Category Archives: Christian Life

I’m Really Not a Cat Person

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I’m Really Not a Cat Person

The grands left for home on Saturday, just after picking up a kitten that was to become their new pet. Unfortunately, none of us are cat people and therefore didn’t know it wasn’t a good idea to let the kitten wander around a strange yard to use the bathroom before boarding the swagger wagon.

She bolted. Almost caught. Not anywhere to be found. After thirty minutes of fruitless searching, they left without her, a van full of sad children and frustrated parents. It wasn’t the most graceful of departures, but hugs and kisses and reassurances were given that we would be on the lookout.

I doubted we would see her again, but I dutifully posted in the local Facebook lost and found animals page.

The Facebook post filled with helpful advice as the day progressed, most of which was far too much effort for a kitten I was not emotionally invested in and…I’m not a cat person.

I had just spent a week with a houseful of grandchildren I am heavily invested in and I was tired. Instead of making posters and knocking on neighbors doors, I tidied the house a bit and then “cat-napped”.

As the cat lovers had predicted, she began to meow around dusk. We crawled around the bottom of the deck, sure we were hearing her cries coming from underneath. A dish of food was strategically placed within view of a window, hoping she would venture out once we were out of sight. There was no sign of her and we went to bed because I am not a cat  person.

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These are the days that count, the evenings that we will remember. And these are three of the reasons that I depserately wanted to rescue that kitten.


I awoke to the sound of a baby crying or maybe it was the kitten? I peered at the clock.  2:30 a.m. – that was definitely a whining kitten, but weariness overtook worry and I feel asleep. After all, I’m not a cat person.

Morning came; the kitten’s crying continued. She seemed more desperate, crying almost constantly but there was still no sign of her.

Soon her cries became hoarse and weak. She had been missing almost twenty-four hours. This “not a cat person’ was getting concerned.

In full sun it was apparent she was not under the deck as previously thought. I noticed a hole in the dirt, at the corner of the deck, against the foundation of the house. Her cries grew louder as we investigated the opening.

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It was apparent she had run into an underground trench, likely forged by running water from the sprinklers. We’d found her!

Momentary relief and joy turned to panic. Hubby got on his face in the dirt and began to carefully excavate the opening. He caught a glimpse of her but the kitten retreated and went silent.

Meanwhile, I consulted with an animal-loving nephew who was giving advice via text message. He suggested we give her some time to calm down; perhaps she would venture out when she felt safe. We reluctantly walked away, and I was fearful that hole would be her grave.

An hour passed with not a sound. My earlier adrenaline rush was gone and fatigue and a bit of sadness overtook. I’m not sure why, ’cause I’m not a cat person, you know.

Neighbors popped in to offer help and I shared my concern. As we stepped onto the deck, chatting about the situation, she resumed crying.

Her voice grew louder as she ventured toward the opening.

And then, peering out of the darkness, we saw her face! She timidly approached the tuna I had placed near the opening and began to take small bites, peering at us in between.

Thankful for a twelve-year-old to navigate the narrow space, we all agreed our young neighbor was the best person to try to coax her out, most apt to be trusted by the frightened fur baby.

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We all praised the kitty, trying to be totally chill so as not to alarm her. Finally, she ventured far enough to be scooped from her hiding place.

Filthy, she’d spent more than a day down a dirty hole in the earth without food, fearful and hungry. Her fur was matted with mud and fleas. And this “not a cat person” carefully washed the squirming kitty, hand picking every flea. I cared for that kitten like it was my job, but I’m not a cat person.

Dang it.

I planned to write a warm and amusing kitten story, but the analogy just made a direct hit on my heart.

Stuff happens and I feel insecure or wounded.

I’m not appreciated.

I was left out.

I was criticized unjustly.

I’m misunderstood.

I tend to follow a natural instinct to protect myself by my own means, running into a dark hole of sorts.

I try on my own to find a safe place, quivering and loudly complaining about my situation, but unwilling to take a step toward help.

As much we wanted to help that kitten, we couldn’t until she was willing to come out of that hole.

I wasn’t deaf to her cries; they pained me. I had empathy for her predicament. But she had to show her face and take those few steps of trust.

So often I run away from the promises and reassurance that God’s got me, that he is in control of the big picture. I hide and complain instead of looking to him.

These promises came to mind as I thought about our little kitten rescue and the joy that we shared when we “not cat people” knew she was safe!


But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9 NIV


He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
Psalm 40:2 NIV


 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Exodus 14:14 NIV


 

Can you relate? Where do you struggle to trust him, even when you are frightened by the unknown? Do you long to be known and seen and yet run from the one who knows you and loves you just as you are?

I’d love to hear how all of this landed on your heart, friends. Talk back to me in the comments.

Growing in grace to trust him with my fears and hurt,

lorraine

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Here she is, all cleaned up and waiting to be delivered to her family.

Spotlights and Hissy Fits

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Spotlights and Hissy Fits

She was perched on my lap, knees digging into my thighs, peering over and around the head of the very tall gentleman in the row in front of us. She was literally quivering with delight as she watched the lights come up on group after group of dancers. Without fail, she clapped fervently then cupped her hands around her mouth and let out a whoop as each took a bow.

Periodically she turned a bit to face me, excitement lighting her face. “That was so good!” she exclaimed over and over. She could barely contain her joy.

She celebrated every performance including her own. This afternoon it was about her and her dance company and she was loving the costumes, the makeup and the spotlight.

After the final curtain we all loaded into the fifteen passenger van. In a matter of moments, she went from celebrated performer to big sister/little sister/six-year-old girl whose sparkly costume was suddenly itchy and whose blood sugar was crashing. She was near having a hissy fit, but Mommy assured her she could in fact endure the costume for the short ride home.

Once there, she slipped into something far less itchy and was given some quiet time in her room to unwind. In a bit she rejoined her six brothers and sisters in the kitchen for pizza and it occurred to me that her moment in the spotlight was short.

I thought of how I deal with my “fifteen minutes of fame” experiences. We all have them from time to time…. a short period of time when the spotlight and the attention turns to us and we feel special, important and celebrated.

But for most, those are short-lived and we climb back into the fifteen passenger van that is our daily life. To be honest, I sometimes throw a private hissy fit when the celebration is over.

Oh friend, I’m so thankful for GRACE that assures us that no matter how short-lived our moments of fame may be, we are valued and loved. 

GRACE even when I’m out of sorts because the current circumstance, maybe even the thing that just a day or so ago was beautiful and sparkly, is now irritating and I just want out.
If you find yourself just outside of the afterglow of a great experience, give yourself some grace, friend. Recharge with food for your soul and take a break. Then come join us at the table, where we will again celebrate the goodness of our Father and what He does for us and through us.

“Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace.
It’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people
who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you.
The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God
is and by what he does for us, not by what we do for him.”
Romans 12:3  ~ The Message

 

Enjoying his grace in spite of my hissy fits,

lorraine

 

 

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My beautiful dancer, and her mother’s efforts to keep her flat on her feet when she’s not in the spotlight.

 

 

Losing Myself in a Selfie Culture

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Losing Myself in a Selfie Culture

treeThe sun was high, it’s beams breaking through the trees; shadows danced at my feet as the leaves and branches swayed with the gentle breeze. Though the air was cool, the jacket slipped off my shoulders, tied around my waist as I walked. It was as if the woods were drawing me in, inviting me to stay a while.

I inhaled deeply; the loam under my timid steps was damp from recent rains, rich with the scent of mud and wildflower blossoms. The river was just steps away, the color of my morning coffee and scattered with limbs downed by the weight of the past winter’s snow.

A plastic grocery bag was tucked into my pocket; it’s the season for morel mushrooms and this was a great spot to hunt. I determined to pay close attention to every detail as I wandered this plot of ground, wild and yet mere yards from a house filled with many beautiful and well-appointed rooms. Wilderness and refinement are neighbors on this Midwest homestead.

I was not alone. My cousin, a skilled hunter and woodsman, hiked ahead of me. I followed his lead as we broke the thicket and entered the deeper brush. I had slowed to take in the details. I thought he might have intentionally passed a patch of the prized morels as a test. He’s like that… a teacher and trainer at heart. It would be like him to set up an opportunity for me to succeed.

Woods collageOther family members went off in various directions. I couldn’t resist stopping for pictures of flowers, or downed logs and animal burrows. I fell behind, no longer within earshot of the crackling of branches and leaves as my companions trekked through the brush.

For a moment, a tremor of panic welled up, threatening to overtake my joy. I didn’t know my way out. While I had carefully surveyed every tree and wildflower in the shady thickets and examined hollow logs and the play of light with the curiosity of a child, I paid no attention to the direction I had wandered.

He would never leave me here, I reminded myself. And almost to the moment, he called out. I responded, assuring him I was fine, moving in the direction of his voice.

There were others in our small group and we occasionally caught site of one another, always hoping for a report of a find.

Finally we regrouped back at the trucks, driving out. We hadn’t gone far when he stopped and we jumped out again, this time walking to the end of a long thicket. “This is a good spot. I’ll clear the way for you to step in.”

Skillfully he parted the thorny, twisted branches and held them back as he led the way. He continued to coach and lead as I finally entered a clearing. Again I ventured off, exploring and searching but staying within earshot of my trusted guide.

I heard creaking overhead and looked up to see a huge log perched precariously between two trees – a widow maker, I would be told later. I wondered how many eyes were peering out, watching me as I was completely unaware of them. There was some calculated risk in this place, but it was beautiful and wild. There was no need for fear, rather awareness of potential danger.

Once home, I surveyed the scratches; they were superficial. Tick checks were conducted by buddies, since they tend to hitchhike in hard to locate places.

Later, as I lay quiet in my bed before sleep came, I reviewed my wonderful day. There were glorious reunions with loved ones, the simple joy of watching a dog work like a champ for a master he adores, and the peace found in a place of worship seated between two people I love.

I remembered the hike in the woods and I was grateful, even thought we never saw even one mushroom. As I thanked God for a walk in the woods, he used it to speak to me about my often misplaced hunt for affirmation.

“I’m clearing the way for you to step in. Just follow me. You’ll get some scratches, sure…but I’ll be just ahead of you, making a way. Call out to me; I’ll be listening for your voice and I’ll respond.

I’m giving you some space to explore; I want you to experience all that I’ve created for you. There is danger, sure. You may get some wounds, but they will pale in comparison to the beauty of walking with me.”

Friends I know he is leading me toward something new. I’m scared that I’ll get hurt. And I might. This life was not intended to be easy.

He is teaching me to think less about myself in the midst of a selfie culture.

I’ve found myself returning to the empty cistern of people to get my tank filled, looking for likes and loves and affirmation that only he can give. I’ve asked friends (while not openly because that’s just weird) to fill me up, to refuel me for service and I’ve come back empty. Every. Single. Time.

It’s not his plan. He’s the one and only one who never tires of me, who calls me beautiful and beloved. He will literally leave the entire flock and come searching for me (Matthew 18:12) as I wander, trying to find my way, sometimes getting lost in the distraction of the pretty things along the way.

He never tires of you. He is waiting for you to call out; I’m convinced he’s setting up scenarios for your success. He called to Peter to step out of the boat, knowing he would not sink as long as he kept his eyes on him!

Your salvation and honor depend on God alone. He is your mighty rock; pour your heart out to him and never fear rolling eyes or impatient sighs. He is trustworthy. Go ahead, lay it all out in front of him, your REFUGE. Follow him, even if you fear a few scratches. He’s got you and he’s got something beautiful for you just beyond the thorns.

By grace alone, I’m following into this new thing,

lorraine

 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people.
Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8 (NOV)

 

Are You Decorating a Prison?

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Are You Decorating a Prison?

I settled into the driver’s seat and kissed my sweet hubby goodbye. As I backed out of the driveway, anxiety bubbled up, competing with excitement and anticipation for control of my heart. I spoke a few words aloud to stifle it. “I’m fine. He will be fine. God’s got us.”

I sipped coffee from the Tervis he had handed me moments earlier. The aroma of the caramel liquid mingled with the scent of Polo and I missed him already. Once again anxiety threatened to steal the joy of embarking on a journey I had anticipated for months.

I drove in silence for a bit, considering my penchant for imagining the worst case scenario.

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I’ve never been good at good-byes. As a child, I hid from them, usually in the bathroom linen closet. It wasn’t often that we sent loved ones on their way, but when our Hoosier grandparents loaded the car for the long trek home I was not about to stand on the lawn and watch them drive away. I quietly slipped into my hiding place, where no one was leaving. I couldn’t bear the separation.

I am absolutely sure I didn’t say goodbye when my oldest brother reported to the Navy. As preparations were made for his departure, I withdrew. With every crisply ironed article of his sailor suit readied for packing, my anxiety increased. The world was a scary place and only God knew when I would see my brother again, if ever.

Not many years later, I got married and soon after we began our family. Imagine the joy when we finally bought a brick and mortar house and made a home. I was the mother hen and my chicks were all under my wings.

My husband had noticed that I didn’t handle goodbyes well; more like I didn’t handle them. At all. He couldn’t imagine missing the chance to get a last hug and speak one last expression of love and care.

And then one day he came home with an announcement. His parents were moving to North Carolina. He would be driving the truck with their household belongings and returning home by plane.

Ya’ll, I could not even. I was distraught. Seriously. I was quite certain that I would be widowed when there was either a tragic accident involving the truck or the plane fell from the sky. I was not in the habit of throwing fits, but I threw a good one.

How would I raise our daughter alone? How could his parents think this was reasonable? Why couldn’t everyone just leave us alone in our little bubble?

In retrospect I can see it so clearly; I was a young wife making feeble, yet frantic efforts to tightly wrap my arms around all of my loves and hold them tight. I believed it was up to us to protect our family; in this case it appeared it was up to me, because everyone else had lost their ever-loving minds and thought it was a good idea for my husband to leave us.

I was not being manipulative; I didn’t have a problem with my husband helping his parents. I was genuinely anxious and fearful and wanted to hold my little family together.

Forty-five years later I’m less concerned about a traffic accident than a potentially life-threatening drop in his blood sugar.

But here’s the thing that occurred to me later that evening as I walked into a conference center filled with stunning women, as their voices and mine blended and lifted praise to the Beautiful Name of Jesus. He never called us to live safe and cozy lives. He called us to step into our calling trusting in him alone.

I listened to Jennie Allen share her surrender of “yes” to Him for ANYTHING. I looked around at the vendor booths, filled with women who had started non-profits to support children in foster care and foreign missions. They risked stepping out of safe and cozy because they knew that God was with them in the first step and every one after.

They yoked up with Jesus and heard his voice, “I’ve got this, just get into the unforced rhythm of grace and watch how I do this.”

I had tried to wall us in; my goal was to create a safe and beautiful place for us to hide. The trouble is, those hiding places become “cutely decorated prisons”[1] where we do little or nothing for the kingdom.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand.[2]

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 God’s plan is better than hiding in a closet or spinning out of control over what might happen.

The weekend was absolutely perfect. There was so much joy in every part. He is good and He is calling us out to places unknown to us but known perfectly to him. He will be with us in the first step and every one that follows.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 ~ The Message

What is he calling you to, my friend? I would love to hear about your faith steps. Where is he taking you? Tell me about it in the comments, won’t you?

Finding the rhythms of grace,

lorraine

 

 

[1] Jennie Allen

[2] Hillsong United Lyrics, Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

Making Room for Change

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Making Room for Change

 

I really hate to throw food away. I’m not sure if it is my humble upbringing or my overall frugality, but I’m bothered when I realize I’ve let food get past its prime and have to dispose of it.

Recently the out of town grands were visiting and we made lots more food than normal. As they prepared to leave and I surveyed the mass quantities of leftovers in the refrigerator I openly lamented all of the waste.

My daughter remarked that we’d had our fill; we ate well, and the food was wonderful but no longer beneficial.

She suggested that I let it go while being thankful that we’d had more than enough. Good word, I thought as I discarded the old and made room for the beautiful fresh veggies I would pick up later at the farmer’s market.

Recently I was given lots of gently used clothes; they were mostly from the Loft, one of my favorite stores. It was a huge blessing, but I quickly realized in order to make room for them I would have to part with some things that had served me well, but no longer brought me joy. They had to go and frankly many of my “old” favorites were just that. It was time to let them go!

I’m in a season of waiting; I feel like God is on the brink of doing something new, but change isn’t something I typically embrace.

Could it be that God’s waiting for me to make room for a new thing?

I’m trying to rest, to wait and see what He’s up to.

Even as I type the words, I think “How ludicrous is that”?

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Rest is not trying; rest is surrender. Rest is restorative.

When I lie down at night and realize that every muscle is tense, that my jaw is clenched and my hands are tight fists, I have a routine of consciously relaxing from my head to my toes. I release control and allow my mind to let the stresses of life go for a bit…I focus on a favorite scripture passage or picture my favorite place to let go…the beach.

I surrender to the rest that I know I will need to face a new day. I release control of life for seven or eight hours and I sleep. It is during this rest that cells are repaired; the body restores itself from the effects of the day’s exposure to stress, toxins, UV rays and all manner of other harm.

Spiritual rest is only found in the quiet place; I hear him best when I choose to turn off the noise of the outside and consciously relax every corner of my heart, surrendering them each to his calm. It is in this rest that my heart can hear Him speak healing words of love over the places that exposure to the world have been scraped and made raw.

I’m acting on what a friend has been praying for me. I’m free falling right into the arms of Jesus; it’s the only place of true rest and restoration.

I’ll let you know how it’s going, friend.

Resting in his grace,

lorraine

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun!
I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
Psalm 43:19 NLT

TOM

And speaking of rest, how would you like to win a new mattress? My friend Rebecca Huff is sponsoring a big giveaway this month. Head on over to this post to see what it’s all about and learn more about getting rest through quality sleep.

The Easy Wife

Another great giveaway is happening over here on The Easy Wife Facebook page. What a great way to get started with Essential Oils! Check out Jami and Stacey’s podcast – you’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excuse Me, That’s MY Tiara

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Excuse Me, That’s MY Tiara

It was less than a week after my birthday. While not a Hallmark milestone year, it was a benchmark for me. Suddenly I was eligible for even more “senior” discounts. At 62, theater tickets and even hotel rooms are cheaper.

I receive your blessing, Lord. I didn’t come this far to walk away from a good deal!

While I was willing to embrace the discounts I was not willing to accept the tag. Senior.

My parents were senior citizens. Senior citizens grumble about their “fixed” income and eat dinner at 4:00 to avoid crowds and save two dollars.

I was scrolling through Facebook, which always makes me feel better about myself. Right there on my news feed was a post about the Disney Princess Half Marathon – my friend had just signed up. Suddenly (and a bit impulsively) I was in.

You should know this about me: when the total of any purchase approaches high double digits my pulse quickens; if it hits triple digits I need a gut check. And yet I navigated over to the web site, whipped out my credit card and shelled out $185 to register. I was giddy – it might have been the tiaras or the hopes of a “dream come true magical experience”, but I had grand visions of crossing the finish line, hand in hand with my dear friend.

I imagined we would spend hours comparing training schedules and cheering each other along as we added distance and shortened times.

I made a meme for my Facebook cover. I wrote it down in my goals. Oh, this was going down, friends.

Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that I hate running. I love the idea of running; but running hurts me. It twists my guts in knots; I get something called a “stitch” in my side. With every foot fall I feel the jolt, first in my feet and then up my legs and into my torso. I literally feel like I’m pounding the pavement.

After I’ve been in motion (I can’t run very far, but at least my body doesn’t revolt against walking) for thirty minutes or so, the nerves behind the third and fourth toes on my right foot begin to burn. It’s somewhere between fire ants and electrical shock. It’s most painful with foot fall, so it’s only hurts every other step.

My breathing is labored and because I’m panting so hard I’m thirsty before I get to the end of my driveway.

I should also mention that this friend lives as far away from me as you can get and still be in the Continental United States. With almost three thousand miles separating us, our joint training was not impossible, but highly improbable for two people who can’t seem to get together for an occasional phone call.

You have a question, don’t you? You are dying to ask. 

Go ahead…I’m waiting.

Okay, I’ll ask it for you.

Why in the world did I think this was going to happen?

Twice I’ve positioned myself along a fence near the finish of the Disney World marathon. I watched every face as I checked the status of my runner on my smartphone. The first time, I was torn between urgency and dread.

26.2 miles. How could her body endure such punishment? And yet, I never took my eyes off the course as I scanned every face for the one that I loved. My child.

And I saw her. She was smiling, she was running well, and I cried. Relief and pride and joy swept over me. My baby girl had done it. 

Again last January I stood near the same place, watching. When I spotted her I made a spectacle because I wanted to make sure she knew I was there. It was a harder run; she hadn’t trained as well and she was hurting. But she did it. I know she had to dig deep to cross the finish, but she did.

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My beautiful daughter and her son at the finish.

Each time, I carefully surveyed the runners. They were all shapes and sizes. Some were running alone, others part of a team. Some ran for a cause emblazoned across their chest; others I was sure ran for reasons much more private but no less noble and meritorious.

I was inspired. I allowed myself to consider the possibility. I decided I would do that. One day.

And so it is not surprising that on that day, as I considered the number of days I hope to have left, I knew it was time to walk right into the dream that was birthed in my heart years earlier.

But August came and with it some significant pain that started in my hip and radiated down my leg and into my shin. I rested.

The pain persisted. It got a lot worse when I walked any distance. I relented; an appointment was scheduled and the diagnosis was harsh. Arthritis.

The short story is that I can’t do 13.1 miles. I’ll never cross that finish line, exuberant yet exhausted.

I’m been bummed. I’ve felt guilty about wasting the money. But most of all I’ve wondered what else is no longer possible. I have regrets over things not attempted. I also am beginning to understand why some of us are less “Snow White” and more “Grumpy” with age.

I’ve given this some time to marinate in my heart. I’ve asked God to cover it with grace and mercy as I consider what He would have me do next.

He is amazing ya’ll. He began to roll a highlight reel of my life. He showed me the races I have run; the ones where I crossed the finish line bloody and bruised and alone.

There were some where I barely could barely walk as I held the hand of one who came alongside and literally walked me across the finish. I saw the times that I crawled, too weary to look up…but he was always there.

I don’t know if I have days, years or decades left in this life. I don’t know how many of my dreams I’ll realize. 

But I know this for sure:

When I cross the the final finish line, he will be there waiting for me.

He is watching, he is checking my status and when I get near, he’s going to make sure that I see him. I believe he will take my hand and help me across.  

It’s true that I won’t be running with a tiara but I am his nonetheless. 

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;honor him, for he is your lord. Psalm45:11

The hardware of this life’s races will pale in comparison to all that he has for us in heaven.

 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,
having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life
that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12 NIV

He will give you a crown of beauty for ashes. Isaiah 61:3

Can’t stop, won’t stop,

lorraine

Travel Advisory – Narrow Road Ahead

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Travel Advisory – Narrow Road Ahead

I had been out of sorts all weekend and now I was stepping off a flight, still in a funk.

I’d been in this airport before; it was familiar though not the least bit comforting.

It was barely October but the northeastern air was cold as I exited the terminal toward the rental cars. “At least I know my way around” I thought as I trudged in that direction, pulling luggage and balancing a heavy computer bag on my shoulder.

I settled into a sedan and drove away from the airport, remembering the first time I flew into Manchester. That time, the luck of the rental car line-up afforded me a Mustang convertible. I had put the top down in spite of the chilly temperatures.

One wrong turn transported me into a fragrant forest of trees. Realizing that I must be off course, I navigated onto a side road to turn around. The sound of the gravel under those tires and the earthy scent of the trees reminded me of places I love. Even now, the memory calmed my heavy heart a bit.

I passed the spot of the errant turn and smiled to myself. Maybe a cup of coffee would perk me up, I thought. I spotted a new Dunkin’ Donuts just before I reached the on ramp for the interstate; in just a few minutes I had a steaming cup and was on my way to the hotel that would once again be home for the week.

After a quick call to let my hubby know I was bound for my destination, I reflected in silence as I drove the mostly deserted highway.

I’m too old for this.

I am too tired for this.

I can’t do this.

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I recited a litany of reasons and excuses – all well-rehearsed over the past few days. Weariness set in as I sipped my coffee and focused on the road.

I had forgotten the natural beauty of the drive south toward Boston. It was overcast, but even under gray skies the glorious colors of fall brightened the landscape. The birch trees stood tall, their white bark like dress whites crowned with colorful leaves.

I noted one of those highway signs that marks a famous landmark. Robert Frost Farm. The client had mentioned it on my last trip and suggested it might be worthwhile to stop and explore on my return to the airport. Ever the worried traveler, I didn’t dare risk missing my outbound flight.

But now I was in no great hurry to reach an empty hotel room. There was no mystery or excitement or even concern about finding it. I’d stayed there before and it was just the standard place to rest after a long day.

Only days before an Amazon box awaited my arrival home after work. I opened it with curiosity, since I didn’t recall ordering anything. To my great delight, my sweet hubby had ordered a stack of books recommended for writers! Among them was Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott. And so I had just read and underlined these words:

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things,
to go places and explore.”

“I’m a writer”. I had only recently mustered the courage to make that declaration and in the moment I felt a fresh determination to walk in that. I took the exit and navigated to the tiny, unassuming farm.

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I shivered as I exited the car and approached the barn. A lone man sat just inside. After greeting me, he quietly waited as I explored the artifacts and books displayed.

“Would you like to view the video and tour the home?” I hesitated only a moment. Writing was a great excuse to explore this place that had inspired Frost to write. For the next half hour, I settled under an afghan on a rough wooden bench and watched a poor quality film about the life of one of America’s most beloved poets.

I toured the home; the simple farmhouse was anything but inspiring, but as I peeked out windows and imagined life there in the early 1900’s, I realized that inspiration comes in the ordinary moments of everyday life.

I purchased a small paperback collection of Frost’s poems, said goodbye to my tour guide and walked the grounds, collecting damp leaves as I wandered. The question hung in my heart and mind. “What am I doing here?”

There was small stone wall; I stopped to rest a bit despite the chill. Opening the small book, I found Frost’s famous words:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.[i]

Frost’s reference to a road less traveled reminded me of the words of another who had this to say about choosing a path:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road
that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it. ~ Jesus, Matthew 7:13-14

That chilly afternoon, I realized that I choose a path every day.

The wide road is so appealing. I want easy. I long for wide lanes and smooth terrain. I stand at the fork and want to choose for my comfort, for my peace and for my convenience. Me, me, me.

fall-leaves

I lingered for a bit, considering the week before me. It was not the road I wanted to choose. It was hard; it was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. But it was ordained. It would stretch me and at the end of it, I would be spent. And that is exactly the way I long to live: poured out and used up for the reasons I am alive – to love God and to share his love with others.

I stood and walked back to the car, my steps lighter. I breathed the autumn air deeply and paused again to look back at the homestead.

It was going to be a great week. I was sure of it.

Navigating the road less traveled,

lorraine

[i] The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

 

Are  you looking for a safe place to seek encouragement?

Hopelively is a private community for women desiring to find and keep their Hope. For women seeking encouragement in their wellness pursuits or recovering from loss. Our goal is to promote a spirit of hope in the midst of struggles, both physical and spiritual.

Find us on Facebook.

Administrators: 

Jami Amerine of Sacred Ground Sticky Floors,

Lorraine Reep of Grace and Graffiti,

Rebecca Huff of ThatOrganicMom 

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Learning to Love My Scars

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Learning to Love My Scars

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.”
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

It was in the early 1960’s that my aunt and uncle and their daughter, my beautiful cousin, came to visit our big family in Florida. At the time, there were probably five of us. Two rambunctious older brothers inspired my younger sister and I to run and jump and test our limits.

There was a three by five foot step at the front door of our home with a cement patio surround. Our house was situated on a corner lot – there were no neighbors directly behind the house. A right of way for power lines towered high above the wide strip of land that my parents referred to as “the field”. Even with all of that space to roam and play, we spent hours in the front yard.

That step was a perfect place to hone (and test) our jumping skills. We set goals to leap higher and longer and never once thought about the consequences of falling on our faces and losing a tooth or worse.

I don’t remember the details, but I remember the reaction. Cousin Jan fell and skinned her knee. She was appropriately upset by the sight of her own blood and her mom and dad (as all moms and dads do with their first child) rushed to scoop up their one and only. I was nervous and anxious because I’d never seen that sort of reaction to a skinned knee. Most of ours were not reported and typically discovered during bath time when the washrag lathered with dial soap found the spot and the victim yelped.

I had never heard about scars, but quickly realized they were a big concern. It was her first skin injury; her parents were worried that she would have a scar. I didn’t know much about scars, but it seemed like a really bad outcome.

***********************************

The phone just rang. I knew by the caller id that it was my dermatologist’s office; the call was expected. Several days ago they scooped flesh from six spots on various parts of my body for biopsies. I surrendered to the procedure with routine dread, knowing too well that delaying the process only makes matters worse.

Three of the six were nothing – benign something or others and whatever. Get to the others, I thought to myself as I rifled through my bag, looking for a pen and paper. One is a basal cell carcinoma. Surgery required, she said. Frozen section, so plan to stay with us all morning, she said.

The other two, squamous cell, but thin so we can “just” treat them with Efudex. The mean cream is the pet name they’ve given it. It’s a topical chemo that slowly kills the cancer cells until the area is angry; red, oozing and painful. Awesome. I scheduled the surgery and turned back to my work.

I couldn’t really focus though. I kept thinking about having yet another surgery scar on my chest. A tear threatened to escape and I scolded myself. “You just heard about a friend’s loved one with a terminal cancer diagnosis – this is nothing! Get some perspective!” (I’m so much kinder to others than to myself at times.)

post-op-patchesIn late October I had the most invasive surgery yet. MOHS surgery removed the skin cancer and left a hole in my face the size of a quarter. Following the excision, another surgeon grafted skin from my shoulder to make a patch to cover the hole. The process was traumatic, but it’s over. I need only glance in the mirror for a reminder to wear my sunscreen. That one has been hard to love.

Scars. They mark our bodies with the evidence of a wound.

But what if I look at that with a new perspective? Every scar is also evidence of healing. The hurt place is again whole.

Scars are evidence that we have lived. They are beautiful because they give hope of healing. Scars don’t form on the dead.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection he willingly showed his scars. He was recognized by them because they were evidence of his humanity.

Do you have a scar that is bothering you? He is wild about you, dear one. Settle into him and let him whisper to you the beauty that he wants to place in your heart.

“Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word:
    forget your country, put your home behind you.
Be here—the king is wild for you.”
Psalm 45: 11

christy

Just one day after MOHS surgery, I met Christy for the first time. A great blogger friend and beautiful woman, she reassured me of my only unfading beauty – the work that He is doing in me.

 

May you always know you are beautiful,

lorraine

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I’m reading this amazing book and I think you would love it as well. Use the link below to preorder it today!

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About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day.

 

About Kelly Balarie:

Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear at http://www.fearfightingbook.com/.

 

 

Proceed to the Route

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Proceed to the Route

The sun was already low on the horizon as I choked back tears and hugged her. I had something I wanted to say but I knew that with one word would come a torrent of sobs. The last thing I wanted to do was make this more difficult.

I closed the car door and backed along the fence line. Through tears I drove away. “Call Mike on mobile” I sobbed to my car. The hands free feature dutifully dialed my husband and I poured out my heart as I drove along the now familiar highway.

It had been a week since I arrived, ready to relieve Nana for a few days. Momma was at the hospital hours away, attending to the newest arrival. With six children at home, she called for help.

But now Momma was home with the baby and things were settling into the new normal. It was time for me to go.

The heart is complicated. It can be so divided at times. I desperately wanted and even needed to get home. My job was waiting; my hubby had endured back to back absences during a recent business trip and this week with the grands. It was time to go, and yet my heart longed to stay.

And to further question my desire to stay, it had been a tough week. I have a new respect for moms of big families, especially when there are lots of littles.

I had barely arrived when a stomach virus struck. Each night, a different child woke with cries of “I frew up”. Showers, linens changed and comfort doled out, I collapsed on the air mattress in the boy’s room and dared the guinea pigs to wake me with their nocturnal shenanigans.

Every day, before first light, the house was awake with sounds of children. J was in his bed, reciting his schedule for the day and using every word in his vocabulary. Keep talking little buddy…I need coffee. Sweet EB was already standing in her crib, clutching her comforter, pillow and a stuffed Minnie Mouse larger than her. I put my arms around the bundle and went to the kitchen urging her to whisper, a skill she has not yet mastered.

As I walked through the living room, there sat G – completely dressed, including his newsboy hat. A “man” of few words, he gave me a nod as I passed. By now I could hear E calling from his crib. He and his sister would want their milk and Miss P, the only one with a schedule to keep, was still deep in her princess sleep. The oldest of the lot was sleeping soundly, a tween getting his growth sleep.

I pray we made some good memories. I have some great ones and I also was reminded of life with littles.

Toddlers must be fed but won’t necessarily eat.

When you hear a toddler say “Bye, Bye Puppy” you’d better run for the gate.

I discovered that a four-year-old can, in fact, give himself a toilet swirly.

A puppy can chew up a shoe faster than you can say Amazon Prime.

When a child says “all done” it might mean:

  1.  I want a cookie
  2.  I want down but if you throw this away I’ll be back in five minutes demanding it or
  3.  Stand back, I’m about to hurl.

There is nothing like burying your face in the tiny curls of a grandchild, even in the middle of the night when you are desperate for rest. I knew that my days there were few and I made a point of enjoying those moments.

I also caught myself hollering. A lot. At the dog, at the child who was feeding his dinner to the dog, at the pair of vandals who found the one and only stray marker and were about to deface the walls of the living room.

I think you get the idea. Even when the Momma returned home, this mother’s heart was drawn to help. I truly wanted to be in two places at once.

As I poured my heart out and drove up the highway, I began to notice informational signs that were completely foreign to me. The cities listed were not in the direction of home. My sweet husband gently suggested I might be going the wrong way.

I hung up and opened the Maps app on my iPhone. I had made this drive many times during my daughter’s college years. How could I be lost?

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I typed our home address in the app and started again. As I did, nothing looked right to me. My internal compass continued to indicate that I was headed the wrong direction. The GPS? I stared at the blue dot and all that I could discern was my current location. That was not helpful! I could look around and know where I was. The obvious question was how do I get to where I want to be???

I turned the car around and immediately, my Australian navigator said “Proceed to the route”. Through tears, I shouted at him “I can’t see the route! Why doesn’t this thing show me a bigger picture?”

I couldn’t get my bearings. I knew the direction of home and I was sitting on the side of the right road. All that I needed to do was get on that highway and drive south, but when I did the landscape wasn’t familiar. I had clearly lost my bearings and my instincts were failing me.

After an hour of driving in circles, I gave in. Over and over, the familiar voice had repeated “Proceed to the route”. I needed to listen to that voice. I finally put all of my faith and trust in the satellite that could see me, even when I had no idea where I was.

I proceeded to the route and eventually I recognized familiar landmarks. I was on my way home.

The next day when I was less stressed and more rested, I understood where I had gone wrong. I had started my drive at the north end of the city; all of those other times I was south of town when I started home.

My heart quickened a bit as I thought of how often I look around and decide that I know exactly what I need to do next. I press on, even when God’s voice is clear. “Proceed to the route.” But Lord, I say, none of this looks or feels right to me. I am sure that I know the right way to go.

I proceed to go in circles, wasting time and resources, only to finally stop and choose to listen and follow his lead.

Oh Lord, when I get anxious and go in the wrong direction, nudge me until I proceed to the route that leads me to your best. Thank you for the assurance that you never lose track of me.

Where can I go to get away from your Spirit?
Where can I run from you?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I lie down in the grave, you are there.
If I rise with the sun in the east and settle in the west beyond the sea,
even there you would guide me.
With your right hand you would hold me.
Psalm 139:7-10 NCV

Proceeding by grace,

lorraine

Modern Day Folk Tales and  The Day God Said Pizza

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Modern Day Folk Tales and  The Day God Said Pizza

I’m thrilled to welcome my cousin, Julia (always Julie to me) Brown, to the blog this week. Julie and I sat with our paternal grandmother as she read The Little Red Hen from the Golden Book illustrated by J. P. Miller, it’s lessons of responsibility and consequences gently but securely rooted in our young character. All these years later we find ourselves coming from different directions, but with the same moral burden for the children who are at risk.

She recently shared this sequel to the original tale and it resonated with me. What are we, the evangelical right doing to support the women who have chosen life. Are we pro-life or simply pro-birth?

There’s An Egg in My Barnyard

One day an out of town hen arrived in the barnyard, laid an egg, and then just left. The animals all stood around looking at the egg, trying to figure out what to do, as it was soon going to hatch.

Some of them teamed up and made signs saying “Leaving eggs in the barnyard is a sin! Immoral Hens Will Not Be Tolerated!!”. That kept them super busy and they clustered far away from the egg to discuss the bad hen’s sure descent into hell.

Some formed a club to promote the idea of each individual chicken being responsible and accountable for himself and the dependent members of his own family. They knew if that were true there would be no future eggs in the barnyard, and they were right.

But the egg still sat in the barnyard.

Some said, “Just break the egg now; that will end the problem”.

There ensued a vehement battle between animals for and against the idea, but the egg still sat in the barnyard.

Some of the animals just sat in front of the barnyard TV with remotes in hand, farting into the couch cushions and watching reality shows about slutty hens.

The Little Red Hen, whose name by the way was Elizabeth, took the egg home and sat on it. When it hatched, she taught the little chick what to do.

She loved it so it would be well adjusted and happy. She taught it right from wrong so the little chick could grow into a fine grownup chicken who would contribute to the barnyard community.

While all this was happening there were several other animals that were concerned, and could see the groups that were forming weren’t really addressing the IMMEDIATE issue of the egg in the barnyard.

For one reason or another, they weren’t able to take the little egg in, and they knew The Little Red Hen was carrying a heavy burden they should share.

So they chipped in as often as they possibly could and helped, and the little chick grew into a fine grownup chicken.

Moral of the story: There’s an egg in your barnyard; help.

THE END

Perhaps this story has you wondering about your role in the life of the egg in your barnyard. You might enjoy this post about ways to help foster families in your area.

Last week I had a Facebook message from a sweet girl who grew up with my daughter. She asked about how she might help them, in the midst of a particularly trying situation with a foster baby.

She wrote: “Hey, I keep thinking about Elizabeth and her family and I feel like God is leading me to send pizza. Pizza, seriously? My desire this year is to focus on listening and obeying so here I am…”

A few hours later, Elizabeth called with a report on the day. She casually mentioned that it would have to be a – wait for it – pizza night at their house. She was just too tired and too late returning home to cook.

Imagine the sweet friends joy when she realized that she had, in fact, heard God say “Pizza”.

By his grace caring for the eggs in my barnyard,

lorraine

 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

More about Julia:

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Julia Brown is a recent retiree, after having spent most of her career as an executive administrative assistant in the corporate world and the last 13 at a local police agency. In her retirement, she has arbitrarily decided she is a textile artist and has several art quilts in various stages at this writing. She lives in a 215 square foot camper in the western North Carolina mountains with her husband and her sewing machine, while they build their retirement home. She has been so moved by Lorraine’s account of her daughter’s life as a foster parent, she decided to add one more title to her name, that of foster parent advocate. While she says she can’t move mountains, she can carry a handful of sand at a time.