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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Living’

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!

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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.

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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.  


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The Path in the Dark

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/

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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!

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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!

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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

 

 

 

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