A More Desirable God

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A few of my poetry books…I will not be separated from them! Now, I must determine which child should get them when I die…any takers?

Towards the end of December, a dear friend started me on a journey of prayer. Real prayer. Not just the casual God toss up: “Oh yeah, I said I’d pray for so and so…Dear God, help precious so and so today in Jesus name, amen.” My friend’s New Year’s resolution was prayer, and something pricked my heart and mind.

I wasn’t working anymore due to some silly discs in my lumbar region deciding to act up, so I thought I’d give prayer a serious effort, or as my favourite British television detectives would say, “Give it go, Cindy.” So I did. I am. And it’s changing me, shrinking the ME and teaching me to see the specific needs of others.

Another part of concentrated prayer is that it requires concentrated Bible study with an intensity and urgency I haven’t ever experienced. It’s a different urgency than that of teaching. As a teacher of all things literary, I examined short stories, novels, and poetry with an intensity bordering on obsession. I wanted to “KNOW” –I wanted a depth of understanding that would help me be a better teacher. I needed to be the best—to thoroughly grasp and grapple with T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” or the short stories of Flannery O’Connor. I spent hours poring over texts and commentaries; requesting books from the library that were in storage for lack of use became a badge of honor for me. I wanted to be an expert in something.

Funny, the more I studied, the more I realized that becoming an “expert” was an impossible achievement. Besides, was it really so important that I understood Eliot’s poetry? How was it relevant in my daily life journey? And more importantly, was I giving God’s Word equal attention and persistence?

I’m in a place of stillness right now, which is very conducive to both prayer and in-depth Bible study. I’ve been going through Luke as a continuing review of the Gospels. Since kindergarten, I’ve been learning about Jesus. I remember the large pictures of Jesus with

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You can get these at Etsy! Vintage! Ah, Google is amazing.

the children. Soft, wavy, long brown hair, brown–sometimes blue eyes, and a very clean beard. He was often dressed in a white robe tied with some sort of rope—kind of like a monk’s robe. There were also pictures of David with his slingshot, and a young Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel was actually about 81-83 years old when he was tossed in with the carnivores), and of course, baby Jesus in the manger. I remember these stories, but when you’re a child, they are presented out of context with no connection or chronology provided. It’s easier for children that way, I guess. But now, 50 years later, it’s time for me to really KNOW the Gospels. I want to see how they each connect to each other, and how God uses different voices and perspectives to tell His story. It’s much more real and believable that way.

So Luke. An Antiochian. A physician who traveled with Paul, and who states in the first verses of his book that his purpose was to write a “complete narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. “ Luke 1:1-4. I’ll leave it to you do discover who Theophilus was. It was a fascinating rabbit trail to follow.

IMG_3117I have filled up one notebook so far and have just hit Luke 17. I follow the cross-references, look up the original Greek (I actually have The Complete Word Study Dictionary for the New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D. It’s so awesome and fun!) I used to teach my students to study an author’s tone by looking at their word choices. Then I’d have them “slash” out the word to look at its nuances and connotations.

Here’s an example: knowledge/epignōsis/acknowledged/confirmation/truth: An acknowledged, confirmation of truth. Cool.

It’s fun…and turns a single chapter into an investigation of customs and Old Testament connections. It’s inductive, sorry Sherlock.

At the end of my first notebook, I got stuck on Luke 17:5. “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’” Wowsers. Though they heard them teach and saw his miracles daily, they still had doubts—He wasn’t at all the warrior Messiah they had expected. They seemingly ignored Old Testament prophecies like the words of Isaiah 53 written almost 800 years before Christ: “He grew up before him like a tender shoot and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

By ignoring the prophecies, they had molded and shaped the Messiah into the god they needed at that moment—one who would free them from Roman oppression and give them back their Promised Land.

“Lord! Increase our faith!”

We do that, don’t we? Shape a god to fit our needs for the moment. I had a good think about this and created my own “god list.” I can’t use a capital “G” for god here because I’m not talking about the one true God—I’m talking about the one I want. The one I create for myself.

My desirable god:

  • Doesn’t care how I act as long as my good outweighs my bad.
  • Doesn’t allow tragedies to happen in the world, i.e. tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes…NATURE MUST BE IN HARMONY WITH MAN!
  • No more turmoil in the Middle East. No ISIS or Boko Haram or Bashar al-Assad’s…
  • No more cancer, or Zika, or AIDs, or heart disease, or DIABETES (for my Katie), or any of that awful stuff that erodes our health and sometimes our faith.
  • Gives health and wealth to my family and me as long as I stay within His boundaries most of the time. He should provide my family and me a sort of protection bubble.
  • Gives me the perfect job and house that includes an “open kitchen” with quartz countertops. And room for horses or alpaca. Or sheep.
  • Gives me enough money to travel the world (now peaceful since it’s ISIS-free).
  • I’d also like my new god to miraculously give me a longer neck and legs, and erase the minor tributaries running around my eyes, chin, and neck.

*Oh, an addendum: Please, please could this new god keep us from creating a political and social culture that allows people like Donald Trump to be an elected despot!!

Sure, it’s not an exhaustive list; I have more specific requests that are too personal for public consumption. Things about eradicating past mistakes as a woman, mother, wife, and even as a teacher…

As I look as my desirable god list, I see Eden. What once was and what God wanted us to maintain. Nature in harmony with man and itself. Man and woman in harmony with each other and their Creator—not just striving for an identity outside of what He has designed. We’d be secure in who we were created to be—secure in His love and perfection.

But like children are wont to do—we scramble after a different sort of life then what God intended.

Ultimately, He desired us to desire Him. I recently heard a great take on the concept of “relationship.” There is no relationship without choice. Even parenthood does not guarantee relationship—ask any parents with teenagers or adult children. Nor does marriage promise relationship—ask any man or woman who has gone through a divorce or who plods through a marriage lacking love. Relationship takes daily effort—putting love first and forgetting our need to be loved. Instead actively loving.

And so God—not my desirable god, but the one true God—gave His creation a choice. He loves without condition and waits for us to respond. He forgives, sacrificing Christ so we’d have a redeemer who waits for us to repent—or turn—so He can throw our sins as far away as the east is from the west (I think it’s somewhere in Australia).

Through my study of the Gospels, I gave up trying to create an idol god. I gave up my perceptions of who Jesus was and basked in the truth of who He is. I chose—and choose—relationship with Him as most valuable. Above all things.

Still I cry, “Increase my faith (Greek—pistis—conviction of truth)!” But it’s ok if I do ask because Jesus—the true God—provides the faith I need to move through even the darkest parts of this life journey.

 

 

Prodigal Dog: A Strange Parable

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Zoey “sleeping it off.”

Finally! Spring is here. Since this is only my second spring season in Northern Colorado (or NOCO, as the locals call it), I keep expecting some daffodils and tulips in March. My eyes aren’t used to winter brown when it should be spring green. But yesterday…yesterday was glorious! Virtually no wind and a warm sun moving the thermometer to 70 degrees.

So, I did what any native Coloradan would do: I put on my shorts and tee shirt (baring my oh so white legs) and harnessed my dog Zoey for a long walk.

I live east of Ft. Collins—about 10 miles east. The land around me is cluttered with a mixture of farms and tract homes. Horse farms, cattle farms, and sheep farms all lend their fragrance to what I call the NOCO aroma. My little tract home is close to a gravel trail that takes me past open fields and lots of fracking stations. Not beautiful, but the mountains are clearly visible to the west, and my soul leans towards their beauty during my walks.

Yesterday I wanted to wander “lonely as a cloud”(Wordsworth came to mind). I wanted to head away from civilization and breathe in a NOCO aroma-free day. Not exactly the Lake District Wordsworth was so fond of, but I could imagine.

Zoey wanted to wander, too. We headed straight south toward Greeley, but I decided I want to turn east and make a giant loop back to our neighborhood. As I pulled Zoey to my left side, she slid out of her harness—a new one that didn’t go around her neck. She slid out right onto the road as a car headed straight towards her! And she wouldn’t move! She stared at the car and me as if we were playing with her.

Thankfully, the car stopped but Zoey did not. She made a sharp west turn into an alfalfa field. An overgrown, briar-filled alfalfa field. And thus began a humorous chase.

There I was—a bespeckled, wild-haired, white-legged middle-aged woman chasing a small puggle through the alfalfa fields. It was a war of wills. I would walk off like I was leaving her and she would follow—but not too closely. Just close enough to feel safe, but far enough away that I couldn’t touch her. Occasionally, I’d sit down on the ground and she’d stare at me, circle just out of reach, and then plop down on her belly, warily. Watching.

I did this several times. The sitting. The plopping. I always got up and start moving again, hoping she’d follow and I could catch her and save her from an awful death, because I knew if I didn’t catch her, she’d get walloped by one of the many giant trucks that zoom up and down the country roads as if no human–or dog–would dare walk nearby. Oy.

So I crossed that field again and again, even criss-crossing a recently plowed garden. I stomped through the field behind a water treatment facility (trying not to breathe in that particular odor), and jumped over small fiords. At one point I even carefully balanced over a rather ratty old board–conveniently laid over another briar-filled fiord by a previous wanderer–that provided the only quick route back towards home.

And Zoey? She followed me through the fiords, avoiding the board and instead carelessly attacking the briars, smiling her defiance, probably thinking I was crazy. I finally gave up, sat down, and called my hubster.

About five minutes later, I saw his Tahoe spinning a wake of dust clouds as he tried to locate his loony wife who was waving him down with the red leash.

Zoey came running as soon as she saw who it was. DADDY! She ran right up to him…and then stopped. Just out of reach. She ran around both of us as if to show us that she was in control of this game.

Steve finally said, “Cindy, go get in the car.” We both headed to the car and Zoey ran ahead and jumped right into the front seat. The air conditioning was running and she plopped on the passenger seat as if she’d had all the hot air she could handle and we could drive her home now in style.

I. Was. So. Freaking. Mad. And hot. And dirty. My curly hair frizzed in all the wrong places and my waterproof mascara defied its label running black circles under my eyes. We all drove home and Zoey pranced into the house as if nothing had happened. Oh the arrogance of that dog!

I refused to look at her. She gulped down water from her dish and then plopped on the floor looking at me with a smile as if to say, “That was all great fun, wasn’t it?”

I refused to smile back. Instead I washed my face, replaced my dirty clothes, and went to my small kitchen to start dinner. A roasted chicken with lemon, butter, garlic, potatoes, carrots, and fresh rosemary. Thank you Barefoot Contessa.

I chopped and seasoned with a righteous vengeance. How dare Zoey run off that way! Why didn’t she appreciate my tummy rubs, her lovely bed with a squashy blanket, the occasional treat from the dinner table?! Why wouldn’t she come when I called her? What was so appealing about romping through the bristly, overgrown alfalfa fields? Didn’t she understand I was trying to protect her from the coyotes and giant, menacing trucks?

Of course not, she’s a dog. A spoiled, undisciplined dog who has owners that don’t know how to train her to “stay” or “come.”

She is the prodigal dog.

You might think I exaggerated this two-hour debacle, but I didn’t. Just ask the teenagers on spring break sitting outside their tents across the way. They had a perfect view of the entire ridiculous episode.

But there is a parable in all this: God has let us off leash. We are free to wander through whatever fields we choose. We can stare at Him, smile with our silly human smiles as if to say, “See! I’m free! I can do whatever I want to do. I can choose my own trail and chart my own life course! I can run into the streets and dare trucks to hit me! I can proclaim my own freedom and my own ability to save myself! I can shake my fist at You and declare You irrelevant!”

I can defy God’s “boundaries” saying there is no moral law in my heart that I didn’t create for myself.

I am the prodigal child.

I have been that prodigal child. I know what it’s like to break boundaries and tell God I don’t care what the Bible says—I’m hurting and the magic God formula doesn’t work! You know the formula: Pray. Have a “quiet time.” Be good. Don’t cuss, have sex, smoke, or do drugs. I have been obedient and life still hurts.

I weep for the prodigal child I once was. I thank Him that he let me come back to Him without condemnation and great mercy and love.

I weep for all the prodigals I know and love. There is mercy and grace and love with Christ.

God says, “Come home.” He leaves the 99 for the one who is missing.

“So I [Jesus] tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10.

Dear prodigals, come home.

 

You can find the roasted chicken recipe at the link below. (It was absolutely delish! I added a little chicken stock, fresh rosemary, dry white wine, and some lemon pepper! I also only roasted some chicken breasts and legs instead of the whole chicken.)

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-/garlic-roast-chicken-recipe.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life in Context

IMG_3026“Stop trusting in man, who has but breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?” Isaiah 2:22.

God spoke very strongly through His prophets and it still resonates, but you have to read these kind of verses in context. Context is everything.

I believe in context, after all I taught literature for 20 years. Whether it was Kate Chopin or Dostoevsky, context was vital to the interpretation of literature. The “who, what, where, when, why, and how” was key to understanding authorial purpose. If I didn’t understand 19th century Russian culture, how would I make sense of Crime and Punishment? And what about Kate Chopin’s The Awakening? How would I grapple with Edna Pontellier’s decision to walk into the ocean, leaving behind a domineering husband and sons destined to become like their father if I didn’t understand Chopin’s social commentary on women’s roles in late 19th century America? Context.

Context adds depth of understanding to any piece of literature. The same is true for God’s Word. The Bible even as literature must be read “in context.” It’s one book with one purpose: Jesus Christ. The Son of God who was and is and continues to be– eternal. It is the story of redemption. God created (the Trinity was in on this whole thing from beginning to end) us and had a plan to redeem us because we are a rebellious people prone to creating our own gods and trying to save ourselves. We are messy creations. We need redeeming. And we are part of the story…we are part of God’s context. He includes us in His story.

Back to the verse in Isaiah 2.Here’s some context:

The Bible is largely a Jewish book. Sure, we “Gentiles” are grafted into God’s people by way of Jesus, but the Jews were called out to be God’s chosen people via Abraham. (see Genesis 12).

By 740 BC, the Jews were a pretty secular people. Throughout the reign of various ungodly kings and the division of Israel into two nations, they began to adopt the habits and culture of the surrounding nations. They started to act like them. Walk like them, talk like them, dress like them, intermarry with them, and worship like them. Oy to the Vey!

Isaiah begins this chapter warning the Jewish folks about what is coming. (Check out the book of Revelation to fully grasp God’s plan for His chosen people—the correlation with Isaiah is amazing.) Isaiah talks about the New Jerusalem and how amazing it will be and how God will dwell once again with His people. By verse 5, Isaiah is begging the Jews to “…walk in the light of the LORD.”

But then, wham! Verse 6 starts the condemnation and warning. We don’t like the judgmental aspects of God (even though He is perfect Justice), and the Jews weren’t too thrilled about it either. They didn’t like the warnings. They didn’t like being told what to do or being condemned by God for living like the nations who didn’t worship the one, true God. We don’t like it in 2016 either.

Isaiah ripped into them pretty harshly: “The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.” Isaiah 2:11. 

Arrogance. In the Hebrew, Isaiah is using two words: gabhuth and ruwm. Both mean “loftiness; haughtiness; pride; elevation; elation of the mind.” It’s the kind of arrogance that suggests that we know better than God. We lift up ourselves—and even others—as our source of salvation. WE become the context that God should fit into rather than vice versa. 

Example: I hate not being in control. I want to obliterate the suffering of anyone I love. I want to help the people in Syria who are starving or watching the children starve. I must find a part-time job that is fulfilling and purposeful. I can change my life story.It’s MY context and I’ll write it. I want…I must…I can. All lies.

Very little is within my control, but when I lift myself up to the place of self-sufficiency, I’ve put myself up equal to God.

A bit of hyperbolic fun: Let’s say I made myself a wee “Cindy Idol.” Curly blonde and white hair. Little round tummy. Old grey Converse tennis. I sit her on top of my bookshelf, so that I can worship her a little whenever I walk by. The problem? She has yet to ever fix anything. She hasn’t yet spoken a word to intervene in my life as a positive life force. She doesn’t bring me peace when I chant to her or practice my own version of yoga in honor of her. She doesn’t provide me with enough strength to move my body when my joints ache and crack. She hasn’t provided me with a job yet. And I’m diligent in my worship. Really. I dust her and move her around with me—sometimes in the car when I’m heading to town.

My “Cindy Idol” hasn’t spoken a world into being or created an ocean or delicate flowers or intricate life. She is powerless in the face of my struggles. Worthless. She cannot save me.

“Stop trusting in man, who has but breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?”

 Sometimes we lift up others as gods. We don’t do it knowingly—that would be silly. But we do. We make them fit into our own context.

Example: I hate politics. I listen and read and consume media in a variety of forms and try to form intelligent positions based on the evidence. The world is a rather terrifying place, and politicians want to assure us that they can save us.

They can conquer ISIS, build giant walls to seal out undesirables who might destroy our economy, create new jobs, generate even more affordable healthcare, provide tuition-free state universities, save unborn babies or allow women to kill unwanted babies without guilt, protect us by letting everyone have an assault weapon if they want one…

Wow. In the context of American politics, one man or one woman is in the position to save us from everything that might prevent us from attaining the American Dream.

I have to admit that at times I am disgusted and frightened for this country. Has it come to this? Have we moved so far away from God that we lack any kind of moral compass that directs our leaders to do what is right and good?

When I get concerned and frightened, lashing out at the television screen, I have let a politician slip into a god position. I’ve made a “Hilary Idol” or a “Marco Idol” or a “Cruz Idol” or a “Bernie Idol” or God help us, a “Donald Idol.”

“Stop trusting in man, who has but breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?”

I’m definitely not saying to quit voting or pushing politicians to serve they way they are supposed to serve. But I am saying stop being ridiculous idolaters. Man cannot save us. As Christians, we have a duty to elect leaders who will best serve the good of the people. All of the people. And if we want to throw our Christianity around as a cheap voting block, then at least choose someone that represents Christ-like qualities. Only God knows the state of their soul, but actions do represent internal qualities and values. Actions represent our context.

Into what context do we fall? Are we writing God into the context of our lives–claiming his healing and wealth and power as if we can manipulate him into performing as we want him to? OR are we letting God write us into the context of His story?

Ultimately we must put our faith where our mouths are. Speak truth. Speak love. Speak from a humble spirit and a merciful heart. But speak firmly and with boldness declaring that our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Hope isn’t built on my abilities or a politician’s abilities; it is built on the truth of God’s character and Christ’s actions.

We have to put our lives in the context of God’s story. We have to see the world through a God filter. We have to trust and relax in the Truth.

Consider this poem by Wendell Berry”

“We Who Prayed and Wept”

We who prayed and wept

for liberty from kings

and the yoke of liberty

accept the tyranny of things

we do not need.

In plenitude too free,

we have become adept

beneath the yoke of greed.

 

Those who will not learn

in plenty to keep their place

must learn it by their need

when they have had their way

and the fields spurn their seed.

We have failed Thy grace.

Lord, I flinch and pray,

Send Thy necessity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Age of Replacements: An Undiscovered Manuscript by Edith Wharton

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How I sometimes see myself. The one in the back is seriously school “marmish.”

I have an uneasy soul. It doesn’t rest well, but instead rises and falls on the whims of my emotions. Silly soul.

I’m far too contemplative—but not in a good way. This week I started “contemplating” whether or not I actually please God? What do I do that pleases him now that my life is so much smaller? Am I less relevant?

I say my life is smaller because I sort of lost my identity. It happens to all of us in some way—particularly in late middle age. Wait a minute, I’m not sure 58 is “middle-age” at all. If it is, I’ll live to 116. Let’s see…if the average lifespan of an adult woman in relatively good health is 79.26 (I looked it up), then I’ve finished with 73% of my life. So middle age doesn’t work any more. Maybe three-quarter age? Or end age? Oy to the vey! Scary. Time to buy the funeral plots and get the will in working order. 

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Love her face and can identify with the eye bags. Ouch moment.

Hillsong United at Relevant Studios“End age” brings with it a change of circumstance, which is why my life is smaller. My cronies all have some sort of age-related chronic illness or pain. A lady in my Bible study asked us to pray for her husband who just had hip replacement surgery. They are in my age category (58-68). I had an “ouch” moment. Forget Oprah’s “Ah ha” epiphany—this moment hurt. All of a sudden I realized I was at THAT age.

The age of replacements.

I was teaching last semester and one day “BAM!” I realized that words like “experienced” and “wisdom” were thrown my way quite a bit by the 30 and under crowd. I also saw an unintentional lack of respect and relevance thrown in just in case I didn’t realize that maybe I needed to step back and let the new generation step forward. An “ouch moment.” Time for a walker and sensible shoes.

The age of replacements.

Next week I will get a couple of shots in my spine in order to relieve some disc discomfort. Can I get an “AMEN”? I’m not working this semester. Instead I’m taking care of myself and my hubster. I’m cooking more suppers. I’m spending a lot of time writing and praying and seeking ways to be relevant.

2366525625_e02339e349_nI’ve also been volunteering at a local pregnancy crisis center for a year now. I work as a mentor for young women who are pregnant and lacking the support system in place to sustain her. No judging. No condemnation. Just love and support in the name of Christ. It’s a very difficult job—mentoring. You basically step into a young woman’s life and try to show her how to parent and how to find purpose and a future.

It makes me think about what kind of mother I was. Ever wonder what those stinking mistakes are for? How God can take something awful in your life and turn it into good? (Romans 8:28) My life is an example.

If you’re at “Three-Quarter Age,” you’ve no doubt had some pretty awful life stuff happen. Maybe you’ve seen how God has taken that experience and made something good out of it. You’ve been “repurposed”! (God is a DIY master.) Hallelujah! We can take those years of experience and failure and joy and use them for something relevant. My failures help me relate to what my young mothers-to-be are going through. I know the rawness of life.

They need to see what redemption looks like.

The Irreplaceable Age

My purpose has shifted. My dreams have shifted. My routine has shifted.

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One of my many bookshelves.

When I started teaching, I realized I didn’t know very much. For 21 years I kept learning and learning, devouring every bit of information I believed essential for teaching. I learned humanities, British literature and history, American literature and history, colonial literature and the history of Africa and India’s colonization, how to use Photoshop, digital cameras, in-Design, world literature, and how to write essays the College Board would love. I read constantly. The library was–as is–my friend.

The result: I still know nothing, Jon Snow. (Game of Thrones allusion) The world is too huge. And there are too many books.

On Wednesday mornings, I sit in my Bible study and realize how much time I had spent reading everything but the history of God’s word. I listen to women cite chapter and verse with depth and sincerity. I envy their knowledge of something so relevant.

So what if I have all the knowledge in the world? If I don’t know the Word…if I don’t cherish the truth found there…if I don’t have the passion for it that I had for Cormac McCarthy or Flannery O’Connor, then what is my life worth? How can I be relevant during my “Three-Quarter Age”? (See Mark 8:36)

Have I studied the wrong thing? Do I regret my hard-earned knowledge? No. Not at all. God gave me a passion for the written word. And God used the written word to communicate with his creation.

But I regret the lack of balance.

So now I have a chance to really study the book that is my source of truth and wisdom.

OK. I’ve rambled long enough. I’m using up too much of what time is left to me now. I need to get back to God’s word. It’s waiting. He’s waiting. And I’m confident that he will guide me towards a purpose that fulfills me and glorifies His goodness.

We are at an irreplaceable age.

 

 

photo credits: 

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/23119147@N08/2217889245″>welsh women</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/67084790@N03/14929069710″>DSC_1126</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7203470@N03/2366525625″>Playing with light</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

 

 

 

 

 

Pruning

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Colors of Autumn

Nature is coming full circle.

The junipers are full. The mums crowd the narrow pathway in the back yard. The sage and yarrow darken into their autumn shades of golden brown and rich plum.

The tomatoes refuse to recognize the change, diligently hoping for the intense Colorado afternoon sun to help them ripen.

It’s time to prune.

I like putting on my gardening gloves and purple Crocs and heading out back– secateurs in hand—to cut away at the extraneous.

Another day. Another season, and you’ll be back. Blooming and shouting with color and life. But rest now.

A form of death and resurrection. God’s pattern alive in every living thing.

Mums busy being mums.
Mums busy being mums.
Happy tomatoes.
Happy tomatoes.

A Sacred Practice: Finding God in the Mundane

“But we have this treasure (knowledge of the glory of God) in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” 2nd Corinthians 4: 7-10

Clay jars are fragile and imperfect…like me.

Some clay jars at Cafe Mexicali in Ft. Collins. We were there to help our church raise money for their Czech mission.
Some clay jars at Cafe Mexicali in Ft. Collins. We were there to help our church raise money for their Czech mission.

A quick word about depression: It’s not something you can just decide not to have—it’s not a deficient clay jar, either. It’s an intangible fog that gathers in front of your eyes and distorts reality. Sunshine helps. Exercise helps. Working helps. Getting out of your head and focusing on life around you helps.

And…medication is a tool (Praise God) that helps level life’s playing field.

This verse soothes my troubled spirit—I am afflicted, but not crushed. I don’t despair of life because Jesus is my hope; but don’t be fooled—I am not healed. It’s Paul’s thorn, but in my flesh. We all have one, and the more we try to handle it ourselves, the more impaled we become. We can do some things to help ourselves, but we are fragile jars of clay.

I am a fragile jar of clay—indwelled with the Spirit of the Creator God who spoke the universe into being. I am a redeemed and forgiven jar of clay that worships the resurrected Messiah. I am a Christ follower. And I’m a sinner. And I’m fragile. And I crack under pressure.

But God whispers to me through bird songs in the morning. He proclaims his glory through the blooming irises and spouting greenery. The mountains cry out his sovereignty as I drive west to the local Costco. The mountains stand immovable in the distance, dark violet bruises against the horizon.

My hectic teaching life is done. It was a life I loved. It was a life that consumed me. Every breath was accounted for—every step measured and calculated. The responsibility sat heavily on me like it does for most teachers. Our early morning thoughts during coffee scatter to the day ahead. As soon as we park our cars in the school parking lot, we’re on stage. It’s a performance—teachers have to be “on.” I was “on” all the time. I never stopped.

I graded and planned until 9 p.m., eating dinner (cooked by my orphaned husband) at my computer or desk. Bed at 10 and then back to work mode at 5:30 a.m. I took Saturday mornings off, but worked through Saturday afternoon and evening.

I had no Sabbath rest. No “off switch.”

Now it’s off. The switch is off, and I’m learning to be still and know that God is beside me.

Being still is so hard for me. Slowing down and not feeling the anxiety to be perfect…to be “on” all the time is hard for me. I’m such a fragile, cracked jar of clay.

Brother Lawrence—a 17th century French monk—found peace in the simplest of tasks. He wasn’t one of those intellectual monks–but a manual laborer who became disabled over time, but never lost sight of his center: the presence of God—the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He found that conversing with God continually—regardless of how menial the task—eventually leads us to “ . . . find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.” Whether he was peeling potatoes, working the garden, or kneeling in prayer, he practiced the presence of God.

Discipline. Being a Christ follower means being disciplined. No, not performance-based. Not works-based (then we could boast about our self-aware holiness). It means disciplining our minds to focus on the things of God.

Practicing the presence of God means honoring Him consciously in every tedious task we do.

I’m learning to practice God’s presence. I still get up at 6 a.m., but I savor my coffee. I enjoy the quiet time with my husband and puppy. We discuss the news (including the puppy) and remind ourselves that God knows and He alone is our hope.

I like walking my dog in the morning or afternoon or whenever. I like the sound of my shoes on the gravel and hearing trucks in the distance. And seeing the mountains. I always love seeing the mountains–they create the sense of wonder Margaret Feinberg talks about in her book, Wonderstruck.

I find pleasure in opening my Bible and preparing for my Bible study on Revelation. Or writing in my journal and recording my prayers. Or reading a Psalm aloud to Him. Praising Him quietly. Alone. Unmoving. No breaths accounted for or steps calculated.

Apron on and ready to chop!
Apron on and ready to chop!

Even chopping vegetables for dinner is fun. I enjoy mixing my own spices and using a mortar and pestle to crush them and open up their aromas.

Pulling an avocado apart and marveling at its giant pit.

I love spreading my arms out in the sun and letting its warmth soothe my joints and pain.

My depression lifts…but it will return. It always does. I am a fragile jar of clay, after all.

A bit cracked and worn, but still indwelled by God’s spirit. Still forgiven. Still loved. Still useful.

Practicing the presence of God.

Digging Into the Darkness: Grace Wins.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5.14819905018_99e1a23788_o (NASV) In the beginning, I was a child. I was a child that imagined a huge God and a small Jesus. My most vivid memories of Jesus are during Christmas—particularly Christmas Eve. I remember staring out of a window and imagining a bright star, a bumpy donkey ride, and an infant wrapped in white blankets—the Son of God. I couldn’t wrap my tiny, inexperienced brain around the incarnation, but I unquestionably accepted the truth of it and wondered at the miracle of it. The light of Jesus eventually carried me through some extremely dark times. At times I felt lost in the darkness and tried to make sense of it through my own machinations. As I peer back through the years, I can see how futile my machinations were—nothing achieved except digging myself deeper into darkness. Yes, I’m keeping this metaphorical—certain things need to stay metaphorical. And Cindy Lou dwelled in darkness for seven years—for seven years she wrestled with God Almighty. Anyone who has studied the Old Testament or Revelation totally gets God’s sense of humor here—seven is the Old Testament number of completeness. I see the irony now…not so much then. And her children suffered. And her family suffered.  It haunts me still…what I put my children and family through. My children bear the deepest scars. Eighteen years later I still struggle with forgiving myself. Only through God’s grace and mercy do I find the ability to move through this life. Only through God’s grace and mercy do I walk in light now instead of staying bogged down in the darkness. I pray daily that my children will forgive me. I’m so proud of the adults they are now. And I pray daily that my children will continue in God’s light, walking continually in his grace.  Eighteen years later, I see how God kept his hand of grace over me despite my anger and rebellion:

  1. My children. They were my comfort and joy. My anchor.
  2. My parents. They acted as God for me when I no longer listened to Him. My mother learned to give my daughter her insulin injections while I went to school to finish my English degree. She watched my sons and daughter while I studied and worked. She protected them. She loved them unconditionally. My father gave me a home. He provided for me as I wallowed and rebelled. He pointed me towards teaching when I couldn’t focus on a career goal. He swept the pavement outside my house so I could rollerblade without stumbling on gravel. Talking about a metaphor for God’s protective hand!
  3. My family. They didn’t understand, but they loved me. They loved my children. They helped me through the darkness.
  4. My friends. They surrounded me. One in particular pointed me towards the contemplative Christianity that started me journaling prayers and questions.
  5. My husband, Steve. Fifteen years ago God heard my loneliness. He brought me Steve. He is my best friend and partner in this journey.
  6. My students. They loved me. I’ll never understand. I always felt inadequate to the task. They were…and are so brilliant. They pushed me to learn more.
  7. My children. Again and again.

photobooksI am still a tad dark and twisty. I don’t always see the silver lining…ok, I rarely see a silver lining. I know how hopeless life feels. Shoot, I taught literature for 20 years; I totally understand the hopelessness, as well as the dark and twisty. I could go on forever about literature and the human condition it illustrates. Most novelists search for truth in their works of art, whether that truth is an internal truth that comes through suffering (ahhh, the Russians) or through relationships with nature, people, or culture. Few ever point to God, except metaphorically, and often God is an abstract, distant God who rarely intervenes in humanity’s suffering. Literature sometimes concludes with an epiphany of some sort. I love that. I love the epiphany. I had that epiphany 18 years ago. It was an act of God’s grace. Yesterday our pastor began our study of Galatians. Grace vs. Law. He gave one of the best illustrations of grace I’ve ever heard. I’ll paraphrase: Imagine you’ve been dropped in the middle of the Gobi Desert (he mentioned a hot air balloon accident). You’re lost. You’re 15035388844_e6de0e822dthirsty—dying of thirst. Freezing at night, melting during the day. And then you see a rider in the distance—a Mongolian (of course) who knows the desert—knows where villages are located—where water and relief can be found. He reaches you, climbs down from his horse and gives you a sip of water (he needs to keep enough for himself—duh). Then he draws a map in the sand pointing you in the direction of the closest village, after which he rides off leaving you to save yourself. Then imagine the same scenario, only this time the rider gives you a full container of endless water, scoops you up in his arms, and carries you to his home. To salvation. He saves you because you can’t save yourself. Oh my. I weep. Grace. I was lost in the desert trying to follow a map of my own making. Trying to make meaning of the darkness. I’ve dwelled in the valley of the shadow of death. Grace swooped down and carried me. Praise Jesus. He swooped down and carried me in his gracious arms. Darkness loses: Grace wins. I will serve Him forever.

Photo credits: License: <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a> photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/108716348@N08/15035388844″>FV7A9761</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

My Soul Says: "Hello Hope."

3137202517_afa6f281fe_qFor my children and their spouses, for my sister, for Blake and Courtney, and for Jeffrey. My prayers lift up daily.

A tiny fictional vignette—I love beginnings. The middle is difficult. Real life gets so messy in the middle.

First she saw the sheep. A few hundred of them, dirty white curly wool standing closely, heads to the ground munching invisible bits of brown grass. The shepherd was a dark shadow, hooded and sheltered against the cold spring wind. Towering hay bales blocked him from the worst of the gusts. His black and white border collies—two of them—sat at his feet, heads down. Waiting.

She’d always romanticized these types of vignettes imagining what it be like to live the shepherd’s life . . . the indie bookstore owner’s . . . the English professor’s . . . the librarian’s . . . oh, and a sculptor’s.

Rose resisted the urge to pull her car over and take pictures with her new (to her) Nikon D3200. Oh. That was her other dream—to be a photographer for National Geographic. All those incredible life stories best told through pictures just waiting for her to reveal. Unfortunately, she was still having a problem understanding apertures . . .

Like I said, I love beginnings. Middles and ends get so messy and real.

I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately. Escapist fiction—not really good fiction—just really well written, fun fiction. Characters I like. Plots with twists and turns, but one where hope remains at the end.

Hope. I like novels to end with hope. Authors have so much control over their characters. They can inflict them with everything imaginable, and still bring them to hope in the end.

Unfortunately being human means not having control. Jesus knew this. He lived it.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that being a Christian is easy. Following Christ is sacrificial because He was sacrificial. It means sacrificing control. Christ did. He was one with His Father, yet He chose not to claim His power for approximately 33 years. He walked with man in human form. Grappled with the same problems we deal with in our own lives, yet remained sinless. And he chose to die—to relinquish his power and control over the universe and take on our sin while suffering unimaginable pain on the cross. He let go. He turned everything over to His Father.

He is our example. Not a politician or a preacher or a friend. We must follow after Jesus. Emulate him. And he suffered. He sacrificed. He served.

It’s so stinkin’ hard when suffering encompasses us daily. We take a shower each morning and wash our body all the while thinking of the one we love that is suffering. We unconsciously shampoo and shave, nicking ourselves as we go because our minds and hearts—tied so intricately together with a thread that we can’t reach to cut—are devoured by worry over our loved ones.

Right now my daughter is facing huge health obstacles. I can’t fix it. I can’t control it. My sister is suffering with unfathomable grief. Diseases run rampant through family members—some helped with medication, but only helped. Not healed. Dear, dear friends carried a dying child to term, delivered this beautiful boy who then died within days. The grief haunts and is not lifted. It zooms in and leaves them breathless with pain. Another dear friend is watching his wife suffer with cancer.

Surrounded. Loss of control. Grief. Anxiety.

Yet this is a time of resurrection. The resurrection of Hope.IMG_2281

Jesus: a man of sorrows thoroughly acquainted with grief. We do not have a Savior that lives on a cloud, floating in white robes glowing in majesty. Distant. Unreachable. Unknowable.

Eugene Peterson who translated the Message Bible into the vernacular (What? God doesn’t speak in King James English? Oh my.), did a beautiful job with Isaiah 53. Just think for a minute: Isaiah wrote this approximately 700 years before Jesus was born.

“The servant [that would be Jesus] grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field [Earth/Israel]. IMG_2283 There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look [Hollywood needs to take a look at this!]. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own things, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.

He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off—and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true.”

He died to give us hope. A future. He knows the suffering that surrounds and envelopes us making us feel like we’re walking through a foggy nightmare that won’t stop. But then we get a glimmer of the hazy green whiskers of the birch tree next door or the bursts of green from a garden still partially covered with the white death of winter and remember resurrection. Christ’s hope springs eternal.

Hallelujah.

Photo of sheep: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/33690003@N07/3137202517″>IMG_3236</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

A Frou-Frou Woman in the Land of Natural Beauty

Zoey--a muggle that prefers to ease into the morning on my chair. As soon as I leave it...
Zoey–a puggle that prefers to ease into the morning on my chair. As soon as I leave it…

For my dear friend Sheila who encourages me to have fun with my writing.

She knows my life right now. Thank you kind and sassy woman. 

The day begins in the dark. Six or so. Steve making coffee and Zoey stretching her legs and easing out of her crate. (Zoey and I like to let the day happen slowly.) Two cups of coffee. CBS morning news. Steve and I discussing the day’s plans:

Him: What are you doing today?

            Me: Hmmm. Laundry. Maybe going to the library. (A lady of leisure . . . eesh!)

He kisses me goodbye and I settle into my morning routine. A shower with music pouring out of my iMac promising that God will make me brave or that I don’t need man’s applause—just Jesus who loves me like I am (I think Bridget Jones’ Diary). After making the bed and throwing in some laundry, I shoot downstairs with my make-up baskets in hand to watch Gilmore Girls.

Yes...I have baskets of make-up. It's bad.
Yes…I have baskets of make-up. It’s bad.

It’s right before I apply eye make-up that I start to question my sanity. Why am I even applying make-up? Who cares if I wear eyeliner or not? I’m in Colorado…land of the natural woman. BUT, my natural state kind of scares me. I am so vanilla; in fact, I’m the whipped cream on a vanilla milkshake. My eyelashes are white. My hair is turning white. My eyebrows are disappearing. AHHHHH! This whole aging thing could go a bit better. Back to the eyeliner and blackest black mascara…

All right…I’ll come clean: I’m a frou-frou woman. I am a woman who loves beauty products living in a state where women look awesome in their leggings, t-shirts, and fleece vests wearing little to no cosmetic enhancements. Maybe it’s because I’m from Tulsa, which is only six hours from Dallas (aka the capital of frou-frou) that make-up and hair products are so essential to my aesthetic comfort. Send me into Ulta and I’m liable to spend an hour examining every color of blush Smashbox makes, playing with different brands of lipstick in order to determine the creaminess level, or lately—studying a variety of concealers all promising to “perk up” tired eyes. I need an all-over percolating concealer.

After an hour scouring Ulta (or Sephora), I might end up with a $6 L’Oreal lip balm. (I’m not working right now so I don’t feel comfortable indulging too much.) Maybe when I find that job I’ve been looking for I’ll treat myself to a MAC lipstick in the

Lipstick. It's a mood addiction.
Lipstick. It’s a mood addiction.

perfect brownish pink…

Today I’m going to work at my church. I’m doing some data entry and then printing and folding bulletins for Sunday’s service. God is using me to help in some way, and I’m so grateful. No irony in that statement at all. It is pure delight to work with these beautifully gracious and faithful young people who love Jesus with their words and deeds. They remind me of Christ’s words to women (via Holy Spirit via Peter) in 1 Peter 3:

            “What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair (WHAT? But I love the smell of my Aveda Control Paste), the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way…” (The Message Bible).

Inner beauty. We talk about it all the time, but my love for all things cosmetic may keep people from noticing my scary outward appearance! I think maybe…just possibly… my fairly neutral make-up may encourage folks to notice my inner beauty because they won’t be so distracted by my scary-vanilla-albino-rabbit appearance! (Mild justification for full baskets of eye shadow and lipstick?)

Regardless, as a tribute to Colorado and as recognition of my co-dependency on cosmetics, I think I’ll leave off the eyeliner today and flaunt my inner-beauty! Wait…I shouldn’t flaunt? It should be perceived as part of my Christ-like character? Shoot. This is hard.

 Cue music: You make me brave…

OUT OF COMPLACENCY, INTO DEPENDENCY

Near my walking trail. It's rural.
Near my walking trail. It’s rural.

*It has been extremely difficult for me to write after finishing my thesis; I’m always wanting to use APA citations, and my creativity seems to have flown the coop. This is a long, tedious effort to get back in the swing of things.

And the LORD God said to Steven: “Take thy wife, thy puppy, and all thy belongings and head west to the land I will show thee.” (Severance, Colorado)

Did Sarah kick and scream when Abraham said, “let’s go”? Well. . . I did. I was as mad as a wet hen. Tulsa was my home. Family, friends, colleagues=history. Comfort. And a touch of complacency. Just a touch. Really.

Everyone kept telling me how great it was—you know—Colorado—mountains—skiing—hiking—fresh air.

As for skiing—Tried it when I was in my 20’s; gave it up for Lent.

However, I do love mountains, so after I quit kicking (silent screaming continued for a while) and accepted the inevitable, I laid down some ground rules for Steve and God:
1. I must have a house west of I-25
2. I must have a mountain view
3. NO TRACT HOMES!
4. No linoleum must ever touch my feet.
5. No builder’s grade carpet (I would not give up my 50-year-old hardwood floors for tacky carpet).
6. No split-level or two-story homes need apply.

Yes, yes. . . I know. I’m blessed to have a home. I sound so materialistic. In the words of Idina Menzel–“Let it go!”

Then I met our realtor, Scott, and he showed me a total of five houses within our price range. That was it. I’d scheduled three days for looking at houses and only needed one. Seems the oil and gas boom in northern Colorado meant more folks moving in and fewer houses available. Prices went up and up and up and bidding wars ensued.

Lesson: Don’t lay down ground rules.

The Reality:
1. The only houses west of I-25 in Ft. Collins within our price range were split-level, dingy basement, one-and-a-half bathrooms, no-closet-space homes.
2. Mountain views were 50K extra.
3. Tract homes east of I-25 were more affordable.
4. Only two houses were available that wouldn’t require massive renovation and cleaning. One backed to a busy road in Greeley (where the wind wafts the scent of meat processing plants through the town). The other was clean. Good location. Nice quiet neighborhood. A two-story with finished basement. Great storage. Clean. Horrible builder’s-grade carpet. Linoleum in kitchen and bathrooms and 3’ x 4’ square entryway. No mountain view. BUT an incredible garden in the backyard and three full bathrooms. Great sized master.

We bought it the second one.

The Move
Steve moved out first. He started work at a church in September. I stayed behind to sell the house, pack, and finish my master’s thesis. The house sold in 12 days, so I moved in with my parents to finish writing my thesis and moved out in November.

I learned so much during the time with my folks. Certainly researching the effect of optional single-sex classrooms for boys

View from my "tower" at my parent's house. I worked on my thesis there.
View from my “tower” at my parent’s house. I worked on my thesis there.

struggling with literacy was an eye-opener and a very difficult research topic (one I’d chose for myself—no excuses!); however, the real growth came from just being around my parents and watching Christ in action through their lives. Blessed.

More Reality: Identity Crisis

I’m a teacher. It’s my identity. My teaching consumed me—about 60-70 hours a week (to the chagrin of my hubby). Teaching provided me with wonderful colleagues, terrific students, and an outlet for my creativity. Every week I’d look over lesson plans, re-work them, integrate some newer ideas, and grade papers. My reward? The appreciation of my students and their parents. It was never monetary. It was, however, a source of pride. I wanted to be an exceptional teacher. I loved having a great reputation. It sounds so conceited, but it’s brutally true—I valued my reputation and identity as an exceptional teacher.

Vanity, vanity. Poof. It’s gone.

Now I’m unknown. I apply and apply for adjunct teaching positions, but I don’t know anyone who knows someone. No connections.

And I miss my daughter and my parents and being only 3 ½ hours from my grandson.

But I’d become complacent. I see it now. It’s Windex clear to me now.

My complacency looked like this:

  • I figured that once I finished my master’s degree, someone would hire me based on my recommendations, reputation, and connections to wonderful teachers.
  • I figured I’d eventually find the right church and get involved.
  • I figured I’d start feeling stronger and be able to bike and lose weight and get healthy (I had to quit teaching for a year due to major arthritis issues and need for disk fusion surgery—worked on master’s while recovering).
  • I figured I’d start having weekly dinners with my parentals and with my daughter and her hubby.

I figured a lot of things, but didn’t take action on any.

Complacency.

And then God said, “Enough already.” Maybe. Who knows what God is saying in the heavenly realms concerning his millions of children?

Now I’m living east of I-25, have no mountain view, walk regularly on linoleum and builder’s grade carpet. AND I’m at peace.

Linoleum isn't the end of the world. Just miss my hardwoods.
Linoleum isn’t the end of the world. Just miss my hardwoods.

Dependency.

Severance, Colorado is on the eastern plains. When the wind sweeps down from the north, we get a nice whiff of a giant sheep ranch. The tiny town’s motto: “Where the geese fly, and the bulls cry.” The geese I get. The bulls weeping? Ah. Interesting story. Bruce’s Bar in Severance (an authentic “hole in the wall”) is famous for Rocky Mountain oysters—thus the bull’s cry. Ouch.

When isolated from friends and family and familiar places, you can keep kicking and screaming (I did), get really depressed (I did), or learn to trust your heavenly Father (I’m trying).

I began to live in God’s Word. I meditated on it day and night. I found a Bible study class in Ft. Collins. The ladies are precious and the study consumes much of my time. I found a church—Mountain View Community Church. Stevie and I love it. We are getting involved, and I am the volunteer print woman. I am now running bulletins, printing whatever needs to be printed. Using the folding machine. Stuff I learned to do as a graphic designer for South Tulsa Baptist Church in Tulsa eight years ago. I am trying to be useful while I look for a teaching position with a local community college or university.

I have no idea what is going to pan out for my future. None. I’m learning to walk by faith and not by sight—and it’s stinkin’ hard for a control freak like me.

What I know: God is the source of my strength. It doesn’t matter whether I “know someone” or have “connections”—He is my connection.

Kitchen tables are not for eating--they are for studying!
Kitchen tables are not for eating–they are for studying!

On the front of my Bible study notebook I have inserted a printed page that reads:
“If I do not stand firm in my faith, I will not stand at all.” It’s from Isaiah 7:96.

I recite it several times a day. It’s still lonely and isolated. I don’t have any friends yet—just some acquaintances. But God is my anchor and He holds me steady against this changing and sometimes overwhelming tide of change.