“The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


"But how could you live and have no story to tell?" ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky


"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph" ~Matt Hardy


“A mother keeps a garden of the heart, planting the seeds of faith and character that give her children hope and purpose for the years ahead.” ~Anonymous


“If your story is never told, it becomes something else...forgotten.” ~Anonymous

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Gifting Grace

It’s one of those words that seems to follow you around, lurking in the shadows or hitting you head-on as you round a corner.  You begin to see it on advertising billboards, car license plates and the daily devotional you read each morning.  The word gets your attention and you begin to pay attention. 

A few weeks ago I began to read Philip Yancey’s book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”  Now this book is over twenty years old so I was prepared for a bit of ‘outdatedness’ but I was pleasantly and admittedly convicted, as to how relevant the message of grace is even more so in our world today.  As I read his words and stories, I am faced with the ungraciousness in my own life and how far along this road I have yet to travel.  All of us daily encounter opportunities to extend grace and if we don’t, God will continue to give us those opportunities until our eyes are opened to how closed our hands have become.   My mind and heart, along with my hands, are opening to His grace to me and how I extend that same grace to those He brings into my life. 

What I did become aware of this past week is the grace that comes from His gifts.  This visual Scripture was in my email folder a couple of days ago and again, it is the word that jumped from the screen into my heart.  

God’s grace has various forms.  It can be revealed to us in His gifts.  It can become flesh to us through how we serve Him and others.  As He extends His grace to us, we give it to those around us.  

Grace:  the undeserved forgiveness, kindness, and mercy that God gives us.  

1 Corinthians 12 talks about God’s spiritual gifts, as does Romans 12.  We all have gifts, some stronger and more evident than others.  We can get caught up in trying to figure out where we fit into the family of God and the body, by taking tests and discerning what gift(s) we have.  This can be good and helpful in the long run, but what if as we receive His grace, we simply be ourselves (becoming the person Christ is shaping)  and give back that grace in generous gifts to others.  Who are you and what do you love to do? What makes you come alive? 

An example might be, I love to cook, so having people over for a meal or providing a meal for someone in need, is an act of grace.  My ‘gift’ (which can be interpreted as serving) touches another life with God’s grace—His love, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy.

I have a few friends in my life of whom I can truly say ‘I love their laugh’.  They are the type of people others love to be around.  Their laugh is contagious.  They lighten up a potential heavy scenario. You can hear their laugh from across the room and it is always uplifting.  I daresay laughter can be a gift.  Perhaps that falls into the area of encouragement.  When they laugh, they lighten the life of another.  Sharing their gift and extending the grace of God in its various forms.  Whoever thought of laughing as a gift?  

I’m sure some of us can also say that about the smile of a friend.  I have a couple of friends who shed light on my life just by their smile.  Somehow through that simple facial expression, love, kindness, mercy, joy, and grace shine through and touches me.  Smiling is a gift….maybe…..again encouragement perhaps. 

There’s a never-ending list of gifts or natural abilities that can easily come under the headings of those in Corinthians or Romans.  Reading, writing, teaching, speaking, telling stories, praying, smiling, touching, ability to sense hurt or disappointment and reaching out (sensitivity), giving finances as well as time, showing mercy, taking the lead, organization — so many things we do in our normal day-to-day life that we think of as just stuff or tasks can actually be God’s grace in a form we have yet to recognize.  Even a simple phone call, a note of appreciation or stopping in the grocery aisle to say hello puts grace in the flesh for some of us.  Just showing up in someone’s life shouts GRACE.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. “   Romans 12:1  The Message Version

What if in 2018, we embraced grace, God’s grace, in its various forms and allowed our gifts to faithfully serve Him and others.  Whatever that looks like, I am sure each one of us has several areas we can be ‘grace in the flesh’ to each other.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Cleaning House

The difficult part is done.  The tree is taken down, decorations put away and furniture back in its place.  Those three loads of laundry — sheets and towels from guests — are washed and sorted.   All that is left really is to dust and clean floors, and yes, those ubiquitous bathrooms.  Well, someone’s got to do it. 

The first week of January is a strange week to begin resolutions, good intentions or goals, whatever is the trendy phrase these days.  For some of us, and I dare say, most of us women anyway, it involves putting our lives (physically and emotionally) back into order.  The family and guests have left and now we must re-order and rearrange to get back to some normalcy. For some, the day after New Years involves getting up and returning to work, the housework to come later when the weekend arrives.  

If we were able to have that first peaceful hour in the morning to have our coffee and think about the New Year and setting some goals into place, it appears they must wait until the week plays out before jumping in with determination.  As I sat with my journal this morning and wrote out some of my thoughts and scheduling my week(s) for 2018, it became clear I couldn’t even begin the discipline until next week.  At least the full-on idea of what I want to achieve.  And that is alright for me, for now.  The reality of ‘my new year begins next Monday’ is okay.  The date doesn’t matter - the heart, mind, and soul do.  If I take the first seven days of the new year to ponder, pray and put it down on paper, then I’m better prepared to tackle the new year, next week.   The last seven days of 2017 did not afford me the adequate time due to visiting family, guests and a bit of travel.  I do not need to be a slave to the calendar, it needs to serve me.  Whew, big deep breath! 

Today, I will clean.  Just now I finished reading the twelfth chapter of Hebrews in the Message version.  The writer emphasizes focusing and running our race.  My ‘one word’ for 2018 is FOCUS. http://myoneword.org/ The chapter ends with the following:

So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he’s told us this quite plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.

 Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!  (The Message, Hebrews 12:25-29)

What excited my heart was ‘cleaning house’.  Probably the only time that has happened :)  Today I will tackle cleaning house but with a new focus.  Cleaning the clutter of what distracts me.  Removing what clutters my focus.  I have so many interests and so much stuff.  What can I remove to make my life simpler?  What can I put away…..or better yet, get rid of, to make room for the new?  Or to be left bare so there is more room.    As I move about dusting and rearranging, I have a new focus which should help me in the long run of the months that loom ahead.  My prayer on my lips will be, “Lord, enable me to see what needs to be removed, so I have more room for YOU.”  Cleaning house this first week of January takes on new meaning as I contemplate 2018.  

May our FOCUS be more of Him, more of family and relationships, more of making room for the things we love.  For me, it also means making room for writing, which will happen….the second week of January :)  

footnote...for a few you may have wondered if I dropped out of blogging.  Not necessarily, I blog a lot in my mind!  I'm working (albeit slowly) on a book and trying to figure out how to balance my efforts between research, writing, and blogging.  That said, I will blog when I can and see if I can get this book written this year.  Your prayers are appreciated :) 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Pondering Our Phenomenon

The great “American” eclipse of 2017.  A complete solar eclipse was going to pass right in front of our protected eyes.  We lived in the path of totality.  Weeks of hype, excitement and anticipation.  We knew it was coming.  We were told hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the United States and other countries were coming to witness this natural phenomenon.  Here in our small capital city, Salem, Oregon, we were anticipating an additional 135,000 people.  Madras, in the central part of Oregon, with a population of only 6,700 was awaiting the onslaught of an additional 100,000 guests.  There were concerns of monumental traffic delays, gas shortages, cell tower interruptions.  Nearly doomsday-type hype, through the media, began to invade our normally quiet portion of the Pacific Northwest.  

Unexpectedly, but nice for our local population, in the days prior to the eclipse, the only traffic congestion was coming into Madras.  This was highly anticipated considering the size of the town and the two-lane road.  But here in Salem, barely a ripple in the vehicle travel routes.  We were surprised, but happily so.  However, once the big event was over, it was nightmare on the interstate as guests began to leave and head to points north and south. What is normally a one-hour drive to Portland, ended up being nearly 8 hours for some.  The media was advising visitors to delay their departure until the following day if possible.  People missed flights and business meetings, being unable to travel more than a mile or two in an hour.  It was a massive inconvenience to so many.   But rarely a complaint was voiced.  I heard only one man interviewed on the news lamenting that traffic engineers could have done better anticipating the exodus.  He should have thought of the inevitable crowds before coming.  Overall and for the most part, people waited quietly as they attempted to get out of town.  The awesomeness and impressiveness of the solar eclipse was worth all of the delays.  No one regretted coming. And it was an event well worth seeing.

It was touted as a once in a lifetime experience.  I thought that was a bit of an exaggeration.  Until I experienced it.  It definitely was!!  We were told what to expect but we had no idea of the feelings and emotions it would invoke.  As we began to “watch” the eclipse which began a good hour before totality, we saw a sliver of darkness begin to overtake the top right side of the sun.  Gradually, it increased and passed over that immensely bright orb in the sky.  Over the next hour we watched and waited.  We had a brunch with family and friends, laughing and enjoying the moment, taking photos of us watching the sky with our funny-looking eclipse glasses.  We experimented putting our eclipse glass filter over our iPhone cameras to take photos.  Seeing the reflections from the sun and moon over the ground, sides of the house and rooftops of cars, we discovered amazing crescents developing from the shadows.  It was a celestial type of beauty.  Naturally, we did the old school trick of the cardboard with the hole in the middle to view the crescent on another sheet of paper, without using glasses. 

At T-minus one minute, all eyes were glued to the fading sun.  It was almost dusk-like, not dark, but subdued lighting.  The temperature dropped as we were told it would, but we had been disbelieving.  Several of us reached for our sweaters.  Then as the last sliver of light was overtaken by the moon, suddenly we were plunged into darkness!  It was unbelievable, stunning!  We were able to remove our glasses to view the totality of the eclipse and it was beyond awesome!  Darkness as if it were late night and an eery quiet.  The birds were no longer singing.  One lamp left on in a nearby house beamed forth as if midnight.  We stared then at the blocked sun with the moon’s dark face and the solar flares peeping out.  Again, words cannot adequately express what we saw and even felt.  It was literally “out of this world”.  Staring, knowing it would only last about 2 minutes, and then the first sliver of golden light began to peep through from that upper right corner.  Someone yelled, “On with the glasses!”   Abruptly, as if a switch was turned on, we were once again engulfed in sunlight and it was daytime.   We all stared at one another like we’d just stepped out of the Twilight Zone.  With an ever-growing crescent of light as the moon resumed it passage eastward, it was so bright.  Amazing how far reaching a fragment of that sunlight achieves.

Understanding dawned on us that the totality of the eclipse was over, and there was a general feeling we had just experience that “once in a lifetime” astronomical event and we were pumped with excitement!  It was so worth it!  All the hype!  All the warnings and what to expect overshadowed by the sheer awesomeness of those two orbs in the heavens meeting as one.  I don’t think any of us right then and there would have traded the experience for anything!

The moon continued to move past the sun for the next hour or so, and we periodically checked it’s progress through our glasses.  As we packed up belongings and cleaned up, there was a sense that together we lived a moment in life that may not come this way again anytime soon.  It is a memory we shall all treasure, cherish and try to relive through the hundreds photos that would flood the internet.  

As I reflected back on what I saw, I am reminded that no amount of darkness could completely obliterate the glow from that beacon of light and heat which we take for granted day after day.  Even with the blackness surrounding us, looking up at the eclipsed sun, there was still a glow of solar flares surrounding the outside of the dark moon.  As hard as it tried, the moon could not eclipse the sun entirely.  There was still a measure of light even if it was far enough away from earth to shine down.   I am reminded that no matter how dark our world seems to be at any given time, there is a Light that cannot be put out.  Physical still reflects the spiritual.  

Jesus is the Light of the world and He cannot be put out, hid or obliterated.  And He can always be found.  He will always over take the darkness.  And one day, my spiritual glasses will be removed and I will see the eternal glow of his shining face.  I cannot wait for that supernatural event!  And no amount of words will be able to describe that “forever-in-a-future-eternal-lifetime” experience!!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Stuck Off My Feet

It’s a nice 67 degree morning, sunny & warm and who wouldn’t love just putting your feet up and reading a good book.  Summer days and lounging - it’s supposed to get up to 88 degrees today.  A day to sit back, relax and enjoy.  I am forcing myself to do this.  Sad, huh?  

I am stuck off my feet.  Not on my feet all day, but off.  It is a mystery as to what I have done to my right foot, but it is painful to say the least.  Perhaps I walked wrong, easy to do anything physically wrong when you’ve passed sixty.  Maybe I didn’t have the right solid footwear to walk around hardwood floors all day.  It has been a pain-in-the-….foot for the last week and a half.  Finally conceding that I probably needed some medical advice, I made an appointment to see my doctor, but had to settle for the on-call doc.  I had x-rays and the result is they can see nothing wrong with my foot.  There is nothing broken, which is a relief, but still. After relaying the results to me via telephone (in which they also said whoops…. they x-rayed the “wrong foot” as it was labeled “left” foot…really?  I would know if they x-rayed the wrong one!), he told me to rest it for a few days and if nothing improved, to call my regular physician for a followup.   Okay.

So, I am rounding day #2 of trying to stay off my feet.  Easier said than done when you are the one watering plants in the heat, needing to get meals and generally cannot afford to just sit.  Yesterday, my foot began to noticeably improve.  I was heading towards relief. Today I am in pain again and not completely sure what reactivated the condition.  So…I am resting, icing the foot and going to try to read.  Normally, I LOVE to read but when I have to, it can be a frustration, especially with things waiting to be done.

Sometimes I think God has a sense of humor.  Reading in my devotional today, it talked about the pathway God and I would take together.  We would forge a path up the mountain together.  The journey would be arduous at times, and I am weak.  Sometimes I will dance light-footed on the high peaks; but for now, my walk is often plodding and heavy.”  Really?  I am so slow in walking, I could be a snail.  Plodding is right.  The word went on to say, “that all He requires of me is to take the next step, clinging to His hand for strength and direction.  Though the path is difficult and the scenery dull at the moment, there are surprises around the bend.  Stay on the path He has selected for me.”  Okay.  No pain, no gain.  That will have to work for me.

Why do we always want to be doing when perhaps God (or our body) wants us to slow down?  

So today, I am going to choose to relax.  I will choose to enjoy the beauty and peacefulness around me.  And really, it isn’t hard to do as I live in a beautiful area.  I must quiet the voices around me that want me to get up and do.  No one is asking me to do the things, but the voice inside my head expects me to get up and move.   But today, I will just be.  And that will be just fine.  Plus, it will help my foot!  

(not my feet....but I wish I had this view!)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tasting Summer

The rain had finally stopped and the chilly grey days were disappearing.  As the summer solstice came and went, we were beginning to actually see the first signs of summer.  The sun was shining!!!  What a difference it has made in our lives here in the Pacific Northwest.  I think we are actually smiling and laughing again (happy face inserted here)!!  That was one long winter and wet spring!

A good friend came by the other night with steaks.  It was a 100 degree day and we not only needed to celebrate, but we had to “feel” summer.  A barbecue is one of the best and friendliest ways to do that.  I made some side dishes; a Russian crab and rice salad, foontyoza (a noodle vegetable salad that my husband loves and grew up with - from Central Asia) and we grilled corn on the cob.  As we sat down to perfectly grilled steaks encrusted with a black pepper seasoning, salads and grilled corn basted with a basil butter we felt such a happiness that comes with good friends and good food.  As we ate each mouthful, you could just hear the sighs of “this is heavenly”.   We felt like we were tasting summer.

(not my photo.....steak was eaten before I remembered to snap!)

Later relaxing around a good romantic “chick flick” (my husband was so kind!), we indulged in fresh strawberries and ice cream over pound cake.  Again, summer in a bowl.  

(photo from Food.com)
So busy enjoying, forgot to snap a photo :) 

Sometimes the summer months can end up being just as busy as the rest of the year.  So being able to stop and plan meals and outings with friends, especially outside with the barbecue and the smell and tastes of a simple season surrounding us, allows us to create memories with those we care about.  I saw my (steak) friend the next day and she commented how absolutely enjoyable the previous evening had been.  I told her we felt the same.  We said, “it’s like summer has finally arrived!”

God is in this season.  I am reminded of the verse in Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  His blessings of friends and food we share together.  Don’t let these weeks go by without stopping and enjoying each other.  Fire up that grill, make life simple with salads, fresh fruit and if you feel like it, those pies and cobblers that capture summer perfectly.  Stop and be thankful for all that we have and all those God gives us to share it with.   I’m in a good (and thankful) mood - summer has arrived!!

Psalm  27:13   “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Reflection on Hope

 I am doing an on-line writing challenge and today's assignment was to write about hope.  After finishing, I remembered I wrote something on the same topic a while back. As I searched through my files, I found the following. I remember this particular season as we were beginning a new journey in our lives. For some unknown reason, I am challenged to post this today in the hopes that someone will identify and grab onto the hand of Faith and Hope.



When we face the death of something, any life that can inadvertently spring from it comes from God.  The death of a believer, of course, finds life with Jesus.  The death of our dreams, hopes, finances, etc. can be resurrected in trust as we allow Jesus to open our eyes to the hope.  Only Jesus can bring hope from death or ruin or seeming failure.   Everything else is striving.  

Each death is an interim.  Life is interim.  Preparing us for the next step in the journey.  Each season, each transition is just that….preparing for the next.  Hope is in the next step.  When we (and I) realize that God is with me in each step, each season, each transition, my perspective changes.  What can really go wrong when He is right there?  He has plans.  He has thoughts towards me.  He has plans and purposes for me.  Hope comes from rest.  Hope comes from trust.  I cannot crunch my eyes shut and strive for hope.  It comes from the revelation that He is by my side.  Sometimes when we are hanging on for dear life, we need to let go and rest.  That is scary, but what if He is right there?  

Each morning, each minute, I want to somehow consciously hold my hand out and say, “Jesus, Father, take my hand.  Walk with me.  Open my eyes to Your perspective.  Energize my perspective by making it Your perspective.”  

Like the servant of Elisha, “open my eyes, Lord, to see the warriors around me”.  

The warriors of God…fighting for my life.  Fighting for my hope.  Fighting for my children and their purposes.  Their faith.  Their spirit and soul.  Their futures.  Fighting in prayer and spiritual warfare for my family - both here in the US and Australia.  Contending in prayer for my husband and I, and Your plans for our lives.

Energize my perspective by opening my eyes.  

Energize my perspective by taking my hand and holding it on this journey.  Daily, Minute by minute, hour by hour….week by week.  I will not measure my energy level by the challenges ahead of me.  YOU will be everything I need.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Springtime: A New Season

I’ve been thinking about seasons lately.  Especially here in the Pacific Northwest when we wonder if springtime will ever show its lovely warm face and then STAY so we could actually become better acquainted!  We’ve had mostly days of rain and chilly weather, but then suddenly the sun will appear and you feel like life is beginning again!  Then five minutes later, here comes the rain.  I don’t think I fully appreciated the sight of blue sky like I do now.  

The pink cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom all over our city.  In some areas (like my neighborhood) blossoming is still slow in coming, but to drive around and see the freshness and beauty makes my heart sing. 

Whenever spring comes, I am happy.  I love daffodils and cherry blossoms.  I love the smell.  Beautiful blue sky and white fluffy clouds. The new baby lambs running around the field just down the road from us.  Life beginning to spring forth.  But at the same time, I realize the weeds must be pulled from the flower beds, the dead scraggly branches that have fallen from trees through the winter must be raked up and discarded.  Our yard needs a major makeover.  And it’s work.  Back-aching work.  I don’t enjoy it and I don’t look forward to it.  

A lot like our lives.  Springtime is a season of cleaning and where the blossoming and green and beauty begin to appear.  It’s not necessarily a time of bearing fruit, not a harvest time, but a time of readying for the season ahead.  Getting rid of the weeds, raking out the guilt and shame over actions and attitudes.  Paying attention to the condition of our hearts (our own private garden). In our lives, being intentional about getting rid of the stuff that easily distracts us from our intimacy with Him and His plans for us. 

It’s also a time of fresh vision and promise.  Believing for good things to grow and appear.  It’s a time to be connected to the Vine.  Spring is when I fertilize my flowers and bushes.  With the hope that blossoms will be vibrant and plenty.  In the same way, fertilizing my life with staying connected to the Vine.  Cultivating my life by establishing a priority of staying in the Word and prayer, being nourished daily by talking and walking with Him, as well as those around me who share the same faith and priorities.  Listening to hear God speak and establishing a pattern of obedience when I hear Him.  A result of the feeding into and habit patterns developed in springtime will yield a harvest in the coming season(s).  If I am too busy and distracted with things other than what God leads me to do in this season, there won’t be fruit in the next. 

Springtime always is an adventurous time, dreaming big for the future.  I think it has something to do with the sun reappearing and that Vitamin D kicking in.  I start thinking of summer bbq’s and warm days and new things. 

This season is also a time of training.  When I gently nudge that branch to grow a certain direction (tying it gently to a stick or post).  It is when I get rid of the “suckers”.  Those nasty growths that sprout at base of plant and draw energy away from the real growth and fruit. I have to cut them away. My lilac bush is a prime example.  For some reason, there are always suckers needing to be cut away.  A weak point I always have to be on the lookout for. As in our lives, a sucker is anything that distracts us away from intimacy with GOD.  It affects our fruit down the road.

Without discipline and training, there can be no growth.  Or fruitful beautiful growth anyway.  A bush can grow and grow with lots of suckers and look chaotic with no rhyme or reason.  Or it can be stunted and ugly because it received no water or fertilization.  Natural growth can be broken by training. When we are bent the “wrong” way we get angry, impatient and resist.  We want to do what we “feel” or “comes naturally”. It can be uncomfortable and painful as He begins to reveal to us our independence when we try to grow our own way.  

God takes our discipline seriously. It is not by tying us to poles like in a physical plant but by CALLING US TO OBEY HIS VOICE.  We align our lives up with His plan, not our own.  Forgiveness, sensitivity, patience, staying connected to Him.  Every act of obedience, one after another, and we are being trained towards fruitfulness.  The Lord’s discipline always trains us towards one goal….fruitfulness and intimacy with Him.

Intentional cultivating of our plants and gardens this spring will determine what they look like in the months ahead.  Good patterns of spiritual care in your life now will determine the quality of fruit ahead.

There are usually LONG days between promise, fulfillment and harvest and those are the days and seasons when transformation in our lives takes place, as we are developing habits for the future.  God has a plan and it is during these seasons that He is cultivating it in our lives.  Can we be patient and let Him do His work.  Let Him be the Gardener in charge? 

I love this season of springtime.  It is a lot of hard work.  Requires attention.  Requires patience.  Requires discipline and training.  But springtime doesn’t last forever.  God always has another season ahead for us.  Might be tough, but good.  It will always be good.