Road trip day #1

Today after church we began our annual road trip to “Oregon”… We always say that but really it’s initially a road trip to Redding, CA where my sister lives. Eventually we get to Oregon.

In the past, I’d wake the kids early in the morning, load them in the car, and we make it closer to Sacramento before stopping for the night. But since we didn’t get on the road till about noon, after church, I decided to stop for the night in Thousand Oaks, CA.

I like Thousand Oaks. Everything grows here! Only the Santa Monica Mountains separate us from the Pacific Ocean. I wanted to go to the beach tonight but I’m just toast. Working night shift Friday night and then getting up early this morning has my body pretty fatigued. I plan to go to the beach either in the morning with the boys or on the way back home to AZ on Thursday.

I love road trips! There’s just something about the open road. I guess I like the feeling that I’m going somewhere. Sometimes life feels like you’re going nowhere. When you’re on the road, you’re going somewhere.

I’m glad I stayed for church this morning. I needed to get my compass pointed the right direction before I hit the road. It’s hard to hear the preacher preach on a subject that is a specific point of sin in your own life. As I listened today, I wondered if this is how folks feel when they hear a sermon on divorce after they’ve gone through one- or more- themselves. It’s hard, but it’s good.

I’m confident not a single person who’s gone through a divorce would hear a sermon on what God has joined together let no one separate and be opposed to what they heard. They, in fact, would probably be the first to stand up and say, “Amen!” They know the pain themselves. They know the damage. They know God hates divorce. They know… they hate it too. The same goes for the woman, who married an unbelieving man, who listens to the pastor preach from Ezra 9 and 2 Corinthians 6. Amen! The damage is extensive. There is no fellowship. The heart is drawn away from God, and then, when won back (if won back), is faced with the heartache of being separate in what God designed to be joined together.

During the sermon my oldest son looked over at me with a, “You’re busted,” look on his face. He knows. He grieves. He feels the ripping apart that comes with living with unequally yoked parents. Even though I hate it for my kids, I pray that the mercy and grace of my good God will use the pain they experience now to prevent them from going down the same path and cause them to love God’s ways, which are good. All the time.

We’ll talk about it tonight before we go to sleep.  Which is in about 30 minutes.  Time to sign off.


He’s chasing me

I’m married to a police office, even still, when I see an officer behind me, I get all nervous. Suddenly I’m trying to recall everything I learned in driving school. How many feet from an intersection do I need to turn on my blinker? Who has the right of way? Grab the wheel at 12 and 2, or is it 9 and 3? And even though I don’t have a lead foot, I do occasional drift above the speed limit, so when I see that patrol car behind me, my eyes immediately check my speed.  I’ve had several of such moments on the road today as we made our way from Litchfield Park to King City, CA where we’ve stopped for the night.

As I was driving I remembered reading Ann’s blog regarding this line from Psalm 23:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life… (vs. 6 ESV)

She talked about the word for follow: radaph.  It means to pursue or chase or run after.

I smiled as I drove.  God is chasing me with his goodness and mercy.  He is following me, not to punish me for my sins (Christ took all my punishment), but to show me his goodness and give me his mercy.  I’m being pursued by God’s mercy and goodness!  Just think about that.

I thoroughly enjoy a road trip.  For me, it’s not about getting there fast.  It’s about the memories and the experiencing new places and changes of scenery.

This is our 4th year going west for the summer.  This year might be the last two week trip to Nor Cal and Oregon we get for a couple years.  Since I’ll be starting a part time position at a hospital 2 days a week, I won’t have two months of summer free.  So I’m especially treasuring this year’s trip with the boys.

They did really well considering they were stuck in a small car for about 11 hours today.  Connor especially has very long legs and not much room to stretch back there.

While we were driving we listened to 15 chapters of the Last Battle by C. S. Lewis.  I had not read that book in the Narnia series.  So many great analogies in Narnia… the dwarfs hardened their hearts to the notion of there being an Aslan at all.  They’d been told lies by the ape and had been tricked into slavery by the Calormen.  When face to face with the truth about Aslan they chose to not choose.  They would be independent, they thought.

Tomorrow we head to the Monterey Aquarium.  I’m sure it will be a great time.  We went to cannery row last year, but didn’t have time to go to the aquarium.  We’ll spend the first half the day there and then head north.  At least that’s the plan.  Whatever happens tomorrow, I’ll be looking over my shoulder for His goodness and mercy and slow down long enough to give thanks for it!  And I’ll be missing the sweetness of the gathering of believers at Pathway.


I don’t want to miss the point

Finally everyone is in bed and its quiet. I sit to reflect on the day and try to really live it again. The day was full of baseball, cleaning, spending time with the dad and husband who’s gone every Saturday, watching the 3rd game in the World Series, feeling really shocked that Detroit hasn’t done…anything. And now, as everyone’s finally in bed and the house is quiet (minus the washing machine finishing the spin cycle and the distant sounds of the mariachi band playing for the Day of the Dead somewhere in the vicinity) I’ve got a minute to record some of what I’ve been meditating on today:

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. -Psalm 130: 4-6

I used to work nights at a hospital.  Waiting for the morning is waiting for rest.  Finally. With anticipation and longing and fatigue.

I don’t work nights anymore, but I’m waiting for rest too.  When I start to get bogged down in the weight of my fallenness, and the fallenness all around me, and get my eyes off the watch for the rest and on the trying to make rest out of the labor I’m in, I tend to loose sight of the point.  The point isn’t my iniquities or anyone elses.  The point is the tremendous mercy of the Son.  The Son who I wait for to give me the rest from this struggle to stand.  Who will rise like the dawn one day.  With Him there is forgiveness.  He is my only hope.

In studying Tamar, we marked her iniquity and wondered why the Lord didn’t.  Didn’t she do something immoral and wrong?  In studying Rahab, we marked her iniquity and wondered why the Lord didn’t.  Didn’t she lie? We tried to figure out what to do with these women’s sins. But the point wasn’t their sin.  Who hasn’t sinned?  Who hasn’t lied? Who hasn’t manipulated?  Who hasn’t acted or thought immorally?  The point isn’t our sin.  If that was the point God marked out on us, none of us would stand.  The point was and is God’s mercy.  The point is the greatness of God’s forgiveness.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins… But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. -Ephesians 2:1,4,5,7

One day, when I stand before Him, it’s not the mark of my iniquities that will stand out.  Those will be totally washed out by the immeasurable riches of His grace.  I won’t be pointing out the sins I see in others (but am so blind to in myself).  I’ll be basking in the warmth of the rest of the mercy and grace that has saved me.

When I look at my sin and the requirements that I fail to meet and begin trying to make those less by doing more I miss the point.  No doubt I fail, daily.  No doubt you do too.  No doubt none of us can say we have no wrong in us.  None of us can say we have hit the mark of God’s glory with our lives.  Our hope is not in being iniquity-free.  Our hope is being forgiven.  And with the Lord there is forgiveness.

I sat down to write out the theme and characters for the novel idea I have working in my head.  I don’t know.  This will most likely never be read by anyone other than my dear friend who will be kind enough to give it a read and let me know what she thinks in a very kind way.  But, even if it’s never read and its a total lemon, I’m excited about it.  So far I have characters and inspiration from A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Family Man.  And no, it’s not a Christmas-themed novel.  It’s a get-a-little-perspective-themed novel.  I think its self-therapy.


Sunday Stories

I heard this story the other day on the radio about a woman who was boarding a plane:

A woman was in a hurry to get to her plane from the airport shop she was in, so she grabbed a bag of cookies and a magazine, hurried to her gate and got to her seat.  

Once the plane was in the air she pulled out her magazine and reached for one of her cookies in the magazine pouch in front of her.  A second later, the man sitting next to her reached forward and grabbed a cookie out of the same bag.  The woman was shocked and looked at him with dismay, wondering at the audacity of this perfect stranger eating her cookies without so much as asking.  She reached forward, looking straight at him the entire time as though to say, “These are mine!”, and took two cookies.  Immediately the man reached forward, took the last cookie, split it in half and offered half to her.  She couldn’t believe it.  She yanked the cookie out of his hand, shaking her head at him.  She sat silently the rest of the flight, stewing inside about this rude stranger who ate her cookies.  

When the plane landed, she got up and dusted the cookie crumbs off her shirt, grabbed her purse to leave, and noticed her bag of cookies, unopened in her purse.  She was mortified!  She looked at the man who smiled humorously at her and said, “Have a nice day!”  She had eaten HIS bag of cookies thinking the entire time that she had the right to be angry with the man.  And he had graciously let her eat his cookies.

I really don’t know what’s going on.  I think I know.  In fact, I’m insensed sometimes because I’m quite certain the other person is flat wrong.  But in reality I am probably missing something.  I might even be the one in the wrong.  Therefore I can lighten up and show the same mercy to the one I’m convinced is doing me wrong as I want them to give me when it turns out I’ve been the one doing the wrong.

Marriage is a good place to put this into practice.  Its so easy (in some marriages its easier than others) to get fixated on the other person’s violations.  Especially the ones that seem to be stealing your cookies… or sleep, or money, or whatever.  Even when there’s been a serious offense, one has to consider that there are two people in the relationship. 

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. -Proverbs 18:17

My boys head back to school tomorrow.  Fall break is over.  Its a fast track to Christmas.  Ryland finished his book report today.  He did a really good job of fleshing out the report from his bare bones sentences with a few probing questions from his mom to get him thinking.  Asking good questions is a skill I’m learning.  I told him he needs can start thinking of those questions himself when asked to speak or write about a story he’s read.

I’m excited about this NaNoWriMo challenge.  I have all these character ideas coming to mind and story titles.  I’m looking forward to seeing what I come up with.  Real life is full of interesting characters.  And when you get to know people, they have a story.  God’s written some very interesting stories. The lists of names in the Bible, salutations to folks we’d skim right over if we could pronounce their names, point to some very inspiring account if you dig into them.   I’ve personally (foolishly) always wished my story was boring.  Not novel material.  But, drawing from some of the more strange or dramatic times in my life and history,  I might be able to come up with a novel or two.

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. – Psalm 139:16

I came home from church to find dog vomit on the carpet.  Well, at least the house will smell like freshly cleaned carpets when my husband gets home today.  Sigh.  Smile.

 As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.- Proverbs 26:11


All I know is, I once was blind and now I see.- The blind man

A few weeks ago one of the students I care for said, “You know I don’t really like Halloween cause of all the scarry stuff.  Scarring people is just rude!”  I couldn’t agree more.  I’m a Halloween scrooge.  As much as I think its fun to dress up in costumes and carve pumpkins and eat candy, I can’t get past all the violent images.  In my opinion Halloween should be called Horrorween.  That being said, there is a place for some good humored spookyness.  The boys were cracking me up this year putting so much effort into carving their pumpkins.  I put their works of art on the patio and just two days later they look like Horrorween material, all moldy and wilted.  Its too warm in the valley in October to put carved pumpkins on the patio. 

Ryland won the lottery to take home the terrarium/aquarium they made in his third grade class.

I can’t believe those mosquito fish are still living in that brown water!  Ryland is taking very good care of them.

I try to explain things too much.  I’ve been trying to hard to explain some things in the Rahab study.  I stepped back from it today.  I don’t have answers to a lot of questions, all I know is, like the bind man Christ healed, I was blind to the mercy and grace of God, but now I see.  Rahab probably couldn’t explain the reasons why either.  I’m sure she didn’t think she earned or deserved her rescue.  I’m sure she lived her life in response to the rescue from destruction she escaped because of the mercy and grace of God.

My good friend did this novel-writing challenge last year.  She did a great job.  This year’s challenge is coming in November and she’s challenged her writing friends to join her and write their own novel.  I took her up on it.  I have no idea where I’ll manage to squeeze in the time to write a novel.  But I have all kinds of ideas for what I’d write about. 

Historical fiction:  1800’s romance
Modern fiction:  Logger’s daughter
Modern fiction: Cries in a field (my mom’s story retold)
Fantasy/Inspirational fiction: Ezer and the Dragon (from a poem I wrote a long time ago)
Mystery fiction:  Married to the Detective
All of these ideas would come out of life experience except the 1800’s romance. 

I’m going to give it a go.


Good and Severe

“Safe? Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” — Mr. Beaver (The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Ch. 8)

My life has changed so much in the last year. It seems God has led me into the “valley of the shadow of death.”

Today as I sat crying out to the Lord, longing for His salvation in my situation; longing for His right ways in my life, God renewed in me a desire to continue to speak out the encouragement He’s given me, and to not stop just because I’m surrounded by pain and rejection.

So here’s what I wanted to share:

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God… -Romans 11:22 NKJV

Goodness and severity. Two things that don’t seem to go together in my mind. But I find a strange fascination and comfort in believing that the Creator of the Universe, my Savior, and Lover of my soul is both good and severe.

I don’t appeal to just a “nice guy” when I desperately cry out to God in my messed up life. I appeal to the severe One who controls all things; who led me into the situation I’m in. For, “He guides me… even when I walk through the darkest valley.” (Psalm 23:4) And “{He} prepares a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:5)

I might not want God to be severe, but when facing desperate need, the only One who can really save me is the severe One who led me to that path of desperation in the first place.

If a judge lays down a heavy judgement against me, I might turn and plead to my nice neighbor until I’m blue in the face, but he isn’t the one who laid such a severe penalty on me. He might be nice, yet he can’t help me get out of the situation I find myself in. However, if I appeal to the severe judge, I appeal to the only one who can really do anything about my situation. And if out of His utter goodness He chooses to pay the judgement Himself, to take it away from me, I have been saved from that judgement indeed!

I’m glad God is good and severe. I need Him to be both. I fear His severity, yet I can’t complain against it because He’s so purely good. I know if ever He is severe with me, He’s doing it in total goodness and for my good. And if He is severe with me I also treasure His goodness all the more. I can appeal to the goodness of the only One who can do anything about my desperate life.

Psalm 130:

A Song of Ascents.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplications. If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But [there is] forgiveness with You, That You may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope. My soul
[waits] for the Lord More than those who watch for the morning– [Yes, more than] those who watch for the morning. {Oh Sheila}, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD [there is] mercy, And with Him [is] abundant redemption. And He shall redeem {Sheila} From all {her}iniquities. (personal application added by me)

“The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust [And] lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set [them] among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory. “For the pillars of the earth [are] the LORD’s, And He has set the world upon them.” – 1 Samuel 2:6-8 NKJV

Oh LORD, only You have every right to be severe. Only You can truly do good without any false motives or selfishness. Only with You is there real salvation and forgiveness. Only with You is there real deliverance and life! I boldly run to You King of the Universe! Let Your goodness be known in my life!

Isaiah 51:3