July 22, 2008

Hidden Treasures

One thing I’m learning as I spend more time writing. I have to learn to write faster! So today I’m going to try to write my post in an hour, which is all the time I have before I pick my son up from swim team practice.

So far this summer has been a real mixed bag for me. We’ve enjoyed some lovely time away with friends and family, but in between I’ve been so stressed. The tension is a gnawing hole inside because I feel like I’m letting everyone down. My family. My clients. My friends. And most especially God.

On the one hand I feel guilty because I’m not spending enough time relaxing with my kids or planning fun outings. On the other hand, my to-do list is overflowing, primarily with paying work that needs to get done and writing projects I want to get done and I just can’t find the time to finish any of it. The house is dirty. The cupboards are bare. And my husband probably thinks I’ve forgotten all about him.

Summer is not a quiet time in a family with children. The large chunks of uninterrupted time that comes with the school year are gone. The carpooling, activities and such now start at 7:30 am and don’t end until 10:00 some nights. I’m weary and craving a string of uninterrupted quiet so I can focus and start to check some things off my list. Being a mom is wonderful, but sometimes the priorities we need to manage, manage us.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining and honestly, I am. But I know I’m not alone. I talked to a friend yesterday and she wore the same dazed, shell-shocked expression as me. But after we chatted, my load felt lighter.

Sometimes, that’s half the solution: knowing you’re not alone in your troubles.

So yesterday when my friends planned a day at the beach, the last thing I wanted to do was spend an entire day away when I had so much to do. After some coercing and a weak “OK,” on my part, I consented and joined them. And I’m so glad I did.

The entire day was such a treat. It was a hot, sunny day—the perfect day to be at the shore. My friends and I had a great time sunning, talking and laughing. But my beach treasure was watching my son and his two friends (who happen to be girls) soak up all the shore has to offer.

They bravely ventured into the ocean (which was freezing!) and jumped the waves together. The three of them dug in the sand, played on the playground, bodysurfed, lay in the sun, collected some shells and ate ice cream. They talked and laughed and explored and joked. All without any whining, conflict or hurt feelings that often happens when three get together. I saw a lightness and gentlemanly-ness in my son I don’t often witness. And I thought, some day he’s going to make a wonderful husband.

Today, my work is still waiting to get done, but the sweet memories of yesterday and the hour of quiet I’ve had writing this, make it all seem less daunting.

Every mom I know busily juggles the balls that come with motherhood. Sometimes we get a bit weary and overwhelmed. I pray today and this week you find some hidden treasures of joy. And that the knowledge you’re not alone makes the load a little easier.

But most of all, remember we love a God who hears our prayers and wants to be involved in all aspects of our life. Especially the parts where we don’t think we’re doing a very good job.

“Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.”
—Psalm 55:22

July 18, 2008


Thanks for indulging me to cry about my computer woes. After spending a long couple of days of reloading and rebuilding, I’m happy to report I’m up and walking. (Running will take a bit longer).

I have one word of advice for you today: backup. Stop what you’re doing right now and backup your hard drive to an external storage device (CD, DVD, external hard drive). The ten minutes you spend to save your data can mean the difference between facing a major inconvenience if your hard drive crashes and experiencing major heartbreak when you lose all of your photos, music and financial data.

Even though I heeded my own advice, there was one area I didn’t backup--my emails. Thousands of emails sent and received, as well as my address book are gone forever. Certainly, my cluttered inbox needed a good housecleaning, but with the clean sweep went some important communications. Only time will tell how substantial the loss really is.

Last night I sadly recalled one casualty. Ever since I started writing my blog, I’ve received many emailed notes of encouragement, support, thanks and understanding. Those words, your precious words, were priceless payment for the writing journey I’m on. I'd read them and re-read them. They encouraged me when I wanted to quit. They showed me I’m not alone in my struggles. And they were my real life proof God really is using me through the words that flow through my fingertips. Now they’re gone.

Just writing about it makes me sad all over again.

I know God uses everything for His purpose and this morning it struck me, I think there might be a message here with my name on it. Maybe God wants me to see I rely too much on the positive praise of others to validate myself as a person, and especially as a writer. Maybe He wants HIS words and not the words of others to resonate in my heart. Maybe He wants me to see I don’t need to look to others to determine my worth because He tells me, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Is. 49:16)

We’re designed to belong. But we forget who we belong to. We look to others determine our place in the world. We let others say who we are and if the package we offer is valuable. Or not.

...The warmth of praise. The sting of rejection.
...The glow of the spotlight. The darkness of the corners.
...The assurance of popularity. The heartache of loneliness.

Messages from the world, both good and bad, overwrite the message God wrote on our hearts at creation: “Listen to me. I made you. You are mine.”

Oh, how I want that message to sink in deeply to clean out the clutter of my heart. I want its truth to resonate and stop the voices that say otherwise. I want to look solely to my heavenly Father and boldly proclaim, “YOU ARE ENOUGH!”

We live so far from the perfect union Adam and Eve enjoyed with the Creator in the Garden. So far, that we don’t know where our home is. Or how to get there. But there is a way—and His name is Jesus.

And it's only by falling deeply in love with Him that we begin to discover the keys that restore our hearts to their factory-original condition.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (Jn 15:9) If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." (Jn 15:19)

July 14, 2008

Nothing But Blue Screens Do I See

It was a lovely shade of blue, really. Turquoise, cerulean, azure. Like a tropical sea or Patrick Dempsey’s eyes. And under normal circumstances, I might have appreciated its beauty more.

“Blue screen error,” was the term the computer technician used when the hue first appeared on my computer screen two weeks ago. “Blue screen error” meant my computer wouldn’t start. It meant my computer-centric life was at a stand still.

Thankfully, my cry for help to tech support (in India) was answered by Kan, a very knowledgeable computer whiz who spoke English with the most endearing Indian/Australian/Irish accent. Lucky for me, Kan could and Kan did. After some clever troubleshooting, he helped me get my system up and running in under an hour. I was so grateful, if he didn’t live halfway across the globe, I would have invited him to dinner. (Although I’m not sure if I would have offered him curry, shrimp on the barbie or a pint of Guinness.)

Ah, those were the good old days. Me and my computer tech bonding over blue screen errors like old friends.

How quickly the story can change.

Last Thursday my computer started going bonkers. Error windows flashed on the screen like Fourth of July fireworks. Trying not to freak out, I reverted to my standard solution—I rebooted the system...again and again. But each time I did more error windows popped up.

And then on a restart it appeared--the vibrant blue that made my heart stop. A blue screen error. Not again!

It was late so I decided to deal with the problem in the morning. Plus, I was desperately optimistic that during the nightlong timeout my computer would think about its behavior and vow to do better the next day. It works for my kids most of the time.

However, in the morning I discovered computers are not reflective creatures. The blue screen errors went from bad to worse and my feeble attempts at self-diagnosis were grossly unsuccessful.

Frantically I dialed tech support again, hoping the situation would be resolved by another clever technician, but deep down fearing the worst. But I just knew Kan could do it. Of course, in a country of like a billion computer tech support people I had a better chance of pulling cherries on a slot machine than speaking with him again. It was no surprise when a different voice answered my cry for help. One, I should add, that wasn’t as clever and helpful as Kan. One who in hindsight was perhaps more aptly named, Maybe I Kan.

Yet, even though I sensed his lack of creative problem solving skills, I trusted his knowledge and followed him anyway.

I’ll never know for sure, but this may have been a mistake.

Long story short, after I spent over two hours on the phone, threw said phone across the room, shed a few tears, and uttered many words that are unfit to print, my computer is dead…and I think I killed it.

It seemed so logical at the time. The error codes pointed to a likely answer: reformat the hard drive. The technician gave no other option, so I followed his instructions. With two simple keystrokes, gone were my programs, files, pictures, music, emails, everything. The slate was wiped clean.

But even after this drastic action, a blue screen error appeared. There was still a problem.

“Oh, the memory card must be bad. You need to remove it,” said the technician.

“Uh…don’t you think we should have done that FIRST?!” I gasped as I struggled for air.

I know a computer isn’t a person, but it feels like I lost a friend. Worst of all, it might not have been necessary. I feel like I consulted a landscaper for a weed problem and he bulldozed my yard. Sure, it gets rid of the weeds, but its kind of overkill.

Or maybe I want to blame someone for something that just happens sometimes.

Life is like this sometimes. Out of the vibrant blues of our lives we get an error message that stops us in our tracks. And whether we’re ready for it our not, our slates get wiped clean. Life happens even if we’re not ready for it.

But in all the shades of colors and hues of blues, God’s right there with us. He’s in the blue hair of our aging mothers and rebellious teenagers. He in our problems that come out of the blue...or fade into the blue. He’s hears us when we sing the blues or talk 'til we’re blue in the face. And he’s present when life is nothing but blue skies…or blue screens.

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” James 5:13

July 7, 2008

Thoughts on Freedom

Having lived my entire life in the shadows of Philadelphia (the birthplace of American independence), the Revolutionary War left its mark on me. The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross and Benjamin Franklin have been recurring characters in my life’s scenery. And the concept of freedom was ingrained from an early age.

During the Fourth of July holiday, our country celebrated the freedom brought about by the historic signing of the Declaration of Independence. Flags flying, fireworks and patriotic hymns filled us with national pride.

But as the brouhaha fades, our collective attention turns from celebrating the wonderful story that binds us together and returns to the never-ending fight for self that separates us. The media tell myriad tales of those who battle to protect (or redefine) their rights—especially their First Amendment rights—even if the rights they hope to claim adversely affect someone else’s.

Watching from the sidelines, it can get confusing. What’s the right amount of personal freedom? How much is too much? What’s not enough?

While we have a civic responsibility to be involved in our government, as believers we need to remember we’re aliens on this earth, “longing for a better country—a heavenly one.” (Heb 11:16). God has prepared a city for us. Our time here is practice.

In the Bible, James gives a much different view of free speech than we’re taught in civics class or in the news.

The tongue is ”a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person…All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” (James 3:6-11)

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the tongue can condemn us to hell.

James’ words convicted me. Too often I live a dual life. Sometimes my words praise God. But too often they criticize, judge, berate and belittle others. According to James, if a stream of fresh water is flowing within, this duality is not possible.

But I block the Spirit within because I forget my citizenship. I forget my struggle isn’t about protecting my personal rights; it’s about relinquishing them to others—in love. I forget my goal isn’t to keep it all for myself; it's to give it all away. It’s not about escaping authority, but submitting to a higher One.

I’m proud to be an American, but I know freedom isn’t determined solely by geography or a signed piece of paper. True freedom comes from above. Jesus paid the price that freed us from the tyranny of sin and death. Through Him we can claim our citizenship.

And when we do, then we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. (Jn 8:32)

July 3, 2008

Scooté Diem

I’m in love--and its name is Scooty.

Scooty, as in my sister’s new black scooter.

With fuel prices taking on heavenly proportions, urban dwellings hipsters are flocking to this gas sipping mode of locomotion. In my sister’s city you see them at almost every intersection and busy corner—fellow compatriots on a quest for energy efficiency. My sister joined their ranks a month ago.

As soon as she emailed me a picture of her new “baby,” I couldn’t wait to see it—and try it—for myself.

However, “talk” is one thing and “do” is another. I like to think it’s because we were so busy visiting and not because I’m becoming a fuddy-duddy, but I didn’t even think about riding the scooter for days. Then on Sunday, blessed with the perfect intersection of opportunity and desire, I boldly volunteered to go to the bagel store…on the scooter.

After a quick lesson from my sis, I headed cautiously down the street. For the entire 12 blocks to the store, I was a nervous wreck, fearing I’d fall off or crash into something. But on the return trip, my bike riding instincts kicked in and exhilaration replaced the fear.

What fun it was to cruise along the streets of St. Petersburg with the wind in my face. I wasn’t just observing the scenery, I was participating in it. Even though I’m a mid-age mom…and even though, like a dork, I kept forgetting to switch off the turn signal…and even though my top speed was only 32 mph, I felt like a cool dude. Joyful, energized and carefree.

It was a Scooté Diem—“seize the scooter”— kind of moment. And it was the whipped topping to the parfait of my perfect morning: quiet time spent in God’s Word and a brisk, solitary walk along the waterfront all while my sleepyhead family slumbered.

For most of us, it’s a real challenge to maintain an active relationship with God during the summer. Church attendance is way down. Small groups take a break. And between vacations, daytrips, kid-focused schedules (or lack schedules) it’s hard to carve out time quiet time with the Lord.

The great news is God loves to travel. No matter where we are, He’s right there with us. Worship can happen anywhere, anytime: during the thrill of a rollercoaster ride, the solitude of an early morning canoe ride, the majesty of Fourth of July fireworks, the awe of a glorious sunset, the exuberance of bodysurfing the ocean waves or the joy of a multi-generational family reunion.

If we only we seize the moment. And offer it back to Him in praise.

God’s an impeccable travel companion. Don’t put Him on the shelf this summer. Be bold and adventurous. And expect to experience the Almighty in the most unexpected places.

Scooté Diem!