Is it finished?

Question: How do you eat an elephant?

 

 

How do you eat an elephant?

How do you eat an elephant?

Answer: One bite at a time.

I love this! Whenever I have a task, project, event or any challenging, time consuming, and effort-exhausting item on my “Things TO DO” list, I remember this.
Just start with a bite (and it usually is a pizza) ;)…but it begins.
When I set out to pursue writing and took on the idea of a weekly blog – it felt like a herd of elephants; trampling on my every plan of how I want to spend my time. And yet, here I am again. Let me explain…

We ascended the path uphill on one of our favorite walks in southern Oregon. The subdivision houses packed in side by side turn into countryside. The wildlife sightings increase and the open air, farms and landscaped beauty explode across the senses. Scents of earthy manure, wildflowers and the occasional whiff of a skunk assault the olfactory nerves.

Our walk

Our walk

It’s July 4th and even the back country roads are more quiet than usual.

Wildlife!

Wildlife!

As we plugged along uphill, we felt the temperatures of our bodies and the heat of the black asphalt warming; perspiration beads across our foreheads and trickles down our bodies. We approached the awe inspiring work of a new vineyard. Row after perfectly aligned row greeted us. We both smiled as we saw the bright green leaves popping their heads out of the cream colored encasements at the base of the planting; evidence of success.

Baby vines peeking out

Baby vines peeking out

As we walked, we reminisced about the progress; remembering when the hillside contained rocks, majestic oaks, brambles, thistles, grasses and probably innumerable amounts of other surprises.
The oaks were transported, one by one.
The rocks relocated, load by load.
And the grasses and other ground cover all removed.—That alone took several seasons.
Then came the rows and rows, upon rows and rows– of lines, of plantings, of piping, of draining systems, of watering systems…
Years later (and minutes later in our walk,) we neared the far end of this newest vineyard.

 The far end

The far end

We were a bit surprised to find another soul out here. An older gentleman, possibly in his 50’s or 60’s was hunched over and at work in what captured our attention. He was pulling weeds amidst the last few rows. As our journey neared him, he stood up and walked closer to us:

“Beautiful morning,huh?” he said to us looking up.

“You bet!” we replied, “Got your holiday plans set for you, huh?” We said as our eyes scanned row after row of the baby vineyard with the acres upon acres of vines that he was working his way through.

“Yep! All by hand; no pesticides! Trying to get rid of the poison oak and hand pulling everything else.”
Our jaws dropped. We were speechless.

“You watched the progress of this?” He asked.
“We have.” We nodded our heads, “Totally amazing how a field has been turned into…all of this.”
“Quite a project…” he looked back at the row he had just left.
“Really does a number on the back …and the hamstrings…but it’s cool to see the progress…”
Our conversation continued for a bit, and then we turned and continued up the hill and let him get back to his work.

“Wow! And we thought our weed pulling was a pain?!”

As we got to the top of the hill we stopped, looked out and, in awed silence, we admired his “project.”

 

His work

His work

 

“All by hand?” I thought.
I pondered what the rest of his holiday would entail- still so much work to do.
And so much more each and every season. Did he have help?
Not to mention the utter dependence on the sun, the soil, the climates; the uncertainty of what the wind might blow his way.
Will his work ever be finished?

The next day at Table Rock Fellowship, a church in the neighboring town, the Pastor spoke to those who listened of the beauty and privilege he feels when he gets to share his testimony and spread the love and message of Jesus. I listened in humility as he shared his story, then looked out at the hundreds of people, rows upon rows of seekers that he was reaching.
– He even mentioned a story of an elephant.

I am convicted of my own “work” once again.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

I believe there is work to be done; in the landscape of my heart and in the fields where I have been planted. I know there are people listening, watching, (and hopefully!) reading who need to hear a little love—people who need to hear the Truth.
All that God ever asks of us is to Trust in Him, rely on Him, believe in Him and be willing to be open ourselves up to how He can use each and every one of us.

Keeping my eyes on the Master Gardener, I know that I am not alone in this task (for He is ALWAYS with me) and I know that I am not the only one He has working for him.
I seek, connect and open my ears and eyes as the fields before me expand.

I climb the stairs to my office and type in the password to my computer.

I close my eyes and reminisce on God’s faithfulness over these last months while so much took place: the planning, the marrying, the moving, the honeymooning…

I open my eyes to my bible and study God’s word and the vines.
I listen; I trust; I rely on Him and prepare my heart and soul to be weeded.
I believe.
As I return to the blog and the task written in my heart, I type the first sentence—“Is it finished?”

And I take yet another bite.

LOST

Image

LOST

“Feeling my way through the darkness.

Guided by a beating heart…” –Avicii

I have a good (and unique!) friend who enjoys getting lost. Despite having GPS in her vehicle, she goes it on her own and considers getting lost an adventure! She savors finding undiscovered places she normally wouldn’t.

Me…not-so-much. I LOATHE getting lost. I have ZERO sense of direction. I plan ahead with maps and detailed turn-by-turn instructions because I get turned around and discombobulated very easily.

When I first moved to Phoenix, without my Rocky Mountains to direct me, I experienced this very thing.

Returning from a road trip to Lake Powell, I got lost for hours, in the dark, on the unfamiliar streets of Phoenix.  With no landmarks to direct me and no light to see by; I had no point of reference. I completely panicked.

I knew I was lost and hated every minute of it.

The tears began brimming. My breathing accelerated. My heart went wild. My brain locked up…

Hours later, when I eventually followed the right road signs, I pulled into my neighborhood as the gas gauge danced around “E.”   My blood pressure steadied, my tears dried up and, in the comfort of my apartment as I studied a map, I discovered my error. Compelled by fear and repeatedly making wrong choices, I actually drove in circles for those hours.

“We do the best by the light we have to see by.”—Julie Cameron

Something about the vast amount of trees, rain and places to lose yourself in northern Oregon reminds me a little of The Shack and Deliverance.

And, yes, one chilly, rainy, foggy day my fiancé and I decided to take a long run in northern Oregon. Since he was from those parts, (even though he hadn’t been back in years,) I trusted his proclamations that he knew where he was going.

The adventure began.

About an hour into the run, we got low on water. Amidst mossy back roads, gargantuan trees and a fog that hung down on us as a storm pressed in–

We got lost.

No, we didn’t hear banjos, but it got a bit precarious.

At one point we came into a clearing. We crossed the expanse and approached an ominous, brick building that looked like a modern day castle. We rounded the “castle” and, just as it began to rain harder, our hope ignited as we came upon the first person we had seen in miles.

She was crouched low, sitting on a curb by some large green dumpsters and her thin fingers held a burning cigarette with a long, dangling ash about to drop. As we approached her, in high hopes of asking where the heck we were, something stopped us.

She didn’t move.

As we got closer, her pale skin and statuesque figure seemed like an illusion. She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn’t hear the splashing of our running shoes, our gasps of breaths and she was completely oblivious to the rain that fell harder all around us. She was wearing a grey sweater that hung on her, leggings that clung to her bone-thin legs and flip flops. She also wore a men’s ball cap that hid her face and mostly covered the long brown locks of hair that escaped just below the plastic rim. Empty eyes stared straight ahead. She took a long drag on that cigarette.

Feeling quite out of place and with the panic of our predicament oozing out of our pores, how did she not sense us?

But she didn’t.

She looked right through us.

I choke up when I think of the look of pain in her. Something we couldn’t see had a hold on this woman.

She was lost.

Regardless of the increasing rain, our mounting thirst and our growing anxiety, neither of us said a word as we quieted our steps and passed by her. The rain gushed through the gutters and over her feet and, as I looked back at her one last time, she looked up.

We rounded the other side of the “castle” into another clearing and noticed the landscape here was dotted with small signs.

Approaching the first sign it read:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

We continued on; looking for direction in the next sign about 200 yards further. It read: “Step one: We admit that we are powerless over our addiction and our lives have become unmanageable.”

Both our jaws dropped. We looked at each other and then back at the “castle” then sprinted back to the opening in the fence that brought us here.  On our way out, we passed two more signs.

One read: “ABSOLUTELY NO TRESPASSING”

And another that read:

“A power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.”

About two miles later, the rain lightened and we found ourselves on the campus of George Fox University. We also found refreshment and relief.

Breathing deep and trudging our legs a few more miles back to home base, we both were haunted by the invisible chains we saw weighing down this young lady’s soul.

“I once was lost, But now am found.

Was blind, But now I see.” –Amazing Grace

I often think of that young lady.

What happened to her? What were her struggles? Could we have said anything to her that could’ve encouraged her? Something we could’ve done that might’ve helped her find her way?

And yet, I know there was a time when I wasn’t “found.”– Well meaning words from friends and strangers alike fell on deaf ears.

“All this time I was finding myself…

And I didn’t know I was lost.” – Avicii

Yet, I admitted I was utterly powerless to change my “directional dysfunctionality;”

I sought a guide for my journey;

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.…” (Matthew 7:7)

And now I am found.–I know where I am, where I am going and Who I follow to get me through.

In Jesus, I found a guiding light of Hope to direct me through the darkness.

And though I will still get off the beaten path and won’t always make the right choices; because I know The Way, I will never be lost again.

So, wherever you find yourself along this journey, may you discover enough courage to seek, to find and to look up in the storms of life.

INDIE AUTHOR GOES ROGUE

Julie web site

 (READ ON FOR FREE STUFF!)

 Approximately ten years ago, I made the choice to follow Jesus Christ . Just as He promised, it wouldn’t be easy, but I took heart and knew He overcame. He gave me the strength to survive some dark valleys along the way and His light shone bright at the peaks of new territories. The journey led me from the valley of the sun (Arizona) to the Rogue valley of Oregon—a place I believe He may have spent a little more time in than in others. I fell in love with Jesus right alongside falling for the Rogue Valley. A few years passed and the hibernating seed of being a writer began to crack open. Advance five years, I followed His guidance and the book “grace” is written and published, with characters taken from my life and a setting in the beautiful southern region of Oregon.

I also followed guidance and prompting from WestBow Press, my self-chosen publisher, and have an up and running blog (www.juleseddy1.wordpress.com) and now; I am launching my new website:

http://www.julieeddy.com/

HERE IS THE GOOD PART:

Because I love giving stuff away and because I have also begun my Christmas shopping:

PLEASE take one moment to visit the site. Click on the BLOG page/tab and leave a comment, ask a question, or just say “Hello!” Click the FaceBook Icon on that page to access the devotionals and a full array of blogs.

To promote the site, I am giving away 20 signed soft covers of my book “grace”!

If you post/comment on my website your name is entered once.

Sign up for my blog at http://www.juleseddy1.wordpress.com or “LIKE” me on my FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/juleseddy1 and you are entered 5 times!

If you write a review on Amazon.com or goodreads.com or share/re-post or re-tweet one of my blogs, your name will be entered 10 times! I will do this until 12/15/13 and then will notify the winners.

I will ship out (and hand deliver, if possible!) your signed book to anywhere in the USA! There is no limit to the number of times you can enter and the artist who designed the cover also signed these copies. Good luck and talk with you soon!

 

“Grace” WORKS GREAT AS a GIFT (IF YOU ALREADY HAVE IT) OR KNOW PEOPLE WHO ENJOY READING TRANSFORMATIONAL STORIES OF FAITH TESTED.

Because I am an “Indie Author” (independent)—I am doing this without the backing (and paycheck) from a publisher. The best I can hope for is that all the time and money I spend writing serves my readers, entertains, and points to my guide, my savior and the ultimate “author of salvation” Jesus Christ.

Thank you and may God bless your holidays!

 

RECOVERING MULTI-TASKER

BE STILL

BE STILL

“Multi-tasker Extraordinaire.” That was how I characterized myself several years ago. I actually prided myself in being given this title by several people in my life.–I could be simmering organic quinoa breakfast on the stove, downloading the latest health articles, sending out e-mails, memorizing flash cards for school, playing with the cat and applying mascara—all concurrently and all at light-speed.

I liked that title until I nearly burned up the kitchen because I forgot about my simmering quinoa while doing those five other things. So, I downloaded (while eating breakfasts and doing make-up) an article that spoke of how multi-tasking actually makes you stupid. (–As if I needed proof after the kitchen incident.) Hmm…

In synopsis, the article explained that brain stimulation is decreased when attending to multiple things. It would appear, as one multi-tasks, that the brain becomes numb.

Add in stress and you may have a kitchen fire!

The other day, a friend of mine was leaving a voice message at a business and she absentmindedly recited her social security number instead of her phone number! She didn’t even realize it until I pointed it out.
Too much on your mind and, SHAZAAM!—numb.

When was the last time you quieted your body and mind?

I think this is one of the reasons Yoga has become so popular. People need balance desperately in this fast-paced, fast-food, hi-speed world. If people understood the benefits of quieting their hearts and re-focusing their mind, maybe that whole “peace thing” could have a chance…

A new trend in Yoga is to couple the practice with Bible Scriptures.

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

When we quiet our minds, we give God the opportunity to be heard. He still speaks. We just so often are numbed to hearing Him.

It’s difficult work. I still find juggling multiple things appealing, but I also find how much I drop when I don’t begin with balance.

When I take the time to be still with God—quiet time to pray, journal, read His Word and simply be still with Him—I find balance. I have a clearer mind and more productive day. (Ahh—Always the temptation to be more productive—I admit I am still in recovery 😉 But, the truth is I have more peace, and maybe that allows me to feel more of that balance and the productivity is the result.

I am a work-in-progress. I don’t always strike that balance. But, on those days when I adhere to more time with God and leave the e-mail unchecked, skip playing with the (now two) cats and without even having enough time left to check the color of my shoes; I walk out the front door with a steadied mind. And, the peace I have the rest of that day as I look down and my two different colored shoes?
Priceless.

THIRST

Thirst via flickr.com

THIRST
Sometimes a thirst is so ragged and entrenched in the soul that NOTHING seems to satisfy.

“Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again…” (John 4:13)

I live in the desert. I always carry water with me.
Because I once made the mistake of not carrying water.

It was during the running part of a triathlon. It was September and late in the morning; the sun was a blazing fireball in the sky. The course map showed several water stations along the run. I left my water bottle tucked nicely in my bicycle and, right before I headed out on the “out and back” trip, I stuffed two gummy sharks (for quick energy) in my mouth. After a chaotic swim and surviving the bike, even though it was hot and uphill, I looked forward to what is usually my strongest event.
Huffing up the desert mountain trail left no saliva to digest the sugars and those two gummy sharks became plaster in my mouth. Over the next mile of the steep run, my sandpaper tongue attempted digging those Sharkies away from my teeth in a fruitless attempt to dislodge them. Their indigestible shark bodies taunted me for 1.6 miles until the first water stop at the peak of the hill and the turn-around point of the trail.
The miniscule amount of water I was given at the first stop barely made a difference, like two rain drops falling on an encrusted desert floor.
And all those water stops on the course map?? There was ONE.
I tried to focus on waterfalls and drinking fountains, rivers and aquifers, children dancing through sprinklers…but my mind overpowered my will. My mind instead brought me all the scenes from the movie “127 hours.” Remember the story of Aron Ralston? He went out on a summer hike in the Utah desert and got trapped/pinned in between rocks for days and nearly died of thirst before he cut his own arm off to escape? That is what I couldn’t pry my thoughts from.

“… But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13)

God nudged these words into my conscious. I let go of the nightmarish visions of “127 hours” and held fast to this verse.
Even as I crossed the finish line and chugged three bottles of water, my thirst lingered. This verse had a hold on me—it was what brought me through. It had brought me through before…

My father’s final days on the earth; he lay in Collier Hospice center in Wheatridge, CO. His skin, bones and organs were overtaken in malignant tumors winning their battle for his body. The friends and family visits had subsided except for those closest. The nurses/“experts in dying” told us his body systems would be slowly shutting down.
He was sufficiently drugged up with whatever concoctions they give to make the body more comfortable, but his face told a different story. He had lost the ability to communicate and, because he could no longer digest and swallow, we could no longer nourish him. The last friends who came by, dabbed the mouth sponge with rum and we all toasted with a shot of Captain Morgan’s and they swabbed it into my father’s mouth.

It was the last pleasant look I saw on his face.

Days passed. No water; just the moist sponge (that got really nasty after about two swabs) and his favorite lip balm-cherry “liprageous.” The things we remember… (and maybe should’ve re-thought that Captain Morgan’s).
When his eyes would open, they shone with fear and confusion. As he “slept,” his body writhed against some unseen enemy. His breathing was sporadic, sending my sister and me into panics. His existence appeared steeped in absolute torment.
In the quiet of the late nights, I sat in the chair beside his bed praying for life’s hold to let go, and for him to find peace. It was not to be so for several more days…
Every night, through those last few days of his earthly life, I prayed the same prayers–for peace and release.

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” ( Psalm 116:1)

Ever wished someone you loved dearly would leave this earth?? Don’t judge—it is TORTURE to watch them in pain and wish yourself in their place, and yet be absolutely powerless to make that happen. I thought my heart would shatter in pieces. My anguish was inconsolable.

Yet, I know Jesus. I know the love of my Savior. I know God’s love is what did this very thing for us with His Son on the cross.

It is written that no angels or demons will separate us from that love. (Romans 8:38)

He quenches the soul-thirsty. (And no “sacrificial” arm is required from you!) 😉

It appeared that God was working His magic on my father’s soul. My friends and my study of His Word all tell me that there is none too lost and it is never too late to accept the everlasting forgiveness, love and life offered through Jesus Christ. I was reminded of the one repentant thief that hung on a cross next to Jesus. His last minute change of heart and acceptance brought salvation and peace to his soul.—He would dwell with the everlasting. He would get to see his family again.

Could this be what was happening with my father? My father was a man who dedicated his life to science and engineering and who needed an explanation for everything. Faith was too murky for him. But, as his last days approached, (and it just happened to be Easter) he opened himself to the immeasurable, unfathomable faith and love of God.
As I watched the struggle between this world’s hold on him; his body and his spirit, it was the thirst that bothered me most. To be without water and with nothing but drugs and booze as the last “soul nourishment” that one experienced? Agony.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow river of living water.” (John 7:37)

My father found release days later as the world’s hold finally set his spirit free.

“… But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13)

My thirst is quenched.

In the days following my father’s passing, I was given so many “coincidental” occurrences pointing to his salvation that even doubting Thomas would have been convinced! (The trains, the flower, the song, the cross on his brain scan…Creepy, but awesome!)

With Christ, I have hope in seeing my father again. It’s where I find refreshment. I live with it now tucked in my heart.
I will never be without it again.
It’s what my heart needs to survive the desert days ahead.

PROFESSIONAL ZUMBA DANCERS

Zumba
(“One of these things is not like the others!”)

I think something tragic happens when we try to be something we aren’t meant to be.

Actually, I KNOW it is tragic.

Take, for example, when a runner attempts something like ZUMBA.
Seriously tragic.
And, you know what they do in those dance places? They place mirrors at every turn. So, even if you could fake it in your mind that you don’t look like a puppet/marionette gone wild–on crack–there is the visual evidence slapping you in the face! It screams at your flailing arms and at every hip shake and misstep saying, “YOU WERE NOT MEANT TO BE A PROFESSIONAL ZUMBA DANCER!”
I didn’t give up; but I wanted to! (-And a few people around me wanted me to!) AND, after two days of recovery, I was actually glad I tried something new!
But, then there is my old Jr. and High school buddy, Kelly. You put her in those mirrored rooms and she blossoms like a flower in spring! Her arms are in perfect sync with the furious steps below and the hips in between, making most blush who witness the ease of her rhythm.

She was meant to dance.

(See if you can pick her out in the photo above—she has this knowing look—like, “These others shouldn’t quit their day jobs!)

It’s truly something to witness when you see someone “in their element;” pursuing a dream; excelling in their passion. Like a well orchestrated song, perfectly pulling together the individual sounds of each instrument, joining up with lyrics, rhythm, melody and it all flowing together like it was always meant to be exactly that way.
But, what when we are forced/or stuck in something that we don’t excel in? That we loathe doing day after day after day…After a while, life turns from musical harmony to a clanging cacophony of unbearable noise.

I get that there will always be things that we struggle with wanting to do–homework, paying pills, Mondays, etc.,—that’s part of life; but it shouldn’t BE your life.

We are promised something more…

“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

And when you invite Jesus into your life and allow him to direct your path and your plans…

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

More than we can even imagine??!! Hmmm…I like this idea…A LOT!

As I was struggling with what to blog about this week, I realized…I LOVE to write. I am not pretending that it is easy for me to do—there are many things that get in the way (like two other jobs, laundry, eating, the voices in my head saying, “You can’t,” or “No one cares.”) But I always return to it—the desire to be at my computer, or with a note pad jotting down something that struck me during an interaction. I yearn for the spare minutes to get the “pen to paper” and I get a rush. It is almost like that marionette on crack, or probably more like the runner’s high when I feel God nudging me to write something. It often happens when I am out on a run and when I am undoubtedly at the farthest point from home!

As I write, I am smiling. My hope is that, whatever it is you spend the majority of your day doing, or dreaming of doing, that you will DO IT! –Pursue it. Don’t give up on searching for your “thing;” for what makes you blossom; the fire in your belly; the passion that you can’t get out of your mind. Try it. Don’t give up on it. Keep trying; keep searching and keep pursuing until you find it. Continually ask the Lord into your plans and, I am willing to bet on it, that “it” becomes more than you can imagine!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

FIERCE LOVE

fierce love

FIERCE LOVE
“I will cease to live if I cannot be with you.”

Sounds Shakespearian, or maybe a line from “50 Shades of Grey,” or a RiHanna song?

It’s all about context.

Now-a-days this could be a codependent red-flag if spoken by a boyfriend, lover, stalker, etc.
Change the context; it changes everything.

–Scene change–
Picture these words being spoken by a parent or grandparent who, through no fault of their own, is faced with the thought of being denied access, sight and time with their beloved young child or children.
Though I am not a parent, I have been witness to this type of love; a fierce, almost angry, wild love.

Altruism: the sacrificial love of one for another.

It is a willingness to set aside your very life for the life of someone you love so intensely that life wouldn’t be worth living if they aren’t a part of it.

Soldiers do it for the love of their country.

A parent will step in and sacrifice for their innocent children.

This love is found between siblings, partners, families and spouses who willingly lay down their life to save their beloved.

But what if you were asked to sacrifice your life for something you didn’t care that much about?

Envision being asked to die for your abuser.

Or, for a follower of a different faith that harmed your country;

Or, the ex-boyfriend who dumped you for the larger breasted, more popular girl in school.

What about for the friend who betrayed your trust?

Or, being willing to give your full life for the child who turned away from all your teachings, stole from you and chose a drug ridden path on the streets…

**gulp**

This type of love happened.
This love happens.
This love is available to us because of Jesus.
It is the love He demonstrated on the Cross.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-7)

God, our father in heaven, loves us with such intensity that he sent us the ultimate sacrifice so that we would not cease to live. What He accomplished on the cross makes a tough life worth living, makes death not final and turned everything on its head. It’s the upside down that made things right; the death of an innocent for the lives of the unworthy.
It is the most quoted and therefore the most recognizable verse: John (3:16) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

He seeks us out when we are lost. He calms the storms of the seas of our life. He provides daily for our strength and gives us a hope worth clinging to when all else seems void.

Just know that no matter how unworthy this life can make you feel; that no matter what shames haunt your heart and, despite the burdens that weigh down your willingness to carry them one second longer, you have One that knows you, One that empowers you, One that believes in you, One that died for you because of His fierce, fierce love for you.

LEARNING TO SPELL

Webster'sLearning to Spell

She’s only thirteen and still innocent. Her eyebrows arch in question as she toils over her homework at the kitchen table. She bats her long lashes covering her blue eyes and looks up at her mother by the kitchen sink. “Mom?”
Her mom, a school teacher, stoops over the dinner dishes in the condo the two of them live in. “Yes, honey?”
“How do you spell – salvation?” Her eyes are hopeful.
Her mom purses her lips and then smiles, “Honey, I’ve told you before how to spell it:
D-I-C-T-I-O-N-A-R-Y.”
“Aaaarrrgh!” She throws her pencil down. She goes to the shelves to find the red book with “WEBSTER’s” across the top.

–Now that we have spell check, we don’t have this argument anymore, but this actually happened to my friend all the time.
Spell check doesn’t solve all the mistakes.

Her mother wanted her to find the answers herself.


I witnessed an argument between my two friends who are married. I was in the back seat of the Honda CR-V as the two of them argued over the homemade pasta they two of them made several months earlier. We were heading to the store to get the ingredients for them to make it again. Since I am in no way a gourmet cook (and this was before everyone had internet on their phones), I couldn’t help them. I watched.
“There are eggs in pasta.” I see him smile in the rearview mirror. He never raises his voice. He knows he’s right.
“No, we didn’t use them last time. Your mom’s recipe didn’t have them in it.” She is a little red in the face. She’s certain she’s right.
“Yes. Her recipe. We did. We used eggs.” He is steady.
“No. We didn’t.” She is firm.
“Yes, we did.”
“No, we didn’t.”
“You will soon find out.” The smile again.
“I already know.” The heat rising in her cheeks.
It went on for the rest of the trip to the store. She never gave in. He bought the eggs anyway.
She still didn’t believe him. When we got to their house, she checked three recipe books and scoured the internet. She couldn’t believe there were eggs in pasta. She called his mother. She’s had her back before in disagreements; it must’ve been a special recipe?!
Guess what?
There are eggs in pasta.

Sometimes we just don’t believe it; even when we find the answer.

I am a Taurus (the bull.)
I once dated an Aries (the ram.)
Once.
We disagreed on many things. One time, we spent an entire Diamondbacks baseball game arguing over marathon runners. I was considering doing my first marathon. He swore I couldn’t because all marathon runners are thinly built and I didn’t have that build. I am a runner—I have seen many fit people in all sizes and shapes finish marathons. He could argue a point into the ground. He was relentless and I often gave up because it was too exhausting. (But I still ran the marathon!)
I searched for a different way to end our arguments. I discovered betting. I have always been pretty lucky.
So, we had just seen the movie, “Meet the Parents.” We were disagreeing about the scene where the ex-boyfriend (Owen Wilson) reveals his wedding present to Gaylord (Ben Stiller) and his fiancée (Teri Polo). In the movie, Owen’s character carved an archway for Teri’s character out of one piece of wood in just 70 hours.
My boyfriend couldn’t believe this could happen. He knew it would take longer—being an amateur wood-worker himself. He claimed they said it took him 700 hours. I had seen the movie twice and knew the scene. I argued for the 70 hours.
I was laughing.
He was fuming.
I said, “Let’s bet on it. If it’s 700 hours, I will buy you the movie. If i’s 70 hours, you buy me the movie.”
This betting tactic worked to silence the argument; temporarily.
I now own the movie.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying I have never been wrong. I have been wrong PLENTY. I don’t have it figured out, but I know what I know.

You might have your own thoughts on why something doesn’t make sense, but truth is truth.

I hashed it out in life. Checked the answers and fought the battles within my own soul. I don’t know why things like 9-11 or the Boston Marathon happen. I don’t know why innocent souls are taken by evil men and haunted for years of their innocence. I don’t know why there is injustice that goes seemingly unpunished.
I don’t know the mind of God.
But I did the work. I “went to the shelves.” I found The Book. I don’t know the answers to every mystery, but it contains the truth.
How do I spell “salvation?” With the blood of the Lamb:
J-E-S-U-S C-H-R-I-S-T
I am a very lucky person when it comes to betting.
I am betting my life on this One.

REPTILE RELAY

LIZARD © 2004 Richard Soberka - http://www.photoway.com/REPTILE RELAY
Do you run alone?
Running along the succulent lined sidewalk of sunny Scottsdale, AZ this summer, I was thanking God that this was the last stretch of the run. The sun blazed out its 100 degrees already at 8 a.m. and I was enjoying the slight downhill of this last 1.5 miles of the run. I slowed to take a sip of the rationed remainder from my quickly evaporating water bottle (now approaching those 100 degrees!) and noticed I had a bulging-eyed admirer checking me out from the block wall.
I stopped briefly to study the approximately 5 inch lizard flexing his muscles in a two-, then three-pump push-up before he scattered down the brick wall to the shade of the small succulent bush. As I continued on my run; he followed and began to keep pace. I watched from the corner of my eye. My five strides matched up with his hundreds of steps as he stalked me; bolting from bush to bush that lined the well-manicured embankment of the Cactus Shadows housing development. I began laughing out loud as I continued on; for hundreds of feet, this lizard continued to keep stride with me!
I studied it closer, thinking this had to be impossible for this tiny creature to maintain this pace! Was there somehow another lizard hiding along the pathway, ready and waiting to take the next leg of the race? How could this lizard keep up? But he did!—I was amazed; he, so tiny and having to work so hard to match my downhill run; and me, advancing toward my own air conditioned shade and fresh, chilled water awaiting me at home, yet enjoying the moment with my new running partner. I would slow a bit advancing on the next opportunity for him to rest in the shade, but he would dart out once again and I was motivated anew to continue.
I thought back to the mile relays I ran for Arvada West’s high school track team. Each of the four girls on the relay team had to run ¼ mile at top speed as she transported a shiny aluminum baton to the next fresh-legged runner. What began as a featherweight baton and run-ready legs pumping like well-oiled machinery, at 300 yards would transform into exhausted, wobbly legs nearly giving out and handing over what had become a leaden encumbrance. The next girl then took over transporting the (once again) lightweight aluminum cylinder and, undoubtedly she underwent the same transformation at that 300 yard mark. This went on for each runner and ended with transporting that baton across the finish line to victory!
It would seem that my little lizard stalker had his own teammate with fresh legs waiting in the cool shade of those succulent bushes ready to take over for his endeavor to keep up with me. I laughed at the thought of how many millions of steps he (and his teammates) would have to take to catch me before I made the rest of the journey to my air-conditioned oasis.
I thought back to those Arvada West relay days and, what I loved most about the team was, even though each girl was exhausted after her own leg of the run, each girl would find enough strength to make her way to that 300 yard mark (wobbly, exhausted legs and all!) and cheer on her teammates.
About ¼ mile in to my reptile relay run is when my companion’s journey with me ended. I still had quite a way to go and I thought back to all those mile relays–without that girl located at the 300 yard mark, cheering when most needed, the journey seemed impossible.
My mind returned to the joy I felt during that little jaunt with my lizard companion and it carried me the rest of my way home.– It also struck me as so similar to the journey we have with God; I thought about His footsteps and that old story of the “Footprints in the Sand.”
Whether we see the one set of footprints or we see both sets of prints, we never run alone.
Whatever it is that you are carrying; a shiny baton, a nearly empty water bottle, the loneliness of heartbreak, the loss of a loved one, the burden of an illness; or, maybe you run from the shadows of shames in your past; there is One who can carry you on; One who will heal all your wounds and quench your soul-thirst. He cheers us from the 300 yard mark and every other lonely stretch along the way, providing laughter for the moment, a friend to help carry your burden when your body has exhausted its strength and, most definitely, He shows us the hope of an Oasis at the end of the journey.
“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.” Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)
May your relay, your day, your journey and your life be blessed.

AUTHENTICITY – Part 2

DSCF8820AUTHENTICITY -PART 2
The whole truth…
Why do you write?
Who is your audience?
As a new author, I was doing research on book signings and book release events. My friend and “research partner” Pammy and I entered the doors to The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona as wide-eyed, innocent information gatherers. Both of us are “lovers of books” and could hardly wait for this day. With its shelves laden with adventures, mysteries and thrills, the excitement we felt at experiencing a new bookstore was palpable. The chairs were set in rows and the two empty seats in front of the rows captivated our attention. Yet, what we learned that day paralleled the day my sister and I found out about Santa Claus; catapulting us out of our innocence and into a harsher new existence.
Barbara Peters, the owner of The Poisoned Pen, the “emcee” for the event and a lawyer by trade, had no issue with sharing her knowledge with everyone. She and the author of “Going, Going, Ganache” (a cupcake mystery) by Jenn McKinlay had a very open discussion about Jenn’s book, her fun characters, the cheeky titles of her books, her genres and her journey as an author, librarian and mother. The discussion turned to publishers and talk began about “ghost writing.”
Up to that point, I thought ghost writing was simply when a person hires someone to write down their words for them or when someone who hasn’t yet embraced their “author-hood” writes under a different name. (–Like when Stephen King began his writing as Richard Bachman.)
Ignorance is bliss.
I had no idea that publishers will hire writers who can most similarly write like other authors (i.e., Clive Cussler) and thus mass produce more books (at a cheaper rate) and still sell it as a Clive Cussler novel. (Notice that now the Clive Cussler novels will acknowledge the additional writer!) Yet, this was the truth that was shared so openly. I felt like the new kid in junior high English who appeared to be the only one in the class that had the wrong answer and was trying to hide this fact from the teacher and the other students while reviewing homework answers.
I dared not look around to see if others had the same shock I was feeling for fear of giving away that I had no idea this happened. I refused to look at Jenn and the owner. I tried to steady my breathing, I glanced at the book shelves that overflowed with hundreds and thousands of books; the hard work of hundreds of authors filled this room—or did it? This new truth seemed to howl out at me like open mouthed skulls screaming out from the valley of the shadows of death.
To me, this isn’t ghost writing but more along the lines of the forgers and frauds. Truth be told (by these two people “in the business,”) it happens more than you would guess.
Like a well taught liar, deliver enough of a truth and it seems entirely plausible.
Is this slippery concept of authenticity really something all writers strive for? Or is it just a dead idea?

And yet, it seemed to make sense.
This is America. We like to mass produce things. We like to sell things and create them as cheaply as we can. The good old All-American dollar. All of a sudden I didn’t feel so bad for taking nearly two years to get my first book written and published. If these other writers have a staff of others cranking out titles for them (for the publisher,) then what harm does this really do to me? I had to rely on the other theory that there MUST be other good and decent, talented authors who refuse to let another writer take on their name and write THEIR stories.
My friend and I departed the doorway of The Poisoned Pen, stumbling into the harsh noon sunlight of the Sonoran desert radiating off the black asphalt. Our innocent endeavor forced our eyes to open into a new, scorching reality.
“Did you know that about writers?” She looked at me sideways as we approached the car.
My mouth still agape, “No idea. They talked like everyone knew?”
“I KNOW! And I felt totally stupid.”
“Me too! But now I’m kinda pissed…”
“Me too…”
We drove in silence as we digested this new information.
I remembered reading that when commercial airlines first took off, the barf bags were used all the time. It would seem that people do, quite literally, have a tough time digesting and adjusting to new ideas and new things. As more and more people took more and more flights, the barf bag use declined quite measurably. Fly now and the bags are so rarely used and rarely even found on a flight.
I felt like I needed a barf bag.
Yet, as I chew on this new idea, tossing it around my taste buds, I am learning and experiencing a new flavor. When I wrote my first “piece” and put it out there, I didn’t want to take credit for it. I didn’t want my name on it. In “Masters of the Mountains,” my name is found nowhere. I was simply the author included in the telling of that tale of Jim King’s Paradigm Racing Team. I didn’t want my name in there because of who I was writing for and because of the purpose behind that book.
When I saw the beauty of the photo of Central Park (see Part 1), and witnessed the ideas morphed by Heidi Rosner for The River for the cover of my book “grace,” they both show the truth of the beauty of the places.
And, as I thought more and more about my purposes for writing and who I write for, I realized that I would be okay with the title of “ghost writer.” I could handle the criticism of others who might call me a fraud, a forger, (ha ha—like I will ever be) a-“mass producer!” Whatever anyone wants to call it–If you are doing what you love then I believe you only have to ask yourself this question:
Who are you writing for?
I need only to read Hebrews 12:2 to remind myself who I “ghost write” for:
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” King James Version (KJV)
When I digested my own truth of who I write for, the bitter taste evaporated and was replaced with sweetness. There is only One that I write for; only One I have to satisfy with the words He has given me. Bottom line—Aren’t we are all ghost writers?–filling pages with the authentic, genuine reality of what the ultimate Creator has given us? We become the translators of our experiences; sifting the golden perfection through our wiry sieve of life. We are those made in His image and made to be the reflectors of His light; those made to have life abundantly and to tell those stories, worthy of an audience of One.