Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Morning at the movies...

Today my parents and I took the the girls to see a movie.  This is always a highlight of the annual grandparent Christmas visit- the trip to the movies.  We do not see many first run movies in the full price theaters throughout the year as a family, just because the price for a family of five is pretty steep.  But at Christmastime we usually get in two movies at the AMC Southlands, so it is a magical time indeed.  Ainsley Kat wanted to see Alvin and the Chipmunks, Chipwrecked, but she was (unhappily) out-voted by the other animal movie, We Bought a Zoo.  By the end we all loved it, even her. 

It is not often I see a movie inspiring enough to blog about...I can think of two others in the past year.  This one was great on so many levels.  It was real- based on a true story, which always gets high points from me.  I love stories, and the ones we actually live are the best ones.  I haven't researched the story, so I do not know which parts are real and which ones were added in for extra oomph.  But it all worked beautifully.  The pain expressed in the movie was real too.  So often in "family-friendly" films, the writers, or perhaps producers, feel the need to sugar-coat the painful parts of a story.  Or worse, sermonize them.  Truth: pain doesn't always have a deeper meaning we can see instantly.  Sometimes it doesn't have a greater meaning at all.  Sure, we can learn and grow from it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that was the point of the pain, those are just after effects.  The characters in this story lived their pain daily, struggling to find hope and new beginnings.  There are awkward moments, when a character is not exactly sure what to say, just as we would all be in similar circumstances.  The movie doesn't smooth over the rough edges of life and I respected that.

Despite a few heart-wrenching moments, the movie is filled with light, joy and some great laughing moments.  What I loved most about the film was all the courage- it's stuffed full of it.  Matt Damon, who plays the lead character Benjamin Mee, says to his son:

"You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."

So true, isn't it?

The ending of the movie ties everything together perfectly and truly brings a final layer of understanding to the main character.  This is a story of enduring love, hope, courage, and the the great blessing of families, related and found.  I loved it and hope it hits the Elvis so I can watch it again on the big screen.   

Peace dear readers.   

Monday, December 12, 2011

Life lessons.

If you follow me on facebook, you might have seen my post this morning about Onnie.  She auditioned for the Spring Musical on Friday afternoon and made the callback list!  The musical is Grease, and she is super excited.  I am incredibly proud of her. She taught me a valuable lesson about being brave and I would like to share it with you. 

She and I were talking a few weeks ago about my writing "career".  Nope, it isn't much right now and I couldn't even resist a chuckle as I just typed that.  I always try to be as honest as possible with my girls, in age appropriate terms, so I shared with Onnie what has been holding me back.  Those of you closest to me- and you have to be pretty close to know this one- know my writing struggles.  But just so I am being real in this blog, I will share it with ALL of you, dear readers.  Besides, fear keeps up locked up inside, while bringing truth into the light sets us free.  So here it is:

I am afraid to submit articles I have written, for publication.  I know there will be rejection, and I already feel my writing isn't good enough to be published.  It seems too hard, too intangible.  I quit daily on my personal dream of being published for pay, before I even have a chance to succeed or fail.  

Wow, that was more honest than I planned.  Feel a little crappy right now.  But that is the pitiful truth.  I told Onnie that afternoon we must face our fears, we can't give up before we start...that I am going to face my writing fears and submit articles until that fear goes away.  I am sure it will be replaced by other irrational fears in an instant, but the fear that is holding me back right this instant will no longer have power over me. 

I felt our discussion ended well.  I went on with groceries, cooking, laundry, writing, hanging out with friends...life.  Then Onnie had an upcoming audition with her Acapella group at school she was being very negative about.  She said she didn't want to audition or get the part, that it didn't matter to her.  If you know her at all, you know she sings all the time.  Adores it, turns conversations into song, and probably sings in her sleep...we haven't listened closely enough for that one.  Her behavior that day was definitely not my normal Onnie.  So I asked her to be bluntly honest with me and tell me what was really happening.  Rarely, she did.  And her words broke my heart-

"I don't want to stand up in that room in front of everyone and fail." 

Okay, that is a reasonable fear in any kind of competition, yes?  One could say it is not good to focus on possible negative outcomes, and I would agree with that.  But considering the possibility of failure is an honest emotion.  That wasn't what broke my heart.  All my words to her about not trying with my writing came flooding back to me.  I have the same fear as her, and I quit...I have been quitting every day for years! You know that feeling as a parent when you see one of your negative traits in your child, and you just want to grab them by the shoulders and say, "No!  Don't be like me!  Be BETTER than me!" ?  Yes, you know what I speak of...that feeling overwhelmed me right then. 

So, I prayed.  "God help!"...was about all I got out.  Then I told Onnie she had to try.  She would be giving up on her dreams if she didn't audition.  She said it was just one audition and just one part.  I reminded her that every time she gives up or bows out, the desire to do so again next time becomes stronger.  Then I told her the most important lesson I have learned in this area- Only she can work hard to make her dreams come true.  Others can encourage and give wisdom and insight.  God will give opportunity.  But only she can prepare, be disciplined and try. The preparation and discipline are the lead-up to the trying...they don't matter without the trying, and the trying won't do any good without them.

Onnie chose to try.  She prepared and didn't fail in front of everyone- she got a solo.  Next came the big audition, the one last Friday for Grease.  She faced all the same fears of failure again, although they weren't as strong this time.  She fought for an audition time because she had been absent on sign-up day and all the slots had been filled.  She labored over her choice of monologue for the audition, even wavering the night before between three choices.  But none of them sounded like Onnie, they sounded like what she assumed the drama teacher wanted to hear.  In the end, we were able to talk her into reciting a part from the movie Rango that she quotes all the time.  It is hilarious every time she says it and she has it memorized perfectly, even the voice.  She was nervous and didn't think the piece was right for the audition.  But we know Onnie- it was perfect for her.  It showed off her comedic timing and unique ability to mimic voices. 

She did the Rango monologue and sang the required, My Country Tis of Thee, on Friday.  She was proud of herself for trying.  She made the callback list.  She has loads of talent.  But all that talent doesn't matter if she is too afraid to try.

I have been told by teachers and other writers that I have talent.  I hope I do.  I do know with every fiber of my being I am a writer...that when God was giving out personalities and talents for us all to use in our careers here on Earth, writing is what I got.  For me, it is all those things you hear people speak of when they really love what they do- it is a major reason why they get up in the morning.   But fear has kept me from being successful all these years.  There will always be another opportunity, another day.  Until there isn't...because you are so used to quitting before you start you don't care if you get a million more chances.  Apathy takes over.

Onnie Skye rocked me out of my apathy these past weeks.  She could have given up, not even auditioned.  But she chose to face her fears and be brave.  Things could have turned out differently- she might not have gotten the solo or made the callback list.  But she still would have carried inner pride for trying.  She didn't make the callback list for America's Got Talent, but she is so glad she has the experience of auditioning.  

I am so proud of her I can't adequately put my feelings into words.  She has taught me a great lesson, and not the first of her life either.  I am going to face my stupid, irrational fear of submitting articles this week by submitting two which have been written for weeks now, and yet are still sitting in my files.  I am doing it in honor of my brave girl who didn't give up.  After they are emailed, Onnie and I are going to have ice cream together and talk about more fears we need to face.

Oh- and remember my very irrational and dumb fear of going to the doctor?  I went twice last week.  All the fears I have carried for years about doctor visits are completely gone now.  It seems so sad and strange to me that I carried that anxious junk around for so long, and let it affect my life negatively.  I think I am becoming brave after all.

So, do something brave today- for yourself or someone else.  I promise you won't regret it.
Peace dear readers.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Compare and Contrast on LOVE, English Lit style...

 As some of my facebook friends already know by my recent status update, I watched Jane Eyre today.  That would be the 2011 version, with Mia Waska-whatever-her-last-name-is, and Michael Fassbender.  I can remember his last name because I keep seeing trailers for all his upcoming independent films every time I visit a Denver Landmark theater.  One of the new movies is even rated NC-17...say it with me...ooh.  The movie is appropriately named, Shame.  Hmm.  Gonna be skipping that. 

Anyway, Jane Eyre...

I must say I really enjoyed the film.  I was never much of a Charlotte Bronte fan growing up.  Emily had all my morose attention steadfastly fixed on Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.  Looking back, I think it was just my crush on Lawrence Olivier which started it all.  I grew up watching black and white movies, first on AMC, back when the channel used to play classic movies all the time, and then on Turner Classic Movies.  Probably weird for a kid, but my dad loved classic movies and introduced me to some amazing films.  I saw the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights before I read it, and grumpy, dramatic and dark Heathcliff won my 12 year old heart completely.  By the time I went off to college, I had practically memorized the entire dreary, written masterpiece.  I found it completely fitting that Stephanie Myers had Bella read and discuss Wuthering Heights in her vampire SAGA...only Cathy and Heathcliff's melodrama could match those vampire/werewolf/human teenagers.  More on that in a minute.

I was required to read Jane Eyre in college and vaguely remember writing a paper on the material.  My most vivid memory is reading my paper to the class and mispronouncing St John's name, which led my professor to conclude I hadn't thoroughly read the book.  Hmm, I did skim some...I had a full classload and found my sociology classes to be much more time consuming. If you are unsure how I could mispronounce that name, then you clearly skimmed the book in English Lit too.  (Hint- "Sin-Jun".  Okay, I feel I am completely offending all my British friends right now, so no more talk about his name.)   I did end up with a B on the paper and put the book back on my bookshelf where it stayed, for sixteen years, until my mom decided to bring it to me this past August.  I have not re-read it yet.  But I am intrigued now.  Where I found Rochester to be mean and strange when I was twenty, I now see him in a different light.  Great character study there.

Heathcliff's jealous rant at the end of the story has stayed with me all these years, since I first heard the words out of Lawrence Olivier's mouth:

  "'And I pray one prayer--I repeat it till my tongue stiffens--Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you--haunt me, then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad! only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!'"
- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Ch. 16

I think Bella should have screamed those last lines as she ran across the square in Italy attempting to save Edward's life.  But the words are very dark, echoing of a selfish love, a love that only looks at what SELF is losing, not what the loved one is losing in death.  Very true of Cathy and Heathcliff's love.  I must give Bella credit here though, she was willing to die to SAVE Edward's life.  She put his well-being above her own.

I will not give away the story, but in Jane Eyre, Rochester sacrifices himself bravely on more than one occasion. Where Heathcliff's words above froze me in melodramatic angst, Rochester's words to Jane won my heart with their simplicity and respect for her:

" Sometimes I have the strangest feeling about you. Especially when you are near me as you are now. It feels as though I had a string tied here under my left rib where my heart is, tightly knotted to you in a similar fashion. And when you go to Ireland, with all that distance between us, I am afraid that this cord will be snapped, and I shall bleed inwardly. "

Yes, I like Rochester very much.  Some will say his love was selfish also at points, but we are all selfish at times in love, aren't we?  I am no longer a Wuthering Heights fan.  As Edward points out in Eclipse, Cathy and Heathcliff are mean, selfish and small...their love for one another seems to be their only redeeming quality.  But I feel their love does not redeem them at all, for it is pure selfishness, wanting only to own the other.  No giving, only taking.  That is not an admirable love. 

This is true and lasting love:
" 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  I Cor 13:4-7.

I see that in Jane Eyre, whatever version you choose to watch or read.  Good stuff.  

My brain is tired now.  Off to watch my second Netflix DVD, The Adjustment Bureau.  Heard great things about this one.  Peace dear readers.  :)


Monday, November 28, 2011

"What must I do?"

As I sit here sick and refusing to go to the doctor because I do not want another round of antibiotics thrown at me due to the fact all we do in this country is pharmaceuticaly medicate every problem, I have lots of time to think. (Yes, I did make up a word in that last sentence.  Can you guess which one?)  The recent resurrection of a painfully missed friendship has been causing lots of deep thinking.  Friend and I were supposed to have breakfast together this morning, but I had to cancel on her because of the above-mentioned dumb illness.  I am trying every natural cure I can concoct or buy, so if you have any suggestions to throw my way, I would love to hear them.  For the record, even though I do not let the medical industry do all it can to help me, I am not just grandstanding for the ethical slant of it. I have taken so many antibiotics over the past two years I have been living with an awful indigestion of sorts where my stomach becomes instantly nauseous if I consume more than three bites of anything at one sitting.  I do believe this effect was from the antibiotics, and it has only gotten better in the last three months. Plus, steroids make me suicidal, doubly so if I try to use bathroom cleaning products while taking them.  Yes, that last sentence was strange.  The point is the chemicals mess with my head and emotions. So I really do not want to be nauseous again or drive myself off a cliff. 

Back to deep thinking.

I have come to realize over the past few months that I struggle with anxiety and fear of change in big ways.  This was a huge revelation to me, but if you ask my husband or close friends, they would say, "Meh, known it for years", and shrug their shoulders in a distanced, resigned sort of way.  Maybe learning things about yourself is hard.  Or perhaps I live in denial a lot.  That is probably closer to the truth.  I find it strange that I  have moved all over the country so many times and loathe change the way I do.  I guess the adrenaline rush of moving and the excitement of a new place carried me through those times.  I have officially lived in this house longer than anywhere else since before I left for college, and I adore the comfort and peaceful familiarity of it.  I love the Denver area.  I am always missing the ocean, but Denver feels like home now.  The thought of moving NOW fills me with dread unspeakable.  Back to that whole "fear of change' bit.

I breathe and thrive in the constant.  But life is about change, and we all die if we don't change.  "Story" doesn't happen until a character changes in some way.  Course, we all die through change also- aging, disease, all those things we fear.  Change is unavoidable.  Sometimes change is the best thing for us.  Yet I avoid change like it's a week old Tupperware container of yogurt from Maise's lunchbox I must open and wash...just the thought of the SMELL is enough to send me running in the other direction.

I am reminded of a Donald Miller quote I, well, quote, often:

 “Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn't all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better."

Yep, that's me.   Comfort and order, even when my comfort isn't all that comfortable...even when it chafes at me and that still, small voice inside tells me there is so much MORE for me if I will just be brave.  I don't even need to have Frodo's bravery when standing on Mount Doom.  His trembling, "What must I do?", while clutching the newly found Ring of Power at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring will do for me for now.  After all, bravery grows with each courageous step, doesn't it? 

My first courageous step is going to the doctor, not for the dumb sickness, but for all the other health issues I face on a daily basis.  If you know me even a little bit, you probably know I fear doctors like they are Civil War surgeons in Gone With the Wind about to amputate my leg without morphine.  Yes, I know...stupid, irrational fear.  But are fears ever really that rational?  I had enough of doctors in my childhood to last me my whole life.  But when Ron came home from his grandfather's funeral, looked me straight in the eye and said, "I need you to go to the doctor and find out why you feel bad so much", I knew my Frodo moment had come. Time to be brave.  Face my fears.

I write about change and bravery a lot, I hope I am not boring you with the same topics.  But these thoughts are constant on my heart, so I must speak of them. Now I leave this post in your hands:  What are you going to do brave today?  What have you been putting off or avoiding that you know in your heart you need to do?  What action will make you step out of fear, procrastination or apathy today and cause you to embrace who you are meant to be?  Share it with me please...be brave with me.

Peace dear readers...going to go down some Theri-flu now.  :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bella becomes a hero.

I have decided to write a review for the SAGA.  Well, the newest movie in the SAGA, Breaking Dawn.  If you do not know what movie SAGA I am referring to, you must have spent the last week catching mountain goats in the Urals.  SAGA must be in all caps here because not since Leia found out Luke was her brother has there been such hormonal angst in a movie series.  I am a Tolkien girl myself, finding the bravery and sacrificial love of his stories to be much more satisfying to my soul than watching Bella sit in a chair for three months because Edward dumped her.  I know, Team Edward is about to chuck werewolf hairballs at me right now- Edward wasn't dumping her, he was trying to allow her to be safe and have a normal life...blah blah blah.  Whatever.  Her behavior was not healthy, no matter how much you try to play the "Bella lost her mythological soulmate boyfriend forever" card.  When Aragorn told Eowyn he couldn't love her in the way she sought, she rode off into battle and killed the one "whom no man can kill", the Lord of the Nazgul, Witch-King of Angmar, effectively winning the Battle of Minas Tirith.  Seriously, there are better fictional role models for our daughters. 

However, a good story is about character transformation.  Hint- a good life is all about that too.  Donald Miller said it well:

“If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He's a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn't change, the story hasn't happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another. ” 

Bella changes in this final installment.  She learns what sacrificial love truly is.  She has always been sacrifical, since page one of Book one, willing to die for those she loves.  However, she has such low self-worth in the beginning of the series that one really gets the impression she is willing to sacrifice herself because she believes everyone else around her is more worthy of life than she is.   That's not exactly sacrificial love, it is more an unhealthy view of self. 

This is where the SPOILERS start- if you are unfamiliar with the storyline of the books and want to be surprised if you go see the film, please stop reading now.  If you have read the series, you know what is going to happen in the movie- the movie sticks very close to the book storyline.   There's the disclaimer- do not send me hate emails for the spoiling the movie for you.  Smile and wink.

In Part one of Breaking Dawn, Edward and Bella get married and finally consummate their relationship.  Kudos to Myers who has always insisted on keeping her main characters as virgins until marriage throughout the series.  Bella does try on several occasions to change that, but Edward does not relent.  Whatever your stance on sexually active teenagers, if you are a parent I am sure the thought of a NON-sexually active teenage son or daughter is a sigh of relief, yes?  So, Bella and Edward become one, and he doesn't actually kill her in the process...some bruises and a completely broken bed, but she's still alive. 

And becomes pregnant with their child.

Now do not even ask me how this is possible from a scientific standpoint, as half of this procreating pair is a mythical dead creature.  Myers just expects us to go with this storyline quietly.  She makes the rules in her vampire/werewolf universe and we are just along for the ride.  But Bella is pregnant and in Forks VampireLand, the gestation period is short- Bella is full term in about 3 months.

Edward freaks.  Well, everyone freaks.  They have no idea WHAT is inside of her. Edward wants Carlisle to perform an abortion because he feels whatever is inside of Bella is going to kill her. But Bella will have nothing of it.  She loves the child- she insists it is a child- from the instant she finds out she is pregnant.  And she loves the child fiercely. 

She endures great pain during her pregnancy- the baby is incredibly strong and sucks all the nutrients out of Bella's body.  She is literally starving to death, and by the time she gives birth she looks like a Concentration Camp survivor.  The fetus breaks her ribs as it grows inside of her.  But she doesn't just endure physical pain, she also must face the disapproval and anger of those who love her and feel she is making the absolutely wrong choice by allowing the child to live.  She doesn't waver from her decision even slightly.  The love she has for this unborn child becomes her entire life, and she is willing to die to bring the baby into the world.  Bella has finally found sacrificial love, not in an unhealthy or unworthy way, but in the framework  of being willing to die for another BECAUSE of love.

And she does die right after birth.

Of course, this is a vampire story and she doesn't stay dead.  But she is willing, isn't that the point?

Bella became a hero in my book this time around.  You could say she found the love every parent has for their child, but I would disagree.  Knowing from the beginning that giving birth to a child will most likely kill you is not a situation most of us will ever face.  I have known women who have faced that exact scenario and moved forward bravely, willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their child.  They are heroes to me also- even more so because they are real, not just stories in a book.

The Bible says, "Greater love has no man than this, that he will lay down his life for a friend."  Substitute "friend" for whomever you will- child, wife, husband, father...enemy.  Wow, we won't go there on that last one.  If you want further illumination on selflessly loving an enemy, in fiction form, go read Ted Dekker's The Bride Collector.  It is the best in fiction form on that topic I have found.

Bella finds herself during this installment of the series.  She becomes brave for a reason outside of herself and her own desires, and in my opinion, STORY has begun.  All the rest before this has just been backstory, the build-up to Bella's character transformation.  The transformation has come slowly, as it usually does with us in real life too.  The elements were all inside of her from the beginning- her loyalty, bravery in the face of dangerous circumstances, and willingness to sacrifice herself for another.  But those elements were small and twisted at the start, with conflicting and confused motives.  Again, just like us.  Then life happened, Bella chose to jump into it, and all the dormant things inside her came to life, growing strong as she became who she is meant to be.  It is her story now, she is no longer just a bystander in her own life.

What about you?  Has your story begun yet?  Are you an extra in your own life or are you an active participant, finding your strength and realizing what you are willing to sacrifice everything for?  Just a thought for you to ponder.

So, go see the movie or don't.  But in my humble opinion, this one actually has something good and redeeming about it.  Course, it is still a vampire and werewolf story, so stay away if such things don't interest you.  But please think about your own story.  And jump into it.

Peace dear readers. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

You are real, so be real.

These words froze me this morning:

 “What we really need is somebody who loves us so much we don’t worry about death, or about [anything for that matter]… We need this; we need this so we can love other people purely and not for selfish gain, we need this so we can see everybody as equals, we need this so our relationships can be sincere, we need this so we can stop kicking ourselves around, we need this so we can lose all self-awareness and find ourselves for the first time, not by realizing some dream, but by being told who we are by the only Being who has the authority to know, by that I mean the Creator.”

They are by Donald Miller, and if you have known me or been my facebook friend for more than five minutes, you know he is my favorite author.  I usually distinguish him as my favorite non-fiction author, but honestly, you could take away all my novels and leave me with Miller's words and I would be content.  I can make up stories in my head all day long, but I can't match his graceful realness. 

Back to the words-
 The death part hit close to home this morning, as we are still grieving the passing of Ron's grandpa on Saturday.  I can't seem to stop crying, but tears are a blessing.  But the words spoke to me about my entire past week, the past several months even.  I have wondered lately if I am loving others with selfish motives.  Do I have sincere relationships?  But the big question...Who am I?  Really and honestly?

I have been pushing hard for my dreams lately.  And encouraging those around me to do the same.  I am painfully aware of the truth that if I am a writer than I should have something to show for it.  Like a little cash in the bank from a publishing house.  Something besides this blog, although thank you to my seven public followers.  I am a writer, that is who I am.  But without writing accomplishments, am I really a writer?  What determines who I am? 

I know why I am a writer, that is an easy question to answer- because I love words.  Adore words.  Words go deep into my soul.  A favorite quote from Hemmingway:

 “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

I love all words.  Big thousand dollar doozies and simple ones that soothe a mind.  I don't know what they all mean, and probably won't get the spelling correct much, but they are my world. 

So am I a writer because I write?  Or because I have sought words thirstily since I was a kid?  It sounds pretty foolish to even guess the first one when put that way, doesn't it?

I didn't learn a love for words, I believe I was born with it.  My parents did encourage reading, but that didn't even do it.  It's part of my DNA.  

Or perhaps I am asking another question really.  Are we what we do?  Or do we "do" because of who we are?  Hmm. 

There is worth in what we do, and probably quite a bit of non-worth and destruction as well.  But we do not have value because of the end result, the product of our "doing".  We have value because of who we are.  Society- especially American society- will tell us otherwise.  You are what you do and what you have.  Ask a homemaker what she does for a living and watch her wilt.  She does not have much worth in a career and power-oriented society. 

God's way is better.  I reflect on this even as I think of Ron's grandpa.  I will not be at the funeral, but I have a good grasp on what will probably be said about him.  He was a father, husband, brother, uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather.  He could pick up almost any instrument with strings- guitar, banjo, mandolin- and play it as if he should be up on a stage.  He served our country bravely in war.  He had seven children, four sons and three daughters.  He was loved dearly.  He was Scottish, descended from nobility.

Will his career be mentioned?  Perhaps.  But the focus will more likely be that he was a hard and dedicated worker, and raised sons and grandsons with the same mettle.

Wallace Lee Lumsden was not a product of what he did.  But what he did accomplish in his life- he was literally the patriarch of his family- was because of what God placed inside of him.  He did because he was.  

I will realize my dreams of being published someday.  But at that moment, I will not suddenly become me.  My accomplishment will stem from who I am.

And Donald Miller is right on- God made me.  The closer I am to him, the freer I will be to be ME. You know that feeling deep in your heart when the one dearest to you believes in you, you feel can accomplish anything, right?  Imagine that feeling blown up to a million, coursing through your veins, as the one who crafted you into being cheers you into your true calling.  Amazing thought, yes?

I will end with another quote by Miller:

“No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath... We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?"

It's your story.  BE.  Ask God who you are.  You already know it deep in your soul anyway.  Don't just "do".  What a waste of our lives if we just do for eighty years.  Be who you are and the doing will come.

I feel this post was disjointed, and I am not completely sure I said what I set out in my mind beforehand.  But these are the words that came.  It was a long post- thank you for hanging in there. Give feedback please- on here or on facebook.  I want opinions on this.

Peace dear readers.  And go hug someone you love today...life is fleeting.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No Regrets Part Two: Naked Writing

Part two is about baring my soul.  Being vulnerable.  Naked writing. 

Back to Billy and Shanna's couch:

As I sat there pondering the verses I had read, I started asking myself some questions.  Perhaps this strategy came from the speakers at Desperation Conference, as they taught the kids how to read their Bibles and pray.  Maybe I just needed a new plan that morning.  Here is what I asked myself:

Who is God in this story?
Who is Satan?
Who am I?

I am not usually a formula reader.  I agree with Donald Miller and many others on that point.  Relationship with God can't be broken down into three action points that translate into great blessing.  The Bible does give life and instruction.  But I do not feel we should attempt to allegorize the entire thing to fit our circumstances. 

But those questions were on my heart that morning, so I sought answers.  They came instantly. 

God was represented by David in the story.  Satan was the evil, cruel, lawless Mallies.  Who was I?  I was the plunder.  Carried off to be enslaved, tortured, used, and humiliated, a possession for sport. 

Off the couch for a little backstory...

I gave my heart to Jesus when I was nine.  At Calvary Tabernacle on Orange Ave in Roanoke, Virginia, where my mom and dad got married.  Every Sunday we would sing Just As I Am  at the close of service, during the alter call.  One Sunday I walked to the front all by myself.  I can still remember how long the aisle seemed that morning, stretching from a few feet into a mile before I finally reached the front. My Sunday School teacher met me there and prayed with me.  My parents cried.  And that was it, I was officially a Christ follower. 

But I didn't always follow.  I made some poor decisions during high school.  Got involved in a bad relationship.  I walked away from God in shame, then returned.  Other times I walked away in rebellion- I wanted to do whatever felt good at the time.  "Walking away" can take many forms- dismissing the teachings of one's youth, building walls of protection, outright sin, apathy, the list is endless.  But Satan has opportunity to plunder when we walk away...we are his for the stealing, as defenseless as David's wives in Ziklag.  He chips away at our souls.  We might feel carefree and euphoric at first, but then we are plunged into numbness.  Hopeless and unsatisfied.  Sadly, I have walked away quite a few times since I was nine.  There has been ample opportunity for Satan to plunder.

What do most of us do with our dumb and painful mistakes of the past?  We usually ignore them for as long as possible.  Then we regret.  Every person alive has at least one BIG regret they can bring to mind instantly, right?  Do you have any regrets when you look back at your past?  What"s the BIG one? Think about it for a minute please.  I am sure it is glaring at you now that you've given it a little attention.  It's okay to let it sit there in the front of your mind, we'll come back to visit REGRET in a little while.

Back to the couch:

As I said in part 1, verses 18-20 gripped my heart.  What did they mean in the context of my own life story? 

I could say a lot here, but instead I am going to copy straight from my journal entry that morning.  Here I go getting naked.  I'll admit I'm nervous...this is vulnerable stuff.  I wonder if you'll reject my words?  My journal entry is messy, real, and intense.  I ask you to hear my heart.  Here goes:

     "What is God saying to me?

     He came, and found Satan had destroyed/burned my life, and taken me off captive.  He came searching for me, to RESCUE me back...to bring me home to Him because I am precious beyond measure to Him.  God has fought for me unceasingly...two days for David has been years for me.  God actually did this on the cross, through Christ, 2000 years ago.  For me.  But he never stopped pursuing, never stopped fighting for me.  Last night He got me back completely...all the broken pieces of me.

     -What about my great regrets from my captivity and Satan's destruction in my life?  What is God saying to me about that? 
"18 David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. 20 He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, “This is David’s plunder.”

     God recovered EVERYTHING- every part of me.  God recovered His Beloved, and nothing was missing-  there is no part of me Jesus didn't recover. No part of me was left with Satan or his destruction.  He recovered my heart, my innocence, my dreams, my hopes, my past, my wasted years- He recovered it all.  Again- nothing is missing from me. Satan did not utterly destroy me.  God has me back whole, intact."
End journal entry.

I had cried at Desperation the night before, without really knowing the details of why.  On the couch that morning I wept with understanding and gratitude.  I felt deep peace I've never known in my life.  I honestly couldn't even remember my regrets.  It was as if God had taken a gigantic fuzzy cloth to the dry erase board of my life and smudged out all the ugly parts. With Christ's blood. I really did feel whole.  I still feel whole.  Intact.  My future is as wide and bright and full of possibilities as when I was twelve. 

I spoke about that morning at our Mother Daughter Day for Girltime this summer.  I am not an eloquent public speaker yet, but the moms were gracious to me.  They were the first people to hear the words from my journal.   After I shared, I asked each of the moms to write down their biggest regret(s) on a small slip of paper. Then we folded up the papers, took them outside and dropped them in a metal bucket.  We prayed over them.  They gave their regrets to God.  Then we lit the papers on fire, burning them to ashes.  I saw freedom in the eyes of some of the moms that day after their regrets were dust in the bottom of the bucket.  It was incredible. 

So is your regret still clear in your mind?  Bring it back if it wandered into the recesses.  I want to ask you to be brave.  Give it to God- fully and completely give it to Him.  Close your eyes and picture your regret on a piece of paper resting in your hands.  Then hold your hands out to God.  Give it to Him.  Get your past and your future back.  Then imagine that paper burning into ashes.  Smell the smoke.  Be free. 

If you aren't ready to do that, it's okay.  But ponder it please.  And hey- if you want to write your regret down and burn it with real fire, I say go for it.  It's very freeing. 

It is very late and I am all out of words.  Thank you for listening and allowing me the freedom to share the deep stuff of my heart.  I am so thankful tonight for no more regrets. I am praying the same for you.

Peace dear readers. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

No regrets.

This blog post has been on my brain for months now.  It is always better to write when ideas are fresh in your brain, but sometimes a shift occurs in your heart and mind so vital and substantial you can't share it for a while.  You need to process it, feel it, live it.  Run your fingers through it to make sure it's real. 

This post is going to have to be broken into two parts, as it will be too long otherwise.  So, here is part one...The Story:

I was sitting on Billy and Shanna's couch at 6am on the final morning of Desperation Conference, June 25, praying and reading my Bible.  All the kids in the youth group were still sprawled out in sleeping bags and tents all over the Ramsdell's basement and backyard, and Billy and Shanna were getting much needed rest also.  But Shelley Gambrell and I had gotten up early, feeling the need to spend some time with God. God had been doing stuff in my heart during the two days of the conference.  But to be honest, I wasn't sure what exactly.  I knew it was something big, I could FEEL that, but I couldn't figure it out.  I needed answers.  So I was on the couch, and she was outside on the back porch.  Both of us with our Bibles and with God.

I honestly had no idea where to read in my Bible, so I did the classic: closed my eyes, prayed for God to let the Bible open to wherever He wanted me to read, and opened it.  Yes, I know, very spiritual of me.  Ha. It opened to I Samuel, Chapter 30. Worked for me, I adore the Old Testament.  I know many people find it boring, but I love the history and poetry of it. 

The story of chapter 30 is one of plunder, pain, anger, bad decisions, prayer, incomprehensible strength, and redemption.  David, not yet KING David, had been out with his men, 600 soldiers, preparing to fight at Aphek.  The backstory here is complicated, but please go read all of I Samuel if you want more specific details. David had taken all of his men to fight at Aphek, a town about 40 miles up the coast from his homebase of Ziklag.  Bad decision- he left no men to guard the town, literally every single man was off fighting.  Perhaps David didn't discern the situation well to perceive the danger, or maybe it was just a bad call.  But it was the opportunity the Amalekites were looking for- they wanted plunder and revenge for David's past assaults on them.  Let's call them "The Mallies", as it is more fun to say, and typing the word Amalekites repeatedly is just tedious. 

The Mallies swept in like pirates.  They plundered.  But they didn't kill, as there were no men in town to put up a fight.  So they carried off the women and children, cattle, spoils, all of it.  Then they burned Ziklag to the ground.  The women and children were to become their slaves.

When David and his men returned, they found their town in ashes and their families gone.  It says in the Bible David and his men wept bitterly.  Then the men got angry, needing someone to blame for their great grief.  David had hauled them all off to fight, leaving their families defenseless against the pirates, so they grabbed stones as one and screamed for David's life.  These were not David's close friends or countrymen, and he was afraid.  Verse 6 says:

    "David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God."

"Bitter" is a stronger word than grief, isn't it?  Bitter says, I am distraught and need someone to be responsible.  David was suffering with his own responsibility in the situation, as well as deep grief- his two wives were taken too.  But David sought out God and found comfort and strength. Then he asked the Lord the big question- "What do we do now?"

David sought the priest, who brought the ephod...I am not going to be able to explain that procedure well, so you are free to do your own research. Point is,  David inquired of the Lord.  Here's how the conversation went:

    "8 and David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?”
   “Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

Ok...marching orders.  David took his 600 exhausted, bitter men and immediately set out to pursue the Mallies.  They made it as far as the Besor Ravine.  At that point, two hundred of his men were too exhausted to go on.  So David commanded them to stay and rest, and also to look after the supplies.  Then he pressed on with his 400 remaining men. 

They found a dying Egyptian slave in a field, and they shared food and water with him.  He had been with the raiding party, but had become sick.  So in typical, cruel Mallie fashion, he was left to die in the field because he was slowing them down.  In a commentary I read this morning, the writer says that the Mallies' inhumanity led to their destruction.  So true- God values each life more than our callous throw-away society can comprehend. 

The slave knew where the raiders were, and agreed to lead David and his men there if they promised to spare his life and NOT return him to his master.  Smart guy. 

They found the Mallies, spread out over the countryside, feasting, partying, and reveling in the vast plunder they had amassed.  Referring again to the commentary I read this morning, the writer says the Mallies had stolen so much cattle it was necessary for the raiders to spread out across vast areas of space just to accommodate for the needs of the herds. 

David and his men immediately went into action.  This part reminds me of the battle at Minis Tirith, near the end of The Return of the King- King Theoden speaking to his pitifully small assembly of men, encouraging them to fight valiantly, as a tear rolls down Eowyn's cheek, knowing death is eminent for them all.  However, David and his men had a promise from God- they would overtake and rescue.  Still, I think there had to be some fear in their hearts as they faced off against the Mallies, exhausted of all emotional and physical strength. 

But they fought.  And fought.  Verse seventeen says David and his men fought from twilight to the next evening.  Twenty four hours of fighting?  Apparently so.  Surely the men needed some frosted mini-wheats by the end.  However, they were victorious.  In fact, the numbers are astounding- only 400 Mallies escaped, on camelback.  (Now I am picturing Bob Hope and Bing Crosby going across the desert singing, "Off on the road to Morocco".  Maybe I need more coffee.)

But did you catch that?  David and his 400 men killed all the Mallies except for the four hundred that escaped by camel.  Talk about some odds.  It doesn't even say how many they killed during battle. 

Now here is the beautiful part, the part that captured my soul as I read it that morning:

Verses 18-20
"David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. 20 He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, “This is David’s plunder.”

Wow.  I just got chills.  There is more to the story- returning to the men left behind at the ravine, David's wisdom in solving disputes and instituting a nationwide policy concerning the division of spoils of war- but I am going to stop here.

That is The Story.  Part one done.  Part two coming...The Epiphany. 

*A big official thank you to my friend and fellow blogger, Donny Pauling, for answering a historical question I had this morning with pages of Biblical commentary which were immensely helpful in writing this blog post.  Appreciate it!

Stay tuned for part two dear readers. :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An afternoon at the movies...

This weekend Ron and I saw an independent film at The Mayan in downtown Denver.  If you know much about me, you know I love movies...in theaters.  And I adore unique theaters.  The Muvico Parisian at CityPlace in West Palm Beach won the award for most luxurious, there were fresco paintings on the domed ceilings and faux alabaster fixtures in the bathrooms.  Even the Swedish Fish tasted gourmet there. 

The Elvis Cinemas are my all time favorite, as they are cheap and fun...perfect for this frugal mamma.  Sadly, they do not play old Elvis movies 24/7.  A friend recently pointed out that would be a great business model though- I agree. :)  They are a bargain movie chain here in the Denver area, playing second-run films for CHEAP.  We are always up for a flick at the Elvis.

But the Mayan wins hands down as the coolest historic theater.  It is one of the oldest restored theaters in the country, built in 1930.  In fact, it is only one of three remaining theaters designed in the Art Deco Mayan Revival theme still standing and in operation today.  It reminds me of Grandin Theater in Roanoke, which reminds me of childhood, and home.

Ron and I saw The Machine Gun Preacher there, and it was excellent.  In case you haven't heard of it, the movie is based on the life story of Sam Childers, who went from hardened criminal drug dealer to finding Jesus and saving orphans in Africa.  The film is made well, and had some big names in it- Gerard Butler playing Sam Childers and also being an executive producer on the film, as well as Michelle Monaghan, Kathy Baker and Michael Shannon.  It is tough and harsh, deserving its R rating for a lot of reasons.  But it has so much heart.

It shows how beautiful, messy and vital life becomes...WE become...when God breaks in.  He changes everything if we let Him.  He gives purpose. Isn't that deep within all our souls, to find our true calling? 

I still want to change the world.  But I get side-tracked daily with the meaningless and materialistic.  This movie...true story...reminded me of what's important- we will only find our lives when we give them away in true sacrifice to others in need. 

Short blog for today. Go look up the ratings reviews for this movie if you are concerned about the R rating.  Then, if you feel comfortable, go see it.  Be open to where YOU might be called to change the world.  Sam Childers is still saving orphans in Africa. 

And if you are in the Denver area, go see it at The Mayan.  :)

Peace dear readers. 

Side note- Michael Shannon's upcoming movie, Take Shelter, looks incredible too.  Here I go, planning out more movie afternoons...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Busted flat in Baton Rouge...

An old friend of mine posted that line as his facebook status a couple of years ago and I commented a question mark back at him.  The line honestly did not ring a bell in my mind- I thought my friend had somehow really gotten stuck in Louisiana. Or maybe there was some greater philosophical meaning in the status update.  Nope- maybe Val was just being dumb. Yes, I know...the horror...the unrelenting horror of not instantly recognizing the lyrics to one of the greatest songs of all time! 

Haha.  There is my shame, dear readers, for all the world to know.  But in case that lyrical line's not registering for you either, it is from the song Me and Bobby McGee, written by Kris Kristofferson and made famous by the late Janis Joplin.  I personally believe Mr Kristofferson was a much better songwriter than actor, but that is a discussion for another day. There is a very famous line in the song I want to focus on:

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..."

(You are all singing it in your heads right now aren't you?) 

That line has honestly never really made sense to me.  When I think of freedom, I think of God Bless America, The Star Spangled Banner, our flag, liberty...you know...FREEDOM.  I suppose I have a very American view of freedom.  I've had hurt, junk, and issues in my life, so freedom also means forgiveness, healing, restoration and a new start. And I ache for freedom for the victims of child sex trafficking all over the world.  The word freedom has always been a positive thing in my mind. Sacrificial, yes.  But hopeful, a cry, a mantra. 

But in the song, freedom is not really positive is it?  It is what one has when there are no responsibilities, and nothing to truly care about losing.  

Our family pastor, Billy, has been speaking to the youth group about our identities lately.  A few Wednesday nights ago, he spoke about "Davids".  Davids we know in real life, and the David in the Bible.  You know, the Shepherd, Goliath killer, leader and King.  I won't go into all the details here, but David was a man who learned from an early age who he was.  He was born with an identity and he embraced it, rising to great power and honor.  He was very responsible throughout his formative years.

But all that changed one gorgeous Spring.  He sent a trusted leader out with his army...armies apparently went out every Spring to fight, cause that's what they did....Hooah!  David stayed at the palace.  We can assume he was just hanging out, basking in being the most powerful man in the known universe, not really doing much.  He had given away his responsibility to others, so his hands and mind were idle. 

Then he took a late night stroll on his roof and we all know the rest.  There's another song about that, Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, but we better not discuss that one here.   

Billy said something very important here and suddenly the line from Me and Bobby McGee made sense, and a whole lot else too:

David forgot who he was...he forgot his identity as Shepherd, Slayer of Giants, Leader, King, Man after God's own heart...and he swapped his responsibility for FREEDOM. 

See- Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.  But David had plenty to lose.  Boy did that situation get ugly quick!  The king had a man murdered, a brave soldier and faithful husband, just to try to cover up his moral failure when it was known Bathsheba was pregnant with his child. We could get picky here and say David was the king and could have any woman he wanted.  Yes, he could. It was called Royal Rape, he got it whether the girl wanted to give it or not.  But David wasn't like that.  He knew right from wrong, regardless of what power his position gave to him.

David forgot his identity.  He forgot who he was.  Have you ever done that, in any area of your life?  I have.

There are about a million reasons why we might forget who we are...stress, discontent, temptation, an easy way out, ambition, pride, desperation, a short-cut to what we might truly desire in our lives...we could list causes endlessly here.  Sometimes we are still searching for our identity- we all have seasons of searching in our lives, yes? Those times usually lead to great personal growth and renewed purpose, becoming who we were born to be.

We all fall.  If the man God actually called a "man after His own heart" could fall so hard, we all can. A lot of destruction and death resides in that story.  But God didn't give up on David.  And David didn't give up on himself either.  He did eventually remember his identity and live it once again. 

I have been sitting here for about twenty minutes now trying to conjure a witty ending to tie into the song and title of this blog post.  I don't really have anything.  Just two thoughts:
-Find your identity.
-Live your identity, even when it's hard and hurts. 

Oh, and another...Onnie rocks out that song like nobody's business when she sings it. 
There- a song tie-in.  :)

Be who you are meant to be.  Peace dear readers. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Superman and the Trash Guy.

My favorite non-fiction author, Donald Miller, said the following in Blue Like Jazz:

“Writers don't make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don't work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck's book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man's stupid words. And for this, as I said, we are paid a dollar. We are worth so much more.”

I love that quote!  I can relate to much of it, except I do not sit around in my underwear.  Haha.  But my favorite part is the end- "We are worth so much more."  That is so true.  But he doesn't just mean writers you know. 
I believe each person alive was created to do something very specific and unique with this one life on Planet Earth.  It requires a set of skills, talents and abilities only you possess.  Sure, many people could theoretically sell dishes at Target or flip burgers at Burger King.  However, there is art in every task, even those we might call "throw away" or low-paying jobs.  I am not talking about the rude teenagers taking your food orders at McDonalds...although if we all really knew what was actually in fast "food", we might thank them if their rudeness inspires us to stay away.  But that is a health tangent for another day. 
Many people don't have a clue as to what they truly have passion to do in this life.  Others know and are afraid to pursue their dreams.  Some people make a great paycheck and the money lulls them into numbness to their true callings, while most of us just make a paycheck and are happy to survive another day. 
But we are worth so much more. 
I don't have quick answers to "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  There are a million resources out there to help with that question.  I am simply bringing attention today to the fact we should be asking it... every day until we have answers and can move forward into that knowledge.  Otherwise our whole world will be grown up versions of rude teenage employees at McDonalds.  Don't you want to change the world?  I know I do.  And we have the ability to do that- regardless of age- if we can realize our passion and live it. 
And don't ever belittle your passions, dreams or abilities- we need the Trash Guy just as much as we need Superman. Just think, if Superman spent all his time hauling our trash off the planet and dumping it into other galaxies, he wouldn't be a very effective Super Hero, would he?  Plus, he would probably pollute Mar's second cousin planet because he wouldn't understand how to dispose of battery acid in a safe way.  Are you seeing all the problems this would cause? 
Be who you are meant to be.  We ALL need you to be who you are destined to be.  Thank you Trash Guy and Superman. 
I am off to throw Donald Miller's book across the room, beg forgiveness, and go earn my dollar. 
Peace dear readers. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's the End of the World as We Know it...

I am sitting at my brand new desk writing my first blog! This is my early birthday present.  It was all purchased at IKEA, except for the picture, and put together by yours truly...I was too excited to wait for Ron to get home and assemble it for me. 

Do you like it?  I love it!
(Forgive my messy cords, I will fix that soon!)

My desk isn't what today's blog is about though.  Ron and I just got back from the movies.  We saw Contangion.  I would like to talk a little about it.  "End of the World" scenarios have been on my mind and heart for a few weeks now.  If you know my husband, you know they have been on his for the past couple of years.  The possibilities have always been too much for me to handle.  Call me weak-hearted.  Maybe I am.  I felt I fulfilled my duty to think about such things when I saw The Road and consequently didn't sleep for weeks.  If THAT is the future, then I pray a nuke instantly wipes us out so we don't have to live through the resulting horrors. 

I still honestly feel that way for the most part.  However, I had a vivid dream in late August which changed my perspective on some things.  I won't detail my dream here, as it is the basis for a novel I am contemplating.  But I will say it involved drastic changes in our society which completely altered our living circumstances.  The dream blew my eyes and heart open- I woke up crying and knowing I had ignored vital truths. 

Contangion is the story of a bird flu type pandemic sweeping across the world, killing thousands in days.  I will not give important story details here, because everyone should see it.  It is well-made, directed by Stephen Soderberg, and has some big names in it which means good acting. The movie is also not so horrific as to make it impossible to sit through, as I feel describes The Road.  It is a story of survival, and how our daily lives and way of life can change in an instant.  How will we adapt under those circumstances?  How will we eat, protect ourselves...live?  The situation in Contangion is just one of many possible catastrophe situations we could encounter someday- nuclear war, a complete economic collapse, or an EMP.  In case you haven't heard the term before, EMP stands for electromagnetic pulse, which is achieved by detonating one or multiple nuclear weapons in the atmosphere above certain target locations.  The effect is a "pulse", which essentially fries all electrical equipment on the ground for thousands of miles.  ALL electrical equipment- cars made before 1984 would not start, no electricity, no water services, no computers, no life-saving devices- we would basically have our lives reverted back to the 1800s in an instant. And in case the EMP sounds like a bad Lifetime/Scifi movie plot to you...like it did to me at first also...know that Congress has already had hearings on the subject. 

I have educated myself a lot this past month on possible scenarios and preparation measures.  I didn't have to go far.  I told Ron about my dream and he handed me a stack of books from our bookshelf.  Yes, from OUR bookshelf...I can truly bury my head in the proverbial sand when I wish. I will recommend a few resources for the interested at the end of this post.  I know I probably lost a few of you at the words "catastrophe situation"- it's okay.  I ignored the subject matter for years so I know the feeling.  But here is MY one basic premise for thought and preparation:

I will not allow my daughters to come to ANY harm because of my lack of planning or preparation.  Period. 

That mission statement keeps me focused.  

I am not saying turn into a doomsday freak and build a bomb shelter in your backyard.  But there are some simple and easy preparations anyone can do to be ready for a disaster situation.  You can keep things simple by preparing for a three day power grid outage due to a blizzard, or choose to go deep by preparing for a possible year-long power grid outage due to an EMP.  There are a lot of resources and opinions out there to help.

I feel I should say this also- Planning and preparing does not mean a lack of trust in God, or to allow fear to rule in your mind, heart or decision-making process.  It simply means to do what you do every day- to care for your loved ones and your neighbors, just with a future specific method.  We plan for college and retirement, we should plan for crisis.    

But for today, I am simply asking you to think.  Think about the future, possible scenarios, and what YOU would do.  Be open.  Ponder it.  I am right here pondering with you.  Go see the movie and ponder some more.  One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, just wrote this week that the best writing advice he's ever received is to love your reader.  I do love you all, dear readers, and I care deeply about what would happened to each of you if Contangion came true tomorrow.  Ponder...for me please. 

Oh- and one other reason to go see the movie- it has my favorite U2 song in it...All I Want is You.  :)

Peace dear readers. 

*A few resources I have found helpful:
-One Second After, by William R Forstchen.  This is a New York Times bestseller now. 
-How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, by James Wesley, Rawles
- SurvivalBlog.com  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

All things precious and protected.

Our family almost changed forever on Friday afternoon.  In a horrible way.  Most of you reading this will already know about the situation I am going to be sharing, but I need to write about it.  I have been hiding on facebook since Saturday, only giving quick thanks and updates.  But my heart had too much in it to share in that format.  There's no way to put a million thoughts into 150 characters. 

The facts:

Ainsley was struck by a car on Friday afternoon as her and our neighbor girls were scootering home from school.  A large SUV came up on the sidewalk as it was backing up, and its back tire hit Ainsley's foot.  The vehicle knocked her sideways and she was saved from falling all the way to the ground by her scooter's pole, which she grabbed to stop the fall.  The vehicle "flew off", in Ainsley's words.  And she did the same- screamed, righted herself on her scooter, and flew towards home, with tears streaming down her face, and only putting weight on her right heel. 

Friday afternoon and evening were overwhelming.  We followed up with the school, the school nurse, the Arapahoe County Sherriff's Dept, and the urgent care.  We talked to police officers and X-ray techs. 

At the end of the day, Ainsley had a badly bruised foot, crutches, and an ace bandage.  The best description we had of the vehicle was that it was a large, "silverish"  SUV type vehicle.

The emotions:

Anger.  Intense fear.  Overwhelming gratefulness.  Desperately wanting to cry but being unable to because I had to hold it together for my little girl who needed reassurance she was really okay.  I didn't cry for six hours- the only time I broke was when Onnie called from her friend's house and I had to tell her.  I was texting Ron about it, so it was not quite as emotional as having to hear our oldest daughter's voice and explain it to her.  I wanted to kill the driver.  I honestly wanted to take my Glock down to the school and start shooting at people in silver SUVs.  Lest you feel that response is wrong or irrational, then I would say to you perhaps you aren't a parent. 

But God broke through, as He always does if we will allow Him a crack into our hearts.  My anger overtook all other emotions on Friday afternoon.  I guess there was a thought of thankfulness it wasn't worse at some point before 7pm, but I don't really remember that.  My daughter got hit by a car- how could it be worse than that?? I wasn't thinking clearly, or past the fact Ainsley was hurt, regardless of how seriously.  The first person to say those words to me was my mom when I called her on the way to the dr.   

"Thank God it wasn't worse than that."  If you know my mom, you know she did not mean that in a flippant way- she truly meant, thank you God. 

Then the horror of the situation completely knocked me sideways.  I had a moment to pause from the "doing"- of phone calls, police reports, driving- to truly ponder what could have happened.  You may find it crazy or insensitive I didn't think of the awful possibilities before this moment.  It was indeed lurking there, in the corners of my heart- thank God my baby is not crushed or dead- but the "what could have been" hadn't struck me full yet, until that instant. The thoughts were suffocating. 

But God did not leave me there, floating in the unthinkable fathom of what if

The truth:

God protected Ainsley.  Completely and absolutely.  Yes, she could have been crushed, maimed, or even killed.  I am so aware of all of those possibilities.  But she had a very minor injury for being struck by a car.  Yes, she is living through the fear and the pain in her foot.  But God protected her from that driver and the car. 

I don't know exactly how it happened, but I have a pretty vivid imagination, so I have seen all kinds of scenarios in my mind.  Maybe her guardian angel- NOT a frilly girl with a harp, but a strong gigantic creature with calves like rocks and the sword from Braveheart- grabbed the wheel of the SUV and jerked it to the side, pulling the vehicle off the curb and back into the street.  Perhaps the angel punched the driver right in the mouth, leaving the driver with a sudden jolt of awareness.  Or, this is my favorite- maybe God himself jumped in between Ains and the SUV, putting out his eternal hand and shoving the vehicle out of the way just like Edward did for Bella. 

I am not making light of what happened.  On the contrary- something miraculous did indeed happen.  I do not believe for a second it was mere coincidence Ainsley's injuries were very minor.  I do not leave my daughter's health and safety to chance, circumstance or coincidence.  I prayed for protection and blessing over my girls on Friday morning, just like I always do.  But very rarely do I ever see in the present the reality of God's protection.  I know it happens every day, but it's kind of like terrorist threats- we usually only know about the ones which were successful, not the hundreds thwarted. 

I do still have anger, of course I do.  I honestly still hope the driver was unaware of what happened and didn't flee the scene in cowardice.  I pray the driver is found and disciplined in the proper way.  Who knows if this was a one time incident of reckless driving or if the driver is a constant danger on the road? 

But the ultimate truth remains strong as steel-  I know in my heart what happened that day, what could have happened, and this beyond all doubt:  My precious Ains was protected. 

Peace dear readers.  Hug tightly those you love today. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Give it away now...

Give it away give it away give it away give it away now.

THIS is what I was going to write about yesterday.  Giving away love.  It's harder than you think. 

As I was dealing with my Labor Day struggles yesterday morning, I decided to look up Mother Teresa quotes.  Not really sure why I chose Mother Teresa yesterday, maybe God put her on my mind.  I mostly wanted a feel good quote that would be a little challenging.  I got a whole lot more. 

"It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start."

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."

It was difficult just now to only choose three quotes.  That last one punched me in the gut yesterday.  I feel I do a decent job of loving my husband and our girls.  I could always give more of myself- my time, my energy- but I think we could all say that of ourselves at various times, right?  I try. 

The sad, pathetic truth is I tend to keep scores on my love giving with other adults in my life.  I am afraid to give too much, to love lavishly and without abandon.  I fear that love will not be returned and I will be rejected. 
Eleanor Roosevelt said this well:

"We are afraid to care too much, for fear the other person does not care at all."

This is so true of me.  I pull back, I guard my heart.  I give myself in small doses...just enough to show I care, but not so much as to feel the sting of rejection if my care is not reciprocated. 

Oh to give love freely, fully, drowning others deeply in it without desiring or expecting anything in return.  That would either be the dumbest, most unhealthy, boundaryless thing on the planet to do, or it could just change my world. 

I have always done this with my children.  I can love them completely regardless of how they treat me in return.  Of course it hurts when they do not value or respect me, but it does not touch my self-worth as their mother.  I just keep loving them, giving myself to them. 

I have encouraged a friend recently to love selflessly, to give fully in a situation, knowing there might not be an immediate return on that love.  That love might not EVER be returned in the situation.  But I know in my heart love is never given in vain.  Poured-out love changes the world, it changes us. 

This is my greatest wish today- to love without score.  To love until it hurts, and all that is left is love.  Being so secure in God's love for me and the unique person he has created me to be, that giving myself would only reinforce my calling and my worth. 

Give it away Val.  Be brave.  Stop keeping score. 

Peace dear readers. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Remembering the collapse...

Labor Day has always been a tough day for me. It approaches with dread every year. When I was a kid, Labor Day was always the last day of summer break. I could never relax and enjoy it because the first day of school loomed large in my mind. I have never done well in new social settings, and the fear of social execution at the hands of spoiled girls who might shun me from their lunch table was enough to make me wish for a highly contagious strain of the bubonic plague to hit me in my sleep.

But Labor Day since we have moved to Colorado has marked another milestone- it was the day we physically arrived here with our moving van back in 2005. To move here we left friends in Florida, dear ones that had become family to us and a church we loved. I also left a lot of denial behind. Hurricane Katrina was hitting as we were driving up to Virginia and on to Colorado. I feel it was a fitting image for our situation as well. Just as the residents of New Orleans were finding out how fragile their existence in the below sea level bowl of a city really was, my layers of outward appearing "fine" ness were being peeled back like a rotting potato being carved up for the garbage heap. The winds brutalized, the waters flooded, and New Orleans and I collapsed.

That was six years ago today. There was so much wrong in our marriage at that time. But I was able to ignore it when times were good, friends were close, and busyness could occupy my hands. Then all that was taken away. God left me with truth, our immediate family and about ten million moving boxes. That first year here in Denver comes in second place as the hardest year of my life to date.

But we worked hard, we worked on our issues, and we survived. God showed up with grace like He always does when we get real and humble. We began to thrive. We now have all the things we lost from Florida- dear friends, a church home, feelings of belonging and purpose- and we have truth, which might be the most precious of all.

But just because life is good now does not mean I dread Labor Day any less. There are some hurts and milestones in our lives that will always be painful no matter how much good has come of them. It makes me think of Frodo at the end of The Return of the King. He saved Middle Earth, he saved the Shire. But the Shire was not saved for him. He would forever carry all the suffering of the journey. We will always carry the suffering of our journeys within us. The sharp pain will lessen over time. But it is foolish to hide from it- it is part of us, an important milestone that proclaims we survived. I took a long shower this morning and wept. I am crying now. Thank God for where I am. But where I was can't be erased and must be recognized.

This wasn't what I intended to write today. I am still a little shocked all this came out of me and I am about to post it for the world to see if they wish. But writing is about being real. As Anne Lamont said, it is about opening the door we have deadbolted in our hearts and laying our souls bare so others might find truth and freedom through our struggles and defeats. I hope you, dear reader, connected with some truth in my words today. Be brave. And never ever give up.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Prodigal Thoughts.

Just a quick update to say I will be posting more about LOVE146 soon. My best friend from Virginia is visiting me, has been in a war with the altitude since she landed, and this morning the altitude won sending her to the ER with a massive migraine. Thank you to those of you who have been praying for her, you know who you are.

But I just had to share a quick thought with all of you today:

God still does miracles.

Yes, yes He does. So GLAD for a breakthrough in a situation with dear friends today. I have spent hours in prayer for this one. But God didn't just show up and do all the work...it took someone stepping out, in blind faith. It took guts, vunerability, and hope in the idea that love can be bigger than all the junk life dumps on us. And it is isn't it? Lavish, selfless love changes lives and will change our world.

And another miracle- Ainsley Kat just got home and is reunited with her old BFF...another situation I have taken before Jesus for what has felt like about a hundred years. Again, it took both Ains and her friend stepping out, saying hello, being vunerable. But then God showed up. I am honestly beyond words at how He can turn around seemingly impossible situations. For good. For our good. Just because of His prodigal love for us.

Did you know the word "prodigal" means wastefully, lavishly extravagent in Ancient Hebrew? I want to be loved in a wastefully lavish extravagent way. Don't you? Isn't that the deep longing of all of our hearts...to be drowned in perfect, overwhelming love? Donald Miller, one of my favorite authors, said the following:

"Earthly love… is temporal and slight so that is has to be given again and again in order for us to feel any sense of security; but God’s love, God’s voice and presence, would instill our souls with such affirmation we would need nothing more and would cause us to love other people so much we would be willing to die for them."

I want it. Don't you?

Peace dear readers. Til next time. :)

-Props go to Dr E for his "prodigal" message. Good stuff!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blowing up Blogs...

Today's plans got crashed. So I am going to write a little. Or a lot. Haven't decided yet.

I have been anxious lately and not completely sure why. After stewing, thinking until my brain started making strange popping noises, and then finally praying...I know, silly me, pray first Val...I have let go of all the stuff I can't control and realized that wasn't what was causing the anxiety. Hmm. By the way, is "hmm" considered a complete sentence? And that's when it hit me! Bam! Pow!

This anxiety is actually excitement!

Surely you have confused the two emotions before too, right? Anyone?

I am so excited about my future in writing I want to burst into a million particles of sunshine!

(And come up with better metaphors. )

I shouldn't be sharing this info with you, because then you will know all my secrets and think I am a sham, but I must tell someone. I have been studying up on BETTER BLOGGING! We went to Barnes and Noble last weekend, saw several new and amazing books on blogging- Mom Blogging for Dummies...wait, did that book just insult me?...and Power Blogs, How to Make Ten Zillion People Read your Blog and Love it! Ok, I made up that last title, but this was some seriously good stuff. However, I didn't really want to spend 60 bucks on books. So we headed over to the library, realized the library didn't even CARRY the new fancy blogging books, and found slightly less spectacularly titled, but equally useful books on successful blogging. Pretty soon my blog is going to be so amazing you are going to be waking up at 2am just to check for new posts. I have faith.

Until next time dear reader. And thank you for hanging in here all this time while my blog has been somewhat mediocre. You are the best. :)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My cause.

Child sex trafficking.

This is part two of my blog on the Sunday that changed my life. I am going to be discussing some tough things. But please hang in here and hear the voice of the helpless- because WE can help them. Isn't that such an encouraging thought?

I went to a concert at the Vineyard on Sunday night, July 17, after spending the afternoon at The Net with my younger girls, dear friends The Cleres and their sweet girls, and some other amazing people from our church. I wrote about that experience in my July 31st blog entitled, What defines me. At the concert that evening, I learned about an organization called LOVE146 and my heart was gripped.

Shameful admission here- I have ignored social injustice issues for most of my life because I did not like thinking about uncomfortable things. So petty and selfish of me. But I also felt like there were too many horrors- it was all too big for me to do anything.

When I was at Desperation Conference in June with my girls and our youth group, I prayed for God to show me where to help and how to help- I prayed for specifics. I did not get much that day, just a churning in my heart that I could make a difference, if I would only be willing to act. That's all it takes isn't it? To be willing. On July 17th I got my task. It was two-fold, with the first being The Net. The second is LOVE146.

LOVE146 is an organization created to end child sex slavery and exploitation. I have copied the following from their website that tells about their name:

In 2002, the co-founders of Love 146 travelled to South East Asia on an exploratory trip to determine how they could serve in the fight against child sex trafficking. In one experience, a couple of our co-founders were taken undercover with investigators to a brothel, where they witnessed children being sold for sex. This was their experience. This is the story that changed our lives.

"We found ourselves standing shoulder to shoulder with predators in a small room, looking at little girls through a pane of glass. All of the girls wore red dresses with a number pinned to their dress for identification. They sat, blankly watching cartoons on TV. They were vacant, shells of what a child should be. There was no light in their eyes, no life left. Their light had been taken from them. These children...raped each night... seven, ten, fifteen times every night. They were so young. Thirteen, eleven… it was hard to tell. Sorrow covered their faces with nothingness. Except one girl. One girl who wouldn’t watch the cartoons. Her number was 146. She was looking beyond the glass. She was staring out at us, with a piercing gaze. There was still fight left in her eyes. There was still life left in this girl...

"...All of these emotions begin to wreck you. Break you. It is agony. It is aching. It is grief. It is sorrow. The reaction is intuitive, instinctive. It is visceral. It releases a wailing cry inside of you. It elicits gut-level indignation. It is unbearable. I remember wanting to break through the glass. To take her away from that place. To scoop up as many of them as I could into my arms. To take all of them away. I wanted to break through the glass to tell her to keep fighting. To not give up. To tell her that we were coming for her…"

“Because we went in as part of an ongoing, undercover investigation on this particular brothel, we were unable to immediately respond. Evidence had to be collected in order to bring about a raid, and eventually justice on those running the brothel. It is an immensely difficult problem when an immediate response cannot address an emergency. Some time later, there was a raid on this brothel and children were rescued. But the girl who wore #146 was no longer there. We do not know what happened to her, but we will never forget her. She changed the course of all of our lives." -Rob Morris, President and Co-founder

We have taken her number so that we remember why this all started. So that we must tell her story. It is a number that was pinned to one girl, but that represents the millions enslaved. We wear her number with honor, with sorrow, and with a growing hope. Her story can be a different one for so many more.

Love is in our name, because it is our motivating drive to end child sex slavery and exploitation. We believe love to be the foundation of real, sustainable change. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love." We hold that to be true. Love Protects. Love Defends. Love Restores. Love Empowers.

We are Love146.

I will have more information on this organization and on human trafficking in the weeks ahead. I am researching how to become a part of a local LOVE146 task force, there are several here in Colorado. I can't explain the passion in my heart for this organization, but I know in my soul this is where I will work hard to make a difference in the world. I am planning on blogging my journey into this issue and this organization.

This is my cause.

Have a good Saturday dear readers.