Recession Brings “grace”

IMG_20130514_183310_506Five years ago, as I was working at Scottsdale PD’s Crime lab as a fingerprint technician, I went part-time to help care for my terminally ill father in Colorado. I figured I could return to full-time within a year or two.–The “recession” changed all that. After my father passed away, I found myself with some extra time on my hands and a desire to pursue some old dreams. I enrolled at Scottsdale Community College and began honing my (at that point) “latent” writing skills. These new skills and the inflamed desire to write are what brought about my first fiction novel “grace.”
“grace” is a novel set in southern Oregon that follows four friends’ lives and is threaded with the overarching theme of undeserved forgiveness. It contains tragedy and murder, life and death, good and evil, as well as triumph, love and second chances.

PLEASE COME AND JOIN IN THE CELEBRATION OF GRACE AT A FREE COMMUNITY EVENT!
JUNE 1ST AT ASU’S SKYSONG CONVERGENCE ROOM (SE corner of McDowell Rd and Scottsdale Rd)
Enjoy a free continental breakfast and hear a reading from “grace”
A book signing and Raffle will follow.
Event is FROM 10 AM TO NOON
(for more info check details at AZCentral.com, Phoenix New Times.com and on the events page at K-LOVE.com)
“grace” will be available at the event ($15.20 for SC, $33.75 HC and $5.00 for the e-book) and also at Amazon.com and other online retailers.

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DROSOPHILIDS

frt-flies[1]DROSOPHILIDS
Definition from Wikipedia
Drosophilidae is a diverse, cosmopolitan family of flies which includes fruit flies. Wikipedia goes on to say “Generally, drosophilids are considered nuisance flies rather than pests, since most species breed in rotting material.”
Nuisance??!!! Really?? My definition: ANNOYING; a tiny little thing that makes just enough noise in your ear to drive you mad. This miniscule monster that begins with trying to share my AGATE RIDGE Primitivo and ends up diving straight into the glass and staying for the rest of its life! (For the non-wine enthusiast—Agate Ridge Primitivo is precious fluid masterfully crafted by winemaker Kimberly Kinderman.)
My first experience with the season of the fruit fly in Oregon was last summer. I actually went a little crazy. Okay, a lot crazy. I was on a mission to exterminate every single one of those damned drosophilids!
Like the itch of a mosquito bite, the more I tried to deal with this “nuisance” directly, the more it flared up. Squish after squash, after slap, after squish; on the walls, on the mirrors, on my jeans, dipped out of my wine… (Grrrr!)
Here’s what I didn’t know about these tiny annoyances: First—my efforts were futile. I thought it would be worth it to mount an attack—I didn’t want to share my Primitivo with anyone, let alone this little booger that insisted on plunging right in! They were so tiny and just slow enough for me to be able to attack, but there were way more than I could see. They were insipient, insidious and I was incapable of mounting a successful massacre. The other troubling thing I learned is– they bleed. As I snuck up on their unsuspecting little bodies and squashed them against the white wall with a business card, I was stunned to see the evidence of my kill. Red blood smeared on the card and the wall.
I had a Macbeth moment.
I tried other ways to redirect them out of my glass of aromatic, tasty, ruby-colored loveliness. I lured them with several mostly empty bottles filled with enough sweetness left in the bottom to trap them and relocate them. This was a bit more successful in terms of numbers and in the GUILT arena (no blood!)
I later learned these tiny annoyances are a fact of life in fruit bearing regions. Visiting wineries, restaurants and anything outdoor in the right season, you will be faced with these pests. Pretty harmless really. Their life span is extremely temporary (especially since they can’t swim!) and, when the season changes, the fruit fly frenzy is finished.
Do you have any fruit flies in your life? Those people that are tiny annoyances? That, when you try to rid of them in your life, there are 8,000 more to take their place? Mooches, thieves, clanging symbols in your ear, pests, and all around thorns in your side? Guess what?
They bleed.
I tried to understand the feeling I experienced when I saw the blood on the wall and the card I used in my massacre of the 2012 fruit fly invasion. It struck a chord with me about humanity. Those “fruit fly people” that deserve your attention and kindness the least, but need it the most. Those people who seem to serve no purpose, but will bleed just like the rest of us when wounded and hurting. Those people who, though you wouldn’t want to share a glass of wine with, just need some redirecting. Those people who may spend a season in your life, enjoy some sweetness, and then run their course or path in a new location.
“Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”
(Ephesians 1:2)
Maybe you don’t have a “fruit fly” in your life but someone who is just downright mean. Nasty words seep from their mouths, uttering only pain inflicting daggers that wound and scar on a soul level.
Some of your “fruit flies” might even be family members.
What is it about the wounds that travel with us from childhood?
We spend most of our adulthood trying to recover from them.

My father was a sensitive man. However he had wounds from his childhood he brought along to our family. His upbringing consisted of a father mostly absent and a mother taken too soon. He and his four siblings had to be resourcefully resilient and hardened themselves to survive. He hid behind sarcasm and critical words that wounded both my sister and me, yet which had very different effects on us.
We both loved him in spite of the words and wounds; he was our father. It was his terminal cancer diagnosis that drove us to a deeper relationship and made us attempt to overcome those wounds while he was still with us. It sort of worked. Some scars we still deal with, but God has such an amazing way of working good out of these wounds. He is the Master at bringing light into the dark places.
I will never forget the day my father got out of an eight hour brain surgery that successfully removed a massive tumor and bought him more time with us. I traveled from Arizona to Colorado to be there with him. I was available to help him with anything he needed and I prayed for him with all my heart and soul. He awoke from the surgery looking like he just awoke from a nap (just wearing a gauze turban!) His main request was for me to bring him his mail. So I did.
As I tried to help him open the envelopes, he snapped at me, “Didn’t you ever learn to do this the right way!?”
I blew it off at first. Who cares how you open an envelope? As long as you get the mail out–Right?
He snapped it out of my hands and followed his sharp words with a detailed instruction of properly using that little slidey thingy with a razor sharp edge to slice the edges without slaughtering the mail.
Sounds silly, right?
Not to a daughter that inherited an overly sensitive heart and desire to please an unpleasable parent. Later, as I left the hospital choking back tears, I tried to think of my sister. She would have laughed it off. Her years of being the first to bear the brunt of his words delivered to her a tougher skin. God knew she would need it. He knew my sister’s future dreams of attaining success in a male dominated field. He knew the superhuman strength she would need to raise up two sons in a fallen world.
But that wasn’t me. I cried the rest of the day. I might be able to blame it on hormones or stress, but my lip still quivers at memories of all the imperfections he could easily point out. His words had the effect of making me more in tune to why he lashed out and making me keenly aware of those who do this same thing.
It was the most recent Women of Faith tour and Sheila Walsh’s healing testimony that penetrated the scar tissue of this old wound in me and brought understanding and peace. –Her father has suffered a stroke and brain injury when she was a small child. It brought out in her father nearly complete paralysis and a murderous attitude toward her–an innocent child who had been his favorite, precious and dearly loved daughter.
It was years later that a neurosurgeon explained to her the exact effects of these deteriorations in that area of his brain that had been damaged in the stroke—This is not a direct quote but my remembrance of the events she told–Basically, because of the location of the damage, it would distort the personality by 180 degrees. The misperception of the brain would bring out a nastiness that could only be acted out toward someone that person knew would always forgive them and always love them regardless.
They say love and hate are very close—Her father acted out toward her somehow knowing she would always love him; always forgive him.
I totally get this. I see it time and time again even without brain trauma! We often act in ways to our families that we wouldn’t think of acting toward anyone else. We often treat them in less than loving ways because we know they will put up with us! Our families are stuck with us.
My father knew I would always love him.
His childhood created these tendencies in my father and his brain cancer and surgery heightened the critical words, sarcasm and detailed direction on how to do everything right. My sister was the target during our childhood; it would appear it was my turn. I further developed a profound understanding of hurting people and the ability to forgive.
Often those who least deserve love, are in deepest desperation for it.
They bleed.
Our time here is short. Not like the fruit fly short, but truly just a blip in the grand plan of life. So, the next time there is an annoying person buzzing in your ear, soaking up some of your glass of life’s finest, wounding you with words, overstaying their welcome in your world or tempting you to react in a crazy way; just remember this: they bleed too. You never know what’s going on behind the exterior they show the world. And the little bit of sweetness you share with them, might just possibly be their last.

YOKE

girls weekendYOKE

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28)
I needed rest… But yoked? That sounded like being shackled. I don’t know about being yoked to anything, let alone Jesus. It sounded like a massive responsibility to me so I looked into the word.
“Yoke: 1, a contrivance for fastening together the necks of two draft animals, as oxen.” Further on it reads, “something that binds or holds parts together.” (The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary)
Hmm? Maybe I won’t fall apart if I got a handle this yoke thing…
And taking in what I know about Jesus –His yoke is indeed light—And it is He who wants to team up with me to relieve my burdens? Time has taught me that Jesus has massively strong shoulders with which to bear burdens. His shoulders bore the weight of the Cross and carried the sins of all mankind.

“You seem stressed. Do you not want us to come out?” Her text message read.
Here was my “out.” For a moment I was tempted.
I was soul weary. I was in and out of town, up early (totally not my thing), and learning an additional job with eleven hour work days. I was psyched up for the originally planned trip of the five friends that had been scheduled for two months earlier–much more conducive to me having a clean house and being ready to receive five women in dire need of a “girl trip.”
An emergency appendectomy on the organizer of the trip delayed that one.
Thank God she is fine, but this left the women desperately disappointed and compounded their need of a break. The “guest list” had changed a bit but only this weekend would work. Seriously, try getting five women available for a weekend–from two states, each with anywhere from two to four kids, dogs, cats and all with working husbands, relationships, jobs, diapers and… life—it is nothing short of a miracle. Canceling was not an option.
Hours before the planes landed, the wind kicked up and blew desert dirt all over my patios I had just cleaned. I took a jaw-clenched, deep breath and heard God whispering in the wind—“Let go and just go with it.”
Even though I knew I needed this break and was desperate for girl time, I wasn’t sure how I could fit in transporting, cooking, dining and entertaining, along with paying taxes, planning a launch party, coordinating repainting a rental and installing an A/C unit along with all the other things I needed to get done.
Aside from that, my condo is mostly accustomed to fans quietly whirring long days away to and two kitties lounging in splotches of sunlight.
“How pathetic am I?” I thought. I don’t even have half of what these women have going on.
I am counting it another miracle that the bathrooms got cleaned, groceries were purchased, the fridge was packed with ten beers, floors were vacuumed and each lady had a clean bed and pillow for her head by flight arrival times.
Four days later, the ladies are gone and I will never be the same. My condo community (“the colony”) will never be the same either! We chatted on the patio until the wee hours. We laughed the entire weekend over the “great pizza heist,” caught up on life’s events, reminisced over old times and blew through those ten beers within hours.
We shopped and soaked up sun at the pool, poked fun at each other, partied and even prayed together. We lightened burdens as we yoked up with one another in sharing, listening, releasing, relieving and recovering.
I had no idea how much I’d been missing them. Years can move people in and out of your life and across the miles, but time can never break the bonds of true friendships; the type of friendships that see a pain before it pours out your eyes, the type of friends that will follow you down into the dark depths just to sit with you there. It is a yoke that holds you forever and helps you keep it together.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I hope each woman knows what a wonderful and powerful force she is to her family. I pray that, as they return to their children, jobs, husbands, relationships and lives, they will find rest for their weak and weary souls. I pray that they know they always have a place they can find a yoke that will help them through the storms of this life—not my condo in the desert, but at the foot of the cross.
Rest secured in the power of the yoke of Christ. Lay your burdens at His feet and know that He will take them on and enable you to handle anything. And, when the wind blows dust over all your plans, He will bring you dear friends who will wash it clean with tears and restore it as a place of laughter.
I will continue to pray for these women. I will trust in God’s timing of all things. And I will never make the tragic mistake of only ten beers again! 😉

DIVINE IN THE DESERT

THE DIVINE IN THE DESERT

I have a friend who hates the desert—it’s extreme temperatures, the unfriendly cactus, trees with hidden thorns and landscape filled with animals and bugs that makes you go–”Hmmm?—What was God thinking when He created the hairy, snouted, smelly javelina (a.k.a. the skunk pig)? Or those seemingly death-defying, flying, hissing cockroaches?”

I have heard several unhappy desert dwellers say, “There are two colors in the desert—brown and blue.”

And when my flip-flops nearly melted as I walked across the parking lot the summer when temperatures approached 120 degrees—I get it.

Being from Colorado, I am used to beauty. The Rocky Mountains, soaring bald eagles, the four seasons that create and renew the landscape every year—I respond to Dumb and Dumber –“John Denver isn’t full of sh@*?”

However, after nearly 30 years there, with its eight months of winter, my new reply is, “You can’t shovel sunshine!”

“He holds in his hands the depth of the earth and the mightiest mountains. The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.” (Psalm 95:4)

The desert is different. I am in awe of the extreme beauty in the desert; rugged and rough. Take, for example, the jumping cholla that shoots out spiny chunks of itself to ward off predators when triggered by vibrations. A plant with a self-defense plan against a smelly javelina or a burrowing bird?! Wow.

Right now in the desert, the “winter rains” have filled the desert landscape with a rainbow of colors. When I go out running, I witness blooms covering and spilling off of those thorny trees, callous cactus and barbed bushes bright with blossoms in every shade of the rainbow.

When I studied nutrition and holistic health, I learned that a plethora of these desert plants are components of many natural remedies. It would turn out that, living in these rugged extremes actually creates healing properties in the organism. Western medicine and science often attempt to chemically reproduce the healing capacities of these plants. 

Remedies are often found in the most unlikely…

When I moved to Arizona from Colorado, I remember driving down HWY 87.  Alongside the road, lined up in formation, stood a multitude of the cactus most associated with the Sonoran Desert–the saguaro. I later found out these massive structures are protected by law. Crews working to expand and repair the highway couldn’t just remove these prickly plants but had to ensure their survival.  If a person is found cutting one down or harming it, it is a felony offense.

According to Wikipedia, this special species of cactus are only found a few places in the nation and the Sonoran Desert boasts the most and the largest saguaro in the nation measuring at an impressive 45 ft high and with 10 feet across.

To survive the extreme desert conditions, this plant has adapted a system of survival. When it rains, it absorbs and sucks up into its body and woody internal system as much moisture as possible.  The saguaro swells and expands and stores away its life blood. It had learned from the desert droughts. As it swells and stores, it also blooms with its reproductive flowers and will often house the desert dwelling springtime birds.

The saguaro seems to understand life’s extremes; the droughts and the downpours. Because it takes nearly 100 years for a saguaro to grow an arm, when you see the portraits of the standard saguaro, with its two arms reaching out and up, stretching toward the sky, these giants have stood the test of time. With or without their legal protection, they not only survive, but these kings of the desert thrive in the parched, rugged environment.

And when the landscape around these dwellers is changed over time, sometimes (like the photo) they get by with a little help.

I think we have much to learn from this God-given example whose life-span nearly mimics ours. As we experience the extremes of life, suck up the goodness, it will be your lifeblood when the droughts come. As the landscape of our lives change, we will be protected. Our God is ever-present and He might just send help, cleverly disguised in the form of a friend, to support us when we have been shaken through to our very core. But the best example is, through the storms and the extremes, as we thrive and adapt and grow, let our own arms reach out and up and praise the very One that provides us with everything we need.

 

“Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being.” (Psalm 148:5)