Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mountain Climbing

We have this old-fashioned thing called a camera.  It's only purpose is to take pictures.  Weird, I know.  It is not so old to have film, though I have one of those as well (as for film, I'd have to suggest one Google it!).  It is with this relic of technology that I took some "passport photos" for our visa application.  Let me just say, there is no way for these to look lovely, though I will admit, makeup may have helped me a bit.  

So now that these lovely photo's have been cut-up, pasted to the application, and mailed off, it is official: We have formally applied to be in the country of Ghana.

One might think that this is quite an accomplishment (visa applications are not too difficult, but a pain nonetheless), but it really feels like I've taken but one step up Mount Everest.  There feels to be mountainous amounts of information that need to be gathered, questions that need to be answered, and plans upon which must be decided.  Moving forward is a monumental task.  It gets overwhelming to me more and more.

When we first said "yes" to this adventure, I was all about just going with the flow, and "just do what you can do!" I told my husband in his anxiety.  Now it is my turn.  I have taken a much bigger role in Vytrak than I anticipated, and I am extremely glad I have, don't get me wrong, but with this bigger role comes responsibility, and with that comes the pressure to succeed.  I'm pretty sure this pressure is self-administered, but it doesn't change the fact that I now have real responsibilities and others are relying on me.

There are times I just want to go back to being "Pat's Wife."

It can be so much easier to be the supportive one, as opposed to the one needing support.

Thankfully, I have an amazing husband who comes into my whirlwind of panic, holds my hand and we find our footing together.  The whirlwind hasn't exactly gone away, but I know I have support and someone walking it with me.  This is a good thing, because as he says, this is just the bunny hill.  We haven't even begun to get to the steep parts yet.

Ultimately, I have to acknowledge that I have no real clue or control over what is happening.  I totally love change when I am the one controlling the outcome.  This is a little over my head and it makes me nervous.  I am really trying to give my anxieties (that seem to grow in proportion to my knowledge) up to Christ and let Him lead me.  I think.  I'm not actually sure what this practically looks like!  I feel such a desire for tangible symbols of release like burning pieces of paper with my anxieties written on them during a time of prayer.   Maybe I'll have myself a bonfire tonight!

I keep thinking of the Psalty song, One Step at a Time!  I definitely feel like I'm climbing a mountain one step at a time!  I'm feeling a smores craving with all this mountain climbing and bonfire talk!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hanging Out

I don't really have a concise quip for this one.  Something that makes you go "huh!"

I am in a season of anticipation.  I am so ready to start the next stage of our lives, yet so unprepared.  I am wanting to soak up as much family time as I can, yet savoring the time to myself.  I feel the need to educate myself, and also to leave room for being taught.

I know God is preparing me for all the future contrasts I will encounter.  He is giving me the opportunity in this familiar environment to work through some of this.  I am not too sure I'm doing a great job though.  I know that I have things to do, but I know that the work will be inevitable, so I am leaning toward the soft comforts now.  I don't think it will serve me well in the end!

Perhaps I am like the shoes: meant for pounding the pavement, but hanging out and enjoying the view - at least until it rains!

Friday, September 7, 2012


I'm back in Kansas again!
It has been hot.
Today is absolutely perfect - 78 degrees and thunderstorms!

 Did I mention we have been able to see our N&N's?!  Not all, but 11.5 of them! (one more on the way!)
Our first day was full of hugs, and we have already had a chance to mingle and play a little Bocce with them!
This is part of why I wanted to be here.  It has been a fun welcoming.  Because lives are busy, it will be interesting to see how much I'll be able to stretch myself to watch all the football, soccer, tennis, and basketball games.

I also hope I can refuel my spirit.  I hunger for the type of relationships I've had before here, and also in AK, that can give me perspective, growth, and encouragement.  I am a little concerned for myself for the move to Africa, and I hope to cultivate relationships very intentionally that will continue through my time there.  This sounds very selfish, but I also hope to be involved in others' lives to keep myself from becoming self-absorbed.  I've learned this from a new friend I met this summer who happens to live in China right now.  (She was in Alaska this summer, to avoid confusion!)   I hope I can reach out and make this time work.  I am discovering some frustration with our single car issue, but I think God can work around that!

We have already felt some reach out to us and felt encouraged back into our former church.  I am ready and excited to drink this tall cool glass of refreshment!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Miss me?

I don't handle stress very well.

My patience level, which is not exactly a deep reservoir, becomes as thin and as strong as a sheet of cheap toilet paper.  This particular trait makes me so enjoyable to be around.  Yes, that's sarcasm.  That's another stress-induced trait that rears its ugly head.  This lack of patience and overabundance of sarcasm have led me into a couple of frustrating situations recently.  I hate this.

I'm not ending well.

I had hoped that this would be a bittersweet transition into the next phase of our lives, but right now it just feels like I want to pack up and quietly slip away.  Sadly, I'm not sure I'd be missed.

Some of the stressors are legitimate, and I frequently excuse myself with these, but my inability to refrain from contentious responses are all me.  I see a opening and regardless of my real opinion, I interject an argument.  My husband is truly appreciative of this mighty skill I have.  Especially on a Sunday morning on the way to church.

I'm not sure what I need to do right now about this.  God and I have had some talks, but I'm still tripping all over it.  Sometimes I think I just need to pull up my big-girl panties and realize that everyone is not as enlightened as I am I only have control over myself and I have the power of self-control.  God said so.  I don't have to agree with everyone, but I can respond lovingly or even choose to refrain from responding in an effort to keep the peace.

I wish I were a person who was missed.
Maybe it's not too late.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

White Time

It's funny how during the winter, I long for the whiteness to be gone.  Now, the lushness of the multitudes of greens fill the landscape and a spot of white is like a light in a dark place.

Funny how perspectives change.

I had hoped that I would feel a real uplift with the sale of our house and the prospect of moving to the next step.  I did, for a while.  Those bursts of lightness have settled into a valley of fog.  I feel like I'm just wandering around, waiting again.  It is 3 weeks until we are officially out of our house, and I have packed up what I think we will be taking that we don't need right now, I have had one garage sale with one more this week, and I have donated and thrown away more.  I have visited with friends and made lists to eliminate my pantry as efficiently as possible.  I have made a couple itineraries for our impending road trip, and saved a few books to take along.  I have called Canada to prepare for our entry, and I have my list of utilities to call in a couple more weeks.  We have our storage totes half-filled, the trailers are travel ready, and the trucks are serviced with tires mounted. We have prepared all that we can, for the time being.

With an abundance of time, I am wishing for movement.  I know that when this situation flips, I will long for a moment of time in quiet peace.

Funny how perspectives change.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mere Churchianity ~ Book Review

Mere Churchianity is one of the most blunt, politically incorrect, refreshing take on the modern American church I have ever read.  The late Michael Spencer, The Internet Monk, wrote this book to address the issues that have pushed many away from the church while looking for Jesus.  I wish I had discovered his blog long ago.

I had no previous knowledge of Mr. Spencer, so I was a bit surprised at the level of honesty and blunt language he used.  I don't have the same level of disillusionment that many have had with the church at large, but I related to many of the issued presented.  I found myself underlining many of it, wanting to say "Amen!" but also feeling a renewed responsibility to represent the church more correctly.  This is not a soft, loving encouragement to live better, but a serious bucket of cold water to institutional Christianity.  To call it critical of the conventional church is to say it mildly.  Refreshing and needed are my personal takes.  

A basic summary of the book is an acknowledgement of the failure of many aspects of the modern, evangelical church to connect to people despite the massive amounts of money poured into the entertainment values that the church seems to prioritize as the connection point.  It clearly isn't working on the broad scale, and Michael then goes on to discuss what does work; a Jesus-shaped spirituality.  His writings clearly defend the essentials of following Christ, but gives a defense to the variety of ways this can be manifested in individuals and groups as well.  

Even though his critique of the church is harsh, he does this in a mildly self-deprecating way, acknowledging that he was part of the problem for many years, never to make it to perfection, but trying.  I felt like when I was afraid he was getting to superior, he would include a story or disclaimer that showed he knew he was a flawed human, too.

I followed the writing very easily and since I resonated with so much of what he wrote, I didn't feel the offense that I imagine those ingrained in the organized church may feel.  I do think, however, that constructive criticism is vital, not just in the secular world, but in the family of faith as well.  I would recommend this book to those who have left the organized church, are thinking of leaving, or like me, just long for a honest approach to growth within the church.  Just be ready for some hard truths and brutal honesty.

I received a copy of this book at not cost by the publishers, and was in no way encouraged to review it with any bias.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012


My husband is so funny!  He seems to be so cautious that he very much hesitates to make anything "official," but since I throw caution to the wind, I can feel comfortable stating that we are now planning on moving to Ghana!

Why the caution?  Well, we have been in a position of making announcements of plans in the past that never came to fruition.  Though this has not been from anything on our part, he still seems to want to proceed cautiously with anything definite.  I understand.  It's hard to go back on what you've told people you plan to do.  There end up being a lot of questions that make it seem like we are the flighty ones.  Fortunately, that label isn't one that I worry about!  I choose to see it that we are always open to God's leading and that includes stopping in one direction to going in another.  We are flexible. I think that will come in very handy in the next year or so.

I am not anxious about moving to Africa.  I know there will be a LOT of things to get done in the next months to prepare to move, but anxiety isn't an emotion I go to often.  Usually, if anything, I get frustrated at the pace of change.  It doesn't seem to go fast enough for me.  I see a goal and I want to get there.  Now.  I'm working on that, or rather, God is working on that in me.  I am learning to see the journey as a valuable experience, not just the destination; literally and figuratively!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Memory Banking

I took a canoe ride and a walk along a back trail yesterday.  It was a good walk.  When I have a lot of time to myself, I tend to get pretty introspective.  I have wondered with increasing seriousness if this will indeed be the last summer I spend in our home here.  This being the 3rd year that our house is for sale, I have wondered this before.  With increasing certainty, I feel this will be it, regardless of whether we move to Africa or not.  I don't know when God will sell our house.  I don't know why He hasn't done it yet, or even if He will in the way we hope.  It probably won't be the way we expect.  God likes to keep us on our toes!

It really is amazing how beautiful something is when you know it won't be yours forever.  Breathing in the cool, clean air that has a uniquely Alaskan scent of moss, spruce, and swamp decomposition, makes me nostalgic.  Walking through the woods with trees covered in lichen and "Old Man's Beard" moss and being surprised by the bright green patches of wood ferns reminds me how much I will miss.  I know it won't be the same to go for walks with defense items in case I run into a moose mama with her newborn red-haired calf.
When will I ever go back to the house in a canoe across my pond?

These are little gifts of memories that I hope I can enjoy until the time God calls us on to our next adventure!

Friday, June 1, 2012


Isn't it interesting how following God's will for our lives rarely results in the rewards we expect?  I'm reading a book titled Plan B by Pete Wilson that basically is talking about navigating the feelings we have when God doesn't work like we thought or hoped.  Then, non-coincidentally, I am reading in 1 Kings where God doesn't work like those who follow Him thought He would or hoped.

For example, the widow who obediently makes the "last" of her oil and flour into a cake for Elijah first (and consequently never runs out of those two ingredients while Elijah is there), has her son get sick and die.  Surely that wouldn't have happened with a God who really cares, right?  That is some reward.  I can't begin to imagine all that she goes through, though the Bible does give us one of her comments to Elijah, "What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!" (1Kings 17:18).  I would imagine that she wishes at this moment to have fed her and her son the last of the bread and just died together from starvation rather than feel the anguish of loosing her son this way.

But then, God reveals Himself in a way that could not have been seen without the tragedy; He raises the boy back to life!  Talk about whiplash!  First she goes through the death of her husband, then a famine, then starvation; Elijah shows up and suddenly there is enough food!  Then her son gets sick and even dies; Elijah prays and God restores him!

Just in the next chapter, God calls Obadiah (who has been faithfully following God under the oppressive reign of Ahab and Jezebel, even to the point of hiding 100 prophets and feeding them during the famine) to confront King Ahab, risking his life, to announce that Elijah is there.  Again, not the reward Obadiah expected for his obedience.  His response to Elijah is recorded in 1 Kings 18:13,14.  Basically he tells Elijah about all he's done and surely he isn't expected to do this.  But he is, and he does, and he lives.

As if this isn't enough, Elijah himself, evidently not immune to this whiplash effect, has a mountain-top experience of revealing God through the contest on Mt. Carmel, only to have Jezebel come after him to kill him.  Surely after such a display of God's power, this evil woman could be dispatched by God.  Elijah runs into the wilderness and depressed, prays for God to take his life.  Instead, God sends angels to give him water and bread and let's him recover for a couple days.  After this sustenance, God takes him 40 days/nights into the wilderness to His mountain and reveals himself to Elijah.  They have a conversation where Elijah shares his concerns, and God tells him what to do and how He will divide the burden to others and will give Elijah a protege/helper.

I wonder if this is what Elijah expected.  After seeing God bring down fire to consume a saturated altar, surely He could just do that to all the evil ones.  But He didn't.  God works in His ways to His purposes.  He often takes us along the long paths because as Pete Wilson puts it, "...we often misunderstand something important about God's will - which is that it's often a process, not a final destination."  Pastor Rick Warren also states that "God is more interested in your character than your comfort."

These statements give me mixed feelings.  The knowledge that this refining will be a likely series of processes is a little frustrating, but ultimately I can rest in knowing that God is refining me.  I want to be used by God and this is how He works.  It doesn't all turn out like we think it should here on earth, but it will ultimately turn out just like it should.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

As One Devil to Another ~ Book Review and Drawing!

As a fan of C.S. Lewis, I was familiar with this format of one "devil" corresponding to another with a glimpse of what that could possibly look like.  Richard Platt takes this method and does his predecessor proud.  As One Devil to Another opens, we see the plight of a possible demon whose sole purpose is to keep the soul of one woman from falling into God's (the Adversary in the tale) hands.

The tale is exceptional at explaining how Satan could be using today's issues and new norms to cultivate his seemingly winning war against God, specifically in developed cultures.  I was impressed to read the simple and direct line of thinking with regards to technology and sex that clearly shows a direction away from God's Word.  It isn't complicated.  In fact, it's too easy.  Along with these modern issues, Platt also uses this forum to explain a little about the deeper reasons for pain and suffering or loss.  In a humorous way, we see the plight of the demons thwarted by God's grace.

The writing was very easy to follow, though I must admit, I kept thinking there would be a 2-way correspondence, not primarily one.  Once I figured that out, it was pretty smooth sailing.  My only real complaint was with the drawings and the obvious comic bent they provided.  I'm not one to believe there is a demon around every bush, but I don't believe they are little "devils" with horns and a pointy tail.  For whatever reason, this overly-done cartoon view of demons makes me feel like telling the one who does the writing/drawing to be careful, but then again, I have nothing to fear either.

I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to any of my Christian friends.  Especially those who have enjoyed C.S. Lewis.  I am thankful for Tyndale Publishers for providing me with this copy.  If you would like a copy of this from them as well, please comment and I will draw a name to win a certificate for a free copy!  You can simply take the certificate into a Christian bookstore or mail it to them (instructions are on the certificate) and viola!  Don't forget to comment!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Springing Forward...Someday

Spring has finally begun here in the land of the north.  I love my flowers, so it's no surprise that I get excited about the colors and textures that emerge from my basket at the garden center.  Most of this beautification is for me personally, but we are still trying to sell the house, and I hear that flowers help.  Whatever.  

 I'm feeling a bit snarky, and I'm a bit beyond tired of this snow.  It's May.  It clearly didn't get the memo.  I'm *this* close to getting the shovel out and spreading the snow out into the yard.

 I am truly finding joy and excitement (and hope!) in every little face that pops out.  It's a reminder to me that winter does end.  Life does move forward.
 My real frustration is that it seems to happen so much faster for others than for us.  It seems that I continually hear (though this is most likely perception rather than reality) of others selling their house in a matter of minutes!  I really don't doubt that we are on a path that God has ordained, and I feel peace about selling our home, I just don't understand why it is taking so long for God to sell it.  Surely if we are following His leading, we would be rewarded, right?  No.  God never promised anything of the sort.  Dang.
I can see how the time that has passed has brought us to a complete reliance of God in regards to planning.  I think we have looked at about 3 million different properties from Alaska to Kansas, and even areas in between.  We have changed our house plans from a tiny shed/cabin, to a slightly larger cabin, to simply buying a farmhouse.  We've looked at job opportunities in other places and tried to imagine life with much less, and being much more free.
Today we are in limbo with the prospect of moving to Ghana, Africa.  There is a Christian company, Vytrak, which is looking to create a vehicle that is simple and durable for use in Africa.  We are looking into being part of the team to go to Ghana and help set up the manufacturing of these vehicles.  Yes, this is pretty much my husband's forte, but I am pretty versatile as well!
Or, we will do something else.
We really don't know.

In the meantime, I will try to keep myself from resenting others' successful sales of their homes and keep my focus on what is directly in front of me, lest I miss the beauty of new life.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I am not just a little bit excited for the snow to melt here!  I mentioned on my other blog that I could relate to the excitement of the thaw in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe!  I see every tiny change in the landscape that reveals just a little bit more.  

For some reason I find great hope in the ever-enlarging reveals.  I have much more hope this year that our house will sell and we will be moving on to whatever God calls us.  I'm actually having more of a hard time guarding my heart against the possibilities.  The future looks so bright I'm having difficulty living in the present.  I just want to "GO!"  It is so hard to wait for the snow to melt and reveal that which is really there.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring Fever!

 I wish I could take credit for these beautiful blooms, but it was my mom who took them at Botanica, the botanical gardens in Wichita, KS.  They are so beautiful!  It gives me hope that spring will come here, too!  I know it will.  It is raining as I write!  Remember those April showers?!
 Spring has never been my favorite season.  I seem to carry this cynicism that takes away from the little moments of life breaking through the cold.  I don't like this about me.  I have always seen spring as a tease; starting to get warm, only to bring in the bleak clouds of rain and more cold.  This feeling was only reinforced when we moved to Alaska and "spring" is called "Break-up."  It is a time where the snow starts to melt and the ice literally breaks up.  The roads are a huge mess and it's muddy, mucky, cold, and wet.  And brown.  Leaves start to emerge in May.  Tulips show up around mid-May here, if they make it past the moose!
 In the past year, I have kept a list of things for which I am thankful.  It was funny because I got a book that had this suggestion and tried to read it, but I couldn't get through it.  Ironically, it was too flowery for me.  I continued my journaling, however, and I am trying to get past my cynicism.  I want to see the beauty in the first blade of grass I see, in the smell of the soil, in the warmth of the sunshine; not sulk that the snow isn't gone yet.  Sometimes I wonder how much I've missed while lamenting all that is not perfect.  I know we were made for a perfect world, but I believe God sends us glimpses of it!
Thanks, Mom, for sending me this one!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vacation Servitude

 I recently got back from an amazing vacation.
 After being gone to California for a month for work, my husband decided we needed to go on a cruise to celebrate our upcoming 10th Anniversary and reconnect.  We went to the Caribbean on Norwegian and loved it all!  We ate delicious food;
 We enjoyed a variety of wonderful shows;
 And we got to dress up in summer clothes!  That may seem like a silly thing, but to me, this was huge!
 During our time of planning and then enjoying this amazing blessing, I was conflicted off and on.  Was this the right thing to do with our money?  Especially since we are trying to do with less.  Does this make us hypocritical?
I never really resolved these questions entirely, but I have a clear conscious.  Mostly because it's done and I can't change that part.  One thing that we could do on this trip was to make sure we were full of grace throughout.  It was an amazing thing to feel how entitled we felt once we entered this land of luxury.  Any small inconvenience was initially felt as a huge affront to us personally.  I am so glad that Pat took the lead to use these moments to extend grace to others.  It made the trip so much more enjoyable for us, but it also gave us perspective through the trip.  We found ourselves reaching out and wanting to connect with those who were meant to serve us.  We talked as extensively as we could with our Maitre 'D, Assistant Maitre 'D, our waiters, the guest services people, our shore excursion directors, etc.  We learned how difficult it was for them to be away from family, how they met their spouses on the ship, and how they had plans for when they would be done with their contracts!  I left realizing that my goal had been to let them know that I thought they were people and valuable.  I wanted to let them know I cared about them.
I don't know if God wants us to forgo all things that are beyond the necessary, but I do believe we can share His love in everything we do.  This was one place where we felt the push to feel superior to those who were serving us, and we had the opportunity to lift them up.  I am so thankful for a husband who can see how to serve others even in the midst of a vacation!  I can't wait to see how God molds us in the next decade!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kisses From Katie ~ Book Review

I had pre-ordered this book when I first heard that I could.  In fact, I accidentally ordered 2!  Interestingly, it has taken me a long time to actually pick it up and read it.  I knew that it would convict me of all the things I like to complain about through the winter.  I knew that it would show me how to see Jesus in the people that I wasn't sure I wanted to be near.  I knew it would break my heart.

I guess I didn't feel like being broken.  I thought that if I held myself together with my list of complaints and rationalizations, it would feel better.  Maybe it would have, but only if you are willing to be broken can you experience healing.

I just finished this book and it was everything I had thought it would be.  Katie's story is really pretty simple:  she said "yes" to Jesus.  It's not an easy story, parts of it are excruciating, hilarious, disgusting, and beautiful.  It is a real and honest look at the costs and joy of following Jesus for one particular person.

Not everyone's journey of following Jesus will look like Katie Davis', but reading about her story and how her realizations of how American materialism takes the need for Jesus away struck a chord.  We live in a time and place where if we need something, we go get it.  I am especially guilty of this.  When the Autumn season arrives, my husband and I have to consciously stop buying things we want for the sole purpose of leaving something for gifts.   I haven't ever had to rely on Jesus to provide my needs, though He does.  I know we rationalize our feelings here by saying that God gave us our jobs and we do them well, and that is how He provides.  Yes, that's true, but that scenario relies heavily on my own power.  I've never been in a place where Jesus was the only option.  There is a part of me that desires that level of closeness with Jesus, then honestly, there is the selfish part of me (a way bigger and stronger part) that sees the costs and wonders if its worth it.  Then I remember how dissatisfied I am with my cushy life and wonder if its worth it not to follow Jesus with complete and utter abandon.

I read Katie's story, and it has given me an even greater sense of anticipation of what God has for us next.  I do sense that God will move us.  I don't know where or when, or really even for sure.  I now have more assurance that it will be hard, excruciating even, hilarious, disgusting, and beautiful.  It will be worth it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Water, Water Everwhere

There is nothing that could make you feel more inadequate than luxuriously filling up a tub with hot, clean water, eating a Cadbury egg (one of my weaknesses), and then relaxing while reading about Katie Davis and the beginning of her adventures in Uganda.  I'd like to try and defend my ludicrous waste of water by stating that after my adjustment yesterday, my back is extremely sore and I feel a cold coming on.  You know I just can't have a cold before I go on our Caribbean cruise!  Even using my new razor made me feel guilty.  It's one that has the bar of moisturizing cream all around the razor and actually works really well!  (Notice how I  just skimmed over that cruise part.)

And just so you know, that is a random picture above.  I would never show you my bathroom with the peeling caulk and beyond-ability-to-clean-shower grout.  And I would sooner show you my bathroom than me in the tub.  I digress...

The last two years we have been trying to sell our house and live more simply for the ultimate goal of giving more of our income to others.  That sounds so good!  We thought so.  We actually still do.  We haven't sold said house yet, but we have begun the process of giving more to others.  It has made us feel really good.  It has been good.  But I don't think that will be the end of it.

As good as all the good things are that we can do, they are never enough.  I'm feeling as though I can't "check the box" here.  I like to do that.  Check boxes, I mean.  Sometimes I like to do good things, and honestly, sometimes I don't.  Giving up my time/resources is a tough thing for me.  I guess that's why it's called sacrifice.  The continuing realization that people are not just suffering, but dying from a lack of things that I take for granted (like a tub full of clean water at the turn of a knob), is continually gnawing at me.  There are also opportunities to help at a more local level.  You might be surprised how much help people need in our own communities.  "The ends of the earth" includes both near and far, not one or the other.

So basically, if I want to be super comfy and shallow, I will quit reading about others giving up everything for others to show God's love.  Wait, that's pretty much Jesus' story.  Instead I guess I will continue to navigate this uncomfortable balance of seeing all the injustice in the world and doing my drop in the bucket while feeling like I'm drinking my big glass full.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I'm feeling the need for some real motivation.  I have tried to put on the swimsuit, make lists, think of the disappointment of my husband...all of it just makes me feel bad.  Not motivated to move.  

I have a love-hate relationship with my new leather reclining loveseat.  It is really comfortable, it's beautiful, and it fits my style as well as the space limitations in our living room.  It beckons me in the morning after my husband leaves for work to come wrap up in the electric blanket and sip my coffee in luxurious comfort.  I succumb.  Pulled out of my cocoon only by the need for another cup of coffee, this is where I have my quiet time, read the news online, and catch up on Facebook.  I turn on the news at 7, and begrudgingly take my dog for his walk no later than 8.  I always feel glad when I get back.  But then that beautifully soft leather begins its seduction again.  I wonder if it has time travel capabilities, as I often find I have lost hours while sitting in this loveseat.  It is not a good motivator.  Neither is it's side-kick, the electric blanket.  How cozy the two of you make me!

So now you see my problem.  I cannot get rid of my fabulous furniture.  Alas, what is to become of me if I continue to slob away in the seat of sloth?  I have an idea, and trust me, it's not pretty.  I am contemplating using the loveseat as some sort of reward, but as with anything, I need accountability.  No, you cannot help me here.  I will lie to you.  I will.  As frustrating as it is, I must increase my self-discipline with nothing more than...self discipline.  Ironic, I know.  And not very fair, I must say.  Surely my ability to make spreadsheets would help me here, or my gardening skills, or even my penchant for strange humor, but no.  It seems I am going to be forced to dig deep (gardening skills ARE helpful!), and make myself get off this loveseat.  At least before my husband gets home.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


 This is what we came home to after church today.  Seriously?  Seriously.  I just started to laugh.  Because if I don't I'll go crazy.  This year I have been trying to find ways to get through winter without getting my increasingly worse Winter Blues.  I have been taking vitamin D for a year now, I have a new job that has worked out pretty well for me so far, and I'm getting more involved in our church!  I have had such growing hope this winter!  And then this:
 Do you ever feel like when you are doing everything you can, it all falls in on you anyway?  You dig out and scoop it all clean, but then the roof clears and it all falls back in.

I won't pretend that my life is that hard.  I know many people have so much more on their plates than I do.  Actually, I have it incredibly easy.  Too easy, sometimes.  I know that I deal with some physiological things, the snow that falls, but not taking steps to combat it when I know it's coming would be like refusing to get a shovel; just hoping that it's not too deep to walk through.  This year, I have the shovel and boots, but it seems there is just more snow than ever.  It's harder.  But it's possible.

Just when I think I want to quit shoveling and just let the snow fall over me, God sends me a little bit of hope.  That Light that refuses to be completely submerged.  This week I was asked to coffee by two different people (on the same morning even!), and somehow God knew I really needed that feeling of being pursued.  That little bit of encouragement gave me the desire to pick up the shovel and keep going.
Spring will come.  It always does.  In the meantime, I hope I'm as willing to reach out to others and pass that Light on.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy ~ Review

I just finished reading this trilogy, and I have to say, it was pretty powerful.  Marketed to "Young Adults" I had a fairly low expectation on literary merits.  I also expected a quick moving story with enough action to keep younger minds engaged.  I honestly got so engaged in the story that I never really paused to consider the literary quality of the books!  It's not Tolstoy, so it is very easy to read and thus very much at the level of a Jr. High reader.  The story moves pretty quickly, answering questions as the action flows, so again very level-appropriate.

It's the actual story that makes me feel that these books go far beyond the scope of "Young Adult."  In a very simple summary, we enter a world that is a post-apocalyptic North America run by a severely corrupt central government that keeps most of its citizens in a state of slavery for the benefit of the elite class.  As an annual punishment/reminder of a past rebellion, this government stages a televised event in which a pair of teenagers from each of the 12 districts, one boy and one girl, are drawn from a bowl to enter a fabricated but natural looking arena to fight to the death, named the Hunger Games.

I was appalled at the concept.  I was also fascinated at how the author could possibly pull this off.  The truth of the matter is that the idea is appalling.  That's the point.  And yet, the people of this nation are so beat down that they comply, sending their children off generation after generation.  The rebellion that is referenced was put out so completely, that the citizens are so afraid and their fear continues to keep them in bondage.  Somehow when the heroine of the story, Katniss Everdeen (named after a water plant) steps up to take the place of her sister in the games, her spark of bravery begins to spread courage to others.

Throughout the horrific mainline story, there is this coming-of-age of Katniss that is really fascinating.  She is forced to realize that her actions directly affect others, and how she presents herself is important.  This awareness of the implications of one's self is something that, I think, is universal in young adult years.  Obviously the setting would be different, but balancing who you think you are with what is expected of you is a tension that permeates most teens.  It did with me, at least!  Katniss's consequences are life or death, but I wonder how many in other parts of the world would relate.

Katniss also deals with the usual conflict of discovering feelings of "like!"  I very intentionally avoid the concept of love here, because I truly don't believe a 16-17 year old understands what love is.  She is compelled to show feelings of "being in love" for the games, but as the books unfold, the complexity of what this has started begins to unravel, and she is finally forced to realize the depth of what "love" really is. It goes far deeper than the fluttery feelings of attraction.  What was done as a facade also has consequences that she must face, and it doesn't feel good.  This path of discovery is worth discussing with a younger reader about to enter the world of dating.  Pressures to do what you think you have to, and the consequences that follow, are again universal.

Finally, what really got me about the story is the question of what depths you are willing to go to for survival.  What about the survival of the ones you love?  Is it worth keeping your character if it costs you your life or the lives of others?   These are the issues that plaque the characters in this story, and not everyone chooses the moral high ground.  As the books progress, these issues are the ones that come out as the characters have to decide if they are any better than their enemies, and examining that for which they are fighting.  Who do you want to be at the end?  This is another pivotal question that directs our young heroes.

In the end, I really enjoyed the books.  I am glad I gave in and bought them!  I recommend them for some thought-provoking reading that is entertaining, if not a bit disturbing.  For young adults with concerned parents, I would advise reading it with them and using these issues for some valuable discussions.  There are many issues not touched upon that could be great springboards for real conversations.  I will be excited to see the movie(s)!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Prayer Print

 God made us all so intricately and specifically different.  Our uniqueness is revealed in many ways from the physical to the nonphysical.  Our fingerprints have long been a way to identify ourselves from others.  I find it an amazing "quirk" that God decided to make us this way!  What a wonderful reminder to us as we lift our hands to our Maker, that each of those prints on our fingers were made uniquely to us, for Him.
 My husband and I often reflect on the very specific way we communicate with each other.  In a broad sense, we speak "Manese" or "Womanese," but even more specifically, we speak in our own dialects of "Pat-ese" and "Melissa-ese."  There are some broad communication suggestions that we use, but in the real world of our days, we have to take the time to refine the way we speak to each other.

Why with all the individuality and uniqueness of each one of us do we feel compelled to use formulas to pray?  Does God create us with such complexity and detail to only hear us if we include all the aspects of a respective acronym?  I don't believe so.

From the very beginning, Adam had normal conversations with God, as normal as could be expected anyway!  After the fall, this openness had certainly changed.  To try to sum it up, the Old Testament from Moses on, shows the unattainable perfection God required in order to approach him, however, it is also shown that His mercy and grace covered those who tried but ultimately failed.  Finally Jesus opens this line of communication so we can confidently approach the Throne of Grace with everything we are.

Jesus's ministry was so broad that I won't begin to dissect it completely, but one thing I want to point out is that He was very clear that the method was much less important, if important at all, in comparison to the heart.  He talked about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:10-14.  The Pharisee talks about all he does, but the tax collector simply begs God for mercy.  Jesus is clear about who is justified.

Those who are fans of formula like to point out the prayer Jesus gives when the disciples ask Him how to pray.  Without any kind of degree in theology, I'd like to offer my simple view of what Jesus was doing here.  One point could be stated that disciples of teachers often had specific, special prayers that their Rabbi would compose just for them.  This is why Jesus's disciples compare themselves to John the Baptist's disciples (Luke 11).  Jesus also knew the limits of our humanity, and how we often need guidelines to help us get started.

If you know me at all, you know that I thrive most in an environment of rules; of boxes to check.  In one way, I really love the idea of having specific prayer points to include.  It helps me to focus on the fact that I am speaking to the Lord of the Universe, not my pocket genie.  I do notice, however, that whenever I try to implement a formula to my prayers, it becomes fabricated and forced.  In time, the guideline becomes restrictive and all I really want to do is quit.  This is just me.  It may not be this way for others.

Just like our fingerprints and specific ways we communicate with each other, I believe we have the freedom to communicate just as individually with Jesus.  We have guidelines if we find ourselves without a way to start, but I believe God wants us to go beyond the formula, beyond the acronym.  He wants our hearts, sputtering and disjointed as they are.  He wants our moments where we have no idea what to say, but just bow to him in tears; He wants our moments where we beg and plead for the help we know only He can give.  He wants those moments where we all we can do is reach out and say a few words; He wants those moments where we sing our praises to Him.  He wants it all, every scripted and unscripted moment of our lives.

So if you feel unable, or just unsure of how to talk to God, just open your hands to Him.  Lift the cries of your heart, as unique as your fingerprints, up to Jesus.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Embracing Fat!

 We've come to know "fat" as a dirty word.  It hasn't always been that way.  In fact, in many past and present cultures, being fat is a sign of success and power.  Actually, things haven't changed much.

 In the same way that 15th century artists depicted beauty in the fullness of figures, I've found a new appreciation for the term, "fat."  Several years ago now, I heard a previous pastor of mine talk about the need to be F.A.T. in order to be a successful leader.  Faithful, Available, Teachable.  I've found that the same principles apply to life in general.  I've also discovered that these qualities are almost as difficult for me as maintaining good eating & exercise habits!

Being Faithful is so easy in concept.  The kicker on this one is that it is a "time will tell" principle (also taken from Pastor Williams).  Being faithful in something for a very short time is, well, not that impressive.  I've often said that I could do just about anything for a short period of time, and that's often as long as I last.  It's when we can be faithful for the long haul that matters.  Faithfulness is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and thus can only really be mastered by the Spirit-led person (as mastered as humanly possible!).  It is a difficult thing to be faithful in trying circumstances, but even David as he ran for his life encourages us to "Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD."  He was convinced, and rightfully so, that "The LORD preserves the faithful and fully recompenses the proud doer."  (Psalm 31:24, 23b)

Availability is a little easier for me right now, sort-of.  I like to plan my life to be easy-going.  This doesn't necessarily mean I want to use my free time in service.  In fact, just today I spent a fair amount of time making calls and arrangements for a firewood ministry my husband leads.  He is busy right now with work, but I am available.  I admit it isn't as fun to spend hours on the phone planning logistics, but I am glad I can help.  It is obedience.

Teachability is probably my hardest one to master.  When I enter a new field of interest, I cannot wait to consume all the information possible.  I love to become an expert on things that interest me.  Other things, not so much.  Just ask my husband.  Unfortunately, I am not good at feigning interest and consequently, my poor attitude often prohibits any information from sinking in.  I tend to give the blank look and angrily give up before the lesson is over.  That is not a quality of being teachable!  Just like being faithful throughout the difficult times, I believe being teachable is necessary in the less than desirable times.  

So here's to developing our FAT Qualities!  And eating better...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Grass is Greener Syndrome

 Having spent the last month in the bay area of California, I have remembered my love of the color green. I was sent rather short-notice and packed a bit too warm for the area.  It didn't take me long to soak in the green grass, blooming lavender and other flowers around my hotel.  It was a sweet consolation for an otherwise difficult job.
Upon my return to a very snowy home back in Alaska, I quickly began to wish for a change of "home."  Why did it have to snow more this year than ever?  (I don't know the exact numbers, but we have had a LOT of snow this winter... so far.)  This means that it will take even longer to see my own lawn this year.
Oh how I miss green grass!
As if God knew this would be in this brain of mine, he set it to my Pastor to quote someone, I forget who, saying, "If the grass is greener on the other side, then it's time to water your own lawn."

I could get all negative and literal, explaining the desire to water my lawn but it's covered in 5 feet of packed snow, but I'll take the figurative intention and realize that I have ways to make my life content.  Most of this "watering" is rooted (pun intended!) in spiritual discipline.  I must admit that I am lacking in this most important way.  When I stop feeding myself with the Word, I feel distracted, flighty, discontent, and ungrateful.  I look at others and pine for whatever they have that seems to be lacking in my life.

On CBS Sunday Morning, a show I must watch every week, they had a little segment discussing the falsity of the literal "greener grass" syndrome.  Let me explain.  When one looks over a fence or what-have-you at the lawn across the way, it often appears to be greener because of the angle of the view.  Grass blades are long and slender, giving the most green color viewing from the side.  When looking upon the same blades of grass from above, the view is more of the tips and edges, and often some dirt, giving a much less green appearance.

Basically it's perspective.  When I think my life is too lowly for me to participate in it, and I feel like changing lawns, what I really need is to get down and roll around; get my eyes to the level of the blades.  This may mean getting dirty, grass-stains and all, to really see what I have.  (There are so many puns & allegorical thoughts here, but I'll restrain myself - they could get very old!)   I have to engage more deeply in the life I have been given to nurture it.  Then maybe, just maybe, someone else will ask what I'm doing to have such a healthy, green life, and I can point them to the Maker and Sustainer of it all.