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LAST POST ON THIS BLOG!

SEE YOU OVER AT LAFREELAND.COM! (http://www.lafreeland.com/)

In case you missed it,

This is the story I wrote about our Christmas in 2004,

less than two months after

Kyle was diagnosed with leukemia.

Conceding Christmas

PART ONE

3 AM

I burrow deeper under the covers, the bed large and lonely. Thirteen days until Christmas, but I’m not planning a celebration.

Arranging a funeral seems more likely.

My husband stayed at the hospital tonight with our ten-year-old son. This time, Kyle struggles with fever, low blood counts, and multiple infections—staph in his central line and fungus in his left lung. READ THE REST AT LAFREELAND.COM

PART TWO

I curl up in a ball. Think about that verse from Matthew 11. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Do I believe it? Can I live it?

Release him. Trust me.

Every moment I don’t let go, fear eats away at me. I live in bondage to the terror that Kyle will die and leave me. I can’t hold out any longer on the tugging of my heart.

READ THE REST AT LAFREELAND.COM 

Thanks!

Lori

Merry Christmas!!!
This is me being diplomatic and non-pressuring in any way!Winking smile

I printed out a list of email subscribers for my new and old blogs and tried to figure out who I was missing before I shut down this site. After an hour, two cups of coffee, and the cat trying to sleep on my keyboard, I gave up. What does this mean for you? It means if you already re-subscribed to my new site or have no plans to re-subscribe–Delete This Now and accept my apology for annoying you yet again.

After this post, I will just leave a re-direct link on this site for a few more weeks.

In my cross check of subscribers, I noticed a lot did not transfer over to my new site. So if you haven’t deleted this yet, I’m trying to make this easy. Anytime you see this “THE SITE” you can click on it to get to the new site.
Possible reasons and fixes for not getting on the new list:
1. I screwed up during the cross check of both lists. Probability: high Sleeping cat kept pushing down the enter key.
Solution: Just shoot me back an email and tell me to stop bothering you or ignore me and I will eventually stop sending you emails!
2. You are tired of me and glad to be rid of the posts. Probability: unknown
Solution: Do nothing and I will eventually take you off this list!!! Thinking smile
3. You are busy because it is Christmas. Totally get that. Probability: high
Solution: Take a second right now to go to THE SITE and add in your email.

4. You meant to subscribe but haven’t. Probability: unknown
Solution: Go to THE SITE and subscribe. Make sure to verify when you get an email.

5. You get the posts more than once. Probability: high  Christmas break project is to fix that! I send out an email to people who don’t like to subscribe, but like to know when I post, and I need to separate out my email lists. This may take a while.
Solution: Just shoot me back an email and tell me to stop bothering you! Or wait til I fix the problem.
Thank you for reading my stuff! Thank you for being patient with me. If you need any techie help, email me, I’ll be an expert after this!

Lori

Click Here to Redirect to L.A. Freeland

Please note: This site will be closing down at the end of the year. Please go to the new site and subscribe there.

One of the things I’ve agonized over since making the decision to upgrade was that

I don’t want to lose any of you!

SO PLEASE

take a second to click one of the links below. IF you don’t know what a Reader is,

just click on the Email link!

Subscribe to Lori Ann Freeland by Email

READER

Latest Post:

365 Days of Thankful

365 Days of Thankful
I am thankful for:
In keeping with my goal to wake up every morning
and find one thing to be grateful for,
here are my thirteen days of thankful since Thanksgiving. 
The holidays can hold a lot of excitement, but they can also bring a lot of sadness. Right now while some of  my friends are keeping Amazon and Ebay hopping with online shopping…

Link to my new site HERE and read the rest…

Uh, yeah. You definitely need back-up. Whether you’ve written a page or ten thousand words. Whether you are a writer, a lawyer, or a mommy. I slave over every word. My high-schoolers agonize over every paper and project. And computer flubs happen. I’ve lost stuff. Major stuff. Luckily, I’d backed-up on a flash drive.

Are you saving pictures on your computer? Letters? Journals? Thoughts? Don’t take the chance. BACK it UP!

Here’s my quick and dirty tip–that I stole from Someone Much Smarter Than Me, Thomas Umstattd, in his social media for dummies seminar at last fall’s writer’s conference.

Don’t have off-site back-up yet? Have I stressed you out? Quick fix:

Email yourself all your current documents and store them in a file.

Easy. And it works. A few nights ago, two of my polished chapters disappeared. If you are asking, don’t you save to a memory stick? Yes, yes, I do. But I saved the deleted file! After a few moments of panic, I realized I’d taken Thomas’ advice and emailed my WIP (work in progress) to myself the week before!

Sometimes life does work out.

End Note: If you received this from the old site, please come check out my new site and subscribe there. The old site will be shutting down once I’ve moved everything over. New Site: http://www.lafreeland.com. Thanks!

I am launching my new website.

http://www.lafreeland.com/

Can’t wait for you to see it! 

Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to move my email subscribers.

One of the things I’ve agonized over since making the decision to upgrade was that

I don’t want to lose any of you!

SO PLEASE

If you are an email subscriber, please take a second to click the link under my

picture at the bottom of this post and re-subscribe.

If you want to subscribe in RSS to a Reader instead,

click on Reader below the email link.

if you are as confused as I am and hate stuff like this,

just go to my new site (CLICK HERE) 

and check the sidebar to subscribe there!

Sorry for the inconvenience!

Subscribe to Lori Ann Freeland by Email

READER

Grieving Grandma

Grandma and I back when that outfit was cool!

Happy Thanksgiving!

In keeping with what this holiday embodies for me, the story I wrote after my grandma’s funeral is posted below. Thinking about losing her encourages me to embrace an attitude of thankfulness. I don’t know how long I’m going to be here. I don’t know how long I’ll have the ones I love. With that perspective, being a blessing and appreciating blessings, becomes more and more important–especially the older I get. Instead of thinking of what or whom I’m grateful for just on Thanksgiving day, I’d like today to be the beginning of naming 365 blessings in my life–one for every day of the year. I will list them all on a page in my blog. Join me in the journey and list your own as well! An attitude of gratitude does amazing things for a dull and dreary life. How much time do I spend wishing and praying for things when I already have more than enough? I’m going to try and refocus all that negative into positive and follow Psalm 69:29-31. “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” If you see me dancing around my kitchen to praise music, just look the other way!

Day One: I am thankful for the grandma I still have left!

Grandma Marge and Grandpa Don (miss you Grandpa)

Grieving Grandma

For Grandma Rothgery

Baby blue—an odd color for a casket.

Yet there it sat, next to a mound of fresh dirt, waiting to be lowered into the ground. Constructed of thin wood, the casket was clearly bottom of the line, but there wasn’t much money to put toward the burial. Grandpa needed taking care of. Bills needed to be paid.

Good thing Grandma was on the inside of the casket—otherwise she’d have heart palpitations over her final resting place. I could almost see her beside me searching frantically in the bottom of her purse for a Nitroglycerin.

The graveside service was over—the cemetery empty of the living. Except for me. Everyone else had hustled away, whispering in reverent tones, bundled against the frosty air. Six inches of snow covered the ground. Typical for November in Wisconsin. Wind whipped through the trees, pushing snow into odd-shaped piles of white fluff up against the tombstones. Shivers trailed down my spine and I pulled my collar high. The soft fur on my hood brushed against my face, warming it temporarily.

Twelve carnations in various colors lay on top of the blue casket—one for each member of the family. A son, a daughter, five grandchildren, five great-grandchildren. My aunt’s way of saying goodbye. Ironic because grandma hated flowers.

Between the coffin and the carnations, two Nitroglycerines were in order. The only thing we did get right was our clothes. Grandma asked us to celebrate her life with bright colors—no black allowed.

I slid my gloved hand across the wood and frowned. We should’ve tried harder to go more traditional—trade up to a conservative brown or black at least. Appearances had mattered to Grandma.

“I miss you.” I laid my check on the cold, coarse casket. “I’m wearing a lavender suit. With matching earrings. And pantyhose.” I glanced at my feet with a grimace. “Okay, so on the way from the church, I traded the heels for boots.” I pulled my hood back as if she could see me. “But I curled my hair with hot rollers.”

I wanted her to say, “I’m sorry for dying and leaving you here.”

But she didn’t.

Her face, the way it had looked the last time I’d seen it—gaunt and strained, flashed through my mind. Watching her die—keeping vigil over each labored breath as her body wasted away and shut down organ by organ—had been the hardest thing. Ever.

I leaned over the casket to rest my icy cheek on top of my hand and let go of all I’d been holding inside. Tears ran down my face, over the glove, and onto the casket.

I cried because no one else but Grandma had ever understood that sometimes I just needed a hug. I cried because no one would make me pistachio salad, without the nuts, and peanut butter balls with them. I cried because Grandma’s pantry would no longer be stocked with Cookie Crisp, powdered sugar donuts, and tomato soup.

“Who’s going to send me cards? And go to lunch on Tuesdays?” For a moment, I was back in her bedroom, stretched out next to her on the tiny twin bed, reading The National Enquirer and watching One Life to Live in closed caption.

Tears froze under my eyes as a gust of wind whipped across my face. “Who’ll notice my haircut? Who’s going to care that I’m still me? Not just Pat’s wife or Kyle and Alek’s mom?”

A half smile pushed through my tears and my eyes opened. “Who’s going to iron Pat’s work pants? They’ll be all wrinkly now.”

The tips of my fingers grew numb, my gloves more stylish than functional. “Remember when you sent those Christmas cookies to my dorm and my roommates ate them and you mailed another batch express mail?”

I moved my toes against my soggy socks—the snow was melting through the faux leather of my boots. I stood there anyway. I couldn’t leave her here. Alone. In the cold.

“I never thanked you for paying for drama lessons that summer when Mom said no.” I rearranged a few of the carnations, separating the colors and forming them into a circle spanning the width of the casket. “Sorry about the flowers.”

I flexed my stiff fingers and rubbed my hands together. It didn’t help.

“Last night I told Julie I was your favorite grandchild. She said, ‘I was Grandma’s favorite, but she asked me not to tell you.’ I laughed so hard I slid off the bed. You told me the same thing and made me promise not to tell. The funny thing is we both believed you.”

The feeling in my toes completely disappeared. I couldn’t stand out here much longer. I’d freeze—or lose an appendage. I wiped my face on the inside of my collar and blew out a long breath. “No one will ever love me like you did.”

My eyes ached, swollen from too many tears, and stung from the cold wind. “I miss you so much already.”

I pushed against the casket. My legs were stiff from squatting so long. Just then, the sun peeked through the clouds and the wind took a momentary hiatus.

“Wait for me—we’ll eat beef stroganoff and strawberry shortcake when I get there.”

The sun warmed my face, drying the tears and soothing the icy burn. I skimmed my hand across the small blue box one last time, arranged the flowers again, until they were just right, and whispered with a sigh, “Good-bye. I love you.”

I am starting a series for new writers based on the common mistakes most of us make as first timers. If you know someone who harbors a secret, or not so secret, passion for writing, please pass it on!

Common Writing Pitfalls #1

Mechanics and Style: Adverbs, Passive, Adjectives

  1. 1.      Passive voice (using was, is, has been, was verbs plus -ing) You can use passive sometimes to keep the flow and cadence going, but it’s better to make it an exception and not the rule.

Example: He was heading to the store. vs. He headed to the store.

Most of the time, you can pluck the was or is out and make the verb past tense.

Example: She was walking toward the tree. vs. She skipped toward the tree.

Not only do we need to fix the “was” but we needed a stronger verb to paint a better picture. Now we know she exuded happiness! She could have sauntered, strolled, paced, etc. Pick the verb that best describes the tone and mood you are trying to get across.

 2.    -ly adverbs. Adverbs distract and take away from the pace of the story. Replace weak verb/adverb combinations with one strong verb that sets your tone. If you absolutely have to use an adverb, like I just did, make sure it’s one among pages and pages of no adverbs.

Example: Gloria ran happily to her stash of candy buried in the backyard. vs. Gloria dashed toward her stash of candy in the backyard.

Using dashed, a strong verb, conveys her mood and means the same thing.

3.      Don’t overuse adjectives. Make your descriptions clear and concise without overload. Describe what you need to in a clean, precise manner.

 Example: “The hard, steel door slammed loudly behind me and I cringed in absolute fear as I stared at the wide, metal table in the lone, empty room.”

First look at all the adjectives—hard, steel, absolute, wide, metal, lone, empty. Then I have an adverb, and a few redundancies. Steel means hard. Lone means empty. If you slam something, it’s usually loud. If the room is truly empty, there would be not be a table. Also, it’s a long sentence and some of the punch gets lost in the wordiness.

Try this instead: The steel door slammed behind me, leaving me alone in the room. I stared at the metal table and cringed.

4.      Be clear and specific when you write  sentences and descriptions. Don’t use vague words such as it or things. Also, to build a stronger sense of setting, use specific nouns rather than general ones.

Example: She sat beneath the tree. vs. She slumped beneath the towering oak.

5.       Showing vs. Telling. I find this one of the hardest things to catch. Think of it as painting a detailed word picture without actually blurting out what’s going on. What does this mean?

Example: (Telling) “I love chocolate,” Mary said.

Now we know Mary likes chocolate. Big deal. How fun was that. You told us and we didn’t even have to visualize it in our minds. No painting of a word picture here.

Try this: (Showing) Mary scooped another chocolate candy from the dish and held it by her nose, breathed in the delicious smell, and popped it into her mouth.

 

My Grandma Holding Me!

With a sigh, I drop into my favorite overstuffed chair and rest my cheek against the green tweed fabric. Leftover turkey, green beans, and mashed potatoes, brown with gravy, litter white plates scattered across the counter. The spicy aroma of warm pumpkin pie floats into the family room.

My boys tear through the room, flashing silver foam swords, my husband on their trail. He scoops them up and plops them down on the couch next to my sister and my grandpa.

“Turn the game up, I can’t hear the score.” My mom yells from the kitchen.

The dishwasher clicks on and I tune out the soft hum and close my eyes. Full of warmth and family, the day seems perfect. Yet, something is missing—the picture incomplete.

Grandma’s absence fills the room.

Grandma, Me, and Kyle (my oldest son)

The smooth scent of vanilla slides over me. A hand rests on my shoulder and I cover it with mine—trace the bumpy veins on loose, spongy skin. I open my eyes.

Grandma kneels beside my chair, dressed in her favorite outfit—blue sweater, matching pumps, and pearl clip-on earrings.

I bite my lip. She’s not supposed to be here.

A smile warms her face. “I just want you to know that I’m okay.”

“It’s not the same without you.” I squeeze her hand and lean my head against hers. “I miss your hugs.”

Her fingers comb through my hair. “I miss yours, too.”

“Mom made your pistachio salad. It was all wrong. She put in the nuts.”

With a laugh, she kisses my cheek.

A harsh buzz shatters the moment. Startled, I sit up in bed. My husband snores softly by my side. I hit snooze on the alarm and fall back against the pillow.

It had only been a dream.

And now it’s too late. Too late to tell her how much she meant to me. Too late to hug her and realize what I had.

My husband rolls over and rubs his eyes. When I take the time to think about it, there are so many things I’m grateful for—like when he takes out the garbage and scoops out the cat litter. He’s made dinner on my tired days more times than I can count.

I roll over and scoot down so I can face him. “I love you.”

With a sigh, he pulls me close. “I love you, too.”

My hand rests against the rough stubble of his cheek and I breathe him in. I want to live in this moment, be grateful for what I have right now.

“Thanks for putting away the laundry yesterday and coming home early to drive Maddy to church.”

Surprise lights his eyes and, after he stares at me for a moment, a huge smile lights his face. “You’re welcome.”

As he holds me, I think of my kids still asleep, under their covers. How many hugs have I pushed off, busy with the drive to finish this or that? How many times have I punished their bad choices and neglected to praise their good choices?

My devotional reading from early in the week drifts through my mind.

“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful” (Colossians 3:15 NIV).

Thankfulness. Something I don’t spend much time pondering. It will take a conscious decision, some deliberate prioritizing, and major prayer to make a permanent attitude change. But it will be worth it. My grandma may be gone, but my husband and my kids are here.

After a soft kiss on my husband’s cheek, I climb out of bed to wake my kids up with a hug. I can’t wait to tell them how special I think they are!

I am working on building a new website.

Trying to get it up and going.

Not so much fun.

When I finally figure it all out, I will let you know!

I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving! In light of that, I’ve been thinking about what I’m most grateful for. Yes, it’s sappy, but it’s the season. For me, taking stock of what I’m thankful for shifts my perspective and gives me plenty of warm fuzzies to keep me going after Thanksgiving ends.

Here’s my list. I’d love it if you would post a comment below and share your list as well.

1. God loves me no matter what. The most pure form of unconditional love out there. And it’s free!

2. My husband hasn’t run away screaming after cohabitating with me for over twenty years.

3. My kids <gasp> sometimes like to hang with me. And two of them are teenagers!

4. My mom, who lets me talk about my writing when no one else really cares. :)

5. All of my incredible and close friends. I mean, who has more best friends than fingers????

Mole-Ectomy

After a recent Mom’s Movie Night Out, I stood in the lobby catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Becky waited against the wall, alternating her gaze between my face and my arm.

“What?” I asked her.

She leaned forward and touched a small brown spot on my upper arm. “I think you need to come have that mole removed.”

Lesson number one—Never go to the movies with your doctor.

Lesson number two—Wear long sleeves if you do.

Shaving off my mole with a razor blade? Not my first choice activity. I shuddered. “I think it’s good. Let’s go out to eat instead.”

She raised her eyebrow. “Call my office Monday.”

All weekend I thought about that razor blade and cringed. I asked my husband to come with me and hold my hand. “I have to work,” he said. I told my kids. My son, who gives himself nightly injections, called me a big baby. My daughter offered to perform a musical to take my mind off the pain.

I decided to go alone.

Monday arrived and I sweated the creepy crawlies out in the waiting room reading Fit Pregnancy, even though the last time my belly swelled with child had been 2001. The nurse called my name and took me back to the room. She set out the equipment for my mole excavation.

My hands shook.

When she finally left, I eased back onto the crunchy white paper and closed my eyes. It’s no big deal, I told myself.

“Oops.” The nurse returned pushing a box on wheels. “Forgot this.”

“What is that?” I jerked up.

“It cauterizes the wound when she’s done.” She smiled and pulled the door shut.

What? My tiny mole hole would need to be cauterized? Like burned?

Just as I geared up to sneak out, Becky walked in. “Ready?”

“No, but go ahead. Just remember next time we get together, we have to do something fun that doesn’t involve you cutting or me crying.”

Just in case you worried about my mole—the procedure went fine. Turned out super doctor found another suspicious bugger on my back and I had a double molectomy. But true to her word, after numbing spray and Lidocaine, I didn’t feel a thing. I love you, Becky!

Sometimes anticipation feels worse than the actual event. I waste so much time and energy dreading things that may happen or things that aren’t half the big deal I’ve made them out to be.

Worst case scenario? Real life plays out exactly like my imagination pegged it. Counting the pre-worry anxiety, I’ve wasted double the time and energy fretting.

I think that’s why God tells me not to go there. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:25, 27, 34 NIV).

I can’t change the outcome of an event with worry. But I can drive myself crazy with the pain of dread. And I often do.

God has a much better use for my time than worry. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

I think I lost a good twelve hours of my life dreading what turned out to be a non-event. I still may think twice about going to see another movie with Becky.

Or I maybe I’ll just wear a sweater.

I wrote another version of my original article, September, and it landed at Crosswalk today under their homeschool section! The link is below.

http://www.crosswalk.com/family/homeschool/encouragement/wrestling-to-get-back-into-school-mode.html

I am polishing a story for The Writer’s Digest 2011 short story contest this weekend. Six categories. Probably thousands of entries per category.

I am entering a shortened, and reworked, version of my young adult novel in the young adult category. A little fun. A little creepy. The story, not the entry process. Well, maybe the entry process. We shall see what happens.

Worst case scenario? I get a lot of material for my blog on self-esteem and rejection!

Have a great weekend!

In case you missed my toilet paper debaucle–it reprinted in The Christian Pulse last week!

By the way, still love those yoga pants. I’m just more careful when I wear them now!

Blog link: http://lafreeland.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/fatal-attraction/

http://thechristianpulse.com/2011/10/21/fatal-attraction/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheChristianPulse+%28The+Christian+Pulse%29

Courting Catastrophe, a true story, won second place in last year’s NTCW Conference for Adult Novel/Short Story. My baby bump will be turning 18 in January!

The gun was small and black. It looked plastic.

 A party raged in the apartment next door—music blared, people laughed. Oblivious to the nightmare transpiring in my living room. My mind sprinted forward, sorting through the possibilities of how the next few minutes could play out, while my body melted into the couch, overloaded with the mental pictures my mind produced.

I should yell. Run. Do something.

Instead, I froze—acutely aware of each hammer of my heart, each prolonged breath. My hands slid down the soft terrycloth robe to cradle the small, round bump over my stomach.

Lord, please, protect this baby.

“Get on the floor!”

Kevin—if that really was his name—staggered forward, nothing like the man we’d chatted with this afternoon. His hand trembled, but at close range, he probably wouldn’t miss.

My husband, Pat, sat on my left and our friend, Judy, on my right. A TV mini-series played in the background. Next door, the music cranked up a notch, loud enough to drown out gunshots. Laughter floated through our screen door as people came and went from the party. If any of them came close enough, they would have a clear view. Of us. Of Kevin. Of the gun.

But no one did.

How long had Kevin been here? Minutes? Hours? Days?

Lord, please, protect this baby.

Pat moved off the couch to stand in front of me. Kevin lunged forward, smacking the gun against Pat’s head hard enough to send him to his knees. I slid off the couch beside him and locked my panicked eyes with his.

Kevin knelt, placed his knee on Pat’s neck and grabbed my left hand. Diamonds sparkled under the light and I understood why Kevin had come back.

My finger, already swollen from the pregnancy, throbbed in his rough grasp as he tried to wrench the ring over my knuckle. When it got stuck, he rocked back on his heels and shoved his glasses back up his nose. Sweat dotted his forehead.  He wiped his face against his shirt and pushed the gun into my cheek. It was cold and hard and didn’t feel at all like plastic.

“Please.” My voice shook as I held my hand up. “I can get it off.”

Kevin pulled the gun back a few inches and stared at me with unfocused large black pupils.

I licked my finger then twisted and pulled until the ring finally slipped free.

Kevin snatched it from my hand, stood and backed toward the door. Hesitated and shifted his feet. Brought the gun back up. “Down on the floor! Face first.”

Judy and I obeyed. Pat grabbed my hand and squeezed. Afraid to rest on my stomach, I rolled slightly to the side.

Why had we put the ad in the paper about the moving sale? Why had we let Kevin in our apartment hours earlier to look at our furniture?

We invited death to our door.

Would he kill Pat first and work his way down the line? What would it sound like? Would I feel it or just slip away? Would this baby be with me in Heaven right away?

Lord, please, protect this baby.  

There were so many things to wrestle out, but no time to work them through. Half curled into a fetal position, I waited, wanting it to be over.

Nothing happened.

I glanced up, careful not to move my head. Kevin rummaged through my purse, pocketed my wallet. I stared at his shoes—black sneakers, white laces, Nike stripes—watched him walk closer, the gun hanging at his side.

I closed my eyes again, entirely powerless to save my child.

Lord, please, protect this baby

The Nikes shuffled back a step. “Get up. Lock yourselves in the bathroom. Come out, you’re dead.”

Pat quickly pulled me up, pushing me into the bathroom, locking the door after all three of us were inside. I slumped onto the edge of the bathtub. Dizziness spun around my head and my legs went numb.

The screen door slammed and after a moment, Pat carefully turned the door handle and peeked out. Kevin had disappeared.

It was over.

Hours later, my heart had yet to settle into a regular beat. My stomach tightened and rolled. Tea wasn’t helping. Neither was rocking back and forth on the edge of Judy’s bed, but I was grateful she asked us to stay with her tonight. I was never going back into that apartment again.

Our seminary friend, Brent, sat in the rocking chair across the room.

“I’m not ever going back inside the apartment.” The teacup wavered in my hands. I put it down on the nightstand.

“It’s okay if you don’t.” Brent rocked a moment, his hands on his knees. “But later, when you can breathe again, remember that you weren’t alone tonight. Jesus was with you.”

“Was He?” I hadn’t felt Him there.

The rocking chair scraped along the floor as Brent dragged it closer to the bed. “He was. I’ll show you. Picture yourself back in your living room.”

I shook my head. “I can’t.”

Brent leaned forward and pulled my hands into his. “Close your eyes.”

After a few deep breaths, I closed my eyes. I was back in the apartment. I watched Kevin pull open the screen door, reach into his black jacket and pull out the gun.

My eyes snapped open. “It’s too real. I’m still there. I’m trying to forget this day, not relive it.”

“Close your eyes and look behind Kevin. Jesus is standing there—completely in control. He’s whispering in Kevin’s ear. ‘You can wave that gun around, but I won’t let you hurt them. They’re mine, not yours.’”

I closed my eyes and tried to see Jesus.

But all I saw was Kevin.

Six weeks later sun streamed through the glass window in our hotel room, bathing me in a rectangular glow. After stretching along the large, soft bed, I looked at the clock—9:00 am. Moving day was tomorrow.

These last six weeks, the hotel had been my safe haven—a gift from God, complete with maid service and a breakfast buffet. Miraculously, we were moving to Colorado! Pat received his transfer papers the day after the incident. As part of his relocation package, the company agreed to put us up in a hotel on this end of the move, rather than on the Colorado side. I hadn’t set foot in the apartment since that night.

Dressed in jeans and his favorite Packer’s sweatshirt, Pat stood by the bed. “We need to go back and get anything that’s important to you because the mover’s are putting our stuff into storage.”

I rolled away from him, burying my face in the pillow. “You pack.”

The bed dipped and his hand rested on my arm. “Lori, please. Just walk in, pick up what you want and then we’ll leave.”

I was safe here in the hotel. I didn’t want to go back.

Pat rubbed my back through the covers, leaned over, and kissed my neck. “Get dressed. Ride with me.”

I shook my head.

He whispered in my ear. “You can wait in the car and boss me around through the window.”

The mental picture made me smile. “Fine. But I’m not going in.”

Pat parked in front of the apartment, kissed my cheek, and disappeared through our front door. The police had never caught Kevin—I wasn’t sure they’d ever really looked for him—and in the back of my mind I wondered if he would come back. Suddenly, being in the car alone didn’t feel safe. I opened the door and heaved my pregnant body off the seat.

I only got as far as the sidewalk before I congealed on the concrete.

Birds sung. The sun shone. And sweat trickled down my back. Staring at the front door stole my breath. My hands flew to my belly. The baby kicked, pulling me out of paralysis.

My foot slid forward and pushed against the screen door. The TV remote lay on the floor where Judy dropped it. Pillows were piled on the couch. My slippers peeked out from under the glass end table. Everything was the same—as if we walked away and hadn’t come back—exactly like we had.

How many times had I begged that night—Lord, please protect this baby? And He had. But I was still afraid.

My ring finger tingled. It felt naked without my ring.

I inched forward and paused where Kevin had stood. What had he been thinking that night? Had he come here to rob and kill us and then changed his mind? Had there been a plan at all? Or was he too high to think anything through? What drove someone to do what he had done—meeting with us earlier, sharing about his fiancée, fabricating such an intricate story? Had there been any truth to his words?

My legs trembled. Before they gave out, I made it to the edge of the couch and closed my eyes. I could still see Kevin in front of the door—gun lifted, black jacket hanging open, greasy ponytail. My breathing quickened. I squeezed my hands into fists and thought about what Brent had said.

Jesus was standing behind Kevin. Jesus was the one in control.

And then suddenly I could see Him behind Kevin—glowing and full of power, filling the room with warmth and peace. Tears slid down my cheeks.

My hand flattened on the couch, the fabric soft against my palm. The other hand rested on my stomach.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

I erased Kevin from the picture and left Jesus standing there alone.

The fear wound into a tight little ball, growing smaller and smaller until it disappeared. “Thank you for protecting this baby.”

My eyes flew open and fell on the front door where the sun entered and brightened the room. Grateful for the baby’s life, all our lives, and for the peace in my heart, I smiled.

I pushed off the couch and went to help Pat pack in the bedroom.  


Please welcome my third guest blogger!

Steve Miller

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Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Psalm 119:105 NIV 1984).

When I helped carry New Testaments into a remote mountain village of the Philippines, we took the truck as far as we could, and then set out on foot. We eased ourselves down the side of a ravine to a river, walked across the planks of a suspension bridge, and climbed up a series of bamboo ladders.

Becher, our Filipino friend and guide, wanted to preach in the next village up the mountain spur, where the good news had not been preached before. Several of us went with him. While he preached, evening came. Few places on earth become as dark as a mountain village in the jungle without lights. I grew uneasy. By the time Becher finished, we couldn’t see the path to get back, and I didn’t know how we would return to the place we were staying for the night.

I need not have been concerned. Becher pressed a button on his cell phone. The light from the phone lit up the pathway enough to see the boulders, roots, and drops in the path. After a few moments, the phone went dark, but he pressed a button again for more light. In that way, we hiked down the mountain and safely arrived at our destination.

A cell phone is a device invented to carry words long distances, but that night it became a light for our path. We could see where to go, instead of smashing into a rock or falling from a misstep. In the same way, the Bible is a device invented for words, but our guide uses it to light up our lives. We can see what to do, rather than crashing into unseen dangers, or walking blindly through life.

Prayer: Lord, help me observe your words so I can remain safe and know what to do. Guide me in all my ways. Thank you for helping me through unseen dangers. Amen.

Steve Miller has served as an editor for both MindFlights magazine and Lilley Press. An author in his own right, Steve’s fiction includes speculative fiction in The Sword Review, humor in The Wittenburg Door, and science fiction in Ray Gun Revival. His nonfiction includes a devotional that appeared in The One Year Life Verse and articles on how to write software in journals such as SQL Server Professional, Oracle Developer, and FoxTalk. He also contributed two chapters to the software book Special Edition: Using Visual FoxPro3. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in linguistics. Visit Steve’s blog at http://stevemillerink.wordpress.com/

What Changed?

I spent last weekend up north in Bayfield, Wisconsin. I had not experienced such a spectacular fall season since moving to Texas over five years ago. The entire trip, I couldn’t stop gazing at the profound beauty surrounding me.

Vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows dotted the landscape. Had the colors deepened since I’d last been here?

Fallen leaves covered springy green grass and gray fractured sidewalks, crunching under my feet. Had the dying leaves grown crisper?

The smoky smell of dried firewood seeped from fire pits and wood burning stoves to warm the air. Had that inviting scent intensified?

What changed?

I did.

Separation dimmed my memories of this awesome display. I had forgotten how amazing fall could be. When I took the time to come back and view the wonder, I remembered all the fall seasons that came before.

That’s how it is when I set my Bible on the shelf. I forget how God’s Word speaks into my life as a moving, living force. The relevance dims with the distance of time, until I skim through the pages and begin to read. Then the words flow and come alive in arrays of colors even more amazing than autumn in Bayfield.

                                                                                                                                                                Happy fall! Happy reading!

Please Welcome Mary DeMuth.

Mentor. Encourager. Author Extraordinaire!

Check Out Mary’s Website to see all of her books!

http://www.marydemuth.com/

Mary DeMuth

I love Jesus, my family, and my life. Jesus has helped me live uncaged, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

In that place of thanks, I write books and blogs and whatnot.

Many of you know I wrote the book The Muir House. What you might not know is the why behind it. Although it’s a risk for me to share it, I feel it’s important, and it will deepen your experience of the book.

Those who have read my story in Thin Places know I endured some trauma in my childhood. Sexual abuse at five, several parental divorces, the death of my father. All these things served to help me see my gaping need for Jesus. While it’s painful that I had to endure what I did, I can now see those trials as the very means God used to bring me to Himself. To put it simply, my daddy-shaped-hole made me yearn for the Daddy who would never leave me. I’ve been on the journey of healing many, many years now. Although I’ve grown so much, there is one thing I can’t seem to get over: a hole in my memory. Even writing it scares me. What will my extended family think? Will this cause more friction? What if my empty memory is nothing?

The weird thing about my brain is that I remember everything. I have a clear memory of being about two years old, extremely vivid. And then nothing until I am four. Normally I would just chalk this up to being a child and forgetting or simply not remembering, but when I’ve asked my relatives about it, the answer never comes. Some have started crying. “Why would you want to know that? Why go back there?” Others are adamant that nothing happened to me. Others think I’m crazy for asking. But always, there is never a satisfactory answer and lots and lots of evasion. Rumors have flown around about homelessness, but nothing I can pin down.

I need to know. It’s this ache inside me, this agony to know what was missing from my life. What happened? Why won’t anyone tell me?

This search has driven me to become an investigative reporter. I’ve dug up old acquaintances from the past, written letters, sent emails, hoping to unfold the mystery. Nothing. I’ve prayed, but no insight has come. I’ve tried to settle myself, but I’m still antsy.

I wonder if there’s something I don’t know. Or if I have a lost sibling. All my adult life, folks have told me I look like Laura Dern. Imagine my crazy mind when I found out we share the exact same birthday! Same year. Was I a twin separated at birth? (Now you’re seeing my neurosis!)

Something that has helped me with my need to know was remembering something my husband Patrick told me years ago. With words, he painted a picture. He said my distance (at the time) felt like I was pacing the high dive, deciding whether I would jump into the pool. Down below were my children and him, all beckoning me to jump. But I paced. And worried. And fretted. I didn’t jump. Instead, in the word picture, I came off the high dive, then sat on the side of the pool and dangled my feet.

Our discussion after that helped me see an important truth. No matter what may make you pace the high dive (for me it’s this missing memory conundrum), you can still make a choice to live, to enjoy, to engage with people. You don’t have to be trapped up there or be relegated to the side of the pool.

This is why I wrote The Muir House. I wanted to explore the idea that we may never know the exact truth of things. We may investigate until our heart is raw. But even if things are left unresolved, we always have the choice to grow and live anyway. Willa had that choice. I have that choice. Even Laura Dern has that choice.

We can let the past be our excuse to live crippled lives.

Or we can leap into the halcyon air, and jump foot first into life.

Which will you choose?

If you’d like to explore these issues in a page-turning novel, purchase The Muir House here.

I am excited to be posting on Antwuan’s blog,

Candid Christianity.

Check it out!

http://antwuanmalone.com/2011/09/30/the-uninvited/

Word of Mouth

Why does God teach me the most valuable lessons at the center of my rawest moments? Whether I’m humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed or aching—those are the times He reveals the deepest truths.

For the fourth year in a row, I attended the annual North Texas Christian Writer’s conference held in mid-September. As usual, the workshops offered impressive teachers and valuable information, but what I took away from the weekend had nothing to do with writing tips. God had a bigger revelation for me—that words, often spoken without thought, can construct and create or damage and destroy.

I wish I could tell you I gleaned this pearl of wisdom from dancing out of the conference on a high. However, God rarely teaches me during a happy moment—maybe because I don’t always listen when I’m confident, secure, and delighted with myself.

Instead, He used a disappointing critique with one of the faculty to illustrate how flippant words do more harm than no words at all. Despite how desperate I am to hit the “rewind” button on the little breakdown I had Saturday morning at the conference—a meltdown large enough to prompt a dash out to my car where I could hide until my mascara stopped running down my face—God moved my heart in a major way. Using humility. I hate that word, almost as much as I hate the word patience. I try not to ask Him for either of those lessons. But He always knows what I need.

Being an artist, any kind of artist, makes for an emotional rollercoaster ride. What we write and paint illustrates the essence of who we are, and when other people don’t love our art, it feels as though they don’t love us.

I’m pretty certain I’m not alone on this rollercoaster. We all hold something close to our heart—our job, hobby, skill, talent, our children, marriage, or friendships. I know that as a mom who strives to build my kids’ character nothing pops my balloon faster than a well-placed dart targeted toward my deficiencies as a parent.

Yes, I want to stretch and grow as a person and a writer. In order to do that, my heart must be teachable. Yet, no matter how willing I am to learn, I still ache when someone criticizes my work or dismisses my effort—constructively or otherwise.

Hard work and perseverance will move me toward my goals. Poorly placed criticism can still be useful. There’s always a small truth that I can take away, but I work so much better with encouragement. None of us was made to walk alone. I Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (NIV). We need each other. Having someone push you up the mountain, in the midst of crippling criticism or personal crisis, makes the difference between falling down and re-energizing for the climb.

I choose to take what I learned at the bottom of the rollercoaster and use it as momentum to scale the rise and take another ride. And when I get to the top? I will remember that meltdown in the parking lot and remind myself that anyone can criticize, but it takes a special person to encourage, and that’s the person I want to be.

I challenge you to carefully consider the words of your mouth. Be an encourager, not a destroyer. Open your mouth and spread the love!

Link to this article in Crosswalk: http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/women/the-power-of-the-tongue.html

If you liked this article, please pass it on!

Please welcome my very first guest blogger. 

Nova Logo Antwuan Malone is a freelance writer and blogger who desires to engage in conversations that challenge Christians to (re)think about how to love the world and each other. You can learn and read more about his blog. 

Candid Christianity at http://antwuanmalone.com/about
twitter: @antwuanmalone.com    facebook.com/antwuanmalone

View judge-not...jpg in slide showMan, I hope I don’t turn into a grumpy, old man!

I can see it. Me, standing on my proverbial porch, shaking a cane at the next generation of Christians. I can almost hear the yells.

“Stop judging me, Old Man. Get over it!”

God knows I don’t want to be that guy. And yet, lately, I get so frustrated with how we toss around biblical phrases. I’ve already written about the mostoverused word in our society. Now, let’s talk a little about one of the most overused, under-understood, phrases floating about in the winds of conversations. You may even say it yourself!

“Don’t judge me!”

Ah. The crime of the age. The crime de jour. Judging.

It’s amazing how well we know the scriptures that protect us from conviction and feelings of guilt. Sure, we know what sin is, and we know that “no one is perfect “And yes, we all know Jesus said “not to judge.” Swirl all that together and you often end up the idea that your sin disqualifies you from telling me about my sin. And before we know it, that all-powerful “h” word gets tossed around like a ping pong ball at a championship ping pong tourney.

<Sigh.> Oh how I despise the misplaced tossing of a “hypocrite” grenade in otherwise helpful conversations.

But we live in a “don’t judge me” society, in an Age Of Entitleds, a “want it my way” generation who has its own versions of right and wrong. Americans, hate critique, but love criticizing. Myself included. On my blog site I’m critical, often. But the question is: Is critiquing the same as judging, or does the Bible mean something different when it references judging?

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“Don’t Judge Me!”

Right in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount, in Matthew 7:1-5, are the magic words. (as you can see, I love the KJV version)

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Paul says it similarly in Romans 14:10-13

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”

There you have it, the biblical justification for the morally sensitive chap of our day. Interpret these verses at face value and you’ll come away with a false teaching that only the clean can point out the dirty, that only the perfect can mention the sins of the imperfect.

But what about the other verses. Verses like the one immediately following the passage in Matthew 7 (verse 6), where Jesus says,

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

Wait, what?  Who is Jesus calling dogs and swine?  And how will we know them if we don’t performs some judgment? Are these the same dogs Paul mentions in Philippians 3:2 where he says:

“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”

Evil workers? Wouldn’t we have to judge people by some sort of criteria to know whether they are, as the Bible calls them, swine and dogs? Is Jesus being contradictory?

What Does It All Mean, Basil?

If you know who Basil is, kudos for you!

The answer is no. I don’t think the message is contradictory. Throughout the Bible, “judging” holds several meanings. For brevity, we won’t talk about them all.

But it’s worth considering what “judging” meant to the people Jesus and Paul spoke to. In Matthew 5-7, Jesus’ sermon on the mount was largely to Pharisees and other followers of the Law. These Pharisees classified people in three categories. You were either a hopeless sinner destined for Hell, a yet-to-be-convert, or well, one of them – the righteous. And by righteous, I mean just that. Righteous. Clean. By holding to the law, Pharisees literally considered themselves without fault, “more holy than thou.”

The irony, from Jesus’ perspective, lay in the inability of this group of “religious” people to see God’s real work of Truth through His Son. The “beam,” then, is the blinding misconception of what God desired from them and their ignorance of God’s plan of salvation for all. So when Jesus mentioned “judging” in Matthew, He was attacking the idea that a Pharisee (or anyone) could determine who was “hellbound” based on the Works Model of the Law. The Pharisees were oblivious to the law of Grace Jesus’ death later introduced. Who are they (we) to judge by works if God ultimately will judge by grace?

More simply said, Jesus cautioned them (and us) not to “judge” the destiny of anyone’s soul, whether Hell or Heaven. That’s interesting considering how quickly we send earthly menaces like Hitler, Osama, and the like to Hell, while sending Ghandi, Mother Theresa and others to heaven. Most people would agree with these judgments, and yet these are the very sort Jesus warned against. Jesus is saying we, like the Pharisees, have no idea what we’re doing when we pronounce who goes where.

Further, He is not telling us to ignore the sins of those around us. Quite the opposite. Sin is sin because of its destructive nature. The true heart of a Christian hates sin because of path to disease, disaster, and death it carves. To stand by and do/say noting while someone hurt themselves through their sin in the name of “not judging” is not loving our neighbor as ourselves, or edifying/equipping the saints.

Some of the main functions of the church community is to accept people despite their sin,to make room for the revealing of that sin, and to accommodate accountability for the removal of that sin as we grow more into Christ’s likeness. The latter cannot be done if we’re afraid to admit and repent (change direction) from sin, or are afraid to help urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to repent due to embarrassment or fear.

Jesus has not given us a license to do whatever we want. His statement does not relieve us from “feeling bad” or “looking bad” due to the sin we commit. His point was simple to leave eternal placement to God, but to also (judge) encourage our neighbors toward Christ, and our brothers and sisters in Christ toward holiness.  That’s what’s really going on.

Anything else is probably some form of selfish face-saving.

Question of the Day!

How would you define “judging?”  Do you think Christians should judge?! Check out this post in Candid Christianity and leave a comment if you have one. 

Image Credit: Lisamarie Babik, used under Creative Commons license

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a NAS)

Palms clammy, shoulders tight, I review the rules. Everything hinges on the next 15 minutes. An older lady slides into my car, clipboard in hand. Her mouth tightens as her bare legs hit the hot leather seat. “We start with parallel parking.” She points to two posts ahead. “If you hit a post you fail.”

My eyes bug out. Why didn’t I drive Dad’s compact instead of Mom’s van? Is it too late to reschedule? I wipe my sweaty hands on my shorts, reposition them to 10 and 2, swallow thickly and inch forward. Line up with the poles. Turn the wheel. Back it up. Slight correction. Straighten out. The poles are still standing. With a sigh of relief, I put the van in park.

Clipboard Lady opens her door and motions me to look down.

I paralleled parked perfectly—three feet from the curb.

That’s just like reading the Word, showing up for church, lip-syncing worship—never allowing God to truly impact my heart. While I look straight and I’m lined up in-between the posts, I’m not protected from the flow of traffic. When I look like I’m following God, but I’m really just following the motions, my heart and mind aren’t protected from a culture that says anything goes.

What can I do?

I can reposition—let my tires rub against the curb. Let my life rub against God.

When I read the Word, I can open my heart. When I’m finished, I can dedicate my day to Him. I can stay close. Stay protected. Stay perfectly centered exactly where He wants me to be.

This devotional won Best Devotional at the North Texas Christian Writer’s 2011 Conference

If you have a teen, know a teen, or love a teen, please pass it on!

A Mentor’s Worth

In the state of Indiana, automated toll machines stand in place of live operators. Makes sense. More profit. No need for on-site restrooms.

During a recent road trip with my mom, I experienced this marvel of technology. Entering the toll way worked out fine—even though the wind tried to call dibs on my ticket as it spit out of the machine.

Exiting proved more difficult. Desperate for a restroom break, I took the off-ramp and waited behind a red pick-up. Never having used an automated machine, I rolled down my window and read the instructions.

Insert ticket according to picture.

Not too hard. I leaned out the window and popped in my ticket according to the diagram. The slot spit the ticket out. I studied the picture and tried again. This time the breeze caught it before I did.

I threw the shifter in park and rushed out to grab the ticket from underneath my front tire. By now, twelve cars waited behind me. Reinserting the ticket ten additional times did nothing for my emotional distress, the disposition of the other drivers, or my chances for finding a restroom anytime soon.

Decoding diagrams and maps isn’t my thing. What happened to throwing change into a basket? My hands shook and a trickle of sweat ran down my back as I slid in the car and looked at my mom. Even though I am a mom, letting someone else be the mom for a moment can sometimes take the pressure off. “Any ideas?” I asked her.

“Let’s just go through it and pay later.”

I nodded and put the car in drive. Her mom wisdom would have been great, had a long wooden arm not blocked our way. I took a deep breath and begged my bladder to hang on.

My wise mom pointed to the machine. “There’s a help button.”

Help. That’s exactly what I needed.

After I pushed the button, a scratchy voice prompted, “What’s your problem?”

I yelled over the honking behind me. “You mean besides the fifteen cars of aggravated people behind me?”

“Where did you get on the toll road, Ma’am?”

I gave my entrance point and seconds later, the correct exit fee popped up on the Pay This Amount screen. Ever helpful, my mom passed me a cupful of change. The woman in the Hummer inches from my bumper got out of her car. “It’s good,” I held up the change. “Be out of here in just a sec.”

She raised her eyebrows, punctuated her irritation with a sigh, and slid back into her car.

With shaky hands, I force fed the machine. It spit out every other coin. $3.25 and many coin feeds later, the arm raised. I escaped before it fell back down.

Whose idea was it to get rid of the live operators—the people who knew what to do and acted before one stuck traveler multiplied into many?

Not too long after my harrowing ticket booth debacle my oldest son, Kyle, returned from youth camp pumped-up on a vital message—Get a mentor. Be a mentor. People need people.

The message stuck. My tollbooth fiasco would have been a non-event had an attendant been there to help me. I need a mentor to steer me in the right direction when I’m stuck. I need to be a mentor and share the wisdom I’ve learned from others who have taken time to guide me.

“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (I Thessalonians 5:12-14 NIV).

Link to this article in The Christian Pulse  http://www.thechristianpulse.com/2011/09/16/a-mentor%e2%80%99s-worth/

September

I have a love/hate relationship with the month of September.

Strolling the Back to School aisles of Target and tossing twenty-five cent crayons, pencils and glue sticks into my cart makes me giddy. Pretty folders decorated with kittens and flowers beckon to me, while the notebook aisle disperses that new paper smell and packages of dollar markers, with their untouched ink-filled tips, whisper of new beginnings.

Yet in the midst of my back-to-school euphoria, lurking just around the corner is heaviness, a foreshadowing of all the labor that is to come, and it slips down around my shoulders like a mantle, harnessing me until Spring.

For the last three years, since my homeschooling career began, I have wrestled with all that September offers.

September offers an end to chaos, re-instating organization, neatness, schedules, activities and goals. Skyrocketed bedtimes plummet back to earth. Family dinner hour resurfaces. My calendar, filled with weekly repetition, makes expectations clear.

September also offers an end to spontaneity, stifling my impulsive nature. No more sleeping in or late night TV. No more ordering out or yelling, “Get your own!” No more spur of the moment afternoon movies and days at the pool—there are too many things on the schedule for that!

It’s love/hate because it’s hard to pick a side. Chaotic “make up your own rules” days vs. “consistent know what to expect” days. I love order and structure—but not if I’m tied to them!

Does God understand my war?

He does! The Bible promises He is always the same, never changing, and dependable without fail. In Revelation 1:8 (NIV) God tells me that He is the “…Alpha and the Omega…who is, and who was, and who is to come…” And Hebrews 13:8 (NIV) assures me that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Yet, God’s character is still filled with novelty and my relationship with Him never needs to be idle. There is always a fresh start. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-20, NIV).

As I press on through September, going from one extreme to another, I know that I am not walking this path alone and I love that God understands me, even in all my strangeness and contradiction. He sprints beside me through my chaotic impulsiveness and marches evenly alongside me through my structured organization. And one day when my kids are grown and gone, we will make a brand new path together. Although, I think September may always lure me in with its nostalgic memories and my desire to reconcile the two sides of myself.

Broken Inn

Through the tiny glass oval, I watched ant-size cars enlarge as my plane descended into Milwaukee. My morning coffee puddled in my stomach. Shoulders tight, I pulled my purse from under the seat and waited to deplane.

I questioned my decision to fly to Wisconsin to drive my mom to our family reunion in Ohio. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go—but locking two polar opposites in a Toyota Corolla for a day couldn’t end well. Could Laissez-faire Lori and Calendar Kay make it a day, let alone ten, without killing each other?

My mom picked me up and we switched seats. As we entered the ramp for 90/94, my phone rang.

She reached for it. “Talking and driving kills people.”

Miles later, she glanced at the speedometer. “Are you going eighty-five?”

I peeked at the gauge and lifted my foot. “No, I’m only going seventy-six.”

Halfway to Indiana, a theater sign jutted from the road. I changed lanes. “Want to take a break and see a movie?”

She frowned. “That’s not on our schedule.”

With a sigh, I shot past the exit. “How about a spontaneous latte?”

“Great.” She smiled. “I’ll buy.”

By the time we pulled into the motel parking lot to pick up the room key, my neck ached.

A stack of stained mattresses sat piled next to our room. I grimaced, having already paid online at a site where the hotel remains a mystery until you enter your credit card. Hoping the inside proved better than the outside, we swiped the key and went in.

I yanked off the blue floral comforters. My mom rested on the edge of her bed and held up the corner of the blanket.

Think camel hair. With burn holes.

She chuckled. “Did I tell you the news story about the bed bugs?”

I ripped off my blanket and scoured the white sheet for movement. “Can you see them?”

“Of course not. Otherwise people wouldn’t sleep on them.”

While I continued my sheet inspection, she went to the sink to wash her face. The faucet handle fell off.

I dialed the front desk. A monotone voice informed me we could switch rooms to one double bed or stay here with a broken sink. I thanked her for being so helpful and hung up.

I groaned. “What else is wrong with this room?”

Turned out a lot. The TV outlet protruded from a duct-taped hole in the wall. The towel rack had ripped out of the shower. And the corners of the bathroom floor contained various unknown debris. Each time we found a new disaster, my mom laughed louder.

I stared at the carpet with a frown, pulled on socks and sent my friend Tracy pictures of our motel debacle. She texted me back this song.

My faucet broke and my towel bars missin’
The A/C’s on and the grates are hissin’
Lord, bring me back to Texas!

My mom grabbed the coffee pot off the counter. “I’m making some decaf. Want some?”

“There’s no water.”

“Sure there is.”

Watching her make coffee using faucet water from the tub sent me over the edge and I giggled so hard I fell off the bed. “I’m so not drinking that.”

As laughter escalated to tears rolling down our faces, the tension and stress of the day disappeared. This Broken Inn bonded us, tempered our differences, and pasted a memory into the scrapbook of our lives.

Sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine. “He will fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy” (NIV Job 8:21).

Link to this article in the Christian Pulse

http://www.thechristianpulse.com/2011/08/19/broken-inn/

 

Fatal Attraction

This summer I took a trip up north. From Texas, I flew to Wisconsin, picked up my mom, and drove her to our family reunion in Ohio.

Before our road trip began, we met my in-laws for breakfast at an old-fashioned diner in Sun Prairie. We enjoyed a great visit swapping stories and photos with my mother-in-law, Diane, and her new husband, Bob.

After the meal and four cups of coffee, I excused myself to run to the little girl’s room before we got on the road.

I took a quick glance in the mirror after I washed my hands. Not finding any food in my teeth or toilet paper hanging out of the back of my pants, I reapplied a layer of barely beige lipstick and fluffed my hair. The mirror approved and I sailed out the door ready for pictures and hugs.

Outside the diner, the four of us played rotating photographer. My camera held photos of me and mom, me and Bob, me and Diane, Diane and Bob—you get the idea. After final hugs, I turned to unlock the car and caught a glimpse of a large white square stuck to the back of my upper thigh.

A lone piece of toilet paper lay plastered to my black yoga pants.

Yoga pants are perfect for travel. The stretchy waistband and soft fabric assure a certain comfort factor during a long ride in the car; however, I did not realize yoga pants were also a toilet paper magnet.

I glanced around the parking lot, which stood empty except for my mom waiting by the passenger-side door. With a nonchalance I’d learned over the years of suffering from such disasters, I reached back, dislodged the paper, and nudged it under the back tire.

How did I miss that big white blob on my dark black pants when I performed my cursory check in the mirror? How many people watched me walk out the door of the diner with toilet paper plastered to my leg?

Just like toilet paper, sin is sticky.

It hangs on me in places I can’t see—even if I’ve looked for it. I need help to see what I’ve missed. Lord, I cry out to you like David. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See
if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (NIV
Psalms 139:23, 24).

And help me remember when I wear those black yoga pants again to check them twice after a visit to the little girl’s room.

link to this article in The Christian Pulse: http://thechristianpulse.com/2011/10/21/fatal-attraction/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheChristianPulse+%28The+Christian+Pulse%29

link to this article in Crosswalk; http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/women/the-stickiness-of-sin.html

 

 

 

Why Bother?

Some days I wonder why I bother to do anything for myself. Whether it’s reading a good book, which I’ve relegated to the quiet hours of late night. Taking a nap, which happened once last year. Or making good on my promise to write a little bit every day, which I’m attempting to do now.

I began the edit of this article at 9:30 a.m. and it’s now 11:17 a.m.

600 words. One page. Plus a barrage of questions from the three children who occupy my house. One by one, they rotate in to stand at the foot of my bed. I tiptoed into the bedroom earlier, when I thought they were not looking.

My fingers pause, suspended over the keyboard, as I grasp to freeze my train of thought for later.

The exchange goes something like this—
“Can I call Dad? I lost my tiny fairy book. The dog threw up on the stairs. Can I watch Martha Speaks? Do we have legal-size paper for my project—it’s due in an hour? Can I take a bath? Who ate all the Cookie Crisp?”

To which I reply, in order—
“Is your room clean? Did you look in your backpack? Go clean it up, it’s your dog. Is your room clean? Why didn’t you ask me this sooner? Is your room clean? Dad ate the cereal.”

Maybe a recording of my top ten answers would buy me some personal time? Or maybe I should surrender and realize I do not own my time. I may never own my time—as long as small people live in my house.

Lord, I need a revelation. A communiqué. An email. A text message. A tweet. Can nothing ever be about me?

You’re asking the wrong question.

Well, Lord, I often ask the wrong question.

Are you looking through My eyes? Do you want what I want?

Lord, I need more than Your eyes. I’m desperate for Your heart. Help me want to want Your desires. Make them mine. I whisper the verse I’ve hidden in my heart:

“Trust in the LORD…Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart…” (Psalm 37:3-5 NIV).

http://www.thechristianpulse.com/2011/07/19/why-bother/

Just For Fun:

Ever had one of those days? Take a picture and share your best Why Bother? expression! Check back on my website for the craziest looks! Faces only please. Check out the first pictures on the Why Bother? page.

Email your pictures to lafreeland@hotmail.com

 

Failing Fast

http://www.thechristianpulse.com/2011/06/21/failing-fast/

A lone piece of pizza taunted me from the cardboard box. A perfect triangle of hot and greasy heaven—mozzarella browned just so. I sidestepped the mouth-watering heap of cheese and pepperoni and grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl.

“Hey,” I yelled to the kids. “Someone come eat this pizza!”

No one came.

I peeled the banana, shoved it in my mouth, and waited a minute or two for the sound of pounding footsteps on the stairs.

The only sound came from my nails as I clicked them against the white Formica countertop, inches from the pizza box. I wandered around the kitchen, gliding past that last slice of pizza for at least another thirty seconds before grabbing the delicious, gooey pile of Pizza Hut mastery and devouring it.

Nineteen days of self-denial gone in less than a minute.

I’d like to say the pizza sat like a rock in my stomach, but it didn’t. I’d like to say I regretted eating it, but I didn’t. Heaven from the first bite—the tangy sauce danced in my mouth—the richness of the browned cheese tantalized my tongue and warmed my stomach.

How sad to trade twenty-one days of the Daniel Fast for a piece of pizza that took twenty seconds to inhale. Did my moment of weakness undo the other nineteen days? Or the TV I’d given up? Did it negate the prayers seeking God’s blessing over my writing?

Guilt slammed me. What a loser—I couldn’t even make it two more days. Deflated, I curled up on my bed and hugged my pillow.

I had given up sugar, meat, dairy, coffee, and hours of DVR. Despite the natural, healthy food and the extra hours of sleep, I felt awful. And further from God than ever.

As I cried, curled up under the covers, a verse played through the soundtrack in my head. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV).

It’s not about the food. It’s about Me. Giving up food and TV pushed you into the arms of books and friends when you were supposed to run to Me with your burdens. Not to other things.

As God whispered truth into my heart, the tears stopped running down my cheeks, and I realized my whole perspective had been off. I hadn’t understood the real reason for the fast.

“Lord,” I whispered,”I’m sorry about the pizza. Help me remember You made me to need You. Help me to run to You first because You are the only One who will truly satisfy.”

There were years I gave ties and years I gave tools. Those were the good years. Then there were years I gave nothing. Those were the bad years. Being Daddy’s girl only works if Daddy sticks around. Mine didn’t, and Father’s Day quickly morphed into Forget Him Day. Not that that worked very well. How could I miss him and hate him at the same time? For years, I prayed, “Heal our relationship.” Still, there was no relationship. So I prayed, “Help me love him anyway.” We spoke a few times a year. The prayer changed to, “God, please bring restoration.”

Then, my son got cancer.

But before that, my Father’s Days went something like this:

Father’s Day 1979. Elkhart, Indiana. I am ten.

“Daddy, can we go to the pool one more time and go down the big slide?” I let go of his hand and run down the hotel hallway. “Please,” I swivel and run backwards. “Please, please, please!”

Laughing, he sprints past me. “First one with their suit on gets to pick off the room service menu!”

I turn to catch up, running faster and faster, until I slide into the room behind him.

“I win!” He throws my pink swimsuit over my head. “And I pick, hmm…” He places his fist under his chin, his eyes focus in deep concentration.

I silently plead hamburgers and onion rings. Our favorite.

“Hamburgers with onion rings!” he roars.

“And mustard,” I remind him with a grin.

Father’s Day 1987. Roseville, MN. I am 17.

“I miss you, Dad.”

My sigh crosses two hundred fifty six miles in less than a second. I picture him in his office downstairs behind his massive oak desk and smell the cedar on the walls of the office we built together when I was eleven. He let me drill holes and mount planks for hours, never complaining about how much time my help cost him in the process.

“I know…I miss you, too.” His chair squeaks in the background, and I know he is leaning back, rubbing his hand over his face. “It was a good idea to go up early and get a job. You’ll be fine once school starts. I’ll drive up there next week. We’ll go to that hotel in St. Paul for crab legs, okay?”

“Okay. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.”

Father’s Day 1989. Windsor, WI. I am 19.

Butter sizzles on the griddle. My dad stands calmly flipping pancakes. Dishes lie piled next to the sink, forgotten, just like me. Rage pours off my body in waves. The smell that used to comfort pushes me to vomit.

Our roles reverse this morning, and I am the voice of reason. It’s confusing, this turnabout. I shift my weight. Struggle to stay standing.

Dads don’t run away when life gets hard. They don’t stop holding up your world while you’re still getting your bearings. They don’t let you drown in betrayal and bewilderment.

He turns the griddle off and crosses his arms.

“You told me to leave if I was unhappy.”

“Since when do you listen to me?!” I scream. “I’m nineteen years old! You’re the dad!”

“I need to get out. I haven’t been happy for a long time.” He avoids my eyes, looks at the ground. The only sign of remorse he’s shown since this conversation began.

I take a step back against the wall for support.

“So you’re just going to walk out? What about me?”

“You’re all grown up. I did my job. I need something for me.”

“I hate you,” I hiss. “I will never forgive you if you do this.” My heart hardens with every word. “You’ve lost me, too.”

2004. Madison, Wisconsin. I am 33. My son battles leukemia in the fight of his life.

My hands shake. I lean against the bedroom wall, the phone pressed against my ear. Tears stream down my face. I hate Father’s Day. Once a year, my heart rips open, leaving a hole that takes weeks to bandage. Why am I calling my dad today of all days? The last time we talked, it didn’t go so well. That was two years ago.

The phone stops ringing and he answers. Same voice. Familiar and heartbreaking all at the same time. “This is Tom.”

I panic. Go to hang up. Change my mind. How can I still miss him so much? I want to curl up in his lap. But I can’t.

“Hello?”

“Daddy?” My voice shakes. I struggle to breathe “Kyle’s sick. He’s not getting better. The chemo is killing him. Daddy, I don’t know what to do.”

Silence.

Then his voice, hoarse and unsteady, comes across the line. “I’ll be there in three hours.”

“Okay,” I whisper back. The line clicks. I close my phone and slowly slide down the wall into a puddle on the carpet.

“Lord, I’m so tired of all this pain. I can’t do this anymore. Please fix this,” I beg.

The memory our last Father’s Day together grabs me. Pulls me back into our kitchen where my dad is flipping pancakes, wearing a granite face. I smell the fresh batter. Nausea comes in waves—I am there all over again.

Then, an odd thing happens. In this memory, my dad says the words he said before, but as he’s talking, he transforms into a small boy. His angry, impenitent voice lowers. The hurtful words begin to change.

“I’m lonely,” the little boy says. “I want to be loved for who I am.” His eyes, glossy with unshed tears, pierce mine. “I’m hurting. I don’t know what to do.”

Taken back, I push off my bedroom carpet and open my eyes. I want to put my arms around that little boy. My dad desperately wants to be loved. Just like me. This I can understand. The bitterness and anger, buried deep inside my soul, loosens just the tiniest bit. No matter what he did, I love my dad, and I need to tell him.

Father’s Day 2006. Madison, WI. I am 36.

Dad and I sit at Perkins, sipping coffee, our booth hidden behind frosted glass. Glad for the privacy, I gear up to say the words I’ve prepared. Last year when he came for Kyle, I didn’t tell him about the little boy I saw the day I called him sobbing. Will he understand if I tell him now? I need him to understand—it is our bridge to restoration.

“I’m glad you spent the weekend, even if it was because your truck wouldn’t start.” He comes every few months to visit, but never stays longer than a day, and I covet the hours that we have together.

He nods, moves his hand to cover mine. “It’s been a better year,” he begins. “Kyle’s doing better and,” he pauses, his eyes catch mine, “there’s you and I.”

I rest my other hand on his and squeeze. “Dad…I’m sorry for all the awful things I said to you the day you left. And after. I was angry and hurt. I didn’t mean those things–” my voice breaks.

His eyes grow shiny. He pulls his hand from mine to blow his nose with the napkin from the table. “I love you, and I’ll always be your Dad. I’m sorry too.”

He wipes his eyes. “If I could do it all again….” His voice drops. “If I could take it back, I would.”

Words I never thought I would hear. Words I longed to hear. The ache in my heart begins to mend. Sometimes it’s hard to believe my dad is back in my life. And while we can never go back, we can move forward.

Today is a power tool day. And I am grateful.

With a grin, I reach under my coat and hand him a box. “Happy Father’s Day, Dad.”

I follow a lot of CaringBridge sites.

If you are unfamiliar with this amazing cyber vision, check it out. CaringBridge allows a family in medical crisis to post updates, prayer requests, and needs to a page that friends and family can access. The sites I follow have catchwords like “children” and “oncology.”

My rooting in the pediatric cancer community comes out of the four years our family spent battling leukemia with our oldest son, Kyle. Because we’ve tread our own rough journey…Read More at L.A.Freeland.com. 

 

Side note: This site will be down after the end of the year. All blogs moved to www.lafreeland.com

 

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