Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Psalm of Peace in the Storm

In the writers’ group that I’m in, we are given weekly writing challenges. Last week’s challenge was to write a psalm of thanksgiving. This one came about after reading Psalm 69 and recalls a white-knuckled driving experience I had. With all that’s happening in our world today, I think it speaks deeper.

Peace in the Storm

 The storm clouds have opened and deluged me. The river has flooded and my way leads between deep chasms of dark water. Night envelops me. A front headlight of my car has gone out, while the oncoming traffic blinds me. The humiliation I feel at my own fearfulness overwhelms me. Oh, Lord, as I press forward with dread, will You come to my aid? Reach down, guide me and bring me to safe, well-lit streets.

I am reminded that, yes, Your faithful saving presence is always beside me. Your light fills my soul. You bring me through the darkness and keep my head above the high splash of road-width puddles. Although I cannot see what lies ahead, praise flows from my lips for You are delivering me.

As I peer through the unending wild whipping of the windshield wipers, when they seem to make no headway on visibility, You bring peace to my heart. You hear my cry and know my voice as a shepherd knows his sheep.

When Your Name is on our lips, Abba, You hear the cry of those drenched by the
rain; You do not despise Your rain-soaked people. You are our umbrella of light and peace and safety. Let all those who travel on dark country roads give You thanks.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Relating to Autumn

It’s fair to say that I don’t really have a favorite season, unless it’s the season I’m in. Okay, if I’m going to be honest, maybe winter is the only season that isn’t quite as favorite as the others. But we don’t have to go there yet.

One of the things I like about autumn is the abundant pops of orange as I’m driving through the countryside. Pumpkin patches! Happy bulging orbs of orange, still on vines, stacked on wagons, propped on fence posts. Images of pumpkin pie swirl in my brain and the thought teases my tongue. Yum!

I’m a fan of sitting cozily inside while the rain slashes down the windows. It reminds me of the time in first grade (fifty-some years ago) that I was allowed to sit on a stool in front of the classroom and read a story to my classmates on an afternoon when the rain almost drowned out my voice. And I had to read very loudly about Lassie saving the kittens from their watery doom in the ditch. Hooray for the hero!  

And what other season actually gets two names? With rainstorms spewing and leaves descending in showy piles, autumn tends to fall all over herself. 
I identify with autumn as she stumbles along, trying to hold on to summer, bumping against winter, with not a single grasp of graceful spring. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015


One of the first descriptions about me that I remember hearing as a child was, “She’s shy. Don’t even look at her or she’ll cry.”

Wait! Wait! No worries, friends! While I still do cry easily, there’s no need to turn away. I’ve come a long way since then. But I’ll be honest with you. My shyness hasn’t disappeared, and temperamentally I’m an introvert so it still takes a lot of effort for me to engage in conversation or interact with people I don’t know. In previous blog posts, Role to Minister and MonstrousLimitations vs Super Power, I dealt with this. Good for me to review!

Good to remember also that once I get started with a particular interaction and can focus on the other person, and as long as I give myself time to re-energize afterward, I generally enjoy it, which is what I’ve experienced over the past few days.

In my last post I shared about “Be the One”, a mentoring program, and the writing opportunity I’ve been offered. What that entails is getting the stories of the mentors and mentees, how the program has affected them, and then putting the stories into readable form. The plan is to undertake that task the first couple weeks of May. In addition I was asked if I would take on interviewing local businesses that sponsor the program and get their feedback. I said, “Yes.”

Whoa! That’s a whole lot of interacting with people I don’t know, folks! So what motivates me to overcome my shyness and get out there and do it?

Well, the idea that kids are falling through the cracks when there’s a God-designed someone for each one of those kids to throw them a little life line, and here’s a program that can match these people up if only the word can get out there sort of starts the fire in me. And as I said in my previous post, my heart responded to that scenario in a big way. This is the purpose God designed me to fulfill—helping to get that word out there.

So far the sponsoring businesses I’ve contacted have been incredibly receptive and willing to share their hearts for the program and this community. I admire them!

Now, excuse me while I re-energize before it’s time to gather up
my interviewing paraphernalia for the next interviewee.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


My writers support group explored inspiration last month, and we took a look at why we write. The meeting was…inspiring! So why haven’t I written much since then?

Well, I think sometimes I need something more specific to motivate me. I’ve been praying for God’s direction in my life for my writing. And I believe He is sending some answers.

A few days ago, my sister and I met with Nancy McHarness who founded Partners for Schools in our local school district. She told us about the “Be the One” mentoring program she launched last year in the high school and middle school.
When she presented the opportunity to assist in a writing capacity, I felt my heart respond in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time.

I don’t know the details of how God will move in this response yet but I am continuing to search His heart. As we all know, searching God’s heart requires reading His words, His Word.

My daily reading is taking me through Deuteronomy. Plod, plod, plod through Duty-ronomy, right? Still, I’m seeing God’s heart is there.

“If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility.
Take it back to its owner. If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must return it. Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility. If you see that your neighbor’s donkey or ox has collapsed on the road, do not look the other way. Go and help your neighbor get it back on its feet!” (Deuteronomy 22:1-4 NLT)

Okay, I’m a farmer’s daughter but it wasn’t a donkey on the side of the road that hee-hawed to get my attention. What grabbed me is a concept.

“Don’t ignore your responsibility.”

My responsibility in and with my writing is to help return something lost, to give something back to my community. The ramifications of that can be minimal, or they can be monumental. Either way, my writing matters. Our writing matters. For me, seeing HOW it might matter is a huge boost of encouragement to engage my mind and my fingers in releasing what God has put in my heart.

I am eagerly waiting for the next steps. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, here are some of the reasons I came up with for why I write, from the silly to the serious:
  • The voices! The voices! The voices!
  • Something has to go between the beginning of the sentence and the period.
  • Someone has to keep the alphabet alive.
  • In order to keep my keyboard happy.
  • Because the words won’t put themselves on the page.
  • I might be able to express a thought just a little differently than everyone else.
  • It’s my nature to encourage with words.
  • There are stories only I can tell.
  • Worlds are like chisels used to expose reality.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All I Want For Christmas

As a little kid all I wanted for Christmas was…Christmas!

Dad’s disdain toward the commercialism, and the dogmatic idea that it was connected to pagan influences, prompted him to ban the celebration of Christmas in our home. No excited anticipation for Christmas Eve, no countdown to Christmas morning. No Christmas tree. No letters to Santa Claus. I often wished Santa was real so I could avoid the embarrassment at school of having to answer “Nothing,” when asked “What did you get for Christmas?” No, there were no presents to open.

Well, okay, one set of grandparents always gave each of us five dollars and the other grandma gave us something, like a pair of darned socks. And I mean, darned in the sewing sense.

But besides that, our Christian home didn’t embrace any of the traditions observed by most of the people we knew, not even for the fun of it. Other than Mom’s little Nativity set up in a corner and a big dinner with relatives, the season was bereft of Advent Wreaths or church Christmas services.

But as a seventeen-year old, I discovered that the giving of gifts could not be prevented. With money saved from babysitting jobs, I got something for each of my family still living at home. Only Dad did not accept the one I got for him.

Confession time here. I admit that a bit of rebellion against my dad’s dogmatism figured into this act of good will. But the joy I felt at giving gifts gave me a glimpse into God’s delight at giving the greatest gift, His Son Jesus Christ. And a teeny tiny twinge of what refusal to accept that gift might mean to the Father of lights, the giver of every good and perfect gift. (James 1:7)

I do understand Dad’s initial stance that Christ’s birth date is not recorded anywhere and was likely not in wintertime at all and that Christmas got tied in with less than Biblical beliefs. But in later years Dad relaxed about those issues, figuring they weren’t deal-breakers, and he opened up to the season’s celebratory options. Joy to the world!  

My husband and I enjoyed establishing our own seasonal traditions, which included providing gifts for our kids and ways for them to give to each other. Their anticipation made it fun for us. Finances were of a sort that we had to keep it pretty simple, but even if we’d had more freedom there, I think low-key would still have prevailed.  

Another confession here. Even though we celebrated Christmas, I sort of did what Dad did. I got huffy when someone said “Happy Holidays” or used “Merry Xmas” as a greeting. Why did I take offense? How did those things take away the joy in my heart of knowing my sins are forgiven and that Jesus Christ reigns? By protesting belligerently, did I bring any peace and good will into the world? Later I realized holiday comes from holy day and learned the X in Xmas is the Greek letter used for Christ. Like in the ichthys, that fish symbol many use to identify themselves as Christians.

Whether my Christmas time comes with simple imagination or with elaborate trimming, what freedom there is in realizing no offense was intended.

All I want for Christmas nowadays is to be joyous, in discovering what brings delight to others and to God’s heart. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Heights of Panic

It’s been years since I’ve had the nightmare. The one where I’m in a car driving or riding pleasantly along. In the mountains, or along a cliff, sometimes on a freeway or a country road. We encounter a curve and the mood changes. Our car fails to negotiate it and over the shoulder and downward we plunge. It feels like the rocks and waves are rushing up to meet us. I know it means death and a scream tears from my throat. And that’s when I wake up. Usually waking everyone else in the house too because the scream was out loud, not just in my dream. My heart pounds, my breath comes in gasps, I’m crying. The terror is so real.

It’s a dream I had repeatedly from childhood on into my adult years. Sometimes the end wouldn’t come until our car was fully underwater. With each repetition it felt more and more real until in my dream I would be saying, “It’s not a dream anymore, this time it’s real!” Fear overwhelms.

I’ve always had acrophobia, an extreme irrational fear of heights and falling. I hated riding or driving in mountainous areas as the reason for the fears from my dream was so in my face. But as an adult I would pray for God’s help and force myself to go in order to participate in activities I enjoyed such as women’s retreat in Big Bear, California. Even with prayer the nightmare preceded these events and I would border on panic the entire route.

One year the nightmare came with painful intensity. I woke both myself and my husband with my screaming. Sobbing, I said to my husband, “I can’t take it anymore. Will you please pray for me?” And he did.

I wrote Weapon of MassDestruction, a fictional story based on this incident, for the weekly challenge at faithwriters.com. And I’ve not had the horrible nightmare since. Mountain driving and high places were still challenging for me but manageable.

Until a couple weeks ago when my husband and I decided to spend a Saturday afternoon driving up to Artist Point in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, in the North Cascade Mountain range.

Artist Point is a mere 5100 feet in elevation. Mt. Baker, at 10,781 feet, holds its lofty white head high above. But the route, the only route, is about 55 miles long and the last sections of it are a series of switchbacks and hairpin turns with very few guardrails.

I had not been up this highway in over thirty years but my reaction took me by surprise. A painful, panicked reaction. We emerged from the heavily forested region where views of the precipices could not be seen to suddenly being out in the wide open vista of rocky cliffs above and below. 

My chest tightened, my heart pounded. I murmured, “Oh, this is getting hard for me.” Then as my husband negotiated a particularly tight turn, I felt the world tip and spin around me and without my seatbelt holding me upright I would’ve probably resorted to a fetal position—not an attractive look for a sixty-year old woman. It was the nightmare feeling in full reality. I yelled something, I don’t know what—the whole scenario is blurred in my mind now. Scared my husband half out of his wits. So grateful for his skillful driving.

My husband pulled over at the next pullout, which didn’t really reassure me as the edge was RIGHT. THERE. OUT. SIDE. MY. WIN. DOW! Or at least it seemed that way. Hubby asked me if we should turn around and go back down the mountain. I managed to calm my breathing. And I said, “No. I want to go as far as the road goes.” No way was I going to let this fear triumph over me. It’s been decades since I was last up here and I wanted to see beautiful Artist Point and the                                              other amazing scenes. 
Mt. Baker shrouded in clouds.

I felt bad for scaring my husband. I felt bad that it sounded like I didn’t trust     him; that it looked like I thought he meant to kill us both.

But that is the nature of a phobia. It takes over the senses and cancels out reality.

According to what I’ve read since this incident, the extreme fear of heights can be an inborn one, with some people more affected by it than others. In addition I have vertigo so constant changing of direction will affect my balance and make me feel that I am falling when I am not. An article in Wikipedia states, “The human balance system integrates proprioceptive [the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement], vestibular and nearby visual cues to reckon position and motion.” I am challenged in this area already so if you put me in a world where visual cues have receded, don’t be surprised then to find me in the fetal position.

I enjoyed our stroll around Artist Point 
once we got there, but fighting back tears of shame the whole time did detract a bit. 

Before we headed back down the mountain my husband reassured me that there was no shame to be had. We discussed the fact that as a child the responsible adults in my life had ridiculed me, for the fears I expressed on this very route, the scene of the crime, so to speak, and used the opportunity to frighten me further. Sort of a situation of traumatized trauma. I work on forgiving them and accepting release from this tyranny.

On our downhill trek my dear husband purposefully drove even more sedately and with a mind for my comfort. I kept my eyes looking up with the name of Jesus in my heart and quietly on my lips. Fear still lurked but panic stayed at bay.

I am confident that Jesus my Lord does not look at me as shameful because of my fear. (Psalm 69:33; Romans 8:1, 38 ) He gives me grace and tells me to have it on myself. No shaming from him. (Hebrews 4:14-16) Reminding me that it's in the middle of terror that bravery and courage are demonstrated. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


This is the third and last episode in the saga of Cornerstone Ranch; unless inspiration takes me back there again at some point. Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear from you. (If you need to get caught up before reading this, see Part One and Part Two)

Lips set in a smile of smug satisfaction, Clayton caressed the ledger’s leather cover. Things were looking mighty good here at Cornerstone Ranch. Lush pastureland sustained ever-increasing herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. Along with a creek running through the 100,000 acres, good fortune had led Clayton to dig water wells in just the right spots. Even in the dry California summer nobody went thirsty.
The Cornerstone Ranch foreman chuckled as he anticipated an entertaining evening later at the saloon in Dry Gulp.

That town’s gonna have to change its name one of these here days, he mused. Ain’t no way none of us is goin’ thirsty no how.
Everyone there knows they owe their success to me and my boys out here on the ranch. We bring ‘em all the business they can handle.

All the same, a small shudder rose from some locked down place in his middle when he looked out the window. The weeping willow at the edge of the gully whispered an oft-repeated accusation. Murderer.

Clayton flapped his hat at the window dismissively. Ain’t nothin’ but the breeze in that durn tree.  He sauntered out of the ranch house and saddled his horse. Time to survey the little kingdom he considered his own. It had been many years since Cornerstone’s owner, a gentleman who lived on the eastern coast, had visited. All the time and effort Clayton had put in gave him cause to believe he was more owner than Mr. Eastern Fancy Pants would ever be.
Clayton spit a stream of tobacco juice onto the corral’s hard packed dirt. 

It’d be a blue moon that’d see Mr. Fancy Pants settin’ foot here again. To top if off, them ‘messages’ I sent by way of Mr. Fancy Pants’ agents as well as that son of his, oughta be enough to scare those fancy pants right offa him. He’ll stay away for good.

That consarned son of his shoulda never left home. I told him to skedaddle before he ended up gettin’ tangled in my rope. I was just protectin’ what’s rightly mine! Ain’t nobody gonna take it from me!

The weeping willow stirred again and a shiver went up Clayton’s spine. He spurred his horse out onto the range and left the willow far behind. 

Squinting his eyes against the glare of the midday sun, Clayton peered across the high chaparral. Was that a plume of smoke he saw just beyond the ridge leading to Santiago Peak? He removed his hat and wiped the sweat off his face with the red bandana he wore around his neck. 

Nah, must’ve been a cloud of deerflies. It’s gone now.

Fire was an ever-present threat at this time of year. He was real strict with his cowhands about leaving fires unattended or tossing smoldering cigarette butts. To be on the safe side, he’d send Little George out to investigate.

After dinner Clayton put on a clean shirt.  “Hey, Willy,” he called to his lead ranch hand, “I’m headed into town. You’re in charge. Most of the boys are goin’ with me.”


“Okay, boss,” Willy’s bushy eyebrows waggled up and down as he pictured the fun they’d be having. Then he remembered something, “Oh, hey, boss. Little George ain’t come back yet from scoutin’ out that bit o’ smoke ya seen. Ya reckon he’s alright?”

“Shucks! You know the man’s part Juaneno Indian,” Clayton rolled his eyes. “Every so often he takes it into his head he’s gotta observe some ceremony to the moon or somethin’. Nah, I ain’t worried ‘bout him.”

With that Clayton and the boys, whooping and hollering, galloped off to town.

Several hours later, bleary-eyed, they let their horses navigate through deep midnight shadows. Slim and Whit’s harmonizing about not being buried ‘neath the western skies on the lone prairie prompted Clayton’s gaze upward. He let out a gasp. “What in tarnation is that?”

“Why, that’s a blue moon,” Slim replied, his higher education kicking in. “And I believe I smell smoke, through which we are viewing that celestial orb.”

Fear surged through Clayton, dispelling the whiskey-induced stupor. Little George! Fire!

As they passed the weeping willow and neared the ranch, complete soberness hit. A horse-drawn buggy waited at the gate, a tall immaculately dressed figure alongside. In a long line to either side, mounted soldiers stood firm, fire reflecting in their drawn sabers.


“Boss,” Slim said, “It appears Mr. Eastern Fancy Pants has returned and intends to avenge his heir with flame and sword."

Slim reined in his horse and doffed his hat. “Adios, Clayton, adios.”

(* Photo taken at Hovander Homestead Park, Ferndale, Washington)
(** Photo taken at Cramer's Farm, an event venue in Northwest Washington State)
(*** Photo taken at Lynden Pioneer Museum, Lynden, Washington)