Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Gift of Hope

When I think about the best Christmas gift I received as a kid, I immediately go back to the year I received my blue Schwinn ‘banana’ bike when I was nine years old.  I realize now that it must’ve been the last Christmas my family had together before my parent’s divorced.   
On that Christmas morning after the presents under the tree were all unwrapped, our parents directed us downstairs for a surprise.  As I entered the den, all I could see was the new ping pong table that was in the center of the room.  I didn’t even notice the new banana bike standing up on its kick-stand in the corner.  My parents had to point me in the direction of the bike.  Our Christmases were never extravagant, but I think this one was meant to be memorable for us as I suspect that the divorce may have been in the works.
That bike was my constant companion for several years.  It was the only real bike I ever had.  I never got a ten speed or some such fancy bike when I entered puberty.  My mother didn’t have money for things like that.  I had to be content with that two-speed bike with the normal pedal brakes—no handlebar brakes for me.  It wasn’t until I bought myself a bike at a garage sale a few years ago as an adult that I actually had a bike with more than two gears.
In today’s age of electronic games and gizmos, it is really hard to find a gift that has the ability to bring such vivid memories.  Today’s electronic devices become outdated within months sending us into our quest for the newest version or some type of upgrade.  That is why cell phone companies are so geared to their consumers signing up for long term contracts.  They want to sway us from leaving and hopefully create some brand loyalty.
Well, Christmas is over and my kids did score some of those electronic gadgets this year—a new Windows phone, ipod Touch, Nook and video games.  I, on the other hand, didn’t get any electronic gadgets.  I got some gifts that told me that my family was listening to my heart over the last year.  They knew exactly what I wanted—an airline ticket to Spain.  While I didn’t get that, one of my sons pointed out to me that I got a virtual trip to Spain.  I received a travel guide for Spain, a book to learn Spanish and a large suitcase for the trip.  It’s just a matter of time before that trip becomes a reality.  Until then I have my work cut out for me, learning Spanish and writing the story that has made Spain such an important part of my life this year.
While I’m hoping that my family’s Christmas gifts give them joy and happy memories beyond the next year, I know that my gifts will because they are an investment in a gift that is future dated.  Their gifts give me hope for that trip.  It helps me to focus on that goal and builds up the excitement and anticipation for what is yet to come.   Maybe that is what my parents wanted too—with that bike—to give me some hope or at least some temporary joy in the midst of the life-shattering reality that was to come.
Receiving these gifts of hope from my family, reminds me of what God gave us when He sent His Son.  It wasn’t a gift wrapped up under a Christmas tree.  It was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger.  When I focus on that gift and not my present circumstances, I’m able to get through the rough times.  It is a gift of hope.  I'll take that kind of gift any day.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Has Your Christmas Gone to the Dogs?

         I just can’t seem to get in the Christmas spirit this year.  Correction, I just can’t seem to stay in the Christmas spirit this year.  I’ve had small glimpses of peace, but they’ve been very fleeting.  I can’t quite figure out why that is.  It’s not like I haven’t gotten things done.  Maybe my problem is that I’m not giving myself any grace.  After all, I did just write a manuscript and set up a website and online music sales for my Spanish son’s music.   

I guess what bothers me is that I had so much help to get some of those things done this year.  I’ve never needed help to put up the Christmas tree, decorate the office or buy and wrap the presents—even when I worked full time.  But this year it’s like I’m on some other planet—the one that doesn’t stop for Christmas.  There are no Christmas cookies baked and boxes of unopened Christmas decorations still sit in my garage.  My poor car moans every time I start it as if to say, “Why have you abandoned me outside in the cold?”  I want to apologize to it too and tell it I’m just too busy to make room for it. 
And then there is the writer’s block that I seem to be experiencing.  Or is it just that I’m too busy to write?  I’m not quite sure, but after reading a blog post from one of my favorite authors earlier today, I felt ‘unblocked’.  Her blog mentioned some of the same things that I am struggling with—the tension of what I’m supposed to be doing for the holidays versus the connecting times and also the writing ‘shoulds’.  It was a relief to me to know that I am not alone with trying to prioritize my Christmas activities and still find peace.  Her struggle gave me permission to write too.
This year has been a big transition year for me so it shouldn’t be such a surprise that I need to re-evaluate how I do Christmas too.  The rules and traditions that I’ve had in place in the past don’t have to dictate what I do this year.  I don’t need to put up every Christmas decoration I own.  I don’t need to bake cookies.  I do need to connect with my friends.  I do need to spend time with my family.  I do need to let people know how much they mean to me.  I do need to relax and let go of so many expectations to have it all together.
So with Christmas Eve less than a day away, I’m choosing to shake off the ‘shoulds’ and finish the season with an attitude of gratitude.  Even though we are dog-sitting for two other dogs over the holidays, that doesn’t mean I have to let my Christmas ‘go to the dogs’.  I do have so much to be grateful for—the three men in my life, my extended family in Spain, my friends, and that God wants to use me in bigger and bolder ways than I ever thought was possible.

  At Christmastime let's remember that Jesus came to fulfill the law with grace and truth.  So shouldn't we be willing and able to give ourselves that same grace this holiday season?  I don't know about you, but I'm all in for that.  Woof, woof!  May His Peace be with you this blessed holiday! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Counting Words

I just returned from a weekend of solitude at a Christian camp all by myself so I could write a short story for submission due in a few days.
                “Have a nice time,” people would say when they heard about it.  “Really,” I would usually think to myself.  “A nice time? What is so nice about being locked up in a room by yourself for over 48 hours to write.”  I was in fear.  I had backed myself into a corner with the deadline.  I had never done anything like this before.   And I had never submitted a story for publication either.  Needless to say I had lots of doubt.  But I was a ‘woman with a mission’.
                I heard about this story submission after joining the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association back in September.  It was one of the first emails that I received as a member.  I knew as soon as I saw it that it was tailor-made for my story.  It was a story about mother/child healing.  But I didn’t act on it. 
All of this writing stuff was so new to me.  I had just started my blog and was writing devotionals for my church.  Was I ready to take on a project where my writing would be competing against other writers?  I was sure that there were lots of writers with stories about healing.  After all, my story of healing was what led me down this writing path in the first place.
As the deadline approached, a kept getting a nudge from God to submit my story.  Of course, then I ‘argued’ with him.  “But what about my book?” I would ask him. “If I do this story, then I may never write my book.”  His loving response was to just trust Him and to stop questioning it.
So as I committed to do the writing and prepared to write, I received several confirmations that I really have lots of material for a book.  Writing this story submission was not going to detract from the bigger book.  In fact, I started to embrace the idea that regardless of the outcome, that my weekend of writing would be a step I needed to take in my quest to become a ‘real’ writer and that none of my work would be wasted.
It was with that attitude that I sat down at my laptop at the camp this past weekend—alone and away from family on Thanksgiving weekend.  But I wasn’t totally alone.  During one of my meals with the camp staff, I heard the story of a woman whose mother-in-law was just diagnosed with cancer.  They were in the process of deciding her course of treatment and weighing the options for quality of life.  The options were all very grave.  I almost started to cry as I had just finished writing about my mother’s illness and the quality of life choices we made for her.  Thank you God I thought to myself for this 'kiss' and confirmation that I am not alone in this.
The internet and cell phone were also available for me to reach out when I needed a break.  On a lighter note, I found out that Facebook now has the capability to do video calls.  I placed my first video call late one night.  Having some ‘face’ time was a good break that gave me the momentum to write a few more hours into the early morning.
Aside from these few human interactions, my best companion I had over the weekend was God.  He kept me out of my ‘head’ much of the time in my writing.  Every day my devotional spoke words of confirmation and encouragement for my mission.  It was the ‘kiss’ that I needed each day to tackle this project.
The one place I couldn’t get my ‘head’ out of my writing was with my word counts though.  With a word limit of 5,000 to 10,000 words, I became very much aware of my word count to track my progress.   I started the weekend with 2,000 words already written.  By the end of the first day I was up to 4,600 words.  By break time on Saturday night I was at 7,600 words—twice as many words as my recovery testimony.  When I realized that, I was a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of what I was doing.  That writing took me over a month to write.
By the time I left the camp on Sunday afternoon my first full draft of the story was 9,188 words--right on target.  Last night as I read the entire draft for the first time, I started to cry.  It is a beautiful story.  Someday I know it will be published.  I have my friends to thank for their prayers and encouragement as I go down this road.  Above all else, I am thankful that God is giving me His words to tell it.
            And by the way, it really was a nice weekend.  Word count = 842, but who's counting?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Overtaken By Blessings

Yesterday I officially celebrated my 50th birthday with an anointed group of 12 dear friends.  It wasn’t really my 50th birthday as I turn 52 tomorrow.  That’s because two years ago when I was ‘supposed’ to be celebrating my 50th birthday with friends, some painful life circumstances intervened that pushed my celebration to a very low priority.
My mother, JoAnn, whom I had rarely communicated with over the past few years, had a major stroke that left her partially paralyzed and virtually unable to communicate.  God was doing some major heart surgery on me as he called me to spend my ‘first’ 50th birthday at the feet of my mother.  It was very humbling and bittersweet.  She gave me life and now I sensed that I was giving it back to her.
JoAnn never recovered from that stroke and she never regained her voice.  Her life continued to deteriorate until the Lord finally took her home in February of this year.  So yesterday’s birthday celebration was my rescheduled 50th birthday party—my first birthday since she passed. 
Yesterday’s party wasn’t a party in the traditional sense of fun and games or cake and ice cream though.  It was a celebration with connecting hearts, inspiration, hope, tears and laughter too.  It was a celebration of life’s richness, healing and transformation.  It was a celebration of how God does turn our mourning into gladness--not just for me but for my new family in Spain as well.  It was my gratitude to God and the people in my life who have helped me carry my burden these past two years.
Today I embark on the start of a new journey and I am carrying a new burden.  It is the responsibility that God has placed on my heart to write this story.  It is not a small task.  It will require lots of discipline and the openness to relive and process all of the pain and the joy over and over again.  I know that God will see me through it.  My purpose is clear.
My devotional reading for yesterday, titled Overtaken By Blessings, couldn’t have been more appropriately timed by God: And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 28:2)  I have been overtaken by blessings.  I am on the mountain top.  While I know I can’t stay there, I can choose to carry His love for me in my heart and to gratefully remember that I am going down this path for Him—one day at a time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Leaving A Legacy

A neighbor passed away this week after a long battle against cancer. It is never easy to hear about someone's life being taken from them at middle age or of their struggle with a terminal illness. 
When I got the call from another neighbor, I was shocked, but not totally surprised.  I wept, prayed and offered condolences and help.  Today as I drove by his house for the first time since hearing the news, I was overcome with the memories of what this man gave to our neighborhood and our community.
His name was David Parkinson and he was well known in Sammamish and beyond for his display of Christmas lights.  Over the past 15 years Dave put up a massive display of lights that grew to 60,000 bulbs, assorted blow-up characters and wire displays.  In recent years, Dave got the attention of the media and was listed in newspaper and television station reviews as an address to view his display of lights.  After that happened, it wasn't unusual for the cul-de-sac to get backed up with cars slowly driving by.  Waiting behind a string of cars to pull into my own driveway was only a minor inconvenience.  It was offset by the evenings I would sit in my living room and watch the cars go by.  It was a reminder that these families were taking time out of their busy holiday schedules to enjoy some of the wonder of Christmas.
Dave's mission and passion was clear and simple--to create a special display of lights for people to enjoy.  In order to achieve that goal in time for December viewing, he would start putting up lights on Labor Day weekend.  He was very consistent and deliberate with his planning and creativity.  Before he got sick, his family would host a neighborhood lighting party every year.  It was always the highlight of the holiday season.  And then there were the nights that I caught Dave outside monitoring the lights, doing some repairs or talking with the passersby. 
Dave delighted in the lights.  He delighted in giving this back to the community.  But Dave didn't just give us this talented display of lights.  He also gave back to the community by putting up a drop-off container for food donations to Northwest Harvest.  It was like his own mini-food drive.
December is nearing and the lights were barely started this year.  Now that he is gone will there be any lights?  Will the family or community rally around to finish his work?  I wonder what Dave would want.
So with the sorrow in my heart over Dave's passing, I can't help but also think about the legacy he has left.  He has left a legacy of sparkling lights and holiday cheer.  He gave a gift that lifted up our holiday spirits and reminded us to slow down and enjoy the season.  My scrapbooks are filled with photos of his holiday lights over the years as a memento of this holiday tradition.  Thank you Dave for sharing your vision with us and leaving a legacy of lights that we will never forget.
For a few brief minutes, Dave's passing made me think about the legacy I am leaving.  What do I want to be remembered for?  Am I living in God's will?  Thankfully the answer is that probably for the first time in my life, I really believe that I am being missional and on purpose with the legacy that God has ordained for me. 
Are there things that I could change in my life?  Of course.  Am I content in all things?  Probably not as much as I should be.  But if God took me tomorrow, I wouldn't have any regrets about where I invested my time and my talents.  It certainly hasn't always been that way, but thankfully, God has been giving me a legacy worth leaving.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

For the Love of Music

I love music!  I always have.  As I think back on my music 'history', I've realized that I have done some pretty crazy things for the love of music.
It started when I entered puberty.  It was at the height of the 'era' when Donny Osmond and his brothers were all the rage.  My bedroom wall was plastered with posters of Donny.  As an adult I still listen to his music.  I went to one of his concerts with my husband when we were young.  It was 'dreamy'.  Like a true groupie, after the show I waited outside and got to shake Donny's hand.  I swore I'd never wash that hand again.  
Several years later I met Donny again and was on TV with him on 'Northwest Afternoon' in Seattle.  It was just one of those things that I had to do--to fulfill that 'teenage' dream.  I even have the occasion forever immortalized in my 'music' scrapbook.
When I went to college, I outgrew my Osmond phase, but not my love for music.  I became the music director at the college radio station where I got better acquainted with my future husband, the radio station manager.  Music is what brought us both together.  Although we have varying tastes, we both love music.
In recent years, my love of music has turned almost exclusively to contemporary Christian music.  I have many favorites like Stephen Curtis Chapman, Casting Crowns, Mercy Me, Third Day and Chris Tomlin.  I have seen them all in concert many times.  These concerts are not just concerts to me.  I love their music so much that they are generally more like a spiritual experience for me.  The music is inspiring and uplifting.  It is worshipful.
Over the last year, my music taste has taken on a whole new dimension.  Thanks to Pedro, my son from Spain, I have taken an interest in modern piano—and Spanish music too.  Producing the CD of Pedro’s original piano compositions has opened up a whole new array of musical interests and pursuits for me.  Afterall, he reminds me that I am his American manager.
Last week, I was at the 'Meet and Greet' for Steven Curtis Chapman while he was performing in town.  My son Cameron and I attended with a friend who got free tickets because of her role in an adoption ministry.  It wasn’t much of a ‘meet and greet’ as we shook his hand, he answered a question or two and was gone.  But with my friend’s encouragement, Steven ended up with a copy of Pedro's CD in his hands.  Afterwards, my son jokingly said to me, “I’ll never wash this hand.”  Déjà vu.
And then tonight a similar situation presented itself.  I have been researching how to make Pedro's music more available online.  That research took me to the Jim Brickman concert.  I barely knew who Jim Brickman was a few months ago--and only then because I knew that Donny Osmond had accompanied him on some songs.  As I'm preparing to get Pedro's music available for sale online with itunes, Amazon and Spotify, I discovered how similar his music is to Jim Brickman's.  So I met him tonight too and gave him one of Pedro's CDs—all for the love of music.
I have no idea if anything will happen because of these bold acts of blind faith that God has me pursuing.  It runs totally parallel to the boldness I have been walking out in my journey with Christ this past year.  All I can do is go where He leads me, and when things aren’t quite what I thought or I veer off course, pray that God gently leads me back on His path.  Because ultimately it’s all for the love of Jesus.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Spanish Connection - Introducing Pedro Gonzalez Arbona

Those who know me well know that I have undergone some dramatic changes in my life over the last year.  It all started with the opening up of our home to an exchange student from Spain in July 2010, Pedro Gonzalez Arbona.  Pedro and his parents are like family to us now.  Even though his mother Rosa does not speak English, we are like sisters.  We have gotten to know each other very well over this past year as we communicated via online translators. 
We have both had a difficult year with the passing of our mothers.  But God was merciful to us as we were able to comfort and encourage each other in preparation for the inevitable.  He blessed us with some miraculous healing as our mothers entered eternity just three weeks apart. 
Another one of the ways that our families connected is through our love of music.  Pedro was initially placed in our home because he plays the piano.  What we didn’t know at the time was that Pedro was actually a budding composer.  In fact when he played his music in our home that first summer, he played some of those pieces, but didn’t let on that he had composed them.
Six months after Pedro left, he sent us a link to a youtube video for a song he composed, ‘Seattle,’ and dedicated it to our family.  This was the first clue we had to this young man’s talent.  Over the next few months, Pedro continued to compose new songs and sent them to us.  Each time he did, I became more and more convinced that his music needed to be shared with a broader audience.
When Pedro returned to Seattle this past summer, in celebration of his 18th birthday, we took him to a recording studio to produce his first CD, 'Introducing Pedro Gonzalez Arbona'.   We recorded 13 of his 18 original compositions.  Pedro’s songs are inspired by the events and travels in his life.  They range from beautiful melodies based on his travels to Rome and Paris to songs that celebrate and memorialize some of the key milestones in his life thus far—from the painful reality of losing 10 teachers from his school after the Al Qaeda train bombing in Madrid when he was 11 to the joyful completion of his university entrance exams at 17 this past June.
Pedro is also an avid cinema buff—American and European—and his music definitely reflects that as well.  His favorite composer is Hans Zimmer who composed soundtracks to such major motion pictures as Inception, The Lion King, Sherlock Holmes and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  Pedro recently got noticed by Hans Zimmer through the aid of twitter after Pedro sent him a link to one of his compositions, ‘Portman’.  Hans Zimmer responded that the piece had a beautiful melody and that Pedro had a future in composing scores.  That is high praise for any musician to receive let alone an 18-year-old who is just starting out.
As Pedro’s ‘American manager’, a term he jokingly coined for me, I am inviting my friends and family to give your ears (and eyes) a treat by viewing and listening to some of Pedro’s music on  (Do a search on his name or click on one of the above links.)  If you like it, please share the link on your Facebook page.  His CD is now available for purchase also.  Soon it will be on itunes, Spotify and Amazon to download as well.  The CD cost is $12.50 for one or two for $20, plus $5 shipping, if necessary.  To purchase a copy of his CD, you can contact me directly or email
I am not doing this for profit though.  It is a labor of love.  All proceeds are going to a fund for a trip to Spain so that Rosa and I can meet face to face instead of just virtually on skype.  I know that day will come.  Rosa is learning English in preparation for it and I am managing Pedro’s American music endeavors.  (Pedro is studying law and business administration at a university in Madrid where his real career goals lie.)
I never imagined I’d be going down this road in my life.  I never imagined I’d have family in Spain either.  I was pretty content in my own little corner of the world.  But the events of this past year have been a testimony to God’s healing and mercy if we surrender to His will.  It is proof that there are no geographical, language, religious or cultural barriers that God cannot break down.  For me all it took was accepting the invitation to open our home to a young man from Spain and choosing to invest in him and his family.  
What about you?  Where is God calling you to invest in someone or stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone?  You’ll never know the opportunities that await you unless you take those bold steps of faith and follow His will.

5/1/2012 Update: Pedro's music is now available online through itunes,, Zune, Spotify and various other music websites.  His music can also be downloaded through his Facebook Store.  Physical CDs can be purchased at

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wanting Versus Committing

Today I am a writer.  Yesterday I wanted to be a writer.  What's the difference?  Commitment.

June 13, 2011, that is when I first 'outed' myself as a writer.  It was at a support meeting that I regularly attend where we share our struggles and encouragement through the ups and downs of life.  I made the decision to tell everyone I wanted to write a book.  That was a spiritual marker for me.  After I voiced my intent, God opened the door for several things to start aligning with that desire.

Exactly one week later, I was asked to be interviewed by Steve Arterburn, author of over 60 Christian books, founder of Women of Faith and host of the nationally syndicated Christian counseling radio program, New Life Live.  My interview was 'published' on their monthly CD that goes out to supporters of this ministry.  It was through my writing a few months before that this even became possible.

Two weeks later, I was asked by my pastor's wife to be on the church's devotional team.  Again, it was through my writing that she even became aware of my desire.  After having our beloved son from Spain in our home for a month, I turned my attention to trying to write devotionals.  My first one was published the end of July.

Since that time I have started to feel and act like a writer--going to writing classes, attending writers meetings and journaling like crazy.  But there was no concrete writing on my book.  I was overwhelmed by the prospect--not knowing where to start, the structure for it and so on.

Then things started to align with my desire.  At the Northwest Writer's Association meeting earlier this month I purchased a book called 'The Seven Steps on the Writer's Path'.  I immediately started reading this book to see where I was on the steps--or even if I was on a step.  Afterall, if I was really a writer I needed to be able to see myself on a step.

It was easy to find myself.  I was in Step 2--WANTING.  I wanted to be a writer.  I was putting myself in the position to become a writer--except that the main reason I decided to take a leap of faith and give intentionality to my writing--to write my book--was not happening.  I knew what lie ahead--Step 3--COMMITMENT.

I didn't want to read that chapter, but the more I sat in wanting, the more I knew I needed to.  I needed to see what was ahead and see if I could do what it took--and to get unstuck.  It was hard to read Step 3.  It was about the sacrifices that writers make and the changes that they need to put into place to make writing happen.  So that is what I am doing--making changes in my life that realign with my desire to write a book.

So on Saturday, October 15, 2011, I heeded to the voice in my head that gave me the place to start on my book.  Funny how it wasn't at all in the realm of what I was thinking about over the past few weeks.  When I let go of where to start, God gave it to me.  It was the introduction--why I am writing this book.  Once I wrote that the next piece just seemed to flow.

I only have a vague idea what I am doing with this, but at least it is a start.  I am thrilled.  I am elated.  I am scared.  I am nervous.  These are all signs of being in Step 3, so that is a good thing.  I am honored that God would call me into this journey.  I'm praying that He will keep me focused on it and that it will glorify Him.  I am grateful to not be wanting any longer, but to be committing to this partnership with Him.

Where are you sitting in a state of wanting?  What is it going to take for you to commit to your goal?  Ask God to help you take the bold steps necessary to realign your life and commit to His purpose for your future.  And then watch God show up.

Monday, September 26, 2011

When Life Imitates Art

The entertainment industry is full of stories that glamorize life and give us the message that it is all about us.  I veer away from that kind of 'entertainment' whenever possible and instead seek out uplifting stories, stories that inspire or sometimes just head for a good old fashioned romantic comedy--but nothing raunchy.  It is hard to find that kind of positive entertainment.  But when my movie and theater experiences start to connect with me in a deep way, I need to take notice.  That is what happened to me this past weekend.

First of all, I went to see 'The Diary of Anne Frank' where a friend of mine was performing.  I wasn't particularly drawn to the story.  I knew it would be moving and sad.  But I support my friends in this way whenever possible.  It is a small way I can invest in them.  I ended up taking my 14-year old son with me as well so he could write an essay for school.  It lent itself to some good conversation.

Besides the horrific story about the treatment of Jews by Hitler and Anne Frank's dismal existence living in hiding, what struck me most about this story was about her writing.  Anne Frank kept a diary that was later used as the basis for the books, movies and plays about her ordeal.  She received the diary for her 13th birthday just before the family went into hiding.  Initially she wrote that she kept the diary as a way to get things off her chest and never imagined that anyone would ever be interested in reading it.  While in hiding she heard a radio broadcast announcing that diaries and other important documents would be gathered after the war to preserve for future generations.  That was when she started to think like a writer and began the process of re-writing her diary to publish as a novel.  Of course she never got to see that happen, but she pursued her dream despite the uncertainty of her circumstances.

Why does this strike me so much?  Because over the past year, I have had two areas of writing that have come alive in me.  One is my journaling.  So much has happened to me this year, that if I didn't journal about it I know my mind would lose it.  It is pivotal, life changing stuff.  The second piece of writing that I have done is correspondence with a family in Spain.  Each step of the way God has lead me to communicate with this family about what has transpired, to encourage one another and to pray for one another.  The friendship and miracles that have occurred as a result of this connection is amazing.  Like Anne Frank, I know that these pieces of writing are the basis for a book. 

The other movie I saw was 'Secretariat', about the horse who won the Triple Crown in 1973.  It is another real-life story, but this one is very uplifting.  It is about pursuing something that you believe in.  For me, what was so inspirational was that it was a woman, Penny Chenery, who did all this and she did it later in life.  She had amazing courage in the face of potential devastating financial losses and defeat.  She was pursuing something against all odds.  There is a tender scene toward the end of the movie when everything is on the line and she is privately talking to Secretariat at the stables.  She tells the horse that tomorrow's results don't really matter and that she has already won the race--referring to following her dream.  That is what writing is to me.

So I have a sense that viewing these 'theatrical events' at this time in my life was intended to give me a message.  God can and does use even these kinds of venues to speak to us.  That is because the Holy Spirit is always with us.  It is up to us if we want to listen and follow His leading.  This is totally new territory for me to navigate.  But that's the way God operates.  I know that if I wasn't being stretched, that I would just chalk it up to doing this on my own.  My goal in all of this is not to become famous, but to be used by God.  If He is in it, it will happen--in His timing and in His way.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It Takes Courage

I finally got around to seeing the movie, 'The Help' last week.  When I saw the previews for it earlier in the summer, the thing that hit me most was the story about Skeeter's desire to be a writer.  Even from the trailer when you hear Skeeter receiving advice on the phone from an editor, you can sense that this was going to be a gripping story.  The editor told Skeeter to write about something that disturbs her--particularily if it bothers no one else.  And for me that is the foundational plot of this movie--taking the courage to do something that no one else will do.

Skeeter's courage is initially based on her desire to write and get a job in New York.  Throughout the movie though you sense that her courage is fueled by her desire to expose the unfair treatment of the black household help in Jackson, Mississippi around the time of the Civil Rights Movement.  Aibileen is Skeeter's primary source for her interviews.  When Skeeter asks her why she is willing to participate, after initially declining,  Aibileen says 'God'. 

The Help is a very moving story interspersed with humor and some tearful moments.  It is a story about redemption, following our heart and not letting our desire to be accepted or belong dictate what we do or believe.  It is much like our walk with Christ--or what a walk is supposed to look like.  God gives us the Holy Spirit to take those bold steps of courage.  It is up to us whether we will follow Him down a road that may seem scary or uncertain.

As I left the movie, the line that stood out most to me was when Skeeter's mother told her that sometimes courage skips a generation (referring to her own inability to not cave in to peer pressure).  Then she tells Skeeter that she is proud of her.  I felt a sense of God's love for me when I heard those words. 

I can't exactly say that courage skipped a generation in my family.  After the death of my mother this year one thing I have learned is that although she was mentally ill, she did have courage.  She persevered through years of psychiatric treatment.  Unfortunately I didn't see it in those terms until recently.  Her courage and her faith has inspired me to be courageous too. 

So as I start down this path of writing that God has placed in my heart, I will cling to His voice telling me that I am His beloved Daughter and that He is proud of me.  That is where my courage comes from.  What about you?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What's in a name?

I am welcoming myself to the world of blogging.  It is something I have wanted to do for a few years, but just never got 'around to it'.  So why now?  Well, that can be best answered by saying that I have recently decided to take my writing more seriously.  I am in the process of exploring the 'right' avenue for it so this seemed like a logical next step.  And thanks to a friend of mine who also has an interest in writing and who shared her blog with me, I decided to take the plunge. 

So what's in a name?  Having the right name can make all the difference in the world--in some circles, anyway.  It can lead to your being accepted or rejected by the 'in' crowd.  Whatever kind of first impression you leave on people you meet can also label you with a 'name'--either good or bad.  I have been on the receiving end of some harsh name-calling as a child that definitely left me hating my name.  Unfortunately those verbal wounds took a long time to heal. 

Now I love my name.  It is a beautiful part of my identity.  I know there is no one like me.  I know that God uniquely and divinely created me--He knit me together in my mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13) 

So when it came to naming my blog, I wanted a name that would serve as a unique marker for this season of my journey.  Lots of names came to mind.  But it seems that I'm not the only person coming up with 'clever' names for their blog: Thinking Out Loud, Illuminate, Light the Way, A Changed Life, A Life Transformed and other similar iterations were all taken.

When I think of the events of the last year, one of the many thoughts I have is how God has been 'making me bold'.  He has been my guiding light through thick and thin.  He has nudged me each step of the way--out of my comfort zone and stretching me to do some very bold things.  In light of all that He has done for me and in me, I can't help but acknowledge that in the name of my blog.  For without His Presence in my life, none of these things would be possible.  (Phil. 4:13)

I am forever grateful that He is Making Me Bold.