Tuesday, November 3, 2015

tuesday afternoon

I've lit a fire in the wood stove. It feels colder than the 65 degrees it was supposed to get to today. I feel terrible. I'm fighting a headache and... the need for sugar. 

At my doctor appointment this morning she schedules me for a stress/echo test. One where they do an echo cardiogram first, then have you get on a treadmill until you either collapse or exceed the time limit - for me it will be collapse, and then jump back on the table for a second echo. I've had an echo before because I have one of those hearts that likes to dance a jig occasionally, the problem is, it has no rhythm. The general consensus of the cardiologist has always been caffeine intake... as in, "keep drinking it, your heart doesn't like it when you stop." It's a prescription I am happy to oblige. 

I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the thought of the impending tests and as I tell Dr. Ellen why, we laugh for a good 5 minutes. You see, they do an echo with you wearing only a gown and the thought of me running on a treadmill without the appropriate undergarments, well, that's just too much for me too contain... or rather, it will be too much for me to contain. Fortunately, she has the same sense of humor as me.

Arriving back home, I settle in with a glass of Pepsi and a bit of facebook time. Somehow I get hooked on a half hour video on pro-biotics and how there is too much sugar in our American diets. Not new news to me, nor a new diagnosis of all my stomach issues. I wonder when I will change my eating habits, really change for good. I want to change - today - I want to have arrived already with out all the work it takes to change. 

The video makes me want to barf - thoughts of bad bacteria swimming around in my gut... I pour out my Pepsi and go take 2 pro-biotics... how long has it been since I last took them? Have they expired? Do the ones that don't have to be refrigerated really work? Mine are in the fridge and exceed all the requirements of the video, by almost double, I buy the good ones - they still only work if you take them. Should I take Motrin for my headache? Just how bad is that stuff for you anyway? My whole head hurts.

I go sweep the laundry room. Anything has to be better than living in my non-stop, ever talking head. I collect all the dust, dog hair, lint and leaves at the back door, flinging it wide to chuck out all the junk and wishing I could do the same with my mind. I am surprised by how warm it is out there, warmer than in here. 

There is heat to the bright sun on this beautiful autumn day. I feel it on my cheeks. The fallen leaves, an airy afghan of gold blanketing the yard, are being baked under it. The sweet aroma of God's composting process rising to my nostrils. I breathe in deep and think of autumns past. A feeling of nostalgia I can not define, but know exists, comes over me. Not a singular moment in time but rather a lifetime of autumns wrapped up in this singular moment in time... I pause here and let my soul breathe it in, refusing to let my talking head reign.

I step around to the back garden and view my hostas. The "Empress", usually so grand and green in front of the fence, is now golden from frost and hangs her regal head. Bowing gracefully, in humble submission to the seasons of change. The pathway is strewn with the discards of fall and even though the process of seasonal change is well underway, I marvel at the memory of how lush my garden had grown this summer in spite me.

I long to take a walk, I need a walk - exercise - reflection. Too many years at a desk, too many miles in a car, they are killing me. But a walk means going past my mother's eye. She will see me go by - she will hope that I stop in. I don't want to stop in. I feel guilty that I don't want to stop in... that I never want to stop in anymore. I miss my mom, the woman that dementia has stolen. I need to be more like the Empress... 

I shake the rug, lay it back on the laundry room floor and pull the door closed behind me. Trapped in my home, trapped in my guilt, trapped in my talking head. I sit by the wood stove to write, to get it all out, but now it has become too warm...

Today is not exceptional, it's just simply a normal Tuesday afternoon in my life. I think if most people knew the wrestling that goes on inside me, the struggles I have with who I am, they would not be so quick to say I have it all together, that my life is so wonderful. The funny thing is though, my life truly is so wonderful, in spite of me, just like my garden. Me, my life,  my garden, perfectly imperfect and I'm okay with that. Maybe that is the secret to wonderful...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

31 Moments in Time :: two by two by two, plus one - Part 3

Monday, August 4, 2014 started out like any other Monday except that it happened to be my youngest son, Samuel's birthday, so it was not just like any other Monday. My baby would be turning 19 and my mind was filled with memories of his life past, and hopes for his life to come. I made my way out the door bright and early that day, like I did every Monday, for the 45 minute commute to my office. And on that August 4th Monday that was not just like any other Monday, I arrived at my office and opened my email to this:

Judy XXXXXXXXX judy@findmyfamily.org

to me
Hi Chris,
Great news!! I just received an email from your brother Mike!!

Hi Judy,
We have found my sister on this website. She is looking for Michael and John XXXXX. However we do not know how to contact her. We didn't know we even had a sister!! What is the next step?
Heard about site from: INTERNET
May I have permission to give him your name and contact info? This is very exciting.
Kind regards,

Now, I'm an avid fan of the sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond. In fact, my parents live just across the street and life for us often resembles that show a bit more than suits my comfort level. For those who know my real life Frank, my step-dad... well, we will just leave it at that, you are already groaning and laughing at my pain. But I have to tell you,

...when your office is in a church,
holy crap in not an approved exclamation...

And that my friends, is exactly what came out of my mouth! A clear indication I need to lay off the re-runs. 

The next few days passed in painfully slow anxiousness. I responded to Judy's email but I did not hear back from her. In fact, I have never heard from her since that email. She just vanished... I guess that is why them call them search angels...

That same August 4th day, with Michael and John's new last name in hand, my cousin tracked down a man who he thought was Michael, using one of my photos from the envelope, facial recognition software and some other mad, techi skills he has which I know nothing of. He was also my self restraint over the next few days when I had none, and for all of that I am forever grateful. 


But I didn't need any "65% probable match statistics". This was in my mind, beyond the shadow of a doubt, my brother. The resemblance to the other men in my family was too strong not to see it.

Three days that seemed like an eternity later, it was confirmed. Four months and 2,000 text messages later, Mike and his wife, Janet were in my driveway. 

Time stopped the moment their car pulled in. I wish I could remember now if the snow was really falling or if I was just having an ethereal, snow globe experience where everything floats delicately into place after it has been shaken. 

I gazed out the picture window, watching him step out of the car and take in his surroundings. Through the glass, his gaze fell on me for a moment.  I wish it would have lasted longer. It wasn't that I didn't want to meet. Truthfully, it was taking every ounce of restraint I had not to run outside, throw my arms around him and sob. But a moment that I had waited 35 years for was upon me and I wanted to bask in the awe of it a little longer... He smiled and waved through the transparent buffer as if we had just seen each other last week and I did the same, then I made my way outside.

I treasure every moment of that week they were here... his immersion into my life. Words fall short to describe the emotion of what it meant to wake up in the morning with my brother in the house... To be siblings together with morning hair and morning breath, reaching over each other in the kitchen to get coffee and tea, and to be okay with that. To be normal... doing things that normal siblings do. We cooked, side by side in the kitchen, we worked on a puzzle, we grocery shopped... that was a surreal moment for me standing in the produce section. I turned back to look at him, as if I half expected it was a dream and he wasn't really there. Our eyes met and he smiled and I said rather loudly, as if I was announcing it to the world, "I can't believe I'm grocery shopping with my brother!"

There is a natural intimacy with siblings, they know all about each other and they are good with that. Liz knows me like no other and I am totally me in front of her just as she is totally her in front of me. From my perspective, and I hope from Mike's too, there was a level of 'being known' that existed naturally...

and we continue to work on the unknowns. 

I think neither time nor separation 
can change what runs through your veins


With sunshine also comes the rain and it is with deep sorrow and regret that I share with you that my courage did not come soon enough for my sweet brother, John. He died in Louisiana on March 3, 2013 from cancer. He never got to hear the words, "You are loved, it was not your fault." The ache and longing in my heart will never be filled as I suppose it never was in his.

Now you know how my family grew, two by two by two. But what of the plus one? 

If I say to you that God is good at all times, in all things, you may ask why this all happened. Where was God when everything went so wrong? I hold to the belief that God is present in all situations at all times and I do not believe that God is the cause of bad things that happen. He has given us the freedom to chose what we do with our lives, he does not control us like puppets. Sadly, we often make wrong choices that have devastating consequences. Those consequences harm not only us but those around us. Those choices break God's heart just as much as they break ours, actually, more than they break ours. Because God doesn't fix everything that we mess up does not mean that God is bad or doesn't care. God is holy and sovereign, and God is gracious. And, he does care.

In his grace, God kept Michael and John together through the years they were in various foster homes. He gave Michael and John a family that loved them and adopted them, together. He also gave them a little sister, Sally, in their adopted family. It blesses my heart to know that God did not leave them without a little sister. 

According to Mike, Sally and I are cut from the same cloth. That is the grace and goodness of God. When she came to Michigan this summer, I could not pass up the chance to meet her so I drove to where she was. His sister has now become my sister. I don't know if the connection is our big brother, the cloth we were cut from, or the God we both love. Maybe it's all three, but the bond is there and it is a blessing beyond measure.


And what of the secret envelope? It's just and envelope, stuck away on a shelf somewhere. Its' powers rendered useless and its' mysteries replaced with answers. Its' sadness replaced with joy, and its' original contents replaced with photo copies. 

The beginning of Mike's life, now 60 years past, is in a scrapbook on a shelf in his home. When I gave it to him for his 65th birthday I told him that I understood it might not mean much to him in the sense that it was a life he has no memory of, but for me it was everything. It was the entirety of his and John's existence in my life and I was gladly trading it in for the real deal.

This story was written as part of a 31 day writing challenge. To read more of my stories in the challenge, click on my Link. Thanks!

Friday, October 30, 2015

31 Moments in Time :: two by two by two, plus one - Part 2

...and thus my little sibling party grew, 
two by two by two...

But who were these latest two? I had a million questions and only a handful of answers, and the answers I did have I could not reconcile in my mind. 

I tried to imagine a life where welfare and WIC did not yet exist. Because of the situation with Jimmy and Jackie, I was already struggling with the concept of a life where parents got divorced and a father who was alive would choose not to care for his children... These concepts had not previously existed to any great extent in my life let alone in my mind, but I had summed it up as my dad's polio being the cause of all that had happened in his first marriage. That was something I could reconcile, until now. 

I tried to imagine a mom, my mom, giving away her precious little children. Would you not do anything humanly possible to keep them? But of course the concept of what it was really like to be a mom also did not exist yet in my mind. 

I struggled with the biggest concept and the fear that accompanied it, that children were expendable... expendable... As defined, "Of little significance when compared to an overall purpose and therefore able to be abandoned". Was I expendable? Fear is not always a rational emotion particularly when you pair it with a lack of life experience and understanding.  

There was also the never ending struggle with my intense desire to know my brothers and the feeling that I was being denied something that was rightfully mine. I wanted a big brother. Someone to pick on me like big brothers do, tease me and help me with my homework. Someone to protect me... 

I lived a life of insecurity. Somehow, even as a small child I knew that my dad could not protect me while paralyzed from the neck down. After he died, my inner fear grew. When we moved north, away from any other men in my family it intensified and when my mom spent the majority of my teenage years in the hospital with asthma, Liz and I were alone. 

Two teenage girls, alone in a small community where everyone knows everyone and they all know you are alone. We became the 'summer project' for the community's Peeping Tom. The police told my mom, "Don't worry, he just looks". Can you imagine hearing that news while lying helpless in a hospital bed? Knowing some creep is looking at your girls and there is nothing you can do, and nothing the police will do. Sadly, that was only one of several bad things that happened and in comparison, it was harmless. I struggled on, big brother-less and mostly alone, knowing that somewhere 'out there' I had brothers.

Michael and John were not babies when they were given up. They were probably at least 5 and 6. Old enough to know... and to remember... The story my mother shared with me of the day she took them to the courthouse put a crack in my heart for those boys that will never be repaired. She told Michael what was happening and he said, "Does this mean I will never see you again?", "Yes", she said, "That's what this means.". I can't begin to express the sadness I had for them, the desire I had to tell them they were loved. I was sure that moment had ruined their lives.

I struggled with all of this for a long time, I mean a really, really long time. Okay, honest statement... I still struggle with parts of it. Now that I've been a mom for 29 years I can better understand that a mom who truly loves her children will do whatever she thinks is best for them, even if that means letting someone else raise them and never seeing them again. I can better understand that her flat out refusal to find them stemmed from guilt and fear that she had ruined their lives, not a lack of love. 

My second experience with the secret envelope came nearly 13 years after my first. I was nearing 28 and my second child, my sweet little Max with his swirly little cowlick right in the middle of his forehead, was soon to celebrate his first birthday. 

Mom, who was always very good with her other grandchildren, spent much of her time avoiding him. It hurt my heart and I didn't understand why. She hardly ever held him, or cuddled him, in fact she tried not to even look at him. 

One day, out of the blue, she handed me the envelope and told me I should keep it. She was in her first relationship since my dad died so many years before, with a man who would eventually become my step-dad, and she didn't want him to know about the boys. Having had her secret found out once already because of the envelope, she didn't trust her ability to keep it hidden and destroying it was inconceivable. Thus she called on me to keep her secret for her...

"Promise me you won't look for them."

"I promise"...

When I got home I opened the envelope with so much... so much, everything... fear, excitement, relief, anger, weight, responsibility... The entirety of their existence in my life was now in my hands. There is not one human word that fits all that I felt. I laid my eyes, for the second time ever, on the pictures of those adorable little boys, my brothers, and in an instant I understood my mother's avoidance of Max. He may not have looked exactly like Michael, but that swirly little cowlick in the middle of his forehead, that precious hair I fussed over all the time, was staring back at me.

Had she loved it as much as I loved Max's? Had she traced it with her finger over and over as he lay in her arms?  I came face to face with a small fragment of her pain and it helped me understand.

Many years passed and many times I was sure the time had come to break the promise. But where to start? I had information, probably enough to go on but the fear of hurting my mom, of lying to her and breaking my promise always seemed to help me find excuses not to start.

As computers and the internet became more of my world, I would occasionally type their names into a search engine, toying with the idea of pressing enter... sometimes I did, but nothing ever came up. Once I went so far as to contact an agency that specialized in finding people who had been adopted. I had a couple conversations with them but in the end, didn't proceed any further.

I wrestled with myself for so long and asked myself every question in the world I could think of. I played out every scenario in my mind as to how it all might come to pass, what their lives might be like... fear, always fear. The envelope ever present on my desk, waiting for me... the fear, ever present with it, always won.

And then I turned 50. The realization that over half my life was done sank in. If I was 50 they were 63 and 64 and that was a stark reality that rocked my world. It didn't send the fear running but it made me courageous in the face of it.

One quiet night in April of 2014, I contacted my uncle and told him what I was about to do. I wanted him to hear it from me, not facebook and I wanted him to know I was not telling my mom. She was already beyond the beginning stages of dementia now and I thought it would take so long to find them that by the time I did... well lets just say I hoped she would never comprehend what I had done.  

I posted their pictures on facebook with the information I knew and sent it out into the world. I found a website called  findmyfamily.org and I registered. They assigned me a 'Search Angel' as they call them, her name was Judy. She sent me an email and I answered her questions. Then I waited...

People shared the post on facebook, people from all over that I didn't even know.

And I waited some more... and I wrestled some more.

"Promise me you won't look for them."

"I promise"...

There was no turning back.

This story is part of a 31 day writing challenge. To read more of my stories in the challenge, click on my link. Thanks!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

31 Moments in Time :: two by two by two, plus one - Part 1

My maternal grandma, Delphine, came from a large family. She was the youngest of thirteen children. I can't even type that without laughing. As my mother's dementia has progressed over the last few years, I have heard her repeat that statement over and over, and over. I feel silly even saying it, "She was the youngest of thirteen children". There, I said it again, my family will appreciate this and understand the humor in it!

This is me at 24, sorry about all the hairspray, it was the 80's, and my grandma at 21. I think we look quite a bit alike. I can't resist adding my hubby be lookin' all tall, dark and Italian, well okay, maybe not tall but, how'd I get so lucky?

While I can relate to being the youngest, I have no idea what it would have been like to grow up in a family of 13. Yikes! I know with my own 4 children it was mostly chaos, can you imagine... I always have visions of her life having been like The Waltons, "Good night John Boy", "Good Night Mary Ellen" "Good night Jim Bob".

I spent the first 10 years of my childhood being the youngest of two girls, the daughters of Bob and Barb. This is my sister, Liz and I. weren't we cute? And me always with the great big grin.

When Liz and I were about 10 and 11 we found out that our dad had 2 children from a previous marriage. A boy and a girl, Jimmy and Jackie, who were ten and eleven years older than me.  
I would stare at their pictures that now suddenly hung on the wall in our home and wonder what it would have been like to have grown up in the same house as them. I would marvel at how my brother looked exactly like my dad and how beautiful my sister was. I was enthralled with both of them, partly because they were so much older than me and partly because it was all a marvelous mystery to my 10 year old mind... so thrilling to discover you have other siblings. We began the process of connecting and getting to know each other and then suddenly, our dad died. How hard that must have been for them to lose their dad twice. Maybe it really felt like it was three times, or even four. The first when he contracted polio, the second time in the divorce, the third time when he agreed to let their step-father adopt them and the final time when he died. 

We moved north after that while they remained down in the southern part of Michigan. Our relationships exist now only through facebook which saddens my heart. I long for more as I have always longed for more... still the 10 year old girl gazing at what might have been. But I also respect the fact that some things are just too hard and too painful, so I gain what snippets I can of their lives and the lives of their children through the wonderful invention called social media and hope that they do the same.

This is the part where I get to pretend my life is a made for TV movie and during the commercial break you hear the advertiser shout, "But wait, there's more!" Because folks, there is definitely more...

Turns out that my mother also has two other children from a previous marriage as well. Two sons, Michael and John.  There are the epitome of adorableness. At the age of 15, I am blown away...

I would have thought that five years earlier, when we learned of Jimmy and Jackie, would have been a good time to mention this little fact but apparently it was not. Had my mother gotten her way, we would have never known. Leave it to my sister Liz to come across an envelope tucked away in the corner of a closet she should not have been in. Consider this a fair warning to parents who want to keep secrets from their kids, don't hide the secrets in the same place you might hide the Christmas presents. Consider this the genuine warning, don't keep secrets. They are always found out eventually and they always cause pain.

The contents of the now found, secret envelope were several photographs, two birth certificates and a few court documents. My mother briefly and very angrily explains that the boys were given up by closed adoption after she and her first husband, an abusive man, were divorced and she could no longer care for them on her own. I beg her to find them but she is adamant that she will not and tells me that I must never look for them. She gives me that angry look where her eyebrows are so arched that they form a V in the middle of her forehead and she quite resembles Mr. Spock from Star Trek, but much angrier and minus the pointy ears of course... but I know she means it.


The envelope gets put back away and we resume our regularly scheduled programming of lives spiraling out of control from death, deceit and teenage adjustment.

Over the remainder of my pre-adult life, I muster the courage to try talking with my mom about the boys a couple of times. Each time she shares with me a little bit more but the conversation always ends the same...

"Promise me you will never look for them."

"I promise."

But somewhere in my mind I always know I will eventually break that promise...

Stay tuned while we interrupt this programming for a commercial break...

This story is written as part of a 31 day writing challenge. To read more of my stories click on my link here. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

31 Moments in Time :: life is short, dress happy

"Life is short, dress happy", is more than a motto I have taken on, it's a lifestyle I have tried to live out over the last few years. As a Christian, life is full of joy but don't confuse joy with happiness, even the average dictionary does that. They are not the same. I like Rick Warren's description of joy. He says, "Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation." Joy is not based on our day to day happiness as the dictionary and society might like us to believe. Joy is a peace on the inside regardless of what is happening on the outside.

This world can be an unhappy place a lot of the time. Satan works hard at us to steal our joy by dumping troubles on us, by bombarding us with unhappy things in hopes of robbing us of our joy, in hopes that we will forget just who is in control and that everything will be alright. We must fight against that.

You might think that what you choose to wear has no bearing on life but it does. Put on a tutu and you will find out just how much it does. People often ask me why I wear them. My response is always, "Look at the smile on your face, that's why I wear them." I can't help but smile too when I wear them. Now before you get too worked up, they are not some bright pink fru-fru tutu that you would see on an adorable 3rd grader, they are more subdued than that, I am over 50 after all!

I am by no means a fashion blogger, nor do I desire to be, or even a fashionista - what is a fashionista anyway? But...

The way I see it, there is enough garbage in the world to bring us down, we should not add to it by wearing things that make us feel even worse, or at least less than happy. We should wear what makes us smile and if we are fortunate, we will make others smile in the process.

The choice I made to dress happy has been attitude changing for me 
and I have not regretted it one bit.

Changing my wardrobe from ordinary pants and tops to clothing 
that makes me feel alive has been a process that has given me 
the courage to be more fully me.

Clothing is empowering. Did you know that? They don't call them power suits for nothing. So be brave, step out there and figure out what makes you feel good. Don't wait to lose that 20 pounds you've been meaning to lose, buy what fits and flatters you now. Experiment, make mistakes and learn from them, shop in places you don't normally shop and at some point you will find that you are excited about getting dressed because your closet is full of clothes that inspire you and make you feel like you. And that my fiends, is what makes your beauty 


Garbage in this life is not optional, what you choose to wear is. I agree that...

There are so many things that we can not change and have no control over. When I see people going around in their pajamas or sweats, which seems to have become the norm, at least in the area I live, I can't help but wonder if they have just given up on life. I'm not advocating that everyone wear a tutu, but I am advocating that you wear what makes you happy, not what makes you feel invisible. You are not invisible no matter what you wear. Be courageous and wear what makes you smile.

Life is short people, dress happy!

...and for those of you sitting there shaking your head thinking I'm ridiculous, what are you wearing???

Click on the link for a little 'happy' inspiration and take note of Pharell's wardrobe choices. It's a song that makes you smile.

This story was written as part of a 31 day writing challenge. To read more of my stories in the challenge click on my link. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

31 Moments in Time :: it's not enough to feel like you've done something

During lunch with 2 of my adult children the other day we were discussing something that will be taking place at church in a couple weeks, namely the wearing of orange t-shirts and having a congregational wide photo taken and sent to the Middle East to show our solidarity with the persecuted Christians there.

The question was raised by Sam as to the validity of affecting a real change in anyone's life by the wearing of a shirt and sending of a photo. Sam has always been my global thinker and activist. He wants to help but he wants his efforts to be effective. He was the first in our family to sport a pair of Tom's shoes and participate in the "One Day Without Shoes" campaign. With the encouragement, help and support of his math teacher, Sam and his classmates, while on a mission trip in Chicago at JPUSA (Jesus People USA) did their part in plastering posters around the city for the "Kony 2012 Cover the Night" event.

Those two events happened, or in the case of Tom's Shoes, continue to happen, to bring awareness to the American people of something horrific that needs to change. For those unfamiliar with Joseph Kony, he is the leader of the LRA (the Lord's Resistance Army) a guerrilla group that used to operate out of Uganda. He has been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity but still remains at large. He's a bad guy. The Cover the Night event did not turn out to be a huge success but progress was made in getting the American government involved on a more serious level as a result of the Kony 2012 movement and documentary. Tom's Shoes is hugely successful in providing shoes to children in 3rd world countries. Each pair of shoes purchased here results in the provision of a second pair to a child in need. That's real change.

Our conversation drifted to facebook and all the opportunities there are to "Like and Share" if you support this, that or the other thing, and just how ineffectual that is at bringing about any sort of real change. All it does is let people feel like they have made a difference which in reality often causes more harm because we 'feel' like we have done something already therefore we don't do anything else.

So do a shirt and a photo affect change? Yes and no. I'm a huge fan of the value and importance of photographs. They do have the power to stir emotion in people and bring about unity which I think, if the photos actually make it to the people being persecuted, they would be encouraged to know that we are thinking of them and praying for them. It would give them hope which is huge. I do not have visions of their captors showing them our photo prior to their beheading but I also know there are many Christians in areas of persecution who are not captives, yet, that might have the opportunity to see it. The American people are pretty aware of the persecution of Christians going on today. You can see them being beheaded on almost every media format which to me is horrific. I have not watched one.  I don't know how helpful a t-shirt being sported around town will be at convincing someone they should do something. In reality most of us don't know what to do, and that's a serious statement with life and death ramifications. I think a t-shirt is a platitude that makes us feel better. Truthfully, we do feel helpless to affect any real sort of change, don't we? I know I do. We can't even begin to comprehend all the refugees and what to do with them let alone figure out how to stop an organization like ISIS.

I live in a region that has been voted one of the most beautiful places in America, an area dotted with idyllic small towns and beautiful landscapes. The horrors of the world don't really come near us here and it is very easy and tempting for us to bury our heads in the abundance of sand we have. I am blessed to attend a church that is doing something more than 'Like and Share' about a problem that is so horrific. Maybe in that 'something' God will reveal to us another step we can take to make a difference. You have to start somewhere.

This is the symbol used by Islamic extremists to mark the homes and businesses of Christians.  It is the Arabic symbol for the letter N and they use it to mark someone as a Nazarene. The symbol is used by Christians in American to show our solidarity with those who have been marked. To find out more about the symbol and its' use go to http://www.nasarean.org/.

Our lunch conversation made a final turn to the effectiveness of prayer as the overall best way to bring about change. Our church will be having a corporate time of prayer for the persecuted Christians which I was glad to hear, and there is an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Christians which is Sunday, November 1st. Pray for the safety of the Christians being persecuted. Pray for the hearts of their persecutors. Pray that we would find a way to physically help them. Pray that we raise children who are sensitive and proactive.  Pray that it doesn't come here...

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

This story was written as part of a 31 day writing challenge. To read more of my stories in the challenge, click on my link. Thanks

Monday, October 26, 2015

31 Moments in Time :: animal behavior

It's a chilly start to this Monday morning in late October. The sun is shining but it is drizzling outside, not an unheard of occurrence in northern Michigan. After letting the cat in I settle down on the stone hearth by the wood stove to warm myself for a moment. The cat saunters over and climbs up to snuggle with her best friend, a 90 pound Pit Bull. As I watch her begin the daunting task of cleaning him, something she does frequently, I begin to realize the importance of what I am witnessing... the image that God is allowing to be played out before me. A lesson in animal behavior...

It's not just any friend that will clean the crud out of your ears... that will do whatever it takes to help you be your best no matter how large and overwhelming the task looks. No matter how inadequate they may appear to be to complete the task. My cats tongue, in comparison to my dogs massive body, is pitifully small and inadequate for the job, yet she doesn't hesitate and she knows the most critical place to start.

It's not with his paws, no, he can clean those himself. She wisely chooses his ears. She spends a long time at this, washing away the dirt and debris of the past. Removing the muck and filth that doesn't belong. She works at it until he shines. I see him settle in and exhale a long, heavy breath. He begins to make the silly little whimpering sound he makes when he is happy and content, but the cat keeps on, knowing that this is not a quick fix, that there is still much more to be removed.

I think back over the years of my life. Did I have had friends that were willing to clean the crud from my ears and replace it with the truth until I shined? I can only think of a couple that even saw it needed doing and then they just removed a spec or two. I don't blame them, it's a daunting task, one that seems overwhelming and I'm sure they felt inadequate to do it. My cat is not without dirt on herself as she cleans my dog but she doesn't let that stop her. She doesn't think she is inadequate to help him because of her own dirt.

I also wonder how I am doing at being the cat? Am I willing to do what it takes to help my friends shine? Am I willing to go the distance and be in it for the long haul? To do the hard work of cleaning out the crud, washing away layers of dirt that have accumulated and replace it with the truth? It takes hard work and effort, an investment of time and energy. Nothing cleaned stays clean. Have I been willing to start over from the beginning?

Most importantly, how am I doing at being the dog? Do I settle in and breathe out a long, heavy exhale or do I snap and snarl? Am I willing to humble myself to the process of their cleaning? Do I consider it a privilege and an act of love or do I simply endure the cleaning for a bit and then trot off only to roll in the grime again? 

Lord let me learn from the animals, your creation, given for our benefit.

But now ask the beasts and let them teach you: And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Job 12:7

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

This story was written as part of a 31 day writing challenge. To read more of my stories in the challenge, click on this link. Thanks!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

31 Moments in Time :: the Sunday walk

Sunday lays before us like an open book, it's pages waiting to be filled with our story. It's the day we get to be fully ourselves rather than full of ourselves. We come before the Lord with arms wide open and allow him to work in us, to create in us, to continue to shape us in to who he wants us to be... fully.

I saw this lived out today in church by those who gave their testimony for baptism. Beautiful lives... beautiful stories that are a part of the beautiful people that God is shaping them to be... fully themselves. Their stories are laden with pain and heartache... and then redemption. They begin the process of filling the blank pages. May they quickly realize their wounds, their scars are what make them beautiful.

I saw this yesterday as friends gathered around our dining room table for a meal and fellowship. Beautiful lives... beautiful stories that are a part of the beautiful people that God is shaping them to be... fully themselves. Their stories too are laden with pain and heartache, their wounds and scars making them beautiful.

Hovering in the shadows of the grand maples, feeling lost and unnoticed, you may believe that you have reached the end. That all your fluff is falling off and you are too broken and weak to have anything left to offer. You don't see yourself as God sees you, or even as we see you... beautiful and full of possibility. Remember that God's light is still shining on you and the process you are going through will cause you to bear much fruit.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds. John 12:24

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:6

I am a fan of the Sunday walk, especially in the fall. I slow down, I breathe in, deep into my soul, and smell the sweet fragrance of God's grace as I see him at work, beginning the process of making things new. I have learned over time that all things must die to become new. Some things are harder for us to let go of than others... the habits that are so familiar, the lies we've believed for far too long... the things we think define us and make us who we are. We have become so comfortable in them... 

But it's Sunday, the pages of your book are waiting to be filled with your true story. Come before the Lord as if every day were the Sunday walk and breathe in deep, with arms wide open, allowing him to shape you into who he wants you to be... fully.

This story was written as part of a 31 day writing challenge. To read more of my stories in the challenge click on my link. Thanks!