Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Three Bits Of News

My kids know how to give great gifts! They came over on Mother's Day for a while so I could cuddle my grandson and they handed me a beautifully wrapped present. I opened it to find a super cute, framed photo of my son and his baby son...but that's not all! I opened the next bundle of wrapping tissue to discover this HUGE stack of printed baby photos!! 

I may have done a bit of hinting, ranting, verbal moaning, wondering out loud about how sad it is not be able to frame and hold the current method of photo sharing. With everything in digital form it felt like I would be missing out on some great pictures to     enjoy if my computer crashed or became obsolete. (I have tapes of my kids baby talk but  no way to hear them. So see? It can happen.)

Thank you kids, my heart is so happy about this pile of pics!!

In other news, this gorgeous hawk has been visiting us a couple times a day for the past few weeks. I love to watch him sit there looking for his next little rodent meal. But he gave me real surprise the other day when I saw that he had a snake in his claws as he sat there on the fence. THEN he rose up and flew over my house with the snake dangling! Yikes, I hope he did not drop it on top of my house and I am thankful he did not deposit it in our swimming pool!


And in still MORE news, I am back to work on my little book! I am once again excited and hopeful about it. I still have a long way to go but can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This WIP (work in progress) is based on many encounters and experiences I have had with God as He went overboard to convince me that He loved me. I believe now that all of these encounters were also to let me know that His love for us is supposed to be my life message and I have tried to express that in every way I can think of here on this blog. 

I got stuck somewhere along the line while working on it last year. I was trying to write about important and life-changing events between God and me over the years, but the deep spiritual awareness of The Messenger Himself was not here as I wrote. I was recording facts and stories but that's it. So I hit a wall of dissatisfaction and doubt. But in recent weeks I have found myself in this little office writing with tears streaming because the events in my true stories felt close and alive and as if they happened today. What a difference! Now I am so excited for you to read this book! It carries an important message that can impact every single reader in one way or another. Can't believe I just said that for all to see but I am going to leave it right here. :) 

Who knows how this is going to end up?

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

My Trophies

I wasn't going to add my words to the overwhelming flood of Mother's Day posts and articles floating before our eyes this week. But even as I only read the headlines and titles, I began to get that smooshy, weepy, nostalgic, and sweet mood that comes with this holiday...or for me, pretty much any holiday. Searching for a photo for this blog post only drew me deeper into the smooshiness. :) 

In recent years I have been jealous of the current new moms. They have the Internet to help them through the lonely and confusing season of child-raising. I looked at the way a new mom could post a question on social media sites and immediately get all kinds of advice and encouragement to choose from! All I had was my mom and the few child development books that were available. And I often found those two resources in direct contradiction of one another. 

But I think I am changing my mind about that jealousy now. Today's young moms might have TOO much information storming at them from way too many sources. It takes some serious study to figure out how to pull the good advice from the bad, and who has time for that? Talk about overwhelming! I would freeze up like I do when I go to a restaurant with too many pages in the menu! 

There are many things I would do differently if I were able to go back in time. But I would never choose to go back if given the opportunity. The Hubs and I raised two boys, figuring it out as we went along, like every parent does. They were and are well-loved and they always knew it. Love was always there, underneath the wonderful moments and the awful ones. 

Going back in time would change the men that my boys have become, and that would be unacceptable to me. Those two little boys in that photo up above have grown into good, caring and kind men. Men that I love to be around. They are people that I never get tired of looking at or listening to. (The smooshiness is filling up my eyes again now.) The two people that I mothered are good for this world. They are contributors to the laughter, honesty and beauty of the world they live in.

They are good and faithful friends to the people in their lives. They are generous and creative. The ones they spend their days with feel cherished and valued. My men know how to make you smile and look at the other side of a hard situation. Both are quick to laugh at themselves and not take themselves too seriously. Their passion and loyalty constantly surprise me and fill me with pride. 

These two men are my trophies. Happy Mother's Day to me! 

P.S. Writer Son just told me why he was laughing so hard in the photo above. He said that Rocker Son had just burped! brothers! 
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

His Thoughts - My Thoughts - Pretty Much Opposites

~ I have posted this here before, but I was working on it today for a project of mine and wondered if it might lift some heavy heads today...

I step out of the clothing store with shopping bags in one hand, shading my eyes against the bright sunshine with the other. I scan the busy parking lot for our car, because as usual I’ve forgotten where we parked. The longer I stand there, the more uncomfortable I am. It’s not the sun that is making me uncomfortable.
My husband is sitting in our car, out there somewhere among the hundreds of parked cars, just watching me and probably getting a pretty good chuckle out of it! How many times have I done this? I am directionally-challenged, even needing some guidance when stepping out of a store inside a mall! I always choose the wrong direction to walk. And now my husband is watching me and I am remembering how much he loves to tease me about my lack of car placement memory.
Then my eyes lock onto his and sure enough, he is grinning from ear to ear! I sigh and make my way to the car, throwing the bags in the backseat. I buckle my seatbelt and turn to his broadly smiling face, bracing myself for the teasing and ask, “What?”
With a sparkle in his eye he says, “When I saw you standing there, it took me right back to our high school days when I used to watch you come down the school hallway toward me. You are so beautiful!”
My heart does flip-flops, and I must quickly correct my thinking about his thinking!
I do this to God. I keep getting it wrong regarding His thoughts toward me.
  “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8
For some reason I tend to think that God is unhappy and displeased when He looks at me. But nothing could be further from the truth. (farther or further? Ha! Need to find out for my project.) The following is a journal entry from when my two boys were little. I was active in more ministry jobs than anyone should ever say “yes” to. I was asking God to help my family and to give me ideas for the women’s Bible study and things like that, but we were spending no quality time together. So this led to guilt and depression and of course to the belief that God was sitting out there somewhere frowning at me. I felt angry, sorry, alone and crowded all at the same time. Nothing would console me. Not more chocolate, coffee, time alone in a long hot bath, nothing. My journal reads…
“I have been down this road way too many times and God knows that, so how could I ask forgiveness? My shame is keeping me from Him because I do not deserve Him. I am such a mess. I know He will forgive me and that makes me feel even worse!
Now suddenly in the last few hours I am hearing Him whisper to me, “I love you, just come to me please.”
Just when I am thinking and feeling that all is hopeless He is calling me to Him. Why? Has He no pride? I haven’t even asked for forgiveness yet. Doesn’t He want me to beg and plead? He is offering me mercy before I even ask for it, I do not get His love for me!”
God did not make me ask for forgiveness. I did not need to grovel or pay for my crime of neglecting Him. He was not unhappy with me at all. Right in the middle of my misery and blind wandering, He was holding out His mercy to me, even before I asked for it.  God was smiling at me and loving me.
His thoughts are higher, full of more grace and patience than I can muster up for those around me. I was making the mistake of imagining that God thinks like I think. That He gets irritated as easily as I do, that He is drumming His fingers on the table waiting for me to get it right.
I do not offer mercy up as easily as He does. I want “justice” when my family or I are wronged. I want fair treatment. I want recompense and restitution. These are my ways and these are my thoughts.
I am so thankful that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and that His ways are not my ways! God’s ways are infused with such overwhelming love that He cannot see us without love in His eyes. He refuses to keep a tally of our wrongs against Him because His vision is colored with mercy.
Dear friend, He is smiling at you today! God knows you. He knows what all you are juggling. He likes you more than you think He does. When the craziness of life begins to overwhelm you and the kids are pulling at you for attention 24/7, God is there and He understands. He is not impatient with you and your progress or lack thereof. God is not tapping his foot on a cloud wishing you would hurry up and grow up.
God loves you today. He even adores you today! God is better at love than any parent. We call Him Father, but God loves higher and deeper and truer than an earthly father is able. He has no false ideas about you. He knows you. You are His creation and made by His design. What else could He be doing but smiling at you? All you need to do is look up and smile back.
Thank you God for smiling back at me even when I am not smiling. I am worrying and fussing and stressing. But still you refuse to stress or worry. You smile at me. You open your big arms to me and invite me into them. Thank you for your relentless embrace, for your constant grace and forgiveness. Thank you for being the loving God that you are.
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Friday, May 1, 2015

May Day, One Year Ago Today | Random Journal Day

It is May Day! One year ago today my journal is full of exclamations points, both happy and sad. The pages preceding this day contain prayers for two of my friends, one had recently found out that her son had just 4 months to live, and the other was walking through another very difficult family situation.

My son and his wife had FINALLY released the news that a baby was on the way and I could openly bask in the news that I was going to be a grandma! We had already decided that we wanted to move to Texas to live near them, and this gave us the obvious deadline to make this happen!

On May 1st I was home alone making myself a sandwich for lunch when my right arm and right leg went entirely numb. Not tingly like when your limb goes to "sleep", but heavy and useless and numb. I moved to the couch because I thought I might faint, though I was not dizzy and had no headache. It lasted about 10 minutes as I sat there wondering what to do.

After it happened again one hour later I called Hubs at work and asked him to come home. He said to call the Emergency Room for advice while waiting for him to get home (45 minutes away). I called my doctor instead and they said to get to the ER as soon as possible.

A few hours in the ER revealed that I'd had a mini stroke. I was told to see my doctor for further instructions. A few days later Hubs and I sat in my doctors office as she wrote out a new prescription for high cholesterol to go along with the high blood pressure med I was already taking.

Her other recommendation made both of us laugh. She said that I needed to "take it easy and have a few months of rest." Her questioning look was answered with the news that we were hoping to move out of state in the next few months, though we had not sold our home or found a new home or had any jobs to go to.

My Internet research on mini strokes told me that a major stroke is very likely within one year from a mini stroke. Thank you Internet.

On May 6th Hubs got a call with a job offer in a city one hour from our kids in Texas. He said "Yes, when do you want me to start?"

In 6 WEEKS!!!

By June 25th we had SOLD our home of 20 years, BOUGHT a gorgeous home in Texas we had never seen, and found ourselves standing at the front window of our California home watching a huge moving van drive away with all of our possessions!

Yes, there were many exclamations points in these journal pages!!

And the Internet was wrong. I am happy and semi-healthy and very much alive today, one year since the mini stroke. So much has happened since that day. It scared us both a lot, and we do not and did not take it lightly. For the next month my hubby called me from work every single hour and boy did I get in trouble if I did not answer! Now he is back to calling on his breaks and during his lunch. I feel loved and cherished.

I am sitting here in Texas today, listening to the music of water trickling into my pool from the hot tub, accompanied by the snores from my dog beside me. My grandson is only 30 minutes away and I get to snuggle him at least once a week. I am so thankful for the crazy journey we have traveled since May Day last year.

I have lots of time to "take it easy and rest" now, but it's the last thing I want to do! I can sense God's presence in the sound of the water falling over the rocks. We never know what day will be our last. We only know that the day we are in is a day to give thanks. A day to listen for His voice. A day to follow whatever path He has opened up in front of us.

I hope you all (y'all) are having a wonderful and happy May Day! And I pray that if this day finds you in a bad or sad situation, that you will be able to search hard to find one thing to be thankful for.

Linking up with RANDOM JOURNAL DAY 

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sometimes It Feels Wonderful to Be a Writer

How can we understand the un-understandable?

Oh my gosh, I am writing one last blog post for the lovely website 5 MINUTES FOR FAITH and I love what I wrote! This is funny because the other day my good writerly friend Dawn just wrote her last submission for the same place and she talked about how much she loved it. Maybe every once in a while when we know it's an important piece, the best stuff rises to the top. 

For this final message I literally asked God what my last words to these readers ought to be.  It came loud and clear and I am proud of what ended up on 5 MINUTES FOR FAITH tonight. Please go on over and check it out. Thanks you guys. 

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Places to Go and Rattles to Grab

Photo by Melissa Roden Klein - Baby Photography

Our world is full of amazing sights. Wonders that make you catch your breath with awe. I remember seeing Yosemite Falls for the first time from the backseat of my parents car. Looking through those windows and knowing that my eyes were on something wonderful and magical. 

Last Sunday afternoon my heart was captured and my eyes were transfixed on a new wonder. I held my breath while watching my 6 month old grandson work out the mechanics of crawling. Seriously you guys, this is a crazy-ridiculous accomplishment. 

After only a few short months on the planet, this little guy is working hard on getting his four limbs to cooperate with one another. His eyes see the rattle, but it is out of reach. If only he can get his arms and legs to lift his heavy body up and take it from here to there. 

His arms straighten out and up goes the chest. But the chunky legs are still sprawled out behind him. He is tired of his earlier system of inch-worming his body forward. He knows there has to be a better, faster way to do this. With little grunts of effort the legs move into place underneath his body and he is in position for forward motion! 

For some unknown reason one legs darts out to the side as if trying to outrun the rest of his limbs. Pulling that leg back into line with the other leg, he rocks back and forth. I can see his eyes concentrating on the goal. The rattle is right there, we can do this! 

The four grown-ups are laughing and cheering him on. He breaks focus for a second and grins back at them. OK, back to work. One arm off the floor and placed a few inches forward, then the other. His legs are finally cooperating with the team effort and he reaches out for the rattle. Oops! Must have misjudged how close he was, need a few more synchronized moves to reach his goal. At last, all four limbs have worked together and one hand lands on the rattle!

YAY! His crowd of fans are cheering and he laughs with triumph! 

Forgive this grandma moment, but really folks, this sweet and intense work has impacted me to the core these last few days. I cannot stop thinking about it. There are so many layers of thought in this simple and quite ordinary baby-accomplishment. We have all passed this lesson. We have all somehow figured out how to get our limbs to cooperate in order to move our bodies from one place to another. 

But I am thinking about the crowd of four grown-ups who witnessed this daunting task last Sunday afternoon. His mommy and daddy and grandpa and grandma were all perched near by, watching the spectacle. We all wanted to reach out and help him. I wanted to move the rattle closer. Mommy wanted to put her hands in front of him so we would not have to see a face-plant. Daddy was on the floor next to his baby son ready to help. Grandpa was on a couch cracking up and grinning from ear to ear. 

We did help him. Our voices and presence helped him know that he was not alone and that he could do this thing. And honestly, we would have cheered no matter how the task ended. Baby Max was surrounded by people who loved him no matter what. If he had given up and decided to inch-worm his way to the rattle we would not have turned our backs away in shame. We would not have been disappointed in him one tiny little bit. 

You may know where I am going with this, but I can't help it. I am wondering why we think that God, our Father turns away from us when we fail to reach a goal or we make a bad choice? The Bible says that God loves us better than an earthly father. His love is not based on unfulfilled expectations or His reputation. His love is deeper and truer than even a great parent can give. 

God is actively cheering us on, as we figure out this life on earth. He is watching on the edge of His seat wanting to assist but knowing that we learn best by just doing it. His arms are ready to catch us and maybe prevent a face-plant or two. But sometimes they just have to happen so we know what not to do next time. 

As I watched my grandson learn how to crawl and even start working on pulling himself up to standing already, my heart was so full. I was enthralled with this little person who has so much hard work ahead of him, but so much joy and adventure too. I was reminded of that first glimpse of Yosemite Falls through a car window, and how it took my breath away. How it convinced me once again that God is near, and that I could hear His voice cheering us on. 

"That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God's devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; (His love)

19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!" 
Ephesians 3:18,19 Amplified 

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Missing Mom

Tomato & Basil Chicken I made last week! So so good! 

I want to tell my mom how Baby Max tried to use my long necklaces as a rope to climb up to a standing position on my lap last Sunday afternoon. 

I want Mom to know that right now it is a sunny and warm April day and I am listening to a waterfall in my own backyard!! My very own waterfall. 

I want to show Mom my writing desk in our study. She would totally love it.

I want my mom to see what an amazing daddy her grandson is. 

I want some of Mom's cinnamon rolls this morning.

I'd love to see Mom's surprise at how much I am cooking these days and that I am beginning to like it...a little bit.

I wish my mom could walk through my new house. I know she would point out the bad bits, but she would like it I think.  

I want to go back in time and call Mom more often. I probably wouldn't roll my eyes so much now.

I have questions that she probably could not answer. But it would be nice to ask them anyway. 

I want to tell her that I get it now. I understand some of her crazy-grandma antics. I would be a little less grumbly about them now. 

Even a grandma needs her mom sometimes. 

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter In A Small Church | Random JournaL Day

No, it wasn't super pretty, but we loved it completely. 

My RANDOM JOURNAL DAY offering for this Easter weekend is a look back to a normal Easter while the Hubs and I were pastors of a small church for 10 years. My journal captured the happy and busy season of our lives….

I love Easter and all that it stands for. As the leaders of a small town church, Hubs and I decided that Easter should be as wonderful and full of life as Christmas, so we planned many special things for that one day each year. Our town, offered an Easter Sunrise Service where all the churches in town that could agree on at least one thing, got together to greet the rising sun with songs, scriptures and freezing people in the local park. So our church happily took part in the planning and organizing of this once-a-year gathering.

That meant I was dragging my two boys out of their cozy beds at crazy-dark-o'clock and bundling them up to go stand in wet, soggy grass for an hour. When I use the word “dragging”, it is quite literal. Imagine two little boys who woke up to find big baskets full of candy at the foot of their beds…lots of crying and dragging took place!

After the sunrise service I got my kiddos back home and packed up to return to the church for the annual Pancake Breakfast before the actual Easter Service began. In between each of these jaunts my boys are running back to their sweet-filled Easter baskets. The sugar rush is beginning to catch up with them, it will manifest itself later on when the real service is about to begin and the whole church is very quiet.

So, there I am, all dressed up and working in a tiny old-fashioned kitchen with an ugly apron over my pretty new spring dress as we pile pancakes on plates. Some of the men in the church were pretty talented in “pancake ministry”. The boys are now sliding out of my sight whenever possible to do who knows what on the blackboards of the Sunday School classrooms.

The fellowship hall of our little church was packed to over-flowing (literally) with happy, dressed-up families and many families who only came to church on this one Sunday each year. Our little church was excited to hit the 100 mark one day each year. It was loud, fun and full of life, I loved it!

Towards the end of the breakfast time I would sneak into the crowd and quietly gather the teen-agers to put them to work hiding plastic-candy-filled Easter eggs all over the church lawns. A few of the ladies in the church and I had spent several hours earlier in the week stuffing these eggs with non-melting, paper wrapped candies. While the grown-ups were eating the breakfast, we also somehow managed to get the little ones to decorate pastel colored paper lunch sacks for collecting their Easter eggs.

Rocker Son is showing signs of a sugar-high...

Keep in mind that during all this activity, Hubs and I are also being the gracious and inviting hosts to new people who were being brought up to us for introductions all morning. Because we were a small church, I had my hands in on every single activity. The beginning moments of the actual Easter Service were my first chance to sit down all morning and even though it was not easy to keep a couple of sugar-wired boys in control, it was beautiful to sit down for a bit. For some reason we had decided that it was important for the kids to be in the service instead of going out to the kids service on that day. Of course it was probably ME that made that decision because I was the Kids Church Director too! As I write this I have absolutely no idea how I did so much!

We had wonderful Easter afternoons with my parents and siblings who lived an hour away. After church we changed into more comfy clothes and packed ourselves into the mini-van.... hmm, I need to interrupt myself there and correct that statement. I changed into comfy clothes, but KEPT the boys in their nice outfits (such as they were by that point) so that Grandma could see how cute they looked. I let them change after Grandma got her pictures taken.

We got to watch the boys and their cousins do another egg hunt in Grandmas' yard and sit down to an amazing meal with tons of laughter and teasing. The drive home late that night would be a very quiet one as the boys snoozed with candy wrappers and plastic green grass in their hands.

As I read this bit of our history, it is hard to see where the beauty and contemplative aspect of Easter could fit. But it did. I remember catching moments of wonder and thankfulness in the middle of the chaos. We can sense the presence of God anywhere if we are looking for Him. He is there. He is here. He is with you this Easter. Stop and breathe. Whisper a “thank you” and remember why we get to eat a big meal and gather together.

...Click here to read other Random Journal blog posts.

Post Script Update: I hit "Publish" on this an hour ago and something has been nagging at me ever since. This post does not include the many wonderful people we had around us who were ALSO working hard to create a great day for our community. We had very involved people in our church and we had a small staff that was AMAZING! 

BUT, I had a bit of a control-freak issue and I was not good at trusting others enough to delegate as any good leader must do. If I could send back some advice to my former self, it would be to relax more and allow others to step up. They want to and need to. It creates a happier and more fulfilled community! 
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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Church Quest Resolved

Halfway home from the church service, tears began to flow. I was not even sure why. At home in my kitchen, stirring the soup for our lunch, the tears brimmed again and I had to slip away to my bedroom for a bit. Can your heart hurt before your mind understands why?

As I have been on a quest for “my church” in this new city, I thought that I was open to differing doctrines. Willing to try denominations I never would have considered in my former “church lady” days. I said that my only motive for finding a church in my new town was for friendship. Period. I was just hungry for community.

Nothing terrible happened. No huge doctrinal heresy was proclaimed. The people were happy, warm and enthusiastic. I met a fun lady that I hoped to get to know better. The leaders were delightful and sincere. And they gave me a cool coffee cup! This gathering of believers will be doing great things for God in this community. I KNOW this. But some ideas were spoken that hurt my heart. I did not gasp out loud. But my spirit flinched. My internal radar beeped. And I knew that I could not go back. Back to my former self. Pre-recovery. My freedom has been hard fought and it is a continual battle.

For freedom did Christ set us free; stand fast therefore, and be not entangled
again in a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1

The tears that appeared on my way home were evidence of my grief. I was back to square one and would have to figure out how to be a churchless believer. This went against everything I grew up believing. I asked Hubs if the beautiful freedom that we have tasted in God, had actually ruined us for church. His answer as always, “There must be another way.”

In the meantime, while waiting for that “other way”, we have found another group of believers in a church 25 minutes away that we will attend whenever we are able. But probably not every Sunday. We are going to be that couple that I would have worried about when I was a strict church lady. The couple that couldn’t be counted on to work in the church nursery when I was a stress-filled pastor’s wife. The people that will not attend committee meetings or volunteer to lead Bible studies. Those ones with “sporadic attendance.”

I will be one of “those” believers. And that’s okay.

We attended the “25 minutes away” church for the first time last Sunday. I had written it off my list because of the driving distance. (I still hate and fear the TX freeway system.) But we will go when Hubs is not working. Last Sunday I stood and sang my heart out as my eyes kept happily glancing at Hubs holding our grandson, with our son and daughter-in-law on either side of us. Attending church with my family….what more could I want?

My heart is happy. Since the church is nearer the kid’s home, we went out to lunch with them following the service and had a great time together. Maybe a new family tradition is being born!! Happy Grandma!!

Remember when I said that my main motive for the church quest was friendship in the first place? God has started to answer that prayer of my heart. I messaged D, the fun lady from the other church, and asked if we could still be friends even if I decided not to attend her church and she said, “Absolutely! How soon can we go out for coffee?”  We met in a near by restaurant and drank coffee for hours while laughing and comparing the crazy ups and downs of our walks with God. (Oops D, I forgot to warn you that friendship with a blogger could mean you’ll find yourself on the Internets. Hope that’s not a deal-breaker.)

God lives in the heart of the believer. I know He is in me. I also know the lessons He has taught me about Himself, and those truths have shaped who I am and who I hope to be. He has set me free from self-condemnation and man-made judgments about sin and righteousness. My freedom is an ongoing battle. I will probably always be a little bit over sensitive to reminders of the religious, overly strict ways of my church lady days. That’s why this blog is called “Recovering Church Lady”. I am still in the “ing” part of recovery.

I am so thankful to have found our community. Maybe I have been in too much of a hurry. It takes time to build relationship. But it is happening and I may not have to stand on the corner with a sandwich board asking for friends.

John 8:36
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Like A Dog With a Bone

This dog. Just look at her life. She literally has it made. What more could any sensible canine wish for? 

 In spite of the occasional removal from the prime yard chair by her human, Miss Layla could not be happier and more content...

 ..Or could she? How about adding a super gross and delicious bone to the picture? Now THAT has got to be the most satisfied and happy dog.

After several sunny days by the pool, today we had rain and sudden claps of thunder and very CLOSE cracks of lightening. Here she is begging to bring that awful thing into the house. I made her drop it and leave it on the porch, then she came in and looked at it through the glass door and begged to go out.

Life is just so hard for a dog. 
P.S. Enjoy these pics while they last because I am not too happy with this critter today. Tempted to simply leave the front door open one of these days.
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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bringing Our Past Into Our Present

I have been learning a lot about new beginnings and starting over in recent months. Letting go of old ideas, thoughts and beliefs. And figuring out which new ideas, thoughts and beliefs are worth embracing.

Sometimes pulling some beauty from our past into our present can create a wonderful future. Please join me in a little example of this today as I write over at 5 MINUTES FOR FAITH today. READ MORE HERE. 

Listen to another song by my friend Bob Book whose music I was listening to while writing this post.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

RJD | I Almost Chickened Out of This One

This recovering church lady did a really dumb thing today. I randomly opened a journal for Random Journal Day and found myself reading these words...

"You are MY woman of God." I thanked Him for saying that to me tonight and I mulled it over. 

It was a beautiful thing to hear from Him, humbling and encouraging.
But not enough, (arrogant much?) so I asked, "If that is true, why don't I FEEL  strong and full of authority? Please will you anoint me and imbue (church lady language, Haha!) me with power to minister to others?" 

God answered , "It is not you or your authority that ministers to people, it is Me and My authority. You must only trust that you are My woman of God." 

This conversation was overwhelming and humbling. I cried and cried and tried to hear anything more He would say to me." 

Opening my journal was not the dumb thing that I did. That came next. I googled this question..."Does God speak to people today?"

Why did I do that? Because I am afraid of making waves, causing controversy or inviting ridicule...mostly that last one I think. I already know the answer from my own experience. I recognize that quiet voice in my head and my heart. I know when the words I am "hearing" are not my own. It is a humbling and delightful thing. 

The google list was scary, depressing and kind of awful. A summarization would be: After all, if we accept that anyone can hear from God in this day and age, it will lead to leaders of mass suicides, terrorists and murderers who all say that "God told them" to do it. 

So I hesitated and considered choosing a different journal page to write about. BUT, I have not changed my mind about the subject at all. I have dropped a lot of my old stuff from my church lady days. These would include being judgmental of others and a goofy fear of sinning accidentally. 

Still, one of the beliefs that I have NOT dropped is that God is still talking to people today. He has spoken to me more than once...The first BIG ONE was while I was reading an abusive letter from a boyfriend. I "heard" God say, "You do not deserve this treatment." I KNEW immediately that this thought was not my own because I did not believe that about myself at all.  I broke off my engagement to that boyfriend that night. Only the voice of God could have opened my eyes to that negative relationship. 

It had to be God. 

We cannot allow the majority to decide our beliefs. Going to google helped me know what is being said by others, but the majority can be wrong. We must walk our own truth. While I am open to new thoughts, opinions and views, I also must be strong enough to stand by what I have figured out for myself. 

I have to trust  that I know what I know. That I heard what I heard and felt what I felt. 

So... I have not even touched on the awesome message that He gave me that day. That I do not have to FEEL strong to BE strong. That we can carry His power and authority by simply trusting that we are His. That YOU are His. How cool is that? 

Enjoyed my first time living in snow! Kinda magical!

This was Layla's preferred view of the white stuff. 


Sadly, I don't think Irving is going to make it after all. :( 
Random Journal Day Link-Up!
Now hop on over to the Random Journal Day Link Up to read other journal-keepers secret thoughts. So fun!
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Monday, March 2, 2015

Odd Texas Winter for this California Transplant

Layla trying to figure out this white stuff all over the place.

The snow we are surrounded with these last several days is a total surprise to me.
I knew there may be dustings that melted before the day was over, but piles of snow
and dangerous streets are all new to this California Girl!

The ICE DAYS were new to both of us! The solid plate of ice POPPED loudly
 as Layla walked across it...totally freaked her out! We could see the melted water
underneath the ice layer. So weird!

How does it taste Layla?

Poor little yellow truck! 

The Hubs was transferred to a closer job the week before this craziness happened.
So thankful that he no longer has to be part of the freeway madness. 

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Church Search | What Did I Get Us Into?

"Well, this is awkward." I whispered to Hubs. 

It was my second visit and his first, to one of the local churches I discovered while searching for... something. Community, people, friends, a social life beyond my dog. ( Read about my church search here and here.)

I had visited this church the Sunday before, during their "Grand Opening" as they celebrated moving into a new (to them), beautiful building after many years of borrowing space to gather together. It was packed and pulsating with high energy and enthusiasm. The mayor was there, several local pastors were there to encourage and support the new adventure. I'd had a hard time finding a seat.

But this Sunday we were in a nearly empty sanctuary with rows and rows of empty chairs between us and the vigorous band on the platform. What had I gotten us into?

This was the second service of the day. Had the first been as empty as this? Poor pastors, I felt bad for them. I also wondered how we could leave without being too obvious. (Told you I was a hypocrite.) 

I followed the unfamiliar song lyrics on the hanging monitors and found myself clapping along with the worship leader in order to encourage them that we could get through this. By the time the second song was over, the place was nearly full and we were surrounded by smiling people! Yay!

If you've been reading RCL for a while, you already know that I have been on a church search in recent weeks. We moved here 6 months ago but I was in no hurry to connect with a church...for several reasons. I am not part of the current trend of anti-churchers...but I totally understand and agree with a great deal of what I have been reading about the social shift away from organized church. 

This is where I feel a bit like a hypocrite. Saying one thing and doing the opposite is hypocritical, right? 

When Hubs and I finished Bible school and dreamed about a life of full-time ministry, we had a vague picture of doing "something other than TRADITIONAL CHURCH." We did not want to become part of the institutional church machine. We wanted a church "outside the four walls." I imagined a gathering of people who loved God and helped one another live out that love in creative ways that never became boring or predictable. 

That all sounds like the trending anti-church people of today... but this was our desire over 25 years ago! It is not a new idea. We knew then, and still feel, that there must be another way to serve God and love people. Something that did not slowly turn into fund raisers to pay for the electric bill for the church sanctuary. 

In all of my years of ministry within "the machine", the closest we came to seeing a reality of our dream was in two situations. While we were pastoring a small church, God began to do some incredible and exciting things among several of the people in our church and the neighboring congregation. A few began to come to our home every Tuesday night just to talk about and celebrate all the great things that were happening. Those nights were full of laughter, tears, prayer and deep friendship. There was no agenda other than "look what God did this week!"  

Our other experience with something that felt like "true church" was the 10 years we were overseers of a ministry school we had founded. Spending several hours a day with people who just wanted to know God better, whatever it took...was a completely fulfilling and worthy way to spend our life. 

Here's the thing...both of those scenarios were birthed within the walls of a church. They did not stay there, but they did begin there. 

Because the people that I am called to help, the people that I believe I am equipped to help are church people. You may be meant for something completely different. The message that I am pretty sure I am supposed to carry is about how much God loves all of us just as we are. Church people have a tendency to forget that simple truth as they fall into a habit of striving to earn the love that has already been given freely to all of us. (I do know that this is a message meant for those inside AND outside the church. This blog has been my doorway outside and I cherish that thought.) 

The truth is that a church is basically just a collection of people. And that means that no church will be perfect or equipped to fulfill all of our spiritual and social needs. It is NOT supposed to. One of my favorite bloggers said this simple but powerful statement in the middle of her post the other day.... "I no longer expect the church to do for me what only God can. That took a lot of pressure off." (Jen Hatmaker)

I touched on this subject way back here in a blog post titled, Praising God and Threatening My Kids... "Church is not meant for God encounters. At least not your MAIN God encounter of the week or your only source of communicating with Him. No one should see their hours in a sanctuary as the most impacting and life changing exchanges with their Creator....If we find ourselves depending on the Sunday service for our strength to get through another week, something is wrong."

I am ultimately responsible for my own relationship with God. A church of any flavor can help or hurt that...but the church is not responsible for it. That is why I have not been in a hurry or felt stress about joining a local church since our move to this state. God and I are good. We are close and I depend on Him even while grumbling to Him on a daily basis. He did not leave me when I stopped going to church every Sunday...much to my quiet surprise actually. 

This new church that I have stumbled on, thanks to a flyer they sent to my mailbox, may be my new church home. It feels like home to me, in a good way. My expectations are to get to know a few people and share life together. Find some new friends, simple as that. It all comes back to people and love and figuring out how to do that together. 

I volunteered to work at the near by library in order to get to know some people, but they did not need my help. I have chatted with a lady at the grocery store about how hard the avocados were...but a friendship did not blossom. I hope that God does not mind that I am going to a church simply because I want some relationships beyond my dog. I think He is okay with that. 

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