Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Letting Off Steam

When our family visited Lancaster, PA a few weeks ago, we took a ride on the Strasburg Railroad. It was a beautiful day riding through the Pennsylvania countryside and the kids loved using the little Cranky cars to propel themselves around a little track. The engineer would pull that cord on the Cagney Train and let off the steam that had built up inside the steam engine with a loud blast.

So I think that's what happened to me last night. The pressure had built up and built up to the point that I thought I would explode.

"I just can't do it all." I cried last night. "I'm only one person."

"How can I help? What can I do?" my husband asked. (They do tend to want to fix things after all.)

"I don't know." And I just sobbed some more.

Afterwards I felt, well, better. It was like crying and admitting the pressure helped to release that steam just like those old steam engines.

So after I stopped crying I started cleaning. I don't know why I get this urge to vacuum and clean when I'm upset, but I do. I tackle it with all my frustration and with the house looking a little better and the steam let off, I went to bed, too tired to argue with myself anymore.

I know that there are some things I can do nothing about (our finances for example) and other things I can (maybe I need to get up a bit earlier in the morning to try to catch up on some work) and I need to take a look at those things.

But last week my husband and I shared the story of Peter walking on the water out to Jesus with my daughter's four year old class. Peter did just fine on the water when he was looking at Jesus. But when he looked around at the waves, that's when he started to sink. "Oh, you of little faith. Why did you doubt?" Jesus asked him.

And that's my problem in a nutshell. Looking at the circumstances rather than Jesus. Walking in fear, rather than faith. Believing what I see rather than what He says.


I know He's trying to shape me and form me. I know that the pressure I'm under is for my good and not my destruction. But I have to admit, I'm thankful that a good cry really does let off steam.

Stop by anytime, we're always open.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Welcome to the Girls & God Cafe!

Pretty cool, eh?

There's just something about a new look that is invigoratng...and motivating. I hope you all like it too.

I particularly liked this image because one of my most favorite places to talk about God is during "girlfriend time". You know, that time when you can get away from the kids and laundry for a few hours and just refresh.

Chatting in the cyber-cafe is fun too, though I'd still enjoy having the latte by my side.

I also liked the waitress gal leaning over her shoulder and listening because even though it's an eavesdropping kind of thing - don't we want people to perk up their ears when they hear us talking about God? I want to have converstaions that I wouldn't mind someone listening in on. Conversations that glorify God and lift people up. Words that are edifying and encouraging to the hearer. So even if you're just listening in...welcome...I'm glad you're here. And maybe you'll find something here that'll lift your spirits or encourage your heart.

Darlene did a great job, didn't she?? Here's my round of applause...and if you'd like to see her other designs you'll find a link to her site on the sidebar.

But stop back anytime - we're always open:-)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Needing a Change?

I think we all get an urge for a change. When I was growing up, I only had so many things at my disposal that I could change so change usually involved moving my furniture around.

I still like to move furniture around. Some of my friends get sudden urges to paint their walls. I have the urge to paint, and I talk about it a lot but I haven't actually gotten around to doing it. Mostly because I have images of my two year old rolling around it. It's not like I can lock her in a room for a day just to satisfy my need for color!

I used to have hair that hung down to my waist, all one length except for my bangs. Two days after I got back from my honeymoon I got it all chopped off. Yes, I'll admit to feelings of horror and few tears as I looked around the chair in the salon, but it felt like I was shedding off part of who I was and embarking on a new adventure.

But even though I describe it as an urge, I don't jump into any change lightly. I tend to think about things for a long time, and one day it seems like I'm just ready to do it. (Though since I don't always share that thought process with my husband he still feels like it's sudden. I've learned to try to broach the issue a little earlier "Honey, I've been thinking about X." Then he has time to mentally prepare.)

So I've been blogging for a while. I wasn't sure I was going to stick with it to be honest. But now that I have, I've decided that I just don't want to look like thousands of other blogs on the net that chose the same free template. It's time for a change I tell you! So I've been working with a designer (hey, I know my limitations!) to come up with a new look for my little corner of the net. Today, we're one step closer.

So stick around...and get ready for a change.

P.S. - This note is for all of you like my husband that like a moment to prepare for change before it actually happens:-)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Barely Clothed

I mentioned to my mother in passing that my six year old daughter wanted to go see the Hilary Duff concert in Baltimore that was coming up.

It was really meant as a joke when I said she should buy the tickets.

But she bought the tickets anyway (floor seats mind you).

Do you realize what this means? It means that in just a few hours I am going to be driving to Baltimore to attend a Hilary Duff concert with perhaps tens of thousands screaming tweenagers.

I'm seriously considering earplugs.

But it could be worse. My daughter fell in love with Hilary mostly because of Lizze McGuire and the daily re-runs of the show that play on the Disney Channel. It's a nice little show for the most part and Hilary, unlike some of her counterparts, has remained fairly G-rated. My daughter won't really understand the angsty lyrics - she just listens to the music. And when I've seen her perform, it is without the belly-baring, barely clothed antics of some.

So I can deal with Hilary - though I can hardly help but wonder how long she will stay clean and remember her very-young fan-base. So many of these teens decide at some point that they have to outgrow that image and doing that often leads them to the scanty clothing, sexy dance moves and R-rated music videos. When I was growing up, Tiffany was a big thing (I actually even saw her in concert - I remember she performed in overalls) as well as Debbie Gibson. Debbie was just in the news recently after posing naked in a magazine so that she could shed that bubble-gum image. Miss Lohan is always splashed in the tabloids and is known for partying and her "soft-porn" music videos. Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson both bare as much as possible.


I wonder when "growing up" became first and formeost about sex & nudity and not mature, responsible behavior? And since I have three little girls growing up in this culture, I worry about the messages they are being sent.

I would despair if it weren't for my faith that my kids can forge a different path, set a different standard. It's hard to go against the flow, but that's sort of what Christianity is all about. Jesus said, I did not come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword. If we live His life, then we'll make waves, and enemies and be misunderstood. It's part of belonging to Him.

So I'll support Miss Hilary for as long as I can. We'll see where the next few years lead her. May God bring His light and truth into her life, and surround her with His presence.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Free at last...

Oh to be finished!

I packed up my top picks from the fifty books that came a while back for judging and e-mailed my critiques today. I feel like doing a dance I'm so happy to be done with it.

Don't get me wrong, I still have a ton of things to do, but I love checking things off my list. I get this great feeling of satisfaction from rubbing it out and being finished. In fact, that's why I make the lists in the first place - just for the satisfaction of checking it off. Well, that, and the fact that I'm way more forgetful these days than I used to be. I'm really not that old - but three pregnancies and too many things going on have done me in! I drove my daughter to a gymnastics class today that doesn't start until next week.

Which means I have to put it back on my list.

I think my obsession with lists is part of the reason why laundry frustrates me so much. It's really never done. And it's only "done" for a half a day, at most. It's kind of depressing.

So while one big project is finished, six others are looming. I've started on all of them but have not finished any of them. I'm going to have to, bad word alert!, discipline myself and stick with one at a time and get them completed. It's so easy when there are a number of big projects to just jump to another one when you get stuck on the one you're working on. It helps stay fresh but it doesn't knock any off the list.

I used to be big on goal-setting. And for some it's a very effective strategy. (I just tend to feel more guilty when I don't accomplish my impossible goals.) But nevertheless, I'm making a goal - tackle one project at a time.

I'll keep you posted:-)

Tonight though, I'm giving myself a celebration break! Trust me, I desreve it. You should have seen some of the books I had to read!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Big Mean Judge

I'd like to jump up and down and say I'm finished with the box of fifty books that arrived a while back, but the truth is that there's one more, very large book to go. Sigh. I just want to be finished. I've been judging a Writer's Digest contest and for some insane reason, I thought fifty books would be no problem. And it probably wouldn't have been except that it came precisely at the time when I received an e-mail from my agent letting me know I needed to turn in five 1/2 book proposals!

I felt like I got caught out in a thunderstorm.

And it's been so hard to write the critiques. How do you write commentary on a book that isn't really very good and the author is this little old lady. I don't want to be mean to a little old lady! So instead of saying the book isn't good, well I point out that they have a great title. And so on, to the point that I read over the critique and realize that it doesn't sound mean, it's actually encouraging, and should I be doing that??

You see, I've run into two huge problems while reading these books.

1) Most of the books have really nice endorsements from supposedly real people. Even the really bad ones!

So my artist temperament immediately begins to wring her hands. "If this person found someone to say nice things about her book, then what if all my books are horrible and everybody who knows me is just being nice. Just like I was with the little old lady."

I think it really does a disservice to people to tell them something is good when it's really dreck. But to be comletely honest - I'm not sure I could handle it! It's one thing to be told things could be stronger - I hope to keep growing as a writer my entire life. But "room for improvement" is a totally different concept from "this is really bad".

and 2) I really want people to like me. It's a disease really, and I could give you the whole long dysfunctional family version but since many of you probably suffer with the same thing, you can figure it out.

So even though these people will read my comments anonymously - I still worry about how I say things. I don't want them to label me The Big Mean Judge, or even worse, The Idiot who doesn't know what she's talking about. The little old lady I mentioned above? Well, my box actually had lots of books from little old ladies. And also a good bit from teenagers and one who had a website that made me seriously question her mental stability. I don't want to be the one to send her over the edge! I can't be the one to dash these people's big dreams - winning a major contest.

But just as there are people who should NOT be singing in a choir (me, included), there are people who should not be writing. At least not without some serious study under their belts. We can all improve, we can all grow...but we're not all cut out to write books.

And that brings me to my biggest fear of all...

What if that's me! I struggle with the idea that I am a writer, that God has called me to do it and has placed within me the ability to do it. I know I have a long way to go. I'm not delusional. But I realized something when I was walking around CBA and looking at the enormous posters and wall sized book covers plastering the place -I really just want the chance to keep writing. I realize that I may never have a bestseller. I can live with that. I realize I have lots of "room for improvement". I can live with that, too.

But I digress.

As I finish up with my "judge's commentary" I have the urge to put Good Try! or Way To Go! stickers across the top of the papers to soften any blow (I still have plenty left from teaching sceond grade). I think I'm going to retire from this though and sign up for a different program. Working with writers who are there to learn, not ones who think they already know it. It'll be easier on me, I think.

And probably them too.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Back from Vacation...

After a week of following my kids around Sesame Place and Dutch Wonderland and the Crayola and Hershey Factory, I think I've misplaced my brain.

So today was my day over at 4:12 LIVE! So I'll be back here tomorrow...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

So Much Pain...

I've been reading hundreds of stories about cutting lately and have been so overwhelmed with how much pain is present in each each poem. There are times I sit at my computer and simply cry, wishing I could do something, anything, to let every one of them know that they are not alone.

Because it is so easy to feel alone, isn't it?

Even when our struggles seem small in comparison to someone else's pain, it's easy to feel like no one else could possibly understand what we are going through. Plenty of people have lost a father just like I have. But there is a part of me that really does think that no one knows how much I really lost.

Except one person, that is.

I think that's the most amazing part of following Jesus for me personally - I am never alone. Even if I feel alone, and completely misunderstood (which frankly still happens when you're adult, too), I know that God sees everything and He "gets it". With Him there are no explainations necessary because He knows my heart fully and loves me still.

There's a song sung by Barlow Girl that always touches me.

I waited for you today
But you didn't show
No no.
I needed you today
So where did you go?
You told me to call
Said you'd be there
And though I haven't seen you
Are you still there?

I cried out with no reply
And I can't feel you by my side
So I'll hold tight to what I know
You're here and I'm never alone

And though I cannot see you
And I can't explain why
Such a deep reassurance
You've placed in my life.
We cannot separate
'Cause you're part of me.
And though you're invisible
I'll trust the unseen.

Even when I can't feel Him by my side, He is there. What a comfort that is to me! And may it comfort you, too, when you're feeling that loneliness creep in. He knows us fully and loves us still.

(I feel like I'm coming off as SO serious - which I'm not usually - it's all this sad stuff I've been reading lately - I promise I'll try to write something less somber when I come back:-)

Cross Post from 4:12 LIVE!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

No regrets...

Our pastor shared a story about a young missionary named William Borden who was the heir to a fortune in the early 1900's, but instead of living a life of inherited luxury, he pledged his life to God and went to school so that he could become a missionary. He went to Egypt to study Arabic but contracted meningitis and died soon after in his mid-twenties. In his Bible, he had inscribed the words "no reserve, no retreat, no regrets" in his Bible.

It was a story that touched me deeply because it resonated with my heart.

No reserve - I don't want to hold anything back from God. My life either belongs to Him or it doesn't. He's either in control or I am. I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the earth - even in the midst of terrible circumstances - and I must believe He knows what He is doing - even when I don't.

No retreat - there is no going back. I came to a place during college that I realized that I had come to that exact turning point. "Either I am going to go all the way with God or this stops here." It was like facing that fork in the road and I knew that decision would change the course of my life. That's when God became my "all in all". He was no longer something I was when I was surrounded br friends or in church. He was my very life source and I knew there would be no going back.

No regrets - My dad's life was full of "somedays" when I was growing up. His plans were always "down the road". He died last fall never doing many of the things I know he wanted to - too preocuppied with the busyness of life to actually live it. I don't want to, as far as I am able, get to the end of my life and wish I had done it differently. That's why we take family vacations even though money is tight. That's why I stay home with my kids instead of working so that we could live more comfortably. That's why I seize the opportunities that come even when there are obstacles to overcome.

It's not that I don't make mistakes (there are plenty) or that I don't struggle like everyone else. But there is just something that's settled in my heart that lets me move forward even if there is no one else around to cheer me on (other than my sweet husband who always encourages me). The course that God has laid before me is for me. Not for the friend that sits across from me at lunch or my next door neighbor. It's a uniquely designed course just for me. It doesn't really matter that no one else knows how hard it is to run it - God knows - and He's with me every step of the way.

It's exactly how Jesus lived His life on the earth too. No reserve - He poured it all out for us. No retreat - He never turned aside from what He came to do. And no regrets - He counted our lives worth the sacrifice of His.

Now that is something to celebrate.