husband to be healing, because I absolutely do. But I also remember times when Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: anxiety, be still, being still, binge-watch, Christmas, conflict resolution, dog therapy, dogs, family, family conflict, family dynamics, family therapy, finding peace, health issues, healthy dynamics, healthy families, healthy holidays, healthy relationships, parasite, peaceful holiday, personality clashes, recovering from holidays, recovering relationships, relationships, self-care, setting expectations, shih tzu, social anxiety, time together, time together as families
The text came in from a concerned friend:
What are you doing?
I’m standing in Five Below trying to find normal again.
But the truth is I wasn’t sure if normal would be a thing ever again. It had been a week of scare, upset, worry, and concern that ended in an unexpected diagnosis for one of my children. One medication trial had gone very wrong…the kind of wrong where you stay awake all night staring at God’s created work from your gene pool and wonder: How did we get here? What happened?
Then I remember: Oh that’s right. My genetics slammed us around one more time. Oh, goody. All that stuff I didn’t want to know was in there in the first place was coming back to say: “Hey, Bonnie! I’m ba—ack!”
It almost doesn’t matter what the diagnosis is at this point in my story, does it? For any one of us, it could be cancer, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease, skin conditions, or any one of assorted mental health disorders. When everything we have fought so hard to understand, be proactive about, and work around comes spitting into our faces, it’s awfully hard to take at times, am I right?
So I stood there in the store of a thousand teen girl room décor items, cheap candy, and toys, and I texted my friend back. The gist of what was going through my mind, although I don’t recall if I typed all of this was: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: abound in hope, bad news, be constant in prayer, be patient in tribulation, crisis, finding normal, God of hope, hope, hope in Christ, hope is Christ, in him my heart trusts, medical crisis, my Redeemer lives, prognosis, psalm 28:7, psalm 62:5, rejoice in hope, romans 12:12, Romans 15:13, the Lord is my strength and my shield, wrestling with hope
I was sitting on the lawn chair hearing him crowd out my thoughts. He wanted me to look down at my feet and see how limited they were, how clumsy, how immovable.
He wanted me to stay stuck, frozen, unable to advance an inch—if even to make dinner. Because he loves to tell me this:
“You can’t do this. How on earth will you pull it off? You couldn’t even rescue yourself. You can’t manage this. This family member’s illness is greater than you. It will swallow you whole. And, by the way, you are always worth abandoning. Nobody will be there for you.”
Over and over again. The whispers. The racing of my mind.
I couldn’t move. Everything felt like an epic fail. As much practice as I’ve had advocating for people in my life with various struggles to get the help that they need, I had hit a brick wall.
All my knowledge. All my connections. All my training. All my experience.
Over the course of many months of trying to troubleshoot a medical problem in our lives, all related side dishes of comorbid conditions piled up like unfinished moldy fare at a banquet. The heavier the pile, the harder to see the real issue. Know the feeling?
This could really be about anything physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional in our lives, right? That great overwhelm?
And when we stare at that pile-up of complications and other nonsense, the face walking across the water toward us, reaching out a hand, calling us to trust is hard to see, right?
Then along comes the Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: alone, Christ, christ the hope of glory, comorbid, enemy of our souls, father of lies, fear, fear not, getting honest with God, getting real with God, I have redeemed you, Isaiah 43:1, John 8:44, liar to our soul, lies of the enemy, lonely, never forsake us, not alone, overwhelmed, racing thoughts, the enemy is a liar
See that trench? It’s under major construction. There is heavy equipment escavating and doing repair work.
That can be scary, right? Everything tells us to keep away from the danger there. There are warning signs. We may get hurt.
But what if someone is stuck there for a while? How do we come alongside them so that they can eventually emerge repaired and restored?
A few weeks ago, I wrote the tiny portion of thoughts below. I knew it wasn’t edifying. I had the good sense not to put it on social media. (Points for self control!) But I was sore, raw, sleepless, hope-starved, and feeling very alone. It was challenging to talk to people in any light-hearted setting and make conversation.
See, as it should, life goes on for other people in the midst of our personal trials, but it took everything in me to give my conversational angst to God and restrain my tongue. If you are currently deep in the trenches of a crisis, illness, or despair of any kind, perhaps you can relate. I decided to include my thoughts (at the time) below in order to be fully disclosing, to demonstrate my own failures, but also to show you how real I feel it.
If this is you, please know: I GET YOU. This pretty much sums up my perspective whenever stuck in my personal trench:
I am usually an incredibly compassionate person willing to extend my ear and heart to almost anyone. (My kids may say the opposite, but as a mother, I’m wired to mix compassion with healthy boundaries.) I’m actually quite proud of that, as it is pretty consistent…as consistent as my flaws of impatience and low frustration tolerance can be.
But sometimes we are in a season of full intensity, and our tolerance for other situations and needs is completely on “empty.” I am at that place most days right now. Do not tell me about your stubbed toe, or your kid getting a C on a test, or your trash dumped out on the street and the collectors never picked it up. I’m sorry to hear all that, but my pain filter is set on Extreme right now, so anything lower than Mediocre isn’t going to register.
And don’t give me your heaviness. It will literally crush me right now. I can’t encourage you, and it’s not my role. I can’t give back at the moment. If you can’t handle that, please walk away for a while.
And I hate that. I hate not being available. I hate not having the capacity to handle the mundane. I hate not listening and lending a hand. It’s not who I am. It’s unnatural to me.
But I was swirling in a vortex.
When I am not the one in pain, I likely do this to others. And I want to say right now:
I’m sorry. It feels like abandonment when other people’s lives go on, and I’m so sorry if I ever made you feel this way.
I’d like to think I won’t do it again, but I will forget once this crisis in my family is over. Maybe that’s a way for me to understand. Not everyone can live inside our circle of pain, and certainly not everyone is called to sit there and swirl with us.
The truth is: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: beauty from ashes, boundaries, coming alongside, crisis, encouragement, encouraging, help, instead of ashes, isaiah 61, ministry, personal crisis, repair, restoration, supporting, trenches, trials, under construction
This is a deeply personal piece. I wish it weren’t. I wish I had skipped over these genes in the gene pool. I wish mental health struggles didn’t ravage families, shooting out shrapnel like loaded cannons to anyone and everything around them trying to help.
And yet—they do.
My mental health journey started before we had children. Round One for me was setting right in my head what my heart mislearned along the way for a lot of reasons. At age 27, I was simply trying to make sense of adulthood and childhood, and mesh it all together. I needed to pull out the good I learned and discard the rest, like anyone else does at that age. That time, a therapist was helpful, but chemically I remained untreated.
Round Two was third-child-post-partum. It was short-lived, and I was fairly well supported by friends and my husband. It was a brief re-dip in a dark well. I had a lot to live for. My hormones simply were not cooperating.
Round Three almost killed me. We were on a tiny South Pacific island with three young children for two years. I spent my evenings biking around looking for a place to change my sense of desperate.
(Let me emphasize that I still had a lot to live for then. Three amazing, beautiful, spunky children and a loving husband. That had not changed.)
I was all the way around the world from all that I knew, living a fish-bowl military base, ex-pat lifestyle in a beautiful setting—only Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: ADD, ADHD, anxiety, chemical imbalance, childhood depression, christ in you, Colossians 1:27, coping mechanisms, depression, Hebrews 4:15, high priest, high priest who sympathizes, hope of glory, Jesus, mental health, not just on sundays, obedient to the point of death, parenting mental health, psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, relationship with God, social anxiety, social isolation, suicidal, suicidal ideation, teens and anxiety, teens and depression, therapist
I wrote this years ago. It is once again relevant for different reasons. I still feel a lifelong commitment to beating back the front line that comes at us from time to time. I call for a retreat of enemy forces. Anxiety, you do not get to thieve, poke, defeat, crumble, discourage, speak your lies about the truth, or distort perspective. Not on my watch!
If this is you or someone you know and love, please consider reading through to the end. May it help someone to know you are not alone and there can be victory!
☕ Espressos of Faith ☕
This piece is deeply personal. More than usual. It opens a window into a vulnerable moment and struggle in our lives. But I felt God calling me out of deep depression years ago to tell my stories openly—protectively, but openly. To make sure others know they are not alone in their struggles and to show them the hope that is ever before them if they can just outstretch a hand and a heart. Belief and trust start out tiny. They are a walk and a dance with Christ that are lifelong.
Perhaps you don’t believe in Christ and want to just know what I have to say about anxiety. I welcome you here, but please know my faith informs what I have to say because once I started my relationship with Christ, I never wanted to leave His beautiful heartbeat. It brings me comfort on the darkest of nights.
We believe for better…
View original post 1,495 more words
This piece is deeply personal to me. I almost didn’t write it. But something that has been bubbling to the surface for a very long time erupted in me as I watched my high school daughter dance at her recital dress rehearsal. It was as if time stopped, and God said:
“I see, Bonnie. I see. You think nobody else does, but Ido. Now, you find a way to communicate that to her.”
And my strong, sometimes fierce, and always feisty self crumpled as I shakily held the iPhone camera to record what I could for family who could not make it to the recital. There was an inner tremble, a hurt child within me, that let go as I watched her glide across the stage with such grace to John Legend’s “If You’re Out There.”
The message of the song is about people coming together in the name of peace. That’s an awesome concept, for sure. But I saw a very quiet, non-attention-seeking young lady dance for the pure joy of it,
“if you’re out there” watching or not.
And it spoke to me in all the hollow places where as a parent I had watched her hurt for so long in several arenas after a very difficult year of poor health and adjusting to a big high school—after time and time again of having amazing character and compassion to offer, but feeling like a wallflower.
My dear sweet daughter, you are not a wallflower. People in your social circles may not know what you can do and what your many gifts are, Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: acquainted with all my ways, being overlooked, called you by name, eyes of the LORD, fear not, feeling overlooked, God calls us by name, God knows us, God loves us, good shepherd, I have called you by name, Isaiah 43:1, psalm 139, shyness, the Lord looks on the heart, unnoticed, wallflower, you are mine, you have searched and known me
Our oldest son graduates high school, along with close to 400 classmates. Maybe even in the rain. Outside. Oh, joy! It seems to culminate in this one night, but truthfully, the past few weeks have been nonstop events on our calendar: senior awards, senior scholarships, band banquet, language awards, induction ceremony, baccalaureate, etc. It was so hectic I found myself rescheduling medical appointments multiple times on the day of some of these events. Despite syncing Apple Calendar and setting a timer on my phone, I could not keep it all straight. That panicky feeling kept creeping in insisting that I was going to miss something important.
And then there it was: That maroon and white tassel with 2018 dangling off the end of it. And I completely flashed back to 1990. Rainy day just the same, almost three decades earlier. All the nerves of exiting one chapter and entering another one rattling around like a live wire inside me.
Only this time, in 2018, it was my firstborn.
This day was the end of many things, yes, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of choices, decisions, dreams, achieving, and sometimes falling, sometimes failing.
What? Why so negative? Not the most inspiring graduation message, Bonnie!
Oh, but it is! Because the road ahead Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: class of 2018, crossroads, crown of righeousness, faith, finished the race, following God's lead, God's purposes, good and faithful servant, graduate, graduation, I am with you always, joy of your master, letting God lead, listening to God, mortarboard, personal growth, relationship with God, run the race, tassel, to the end of the age, walking with God, well done
I came downstairs one morning, sleep still in my eyes, hair wild, and hands feeling around for the coffee machine. Then I remembered to turn on the lamp above our frog terrarium and spray some instant humidity into the screen at the top. As I wiped away the blur from my morning stupor, two of our three baby tree frogs were sitting reverently together with their eyes toward heaven. It occurred to me that perhaps they just might know something that I did not in that moment.
There was an awareness, awe, expectancy.
If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they were having a moment conversing in their amphibian tongue with God.
But do I know better? I am not so sure. Instantly, this verse came to mind:
Psalm 121:1-2, ESV
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
Much to my chagrin, we haven’t named the frogs yet. My 12-year-old son wants them to reach a more significant size so he can name them with greater precision, aligning his name choices with what he assumes is gender. Not me. I’d rather just jump right in (hahahaha) and call them “Jeepers” and “Fly Breath,” but he has insisted that I wait.
After observing these little web-footed friends since their tadpole stage, I am convinced they are identifiable and that they each have a God-given personality, an imprint from their Creator.
“A frog, Bonnie? Seriously?”
I don’t pretend to have conversations with them that they reciprocate in any way, but I can see their expectant eyes. They know they are cared for. While they follow instinct leaping around their habitat rapidly extending those amazing tongues to catch fruit flies, I see the care of God in their eyes. They look up, frequently. They do something we humans don’t often understand: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: adoration, being still, Christ, creation, creator, expectancy, expectant, expectant worship, eye on the sparrow, frog, frogs, frogs in the Bible, Imprint, lift my eyes up, Matthew 10:29, more than sparrows, more value than sparrows, my help comes from the Lord, psalm 121, rest in Christ, sparrows, stillness, terrarium, where does my help come from, worship
“I am sorry. I am going to have to cancel. I am overwhelmed with work and life right now.”
“I can’t get to this today like I promised. Probably not until next week or the week after.”
“I’m not going to be able to drive you there. Something has come up.”
“We are not able to attend as we originally planned. Please have a great celebration.”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Either you have said them recently, or someone has spoken them to you?
It isn’t a big deal when it happens once in a while, right? But what about repeat offenders? How does it make us feel when we are regularly cancelled on? Even when it’s a professional appointment, like a doctor’s office calling, we tend to find it flaky after a while, right?
After going through each statement with different folks in mind as your usual suspects, the ones who often don’t carry through, now read the list as your own statements.
Hmmmm. Me, too.
I find these self-reflection exercises so helpful in reassessing my priorities. I am a feeler so I’m naturally wired to process how other people feel. And lately, I’ve been hyperaware I have been letting people down.
To be honest, sometimes, it is about unfair expectations placed on us, but often, we are simply overextending ourselves. Even with good intentions, we fail to say “no” when we need to, and while that seems kind at the time, it demonstrates a lack of integrity if we repeatedly prove not to be true to our word.
Matthew 5:33-37, ESV
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
This verse has been circling round and round in my mind. Granted, this is Jesus speaking, and He is referring to taking oaths and the importance of honoring them. I could choose to blow past it and consider it very specific in context except that it was included in His Sermon on the Mount. He had a captive audience, and He was offering instruction to the crowd. The caution in it cannot be ignored. Like every word that came from The Word’s mouth (Jesus was called “the Word” in John 1:1), Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: assessing priorities, busy life, busyness, cancel, cancellations, commitments, expectations, integrity, keeping commitments, keeping promises, keeping vows, letting people down, life of busy, oath, overbook, overcommitted, overscheduled, priorities, prioritizing, promise, saying no, shall not swear falsely, swear, true to our word, yes be yes
Almost two years ago, my father passed away. Right around that time, my oldest child, an older teen, started a cold-turkey diet of eating clean: no sugars, no preservatives, and organic whenever possible. Mostly fruits and vegetables. Lean meats. He claims there was no connection to my father’s unrelenting battle with seven cancers over four decades. That’s okay. My mother’s heart saw something in that choice that spoke of legacy, taking control where there wasn’t any, and making sense of loss—maybe with some growing health consciousness added to the mix.
At first I was resistant, almost angry. For years, I had spent so much of my time accommodating major food allergies in my youngest child, that meal planning and cooking became a nightmare. On the flip side, it served as the first attempt our family had made to eat more natural. (We were also living in the middle of the South Pacific, but that’s a story for another day.)
Fast-forward eight years later, and here we were: accommodating one child who wanted to be healthier (and who could argue with that?) while the rest of us still had processed food and sugars, just as much as we had any fruits (and sometimes vegetables). Pasta was my go-to. Produce was washed but certainly not organic. Salads—even attractively dressed ones—were not my friends.
Not only did it take me at least a year to adjust to the cost difference of eating healthier, I also had to train myself to limit what I purchased from the center grocery aisles. Everything is fresh in the perimeter; stick to the perimeter! And can I lament for one minute about the condemnation I felt as my hyperaware teen health nut watched the rest of us indulge in unhealthy choices! It was a year of my fighting back, defending my choices, and pointing out that we don’t all have to change just because he decided to be OCD about labels. And he was. I would go out of my way to buy something I thought was all-natural only to find out they snuck in a chemical imposter! I was not a happy girl!
Since that time, especially after the one-year mark of these changes in my son, I began to Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: cancer, clean eating, Dwelling place of God, eating clean, emotional detox, emotional health, God's temple, healthy boundaries, healthy eating, healthy emotions, healthy living, idols, negativity, physical health, safe relationships, spiritual health, temple of God, toxic relationships, unclean
Relaxed. Coffee in hand. A comfortable heart-to-heart with a very dear (and emotionally safe) person. No expectations. Just sharing our thoughts together.
Doesn’t that sound so lovely? We may as well add some calming lavender essential oil in a diffuser, a dog to cuddle with, a warm blanket, a cozy fire in the fireplace.
Seriously, I was at my calmest.
But then that same painful topic came up again: the trigger. You know what I mean, right? The one where a deep gash healed over but the skin that covered it is thin and crackly? After spending two years praying, crying, healing, remembering, forgiving, talking it out, and back to remembering again, I really felt I had cycled through so many times I was in a good place.
And, overall, I am.
But wow, did that volcano of past emotion rumble only a few times before spewing it out. I had no idea it still boiled under the surface. I thought it was quiet—well, mostly.
I think we were both surprised that going back to that space in my head set sparks flying across the room again. I was back to fight-or-flight. Abandonment. This time, remembering was a piercing jab. How does that happen? How does our peace fly out the window like that?
Here’s what James, the brother of Jesus, said in the Bible:
James 1:19-20, ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Okay, James, that’s awesome. It’s true that anger does not produce righteousness, but what about anger from wreckage someone dumped all over you? What about the shrapnel of betrayal? How do we ever get over that?
One part that is key in the verse in James is this: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: anger, anger lodges in the heart of fools, anger of man, as God in Christ forgave you, betrayal, bitter root, bitterness, do not let the sun go down, emotional trigger, essential oil, fight-or-flight, full vent to his spirit, godly counsel, is anger wrong?, no corrupting talk, peace, righteousness of God, self-control, slow to anger, slow to speak, taking thoughts captive
Did you ever have a moment in middle or high school when you felt like as soon as you entered a conversation, your peers would suddenly have something else to do and become scarce? (Okay, self-reveal: Maybe that was just socially awkward me?)
Maybe you came to pick up your child to leave a playmate’s home only to experience the frustration of him hiding in a closet so he didn’t have to leave.
Ever find your dog, tail-down, hovering in the crate or under the crouch because she had an accident and knows you won’t be pleased?
My daughter has a bunny with the annoying habit of retreating to her hideaway whenever I come in to offer fresh pellets or hay. It’s not very rewarding to have her scamper away at the sight of my presence.
Do you ever feel this way about God? Like you came into the room, so to speak, to ask Him something, but He might be busy listening to someone else or have better things to do?
Be honest with yourself. This is important. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Chronicles 28:9, clothed with righteousness, come to me, finding God, God with us, God's promises, he will be found by you, hide and seek, hiding from God, I know the plans I have for you, I will be found by you, jeremiah 29:11, king david, Matthew 11:28, robe of righteousness, seek God, seek me with all your heart, seek the Lord, seeking God, you will seek me and find me
A few years ago, Boston endured one blizzard after another until the snowblowers and shovels had nowhere else to deposit the snow. (Yes, believe it or not, I am not talking about this year’s March-a-geddon.) It was almost impossible to street-park in the city, and driveways in the burbs looked like Arctic dunes. Backing out of one’s driveway almost required a traffic cop, and seeing the neighbor’s yard from your car? Forget it if you are shorter than 5 foot 5 inches. We accumulated more than five feet of snow!
The one good part about it, amidst sore backs and snowdrifts that continually crossed pathways out all our doors, was the trail we were able to create in the backyard for our Shih Tzus. Only one foot off the ground, at best, they could not break free and take off across our yet-unfenced yard. For about three weeks, they had a fence of snow that they did not even attempt to climb. It may as well have been Shih Tzu Everest.
During that time, I remember posting a photo of myself next to our driveway’s towering guardrail of white. With shovel in hand, it was even more clear to our Midwest relatives how hard Boston was hit by Jack Frost. And while my husband was understandably overworked preventing ice dams by scraping, salt-bombing, and warming the roof, I was secretly enjoying the pent-up feeling.
The human-sized height of the snow made me feel so safe, so protected, so walled-in. I love when school and other activities are cancelled and nobody can get to our house. As awful as that sounds, for an introvert, it is a little bit of paradise to have a few days off from the world at large. Even the governor of Massachusetts had my back that year with that whole State of Emergency thing.
But even for an introvert, Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Thessalonians 5:11, blizzard, Body of Christ, build one another up, Christian fellowship, confession of our hope, do not forsake the fellowship, encourage one another, fortress, fruit of the Spirit, gathering, God is our refuge, he who promised is faithful, Hebrews 10:23, king of glory, love and good works, meeting together, not neglecting to meet together, Psalm 24:7, Psalm 46:11, refuge, relationship walls, self-protection, self-protective, shadow, shadow of your wings, sharing of lives, shih tzu, walls
Every few months I write a letter to a particular person in my life. I process, digest it, and ultimately decide not to send it. When I review the many letters I have scrawled out over the course of time, I can see the progression of healing, the quieting of anger or pain, and the increase of forgiveness. Perhaps because writing is my therapy, this was a useful exercise, but even better is being able to look back to something tangible—a journal of sorts—and see where years of prayer about the issue and the person have taken me.
So, why not send it, Bonnie? Big whoopedy-doo that you wrote it. Isn’t reconciliation about the sending?
Sometimes, yes. But had I sent my original versions, I doubt they would have bridged any communication gaps with their raw emotion. And if I don’t wait on God for the timing, no matter how “ready” I am, the other person may not be. So, I don’t know. Will I ever send one? I believe I will. My heart beats for reconciliation. But the peace of God has to be there first. That is what I have been sorting out recently as I wrote letter #5 or #6 to this person. I’ve lost count.
I’ve drafted many letters along these lines to many people, never having sent them to:
- school administration or teaching staff
- church leadership
- family members
- other parents
for various reasons: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 2 timothy 1:7, brotherly affection, fruit of the Spirit, harvest of righteousness, impartial and sincere, James 3, making peace, open to reason, patience, peace of God, Proverbs 25:28, reconciliation, restraint, self-control, self-discipline, spirit not of fear, taming the tongue, unsent letters
Do you have any fears that hold you back from fully functioning? Does it sometimes feel like you are pushing against a weight of overwhelm? Maybe your fears taunt you in the middle of other areas where you feel accomplished. They may look different for each of us, but they can be paralyzing and growth-stopping.
You know what else they do? They deliver a feeling of defeat.
And you know what? That’s not Kingdom (-of-God) living.
Some of my fears are irrational. For example, I fear that if I stop advocating for certain injustices or for my son with special education needs, the world will stop turning. That’s called hypervigilance and sometimes crosses the line into catastrophic thinking. I usually can do the self talk involved to chill myself out, talk myself down.
Like many people, I am afraid of letting people I love down, not meeting expectations, or unintentionally hurting someone.
I back out of my driveway panicked that a child on a bike will go by.
I fear the local black bear entering my yard (it has entered my neighbor’s property) and eating my Shih Tzus.
I can’t say these fears regularly keep me up at night, but they definitely steal joy.
Know what I mean?
Here are the ways they thieve me of peace: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 john 4:4, abundant life, catastrophic thinking, conquering fears, cut through bars of iron, facing fears, fears, he who is in you, hypervigilance, irrational fear, isaiah 45:2, isaiah 61:1, john 10:10, kingdom life, kingdom living, level the exalted places, liberty to the captives, phone phobia, push through fear, pushing through fears, spiritual warfare, steal joy
Fear is a funny thing—and so are the emotions of a parent watching a child suffer.
I thought I had all the wonderful ingredients to be a special needs parent, as if it was some kind of recipe God puts together. Actually, I think that it is. You see, I was born a warrior. I have always been an advocate. I have never found myself to be fearful when confronting authority in the name of justice. When I see unfairness, my heart always screams, and my mouth is soon to follow.
On the flip side, I am deeply compassionate. That’s probably why I feel stirred to speak up for the downcast. I was one of the few students in junior high school who made a point to include and interact with a fellow youth group student with mental retardation. I saw her. I wanted her to know she mattered.
But then I had my own special needs child.
On the precipice of receiving diagnoses after reaching a significant crisis point, there are two choices in our flesh: a spiral into fear or a rapid bearing of fangs. In the beginning, separating those emotions is impossible. Wrapped up in all the pain are fierce anger, a sense of desperate protection, scary projections of what the future holds, and an overall desire to howl at the moon. When our children are touched so directly by the fall from perfection in the Garden of Eden, there is something so base, so animal, within us that wants to sit at the gate and beg the angel to let us back in the Garden and slam the doors shut again.
Within four months of his birth, my fair-skinned, redheaded little boy (Little Man) Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: ADD, ADHD, anxiety, child advocacy, childhood depression, fine motor, food allergies, generalized anxiety, healing prayer, iep, Marshall Islands, obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD, sensory integration, sensory processing, South Pacific, special needs advocacy, special needs diagnosis, special needs mama, special needs ministry, special needs parenting, sped parenting, visual motor
Two years ago, I thought I could pick up some easy address-and-sticker valentines for my last elementary school child, Little Man, to bring in for 19 other happy third graders. Then he casually mentioned finding extra construction paper, and I thought: “Oh, yey! He’s making them this year!”
Settling into the lovely thought of slapping some supplies and the class list on the table, my lofty dreams of a Sunday afternoon nap were abruptly interrupted with this declaration:
“Let’s make valentines about bats! We can give them each a fact they might not know.”
Okay, yeah, my enthusiasm completely missing, I felt that Mother Guilt twang—you know, the one that comes along and reminds you there aren’t as many photos on the walls of Child Number 3. Before my mouth fully checked in with my mind, I agreed to do this, and several bat web sites later, we had more than enough encyclopedic information to delight any budding chiropterologist. Really, National Geographic Kids should be calling me any time now offering me a regular contributor gig [smile].
I started thinking about the great lengths Little Man and I went to in order to best represent his interests to the recipients and how we found the right pictures, communicated mild humor, chose words that sounded like something he would say, and offered some education along the way.
It was important to Little Man to represent himself honestly. He didn’t want to convey just any message. He wanted to remain true to himself.
When his classmates open that valentine, many of them will not even need to turn it over to see its sender. It will look and read so much like Little Man, that anyone who truly knows him, or is his daily companion, will recognize the author’s voice.
Valentine’s Day may be a loaded occasion for you. Maybe you have Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: bats, bride of Christ, chiropterologist, For God so loved the world, God's heart, God's heartbeat, God's love, God's Valentine, God's word, His beloved, In the beginning was the Word, John 1, John 3:16, knowing the author, painful Valentine's Day, relationship with God, the Author's voice, Valentine, Valentine's Day
It took me more than five and a half years to write this story, the one where my heart left my church one Easter. And even now, I am fully aware of the following:
- I left a building and a shepherd, not the people and not my true Shepherd. I still run a prayer group (going strong many years now) with wonderful women I met there. The Church, ultimately, is the Body of Christ, and I will never abandon her.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14, ESV
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
- I still love the people who remain, and I am keenly aware that they have their reasons for finding something of value there. For a few years, I did as well.
- None of this is to disrespect that particular church or shepherd. We are all God’s children.
But I believe this story has value. I hope you can have an open heart while reading it.
As Easter 2011 approached, I felt that sick feeling in my gut I had been feeling for years, really. Easter is a time to invite friends to church, to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, to spread love to a world that needs it (yes, we should be doing that all the time, but people tend to seek a church out for Christian holidays).
But I had a major problem:
I couldn’t picture wanting to invite anyone to my church.
In my mind at the time, right or wrong: If they were already broken, they could break more. If they needed Christ, they would only find Him being beaten on a cross.
They wouldn’t necessarily get the message that His resurrection brought grace.
I agree that it is very important we understand He took on our sin. Our sin and what should have been our judgment placed upon His body are realities we must never forget.
The judgment-only focus did not mix well with depression, anxiety, and abandonment already part of my history. Nor did it help a young mother longing to connect with a real, loving, compassionate God.
So, I knew it wasn’t a good sign when I begged my husband to go away that weekend with the kids. We could still attend church—just not our own. How sad is that? I’m not proud of that moment, but I needed the other half of the story. I needed grace. So to Burlington, VT, we went and worshipped and celebrated Easter with a lovely evangelical church there who took us in.
And that’s the day I knew I had to leave. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Corinthians 12, balm in Gilead, Body of Christ, broken pastor, brokenness, church accountability, church health, church hurt, church life, church oppression, communicating a loving God, communicating Jesus, compassionate God, depression, disagreement within church, do not forsake the fellowship, fellowship of believers, freedom of Christ, grace, grace in action, grace of God, healthy church, healthy churches, Hebrews 10:25, leaving a church, loving Father, loving God, one body, one Spirit, Shepherd, sin, spiritual health, toxic churches
Isaiah 43:1, ESV
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Our house is full of new pet excitement right now. After researching lionhead rabbits for two months, we found a lovely breeder on a small farm in Nowheresville, New Hampshire, about an hour north of us.
Four years ago, we brought home our first family pets: two Shih Tzus (lion dogs). We are apparently obsessed with animals with a lion resemblance! Earlier this summer, we rescued a few tadpoles from our pool that are now tree frogs in a terrarium. And now a bunny. I did not grow up with pets, so the fact we now have five still amazes me. And while my Shih Tzus’ names were chosen before they were born, my frogs still don’t have names. My younger son insists that they are full-grown before we attempt to give them specific identities.
And this bunny. This fluffy, double-maned, dwarf-sized rabbit is basically a ball of fur with feet and ears. It is a black and gray beauty, and despite our hours of brainstorming names like Truffles, Mistletoe, and Avocado, it remains nameless*.
When I asked my daughter how she chose this particular baby rabbit from the four does that were available, she said: “It was the softest. That is what I wanted.” And a memory from 13 years ago completely snapped into place for me: a tiny ten month old crawling down the hall toward the only shag carpet we had…in the bathroom, collapsing victoriously onto the edge where she pet that carpet over and over again as her reward for all the strenuous drag of her body. At that moment, I thought: “God made this bunny for her. He knew she would identify its fluff as hers when they met.”
But I will tell you something. The bunny knows my daughter’s scent, her light touch, her cuddle, the warmth of her cheek against its side. In just a few days, it anticipates her cupping her hands to support its baby hind legs. It hears her rustle in the loft bed above her cage and knows its owner is there. It is secure and can snuggle down for the night. Hay and water will be there in the morning.
What I find so difficult is talking to the frogs and bunny but having no clear way to address them. I feel like somehow it holds part of my affection back, that until they are associated with a name, I cannot fully give my heart to them. Somehow a name Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: Adam naming animals, believed in his name, book of life, born of God, children of God, confess his name before my father, gatekeeper, Gilmore Girls, God's name, he calls his own sheep, I have called you by name, Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 49:1, John 10:3, John 1:12, lion head rabbit, lionhead bunny, lionhead rabbit, name of Christ, name of God, Revelation 3:5, shih tzu, Sookie, species, the sheep hear his voice, to be called by name, tree frog
Over school breaks, my family likes to binge-watch some of our favorite television series. We are a bizarre mix of interests: everything from science fiction to historical drama. We are huge Doctor Who fans, and recently, I introduced my two younger children to LOST. At the time that show first aired, our family had made a decision to accept a temporary post in the Marshall Islands for a few years. LOST became a reality to us in more ways than one, but that is a story for another day. My tween son really enjoys The Flash.
When she can manage to find the time, my daughter loves following Little House on the Prairie, which takes me back to my childhood. My mother and I have vastly different emotional wiring, but the end of a Little House episode was one of the few times I would see her shed tears. As an adult now, I think I understand why. The wholesome, Christian values presented in every crisis on the show are the end goal, right? They show what we should aim for, more or less, but also where we currently fall short. Whatever he was in his personal, real life, the actor who played Pa Ingalls brought an ideal into our living rooms each week.
And Pa regularly weeps.
My stoic daughter sees this as a bit overdramatic at times, and perhaps it is. But for me, Pa’s tears are a huge relief.
Life hurts. We fail at times. We can’t control other people or outcomes. And wayward children/teens/adults often have to learn the hard way.
We have made our way (after many years of intermittent watching) to Season 9, the final season, and in it, Pa’s adopted son Albert starts experiencing negative behavioral changes. He is hanging out with the wrong crowd, needing acceptance, and in the city life, he falls prey to a morphine addiction. Pa does what he can to change the environment to give him a new start; they temporarily move out to Walnut Grove again, but taking the addict away from the temptation does not produce a cure.
When I entered our family room, I caught a scene where Pa locks Albert Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 2 Corinthians 5:17, Albert Ingalls, being made new, Charles Ingalls, detox, forgiving, he was lost and is found, healing, Hebrews 4:15, high priest, His purposes, Little House on the Prairie, Luke 15, morphine addiction, new creation, New Year, Pa Ingalls, prodigal son, purposes of God, re-creating, restoring, tempted as we are, the new has come!, the old has passed away
I don’t know about you, but the short hours of daylight and long, dark nights really get to me by January. The holidays are over, the school snow days have commenced, temperatures have plummeted, and cabin fever is an ongoing threat. Some people call this Seasonal Affective Disorder. I call it: “anyone living in this climate and these latitudes for part of the year.”
I am an introvert and very sedentary by nature, so being at home writing and editing with warm dogs at my feet is my preference, but there are challenges to working at home. And, really, I see all five of my family members fight to get through the Boston Deep Freeze in more ways than one this time of year. Lately, we New Englanders have been basking in the 9 degree glory of no wind and a temporary reprieve from the white stuff.
But what about the darkness, the dry air, and the way this time of year messes with our minds and bodies?
Our white landscape typically starts to melt in March. That can be a long wait!
Here are some tips that get me through the countdown to April showers bringing May flowers.
(By the way, I receive no compensation for these endorsements.)
1) Warm Meals for All Times of Day
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, run right out and get one. Seriously. Or at least purchase some kind of electric pressure cooker.
The idea of warm oats waiting for me upon wake-up, all set with a timer and ready to warm me and my family in the chilly downstairs, is a reason I can get up on days when the bed seems like the best place to hibernate.
Have I mentioned how much an Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker) has changed my life? Out all night taxi-ing kids to activities? Only come up with a dinner thought at 5:00? So quick, so easy, so good. Get one with a timer if that helps. My steel-cut oats greet me in the morning after setting the timer the night before. Really, the IP and I have become BFFs.
Most of the time, I search on Pinterest for recipes, but this book has become permanently attached to my kitchen countertop this January. It already has the splash marks of a well-loved book! Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: armor of God, aromatherapy, barlean's fish oil, citrus bliss, cocoa sante, dark nights, dark winter, depression, doterra, electric pressure cooker, essential oils, fish oil, gloomaway, grapefruit body souffle, happy light, humidifier, instant pot, lion head rabbit, lionhead rabbit, mental health, merlin, nespresso, Priscilla Shirer, Seasonal, Seasonal Affective Disorder, seasonal depression, serenity restful blend, shih tzu, trader joe's tea, tree frog, vitamin d, where'd you go bernadette, winter blues, winter wake up tea, Zim's foot creme
With our current deep-freeze tundra conditions in the Boston area, I revisited this photo, and in so doing, I realized how timely this lesson from three years ago was for me—yet again! Sigh. I find the struggle is real. Comparisons keep us in chains. Letting Christ define us sets us free.
Fellow inhabitants in semi-Arctic temperatures: Stay warm!
☕ Espressos of Faith ☕
I live in the Boston area, and over the past eight days, we have received over 5 feet of snow. My roof has a low-enough pitch to develop ice dams, so this year, after many years of my husband chipping away at them, he installed roof warming cables. As you can imagine, after 5 feet of snow and dropping temperatures, my roof cables were doing exactly what they were supposed to: preventing dams. But in the process, they were also creating ice stalactites that, after a few days, extended down from two stories to almost touch the ground. They were incredible, the talk of the neighborhood. People would walk their dogs by and stop and marvel at our sharp, massive ice needles. The bus driver even made comments. They were honestly the most beautiful winter “growth” I had ever watched before my eyes.
But they were also about 40 pounds…
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I have a confession to make. I love elf-ing. Yes, that is the verb form of elf, and no, it is not in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. I am not referring to the infamous The Elf on the Shelf (which, while cute, I don’t participate in, by the way, because I stay away from traditions I know I will fail).
While I love the movie Elf, that is not where I’m going with this.
Love me some J.R.R. Tolkien Middle-Earth, Rivendell Elves of The Lord of the Rings fame, but those graceful, immortal, pointy-eared creatures are not what I had in mind either.
The elf-ing I am talking about does not require striped tights and a springy hat. I don’t have to wear green. I merely have to consider the following questions to get started:
Who needs extra love this season?
Is there anyone I would like to bless to show my appreciation for who that person is, what (he or) she has meant to me, or what (he or) she has done for me?
With this person in mind, how is love best communicated to her:
Acts of service?
Words expressed, written or verbal?
The gift of my time and my presence?
When I plan the best timing of such a delivery, I want to consider: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: blessing, blessing on whom His favor rests, elf, elf on the shelf, elf-ing, elfing, ephesians 2:10, God's favor, good will, good will toward men, good works, goodness of the Lord, goodwill, land of the living, Luke 2:14, middle earth, on whom his favor rests, peace on earth, psalm 27:13, rivendell
I am not very good at keeping still. In fact, I turn still into a such a multitasking event that I defeat its entire purpose. Last night, for example, I sat down to watch The Peanuts Movie with my youngest son, and I turned it into a moment of buying a subscription to a creation science magazine for my oldest child for Christmas.
I was always the child who had to play a board game with myself or work on a scrapbook project while watching television. Even when my friends would come over to play Barbies, I would sing commercial ditties or manage multiple tasks at once. Ask any one of my childhood friends, and she will tell you I drove her nuts! Being at rest is not a concept I have ever understood. I have always been driven and project-focused. The night of my bridal shower, I stayed up late for hours to make sure all thank-you notes were immediately written, stamped, and addressed.
For a long time, I chalked it up to an amazing work ethic. I was the ant of Proverbs 6—and proud of it!
Proverbs 6:6-9, ESV
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?
Right now, for example, I am writing an email reply to my mother while
–looking for dressy heels for my daughter at Famous Footwear online,
–writing this article,
–checking on the dogs,
–and thinking about the school evaluation forms I have to fill out and promptly sign and return to special education office in the school district.
I also might stop and wrap one present.
I might be productive, but I certainly am not focused.
What does still mean for you?
My still consists of the few moments Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: advent, Advent peace, ant of Proverbs, be still, being at rest, being still, fighting still, finding still, focus, gathers her food in harvest, God with us, Hebrews 4:16, immanuel, keeping still, know that I am God, peace, Proverbs 6, psalm 46:10, quiet the storm, still, The Peanuts Movie, Throne of Grace, walking on water
This year, I made myself a promise that I would buy 95 percent of Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving. I’ve even managed to ship a few care packages and boxes of presents already. I think I learned from previous years that if I want a peaceful, Christ-focused Advent season, I have to be organized, planned, and efficient.
Two years ago, my father passed away on December 2. Advent was a blur. I don’t even remember if I shopped. This is a difficult time of year for that and other reasons, and I am choosing to spend December reading about shepherds watching their flocks by night, singing worship carols, and focusing on Immanuel, God with us. I want to create more family time, play board games, do a jigsaw puzzle, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, The Christmas Story, and Elf. I can’t wait to cuddle my dogs on cold nights and breathe in Christmas candles and essential oils diffusing in every room. I look forward to my daughter baking cookies and filling the house with the delightful smells of Christmas.
I want to be expectant in my heart and soul, like Mary, mother of the Christ, my heart trusting in my God.
Luke 1:46-50, ESV
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”
What about you? Did you anticipate the fun or the stress of last-minute grocery runs for the cranberry sauce, post-Thanksgiving cleanup, Black Friday shopping, crowds, traffic, and the tensions that can be both beautiful and stretch us taut when around extra family during the holidays? Did you put up your Christmas tree? Lights?
Is there anticipation in the air—or just weariness?
Whatever season you are in, wherever the needle on your stress gauge is at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: advent, call me blessed, Christ, Christ child, expectant, finding advent, God with us, holiday peace, holiday stress, holiday weariness, humble estate of his servant, humility, immaculate conception, immanuel, Jesus, live peaceably with all, living peaceably, living peacefully, Luke 1:46, Magnificat, mary mother of christ, peace, rejoice in hope, romans 12, soul magnifies the Lord, weary
Are you gathering around the Thanksgiving table giving thanks for the usual suspects…or the unusual ones? I wrote this several years ago, but it still resonates with me today.
☕ Espressos of Faith ☕
I’m not quite sure how it happened, but Thanksgiving appears to be upon us. I have no idea what I’m making yet. I have not admitted to myself there is cleaning to do, groceries to buy, or even plans to firm up. I’m in limbo. Stuck. I’ve been waiting on news on whether a loved one is moving forward in cancer treatment or facing an overgrown, unwanted enemy who invited more friends to the table while we weren’t looking.
I simply cannot plan, think, or even decide which task to start.
Ever live in limbo, holding your breath for the next news to ring your phone, pop onto your e-mail, or flit across your newsfeed?
The truth is that we all come to our Thanksgiving table this year with so many world events on our minds. Amidst ISIS, beheadings, bombings, displacement, wars, genocide, human trafficking, school shootings, tense political debates, riots…
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Stress has been piling up in my house of late. College application deadlines. New braces. Another (brief) parking lot accident. And add to that every major road leading out of my town is currently under construction. Yes, massive stress bubbling under the surface. It’s the kind of pressure that leads to hypervigilance.
Deadlines do this to me, especially life-course-determining ones. Anxiety used to be my roommate. I kicked her out a while ago and changed the locks, but once in a while she slips in through an unlocked back door. That girl knows no boundaries, I tell ya!
In the middle of one of those days, I took my son and husband to the airport for college visits (landing in rush hour traffic both to and from Boston) and made it home in time to get my daughter to dance, throw a nicer shirt on, and attempt to manage back-to-school night at the high school jumping between the schedules of a freshman and a senior on a massive campus. It felt like an episode of a teen sitcom as I rushed around trying to slide into each class before the bell rang.
So it was in my great hurry to arrive at the last class that I cut a corner down a hallway, and, to my great surprise, there was a low-to-the-ground, black end table next to a couch in the loft area between halls. I imagine high school students gather and are aware of the furniture there—but not me. I was not aware. It simply was not in my line of vision. I had Algebra I, Part 2 (whatever that is) to get to, where my friend teaches the class. What a nice way to end the long day, except for this: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: angst, anxiety, be still, busy schedule, busyness, college applications, counting blessings, entitlement, face plant, forget not his benefits, Hebrews 10:24, hurry, hypervigilance, martyr syndrome, Matthew 14, pressure, pride, Psalm 103:2, Psalm 37:7, seat at the table for God, stress, stress junkie, therapy, wait patiently for God, walks on water
I was recently reminded how many dear ones are in a personal valley right now. I hope this brings them fresh encouragement from the only One who offers the living water to refresh our spirit.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” — Jesus (John 14:27)
☕ Espressos of Faith ☕
Ever feel like screaming:
“God, where ARE you? It’s the eleventh hour, and I’m beyond impatient waiting on you to show up!”
In a crisis situation, that desperate plea sounds pretty reasonable, right? We’re frantic, and we cry out. There’s nothing wrong with that. David did this repeatedly in the Psalms. God isn’t afraid of our honesty. In fact, He welcomes it.
Even so, there are four fundamental misconceptions with these statements, and believe me, I’m guilty of wrong belief myself!
- God is not with us.
- He might not respond, so we have to get His attention again.
- It really is the eleventh hour.
- It’s about us.
As for Number One, can I just say here that
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Earlier today I found myself standing with my toes in the sand staring out on the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean from the vantage point of Duck, North Carolina (Outer Banks). My cousins had generously shared their vacation with me, and my husband committed to the intense job of Mr. Mom in addition to his many other duties all week.
Considering we are in the throes of college application deadlines in our home, I couldn’t run for that airport terminal quickly enough! I left three kids, two dogs, two tree frogs, and three caterpillars behind. Begrudgingly, my husband took on frog duty, and I am happy to say that within two days, they captured his heart as he watched them hunt crickets and their little throats vibrate. (If you have not witnessed this, it should go on your bucket list!)
Our view is oceanside. With the sliding door set to screen, we can hear the waves crash to the shore. After days of high winds, we finally made it out to the beach.
With toes dipped in the water alongside my cousin, she offered me a precious memory of her mother, my late aunt, in the waves one summer. I thought about my children playing in the waves on many a beach escape. And if I really went deeper, I knew the waves knew so many of my secrets, dreams, memories, and emotions.
As the ocean water surged to a crest and then spilled over to crash, it looked as if it was responding to a hidden nod that it was time to bend and roll, with a delayed reaction in parts of the line but otherwise mastering uniformity in the landing. An invisible agreement. A knowing.
And I thought about what the waves would speak of, if they could speak about my own life, and what they had witnessed: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 9/11, boundary for the sea, deep calls to deep, Duck NC, fear of the Lord, foam of their own shame, God's boundaries, God's power, God's presence, I placed the sand, Isaiah 51:15, Jeremiah 5:22, Jesus calms the storm, Jonah, ocean, out of the pit, outer banks, peace of God, pismo beach, presence of God, Prince Edward Island, psalm 89:9, Psalm`42:7, raging of the sea, revelation 5:11, shame, stirs up the sea, to him who sits on the throne, vandenberg AFB, waves, waves roar, waves toss
Do you have a Tigger in your home? Here’s why I love mine! He has opened up my perspective and taught me much about myself.
☕ Espressos of Faith ☕
I have to pause sometimes at School Return Time when I’m low on sleep and trying to track with the beautiful ADHD brain that comes home and pitches 1,000 ideas to me at once.
It’s a fascinating mind that can do this. He has my utmost respect and admiration,
I have to remind myself to be fully present.
- To not just “uh-huh” him, to engage with follow-up questions
- To acknowledge a few of those ideas
- To affirm that his heart to publish a series of 11 dog adventure stories (with a bubble on the jacket to market my book, LOL–his idea–he even asked me first!) is seen for the kind intentions that go with it
Too many “stop it, slow down, pay attention, settle down, be still”s in his day already. Someone needs to plug in and hear what he is really saying. For anyone who loves a
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Knock, knock, knock. Send her an email.
Really, God, we’ve been through this for years. I get the idea, I ask if it’s time, and You say, “Not yet.”
And so it was, that still, small voice telling me what I already knew He would want me to do: I needed to reconcile with someone I had hurt and been wounded by—three years ago. Outcome didn’t matter. A response from the other party wasn’t the point. It was about who I am in Christ. If I truly am reconciled to God through His Son the Christ, then I must be a reconciler. There isn’t any gray area there.
Consider what the Apostle Paul says in one of his letters to the Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Paul makes it very clear that when God made us a new creation, He “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
It’s not a choice or an option, really. Once we are new creations, it’s part of the deal.
And let’s be honest: That is wicked uncomfortable in theory, but God is with us(Immanuel) in practice. When it was time, after three years of healing and asking God to confirm it, it was as natural as sliding on my flip-flops.
Why is that? Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 2 Corinthians 5, ambassadors for Christ, be reconciled to God, began a good work, bowing low, conflict resolution, God making His appeal, godly counsel, grace, healthy relationships, humility, make his appeal, mercy, message of reonciliation, new creation, new has come, Philippians 1:6, reconcile, reconciliation, reconciling, righteousness of God, the old has passed away
There are people in my life who have earned the right to be blunt, honest, offering constructive criticism and feedback, and I receive it because of history, trust, love, and mutual understanding.
On the other hand, there are other folks who regularly cross that line and yet have not earned that place in my life or space in my head. I may love them deeply, but they speak from insecurity, negativity, and/or a lack of self-control. They are not voices God wants me to let in.
Along those lines, I frequently tell my children:
“People who put you down do not deserve space in your head and heart. Be kind but don’t engage. You are worth more than the voices of insecure speakers in your life—and I am too.”
It’s a hard call at times, isn’t it? We should be open to feedback, but some folks are not healthy enough to offer it safely.
Know what I mean?
As I “grow up” in Christ, I am learning more and more that there are some voices I need to shut out and others that should be let in. I am growing in the discipline of asking God first: “Lord, she is saying this. Is this true? Is it from You? Should I take heed or put through Your filter and discard?”
God loves us so incredibly as a parent that He wants us to hear correction safely, gently, and with grace. And voices that don’t reflect His tender care need to be checked in with Him. For that matter, all voices do. Sometimes I have been caught in the web of someone’s honey offering when really they were simply waiting to build trust so they could crush it with unkindness.
Because we lack the ability to see other people’s motives, we must consult God and trust in His protection.
One of my favorite Proverbs on this topic is the entirety of Proverbs 4, a beautiful message written from King Solomon (son of King David) to his sons. Consider the wisdom here. There are at least 10 amazing guiding principles in the way the father counsels his children. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: do not forsake my teaching, equipping, get wisdom, godly counsel, godly wisdom, guarding the heart, healthy boundaries, healthy counsel, King Solomon, negative voices, negativity, personal growth, Proverbs 4, safe counsel, seeking counsel, seeking wisdom, Solomon, wisdom, wisdom of Solomon, wise counsel
I watched them approach the shrine, bow, ring the bell, toss a coin, and clap. Somewhere in there, they made a request—a wish, really—for a good medical test result, getting into the right school, a worry about one of their children. I was struck by how much my Western mind and heart did not connect with how they offered their pleas. I understood the heart behind it—but not the actions.
But I wasn’t raised in Japanese culture.
My host family and I had many conversations about this around the dinner table. I wanted to understand at which point their “faith” held on, tangibly grabbed belief, and grew expectant. Twenty-four years and two degrees in Asian languages and culture later, and I’m still not sure. But I do know that it opened a door to rich conversations and some understanding between us, and I came to learn that rituals and gestures at the shrine were more about respect than faith. Ringing the bell was to get the attention of the god of that shrine.
Why is Jesus not found at a shrine?
Do we not have rituals we must perform, like money and hand gestures, to conjure His attention?
And, what on earth do you mean, ふいつげらるど-さん (Fitzgerald-san, or Miss Fitzgerald, my maiden name) about talking to God in your bath water?
Bath water? In Japan, Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: approaching God, baptism, Buddhist temple, cleanse us from all unrighteousness, conversation with God, dirty bath water, eternal security, faith, forgive us our sins, guidance of Holy Spirit, hearing God, Holy Trinity, imputed righteousness, japan, japanese bath, japanese spirituality, ofuro, peace of Christ, places of worship, prayer, propitiation, propitiation of sins, purified soul, repentance, respect, seeking holiness, Shinto shrine, shrine, shrine clapping, sin, summoning God, transformed mind, triune God
If you ever want to know what insecurities are on a magnified level, spend one day sitting at a middle school lunch table. The cattiness, the put-down behavior, the one-upmanship: It’s a hot mess of growing humans who aren’t fully sure of their identities yet, and, feeling under a microscope as if the entire world is looking, they lash out at everything and everyone to find their place in the pecking order. It’s human sorting on steroids. Where do I fit in? Who are my friends?
Don’t get me wrong. I love middle school students. My husband and I teach the middle school and early high school crowd in Sunday School. They can be deep thinkers and amazing communicators—but we see them in a safe setting where they can be themselves and share from their hearts.
I know several of them face open hostility and negativity Monday through Friday from the minute they get to their bus stops to the minute they arrive home. While there are amazing growth points in middle school, I have always said that if you can survive middle school mostly intact, you can get through almost anything.
Personally, I’m delighted to have two children already through the murky, turbulent waters of middle school. I hold my breath as one more child goes through. And while middle schoolers get a bad rap from this kind of behavior, the truth is: Some folks struggle with this into adulthood. Insecurities can be slithery snakes that chokehold us from experiencing joy and hope for the future.
Let’s take a brief look at the damage our own insecurities can do. They can lead us to: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 2 corinthians 10:5, children of God, fruit of the Spirit, galatians 5:22, greater love has no one than this, guard your heart in Christ Jesus, insecurities, insecurity problem, John 15:13, one-upmanship, peace of God, peace of mind, personal growth, philippians 4:6, put-down, sabotage relationships, self-control, self-doubt, self-esteem, self-focused, spirit of discontent, take every thought captive, tame the tongue, unrealistic expectations, victim mentality
Many of God’s creatures like to create life in my aboveground pool. We’ve had tadpole rescue sessions (before the pool was shocked for the summer), and a few months ago, I discovered many eggs (larvae?) half-hatching from what looked to be flying ants. Yeah, so fun. Welcome to mating season. Come one, come all to what has been mistaken as a “love pond” in my backyard.
I was having such a lovely float around my pool one day for a good half hour. Slowly I drifted round and round to the steady pulse of the pool pump. I stared at the tall trees, prayed for dear ones, and marveled at the fact that my children are no longer the ages I am interrupted every few minutes. It was glorious. GLORIOUS!
When my youngest son came out with goggles on and the jumping-in-pool determination of an 11 year old set on a good swim, he made it through one quick pool-bottom-floor lap before surfacing with a shout:
“Ew! A dead frog! There is a dead frog on the bottom of the pool!”
Still not wanting my peace disturbed, I replied: “Are you sure he’s dead?”
My son, lover of all animal life and greatly saddened that an amphibian friend met its demise in our pool, exclaimed: “It was belly-up, Mom. And not moving.”
With that, we both scrambled out of the pool in search of a net to extract the remains to give it a proper burial (before my dogs thought it made a nice chew toy).
My son, Little Man, completed Operation Dead Frog Retrieval and put him down on the grass at my feet. Yup. Dead. Froggy had suffered his last supper with a side dish of chlorine.
He simply couldn’t jump out. His legs could only take him so far. He never made it out of the solar cover and over the side of the pool into the bushes.
I then thought about the five tadpoles we had rescued a few weeks before Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 2 timothy 1:7, encouragement, encouraging, froglets, frogs, grow in faith, joy of the LORD is your strength, jump in faith, Nehemiah 8:10, personal growth, Romans 8:11, spirit of fear, Spirit of God, spiritual warfare, stir up one another to love and good works, strong in faith, tadpoles
Earlier this week I attended a meeting with 30 other people. The topics at hand were shifting leadership and self-examination as we moved into a season of significant change. We all shared faith in Christ and a dedication to move in His Spirit toward a direction in unity—but how to get there? And isn’t that always the question?
As it turned out, I was one of the first to enter the room and find my spot. When I noticed the number of chairs set out, I realized there was an expectation of a greater number of people arriving than I originally anticipated. I felt my blood pressure go up. I have always struggled to be around a crowd of people, and while 30 people is not overwhelming, 30 people with strong opinions on weighty topics could press me in. As the room filled up, I started my deep breathing, tapping my foot anxiously until my husband arrived.
One by one as topics were introduced and I sorted out which personalities in the room were going to weigh in, I prayed for patience, grace, and love. I have a deep love for each of the people who were in the room that night; we serve God together. But I am a feeler with heart overload, and when confrontations arose, I found myself noticeably sucking in my breath. People made difficult statements to each other in love. Full-on panic set in for me. I began to plan my exit.
To be fair, all topics were handled in loving ways and with kindness and open ears and hearts. So as I drove home after the meeting (I managed to stay until the end), I cried out to God:
Why am I like this? Why am I so impatient when people express opinions? Why do I crawl into myself when people disagree with each other? Why am I having an ungodly response to what was a godly meeting? Lord, I prayed in advance of this meeting and prepared my heart. What else could I have done?
You see, I was very ashamed of my reaction, even though it didn’t directly affect another person in the room and it remained all in my head.
I came home and confessed to my Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: boundaries, conflict resolution, confrontation, don't let the sun go down on your anger, draw near to God, Ephesians 4:15-16, expectations, God's grace, healthy conflict, healthy confrontation, James 4, new creations, old patterns, put off your old self, renew our minds, speak truth in love, submit yourselves to God, triggers, truth in love, unhealthy triggers
I look at my French bulletin board hanging over my kitchen table, filled with Christmas card photos from many years and places we have lived. Along with graduations, births, weddings, and celebrations, I see broken hearts, unraveled marriages, cancer, loss, abandonment, children with developmental struggles, addiction, etc.
But you know what else I see?
Jesus. The grace of Christ in so many lives. The calling out to Him from the depths of messy life—and the answering.
It was about nine years ago that I sat on a cement bench on a small island beach in the South Pacific. It was night, and I was squeaking out a desperate prayer in a tiny voice. The weight inside my heart was holding down so much pain that if it had bubbled up full force, it would surely have broken the sound barrier. Instead, like the slow leak of a balloon, only low-energy pleas came out. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: anxiety, as the deer pants, broken hearts, communion with God, cry out to God, deep calls to deep, depression, desperate cry, devastation, grace of Christ, heart's cry, hope in God, in the deep, mourning, presence of God, psalm 42, Psalm 42:7, relationship with God, sons of Korah, steadfast love, suicidal thoughts, tears have been my food, where is God, why are you downcast
No, that is not a misspelling. And yes, I meant “Son.”
You see, years ago my husband and I made a promise to our now-17 year old son that we would drive to the path of totality to see the solar eclipse this year—a “bucket list” item for him before he left the nest for college.
And so it was. We headed to Kentucky, meeting up with some family in the Midwest along the way. From where we were staying, we drove three hours to stand in a parking lot in Hopkinsville, KY, that afternoon in time to see, through ISO-certified glasses, the eclipse begin and end.
It took some coaxing for my anxious younger son, 11 years old, to trust us that the glasses would do their job to protect his eyes. Once he overcame that obstacle, he was amazed like the rest of us at the show God put in the sky that Monday afternoon. It was worth tolerating 12 hours of gridlock on the way back to the hotel.
As the sun moved behind the moon (from our vantage point, anyway) to where it was safe to remove our glasses for two minutes, we noted so many observations, among them:
- The temperature dropped.
- The sun set around us panoramically 360 degrees.
- The light never went fully out.
Even with the moon in front of it, a ring of light still haloed from the sun. The light could not be fully turned off. And really, the moon only had just over two minutes of blocking time. The sun then continued its determined glide back into full view.
It was surely magnificent. No doubt about it. But it did not completely darken my world. It did not shut off the lights.
It struck me (as I had 12 hours to reflect on the way home!) how true this is of Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 2 corinthians 4:6, Ark Encounter, author of light, Colossians 1:13, creation, darkness has not overcome it, defeated darkness, eclipse, eternal light, God is light, God lightens my darkness, in him is no darkness, Job, John 12:46, John 15, John 8:12, light from darkness, light of life, light of the world, Micah 7:8, Noah's ark, solar eclipse, the Lord will be a light, walk through darkness
It was 2 AM. I had to use the bathroom, and we were dry camping—in our own yard.
Yeah, that’s a long story. It involved many delays in picking up our travel trailer and a Ford F-150 transmission blowing in the middle of trying to back the trailer into our yard—the day before we were to leave. Fun times.
So the younger kids and I camped overnight in the trailer until the watermelon seltzer I chugged before bed hit my bladder. Then into the woodsy yard I went, in the pitch dark, where foxes, deer, and the occasional bear or fisher cat roam. Needless to say, I wasn’t wanting to take my time getting there.
The back door was locked. I knocked, and the dogs started barking. Surely, my husband would hear me then.
Then I banged on the door. More barking.
Realizing the futility of that after about three minutes, I walked around to the garage door, put in the code, and assumed an unlocked inside door.
More knocking and banging. No response.
Finally, I went around to the front door and rang the doorbell. Over and over again without stop.
I knocked and banged and called my husband’s cell phone.
I finally called my son’s cell phone—the same son who inherited my penchant for not answering the phone.
And there it was—my son actually answered!
“Mom, is that you? Hold on. I’m coming.”
In the fifteen minutes outside brainstorming new ways to communicate my need to sleeping family members inside the house, fear had started to trickle in. It was dark, and in my mind, every noise was the local bear deciding that moment was the one to descend upon my lawn.
My imagination ran wild.
What if a criminal drives by right now to see me in my nightie? What if the police are on patrol and decide I’m breaking in? What if my neighbor is looking out his window at the scene I am making at 2 AM in my own yard?
Darkness makes everything seem impossible, insurmountable, even dangerous.
But is it? Is it really?
What is the truth about darkness?
1. There is a Light. God the Father provided it through His Son Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Peter 2:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:5, 2 corinthians 4:6, a great light, afraid of the dark, armor of light, called out of darkness, children of light, children of the light, come to light, exposing darkness, eye is the lamp of the body, fear, God is light, hatred, in him is no darkness, Isaiah 9:2, John 15, John 3:19, let your light shine, light has come into the world, light of the knowledge of the glory of God, light of the world, light shines in the darkness, Luke 8:17, Matthew 5:16, Matthew 6:22, spiritual vision, spiritual warfare, the darkness has not overcome it, walk in darkness
I was happily driving my daughter back from camp in Keene, NH. We “processed” the week, reminding the younger brother to not interrupt during this time, and by the time I pulled up to the traffic light at the end of the ramp to my exit, my mind was on unpacking, tadpoles going AWOL upon reaching froglet status in my house, and dinner. I pulled to a complete stop, waiting for that green left turn arrow. And there it was.
Awesome. Just a few miles to go. I entered the intersection gradually, only to hear my youngest son, Little Man, make a comment to get my attention as we both saw the sedan speeding toward us on our left, running the traffic light.
I remember crying out to Jesus. And waiting for a secondary crash that never happened. When the airbags went off around me and my daughter who was sitting in the front, I detected the classic burning smell as well as other fluids now leaking out of the car at a fast rate. I asked the kids to exit the car if they were able.
But then my own door wouldn’t open. Airbags trapped me. My brain was in slow motion. I remember the kids in view as they exited the vehicle, and then it registered that I was physically able to crawl across the debris to get out the passenger side.
For what seemed like forever, I stood there mumbling over and over again that there was a green arrow. My kids told me later that I repeated that many times as I trembled and tried to find more words. It was a full hour, an ambulance ride, and a few x-rays among us later before I could speak in full sentences. But we were okay.
Bruised, stiff, sore, shaken, grateful.
A few more inches into that intersection, and the speeding car would have hit my driver’s side door more directly.
My Honda Odyssey did exactly what we trusted it to do in this accident. It bubbled us with airbags to ease the impact. Had my daughter been incorrectly sitting in the front passenger seat, had she not weighed what was necessary for the airbag sensor, it would have been a completely different story. I shudder to think of it, especially when I see the totaled van and the items within it tossed and shattered.
So, let me ask you something right now: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: afflictions of the righteous, air bag, airbags, auto accident, car accident, car crash, collision, defense, fear of the Lord, Isaiah 25:4, keep your life, life collisions, lift my eyes up to the hills, Lord is your keeper, mountains quake, Nahum 1:7, name of the Lord, not forsaken, Proverbs 14:26, Proverbs 18:10, psalm 121, Psalm 121:7, Psalm 34:19, Psalm 46:1, refuge, righteous, safety, shade on your right hand, strong confidence, strong tower, stronghold in the day of trouble, very present help, will not fear, will not slumber
Want to know a secret? I am coming out of a cocoon of emotional healing recently, and my life has significantly transformed. I have metamorphosed into Bonnie 4.0. Here’s just a tiny window into the changes that, taken one at a time seem small, but when pieced together, they reveal the Father’s loving, gentle artwork.
The Potter and His clay.
Ready? Here we go.
I get up early. (I am not a morning person and require seven hours of sleep to be pleasant.)
I talk to hummingbirds and tadpoles. (I have never been a nature person. Lately, I’ve turned into my Polish grandmother 40 years too soon, interrupting every conversation to comment on the amazing cardinal or chickadee to land on my bird feeder.)
I cheer on my garden plants. (I never used to be able to keep a houseplant alive; the thought of planting anything made me break out in hives.)
I let more stress slide off me. (I have two teenagers, a younger child with special needs, a traveling husband, and a [small] publishing business. Stress has been my middle name for as long as I can remember. So has sleeping in a position where by morning my shoulders are touching my earlobes and my neck all twisted up.)
I laugh more. (I’ve always cherished humor. I’m 44 years old, and potty humor can still send me into hysterics. So can three shots of espresso. But ab-tightening laughter? It escaped me for many years. I could not find it. It ran off somewhere and didn’t send me the address.)
I tell my dogs crazy things, and they love me anyway. (I get ridiculously, roll-on-the-floor caught up in chatting up my Shih Tzus as if they think about anything but eat, sleep, my lap, going outside, and treats.) Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: apologies, broken relationships, conflict, conflict resolution, dependence on God, emotional healing, God's healing work, guard your hearts, my rescue, my shield, no apology, peace of God, perfect peace, potter and clay, rejection, relationship conflict, relationships, trials, under his wings, wait on God
We had the date on the calendar for weeks. After much research, checking the internet daily, making inquiries, and searching several locations in the tri-state area, we had found the one. The. One. Our very first travel trailer. And it’s amazing after all the brainstorming of items on our wish list, our priorities were different from what we originally had thought.
Bunkhouse or living space?
Decent kitchen or bigger bathroom?
Couch and table?
Slide-out or no?
Our kids each had a vote, even FaceTiming when they couldn’t go with us so they could see the interior.
Fifteen years old, no bunkhouse but bigger living space (and a slide-out to accommodate our four-legged family members)—we were counting down the days until June 8th. Pick-up was in Connecticut, about an hour and a half away. We did everything we could between sale and pick-up day to prepare that part of the yard to house our future mobile vacation investment.
And there we were, sandwiches in hand, ready for a day of waiting on the truck to receive the necessary alterations at the maintenance shop. We eagerly walked through our apartment on wheels one more time.
But there was an unfortunate snafu, one that meant we could not bring the trailer home that day as planned. I could already picture the faces of all three kids, who couldn’t wait to find a trailer in the backyard when they arrived home from school.
As it turns out, the trailer had an issue with Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: application of faith, bunkhouse, camper, camping, children of God, deed, fullness of grace, grace, grace upon grace, inheritance in Christ, John 1:12, ownership, RV, taking ownership, title, travel trailer
Psalm 68:5, ESV, David singing
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
It’s Father’s Day again. [When I first wrote this, it was my first one without my father.] For many of you, a fatherless Father’s Day has been a reality for some time now. Maybe he was never in the picture, or perhaps your loss happened along the way.
For me, it has been six months, and I’m so thankful I’m not breaking out in hives at the thought of writing this holiday column. It doesn’t mean I’m not still tender. I certainly can’t forget the amazing father God gave me. I honor him in my own private ways. My breath caught in my chest when it was time to purchase cards this year. I stood in the card aisle for quite a while just taking my new normal in. It’s moments like that one when I cry out quietly in my spirit: “Oh, God, I miss him. Give him a hug for me, Jesus!”
I lost my earthly father, but the beautiful promise of heaven is that I still have my heavenly Father, and so do you, if you choose Him for yourself.
This is a timely and also timeless message. Wars ravage, terrorists attack, senseless acts of violence prevail, human trafficking spreads.
Can you imagine if we all saw ourselves as we truly are: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Corinthians 8:4, 1 John 2:1, 1 peter 1:3, a father to the fatherless, advocate with the Father, Ephesians 1:3, every good gift, every perfect gift, every spiritual blessing, father of lights, Father of mercies, father's day, God our Father, God reveals, He comforts us in all affliction, hope, Isaiah 63:16, James 1:17, no other gods, Redeemer, Redeemer from old, the Father is in me, there is no God but one, unity