Theresa’s Next Chapter

“MY SON, if you will receive my words and treasure up my commandments within you,
Making your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom and inclining and directing your heart and mind to understanding [applying all your powers to the quest for it];
Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
If you seek [Wisdom] as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures,
Then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of [our omniscient] God. [Prov. 1:7.]
For the Lord gives skillful and godly Wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He hides away sound and godly Wisdom and stores it for the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with Him); He is a shield to those who walk uprightly and in integrity,
That He may guard the paths of justice; yes, He preserves the way of His saints. [I Sam. 2:9; Ps. 66:8, 9.]
Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and fair dealing [in every area and relation]; yes, you will understand every good path.
For skillful and godly Wisdom shall enter into your heart, and knowledge shall be pleasant to you.
Discretion shall watch over you, understanding shall keep you,
To deliver you from the way of evil and the evil men, from men who speak perverse things and are liars,
Men who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness,
Who rejoice to do evil and delight in the perverseness of evil,
Who are crooked in their ways, wayward and devious in their paths.
[Discretion shall watch over you, understanding shall keep you] to deliver you from the alien woman (or man), from the outsider with her flattering words, [Prov. 2:11.]
Who forsakes the husband and guide of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God.
For her house sinks down to death and her paths to the spirits [of the dead].
None who go to her return again, neither do they attain or regain the paths of life.
So may you walk in the way of good men, and keep to the paths of the [consistently] righteous (the upright, in right standing with God).
For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the men of integrity, blameless and complete [in God’s sight], shall remain in it;
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the treacherous shall be rooted out of it.” ~ Proverbs 2:1-22
Today, my oldest daughter and firstborn graduates from highschool. It’s an odd feeling. No, it does not make me feel old. I feel more like long-awaited plans have reached a goal along the road of many goals. One long phase of her life, her childhood, is over. (Pause for tears before I can type again. Sigh) We have had some wonderful times, she and I, my beautiful Theresa, the child who first broke ground in my heart in a permanant, real sense. Theresa gets me, like few other friends have ever been able to do. She and I like a lot of the same things, and have a lot in common. In recent years, she has stepped in to a role of encourager, exhorter, and occasionally chasitzer, or is it chaser…..wait no that’s Harry Potter. Anyway, moving on…
When I thought about writing this post, I thought of all the encouraging, boring quotes I could use to point you off in the right direction, Theresa. But, they were boring, trite, overused, impersonal, and not the best I could give you. My best for you has always been my heart. My best has always been to try with shaking, imperfect hands, to point you in the direction of the One who will never fail you, the one accessory you dare not leave behind, and the friend who will never leave you or forsake you. God will never be too cool, or ditch you. He will hold your name in his heart and your life in his hand, so much longer than a tree. (Even a tree’s love has it’s limits, in spite of what Peter S. Beagle would say.)
I must grieve in that mother way, for the times of your childhood when I was your greatest hero, when you looked only to me to teach you things. I will cry a little because the next chapter means leaving some of these things behind, but not all. You and I can laugh only as you and I can, after all. But some of the dependencies you had in me must now be transfered to God. I know you and he have your own understanding. It makes me feel so much better about loosening my grip a little bit more. It’s like when you were little and learning to swim. I’d hold your hands as you stepped into deeper water, little by little you’d work your way past the cold torture of the water as it rose against your skin, your feet barely skimming the bottom. One day, you swam on your own, and you didn’t need me to hold your hands any longer. This has been the dance we’ve done for a long time now.
But times change, and people grow up. Your arms and legs are stonger now. You are able to swim, and learn, and decide, and choose, all on your own. I don’t always agree, or approve, but you have entered the realm of adult action and reaction. Bear it well, Daughter of Eve.
Many have or will or are graduating. This is the season for it. Many are going off on their own to tread the deeper waters of life, not all are as well prepared as you are, some are more so. Some of your future classmates will have more talent in some areas, some less. Many will have different ideas about life and God as they are away from their families and figuring it all out. Listen to them. Learn from them. Be thankful that your life lessons have not been what some of theirs will be. Be thankful that you have ever been surrounded by people who love you and love God and want more than anything for the two of you to be besties for life, and beyond. Yet while you are listening and learning and making new friends, never forget your Forever Friend.  He is the friend of sinners. He is the Savior of us all. Don’t be intimidated or brow-beaten into hiding the Light inside of you. The world NEEDS that Light, it is the only light there is in this dark world. (John 1:1-5)
In a world full of fleeting glowstick-light, the blazing hot sun of God’s love is the one you need to hold dear. In love, as you go about your day to day, this Light will shine on those around you. Love them. We all need love. When they are hard to love, be kind, when it is hard to be kind, be silent 🙂 , but pray. Bless those around you as much as you can and trust to God. He moves in secret places no one else can see. He is the God of hearts, who has a heart, and who changes hearts. While we both wait for a certain heart we both hold dear to soften, we can pray for that as well, and trust them to God.
For you, the best I have to give you is what you already have. Don’t only GO with God, go FOR God and IN God and BECAUSE of God. Not everyone is a missionary in a faraway place. Not everyone ends up in an official “ministry” position, and yet we are all called. We all can minister. This world is hurting so very much. We carry inside our hearts, the Balm for the world, for all the souls of the world. Be a balm. Be the BOMB balm. In times when you feel uncertain and inadequate, remember He is a balm for you as well. JESUS
My amazing, restless, bossy, wonderful, talented, limitless Theresa, you will do great things. Just remember to keep wisdom at your side, God in your heart, and never forget your pocket handkerchief.
“That people may know skillful and godly Wisdom and instruction, discern and comprehend the words of understanding and insight,
Receive instruction in wise dealing andthe discipline of wise thoughtfulness, righteousness, justice, and integrity,
That prudence may be given to the simple, and knowledge, discretion, and discernment to the youth–
The wise also will hear and increase in learning, and the person of understanding will acquire skill and attain to sound counsel [so that he may be able to steer his course rightly]–[Prov. 9:9.]
That people may understand a proverb and a figure of speech or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their dark sayings or riddles.
The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline. [Ps. 111:10.]
My son, hear the instruction of your father; reject not nor forsake the teaching of your mother.
For they are a [victor’s] chaplet (garland) of grace upon your head and chains and pendants [of gold worn by kings] for your neck.
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. [Ps. 1:1; Eph. 5:11.]” ~ Proverbs 1:2-10 Amplified

The Emerald City, Now What?

Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Who rang that bell?
Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman: [all four together] We did!
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Can’t you read?
Scarecrow: Read what?
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: The notice!
Dorothy: What notice?
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: It’s on the door – as plain as the nose on my face! It… oh…
[does a “tisk tisk tisk” expression, goes inside door for a moment]
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: [Guardian hangs the notice and goes back inside]
Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman: [Reading notice, all together] Bell out of order, please knock.
[Dorothy knocks]
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Well, that’s more like it! Now, state your business!
Dorothy: [Dorothy and friends, all together] We want to see the Wizard!
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: [gasps] The Wizard? But nobody can see the Great Oz! Nobody’s ever seen the Great Oz! Even I’ve never seen him!
Dorothy: Well, then how do you know there is one?
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Oh, you’re wasting my time!
[starts to close the window]
Dorothy: Oh, please! Please, sir! I’ve got to see the Wizard! The Good Witch of the North sent me!
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Prove it!
Scarecrow: She’s wearing the ruby slippers she gave her.
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Oh, so she is! Well, bust my buttons! Why didn’t you say that in the first place? That’s a horse of a different color! Come on in!

Well, after some time of persevering and hoping and working and not giving up, you will eventually reach the place where your dreams are taking shape before your eyes. However, this is not where your happily-ever-after starts. You may be rather disappointed (because we have all had this idea in our heads at one point or another) to find out that when our dreams begin to come true, it will mean yet MORE work.

So you’ve gotten that big promotion, but your new office is quite a commute, do you stay put or do you uproot your family and move? So you’ve finally met Mr. or Miss Right, you plan to get married, but they have kids and so do you, as well as a past, families who may or may not approve, etc. Will all of those issues just dissolve when you get married or, along with this captivating soulmate, are you now facing issues you hadn’t anticipated? The list of situations can go on and on beyond these couple of examples. We want things in our lives but we don’t always count the cost to get there or the cost of staying there.

Do you remember when Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Cowardly Lion all got to the Emerald City? They thought their problems were solved, their dreams were fulfilled, and at last they were safe from that dreaded Wicked Witch of the West. To their dismay, they found that, not only was it difficult to get into the Emerald City at all, but the Wizard turned out to be rather frightening, demanding, and asked them to do the very thing they would like to avoid: go back and see the Witch again! What in the world was he thinking?? The Wizard didn’t just want them to pay a polite social call. He knew they would have to sneak into the Witch’s castle, get past the Witch’s guards (and flying monkeys). He knew it would be dangerous and scary, and unfamiliar. He wanted them to bring him back the Witch’s broomstick, which means they would have to kill her! Dorothy and her friends were terrified at the thought of going back to see the witch, but if they wanted the Wizard’s help, and they desperately did, they would have to do as he asked.

There are many times in our lives when our success may seem lopsided. We might have some of our wishes fulfilled, but not all, or not in the order that we had planned. There always seems to be more work involved in winning the prize than we had anticipated, and there are many things from our past (fears, issues, people) that we will again be forced to face. We might begin to wonder if it’s worth it. Wouldn’t it be far easier to just stay as we are, getting by, but not really being challenged, not growing. We’re not excited, we may not even BE exciting to be around anymore because we’ve lost that special spark, but improving our situation and walking through that looooong field of poppies to the Emerald City just seems like too much hassle.

If you have ever felt this way, as I have, let me share with you a gentle reminder: there is no avoiding the Wicked Witch of the West. Eventually, she will find you, and usually when you are least prepared. Isn’t it a better idea to face her and decide for yourself when and how you will do battle? Yes, I said battle. We are all of us in a battle for peace, freedom, happiness and even our very souls. As we march about our daily lives, doing good, working hard to be better men and women, being patient, being kind, forgiving, we are striking out at an age-old enemy who is jealous, who believes we took something we shouldn’t have, who hates us and wants nothing more than our destruction. This enemy has many names, but for now, let’s focus on our story and see what happens…

The friends finally confront the Witch in her castle, and they are completely out-matched by the witch and her forces. Things appear hopeless, but then one brave act of Dorothy’s changes everything. The Witch is defeated, and they have the broomstick with the blessing of the soldiers who for so long have been forced to do the bidding of the Wicked Witch against their will. After more work and searching, and of course walking (does no one even have a ponycart in Oz?), they solve the mystery of the Wizard, who turns out to be very kind, if blustering. He helps them to realize that the seeds of the dreams they hold in their hearts were with them all along and only needed to be cultivated in order to grow big enough to see. Dorothy eventually gets home again, and learns to be thankful for the many people around her who love her, and everyone ends up a little wiser than they began.

Your dreams may sometimes seem like a lot of work and time and trial, but they are just as worth it now that you have realized this as they were when the first glimmer of them sparkled in your eyes. Don’t give up on these dreams. You will never be the person you were meant to be if you decide against the trials and frustrations and hard work in favor of a padded and safe mediocrity. The world will miss out as well, but not as much as you will personally. The Yellow Brick Road may lead through dark forests and dry valleys, but all that is necessary is for you to take one step at a time. Now come on! Put on those Ruby Slippers and join me!!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29 : 11-14

The Courage to Do Things Differently

“We all have different desires and needs, but if we don’t discover what we want from ourselves and what we stand for, we will live passively and unfulfilled.”

 Bill Watterson  (American Author of the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, b.1958)

You may or may not be familiar with the campy 80’s horror movie, The Stuff. In it, a delicious marshmallow cream-like substance was found bubbling up from the earth. It became all the rage, replacing all other food. However, something strange happens as people begin ingesting more and more of “The Stuff”, and I got this straight from IMDB, “But the sugary treat rots more than teeth when zombie-like snackers begin infesting the world.” Seriously, this movie is silly, and fun, and a little bit concerning, if you can get past the cheese factor. I was put in mind of it this morning because of the fact that I was eating vanilla yogurt and granola, and the yogurt reminded me that it is definitely a better idea to be in charge of what you eat, instead of what’s eating you. *chuckle*

But I digress…the point is that we all like different things, have different styles in everything from home decor to music to the color we paint (or don’t) our toenails. The world is made up of a kaleidoscope of different kinds of people. We don’t even look the same. In spite of the loud and obnoxious message that is pumped into our conscious minds at all hours by a greedy consumer industry, we are NOT happier when we are just like everyone else.

I have a friend who lived, like I did, in a small home town, grew up, went to college, had some bad relationships, and is now working and deliriously happy in South Carolina, working as a nurse in a cancer treatment center. I have other friends who have traveled the world to find happiness right back where they started in Quincy, California, a little logging town, a couple of hours away from Lake Tahoe. The point is, we all have to find the life that makes us happy, and go out and do the work necessary to live it. Of course I mean our best, positive life here; no one should pursue a life of robbing banks, etc.

The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.

Jean Piaget (born on August 9, Swiss psychologist and pioneer in the study of child intelligence, 1896-1980)

It is actually very exciting when you think about it. Your life has the potential to contain all kinds of adventures and experiences! You could start today to work toward getting your pilot’s license, or take dance lessons, or learn to sing opera, or build a house, or speak Russian, or ANYTHING!! Your life can be as rich in actuality as your imagination will allow. There is no reason to hang back and bide your time waiting for “someday”. The main reason isn’t even because life is shorter than we think it is, although that’s true. The main reason is that this is YOUR life. The sooner you take responsibility for it, the better you will be at planning and making decisions that affect it.

Instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, or Davises, or the Kennedys, STOP and really think about what you want in YOUR life. When you get to know them, you might be surprised to find that the Joneses and Davises and Kennedys are trying hard to keep up with someone else. Thus lives the rat race, all of us, coveting things we have no idea what to do with, in order to have a life someone else doesn’t even want, chasing our tails. As Susan Powter would say, “STOP THE INSANITY!!” Yes, I went there. Really, she had a lot of good points.

You were made YOU on purpose. There is no need to change that or feel ashamed. You don’t have to spend your life trying to be someone else, and you SHOULDN’T. Trust me, you’ve got your hands full with the one life you’ve got.

This is what the Lord says—
    he who made a way through the sea,
    a path through the mighty waters,
 who drew out the chariots and horses,
    the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
    extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
 The wild animals honor me,
    the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
    the people I formed for myself
    that they may proclaim my praise. Isaiah 43 : 16-21

Stuck in Molasses Swamp

“What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can’t move, with no hope of rescue. Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn’t been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won’t be troubling you much longer.” Douglas Adams

When I was a child, I thought of Florida as one giant swamp full of alligators and snakes and bugs, but mostly alligators. I have since learned that the Florida Everglades is a vital part of the global ecosystem……with alligators thrown in for fun. (My apologies to anyone who lives in these places, I realize that there are many amazing geological, cultural, gastronomic, and entertainment options in this part of the U.S.) Even now, the thought of encountering an alligator, the way I have encountered bears in different places I have lived and camped, does NOT make me an over-eager visitor to these locations.

It is a common, if unfair, concept that a swamp is simply just an unpleasant place to be: humid, sticky, full of bugs that sting, snakes that bite, and any number of large-toothed animals that might be lurking in the murky water. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in a swamp.  After all, most people prefer to quickly pass through a place that they see as so unpleasant.

“Most of the time it was probably real bad being stuck down in a dungeon. But some days, when there was a bad storm outside, you’d look out your little window and think, “Boy, I’m glad I’m not out in that.”” Jack Handy

Sometimes, if you just change your perspective a little, you might think of the swamp as a spa retreat instead of a dungeon. You might be waiting for something else, but in the meantime, you have time for some self-reflection and renewal that will be more difficult when you get to the busy, tour Epcot-Disney World-Sea World destination. Perspective can help you see your surroundings in a way that will change you.

Maybe the reason you are here waiting is because what needs to change is you.

“Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

When I was a child playing Candy Land, I inevitably ended up in Molasses Swamp. Usually, I stayed there while turn after turn the other people who were playing landed safe and sound at Candy Castle. Life, as I have found, often sends me back to Molasses Swamp. I see many others breeze on by heading straight for Candy Castle, or so I assume.

The real journey of life, however, is full of surprises like grace, mercy, and hidden bends where the over-confident spin out and wind up as unfortunate guests of Lord Liquorice and have other much less pleasant adventures. We never really know about the struggles of those around us, or whether their seemingly perfect lives are really something we would want to face.

Many of us are similarly stuck in Molasses Swamp, waiting as our characters are honed and polished into the amazing kinds of people fit to walk through the gates of Candy Castle. In the meantime, we can all learn to enjoy our “time out” by helping each other endure; encouraging, assisting, and bolstering one another up. Some people are stuck in the Swamp for quite a long time. Their spirits fail, like the Horse Artax in the Neverending Story, and they sink below the surface, never to be seen again.

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. ” Romans 15 : 1-4

And Now for Something Completely Different…

Two of my daughters recently had a culture fair at their school. There were booths with information on many different countries around the world, crafts, activities, and the chance to write letters to soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. It was an interesting evening. Then, we made our way to the school cafeteria where there was a mixture of smells emanating. We each received a plate with tiny portions of various dishes, fruits, and treats from various cultures, and that was truly the most interesting part of the evening.

Thankfully, we have long been fans of the show Bizarre Foods, I have tried to instill an acceptance of different foods and variation in my children, and none of us is put off by strange textures. There were a couple different slippery Asian noodle dishes, a fruit like a berry with a husk that we had to peel, sour (pickled?) gooseberries, tubes of jelly, and tamales, among other things on our plates. Naturally, some of the foods were better received than others. The whole experience broadened our palates and our minds, and gave us some new tastes, textures, and experiences. The next time we are presented by something unfamiliar, I hope we rise to the challenge.

If only things worked that way so easily with life’s little sample plate. We are exposed to change more times than we are often  comfortable with as we move through the many courses and snacks of life. Some times, we’d love to be able to send our meal back to the kitchen. Sometimes, we are left with a taste of something we would gladly have consumed without end. Life, however, is full of strange dishes and we are given an opportunity to sample them all. It is to our benefit that we take in as many of these life experiences as possible in order to feel satisfied and enjoy a full existence. It is not uncommon for many people to be so stuck in their burger and fries ways that they miss out on something truly spectacular.

God, you see, has many menu items laid out for us in the Grand Buffet. Some things we will like more than others; however, the less than exciting oatmeal is just as good for us as the plate of fruit, or steak, or chocolate. We DO all need a little chocolate from time to time during the Feast of Life, after all. Don’t be afraid of new things. Every good and necessary change you are looking toward in your life will require some difference in the way you act and think, even the way you live, or where you live. As the French say, Vive le difference!”

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43: 18-19

Rockin’ the Journey

Whoa, we’re half way there
Whoa oh, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand and we’ll make it I swear
Whoa oh, livin’ on a prayer                                                                    

Livin’ On A Prayer lyrics
Songwriters: Bonjovi, Jon; Sambora, Richard; Child, Desmond

That’s it, keep going….you’re almost there….now a little to the left….a little to the right now…..keep going, keep going, you’re getting warmer, you’re starting to sizzle, you’re burning hot…….

Each of us is on our way somewhere. Sometimes the road stretches out further and further in front of us and we aren’t quite sure if we have enough gas, enough snacks, enough patience, or enough stamina to make it all the way. There are plenty of times when we may have every inclination to turn around and go back the way we came, instead of pressing on toward our goal. The path of least resistance doesn’t make us particularly happy or give us satisfaction or a sense of accomplishment, but it is much easier than trying to force our car’s screaming, protesting transmission up yet another steep incline.

Let’s take an imaginary trip together in our imaginary RV. (Notice: I am not really an “RV kind of person”, this is just for demonstration purposes.) We have our fridge packed, plenty of fuel in our tanks, with a little to spare for emergencies, a cold soda within reach in the cup holder, and our most comfortable non-embarrasing-should-we-need-to-get-out-in-public travel outfits. We’re taking things pretty easy, enjoying the time spent in one another’s company. Our destination: the Grand Canyon.

Along the way, there are lots of things to see and do. Some of them are pretty distracting. We might find a train museum, or a little art gallery, or a cute little burger stand with a stream running along side and shady places to eat at picnic tables. We might see unusual birds, striking sunsets, dazzling lightning storms, or cascading waterfalls along the way that beckon us to stop for a bit and practice our photography skills. We might also encounter flat tires, tourist traps, getting lost, having our wallets stolen, and throbbing sunburn.

When we’ve found our way back on the road and have double and triple checked that we’re going the right direction, we notice that not too far ahead of us is a mountain. As we grow closer to this mountain, we can see the slender hair of our road zigging and zagging up the side. You check the map. This is the only road. You groan at the very thought of driving this pull-out-all-the-stops monstrosity you HAD to have to take this trip up that steep road. (Sorry, I told you I wasn’t an RV person.)

When climbing long inclines, your RV needs to be operated within its power band.

The power band is a span of engine RPMs where you have the maximum horsepower available to handle the extra load imposed when going up long inclines.

This becomes even more noticeable with diesel engines…. (Link for this info)


Now, say we’ve been on a really long drive in this RV, hundreds of miles long. The Grand Canyon is a long way away from a lot of places. We’re on the way to the Grand Canyon, and we’re starting to see it on road signs we pass. The distance is shrinking mile after mile. When we’re about 50 miles away, our engine starts to overheat, we’re out of the good snacks, you and I are feeling worn out and cranky, and on top of all of that the baby is out of diapers. Oh Boy! * Hold that thought *

When I was younger, I went on a trip to the Grand Canyon with my Grandma. It was a long, hot drive. I was very excited. I had never been to the Grand Canyon before. When we got to the park, the road wove in and out of the rises and dips of the high desert landscape.We rounded a bend, and there it was, gaping like a hungry giant’s maw, stretching on and on into the distance. I jumped out of the car and ran for the guardrail to peer over the edge…and received a sharp reprimand from my mother. I cautiously, continued on my way toward the guardrail, and marveled at the sight of this one-of-a-kind wonder. It was well worth all those long hours in the car just to see such an impressive thing. True story.

My grandma absolutely refused to get out of the car. So, after we had urged her repeatedly and in vain, we spent a little time there and drove home. Now, over 20 years later, I still remember this incident. It always seemed like such a waste to me, such a pointless thing for my grandma to go all that way, and then stop before she got to the point of the trip. Isn’t that like working all the way up to payday and then refusing your check?? That’s like a big steaming plate of what’s-the-point topped with crazy sauce and a side of DOH!! (I loved my grandma very much, but sometimes she just made no sense to me.)

* OK, back to our RV trip. * So, we’re getting close to our destination. We see the signs everywhere that prove it. The road has gotten a little rough and our tempers are shorter than they were when things were smooth, we had our favorite radio station, and there was plenty of our favorite treats to go around. Now we’re stuck with a steaming radiator, the radio is stuck on the farm report, and the snack bags are full of greasy crumbs. What should we do? Should we press on, or give up and turn around? It might be a little more familiar, but think of what we’ll be missing!

When we’re in the middle of our life journey, we will have times when things go a little rougher than others, but we cannot give up and go back home. In order to be different than the person we’ve always been, in order to have a different life than the one we’ve always had, we’re going to have to complete our journey. We cannot just decide it is easier to stay the same. We’re not happy this way, but the travel time seems so long and the trip is so hard. The destination is at the end, not in the middle. We need to keep this in our minds next to the place where we keep our name. The point is not to stop, but to keep going.

“…Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…” Philippians 1: 6

Sealed With a…

Ahh, LOVE. For quite some time now, the phenomenon of love locks has been noted in many parts of Europe, Asia, South America, and Canada. The symbolism of permanent, binding affection and regard is an attractive one. The principle is that two lovers will engrave or paint their initials on the lock and then affix it to a public structure such as a fence, gate, or railing of a bridge; a public display of your undying love.

It’s easy enough to see why love sealed with a lock instead of a kiss would be more permanent (theoretically).  A kiss can also mean other things beside love and romance. It can be a simple greeting, as in many parts of the world. A kiss, as we all know, can also be false. It was a kiss, remember, that Judas used to betray Jesus. “Sealed With A Kiss” doesn’t sound as romantic now, does it?

Spouses have for many years been disparaged with the term “the old ball and chain”. There is, of course, some truth to this phrase, although not for the reason many people think. When two people marry, they are making a decision similar to entering a room with someone, and locking the door. No one can leave and no one else can enter. This situation sounds very claustrophobic to some people. They’d rather not make the commitment. They don’t want to be chained to someone for the rest of their lives. The idea of being locked in scares them and makes them want to escape.

Of course, marriage is supposed to be a choice. By your own free-will and consent, you are entering this room and locking yourself in, because you couldn’t stand the idea of someone else taking them away from you. By your own choice, you are binding yourself to this person permanently, because you love them and want them to be a permanent part of your life.

When God speaks of love, He uses very permanent terms as well. By HIS choice, He is entering a room with us and locking Himself in and throwing away the key. He does not want out of this relationship, although we are not bound in any way. This unspeakable wonder, the sheer incredulity of this love He holds for us should send us down on our faces in awe. We should be captivated by the besotted Most High who moons over us. His love for you is such that if YOU were the only person who had ever lived, He still would have gone to the cross just for you. His pleasure in our creation culminates in His longing to be loved by us in return. Because of His bountiful nature, the fact that love is WHO God is, He dotes on the pinnacle of His creation, you.

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    itwould be utterly scorned. Song of Songs 8: 6-7

The Chosen Road

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost (American poet, 1874-1963)

That is a poem I memorized and took to heart when I was a junior in high school. For all the many varied and diverse roads I have traveled since then, I think I would have to agree with Mr. Frost in some regards. There are many thing you could have done that you chose not to do, and those things, taken together with the things you chose to do have shaped you to be the person you are today.

Some roads we find in life are straight and sure, free from debris and any visible threat or danger. They stretch on and on with little change or drama. Many people travel these roads, for mile upon uniform mile. These roads can seem tedious, and surreal, like you’re not actually going anywhere at all. After one hour, two, five, ten, the distance seems as distant as it did before. It seems you’ve made no progress at all. You sometimes think this MUST be the wrong way. You should have gotten somewhere by now, right? Eventually, though, you find that it was the right road after all; and thank goodness you stayed on track all the time it took! These roads seem to take up the majority of the journey.

Other roads are full of bends and sharp corners and shrubs in the middle of the path. There can be downed trees, or rock slides, or animals in the road! There are cave-ins, pitfalls, potholes, and brambles to fight our way out of and through. This road can be exciting, but it is never safe to let down your guard completely. It’s enough to make your hair turn grey! So much to see along the sides of the road, but you dare not take your eyes from in front of you! This is white-knuckle-way, Baby! You’d better fasten your seat belts here! Thankfully, these roads don’t last as long as they seem they will .

Still other roads we take are much slower, over roads that meander from side to side, and up and down over hillocks and through meadows. It’s so easy to get lost on these roads, and no trouble at all once it’s happened. These kinds of roads are full of change and surprise, but rounding a corner brings something delightful and new, some new perspective to consider. On these roads we encounter sunny glens, foamy river rapids, mountain peaks, the scent of orange blossoms, and enchanted forests we want to get lost in and never come out of again! Traveling down this road is never a trial or, unfortunately, very long.

“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.” Ayn Rand (Russian born American Writer and Novelist, 1905-1982)

The path you are traveling leads to a place you have never been before, the future, that unknown, strange, and mysterious thing. Don’t think that the ways you have been down up until now are the ONLY ways. That would be as silly as saying the people you have known up until now are the ONLY people. It  may seem, at times, as though you were fenced in, prohibited from choosing  any other road but the ones you have already traveled. Just keep in mind, that sometimes to get somewhere new, you have to hop a fence, or swim a river, or climb a mountain. There is a lot of work in making new roads. Think of new sights, smells, flavors, feelings, loves that you will never know until you build those roads.
“When all’s said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it.” Charles de Lint (Celtic folk musician and story teller, b.1951)
No matter what road you have had the fortune, or misfortune, to travel, always there has been someone who walked the same road or a more difficult road. You are not in this world alone. No matter what the catastrophes and terrors and tragedy, there are many who have overcome these obstacles and lived triumphant afterward. Your road can be as new as your very next step. This life is full of another chance, and another, and another. The road you finally travel, is the road you CHOOSE to travel, and none of us has to walk alone.

“In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar —some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan.” Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.”  Isaiah 49: 8-17

Embracing Adventure

A couple of weekends ago I went on a Date with my sweet, sweet hubby, Adam. It started out by going to breakfast. It took more than 45 minutes before we were served. The food was not worth the wait. The bathrooms were I-can-hold-it-until-we-get-home dirty. There was a little girl who tried, in vain, to compete for her mom’s attention by climbing all over the booth next to us and into the one beyond that, singing in the aisles, which put her in the way of the waitresses and other customers. The whole experience wasn’t something which led me to believe that restaurant will be receiving a 5-star rating anytime soon. Still, we were fed and didn’t have to make it ourselves, and we got a break from the kids. To top it all off, we now have a funny story to tell.

From there we went to the mall, where my hubby and I took turns going to places one or both of us like. He even let me spend what I’m sure was a long time smelling lotions at Bath and Body Works, and even let me buy some, even though we’re on a fairly tight budget right now. (Let me just stop right now and say, for the sake of my hubby’s reputation as basically just plain awesome, that when I say he “let” me buy lotion, what I mean is that he didn’t give me any grief or guilt and actually encouraged me to treat myself. As a mom, you spend a lot of time doing that for others.) We went to Game Stop and we went to a store where previously Adam had found a really good deal on Gilmore Girls and bought 2 seasons I didn’t already own, because he knows how much I like them. (That’s something my oldest daughter like to do sometimes together.) We even stopped at a little kiosk and bough new covers for our phones. Nerds love their gadgets, after all, we like to care for them, like pets. I may even name mine Poppy.

And then…Adam, aka, Mr. Awesome, led me to a tea shop, called Teavana. A girl at the front of the shop was offering samples of tea, so we tried them, and then we were caught and she led us through the shop and we sampled teas of different flavors, scents, colors, temperatures. All around us were beautiful teapots and canisters of teas and lovely china, and soft lighting. It was a very girly place. I was completely enjoying myself. What a treat it was! Did I mention the fact that Mr. Awesome is 6ft 5in, likes heavy metal, has a ponytail, mustache, and goatee, and is not even remotely girly? He is also rather blunt at times and had some less than poetic descriptions of the teas we were drinking, which made me laugh and shake my head. He stayed there with me, and samples teas from tiny plastic cups, and told the girl he was “gift idea shopping”, and watched me the whole time, and enjoyed my company. He was up for an adventure and willing to move outside of his comfort zone to make someone else happy. I felt very much treasured because he wanted to see me enjoy myself and spend time with me.

I was a little hesitant when the girl fist moved toward us at the front of the tea shop. Like many others who have been to malls, I have experienced the trapped feeling that overly-zealous salespeople can instill in you, their prey. I have had my hair partially curled and straightened and spent the rest of the day looking like I had been called away from my morning preparation a little too soon. I have been swarmed by clone-like young women in a cosmetics store, all talking in unison and asking me if they could help me. I ran from those invasion of the body-snatching salespeople experiences, as I’m sure many others have.

Sometimes, I think we get so used to running from these experiences that we brush off the slightest interruption in our day, no matter where it comes from. We say no when a friend wants to chat over coffee (or tea). We don’t call our mom and dad. (Sorry Mom and Dad, I love you.) We ignore our kids when they want to show us a picture, or schoolwork, or show us how fast they can run, or spin, or dance, or how they can sing, or tell a joke about an orange, a refrigerator, and a box of matches. When we turn our attention to other things, besides our same, old boring, hum-drum routine, we take part in the adventure of life that God is continually trying to woo us into. We become enriched and more interesting, we are put in the path of people who need us. We also, many times, miss out on opportunities to grow and become better-informed and well-rounded people. So, take a chance! Order something different in a restaurant. Try a new place to eat. Pray for that person walking past you on the sidewalk (who you would normally mentally judge). Take part in the Adventure, and more than that, embrace it.

Spring Has Sprung (at last!)

A couple of weeks ago, our family took a trip to Seattle to visit the Aquarium….at least, this is what we ended up doing. It’s funny how a day can be planned in our minds but we see things come to pass so differently. Life is a lot like that too. We have our plans and our hopes and expectations. Sometimes we are disappointed and sometimes we have amazing and delightful surprises. As many people have learned throughout the entire history of family road trips, there is almost infinite potential for disaster, carsickness, hurt feelings, lost tempers,  “no fair”, and the dreaded “I’m-not-touching-you” game. (Sibling rivalry has been around a LONG time. Remember Cain and Abel? )

When we’re little, we have some idea of what we want to do with our lives when we are “all grown up”. We always imagine ourselves happy, with lots of money, plenty of friends, and the ability to do fun and amazing things whenever we want. The trick is that we somehow fail to see that we can be the biggest obstacle to this becoming reality. We get in the way of our own dreams more than anyone else ever has or ever will. One reason for this is fear. It’s a big, scary world, after all. We remember so many times before when things didn’t turn out the way we wanted. We can recall the hurts, the wounds, the feeling of loss, the humiliation. We would do just about anything to avoid ever having to go through that again. So we avoid situations, people, memories of the past, events of the present, and plans for the future. What are we left with but a dark, stinky cave (and PHEW, by the way, open a window already). We are all alone with our fears.

That doesn’t have to be the end for us. Things can be different. Each breath is a choice. God makes a choice to give us another chance, and another chance, and another…..inhale, exhale….and another chance…inhale. The future is not written in stone (or dried on Cream of Wheat, which may be more permanent) and as long as there’s life, there’s hope.

So what did we do with ourselves in Seattle with a crew of 5 kids, ages toddler to teen, in tow? We decided to invest some time in making memories with our kids, and enjoy one another for the good part of the day. It was one of the best times I have had in a long time. It was a really lovely day. Yes, there were little quarrels and the kids pushed a few buttons, but we all came together as a family, which is what family trips are all about, in the end.