Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pondering Usefulness

Each morning one of the prayers I say is the 7th step prayer from 12 step group literature.

My Creator, I am now willing that You have all of me, both good and bad. Please remove from me every defect of character that stands in the way of usefulness to You and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go out from here to do Your bidding.

About four years ago, I began a little list after this prayer. I wrote “Turn my fear into faith.” See I used to deal with fear in a major way that disrupted my family’s life, my sleep and definitely my usefulness to God and others. I tried everything WITHIN MY POWER to just get brave. Didn’t happen. Along the way I realized that I cannot change myself. I can’t muster up goodness or bravery or joy.

The Bible says that the Spirit ripens in our lives FRUIT – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. A tree can’t just pop out fruit. The process must be in place for the fruit to ripen. Ultimately, the tree has to yield to the life giving force that makes this happen.

So I gave up control, a little at a time, and began letting God be God. I would pray and keep close to Him and wait. Through a series of events, fear began to change to faith. I added to the list “Turn my worry to peace, my prattling on and on to listening, my greed to contentment.” Again, God has been faithful and is changing me. Now I have an entire page of my journal dedicated to asking the Lord to turn my defects into attributes of usefulness.

I am so far from being where I want to be. So many days I ask myself, “Was I useful to God or others today?” and the answer is “Nope.” But the ripening process is at work within me and I am grateful. I can talk about it easily because it’s not like I went through a four step formula to become the best me possible. That would ultimately glorify, well, me.

No, the growth I see in my life is ALL ABOUT CHRIST. He is the one working in me. I am allowing Him to be in control.

Today, I hope to be useful. We’ll see what God does.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Heeerrrrreee's Scooobbby!

Quite a few blogs I read have guest bloggers for a day. Upon considering this, I invited a friend of mine to jot down some of his thoughts to share with you. May I introduce my personal friend and guest blogger, Scooby Doo Iobst, puggle extraordinaire.

Thank you, Robbie. It is an honor to be here.

When Robbie asked me to write something for her blog, I pondered the various topics that go through my brain on a daily basis. As I checked the list, it became apparent to me that one subject stood above the rest. Seeing that Robbie's blog is called Joy Dance, I chose to blog about the one thing that gives me joy above the rest.


This morning Robbie and I arose to greet a bright shining day. The first order of business as it should be was to feed me. Without going into any details, my colon has some tender issues. Robbie tells me it is highly important that my diet is consistent. However, a nice man offered me treats at the dog park the other day and I took them. I heard Robbie's "NO!" in the background, but how could I offend the nice man? You understand, right?

Anyway, the extra treats caused a bit of...well...can I say this here? Diarrhea. Ergo, this morning my breakfast consisted of rice, pumpkin fiber and a bit of dog food.

The real tragedy to my tale comes next. After Robbie fed me she then turned and prepared eggs and BACON for her family. BACON! Ahh. The aroma of bacon takes me to a place of exhilaration and comfort, ecstasy and longing. I get tingly all over. Oh, I'm sorry. TMI.

I got no bacon. In the highest form of cruelty possible I just roamed the house amidst the smell of heaven.

But then it hit me. An epiphany. Dogs can have epiphanies, you know. They are just a bit closer to the ground. Anyway, I realized that joy can come by the experience of delighting in someone else's good fortune. Sure, I would love to have the taste of bacon surging within me. But since that was impossible I decided to welcome the joy of the bacon smell as my family enjoyed the taste. I chose to dance within the borders of dead pig aroma and my paws became light as air. I soared, happy within the pungent olfactory sensations as I pictured myself running alongside Farmer John.

I did stay close to the plates on the look out for a piece of porcine goodness. I am, after all, the dog.

My encouragement to you: Take today and enjoy the bacon smells of your life. Perhaps you love something else, though why I would never know. But enjoy it to the fullest.

Some of you may be convinced that the greatest joy is in giving. Today I encourage you to enjoy something for yourself just for today. I have prepared a short list:
Bacon and eggs
Bacon wrapped shrimp
Bacon cheeseburger
You get the idea.

Thank you Robbie, for the chance to express my heart and deep felt appreciation for one of God's greatest creations, bacon. (The whole Kosher thing confuses me; perhaps God was trying to keep it for Himself.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I bought my nine-year-old boy a wash rag and presented it to him.

“What is that?” he looked at said cloth like it was a green slimy foreign food I had given to him to swallow whole.

“This is a wash rag. You use it to clean yourself.”


I recently had his eyes checked, but not his ears.

“Noah, you use it in the bath tub.”


I thought of the old Bill Cosby routine about telling your kid to go take a bath. (BTW, I couldn’t find this routine on line so I am paraphrasing. If anyone knows how I can find original, let me know. It is all BILL COSBY.)

Cosby, the funniest parent alive, tells his child the following commands:

Take a bath.

Turn on the water.

Get your body wet.

Get your ENTIRE body wet.


Use soap ON your body.

ALL OVER your body.

Rinse your body.


Rinse your ENTIRE body.

Dry your body.


Use a towel ALL OVER your body.


So I took a clue from Mr. Cosby and walked Noah through hygene 101. He watched me intently, but I have no idea if any of what I was saying was getting through. It’s as if he has turned 9 and immediately made hygene the least important thing in his life, right below paying attention to Mom’s list of commands.

I decided we would learn the new behaviors as we go, so I just gave him the wash rag.

“Go put that away.”


I stared at my offspring. My beloved, cherished little boy.



Help me, Bill!

Monday, February 18, 2008


Wouldn’t it be cool to walk through a day with a soundtrack behind you? Like a scene in the movies?

Music almost always evokes emotion. When you hear that scary impending doom music in a movie, you sit up a little and say things like “Don’t go in there!” When you hear a swell of inspirational music, a lump might fill your throat followed a tear in the eye. And I love those scenes where characters are driving across country or down an ocean shore with some toe-tapping happy music.

So what would your soundtrack be? At least what song would be in the background of your life right now? I would love to know.

For me, “I’m Walking on Sunshine” would be the song I would LOVE to hear as I leave the house and go through my day. But it is cold! I guess I am going to go with Frank Sinatra’s “Young at Heart.” It’s a hopeful song, kinda slow, but with a swing. Sounds perfect for me right now.

So what about you?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Quilt of Grace

I cannot begin to contemplate the width, the depth, the magnitude of the grace of God. Just don’t get it. The definition is clear: getting what we don’t deserve. But a gift of grace is one thing. A kind word uttered to me when I am harboring some serious unkind thoughts. John cleaning out my car for me when it was me alone who trashed it. (He did this last Sunday afternoon – better than a dozen roses to me.) Simple, wonderful acts of grace I can wrap my mind around.

But living a lifetime ensconced by God’s grace? Do I really walk around with this invisible quilt on which the hand of God has sewn “This is my girl”- Me?

I don’t get this. At all.

In fact, I find myself trying to ditch the quilt just because my mind, my flesh tells me I don’t deserve it. I am a hypocrite to even associate myself with it.

But then…ahhh. I sit with elbows on the table, hand in my chin and I grin. Ahh. The point is that simple choice of holding on to His gift for me. The quilt is a covering of love born of His choice to allow His Son to die for me. Of course I don’t deserve it. I have a black heart of sin and I always will. But His grace, that quilt that covers me, warms me and gives me the freedom to live life to the fullest. So I hold on for dear life and turn my head upward in thanks.

It happened for me this year. At least it is beginning to happen. For the first time in my life, I am experiencing true freedom. The bondage that I have struggled with my entire existence on Planet Earth is falling away, shackle by shackle. I am finding myself truly loving who God made me to be. With each of those moments, I am chunking, throwing away, trashing, disposing of and eliminating every single thought of “It matters what other people think of me.”

This is a miracle. My life has been dictated, at least largely, by what other people might think of my actions or looks. But that quilt, that beautiful hand stitched covering is providing the security that I always sought in others. I have been a Christian since I was fourteen years old. 31 years! Why now? Why didn’t I fly with the freedom of Christ as a teenager or young woman or even an older wife and mom? The answer is clear – I am a slow learner. But those years, those struggles, made me who I am today. In His tapestry, I was woven exactly how I should be. In my choices, both wrong and right, I walked toward this freedom.

My mother made quilts. Each of the ones that she made was pieced together with scraps of the materials she used to make us clothes. In her masterpieces I see memories of recital dresses and shirts I wore in school pictures. I see her, too. She is sitting at the kitchen table, bent over and working diligently, stitch by stitch. I see her looking up at me and smiling, probably adding a wink. She did that a lot. I miss her every day.
But her quilts also provide a great object lesson for me in grace. On the last Christmas before she died, my mom gave my siblings and me quilts she had made, each one a gift of herself. A gift of grace. And just like today when I wrap up in her quilt and remember this wonderful woman, I can use a mixture of imagination and faith and see myself walking through life covered in God’s quilt He made for me. A beautiful covering of grace that is meant to be used and gripped.

In His grace, I can laugh at myself. In His grace, I can accept myself and every pound that goes with me. In His grace, I can speak to other women about Christ’s love and not worry that I am not a perfect teacher. In His grace, I can dream and work toward being a writer and enjoy the process without obsessing about publication. In His grace, I can dance with my husband and son and love them as they so deserve to be loved.

I still don’t get it. His grace is just too big. But today, I can snuggle under a blanket and look up and smile. I can’t wrap my mind around His grace, but I can let His grace wrap around me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Having my cake and suffering with it too!

Whoever coined the phrase “That was a piece of cake” was talking with his mouth full of a delicious slice someone ELSE had baked and iced – not him! Eating cake – this is something I can handle, even with a bit of dexterity and finesse. Making cake, not so much.

As I ponder what happened a week ago Saturday I am reminded of a few verses I have been thinking about lately from Romans 5. “...we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering builds perseverance and perseverance character, and character, hope…”
I know the word suffering evokes images of persecution and real pain due to sickness and death, but don’t we grow in Christ from the every day annoyances that come our way? Many of us never REALLY suffer in the way we see on TV or hear about in the news. But I think that God grows us through our reactions to the “little” sufferings, too. The days when the car won’t start or we can’t find our keys. Our reactions in those moments are absolute fodder for growth in God. My latest test of “suffering” came in the form of a cake mix, some icing and food color and the imminent arrival of little boys.

February 2nd was my sweet boy’s 9th birthday party. He wanted a Lego cake and friends over to celebrate. In our planning I decided to make the cake. You need to know that after the fact it occurred to me that I have NEVER made my son a birthday cake. Never. I have always bought the cake or my good friend Stacey in California has made him a cake. But for some reason, I knew that I could do this. In fact, I wouldn’t just make Noah a cake, but a Lego cake. I would make a sheet cake and then use little upside down cupcakes to make it look like a toy Lego.

As usual, my planning came with Walter Mitty like visions:

My son hugging me in delight, thanking me profusely for the exquisite creation!

Moms dropping off their boys but wanting to see the cake first. Admiration and envy cover their faces.

Before we sang “Happy Birthday,” a room of little boys who oohed and aahed over the cake, each looking at Noah and nodding in respect for the mother God gave him.

Saturday morning I began my project. I used Betty Crocker cake mixes and made up miniature cupcakes and then two sheet cakes. Betty Crocker would come through for me, I just knew it.

“Noah, what color Lego do you want?”



I mixed green food color with the icing. I was ready.

When I turned the first cake over, it fell apart. No big deal. I have watched that TV show “Ace of Cakes” and I know that cakes can be fixed. Anyway I was going to cover everything with icing. Carefully, I gathered my tools and went to work. How difficult could this be?

Suffering began.

It looked, well, like a green kindergarten mud pie.

Every time I tried to put icing on, brown speckles of chocolate cake showed up and the cake itself kept falling apart. I decided I needed different tools. In my brainstorming, (dangerous) I decided it would all be better if I iced with my fingers.

Tears came with the suffering. My final masterpiece looked like a bright green eroded castle in Scotland.

At this point, I had several choices.

1) I could serve it as is. Knowing myself though, I would probably hand out the slices with a frown and warning, “DO NOT SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THIS CAKE OR I WILL CALL YOUR MOTHER IMMEDIATELY.” I don’t think Noah would understand Mommy’s rage in the middle of his good time.

2) I could continue on and mold the thing into a volcano. As I served it I could reference Richard Dreyfuss and the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind where he designed the Devils Mountain out of mashed potatoes. It could be art! No, they wouldn’t get it.

3) I did the only thing I could think of to do.

Honey will you take this out to the trash and go buy another cake? John used that “Okay, dear,” smile he has. This means he is not happy about going out again in the snow and ice at all but he knows if he doesn’t he will end up in the snow and ice anyway.

John brought back a great cake. Noah never knew the difference.

So in my suffering, I chose to laugh after a moment of tears. It was a silly little project and I decided that knowing my limits (or signing up for cake decorating) is the way to go. Did I grow? I hope so. I hope Christ will use this to teach me once again, laughing at myself and my mistakes makes way for joy to grow.

A moment about me throwing away that food - if you are wondering about the starving children of China, I invited them to the party.

They RSVPed, “Who is making the cake?”

When I replied that I was, they emailed me, “We are not that hungry.”

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Oscar Time is Coming!

I just finished a four hour lunch lady shift and my feet are killing me! Lunch ladies work hard for the money...they work hard for the money...they work hard for the money so you better treat them right! Did you hear a song in that?

But my screaming soles have nothing to do with today's blog. It is all about the movies! I love to go to the movies and with that hobby of mine, I have been watching the Academy Award show for years. For many of those shows, my friends Susy, Stacey, Robin and I threw Oscar parties. Our biggest had our home filled with 75 people and three TVs. Each party involved a ballot for each guest, silly prizes and lots of food. Some of the dishes were homages to the films nominated that year. Good times!

My parties have gotten much smaller throughout the years and now a days I usually just watch the show with John, at least until he goes to bed or decides to do something he really wants to do. But he understands Academy Award Day is like a holiday to me. I always go and get a pedicure or treat myself to a new book or something to just celebrate. I think the reason I like this show so much is that the essence of it all is encouragement. It is a night of a glamorous "You did a good job." I like seeing what everyone is wearing, too. Most Oscar nights I will be on the phone with my friend Susy, who now lives in Chicago, and we will "dish" about outfits and banter about the silliness and fun of it all.

Some of the movies are horrid. I know this. But I still like the idea of the dream of Hollywood. So clearly I remember my first trip to Tinsel Town and the utter disappointment at how dirty downtown Hollywood is. But the idea, the Jimmy Stewart and Barbara Stanwick version of life on the screen, is still appealing to me.

So, I make it a point to see at least MOST of the movies nominated for Best Picture. I don't always do this, especially if one of the nominees is appalling to me. But this year, I found a $5 theatre and went to all five films up for Best Picture. Here is my 2 cents worth:

1) JUNO - LOVED IT! Very quirky, very well written. A young sassy teenager gets pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption. Her journey is filled with characters that you end up really liking. Her parents are delightful. In one scene, Juno is asking her dad if there is a way to know what your purpose on earth is. She wonders outloud if anyone really knows what they are on earth for. Without hesitation, her dad says he does. "Heating and Airconditioning!" Juno does not present the Christian world view of premarital sex, but it does put a very positive spin on adoption! If you are like me, and some of you, whether you admit it or not ARE like me, you will leave the theatre grinning and going over the great writing in your head. One flash of almost sex, lots of inuendos, some cussing. See it with some girlfriends!

2) MICHAEL CLAYTON - LOVED IT! This is one of those fabulous adult movies where you have to be smarter than a fifth grader to figure out what is going on. I love a good movie that makes you think and follow and devise your own plot points. I love it even more when what I predicted would happen, doesn't. George Clooney is Geoge Clooney, smirky or sincere, depending on the scene. The star here is the PLOT. I really enjoyed the ride. But CUDOS to the supporting actress and supporting actor - of course I don't know their names - but they were great. She played a CEO who is very stressed out and he a smart lawyer who is going insane. No sex, not a lot of cussing. Take your husband - this would be a great date movie!

3) ATONEMENT - IT WAS OKAY. I am so over Kiera whatshername. I liked her in the soccer movie and the Pirate movies, but it seems she keeps playing the same part. The guy who was the Faun in Narnia plays her love interest and the plot between them is sorta interesting but gets REALLY BELABORED. The way this was directed was the most enjoyable part for me. This little girl witnesses something, she thinks, and that is the crux of the movie. How the director shows us her point of view was fascinating to me. And she likes to write and becomes a writer. So, the director uses the sound effect of a typewriter's keys as she walks. I loved that. But overall, it wasn't something I would recommend and I love British accent movies. One really needlessly graphic sex scene, lots of cussing, some violence. Skip it, but if you HAVE to see it, wait for video.

4) THERE WILL BE BLOOD - UCK. I am biased, first of all, because I can't stand Daniel Day Lewis. He is SO strained. In the movie My Left Foot, he was SO strained. In the Last Mohican, he was SO strained. In this movie, guess what? He is SO strained. How can you relax and enjoy a movie while watching someone who seems like any minute they will have a heart attack or finally be cured of chronic constipation?
As for the plot, it is all about power! Lewis is an oil man who belives in hard work. But his hard work and success turns into a need for power over those around him. His "foil" is a young preacher who believes in faith and church, but his success in preaching turns into a need for power over those around him. Needless to say, they butt heads. I didn't like the ending. But to be honest, by that time, I felt so STRAINED, I just wanted it to end. Please, just SKIP THIS. Lots of blood and violence, lots of cussing.

5) NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN - Are YOU KIDDING ME? THIS WAS NOMINATED?????? So my nephew Justin, a movie aficianado as myself, warned me. He told me this was just a hopeless movie. He was right. Serial killer who has absolutely no redeeming value is after Josh Brolin's character, who has just a tad bit of redeeming value. Tommy Lee Jones, the sheriff trying to figure out everything, but who is always one step behind, is the ONLY interesting thing in this movie. The Cohen brothers wrote and directed and I guess they are trying to show us deeper levels of existential violence and crime. To me, it was like walking into one of those art galleries with a big black dot on the wall and being asked what did I get out of it. Nothing. It is a big, black dot. And this movie was a big, black hopeless dot. There is a chase involved and that always adds some thrill, but not much. I hope this doesn't win. I really hope this doesn't win! See this only if you want to take a shower of hopelessness.

February 24th, I think, is the big day! I can't wait! It is just silly fun!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cool Adventures

What a great, hectic fun week I have had. Noah turned 9 and we had a birthday party for him on Saturday, before which I completely ruined his Lego cake. It was one of those situations where I cried and then threw up my hands and laughed. Maybe sometime I will blog about it specifically, complete with pictures of the massacred cake.

Monday was my first official day as a substitute lunch lady! That's right, I got a part time substitute gig as a woman with a hairnet passing out mystery meat and green beans to eager little faces. I think it was destiny. I have always enjoyed Adam Sandler's song "Lunch Lady" that he performed on Saturday Night Live complete with Chris Farley as a lunch lady with large mole. My first novella, still unpublished, is the story of a woman who is a retired, that's right, lunch lady. The last season of "Survivor" I rooted for, you guessed it, the lunch lady! I will blog about my new adventures in elementary cafeterias in future posts.

This morning I took my first trip across Denver in snow packed, icy weather. Although I have driven around my neighborhood in this kind of weather I have never gone too far. I was scheduled to speak at a MOPS meeting, my 4th of 7 this year, in Brighton, Colorado. Normally it is a 45 minute drive. I made it in one hour and forty-five minutes. Quite a milestone for me, but I did it and I didn't freak out or arrive at the church shaking in my boots, thank you Jesus!

And tonight, well, it is pretty cool what happened tonight.

Let me start by saying my mom was a Republican and my dad a Democrat. Very interesting household, because I learned both points of view and I also developed a love for the patriotism behind having ideals, not just the conviction of one party's ideals. So I vote. I have opinions. I express them when I feel appropriate.

These days, I am excited by the sheer process of democracy. It is fun, not to have the presidential campaign all wrapped up yet. I like it. Today is Super Tuesday and for the first time Colorado had a caucus along with many other states. I have voted in primaries, but never participated in a caucus. After visiting the internet,I discovered a caucus is a meeting of voters, not a primary where you go to a local polling place. Hmmm, I thought. Sounds fun.

So, off I went at 6:15 to go to my local caucus. The junior high school I went to was crowded but crackling with the electricity of excitement. No one was a stranger as we discussed the candidates in the cold line outside the building. Happily, we moved as herds to the different classrooms which held the different precincts. As we shuffled, we chatted with each other about policies, the war and again, the candidates.

I am a proud member of precinct 231 and in my group, there were 38 of us. We took a straw poll, in which each person for this candidate went to this side of the room and people for the other candidate went to the other side of the room. There was some good natured ribbing during this process as well as one guy who was way, way, way too serious. Then within our groups, we elected delegates who will go to the county convention. These delegates are not THE delegates for the national convention, but are important in that they continue the democratic process to the next level.

I was elected to be a delegate. Talk about proud. Sure, there is a level of synicism within me that knows my title of delegate doesn't amount to a hill of beans compared to the true politics of our nation. But I participated. I shared my voice because I could. I spoke up because I am an American and I want to be part of the solution and not an apathetic part of the problem.

When discussing what I was going to do tonight, John and I explained to Noah that his parents don't always agree on politics and that is okay. In fact, Noah has one parent who is a Democrat and one parent who is a Republican.

He asked us, "Which should I be?"

John and I both put our obvious sarcastic answers aside and told him that he would have the chance to decide for himself as he grew up. We told him the important thing is to participate and take a stand for what he believes. We did our best to try to explain the differences between Democrat and Republican without bias. It was a special moment for me afterward as I watched his little mind thinking. As I put my coat on to go I heard him say to himself, "What should I be?"

The adventure that Christ has given me to live continues. I am blessed. Go America! Go God!