Why Not?


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Recently, my friend Janet suggested that I read a book called Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It is the first in a wildly popular series that is a unique combination of history, romance, intrigue, adventure, and even some science fiction (in the form of time travel).

I loved it.

I finished the 640 page  novel in two weeks and am already into the second book in the series.

I was intrigued by the author, so I checked out her YouTube channel and listened as she talked about her writing process. She shared that she had always wanted to write a novel since she was 8 years old.

Several years later, she just decided to begin. The time was hardly ideal: her husband had just started a new business, she had a full time job as a college professor, and her children were small.

She seized the one time of day where she had time and  quiet (which happened to be 12-4 in the morning) and she started to write with only a vague idea of a character. She had no expectation that anyone would ever see this work, but she was willing to try.

What I loved most about that story was that she did it!

She just didn’t talk about it; she just didn’t  think about it. She certainly didn’t wait for the perfect time to begin (is there really such a thing? I think not).

She simply took the first step toward her dream.

I find that so inspiring!

That day was different from all the rest because she took action…and that was the first day of the rest of her life. Eight books later, she is successful beyond her wildest imaginations.

But that isn’t truly the point.

The point is that she wasn’t afraid to attempt her dream.

We only get one turn on this planet.

What is your dream?

Will you let one more day go by without taking a step toward living it?

What do you have to lose?

Nobody else has your vision, your experiences, your unique way of seeing this world. If you don’t release what is on the inside, we will all miss out.  You have a creative voice! Decide to use it.

Try.

So what if it isn’t perfect? If you wait for perfection, you will never begin. Trust me, you will learn something valuable from every attempt.

Let no one else define you. Be who you are. You have been created in the image of God. In fact, He declares you to be His masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10).

Don’t get to the end of your life and be filled with regret for never chasing your dream.

Make the decision to take one step toward your dream today.

Who knows where that first step will lead you?!

“Don’t die with the music still in you.”—Wayne Dyer

 

 

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Letters From Jesus


He is solid Rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul. (Ps. 62:2)

It has been said that the Bible can be seen as a love letter  to our hearts from the heart of God.

I have never forgotten a piece of advice that our pastor once gave us from theologian Tremper Longeman III: “It is helpful to read the Psalms as if they are about Christ and are spoken by Christ.”

This makes perfect sense. Jesus was the Word of God in the flesh. (John 1:1). The Bible is His Story, His heart on a page. It is the primary way that He speaks to us and reveals who He truly is.

I have been doing this exercise for years and it has been life-changing. I have seen and known and discovered the heart of my Savior in His own words. As a result, my faith has soared. I can tell others who He is and what He is like.  I am captivated by His beauty, which is more wondrous that I could have ever imagined. I am courageous. I can look life square in the eye and take whatever comes because Jesus lives and He reigns.

He knows me! And I get to know Him!!! Wonder of wonders! Ultimate joy!!!

Yesterday was full of bad news (the Malaysian jet being shot down and the Israeli ground forces advancing into Gaza). It was just another reminder of how fragile life on this war-torn planet really is. As I thought about what to write, I realized that nobody needs to read words from me. What we all need is to hear what Jesus has to say.

So, I am beginning a series entitled Letters From Jesus where I will write out a psalm as if it is spoken by Jesus Himself. Because it is. I will begin today with one of my favorites, Psalm 27.

I hope that this blesses you. Try it for yourself. Be willing to leave behind any preconceived notions that you have of who Jesus is.  When you see who He is, as revealed by His own words, those illusions will be (rightfully and necessarily) shattered into a million pieces.  Seeing Him as He truly is will lead you deeper into His heart…and deeper into true joy and peace.

Psalm 27, Spoken By Jesus

“I am your Light and your Salvation. So whom should you fear or dread? I am your Refuge and your Stronghold. Of whom should you be afraid? I will cause your enemies to stumble and fall. 

Because of My Presence with you, your heart does not need to fear; even if war rises against you, you can be confident in Me.

I desire that you would ask one thing of Me: to live with Me forever; to gaze on My beauty and to seek My face.

I will hide you in My shelter when you are in trouble. I will hide you in the secret place of My tent, just you and I. Sing to Me there. Offer shouts of joy to Me. Thank Me.

I hear you when you cry out. I am full of mercy and grace and I will answer you.

Seek My face. Require Me as your most vital need. I will never hide My face from you. I will never turn away from you in anger. I am your constant help. I save you. I will never cast you off. I will never reject you. I will never  forsake you, even if your father and your mother do. 

I will teach you My ways and I will lead you in a straight path, even in the midst of your enemies who lie in wait for you. I will never give you up to your adversaries who break out in cruelty and violence against you.

You will see My goodness in your life, not just in eternity but here in time. Here is the attitude I want you to have: Wait for Me. Hope in Me. Expect Me to act. Be brave and full of courage. Endure. 

Yes, wait for, hope for, and expect Me.”

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Releasing Expectations


 

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This past weekend, I joined a friend and her daughter on a trek to my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

My friend’s daughter had been accepted at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University summer theater group. They had never been to Pittsburgh before so I offered to go along to show them the way. (There is no rhyme or reason to the streets in Pittsburgh and it can be quite daunting to navigate).

My expectations were that we would travel as my family travels when we drive to Pittsburgh.

Knowing what a long drive it is, we focus with laser-like intensity on one goal: getting there. We make as little stops as possible. If we stop to eat, it is strictly fast food. Sometimes we don’t even bother to get out of the car. We just go through the drive-thru and eat in the car as we whiz down the highway.

(There are also some in my family…perhaps someone who is writing this blog…who sometimes tends to take the speed limits as suggestions and perhaps occasionally may go a tad faster than the posted signs allow).

That isn’t what happened on this trip.

The pace was leisurely, unhurried. Every meal was at a sit-down restaurant. There was a visit with another family. There were sightseeing and photo opportunities. And the speed limit was observed rigorously.

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It was really quite lovely and I enjoyed it a lot.

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However, at first, I was extremely freaked out.

My thoughts went along these lines: ” What are we doing?! We have such a long drive ahead of us! We don’t have time for this!!!” 

I texted my husband about the latest turn of events and this was his response: “Look at it as a chance to practice not being in control.”

Not exactly what a Type A person wants to hear.

But it was exactly what I needed to hear.

As we meandered along the highways and byways of Pennsylvania, I thought a lot about expectations. Expectations have a unique power to cause tension in relationships, sour an attitude, ruin a situation, and create unrest and unease. Expectations can choke joy.

How tightly do you hold onto your expectations? How willing are you to let them go…and perhaps discover a detour that delights your soul?

A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.”—Jonathan Lockwood Huie. 

There is a time in all our lives when we have just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The truth is, the ONLY thing that we can control is our own attitudes.

I was not in the driver’s seat during this trip. I was strictly a passenger. So, I accepted my role…and immediately relaxed. I was along for the ride and I intended to enjoy the journey.

Even when we got to  the hotel in the middle of the city after midnight. Did I mention that there was a water main break, which did not allow us to shower?

Good times. :)

 

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Graduation


Our son graduated from high school this past Saturday.

Grad 2014-0001All those years, months and days reached their culmination at this point in time where family and friends gather to celebrate the accomplishments of these newly minted eighteen year olds as they prepare to head off into the world to make their mark.

Grad 2014-0238e.e. cummings once said, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you somebody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; never stop fighting.”

Josh has always been his own person. What other people think about him matters little to him. He has a strong sense of self and and knows what he believes.  He is not one person at home and another out in public. What you see is what you get.  He doesn’t allow others in very easily, but once you are his friend, you’re a friend for life.

He reminds me so much of my dad, who died when Josh was six.

My dad had no time  or energy for pretense. He wasn’t rude, just direct. One learned not to ask his opinion if you were simply looking for flattery because you would get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

If someone didn’t like him, there were no sleepless nights, no agonizing. He figured it was their loss and went right on with his life.

My dad cared little for the fashion of the day.  His philosophy was, “If I like it, it’s in style.”

His sense of humor was unrivaled. He could have an entire room in hysterics within minutes with his jokes and impressions. He was the life of the party.

He had strong opinions and he wasn’t afraid to share them.

In short, my dad was a force to be reckoned with.

Josh is the same way.

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As he has gotten older, I see more and more of my dad in his personality.  I find it so interesting that he can so closely resemble a man who left his life when he was six years old.

When Josh showed me his yearbook, I noticed that nearly every student said that he was the funniest person they knew.

One is particular wrote an entry that really touched me.

She said, “You honestly are the highlight of my days. This school will be so gray without you…but I know you will go on and do amazing things at college. Hopefully you will make the students there as happy as you have made me.”

Being the sentimental sap that I am, it will surprise no one that that comment brought tears to my eyes.

Josh entered that high school four years ago. He blended in seamlessly with kids who had been together since kindergarten. He added joy and color to his class.

He made his mark.

Grad 2014-0356And I am looking forward to seeing how he will make his mark on this world.

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Our barefoot graduate

I am so proud to be his mom.

“The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each of you is a fuse.”—Ed Koch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating Father’s Day


My husband didn’t have a father.

Father's Day 2014-0017Oh, he had a man who was physically present in the home throughout his life and was technically his father.

But he was not a dad, not by a long shot.

That story is his to tell, not mine. However, what I can say is that my husband is a miracle of grace.

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Father's Day 2014-0199From the moment our kids were born, Doug fully embraced his role as “Daddy.”

He read endless stories. He willingly watched the same movies over and over. He was able to patiently endure all those silly kids shows that left me wanting to scream. (Seriously, how could anyone stand to watch that insipid singing purple dinosaur named Barney every single morning?!). He took on the herculean task of teaching math to Josh and Julia during our homeschooling years because math remains my biggest nightmare to this day.

Father's Day 2014-0205He made bath-time fun. He patiently answered all their questions, both serious and silly. He kissed boo-boos and his arms were always open for a cuddle.

Father's Day 2014-0049Every Saturday morning, he took the kids out to breakfast so I could sleep in. (if I had thought that he was the perfect man before, I certainly knew he was when he began that particular tradition!).

Those Saturday morning excursions were accompanied by a customized soundtrack. Doug made up a mix tape (hey, it was the 90′s!) of all his favorite tunes and he played it from the moment they left the driveway until they returned. The “Saturday tape” was an eclectic mix of artists: Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Little Feat, Dionne Warwick (singer of the only cheesy song on the tape, ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose’?), Don McLean, Billy Joel, etc.

A few weeks ago, Doug decided to make a list of all the songs on that tape with Julia’s help. Together, they compiled the complete list, which Julia immediately downloaded onto her iPod.

Her grin was brighter than the sun and her eyes danced happy.

“This is the soundtrack of my childhood!” she exclaimed, bubbling over.

Of this I am certain: Julia will return to these songs again and again during the storms that will undoubtedly hit her life. Those songs will represent her happy place, a time of innocence, sheer happiness, wonderful memories, and utter safety.

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Father's Day 2014-0043As the kids got older and they ventured further and further out into the world, Doug was always there to offer support, enthusiastic endorsements of their interests,  a strong shoulder, a listening ear, sage advice, a brilliant sense of humor, and his vast array of knowledge.

“Is there anything you don’t know?” Julia asked incredulously during a recent family dinner.

Doug spent countless hours researching colleges for Josh and he will do the same for Julia. He organized all of our college trips and especially enjoyed showing the kids where he had gone to undergraduate and graduate school. He was thrilled when Josh got accepted to his alma-mater and proceeded to embark on hours of searching out the best scholarships available.

He also taught both kids how to drive, refusing to cut corners on the state-mandated 40 hours of parental instruction. They drove all over the state in a variety of conditions so the kids would be prepared for any weather event.

He came home with a wistful smile one particular night that marked the end of Julia’s instruction. He said that while lots of parents would consider that responsibility a drudgery, he saw  it as a gift of time with his kids during the days when their lives seemed to be moving at warp speed as the end of high school loomed large on the horizon.

A total of 80 never-to-be-repeated hours with his kids. Priceless.

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As I said, Doug is a miracle of grace. He came to know Jesus when he was 27 years old. His living Savior made all the difference, as He always does. That day, He set Doug on a different path than the one his father had taken and he has never looked back.

As the grace and love of Christ took greater and greater hold on his heart, Doug became the man his father never was: an incredible husband and an extraordinary father. Doug’s own sisters marvel at the man their little brother has become…so different from what they knew growing up.

They chalk it all up to various things; we know that the difference is Jesus.

Father's Day 2014-0162For Father’s Day this year, we hiked up one of the many mountains in our state. It was a gloriously beautiful day.

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Father's Day 2014-0180After climbing the mountain, we went to a local country store to enjoy a delicious lunch.

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Father's Day 2014-0219We carried our lunch across the street to the town green and ate on a picnic table in the midst of a playground.

Small town America at its’ finest.

The kids had barely finished eating before racing away from the table to play. I immediately picked up my camera, delighted to capture their playful abandon as they relived their childhood on swings, slides, and spinners.

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Doug and I smiled at each other in the summer sunshine.

Our formal parenting days are fast drawing to a close. We have loved taking this journey together and we are treasuring the remaining days ahead before our son heads off to college.

Come what may, I know one thing: Josh and Julia have had the most excellent example in their father.

Doug has taught Josh how to be a man, how to cherish and love a woman, and how to be an incredible father. He has shown Julia what a real man looks like and taught her by example to accept and expect nothing less. She will certainly know an impostor and a fool when she sees one.

It has been said that anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy.

My kids have the very best daddy and I will be forever grateful.

 

 

 

 

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A New Motto


Several years ago, I saw a plaque in a Lifeway catalog that I have never forgotten.

Six simple words: Live As If Heaven Begins Tomorrow.

What would happen if we really believed that? If we really lived like that?

How would it change your daily life?

Would you stress about money and possessions?

Would you hold onto bitterness and anger?

Would you hold a grudge?

Would you worry about the circumstances in your life?

Would you neglect to pray?

Would you share the good news of the gospel boldly with the people in your life?

Really think about those questions…because Heaven could begin tomorrow for you.

We are all living on borrowed time and none of us know how long we have to live on this earth.

I have been living like this for the past week and it has been revolutionary. It is so much easier to let things like silly offenses go. To refuse to allow worries to occupy my mind.  To be kind. To be loving. To choose joy.  To not be fixated on tomorrow but to be fully present now. To keep short accounts with my God.

Lately I have been reading Randy Alcorn’s amazing book entitled Heaven. I highly recommend it. The Bible has so much to say about our heavenly home and it is glorious!!!

We spend far too little time learning about the place where we will spend eternity…and way too much time being obsessed with the things of earth.

In the years since I first saw that  plaque in the catalog, Jesus has continually opened my eyes to the wonders of His grace and I marvel in that miracle every single day. He has loosened my grip on the stuff of this world through trials that have forced my faith out into the light, to stand firm in what I say that I believe…and to experience the joy that comes from knowing that my faith is not just empty words or intellectual knowledge. It is the real deal.

This world is not my home.

I love my family. I love my friends. I love my life here.

But it’s all temporary and I can never forget that.

Living as if Heaven begins tomorrow has been a gateway to joy.

Try it.

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Present And Thankful


Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”—Maya Angelou

 

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I have written many times on this blog about my deep love of Ann Voskamp’s book 1000 Gifts.

Counting the gifts that I am blessed with everyday has revolutionized my life and multiplied my joy. It has caused me to be awake to my life, to recognize the beauty of the moments before they pass away forever.

I was given a wonderful gift this evening, one that I will long remember.

Today was my son’s last day of high school. He celebrated by hiking up a mountain with some friends.

Meanwhile, my daughter and I went to see the movie The Fault In Our Stars. We both loved the book and in one of life’s most satisfying moments, the movie was just as good as the book.  The casting was perfect. There were plenty of laughter and tears. It was brilliant.

We pulled into the driveway at the exact same time as my son, who was just returning from his hike.

He made several trips into the kitchen with the contents of his locker, as well as his instruments that he had kept in the band room. My kitchen counters were littered with the assorted and random stuff that makes up an entire school year.

Then he walked in with a tall wooden chair that swiveled all the way around. He put it down in the corner of the kitchen. Turns out that one of his favorite teachers was getting rid of it and granted his request to take it home with him. Apparently, it is also going to college with him in the fall. :)

I took a seat on it and spun around a few times. And that’s where I stayed for the next 45 minutes as I talked with my kids.

My mom was at prayer meeting and Doug was at a business dinner. It was just the three of us.

They each sat on top of the kitchen counters while I spun. We talked and we laughed. They joked with each other. Josh showed us a book that his favorite English teacher had given to him. They discussed their favorite poets (Maya Angelou and Robert Frost). Josh read some of the things his fellow classmates had written in his yearbook. He expressed delight that nearly everyone said that he was one of the funniest people they have ever met. The talk turned to the upcoming graduation and subsequent parties we were all invited to.  Josh made fresh lemonade and we all nibbled on jellybeans.

And I paid attention. 

I was simultaneously participating in the conversation and savoring the moment, knowing that times like these will be fewer and fewer in the days ahead.

I gave thanks for all the years of homeschooling, when it was just the three of us during the day, sharing learning and adventures. Those days, while some of them were very difficult and trying, were such a gift.

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I see that so clearly now. I didn’t always, then.

It ended all too soon. The kids went their separate ways and the downstairs got quiet.

And my heart was full as I watched the sky open up and pour down rain.

 

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