Tag Archives: Life

Eucalyptus on the Wind

The scent of eucalyptus calms me, brings me a sense of peace and tranquility. Essential oils enthusiasts say it’s supposed to be energizing, but it doesn’t have that effect on me.

Growing up in Southern California, I lived one block off the main drag into Ramona and that main drag was lined with towering eucalyptus trees. I don’t recall actually smelling the trees then and I’m sure the fact that they gave off such a wonderful odor didn’t register in my childish brain. But now the scent brings me back to that idyllic time in my life.

It was a time of bicycle rides on dusty dirt roads to the library or to a friends, mud pies and Easy Bake oven cakes, and swimming in the above-ground pool in the back yard. Those were the days of hamsters and sunshine and warm Santa Ana winds, of forgetting my jacket at school because it was so warm by the end of the day that I didn’t need it, even in the middle of winter. They were the days of arranging all my stuffed animals into jump-rope pens like I was a zookeeper.

To be sure, all was not perfect then. There was the kid down the street who teased me relentlessly. There was my sister who yelled at me a lot, and hated purple simply because it was my favorite color.

My sister was a big part of my life then. I always refer to her as “my sister,” as if I only have one. I have three sisters, but Berta was closest to me in age, just three years older, and the only one I remember living in the same house with. I have a brother, too, who is 17 years older than me. I usually refer to him as “my brother Tom.” I’m not sure why he and my sister Peggy and my sister Suz always get their names added, and Berta is just “my sister,” but that’s the way it is.

Objectively speaking, life was good.

But I did learn some things during those early years that stuck with me through much of my adult life.

I learned that cancer sucks. Twice my mom went into the hospital with cancer, once with breast cancer (which her sister had died of) and once with uterine cancer.

The first time, I was allowed into her room and ate her Jello so she could come home sooner. The second time, they put her in the maternity ward because the cancer ward was full. Kids weren’t allowed in the maternity ward, so I had to stay alone in the waiting room. And I worried. But she survived both bouts with the dreaded disease, which did get her in the end, but that’s a story for another chapter.

Another thing I learned was that books are the best things ever. Every other week I would ride my banana-seat bike to the library, fill my handle-bar basket with books, and head back home past the eucalyptus trees to hole-up in my room and read. I spent a lot of time in my room reading even when the sun was out (which, frankly, was most of the time). When my two-week check-out was up, I’d head back to the library. To this day I am dangerous in a bookstore because I can’t seem to walk out empty-handed. (I gave up on libraries several years ago because I would forget to return the books and have to pay fines for overdue books. It killed me to pay the library for a book I couldn’t keep.)

I learned that saving money is a crock. One year my parents gave my sister and me $10 a week allowance. We would drive down to the Savings and Loan every week with our personal passbooks and deposit half our money in the bank. I thought I was saving for whatever I might want some day—some big ticket item that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to get or maybe just a bunch of books. Then one day my dad drove us to the Savings and Loan and had us withdraw all our money for the family vacation. I didn’t even want to go on vacation and have to ride in the back with my sister. It was a long time before I learned the value of saving money or felt in control of the money I saved.

I learned that fresh vegetable are delicious and canned ones are disgusting. But that growing fresh vegetables is hard work. We had a garden that spanned the whole width of our half-acre lot. We grew green beans, carrots, radishes, cucumbers (and dill), tomatoes, and more. We ate canned vegetables sometimes when the fresh ones were gone, but to this day I can’t eat canned peas or green beans.

But most important to my story is that I learned no one wanted to hear me cry. When I was little, I had a temper like a small hurricane. I didn’t like to be teased and would become angry and cry if anyone teased me. I was always told, “Go to your room and cry. No one wants to hear you crying.” So I did.

But the temper tantrum didn’t end there. You see, the way our house was designed, my bedroom was, I think, supposed to be a family room. It had two doors opposite one another so that it functioned as a hallway between the dining room and the back hallway where the bathroom and other bedrooms were. When I was sent to my room, I would run into the room and slam one of these two doors. Because of some principle of physics that I don’t even remotely understand, the door would not completely close and the slamming would cause the other door to fly open and hit the closet. So then I would run over and slam that door, with the same result, until my mom yelled, “Quit slamming those G** damned doors!”

The belief that no one wanted to hear me cry or to witness my temper tantrums stuck with me for a long time. The way I’ve always interpreted that statement is that no one cares how I feel. When bad things happened to me later in life, I told no one because I didn’t think they would care. When I was the most depressed, I kept it a secret because I was ashamed of feeling so bad and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.

It turns out that many of the things we learn as kids just aren’t true.

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Filed under Family, Life

Courageous

The prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is to write using antithesis. Bjorn asks us to use contrasting terms to encompass the real truth of the matter as we live in a world both black and white at the same time. As the topic of fear and courage have been much on my mind lately, I immediately thought of the antithesis of feeling fear while having faith. This is how we can be courageous.

Courageous

The giants tower above me
menacing and cruel
I tremble in faith
Stand resolutely with fear

The waves crash down upon me
mighty and powerful
I  shudder in faith
Rise unflinchingly with fear

The enemy surrounds me
threatening and heartless
I cringe in faith
Prevail triumphantly with fear

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Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

Prologue to Fearlessness

Today I’m working on the book proposal for a book I’m planning to write. I thought I’d share with you all the first draft of the Prologue. I’d love to hear what you think.

Prologue

Some people are born fearless. You can see it when they are just a kid. They are almost like adrenaline junkies with no thought of the consequences.

There was a kid that lived in our neighborhood when my son was young. He was the epitome of fearlessness—or perhaps more accurately recklessness. One day I saw this kid on his scooter heading down the hill we live on. (I never could get my own cautious son to try his scooter down that hill until he had learned to ride it on much safer roadways.) Now riding a scooter may not sound fearless—or reckless—but when you do it with roller blades on it’s what I would call foolhardy.

If you are one of the fearless ones, then this book isn’t for you. You can put it down right now, or better yet, give it to one of your scaredy-cat friends. You know the one—you’re thinking of her right now.

But if you aren’t fearless—if friends call you cautious, reserved, timid—if you feel like life is passing you by because you are too afraid to take a risk—then this book is for you.

I’m 50 years old and since I was a teenager I’ve dreamed of writing a book. I have numerous book ideas scribbled in journals, but I was always too afraid of failure to do anything with them. I’ve even seen some of my book ideas in the bookstore—written by someone else.

Nine years ago I had an idea for a book about telling our stories. It was inspired by a women’s retreat that I helped plan and spoke at. I spoke to the women about how important it is to tell our stories because it is our stories that bring us together, help us feel not so alone in this big, scary world. I talked about why we don’t tell our stories, which is essentially because we are afraid that people will judge us, that they don’t really want to hear what we have to say, and that it will make people not like us. All of those reasons are a lie, and I toyed with the idea of writing a book debunking those lies and telling my stories.

In 2014, Nish Weiseth wrote a book about telling our stories titled Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, published by Zondervan. It’s not exactly the book I had in mind, but it’s close. And it’s been quite successful.

All that fear got me was a missed blessing. The book I didn’t write wasn’t a failure because I never took the risk to write it. I kept it in my head—and as a little journal note—where it was safe. It was also unusable by God in that place.

Since that time I have written and published my first book—it’s a book of poetry about my struggles with depression called Light in My Darkness: Poems of Hope for the Brokenhearted. It’s not the book I ever thought I would write, but it has been such a blessing. (More about that in chapter 9).

My hope is that this book will help you take a few calculated risks in this scary life. My prayer is that in doing so you will understand that God has your back and will bless you with greater knowledge of His love and grace than you could ever imagine.

To be clear, I’m not advocating recklessly riding your scooter down a hill with roller blades on. That’s just dumb. I’m advocating listening to God, trusting His Word, and living like you are fearless. It can be done. I’m living proof.

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Jeremiah Preached the Gospel

I’ve been reading through Jeremiah, alternating with Hebrews, as part of my Bible-in-a-year reading schedule. I’m up to chapter 23 of Jeremiah, but I kept thinking about chapter 17. So I went back and re-read chapter 17 the other night. As I read through it, I realized that this passage encompasses the Gospel and that is why I was drawn back to it.

I love when I find the essence of the Gospel of Christ in the Old Testament (it’s all over the place, you know), but I didn’t really expect to find it in Jeremiah. This is a book by a prophet that the Israelites did not like. His gloom and doom predictions for Israel resulted in the priests and “prophets” plotting against him, and he was arrested, whipped, and put in stocks. He spoke on behalf of the Lord to warn the Israelites of God’s anger because they had turned away from Him, and he predicted that many of the Israelites would die at the hand of the Babylonians or from famine, and that others would be exiled to Babylon, if they did not change their ways.

But in the middle of all of the warnings and predictions is this passage that I believe encompasses the Gospel in a nutshell:

Wisdom from the Lord

 5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.

 7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NLT).

Verses 5-6 speak of those who trust in their own ability to be righteous and believe they can earn their own way to heaven. When their judgment day comes, they will be cursed because they have trusted in human strength. Even in this life, their spiritual lives are barren and they have no real hope or strength in the face of the trials of this life.

Verses 7-8 speak of those who trust in the Lord Jesus for their salvation and know that they have no hope of righteousness on their own. They are not bothered by the trials of this world because they have the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain their spiritual life. They have the hope of eternity with God.

I love the imagery of this passage of Jeremiah. When trouble comes, and it will come for all of us, the one who trusts in human strength is “like stunted shrubs in the desert.” But the one who trusts in the Lord “like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.” The stunted shrub is the perfect picture of worry and hopelessness. How can such a shrub ever survive? But the tree by the riverbank is the perfect picture of peace and hope. Such a tree will survive the worst drought because it has tapped into the source of life.

In this passage, water is life for the plant. In the New Testament, Jesus promises living water to all who believe in Him.

Jesus Promises Living Water

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) John 7:37-39 (NLT).

The question that faces every human being is whether they will trust in human strength or will put all their trust in their Creator. How about you? Do you seek to earn your own salvation through the strength of your own righteousness? Or have you chosen to trust in Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for your sins, recognizing that your strength and righteousness are nothing compared to His? When the drought comes, will you die of thirst because you have no power to create living water? Or will you thrive because you trust in the One who offers an endless supply of living water for all who believe?

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Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, postaday2011

The Blessings of Obedience at F&C Writers Conference

It’s been three weeks since I went to the Faith & Culture Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since, but with the NaPoWriMo challenge and other responsibilities I just didn’t have time.

But I’m glad I waited, because if I’d written this post two weeks ago I probably would have simply listed bullet points of what some of the speakers said. While that may be useful and interesting, because they said a lot of profound stuff, it wouldn’t get to the heart of what I learned. In the past few days, I’ve been pondering what I truly learned from my conference experience and that’s what I want to share today.

First, I learned to listen to God’s nudges to do something even if it makes no sense. He has a plan and blessings will ensue if I am obedient.

The first day of the conference I wasn’t sure which breakout session to attend during the first set of breakouts. I had tentatively decided ahead of time to attend one that I thought I should go to and that looked interesting. But that morning I felt a strong nudge to attend a session titled Christ-Centered Editing led by Leanne Sype. It seemed ridiculous to me because I know about editing. At work, I live and breathe editing, am familiar with style guides and grammar resources, and know the importance of having someone else edit your writing. But the nudge was strong so I went with it.

It didn’t take me long into the session to realize I was in the right place. Leanne was a wonderful presenter who talked not about the mechanics of editing, but rather about a number of books she had the privilege to edit. The titles of those books spoke to me. Her focus on Christ-centered big-picture editing of those books was spot on.

Leanne talked about not writing or editing to sound like someone else who is a great writer, but rather to find my own God-given voice. It requires surrender to Christ when I write, staying tuned to Christ so my nature voice will emerge in my writing. In my notes I wrote, “Organized, linear, logical is my voice.” Turns out this is what I needed to hear.

The real blessings from my obedience to that nudge came later. Blessing one was when, in a session by Bob Welch the next day, Leanne sat next to me and we had a wonderful conversation. I found out she was a delightful person with fears and insecurities, just like me.

Then, the following week when I received my score sheets for the essay contest, I discovered that she was one of my judges. She gave me awesome, encouraging feedback and a good score. She affirmed that my organized, linear, and logical way of writing resonated with someone and was an encouragement to trust God. Her feedback, coupled with the less-than-positive scores and feedback of the other two judges, reminded me that my writing, my voice, will not resonate with everyone. But God will take my writing where it will be an encouragement and those who flat-out don’t connect with my writing shouldn’t discourage me from writing what God wants me to say.

Second, I learned to listen to God’s nudges to do something even if I really don’t want to do it. When I registered for the conference, I signed up to meet with an editor from a mid-sized publishing house. I had a plan to pitch to him a daily devotional on being fearless. I began working on the book proposal, but I struggled with writer’s block.

God began nudging me to pitch a different book—my memoir. I did not want to write my memoir, at least not yet, and I told God so. The nudges continued and my conversation with God about the subject ended with “Fine, I’ll write a book proposal!” I sat down at my computer to work on that book proposal and the words fairly flew onto the page.

I was still conflicted because the publishing house I had the editor-appointment with doesn’t publish memoirs; they do a lot of devotionals and other types of books, but not memoirs. I decided I would just talk to the editor about the two projects and get his feedback, without expecting him to have any interest in either book. But as I prayed for direction, I felt uneasy about this plan. I knew the editor was at the conference with the hope of finding a new book idea that he could get behind, and I would be wasting his time just seeking advice.

The Tuesday before the conference, as I prayed, I felt a new nudge. “You could sign up for a second appointment with another editor or agent,” the Lord said. So that’s what I did. I signed up to meet with an agent, who I later learned specialized in memoirs.

The blessing came when the editor and the agent independently suggested that I combine the two proposals. The editor told me that daily devotionals are not selling that great these days, perhaps because there are so many on the market. However, a book about overcoming fear written in a memoir style would fit into a popular trend. Then he told me to email him a revised book proposal for a book along those lines. (There was more to his suggestion, but I don’t want to reveal too much about my current book idea just yet.)

If I had walked into the appointment with the agent with only the devotional proposal, I don’t think the current book idea or the editor’s offer to consider my book proposal would have happened. Because I was obedient to God’s nudge to write a proposal for my memoir even though I didn’t want to, I was blessed by this new direction and opportunity.

There is more that I learned at the conference, but this blog post is already long enough. Perhaps I’ll share more another day.

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An Ode to Poetry

It’s Day 30 of NaPoWriMo. I’ve written 30 poems in 30 days, and I’ve read many more poems. In celebration of the month coming to an end I wrote an irregular ode to all the poetry I’ve written and read.

An Ode to Poetry

O poetry, you make me laugh
you cause a chuckle to escape my lips
when written by one with a sense of humor
maybe even a chuckle and a half
if the poet who writes your daring words
winnows away the boring chaff
and uses to his advantage a gaffe

O poetry, you often cause a tear
to press against my eyeballs
ready to fall any moment I fear
when a poet writes on a topic dear
and if her writing is especially skillful
it’s possible you’ll find me bawling
if you lend an ear
and I’m touched by the words I hear

O poetry, how you make me think
between my life and another’s is a link
simply from words on a page, a small bit of ink
a connection is made, not there before
a bond of creativity and awe
fostering a desire our glasses to clink

O poetry, you change my mood
you make me crabby if you are lewd
even though I’m not a prude
yet sometimes you are my sunshine
when happiness and mirth you do exude

O poetry, sometimes you bore me
when you’re filled with trite clichés
but please don’t take it personally
I love you nonetheless

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Filed under Blogging, Life, Poetry

Kind Words and Iron Doors

It’s Day 29 of NaPoWriMo. I have mixed feelings about the month of celebrating poetry coming to an end. On the one hand, it’s good to have the motivation to write every day. On the other hand, some days it’s nice to not feel compelled to write. Today I’m hanging onto the one hand, and I’m completing a poem that was inspired by a Facebook post I saw yesterday. It’s off-prompt, but that’s okay.

Kind Words and Iron Doors

A Turkish proverb says
Kind words will unlock
an iron door

Often this is true
and so we ought
to speak kind words
always willing to open
an iron door and let peace in

But some doors
iron or otherwise
are sealed from the inside
by bitterness and hatred
so strong even the kindest words
won’t make them budge

These doors to the heart
can only be opened
by forgiveness from within
by the occupant’s choice
to step outside
into a world of grace and peace

5/21/15: Shared for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night.

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The Bridge You Built

The prompt for Day 28 of NaPoWriMo is to write about bridges, either real, imaginary, or metaphorical. I decided to write about my favorite bridge.

The Bridge You Built

The ravine between me and  You
is deep and wide and long
I pine here on the far side
quite enchanted by Your song

I have no way to get across
to rest peacefully where You are
I cannot even go around
the journey’s much too far

So You built a bridge for me
You stretched Your arms out wide
So when it’s time for me to cross
I will rest eternally on the other side

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Nepal

The Day 27 prompt at the NaPoWriMo site is to write a hay(na)ku, another short form poem I’ve never heard of. But I do love short form poetry, especially in the final days of a 30-day poetry challenge. Here’s my timely poem, a hay(na)ku time seven.

Nepal

Pray
for Nepal
earth is quaking

Pray
for Nepal
dead and dying

Pray
for Nepal
temples all destroyed

Pray
for Nepal
may heaven rescue

Pray
for Nepal
send aid workers

Pray
for Nepal
hearts are broken

Pray
for Nepal
may God rebuild

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Filed under Faith, Life, Poetry, Service

My Simple Life

The Day 26 prompt at NaPoWriMo today (where incidentally my post of yesterday was featured) is to write a persona poem, which is a poem in the voice of someone else. I chose to write in the voice of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who penned the Gospel of John, 3 epistles, and Revelation.

My Simple Life

Mine was a simple life
Catching fish with my dad and brother
Going to the synagogue on the Sabbath
Always honoring my dear sweet mother

Along comes this Nazarene
He wants James and me to be fishers of men
I don’t really understand quite what he means
Yet we drop everything to follow him then

Life is still simple, but not the same
We follow him as he teaches us about God
The Pharisees and Priests don’t like him at all
They try to trick him, call him a fraud

But the miracles he performs
Make me believe he’s Messiah
He fed 5,000, calmed a storm, healed the sick
He must be the one foretold by Jeremiah

All the prophets predicted
He would come to rescue us one day
I can’t hardly believe it’s happening in my time
After Israel for centuries from God did stray

When I saw him transform
On the mountain he became a magnificent light
Peter and James saw it too, we were frightened
We knew we had seen a glorious sight

I trust him with my life
He calls me the disciple whom he does love
Even when I vie for first place in his band
Of disciples who sometimes push and shove

Now he tells us he’s the lamb
Fulfilling the Passover his body is given
We don’t understand what he’s saying
That through him all our sins are forgiven

He prays in the garden
Where we often come to pray together
But this prayer is different, such anguish
Still we fall asleep, lulled by the weather

He’s arrested and we flee
By the Sanhedrin he’s unfairly and illegally tried
Handed over to the Romans for punishment
And Pilate decrees he be unjustly crucified

I stood at the cross
Bewildered by this unexpected turn of events
As he prays for the Father to forgive them
Not one among the Sanhedrin repents

They thought that it was over
They buried him in a borrowed garden tomb
But he promised he’d return and he did
He left the grave like a baby from the womb

After he appeared to us
He returned to his heavenly throne
Then he sent us the great Counselor
As he promised not to leave us alone

Many years later on Patmos
In exile I am given a vision of his grace
He will come again to rescue his people
All sin, pain, and tears he will erase

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