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Flipping That Tassel: A Letter to the Class of 2018

Flipping That TasselOur 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 »

 

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Prayer from Dirty Bath Water

Praying from Dirty Bath WaterI 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 »

 

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10 Strength Training Exercises of Faith

10 Strength Training Exercises of Faith“You’re getting stronger. I can see that about you. I can tell that you realize what isn’t in your control, and there is a peace about you.”

That was her assessment of me as I sat across from this professional who walked me through an emotionally difficult time.

Stronger? Really? You can see that?

See, the thing is: I feel stronger. I didn’t realize, however, that it was evident to anyone else.

But where does my strength come from?

Sure, the squats, lunges, and planks (one of my warrior princesses told me to add a “dead bug”) I do a few times a week are toning my physical body, but what about my spirit? How do I exercise that?

How did I build my spiritual muscles during a time when staying in bed, perseverating on what was out of my control, and escaping through other means were tempting alternatives?

Sometimes it was a minute-by-minute battle, but the choices were critical in determining if I ended up character-toned and feet planted more firmly in God’s amazing grace.

God’s Word offers me solutions and truth in every circumstance.

1. “Work out” according to His Word Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Removing Unwanted Layers

Removing Unwanted LayersIn light of the recent “National Dog Day,” I was reflecting on my newly shorn Shih Tzu Samson. Like his namesake in the Bible (Judges 13-16), he is strong and very hairy.

(If you’re not a dog fan, hang in there…I’m going somewhere with this—and as a sidenote, how can you not be a dog fan? Wink.)

My daughter and I spent an hour and a half one day out in a doggie-gated area of our backyard taking the clippers to our resident fuzzball. It was mother-daughter bonding time: many laughs over our mild-mannered but fed-up Samson. He was mostly patient as we practiced our haircutting skills, trimmed a little more beard here and there, gave him a manly tail shape, and assessed where we missed and he still looked a bit shaggy.

But under all that hair was a robust dog, strong and youthful, playful and now much cooler. Our home isn’t air-conditioned, so I could almost see Samson breathe a huge sigh of relief, pant a little less, and feel a bit more spry with the weight of his “wool” off. He looked like a lamb, fresh from the shearing.

Oh, Samson, Buddy! We forgot how unencumbered you are without the heavy weight of your hair! How free! How cool! How lovely!

I thought about myself and others carrying around burdens. Maybe you are too. I considered what we look like—even feel like—when we take a few layers off, when we start stripping off the layers of worry and care.

Granted, we cannot always do that. We all have responsibilities and commitments, right? We can’t simply “drop hair” like Samson and now run about footloose and fancy free in the yard.

Or can we? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Waiting on God in the Valley

Ever feel like screaming:Waiting on God in the Valley

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!

  1. God is not with us.
  2. He might not respond, so we have to get His attention again.
  3. It really is the eleventh hour.
  4. It’s about us.

As for Number One, can I just say here that Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Dragonflies, Lily Pads, Bullfrogs, and Faith

Dragonflies, Lily Pads, Bullfrogs, and FaithLast weekend, I found myself drawing in heavy breaths from the weighty, humid Pennsylvania air, almost fighting against it with every inhale as the mugginess climbed my limbs and threatened to swallow me whole. We arrived at 80-something degrees and were leaving at 90-something. How did I ever live in the South Pacific for two years and bike 80 extra pounds in kids around in the trailer? When did I become so intolerant of the humidity?

These thoughts swirled around in my mind as I watched my 9 year old Little Man, the happiest he’s been in months, darting from one flagstone to another trying to find a bullfrog willing to reveal itself for a moment among the lily pads in the pond at my parents’ retirement community. It’s not for a lack of trying that he did not find an amphibian friend. We heard their throaty cries. I believe our cold-blooded friends didn’t want to raise half an eye above the cool water and shade of the lily pads to greet Little Man. And who could blame them in this heat?

As I let my eyes soak in the serenity of the calm pond water and marveled at the dragonflies dancing freely, living in the moment, I also envied the lily pads—anchored, yet fluid on the surface of the water. While I want to tango with dragonflies on my more adventurous days, as we wait out my father’s prognosis, I think I much prefer the safety of roots in the pond bottom, with only slight, gentle movements away from my anchor in small steps of trust: lily pad living at its finest!

The funny thing is: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Happy Thanksgiving from Espressos of Faith!

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Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving!

I truly appreciate those of you who regularly follow “Espressos of Faith” as well as those of you who stop by to check it out! You have made this blog what it is, and I’m thankful for you.

I’m going to make this short, since we are hopefully all with loved ones and/or taking some good rest and food to restore ourselves. For those of you working, blessings on your day, and thank you for working a holiday for others who do not have to work it this year.

Today, I am thankful for family and friends, for healing and things still in the process of healing, for a published book (Not Just on Sundays), and for all those who made that possible (editors, artist, photographer, book marketer, printer, pastor, readers, and people who encouraged and prayed me through).

I’m grateful for lessons learned and for places where God is working out my character and peeling off areas of pride and replacing them with areas where I hopefully rely more on Him. I am thankful for His Holy Word, which brings the only true wisdom to me in managing marriage, raising children, getting through challenges, fighting things that come against us, seeing blessings even in the valleys we walk through, and healing relationships.

This has been an intense year for our family for many reasons, and I’m so thankful for lessons learned—sometimes painful—in the valley, where answers still were not on the horizon, and all we had was faith in things unseen. I’m grateful both for the people who walked through the valley with us as well as those currently in a valley of their own who allowed me in to hold their hands for a while.

Hebrews 11:1, Author unknown but he is recording the words of God, ESV 
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We are thankful for the warm hand of Jesus in ours as each step we take—in work, our families, and our faith—is often uncertain, except for with Whom we are walking.

May you know the peace, rest, love, grace, mercy, and incredibly deep love of Christ this Thanksgiving and always!

Grateful for you,
Bonnie

[Did I mention I’m also thankful for chocolate-covered pretzels? And pie! 🙂 ]

 

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