December 21, 2014

A Hello

Late last week I lost my much loved cat Grace after 10 years.  As sad and heartbreaking as the loss of a beloved pet is, we are thankful that it was a swift and peaceful goodbye after a long love-filed life.

Because my dear husband knows me so well and knows my heart needs often better than I do, Steve took me to the Monadnock Humane Society on Friday afternoon to look around.  These are the wonderful people we thank for Ben's little fur-baby Fender.  It's an amazing place and the staff is outstanding.

In my head I thought we'd look for a long-haired kitten, as we had seen with Fender and Saffron that a kitten introduced into a new household is a fairly easy thing - albeit a lot of work on our part for care and supervision, etc.  They only had one little bitty baby (short-hair) and she was on hold for another family.  So we wandered all around the facility and discovered several good sized rooms full of adult cats.  One room seemed to have an abundance of long-haired beauties lounging around, so we went in to visit.

We read bios taped to the wall and matched name tags on the fuzzies to their stories.  Then a volunteer came in and explained to us that this large group had only come to the shelter at the beginning of December as a transfer from Canada.  There had been about 100 cats seized from a hoarding situation and they had been held as 'evidence' in the legal case for a very long time.  The wonderful people at MHS had taken a portion of the group to find loving forever homes for these beautiful cats.

After petting and holding a few, we found her... they called her Tabouli, but I call her Gypsy and she seems to like her new name.

She is very petite (just over 7lbs) and has green/gold eyes and beautiful black fur marbled with caramel colored markings.  They say she is a black & orange Tortoiseshell but I think she's just plain pretty.  Adjustment is going to be slow for everyone, but I think we are all going to get along just fine eventually.  

A Christmas blessing to swell my heart from the man who loves me so and always wants to make me smile.  I am a most blessed wife.

Blessings on the journey,

December 18, 2014

A Sad Goodbye

10 years ago this month we brought Grace home from the ARL shelter.  She was a unique cat, beautifully fluffy and petite and though shy at first, obviously a people oriented cat that had chosen our family to be her own.
Grace's first Christmas with us - 2004
Today she went to wherever it is that good pets go when they pass on from this life.  I like to think that there is a special place in heaven for our animals, though scripture doesn't speak to that specifically.  I trust that the one who loved me enough to let me enjoy Grace's company in this life will possibly allow me to see her again at some point.... God is good all the time and He comforts those who mourn.  A promise for which I am very thankful today.

Grace will be missed dreadfully... our hoity-toity beautiful fur-baby.

I'm thankful for my dear daughter who came with me this morning to the vet and to our awesome vet Dr. Nancy who was so kind during a very difficult morning.

December 17, 2014

Almost Ready

Happy Almost Merry Christmas - less than a week to go!

This is our new Christmas tree.  We bought a pre-lit one this year and are happy with the fact that that we didn't have to fight with light strings and all that this year.  We did have a minor kitten mishap where Fender ate through one strand on the tree 2 days after we set it up, but thankfully Steve is handy and was able to strip out the bad section and re-wire so it all works again. Yay!

I'm way ahead of myself this year with all shopping done and all but 2 gifts wrapped - even the stocking stuffers are bought & wrapped already!  This never happens and I'm not sure what I did that God has so thoroughly blessed this year in these areas.  I'm beyond thankful for this gracious gift of not stressing about these things.

I managed to finish two special projects and it's killing me to not post photos.  Sometimes being done ahead is a nuisance when you really want to share. :-)

Today I did the first of my holiday baking things and had a minor mishap getting the cake out of the pan.  Thankfully there is a nice glaze that goes over the top and it'll be sliced onto a platter to go to work with Steve tomorrow.  So no one will notice a few cracks and given that it is a rum cake that I only ever make for Christmas, I doubt anyone would care anyway.  Win-win!

Tomorrow and Friday I'll do a few batches of various other yummy goodies to send a platter to youth group with B for the Christmas party on Friday evening.  Then I'll be making a batch of cinnamon rolls on Saturday for our church Christmas breakfast on Sunday morning.  This is our first Christmas at this church and I'm feeling very blessed to be able to offer to do something useful to share.  

Enjoy the last week... be kind to yourself and don't stress!  Things will get done or they won't... but none of it impacts the true love and gracious gift we've already received - Jesus!


December 3, 2014

Another Birthday - My Amazing Daughter

It seems just a few days ago that I hit publish on this post for her last birthday, and now here we are again and the year has flown!

How can it be that my girl is already 17!

She is the best and I could not be more proud of the amazing young woman she has become.  God has so richly blessed our family to have her as our own.

She has an awesome sense of humor and is a loyal fan of Dr. Who.

She shares important events with her brother and is a great friend to him.
They laugh a lot and are always there for each other.

She is really smart, beautiful, caring, quick witted and sometimes sarcastic, kind, loving,
thoughtful, talented in more ways than I can count, works hard, dreams big, and loves Jesus,
her family, and her orange cat (hopefully in that order!).

Every day I am thankful that God gave me this wonderful person and I'm honored to be her mom. 

Happy Birthday Jess!  I love you more than you can know and I continue to be amazed by your gifts and your joy in life.  Follow Jesus and dream of great things because God has big plans for you my girl!

With all my love always,

November 26, 2014

Chapter 12 Lines

Chapter 12:  Normal at Last: Heaven

"All their life in this world... had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before." ~C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

p 225  No word in the English language moves the human heart in quite the same way as the word 'home'. Jesus recognizes that the deepest yearnings of the human heart - to belong, to be safe, to be prized - are really a yearning for heaven.  When we get there, it will not seem strange to us.  When we get there, we will say, "This is home."

My notes:  This chapter focused extensively on what the bible actually says about heaven  - most specifically from Revelation and John's vision of the throne room, Jesus, etc.   It also talks a bit about the fact that many of us have a seriously distorted view of heaven based on opinions and fantasy instead of what Scripture teaches.

This book was challenging in many ways and provided a lot of food for thought.  As a person who struggles seriously with what I term ' an over-developed sense of justice' coupled with a very low threshold for lack of common sense, the commands in scripture to love & forgive are some of the hardest ones for me to obey cheerfully, and completely.  I have been greatly encouraged by parts of this book as well though because it has afforded me the chance to see areas where God is growing me and changing my heart.  These things are always exciting to me.

I would absolutely recommend reading this book thoughtfully and honestly looking at how it speaks to your individual situation in conjunction with God's heart for forgiveness.

Blessings on the journey~

November 24, 2014

Chapter 11 Lines

Chapter 11: The Secret of a Loving Heart: Gratitude

p 205 The ability to assign value is one of the rarest and most precious gifts in the world.

p 213  The one who is forgiven much loves much.  The one who is forgiven little loves little.

p 213 (Here we are at the end of the retelling paraphrase of the story in Luke 7:36-50)  
There is a great sin defiling this room. It is the sin of lips that won't kiss, knees that won'd bed, eyes that will not weep, hands that will not serve, perfume that will never leave the jar.  It is the sin of a heart that will not break, a life that will not change, a soul that will not love.  The greatest command is the command to love.  The greatest sin is refusal to obey the greatest command.

p 214  We complicate our faith and lives in many ways, but at the core, our purpose is simple: we are called to love.

p 217 The ability to assign value is one of the rarest and greatest gifts in the world.
So value what God values. There is an ancient story about a poor traveler who is amazed by the welcome he receives at a monastery. He is served a lavish meal, escorted to their finest room, and given a new set of clothes to replace the rags he arrived in.  Before leaving, he commented to the abbot on how well he was treated.  Yes, the abbot said, we always treat our guests as if they are angels - just to be on the safe side.

November 21, 2014

Chapter 10 Lines

***my note: I found this chapter challenging because my personal experience has been that the church at large - (not all - but many) - seem to be far from Jesus' heart of community and love in how they operate on a usual basis.  

Chapter 10: Breaking down barriers: Inclusion

p 186 There are few joys in life like being wanted, chosen, embraced.  There are few pains like being excluded, rejected, left out.  At the core of Christian community is the choice, in the words of Miroslav Volf's great book* on the subject, between exclusion and embrace.

p 195 Jesus is the greatest bridger the world has ever seen.  When the church understood his heart, it became a community like nothing else the world has ever seen.

p 201  ... ultimately, the choice everyone faces is the choice between hope and despair.  Jesus says, "Choose hope."

p 202-203  The most desirable society in the universe turns out also to be the humblest and the least exclusive.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are determined that the circle of love they share from all eternity should be ceaselessly, shamelessly inclusive.  It is not full yet.  They invite all who will to join them. No one is left out except those who refuse to enter.

*Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996

November 5, 2014

Reminders from Scripture

Downtown Temple, NH - photo credit: Steve Wolfe
While walking with my husband we were talking about the struggle we have had to discover the place God would have our family be to worship and become a part of the local body of Christ -namely a church home.  This has been ongoing for months now.  Steve described our disheartened state as 'being in a spiritual funk', which I (sadly) found pretty accurate.
We are slowly feeling the fog lift as God is showing us things and we are stepping seriously outside of our comfort zone in some areas to be obedient to what we believe God wants for us.  It is not easy, but nothing says that any of this life is supposed to be easy.  What we are promised is that God will be with us on the journey and give us all that is needed to take each step with Him as our guide.

I am blessed to have access to a marvelous software program for Bible study, devotional helps, etc. from, and have just completed a 5-day reading plan about spiritual growth that has been really good.  For the 4th day, I read three pieces of scripture that struck a deep chord because they give a picture of what God's heart is for His church.

Psalm 133:1-3

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!  It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes.  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Acts 2:42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

John 13:35

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Blessings on the journey~

October 20, 2014

Chapter 9 Lines

Chapter 9  The Gift Nobody Wants: Confrontation

p 169 "Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin.  Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one's community back from the path of sin." ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

p 169  This is a foundational paradox about the porcupines in our world; we want to know the truth about ourselves, and we want very much NOT to know the truth about ourselves. We both seek and resist awareness about the reality of who we are.

p 171  We need Truth-Tellers because our capacity to live in denial is astounding.

p 171  Many of us have never invited someone else to be a Truth-Teller in our lives for the same reason we don't get on a scale: we are afraid of what we might find out.

p 172  "One who because of sensitivity and vanity rejects the serious words of another CHristian cannot speak the truth in humility to others. Such a person is afraid of being rejected and feeling hurt by another's words.  Sensitive, irritable people will always become flatterers, and very soon they will come to despise and slander other Christians in their community... When another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God's Word demands it.  The practice of discipline in the community of faith begins with friends who are close to one another. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

p 173  We need others to help us live up to our best intentions and deepest values.

p 179  There is a very important theological distinction between being a prophet and being a jerk.  What burns deeply in the heart of a true prophet is not just anger but love.

p 179  Accountability is a tool and a gift we give to one another to try and realize the growth we could never know all by ourselves.

p 180  Let us consider the cost of truth-telling and why it happens so rarely in our world.  the answer, simply, is fear.  It takes enormous courage to be a Truth-Teller.  If we speak painful truth to someone, things get messy.

p 180  Scott Peck says that most of the time we live in what he calls 'pseudo-community'.  It's hallmark is the avoidance of conflict  Pseudo community is agreeable and polite and gentle and stagnant - and ultimately - fatal.

p 181  To go beyond pseudo-community, Peck says, we have to be will to enter into chaos.  Chaos happens when someone is willing to speak risky truth.  Chaos is always unpleasant.

p 181  People who love authentic community always prefer the pain of temporary chaos to the peace of permanent superficiality.

p 183  When we have nobody to answer to - no one holding us accountable for living up to the values we most deeply hold - we become very vulnerable.
   *vulnerable to sin and sliding away from God (my note)

October 16, 2014

New and Improved Sewing Room

It continues to be proven how very blessed I am as Steve's wife.  He designed and built a fabulous addition to my sewing space over the last few days.
It went from this:

To this:

Which then allowed me to make it like this:

Which means that what once looked like this:

Now looks like this:

Almost every bit of fabric I have is now organized on this massive shelf wall along with space underneath for notions (zippers, trims, etc), shelves for current projects in process, and even a floor cubby for one or more cats to nap in while they keep me company.  All the shelves are adjustable too! 

My husband loves me so!

October 14, 2014

Chapter 8 Lines

Chapter 8  Spiritual Surgery: Forgiveness

p 151  Community always involves a kind of promise, whether or not it ever gets stated out loud.  It is a promise of commitment and loyalty.  When that promise gets broken, so does someone's heart.

p 152  Forgiveness is the only force strong enough to heal relationships damaged by hatred and betrayal.

p 156   But forgiveness does not come cheap.

p 157   Some things forgiveness is NOT:
             1. Forgiving is not excusing - forgiving doesn't mean tolerating or pretending.  When an action is excusable - it doesn't require forgiveness.
             2. Forgiving is not forgetting - forgiving is what's required precisely when we can't forget.
             3. Forgiving is not the same thing as reconciling.

p 158   Forgiveness takes place in the heart of one human being. It can be granted even if the other person does not ask for it or deserve it.  Reconciliation requires the rebuilding of trust, and that means good faith on the part of both parties.

p 158   Forgiveness begins when we give up the quest to get even. This is difficult because getting even is the natural obsession of the wounded soul.

p 159  Of course, letting go of vengeance doesn't mean letting go of justice. Justice must still be honored.

p 159  The next stage of forgiveness involves a new way of seeing and feeling. When we forgive, we begin to see more clearly. We don't ignore the hurts, but we see beyond them. We rediscover the humanity of the one who hurt us.

p 160  The third stage of forgiving, the one that shows you have begun to make some real progress, is when you find yourself wishing the other person well. When you want good things for someone who hurt you badly, you can pretty much know that the Great Forgiver has been at work in your heart.

p 160  God commands us to forgive because it is the best way to live. God commands forgiving because to refuse to forgive means I allow the one who hurt me to keep me chained in a prison of bitterness and resentment.  No human beings are more miserable than the unforgiving.

p 164  If you don't forgive - if you let pride, resentment, stubbornness, and defensiveness stand in your way - you become a hard and bitter person.  You carry a burden that will crush the humanity out of your spirit.  You will grow a little colder every day.  You will die.

p 165  True forgiveness is never cheap.  Hurt is deep; hurt is unfair. ... only one thing costs more than forgiving someone - NOT forgiving them. Non-forgiveness costs your heart.

p 166  Don't forgive, and your anger will become your burden. Don't forgive, and bit by bit all the joy will be choked out of you. Don't forgive, and you will be unable to trust anybody, ever again. Don't forgive, and the bitterness will crowd the compassion out of your heart slowly, utterly, forever.

October 9, 2014

Chapter 7 Lines

Chapter 7  Community is worth fighting for: Conflict

"Communities need tensions if they are to grow and deepen. Tensions come from conflicts...  A tension or difficulty can signal the approach of a new grace of God. But it has to be looked at wisely and humanly. " ~Jean Vanier

p 127  There is no greater challenge in building community than to master the art of handling anger and conflict.  ..we must consider how important this topic is in God's eyes. It is both remarkable and appalling that by and large in churches today, we are not scandalized by broken relationships and chronic enmity between people.  We are not scandalized by lack of love.
But Jesus is.

p 128  We have been invited into the Fellowship of the Trinity. When we violate oneness, when we contribute to relational brokenness, it doesn't just affect us and the other person.  We are contributing to the destruction of that which is most prized by God and was purchased by him at greatest cost - the oneness of the Trinitarian community.

p 130  Matthew 18:15 may be the single most violated of all the instructions Jesus gave the human race.

p 131  To be alive means to be in conflict.  It's part of the dance of the porcupines. People may not be normal, but conflict surely is - at least in our world.

p 132  Interestingly, while Jesus tells his hearers they should take the responsibility to set things right if the other person has sinned, in another setting (Matt 5:23-24) he tells his hearers to take the first step if they are the ones in the wrong.  Jesus puts the burden on you in both cases.
Why?  Because people who value community are people who own responsibility to deal with relational breakdowns.

p 132  "Go" Jesus says. Take action. Don't let resentment fester.

p 133  Anger exists to tell you something is wrong and to move you to action.  Anger exists so you will be motivated to make it go away.  However, remember Proverbs 14:17 and Ephesians 4:26.

p 134-135 Causes of our anger? Fear? Frustration? Hurt? What outcome do we want? to win? to hurt someone?

p 136  Sometimes you should become angry. However even then you still must decide how to express your anger.

p 138 Conflict is inevitable. Resentment is optional.

p 139  The need for sensitivity is one of the most important - and often misunderstood - aspects of healthy anger management.

p 141 The simplest guideline is to approach the other people the way you would want to be approached in their place.

p 142  We must speak truth in love - clearly.

p 143  The goal in conflict resolution is not to win or score points - it's reconciliation.  Your aim should be to restore the relationship.  Reconciliation is rarely simple and almost never quick.

p 144  Direct confrontation doesn't always do good.  Sometimes it escalates the conflict. Sometimes it leads to violence. Confrontation can do tremendous damage. Then we need a miracle.  God created one.  It's called forgiveness - that's in the next chapter.

September 26, 2014

Adventures at Mom Camp

**Long and rambly**

Last weekend I did something totally outside my comfort zone and while it started off pretty rocky, it wound up being okay.
Backing up a bit... a few weeks ago I got a text from a friend (A) inviting me to join her and another friend (L) for a women's retreat weekend at Camp Berea up in Hebron, NH.  This seemed to be perhaps a providential invitation as I'd just recently mentioned to both Steve and L that I was feeling somewhat that I needed a 'camp' experience like the kids enjoyed over the summer to hear from Jesus more clearly.  Steve agreed that I should go, so I signed up and we waited.
The week prior I offered to drive for carpooling - mostly because I like to drive when I go places with other people (other than Steve).  It worked well for both friends because of various family car issues happening at both homes.  It would turn out that God would show how He had a hand in that little decision.
On the designated Friday, we loaded up the car - after Jess helped me get everything to fit in my bags and Ben carried all the luggage for me.   Then I set off to pick up L first before heading over to get A.  At L's we loaded her stuff into the car and after many tears from her youngest child, we set off for the 20 minute drive to A's house.  On the way we talked about how odd it felt to be leaving our families like this and that it somehow seemed 'wrong' to both of us.
At A's, she happily climbed into the backseat after her family helped load things up, and then we were off with a drive of 1.5 hours ahead of us.  We chatted as we drove with both L and I sharing with A our hesitancy about this weekend away and A sharing how she was really in need of this time away.
None of us had ever been to Berea for a women's retreat before this, though I did participate in a week of summer camp there when I was about 8-9 I think.  We arrived with many, many other women at the camp shortly before 5:30 and checked in, got our bags into our assigned cabin and made our way to the dining hall for dinner.
At this point I was already feeling pretty close to completely overwhelmed.  I'd never been to something like this before and had no idea what to expect or what would happen. There were well over 200 women there, we were sharing a double room space with 9 other ladies that we didn't know but who all knew one another.  Dinner was a buffet that was bountiful but by the time we got our food and found a place to sit most of it was cold and unappetizing.  There was a salad bar and chocolate cake - so not a total loss.

After dinner we were supposed to head up to the gym for our first session of the weekend.  On the way up I found a staff person and asked if he could please turn the heat on in our room as it was already really pretty cold and temperatures were supposed to be in the low 30's overnight.
The worship band was Alanna Story and they were very talented and I enjoyed them.  The main speaker for the weekend was Jodi Greenstreet of CrossTrainer's Ministry from Canada.  She was incredibly high energy and obviously very excited about the weekend.
Just before she began to speak, I was suddenly overwhelmed with anxiety and had to leave the gym.  I phoned Steve and paced outside the gym crying while talking with him that I wanted to come home, that this wasn't for me and he tried to talk me off the ledge and calm me down.  He reminded me that I wasn't alone, that L & A were there with me, that I hadn't given it a chance yet, that I'd be fine!  L came out at one point to check on me and grasped my arms whispering "You can't leave me here!"  After I'd calmed down and pulled myself together, I told Steve I'd give it a chance and that I really couldn't leave because I was the driver and I couldn't strand my friends.  There were some jokes made about how someone should have brought a bottle of wine.  After the session was over - and I'd had no more anxiety attacks - I called Steve and told him I'd survived and I'd talk to him tomorrow.  We went to the bookstore and bought travel mugs for coffee and then went and had a snack in the dining hall before bedtime.
I didn't sleep much, it was well after midnight before I was able to fall asleep at all and then I was up every hour checking the clock and praying that God would speed up time so I could go home.  This was definitely not fun and I was not hearing from God or enjoying myself at all.
In the morning one of the options was a guided prayer hike at 7am, we opted to grab coffee in our travel mugs and go get some exercise and spend some time with the Lord.  There was a woman who led the group - maybe 25 of us - up a short hill and along a short ridge line above the camp with several stops to focus on different aspects of prayer.  As I walked I wrestled with God in prayer.  I spent time confessing to God my bad attitude, that I didn't want to be there, then thanking Him for the beauty of the woods and the weather and all the blessings in my life, and confessing more about how disappointed and angry I've been feeling with our current church experience.  After our 45 minutes in the woods it was time to head to breakfast and then to our first session.  Fresh coffee helped to fend off another anxiety attack and I didn't bolt this time though I felt the bad attitude simmering just below the surface.

After our morning session the 3 of us went for a short walk for exercise then we all went to lunch and the afternoon stretched before us with options for seminars or nothingness as we chose.  For most of the afternoon we opted to just hang out in the room and do nothing much at all.  I had brought some hand sewing to work on, so we just sat and chatted and rested.  I had been texting with Jess and she was teasing me about wanting to come home.  Her sense of humor helps a lot in tense times for me.
Finally it was dinner time and it was a themed dinner with costumes, etc.  The 3 of us opted to not participate in the dress-up, but it was interesting to see how all-out some of the ladies had gone to be 'by the sea' for the evening.  Dinner was actually really good and we all enjoyed it, then there was a comedienne that provided entertainment before our evening session.  She was really funny and we laughed and laughed.
I talked to Jess briefly on the phone before the evening session and she encouraged me to "learn something about Jesus" with her usual dose of humor for her home-sick mama.  Then it was time for worship band to begin.  The music started and we all stood and sang a few songs and then they asked us to sit down.  One of the women began to speak - I'm not even sure all that she said only I could feel my heart beginning to crack.  Then they began to sing a song they'd written.

All around me women began to cry and A began to softly sob beside me.  I sat in my chair wrestling with my pride, fighting my heart.  At last I let go and fell to my knees in prayer and tears.  It was one of the few times in my life where I felt myself fall into God in all the raw emotion and need for His touch on my heart & soul.  The tears fell hot from my eyes as I sobbed and prayed.  At last I was able to quiet and sit back into my chair.  After a few more songs, Jodi came to speak and I heard the story of Peter & Jesus in a fresh way and found myself relaxing and relating as she taught about some of the ways Peter had failed and tried again, over and over.
After the session, A went straight to bed and L and I went for snack and then a walk around camp in the mild weather.  Again it was well after midnight before sleep would come, but at least this time I felt calmer and was able to snatch about 2 hours at a time between wakeful fits.  I was up early and we were packed and ready to go before breakfast.  The 3 of us grabbed coffee and sat by the water waiting for breakfast. We ate and then loaded all our things into the car before our final session.
The morning opened with communion and song.  It was beautiful and an awesome experience.  Probably one of the best times of communion I've enjoyed in many years.  I felt close to Jesus and open to hearing Him speak through scripture as Jodi shared her last message with us.  It wasn't earth shattering, I didn't hear voices from Heaven or anything.  Just honesty from the scripture about how we meet Jesus in our present moment, not counting on anything more than this moment and not holding or comparing to anything or anyone else from prior moments.  An excellent reminder and a push to engage in the present in new ways with fresh eyes and open hands.
As we drove home we shared and talked, laughed and cried a bit.  It was a good time of growing our friendship and I was able to honestly thank A for inviting me to go.
I had written Steve an email on Saturday telling him what I think sums up the experience. I'd wanted to come to a women's retreat because so many people I know have gone at different times and raved about the experience.  I felt that I needed to see for myself so I'd know if I was really missing some deep spiritual experience with Jesus that could only happen away from my family and my normal life.  Turns out that the answer to that is - for me - no.
I did encounter Jesus of course, but I encounter Jesus every day and even every moment if I'm paying attention enough.  The experience taught me that I really hate being away from my family.  I don't like crowds, I'm not comfortable with strangers and I really prefer to sleep in my own bed and eat what I choose.  Time with my friends is really wonderful and I hope we can find ways to get together more often at home.
In looking back at the weekend, I can mostly say that I'm glad I had the experience, but I won't do it again.  If I could have escaped on Friday night, I'd have done it in a blink and this is where it was proved that God uses things we don't expect.  I was trapped by my sense of responsibility to my friends because I drove and was forced to walk a weekend road I'd much rather not walk.  But God doesn't waste any experience in our lives and I suppose in hind-sight the time away brought me to my knees over some hurts and anger I've been holding onto and God was able to work those out of me.  For His forgiveness and grace I am always thankful.

Many thanks to A and L for their amazing patience and gracious kindness during my anxiety attacks and dramatic fits.

Blessings on the journey~

Chapter 6 - Lines

Chapter 6 The Art of Reading People: Empathy

p 108  Researcher Daniel Stern calls the ability to read and respond well to someone's heart attunement. Relationally intelligent people are geniuses at it.

p 108 One dangerous aspect of this skill is that, generally, people who don't read others well aren't aware that they don't.  It is like being emotionally tone-deaf.

p 109 The good news is that relational intelligence can be learned. Develop this skill, get it right, an you will have opportunities to influence, comfort, challenge, and love people on a regular basis.

p 112  The New Testament writer James says, in one of the most often violated commands in all scripture, that everyone should be "quick to listen, slow to speak." Listening, writes Daniel Goleman, is the single most important relational skill a person can develop.

p 113  It is no accident that we speak of paying attention to people, attention is the most valuable currency we have.

p 113 hunger is universal. You have never met a person who doesn't long for more joy. WH Auden wrote, "Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh."

p 115  A friend of mine says that one of the hardest things in the world is to be right and not hurt anybody with it.   (OOOOOOHHHH)

p 116  It's an amazing truth: Being fully right rarely brings as much life to people as simply being human.
People are hungry for joy bringers.

p 117  If you are part of a family, friendship, club, organization, department, small group, or church, you are part of what Daniel Goleman calls an "emotional economy".  Every single interaction we have with another person involves not simply exchanging information or performing tasks but also influencing each other's moods and attitudes.  The emotional economy is "the sum total of exchanges of feeling among us."

p 121  Deep in the heart of everyone you work with, play with, live with, is a sign, if only you will take the time to read it: "Inspire me. Challenge me to grow and then celebrate with me when I stretch. Help me shoulder whatever burden life throws my way."

p 123-124  You are a guardian of the human spirit.  You have the power to manipulate and coerce if you want to. You can avoid and ignore if you choose. But you can also ennoble and inspire. You can lift up and appeal to all that is good and honorable and holy. You can remind fallible and finite people around you that they hold their lives and calling as a sacred trust, that their best efforts matter, that their worst failures will one day be redeemed.
This is all because of the Crucified One who shouldered the burden of the whole human race, who rose again, will come back one day to honor all that is good and set right all that has gone wrong.

September 24, 2014

Chapter 5 - Lines

Chapter 5  Put Down Your Stones: Acceptance

p 89  You and I were made to be in the life-saving business. Mostly the life lines we have to offer are words.  Every word we speak has the power either to give a little life to people or to destroy a little bit of their spirit and vitality.

p 94  We are most scandalized by sins of the flesh.  Jesus was most scandalized by sins of the spirit.

p 99  Condemnation and judgement have become so deeply rooted in the human spirit that most of us can't imagine having to function without them.

p 101  People need more than toleration.  Bertrand Russell wrote, "A sense of duty is useful in work but offensive in personal relationships. People wish to be liked, not to be endured with patient resignation."   (OUCH!)

p 101 Acceptance is an act of the heart. To accept someone is to affirm to them that you think it's a very good thing they are alive.

p 102  This is very important: acceptance is NOT the same thing as tolerating any behavior one chooses to indulge in. (emphasis mine) Accepting another human being does not mean we refuse to confront or challenge that in them which could harm others and damage their soul.
Failure to confront, to speak the truth in love, can ultimately be as fatal to community as judgementalism.

August 26, 2014

Chapter 4 - Lines

Part 2 - How to get close without getting hurt
Chapter 4 Unveiled Faces: Authenticity

p 69  The decision to sin always includes the thought that I cannot really trust God to watch out for my well-being.

p 72  [In the Fall] The man and the woman decide there is something they want more than community with God. They do not trust Him. They disobey. - sin always kills relationship.

p 74  To know and be known - which had always been the greatest joy of the human race - now becomes the greatest fear of the human race.

p78 Since we have the assurance of God's love no matter what, we can do a very bold thing.  We don't have to pretend to be more radiant than we really are.  We can live with "unveiled faces". (reference to Moses)

p 80  The irony of the masks is that although we wear them to make other people think well of us, they are drawn to us only when we take them off.

Self-disclosure has enormous power.

p 81  Jesus lived a common life.  He let his friends see him in unveiled moments of joy, sadness, anger and fatigue.

p 83  Sin causes us to seek hiddenness and separation, which in turn destroy community.  In confession, we enter back into community.  We come out of hiding. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "If a Christian is in the fellowship of confession with a brother, he will never be alone again, any where."

p 86  In real life we live in a fallen world. We all fall, we fall often, and sometimes hard.  If we try to handle our fallenness on our own, if we try to keep it secret, eventually it will destroy us.  God has made a better way. He has formed a community in which people can live with unveiled faces. It really is possible to do life without hiding. All it takes is trust.

**this last point is so HARD!  Trust is hard, and living unveiled is hard.  Especially when or if you feel that you are one of very few doing so or if others around you seem uninterested, unwilling, or simply too busy to bother with another person... even a fellow Jesus follower.

August 21, 2014

Chapter 3 - Lines

Chapter 3: The Fellowship of the Mat: True Friendship

p 46  Psychologist Alan McGinnis notes that rule number one for entering into deep friendships sounds deceptively simple: Assign top priority to your relationships.

p 46  If you think you can fit deep community into the cracks of an overloaded schedule - think again. Wise people do not try to microwave friendship, parenting, or marriage.

p 48 Jean Vanier writes, There is no ideal community. Community is made up of people with all their richness, but also with their weakness and poverty, of people who accept and forgive each other, who are vulnerable with each other. Humility and trust are more at the foundation of community than perfection.

p 52 There is a world of difference between being friendly to someone because they're useful to you and being someone's friend.

p 55  Do you have any idea what the faith of one person can do for a friend?

p 57  Paul Waddell writes, "In spiritual friendship, the principal good is a mutual love for Christ and a desire to grow together in Christ. This is what distinguishes spiritual friendships from other relationships."

p 59  Dallas Willard ~ "To understand Jesus' teachings, we must realize that deep in our orientations of our spirit we cannot have one posture toward God and a different one toward other people."

p 61  There is no gift like the gift of community.

August 12, 2014


I'm finding myself stalled at the moment.  Life is moving along of course... the kids are busy with many things, I'm reading some, cooking some, puttering around and sewing a bit.  But there is this feeling of hanging in limbo and a vague sense of frustration and weariness that is lingering emotionally/spiritually.
In less than a week my youngest child will be 15 years old, and the following week we will begin our new school year. I believe it is our 12th year of schooling, officially senior year for my beautiful daughter.  How is all this even possible?  There is no panic though. My software is ready for the new year, just about all the books have been purchased and are ready.  Lesson plans are mostly put in place.

Steve is on vacation next week and we hope to have some fun as a family with day trips, etc.  We are discussing college ideas, gap year ideas and some possible travel plans.  We are on the brink of so much once again and yet I don't feel stressed or overwhelmed with any of it - which is its own sort of strange.  

Perhaps stalled is a good place sometimes.

Blessings on the journey~