Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Shalom Shattered, Shalom Restored

It didn’t bloom last Spring, this tulip in its little pot. A stem came up with promising green leaves but no blossoms ever appeared. Perhaps the confines of the planter restricted its roots.
What a sweet surprise to discover it pushing up through the soil a couple days ago. As I’ve been led recently to look at the shattering of shalom in my life, God is using this plant to speak to me. My heavenly Father has brought a lot of healing to my heart’s garden over the years. But I recognize that there are still constraints that choke my growth.

One of my earliest recollections of trauma involves the death of my sister, Debbie, at age four. I was born eleven months after her so we were very close. And yes, I remember her clearly. When she died, I was told that she’d gone to be with Jesus in heaven; my constant companion, my best and essentially only playmate, had left me behind. Such a time of confusion, bewilderment and the unfairness of it all. Then when I thought we were going to see her—it was the funeral we were going to but I didn’t understand what that was—and expecting to see Jesus too, because of being told earlier that’s where she’d gone, I was sorely disappointed that Jesus was only a painting on the wall, and my sister lay unresponsive and cold in a pretty box. I felt foolish for my beliefs and somehow thought I should’ve known. But how could I? I was only three years old.

I can see where this experience has led me to often see myself as left out, not worthy of being included. It seems silly, I know, to think of not dying as a message that I wasn’t worth including, but that is how my little three-year old brain worked. It was a lie I believed about myself and carried along with me, a box I restrained myself in. Also from this I can see where I hold myself away from whole-heartedly investing in relationship with loved ones because how could I stand it if they leave me behind too. Then there’s the sense of “I should’ve known” in any given circumstance where there really is no way for me to know in advance something that is beyond my comprehension.

Thankfully my Jesus is not confined to a painting. He was with me in that earliest time as He now is in this present time. The Holy Spirit has brought healing and will continue to do so. Fully experiencing the pain and sorrow and grief means that I will fully experience the joy He has for me. There is no shame in not knowing what is around the corner and failing to understand life and the confusing incidents in it. Like that little tulip in the planter on my balcony that didn’t reach its bloom last year but is poking its head up again this year, trying again for another chance, my heart is coming up through the grime of sorrow and finding a place of inclusion in His light. Shalom restored.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Inner Delight

Confronting and overcoming obstacles while sitting around a dining room table this past Saturday wasn’t about the food. In fact, that peppermint popcorn? Yum! The only obstacle between those kernels of buttery sweetness and my mouth was having only two hands to deliver them. What I’m talking about transpired with a small group of women who’re responding to God calling them to write…to write their stories, explore ideas together and share them with others, learning how to do that effectively. There are casserole-sized doubts and pressure cookers of misgivings and feelings of lack in each of us. As we opened our hearts we found serving platters of encouragement, affirmation, camaraderie, and strength, with a smorgasbord of humor on the side. And I came away with a feeling that I’ve struggled to identify. 

It is a sense of something special and wonderful happening, like when you’ve got the soup kettle on the stove,
and the ingredients are starting to simmer, smelling absolutely heavenly and promising. It finally came to me as I journaled later. I'm calling it "inner delight" and it lines up with a prophetic word given to me quite awhile back. 

It was about 30 years ago; I was attending a women's Bible study in a small church with a friend. During the small group discussion and prayer time, one of the women said that she had a "vision" pertaining to me. She “saw” me leading/teaching/mentoring women in some way. At the time I kind of scoffed at the idea, being a busy wife and mom raising four kids and I couldn't imagine women wanting to follow me anywhere or listen to anything I had to say. And this whole idea of “prophetic vision”? Lets just say it was a dish I was dubious about sampling.

Looking back I can see how God has led me through doors that I wasn't expecting, stage right and stage left and behind the scenes, has brought me through a variety of experiences, including leadership training and positions, and now He shines a light on this particular spot, the spot He intended all along. The inner delight that comes of being where He has called and prepared me to be as He overlooked
my initial scoffing, and the knowledge that He gave me the desire of my heart—His recipe for inner delight. Could be the woman in that Bible study group had a preview glimpse of it for me.

And these women I am privileged now to sit with at a table are ladling out all kinds of tasty words to savor.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018



Umm, yeah, that’s been my reality the past few months. And I’ve felt as much like a cliche as those phrases. BUT God hasn’t been stuck, wandering or missing. I couldn’t see behind the curtain where He’s been busy putting answers together for the requests I was making: #1) to be in relationship with other Christian women local to my area who desire to write, and #2) to find a way to serve in His kingdom.

It meant stepping a bit out of my comfort zone to attend an event where I basically didn’t know anyone. It was called “Safe Harbor”. And through that window, a light glowed, showing a pathway to explore. That pathway led to something called “Rooted”, a 10-week class at Calvary Community Church in Sumner, Washington. In a small group setting, we shared our life stories with each other, saw how God is present, cheering for us and empowering us, knitting us together as a community in order to be of service to each other as well as the larger community around us. 

At our Rooted Celebration Evening last week, along with several dozen other people, I 

participated in The Cardboard Testimony. My cardboard sign proclaimed on one side 
where I’d been before Rooted, and on the other side where I am today.

My small group leader asked us to choose a new name for ourselves. The name that jumped out at me was MASTERPIECE, designed on purpose with purpose, not an accident at all. 

Going forward I’m stepping into a new role, as facilitator of the women in my small group from Rooted. There’s the answer to my second request. My first request? Well, at that event I went to outside of my comfort zone I met a woman with a powerful story who desires to write a book and who needs encouragement in getting that done. She introduced me to two other women who want to write and are looking for encouragement. They asked me to mentor them! I think we’ll all be mentoring each other as we each have something to offer. 


Friday, January 26, 2018

Let the Ice Cubes Fall Where They May

Although I’m an introvert, I like to fit in and feel included, and I understand it requires getting involved.
Calvary Community Church, Sumner, Washington
To that end I attended a women’s Bible study that began yesterday at a church nearby.

I love women’s Bible studies and this one is called Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. I know I will enjoy the lessons and learning. And based on my previous experiences, it’s a good way to connect with other ladies especially if the group is small enough. The class had probably several dozen women attending but the church set it up so that women can sit in groups of eight or so at tables. I felt quite welcomed at the table I was escorted to by one of the ladies in charge and enjoyed a lovely conversation with another gal who was new to this event.

But then! It was ice-breaker time! I confess I am so not a fan of plunging into what could be a freezing environment via the Similarity Bingo game. You’ve probably played a version of it a time or two. You are given a list of likes, dislikes, activities, traits, etc, and the goal is to find one person in the room who shares a commonality with you for each item on the list.
Anyone born in Bellingham? Anyone? Anyone?
Bedlam ensues. Some people opt out of playing. Usually I’m one of them. I’m not afraid of approaching people I don’t know especially in a church setting. So it’s not fear that would make me choose to sit it out. If the end result is for people to get to know each other, I’m all for it. But this kind of activity, at least for me, feels like a waste of time in that regard. I knew I’d get names on my sheet of paper but I would likely not remember the people attached to those names. But yesterday I chose to interact and let the ice cubes fall where they may. Why?

Well, it’s been a month since we moved and the only people I’ve talked to, other than my husband, kids and grandkids, are the staff in the apartment leasing office, store personnel, and librarians. And those have been mostly just in passing. So it is time for me to break out of my own shell and move past any isolation I’ve put myself into. Even if I didn’t establish a long-time friendship with this activity, I felt like I came to understand myself a little better and it was what I needed to do for my own growth. 

When the game ended, I slipped back into my chair and was warmly greeted by the new friend I’d made earlier. She’d opted to sit out. That will be my choice next time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Find Friends

This is the devotional I wrote and shared with my writing group this past Saturday:

“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (Psalm 121, NLT)

When we last saw our heroine, she was lost in a maze of moving boxes. Two months later and she has emerged, grateful for the destination God has provided. For her and her hero, being in their castle together after living in two separate realms, is most satisfying.
Our new neighborhood

Hey, in the middle of this move, we weren’t sure where we were going to be, or even when. The apartment application process took more time than usual due to needing various work and wage confirmations so we weren’t expecting to be able to get into it until after Christmas, if at all. Then suddenly things fell into place and we could move in before Christmas! It meant a bit of a scramble but were we ever grateful when after days of rain, the morning broke bright and sunny on December 23rd, our moving day. We were even more grateful we weren’t moving after Christmas when Whatcom County was in the throes of Icemageddon!
Moving Day! Snow on the ground but blue sky above!

Being in Bonney Lake made celebrating Christmas in Enumclaw with some of our kids so much easier. Only a half hour drive instead of three hours. Our friends that my husband was staying with for three months, were having family come for Christmas so the bed he vacated was much appreciated. Our friends had surgeries scheduled for January as well so I think it’s a relief for them to be without an extra boarder as they recover. 

My husband’s job involves him going out on sales calls to home owners that could be anywhere in Washington state. He is given his list of appointments via email first thing in the morning. There isn’t time for him to share them with me but we recently learned how to use a particular app on our iPhones. It’s called “Find Friends”. So at any time of the day I can tap on that app and see where he’s located. At least as long as there is a cell tower near him. There’ve been a few times when all I get is “Location cannot be found.” The first time that happened I kind of freaked out. My lucky sister was the one who got the slightly panicky P.M. from me to, “Please pray.” My imagination had me picturing a car-jacking, or a home invasion and his phone being destroyed. Now that I know sometimes service is interrupted and that he’ll show up on the app eventually, I’m all c’est la vie. 

This move has been an exercise in patience and trusting God to show us one step at a time. He had His eye on every tidbit of the process, He oversaw the apartment application, the missing employment verification forms, our friends’ surgery schedule, and the weather! And because the Lord Himself watches over us, He doesn’t need a Find Friends app!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

I’ve often said that waiting for something isn’t hard for me. It’s not that I’m patient exactly but I find things to occupy my time while I’m waiting. Change is a different ball of wax. In spite of my opposition to it though, that ball of wax will drip. In a way I want this upcoming change to happen NOW so we can be done with it, and I have reason for that, but I also have mixed feelings about it. 

After being laid off from the job my hubby’s had since mid-2013, he accepted employment with another company. Oh, so full of gratitude that God provided this new job within four weeks! The catch is that the office he will work out of is about 115 miles away. Doesn’t seem like far but when it’s in the Seattle area with its famous freeways, where you’re free to sit in traffic for hours on end, a daily commute is out of the question.

Yep, the change I’m talking about is another move for my hubby and me.

Here’s where my mixed feelings arise. I’ve loved being back in the county where I was raised. Reacquainting myself with familiar territory, seeing friends from childhood, feasting my eyes on nature-rich scenes, frequent family get-togethers (especially with my sister), it’s all been so good. The tears come pretty readily when thoughts arise of not having easy and quick access to it. 

BUT circumstances are such that the move will not happen right away. In the interim, he is staying with friends of ours close to his new place of employment during the week, and coming home on weekends. 

Now, I’ve often experienced being on my own for days and weeks and months in previous scenarios involving my husband’s work situations. And it works out okay. I’d rather have him home every night but a paycheck coming in regularly is not a bad thing. But folks, I confess I’m becoming eager to have both. This week I’ve had a little taste of it. I’m spending the week with our friends too! 

With rain pattering on my umbrella this morning I explored the yard around their home, letting my eyes be refreshed by the lines of their landscaping, which, yes, includes a slide.

Caught a shot or two of chickadees at the feeder.

A glimpse of a bear peeking over the patio fence. 

As I meandered I mused on what I read earlier in the day in my quiet time. “When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.” (Psalm 84:6 NLT) According to the preceding verse, they are those who receive strength from the Lord, having their minds set on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I am on a journey to the place God has chosen for me, and my husband, where we will be together. On the way there may be a few tears pattering—with change, that’s to be expected. Aaaah, refreshing springs and the blessings that sprout from autumn rains are part of the change too.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wasting Away in Blackberries

The old farm where I grew up is in the process of being destroyed organically. My dad sold it thirty-plus years ago and since then, it has become unrecognizable. Blackberry vines surround every structure and wherever there’s an opening the vines have snaked inside, digging in their thorns and pulling down roofs and decimating walls. Little of the barn buildings can be seen and I expect by next year blackberry vines will fully encase the house. Who knows why the present owner has allowed this destruction but it hurts my heart to see this once beautiful piece of property looking like Sleeping Beauty’s castle before the prince came to rescue her.
Renovating isn’t even at option at this point. If ever I were able to buy back this land, we would have to bring in a bulldozer and completely level it before we could restore it. 

A writing exercise sent me to this verse: The LORD determined to tear down the wall around the Daughter of Zion. He stretched out a measuring line and did not withhold his hand from destroying. He made ramparts and walls lament; together they wasted away.” (Lamentations 2:8 NLT) As sad as it looks and for various reasons according to further study, God made the choice to let Israel, the Daughter of Zion, be destroyed. Whether it was with blackberry vines or some other vegetation, or at the hands of sword-wielding warriors, the end came. He still has a plan for full restoration that He is working on. He has measured it all out and knows exactly how far things must go. Clearly grieving over loss is an expected part of the process. 

I grieve over losing things, from certain places I enjoyed living in, to those I love making less than best choices or at least, contrary to my beliefs, to friendships that soured and died, to my own youthfulness passing by. I look around to see where God put His measuring line in hopes the mark He placed for the boundary is in sight. Knowing that God uses a measuring tape reassures me that there will come a time of restoration. When I understand that tearing down a city allows a new one to be built, hope surges up and the pain in my heart ebbs.