Tag Archives: faith

The Great Buts of Human Limitation

24 Apr

Who are you, deep down? What is it you really desire to do? What is it you’ve been putting off for years, despite the constant yearning? We all have dreams, hopes, a purpose . . .  but some of us are sitting on our buts and may never see them realized.

It seems the more I write, the more I hear from people who want to write. The more I write about peace and positive outlook, the more I hear from people craving peace and positive outlook. The more I write about jumping off the ledge to follow your dreams, the more I hear the word “but.”

But I’m too old. But I’m too young. But I’m too sick. But I’m too far in debt. But I don’t know where to start. But the kids…

I understand completely, because I’ve been there. I pined to write for 35 years, yet never stuck my head out past the margin of societal expectations. Despite having an active imagination and dreams of writing for a living, I believed the voices that said to leave my current job would be irresponsible, that making lots of money is more important than pretending to be a writer, that I might not be good enough to make it in the writing world.

But perhaps when I’m old enough to retire; but maybe if I could secure a solid offer for something first; but perhaps when the youngest graduates college…

Then, quite out of the blue, I do believe I heard the Lord tell me to get off my but(t) and start scribbling. I did, and although I wouldn’t call myself a financially successful author yet, I’m on my way and having a ball. I’m happier than I ever was when money was assured (although, depending on your spiritual foundation, one could argue that sufficient money has been assured and IS being provided, as we are not in need.)

As I walked through my neighborhood recently, I took specific notice of some trees that clearly do not conform to nature’s expectations, and it occurs to me that sometimes, despite our greatest yearnings, we make decisions based on the world’s expectations and let fears and past hurts keep us from what may be the true happiness we’re seeking, a happiness that comes from doing what we were meant to do with our lives.

So, the photos on this blog post will be larger than usual, because I want you to study them and search for your face amid the leaves.

stubborn treeThis first I call the Tree of Determination. You might say it’s a young tree with an old soul. This is a rebellious Eastern Redbud, which sports radiant purple (go figure) flowers every spring. This tree has clearly experienced a recent tragedy, yet refuses to go quietly into that good night. Notice how tall and full its new growth is. There’s nothing meek or hesitant going on here. This is how we were meant to be, alive and vibrant, pushing forward despite the negative buffeting of the world around us, and despite the passing of those who went before us. It’s okay, and quite healthy, to mourn those who are no longer with us, but we can also honor them by taking what they left behind and letting it nourish our growth.

The second is this Tree of Hope, quite possibly a Red Maple, but I’m not a tree expert so don’t write that down. When a fire stripped this pitiful thing bare last summer, I was sure someone was sharpening the axe. But the owners, who are clearly wiser than I am, burned treepruned back the branches and let it rest over the winter. This spring there is evidence of hope. It put up a small patch of growth this year, perhaps all it can muster, as if timidly testing the environment. I will track this tree’s progress over the next few years, and reblog someday with hopefully a fantastic fall display. The lesson I take from this tree is, sometimes we know where we want to go, but we’ve been burned too many times to stick our neck out there. In that case, it’s okay to go slow. Do only as much as you can right now, but move forward. Fires can and may happen, but the likelihood that they will keep happening and in the same place is not great. That picture in your mind of where you’re going? That’s your dream. Do something every day that brings you closer. Don’t give it up, even if the world mocks you or knocks you down (see picture #1). It’s YOUR dream and they can’t have it.



Finally, we have the No-longer Imprisoned Tree. I have no idea of its species, because I boxed treewas too focused on the roots of this tree to examine the leaves. Here’s a fully functioning, helpful tree. It’s tall, and straight, and even supports a swing. A giver. At one time, though, its roots were apparently boxed and tightly constrained. Sadly, the message here is one I see all too often. Many of us were once boxed and tightly constrained, but although we’ve been set free, we haven’t moved a muscle. We function, day after day, provide care and nurturing for others, but we keep our own selves confined. What’s keeping us from stretching those limbs and experiencing the freedom we’ve yearned for? Other voices? Reminders? For me it was fear of failure. Or more precisely, fear of success. I worried that if I succeeded with my first book, I’d have nothing else to say, and I’d be found out a fraud. The voice I listened to said anyone can write one book, but only a “real author” can keep the words coming. I still worry sometimes, but I know the dream is still in my heart so I’m striving to be a purple Redbud tree.

My inspiration to keep moving forward, however, comes not from trees but from three women I greatly admire. My Tree of Determination friend is Erin Elizabeth Austin a writer friend who suffers from an often debilitating disease called Lupus. She refuses to let negative events of the world dictate how she will behave, and chooses to make every healthy minute of her life count by helping others and by blooming wildly. She has just released the 11th issue of “Broken but Priceless” magazine, an uplifting and encouraging magazine for people who have, or care for loved ones with, chronic illness. And in all this, she’s so danged funny, just like a purple Redbud tree.

Aimee Gross is my Tree of Hope. She’s a fellow blogger who suffers from mental illness and chronic depression, but she’s sticking her neck out there in hopes of reaching that one person who might be looking for help in this vast internet. Aimee has a physically demaanding day job, yet she writes to inspire others in her free time. Her main message is, you’re not alone. you can overcome, we can do this together.

And my Tree of No-longer Imprisoned? That would be Michele, a strong-willed, smart, big-hearted woman whose dreams are repeatedly squelched by buffeting storms. Some of the waves have even knocked her down at times, but she resolutely stands each time and braces for the next. What she can’t see, but her friends can, is that the waves are getting weaker, further apart, and the sea is ebbing. I, for one, cannot wait to see what happens when she realizes she can stretch out her limbs and take a step forward. Michele is not a writer (yet), but boy, does she have a story. I’ll keep you posted there as well.

So, a lot of words blogged today to ask, again, who are you deep-down, and what’s the next step in fulfilling your dream? I would love to hear your answers, unless there’s a “but” attached, because on this blog, we don’t sit on our buts.


For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10


Book Signing Poster2Oh, two announcements! First, for those who live in the area, I will be co-sponsoring a book signing with Bea Fishback this Sunday (April 30), at Brew Republic Bierwerks in Woodbridge (near Wegman’s). If you can make it, please stop by between 1 and 3. Even if the idea of good books and fellowship doesn’t grab you, at least try the beer cheese pretzels or the crab dip—such a treat!

Breaking the Chains Cover_300 dpiAND, I’ve recently contributed two stories to the Lighthouse Bible Studies anthology “Breaking the Chains,” an uplifting place to start if anything in the blog above strikes a chord. This book addresses the spiritual attacks that keep us bound and believing things about ourselves that just ain’t true. If you want to take that first step forward, I’ll have books at the signing on Sunday, or you can order them here.

I Got Screwed! Seduced into Humming Complacency

25 Feb

Recently, my wonderful husband noticed that my tires needed air. I don’t mean that metaphorically, although the idea would certainly blog, but the tires we’re talking about are on my Subaru.

Why don’t I notice these sorts of things? I can tell when someone spilled milk on the kitchen floor, even after they attempt to clean it up. I notice when the smallest of our neighborhood’s 10-or-so feral cats fails to show up at the back door of the home behind us for the evening meal—I have no desire to take the cat in, mind you, but I’m rooting for him to make it through the winter. I even noticed that our toilet paper no longer fits snugly in the holder, but is now a “new and improved?” half-inch more narrow. (There’s another rant that will blog—and I know you’re thinking about going to check your own roll right now…trust me, it’s smaller.)

But for some reason, I can’t pick up on the fact that my tires are so low they pour more than ride along the road, or that I could practically hear the rubber folding as the wheels turned. However, I DID pick up on that look I received from Hubby when he noticed—incredulous annoyance, I believe it’s called.

Interestingly, the moment Hubby filled those tires I could tell the difference. They actually hummed against the pavement, and I felt as if I were riding higher than usual. Of course, I may have imagined that, but considering the flopping sound of the pre-aired tires, Subi must have been at least six inches taller.

Over the next few days, the humming tone improved. Remember that rich, satisfying growl you could create by flying down the hill on your bike with a baseball card flapping against the spokes? It was like that. The noise was most noticeable when I entered a wide curve. So of course, I drove into every curve as if it were Turn One at the Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Listen to that! Doesn’t it just sound like a race car?”

My son agreed, once I made him remove his headphones.

Hubby frowned. “It doesn’t sound natural, but I don’t think it’s the engine.” He tipped his head like a doctor. “Sounds like it’s coming from the back.”

“Well, I like it.” I gunned Subi through a sharp left (is there any other direction?) and said “Crank it up!”

NOTE: For the NASCAR-impaired, “Crank it up!” is an auspicious moment during every race when the announcer closes his mouth for a full minute. Simultaneously, every motorhead across the country turns the television volume to its highest setting, and settles back to listen to and appreciate the sweet, melodious rumbling of 42 LOUD, but perfectly tuned engines as the drivers soar past the camera. Then, once Joe Nemechek putters past, they turn the volume back down. I’ve often wondered if their collective din can be heard across the nation, but I’ve never pulled myself away from our own cranked up TV to check.

Anyway, I enjoyed my NASCAR growl for nearly three weeks. Then I noticed the screw in a rear tire.


Screw in tire


It didn’t help that Hubby was there when I found it. I’m always amazed at how much dialogue he can put into a single raised eyebrow. Indirectly, I blame him; a floppy tire would have just poured over something like that.

So there I am, one replaced tire and $120 later (“It might not have been so damaged if you’d brought it in right away, Ma’am.”), driving my ordinary, quiet car home, and marveling that at my age I still can’t always tell the good from the bad. It makes no sense. When something’s wrong with the car, it should sound like I’m dragging 15 running chainsaws under the car, not like one of my favorite childhood memories.

But life is like that. Inside, we’re determined to stick to a budget, eat right, remain faithful, accomplish our goals, but we all too often give them up for temporary satisfaction because something just looks GOOD. More often than not, it’s just something bad wrapped up in beautiful, shiny, delightful packaging.  Then we ignore the voice that says, “I don’t know, it doesn’t sound natural” and listen to voices we shouldn’t even be entertaining (our own included).

  • “Go ahead, you deserve those shoes.”
  • “Pot-luck desserts have no calories.”
  • “But he treats you so much better than your husband does.”
  • “One week without exercise isn’t going to hurt you.”
  • “But I want it now.”

Bottom line is, I knew better. I know what my car sounds like when all is well, and I should keep her in good condition so that any time she sounds differently I’ll notice immediately and raise an eyebrow. I also know what my life looks like when all is well. I have the benefit of excellent counsel when I choose to seek it, and I have no excuse for not inquiring about the pretty packages and distractions that come into my life. If they’re good for me, He will let me know.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” — Colossians 2:8

Bamboo Faith: Why I Can’t Quit Writing

9 Oct panda and bamboo

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your own ineptitude? I’ve been there for the past two weeks, and last night, it almost beat me.

panda and bamboo

Mei-Jing and bamboo (the flag was outside; the artist was 5 and all about details)

I was throwing away a bamboo stump that had been a living plant in our home for at least the past 12 years. It represented a simpler time in our lives, a time when watering plants was part of the weekly routine, and wishes were easily satisfied. We bought the plant when my youngest, who’d just acquired a stuffed panda named Mei-Jing (what else?) asked for bamboo for Christmas, explaining quite simply, “You can’t have a panda without bamboo.”

Bamboo is like cactus, in that it takes a lot to do it in. It thrives, even when neglected. My friend tossed a dying bamboo root in her back yard a few years back and now she has a forest out there that would make any panda feel right at home. But then, I’ve killed many a cactus plant in my day. And now I’ve killed Mei-Jing’s food supply as well, because I no longer have a weekly routine.

So last night, I stared at that clump of former life and had a pity party. I told myself it represented the past few weeks, in which I’ve been racing around to accomplish “stuff,” but really, I’ve gone nowhere. Joe’s story has received two rejections from publishers; I’m having trouble finding blog time, which is one of my favorite things to do; and when my fledgling business was begging for water, I prayed for water and got a firehose. I cannot operate a firehose, so I just about drowned everything in my…ineptitude.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve become accustomed to, and accepted the reality that…well, I’m not the brightest bulb in the dirt. (See how that doesn’t work? Nevermind.) I come by this quirk honestly. Once when my dad was in a hospital waiting room, fretting over Mom as the doctors worked behind closed doors (she was ok—that’s not the story), the doctor came out and told him it would help if he got some donors. My dad made a beeline for the exit and was gone for 20 minutes. When he came back, he presented a pink box to the doctor and said, “I didn’t know if you wanted glazed or jelly filled so I got some of both.”

So, yes, I’m a bit off, but I’m generally capable. I can juggle many tasks, write a fine short story (if I do say so myself), and make kids laugh without actually falling down. That’s why, when I left my job to write full-time, I had a certain degree of justifiable confidence in my ability—until this week.

Here’s the situation: Despite the negative news (so far) for Joe’s story, my freelance business is taking off. I’d been writing one story a week for some time now. Last week, because I forgot to take my name off a list of availability, I managed to sign up for three stories at once. Naturally, I was too proud to say it’s too much. I figured, the interviews have been averaging two hours (recorded on an mp3 file), and the stories are so intriguing they practically write themselves, so I thought I was up for the challenge. HOWEVER, both interviews this week have been well over three hours. One is with a woman who speaks with a heavy Romanian accent and the other had some sort of technical glitch forcing me to fight through static to transcribe the conversation. It has taken me six hours to transcribe the first hour of each tape. The rest awaits. Ineptitude. I woke this morning dreading my work for the first time because I have so much to do and still another interview tomorrow. I’m overwhelmed. I cried in my pity party and thought, perhaps I’m not cut out for this.

Here’s where I praise God for that few moments each day that ARE routine. You see, every morning I try to spend my first 30 minutes or so studying the Bible. Lately that’s been in the form of Beth Moore’s Children of the Day study of 1st Thessalonians, in which I read about Paul’s concern for the new believers after their trials. He wrote, not to assure them they’d be okay, but to remind them that they would be hard pressed to come out unscathed. He added, “I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

And bam! I remembered: I’m not doing this on a whim, but because I believe it’s the Lord’s plan for me. Anything that comes against my decision to write is not of God. I know the “tempter” isn’t looking out for my best interests. What he holds out before me is not escape and relief, but surrender. When I’m wounded and angry, he’s delighted, because I’m close to giving in. (That’s one reason he attacks our loved ones, by the way—to get us where we’re vulnerable—but that’s another blog). Simply put: he plays dirty. And I know what he wants from me. Not my business. Not my stories. Not my hopes and dreams. These things mean nothing to him, except as a means to get what he really wants.

New bamboo plant

My plant of new hope…it better hope I remember to water it.

He wants my faith.

He’s not getting it.

So this morning I bought a new bamboo plant and set it in the same vase as the last one. I watered it (so that’s at least once…) and set it where I can see it. I’m not inept. I’m administratively challenged. But I have a Counselor who isn’t, and so I leave that part of this job to Him. These next few days will be challenging, and before I’m done I might be speaking with a static-y Romanian accent, but I know there’s victory coming.

Now, I’m heading back to finish my transcription; but this time, I’m armored up and ready to fight. Are you with me?

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” 1 Thessalonians 8