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We are seven days into the New Year. If it were any other year, I would be struggling with my list of New Year’s RESOLUTIONS and feeling miserable by now. You know, the list of things you want to change about yourself, behaviors and patterns from what has been your norm. Things like losing weight, exercising more, reading the bible in a year, being a better mom and wife, etc.

As I said before, I have determined that RESOLUTIONS are nothing more than me trying to take control over something in my life for which I never really had control. Thus, I set myself up for failure and all the lovely emotions of disappointment and self-loathing that accompany failure.

This year God has prompted me to rethink RESOLUTIONS. Rather than focusing on a list of RESOLUTIONS that involve my making changes, He has given me a WORD that He will use to refine me.hearts on cross wood jpg

The WORD is INTENTIONAL. It is taking action, purposely stepping out in God’s character, offering Him the driver’s seat of my life and allowing myself to be renewed by Him in this New Year.

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) If we believe this statement to be true, then we must accept that we were designed to be like God, to have His character.

We cannot adopt God’s character by putting His characteristics down on a list and expecting to receive them by sheer will. It is through the Holy Spirit and our willingness and commitment to obeying God that brings about seeing Him in us. Read Full Article →

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I saw this meme on a friend’s page on Facebook the other day and it made me laugh. I read it out loud to husband who also chuckled. I am not sure if it was sincere or obligatory in an attempt to ward off my using one of the words against him.Five Deadly Women Words

I know I have said these words in exactly that way and I bet many of you have as well. Whether you are male or female, I am sure you relate to this “secret” language that we are making light of here.

I started to share the post to have a laugh over it with friends but was stopped short. A sense of deep sadness swept over me as the truth about using this “secret” language or “code words” took hold.

We speak these code words, sometimes flippantly, in frustration, or maybe even in exasperation, expecting our spouses to understand.  We may even use these code words on our children, friends, or coworkers.

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heart_mini Of all the tough lessons God has been teaching me these past few months over managing relationships, impossible conversations, grief, and sorting through stuff, this one feels even harder. It is testing my patience, forcing me to be calm, presenting me with unanswerable questions, and presenting me with the ultimate question.PML Fire Jer29_11

For almost a week now I have been pensively watching the Rim Fire in California. It started at 16,000 acres last weekend and is up to over 126,000 as of this morning. It has even made national news as it has reached into Yosemite National Park (the high country, not the valley where all the amazing waterfalls and granite masterpieces reside) and because Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is at risk which provides San Francisco with water and much of its power.

For most people it is a stop and take notice for a brief second but for me it is consuming, an obsession. The most recent mandatory evacuation area for this fire is within ½ mile of my precious refuge, my father’s house on the mountain at the lake. There is so much irony in all of this as we have been engaging in hard conversations about what to do with the house, how to manage dad’s stuff, and next steps, which may all be mute. Read Full Article →

I have spent the past two weeks in pain. I mean literal pain, the kind of pain that hurts, that is debilitating and feels like it will never end.  The kind of pain that makes you feel sorry for yourself and compels others to feel sorry for you and secretly thankful that they are not you.

I spent a week at my dad’s home up in the mountains at the lake with my sister. We were starting the process of sorting through and reorganizing some our dad’s things and beginning the discussions between us and my stepmom about what to do with the house.  That is really when my pain began.

It started in my heart as my grief over the loss of my dad moved into the forefront of my mind with the dreaded discussion of what to do with his house that has become my special place, my retreat, and my refuge.  I could almost feel my heart bleed knowing that his wonderful house is going to become something different and likely belonging to someone different, sooner rather than later.

I am not entirely certain how I injured my back that week. We did do a lot of sorting through boxes and moving a few things around.   I also played with my wonderful 18-month-old giant of a nephew. I am not kidding about the giant part. He weighs 30 lbs. and is the size of a 3-year-old.

Whatever it was that started the spasms in my back left me in sheer agony, hurting so bad that the only place I could find marginal relief was on my side or flat on my back in bed.

It left me with lots of time to think through and experience my pain. I became so consumed by it that I even looked up the definition of pain: suffering, distress or torment that presents physically, emotionally or both.  Words used to describe pain are torture, misery, torment, ache, agony and anguish. That was me!

We have all experienced these emotions and my obvious conclusion is that pain stinks. Really, is there any other kind of pain? Before you stop reading because all I have done so far is complain, I want to share with you how God met me in the midst of one of my better pity parties to answer that question.

As I pondered all of these things, feeling horribly sorry for myself, daughter arrived. She lied down next to me and read to me as has been our custom all week. She was very careful about how she moved around me so as not to cause me greater pain. We read and talked and giggled and loved on each other. In the midst of my pain was beauty and God’s love poured over and through both of us as we spent that precious hour together.

It did not take my pain away, but it did bring me some relief, an opportunity to focus on something besides my suffering, distress, torment… you get the idea.

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Watching daughter’s reflection in the mirror this morning, thinking how grown up she looks as she stands next to me, a proclamation was made, “I wish I was blonde.” My heart sank as the voice of envy and insecurity comes out of the mouth of my precious, beautiful girl.

And so for daughter the battle begins at the age of seven. The battle we all face about our appearance, our bodies, the things we don’t like about ourselves, the fight against envy and insecurity. It is the war of negativity, the whispers of the enemy and our roots struggling to take hold in the rich soil of our Father and not the wasteland of self loathing and the enemy .

I don’t remember when it began for me but I know it was young, maybe even before daughter.  I never felt like the pretty one. I was short. My hair was thin and mousey. I was always a little pudgy. All the critical passages of womanhood came late for me. The boys paid no attention, or at least ones I wanted to look my way. I let my list of inadequacies begin to define me. Read Full Article →

My eyes at half mast, my heart in angst, I walked out to my desk in the dark this very early morning. I flipped on the light, able to see but I heard nothing. It is another day of deafening silence.

Why when God has been so present, answering so many of my prayers daily, has He been so painfully quiet in this one are of my life? This one hugely significant area of my life for which I have been seeking wisdom and direction for months, actually years and still I hear nothing. It has taken me to a place of frustration and sometimes anger, testing my faith.

I am simply not good at waiting and I have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  Last December as I was sitting at a women’s Christmas dinner, the speaker charged us with relinquishing ourselves to God and asking for His direction. I almost laughed, thinking that is all I have been doing for months, but out of obedience I prayed.  What came next was an answer I never expected and did not like at all. The answer was, “Barbara, you know what to do.”

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As I sit here in my office, all I hear is the loud sounds that come from the machine that is cleaning my carpet. It is the same carpet that needed to be cleaned for a second time in less than a month because stepdaughter and her friend chose to throw a party at our home while we were out of town for the long weekend.

I am flooded with thoughts as the noise propels me to relive the moments of our return from our blissful and peaceful weekend away to discover the painfully obvious clues of the goings on in our home during our absence.

I can feel the resistance of my feet and hear the “shhhhht-shhhhht” sound of my shoes sticking to the linoleum floor. I can see the stains in the carpet in the bedroom that look like someone tossed the liquid of their cup into the air in a circular motion, splattering everywhere in some modern art design. I can see the beer bottles left in the salad drawer of the refrigerator, the cigarette butts littered across both our front and back lawns, and the sound of the neighbor talking to husband out front about what actually happened here the night before. I can feel the array of emotions that coursed through my veins and shot straight into my heart.

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Temptation is before me. It is strong. I am hearing that wretched little voice taunting me, telling me that it would make me feel better. I almost smile thinking of what it would be like in that moment. I am on the verge of jumping, falling into the pit on iniquity.

I am away for a couple of days on retreat. I am alone with my bible, my God, my laptop and the various wild animals about. I am in my magical place, my dad’s home in the sierra foothills outside of Yosemite. It is my place of renewal. I always hear from God here. I rest here. I take care of myself here.

It is so peaceful looking out the window at the trees, the deer that stop to nibble on fallen acorns and the oversized squirrel digging up its hidden treasures in the dirt-filled flower pots on the back deck. I remember my dad here and almost see his face, hear his voice.

It is my special place removed from the daily realities of life and stress. There is no dog here to be fed or wake me up in the middle of the night to go out. There is no child here to be dressed, fed, lunch made followed by the mad dash to school, the pick up after school, the homework, and the nighttime rituals. There is no husband here. He is home taking care of those things that are not here.

My euphoria is disrupted this morning by a phone call. It is daughter calling on her way to school to tell me she misses me and loves me. It is husband sounding rushed to get to the classroom before the door closes and a promise of a call on his way back home. I can hear the strain in his voice.

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My daughter is afraid of the dark. We have taken to leaving a light on in the bathroom just across the hall with her door slightly ajar so that a small stream of light glows softly on her bed and she feels safe.

While this has helped her, it has been challenging for me because the light also streams into our bedroom at the end of the hall and I am distracted by it. It has been hard for me to sleep.

Then it hits me. I like the dark because I have been living in darkness, even on the brightest day. The darkness is my grief. It is my grief over losing my dad, my grief over unmet and unrealistic expectations for my life, my husband, my stepdaughter and my daughter, the sorrow and the self pity that has paralyzed me for almost two years.

I forced myself to look into God’s word this morning. I headed for the Psalms because I often find them uplifting, an easy place to put my mind in a state of praise. I randomly flipped to Psalm 30 to find David telling me “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

I fell on the floor in tears, the tears that just keep coming.  When does the morning actually come? I want to rejoice in the light, not walk in perpetual darkness. Then God’s truth comes crashing in on me like a train wreck. Rejoice is a choice. It is not some easy, natural thing that just happens one day. It is a choice and choices involve work.

I have been choosing darkness. I have been choosing sorrow and self pity.  These choices have also involved work. How much energy have I poured out, thrown away in a wasteland of self-imposed grief. It is mind boggling to think of my lack of stewardship over God’s gifts to me in all areas of my life.

Today I choose morning, I choose light, I choose rejoicing!  I am rolling up my sleeves and venturing into the work of pulling myself out of the pit and allowing God to work in me, to heal me.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth , a hymn of praise to our God…” Psalm 40:2-3

God will do this for me and he will do it for you too! Make the choice of light and freedom with me this day!

Photo Credit: Heidi Lettau Photography