Sunday, April 29, 2007

Twelve Years!

Today is my anniversary!! I've been married to the best guy in the world for twelve years now and I fall more in love with him everyday.

It's all because of Jesus.
And I mean that with all my heart.
I used to be one of those girls who thought I'd never find anyone. I never had a boyfriend , or even a date in high school. I had a huge crush in college on one of my closest friends, but he didn't have the same feelings.
I met women who were in their forties still waiting for "the one" and was terrified that would be me.
I met my hubby in the most unlikely of places, but there was no doubt in my mind that God had brought us together. We have a fabulous marriage. He is my best friend.
I wanted to share this because of where most of you are. I figure a lot of you are not married, and many of you dream of finding that guy God has picked just for you. My encouragement is to be patient. Let God be in charge of your love life. Let Him be in control. He knows us so much better than we know ourselves. I am so glad that God didn't give me the guys I thought I liked before! What a mess that would have turned out to be! I am so glad he set me aside so that I would be ready when I met Jeff. We have a great marriage because we both depend on God to work out sin in our own hearts. It's not because we are special, but because God is special. He is the only one who can make a relationship between two sinful people, absolutely wonderful.
So let God lead. You won't regret it:-)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

You, Me, and Alec Baldwin

It's been all over the news this week. Updates on the Middle East? Nah, Alec Baldwin.

If you haven’t heard the hideous things he has said to his daughter, Ireland, don't bother Googling it. Take my word for it--it's not nice. Alec Baldwin is an actor who has been in a very long custody battle for his now eleven year old daughter. A tape was released to the media of Mr. Baldwin leaving his daughter a very unkind voicemail. Unkind doesn't even begin to describe it. More like inhumane and abusive. While, I'm blown away by what I heard, there are some things to be learned by this.

1. Own your words; you never know who's going to hear them. This actor had no IDEA that the entire world would hear his voicemail. Granted, what you and I say today probably won't be aired on the nightly news, but what if your parents heard you? What if your teacher overheard you? What if what you said got back to the target of your words? And believe me, you will not go your whole life without someone finding out what you said about them. If it hasn't happened yet, just wait for it. Run your words through God's filter--what if I had to repeat these words before my Father. Would he be disappointed in me?

2. If you're mad, cool off before you react or speak. Proverbs 14:17 says, A quick tempered man does foolish things... I'm a teacher, and I have said some pretty stupid things out of anger. My favorite moments are when I have this really powerful retort that I shouldn't even say in the first place and then it doesn't even come out of my mouth right. Proud, proud moments. We need to NOT react and to just wait until we calm down to respond. God totally knows what he's talking about in Proverbs.

3. Take responsibility for your actions. So you messed up and said something stupid--apologize, acknowledge your failure, and accept the consquences. After watching Mr. Baldwin's explanation from The View on YouTube today, I was disappointed that while he did apologize and admit fault, he spent the majority of the time explaining why he was the victim. Let me say this: People who are the constant victims are NOT on the top of anyone's invite list. So for the sake of your social lives and that next sleep-over invitation, don't give into woe-is-me. Be the girl who says, "I made a mistake, and I plan to learn from it."

4. Finally, I don't know all the circumstances of this situation. I know it's ugly and there are two sides. But I know this child was called on her phone, yelled at, cussed at, threatened, and insulted with words like "thoughtless pig." Mr. Baldwin called his actions "inappropriate." No, inappropriate is making armpit noises in class. Inappropriate is your little brother passing gas in a packed elevator. Girls, if you find yourself in a situation in which you are verbally abused, you need to tell someone. There is such a thing as emotional and verbal abuse, and it is serious. Even Hollywood adults do it! This is a hot button for me (obviously) because I see the effects of verbal abuse on children ALL the time. It can hurt and harm as much as a slap. And it's not okay. If you are unsure if lines are being crossed, then please seak out a school counselor, a teacher, or an adult you trust. Ireland Baldwin now has an entire country outraged and acting as her advocates. Most girls--not so lucky.

A total rant today, but as a speech teacher, I know words have power and words carry weight. There are adults walking around today carrying pain from words that go back decades. Shine with the light of Christ today and know that what comes out of your mouth tends to stick. And if you have a lot of verbal trash consistently glued to you, tell someone.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The New Me (I hope)

Today, I could feel my panic button self starting up. As usual.

I went to the Y. After I took a shower, I couldn't find my car keys. I raced to the front desk with my hair dripping wet and a coat hanger in my hand.
"I think I've locked my keys in the car. Is there anybody here who can help me use this to unlock it? Some smart man or something?"
"No, I'm sorry. You can call the car dealership next door."
I looked down and right next to the my hand at the front desk were my keys. They'd been sitting there untouched for almost two hours.
The whole time I was in panic mode, I felt the Lord saying, "Why don't you not panic this time?"
I came home and worked on a rewrite. An article I needed to send to an editor today. I'd just typed my last word and hit a wrong button. MY ENTIRE ARTICLE DISAPPEARED. All that was left was a stupid little letter "r" on my page. "Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?" I clicked through several documents. Nothing. Nothing on the page but an "r."
I called a smart computer guy who said, "Go to edit and press undo."
Wa-laaa. There was my completed article!
Again, I felt the Lord's gentle nudging. "Why don't you try and not panic? Try trusting Me."
There's a Bible verse that starts out, "Be anxious for NOTHING..."
Ouch. That means that I have to stop myself each time I start to panic. I have to say, "God wants me to pray about EVERYTHING. And not to be nervous about one single thing."
ANY OTHER PANIC BUTTONS OUT THERE WANT TO START LIVING A DIFFERENT WAY? I don't think we can trust and panic at the same moment.
♥ Julie

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dreams Really DO Come True!

Guess what? I’m going to Paris tomorrow! I never thought it would happen. This trip was planned a long time ago, and then cancelled, because we had to spend the money on family medical bills. And while I willingly gave my dream into the hands of God, I never expected Him to hand it back to me. But He did. Look out palaces! Here I come, French cafes. I’m going to climb the Eiffel Tower!

As every American knows, Disney believes that dreams really can come true – if you wish upon a star. The only problem is – what star? What is wishing? How can that even help? The dictionary tells us that wishing is to long for, or to desire. But there is no assurance there at all. It’s open ended and doesn’t feel secure at all.

Christians, however, have something better than wishing. We have faith. The Bible tells us that faith is the, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1. We know that when we place our dreams into the hands of God, He sifts through them to decide which are good for us, and which are not. Those that are right, he hands back to us with His blessing. The trick, of course, is to give them all to Him, and let Him decide. That’s not always easy.

What dreams do you have? Do you have the faith to hand them to a very good God and let Him decide which to breathe life into? As soon as you read this, close your eyes and hand a dream to God. Then wait on Him and see if He hands it back to you and makes a way, or replaces it with something different, but more than you could ever ask for or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

…(God) satisfies your desires with good things… Psalm 103:5

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Oh Baby!

This past weekend was simply beautiful here in Virginia. My husband got it in his head to do lots of yardwork and when he went to untangle the hose, where it's been left since the end of last summer, he found that a bird had built a nest inside the hose...dispenser? I don't know what you call those things but it helps wrap up the hose:-)

Anyhow, when he moved it the nest fell out, and so did five little baby birds, just hatched. I know, I know! We were upset and worried and did the best we could to replace the nest and get the baby birds situated back in there. And we all prayed that the momma bird would come back.
On Monday, I finally got the courage to check on them and found that all of them had tumbled out of the nest and were flailing around at the bottom of the hose thingie. One had died, but the others were moving fairly well. So, I rearranged the nest and put the other four back and prayed again.
When I got home this afternoon (Tuesday), we checked again, they weren't in good shape. Another one had died and the one live one I could see wasn't moving around much.
I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to let the poor things just die out there, because at this point I figured the momma bird had abandoned the nest. So I called our animal shelter to try and get some information and was given the name of a woman who does wildlife rescue. She said I could bring them to her and she would take care of them.
In ten minutes I had the kids back in the car, and the three live baby birds tucked in a shoebox. My heart was pounding the whole way (and it was a LONG way!) thinking that I should have done something earlier.
We arrived at this house and my two littlest girls and I were invited into the basement or as I call it "rescue headquarters". There were dozens of baby birds (we learned that our babies were finches), four squirrels, several older birds...and a swan swimming in the bathtub!
It was amazing. Our little babies were quickly nestled under a warming lamp, along with others that were about the same age. I felt such a sense of relief that someone was going to be able to care for them properly. I could have tried, but ultimately, I don't know anything about feeding newly hatched birds. But this woman did. I knew those babies were in good hands.
As I was driving home I couldn't help but think about how prayers aren't always answered the way we think they should. The obvious answer to me was that the momma bird should come back. But God knew about this woman even when I didn't. He knew they would be taken care of - but I had to actually do something. Praying is good, but there are times that God is calling us to add action to those prayers. Sometimes it's just not enough to pray for someone, sometimes you've gotta go wrap your arms around them and cry with them. Sometimes you've gotta bring in some help when you know you're in over your head. It's still God at work. He knows what each situation calls for. But we have to be willing to jump in and be a part of what he's doing.
So, I hope this week, you each get a chance to "jump in".

Monday, April 23, 2007

You're My A-a-a-angel...

Nineteen years and four days ago, a sandy-haired boy who was an inch shorter than me asked me for my very first dance.

The Lighthouse was the place to be in 1988 when you were fourteen years old. The basement of the United Methodist Church downtown New Philadelphia Ohio was a far cry from the "night scene" in most areas, but, back then, there wasn't a Starbucks or anything else much to do that wasn't illegal. Mist's and my parents were all too eager to drive us over most Friday nights just to know that we weren't one of the kids partying out on the train tressels.

We rivaled the "night scene" in any city though with the lines that stretched around the building. By '88, it was a crap shoot each weekend just to see if you could get in the door. Silly old fire department had decided that only so many of us were safely allowed in, so they counted heads as we paid our three bucks and got our hands stamped. If you were in the back of that line, you had to start making some other plans quick because you were going to get turned away.

Once you made it in, that basement was nothing less than any of us hickville teens ever imagined swank big-city night clubs to be. People milled everywhere in their best outfits. Guys hung out around the foosball tables anticipating their chance to get in a game and scouting the girls coming out of the bathroom. And the girls congregated in the bathroom waiting for the right guy to be at the foosball games before making their entrance. Lights pulsed in the main room through the fog to songs like Push It and Pump Up the Volume. Christian music wasn't cool yet, and I guarantee that the first time they would have tried to pawn Carmen or Michael W. Smith on us on a Friday night, we would have been out the door. They knew that, too, so they semi-screened the music selections. Fight for your Right to Party would make the cut, but a request for Brass Monkeys always got a stern no-way.

About three times a night, there would be a slow song break. Guys would dutifully pause from their games to find their girlfriends, and anyone there un-hooked would start holding their breath waiting to see if someone would ask them for a dance. Mistey always had a dance-- two or three of them would try to get there first, and I would always shoo her out as I tried to pretend like writing on the heel of my Chucks was much more interesting to me than any guy anyway.

This time was different-- during the second set of slow songs, this boy walked across the room and asked if I would like to dance.

Now, reminisce with me here, I'm fourteen years old at this point. Definitely not the savvy girly girl my best friend Mistey was, but not a total tomboy either. I was stuck somewhere in the middle-- more like poor, clueless frumpy girl. The only makeup that had ever touched my face at this point in my life was put there by Mist, and my wardrobe was total Goodwill chic when Goodwill and chic were two words that NEVER belonged together. I had been to a dance at school with a date, and I had had a real life boyfriend (we won't discuss his current sexual preference, ok?) for a whole three months. (Never mind the fact that he went to Phila while I went to Indian Valley North, and our whole relationship revolved around phone calls, one kiss, and a whole bunch of teddy bears that he always brought to my house before I got off the bus to actually see him.) I had even had a date once (i.e. two rides at the county fair together just because he was the friend of the guy who liked Mistey at the time.)

So, this boy walking across the room and asking me to dance was big stuff. Lifelong memory kind of moment.

You're my a-a-a-angel...

I remember his singing the words along with Steven Tyler. I wanted him to be singing it to me like we were a real couple or something, this boy I had just met who had asked me to dance. I didn't even know his name at this point. I only knew that as we moved to the music with his hands cupped together behind my waist and the song lyrics in my ear that this was going to be one of those moments that I would tell my own daughter about one day.

I knew he wasn't singing the words to me, and that self-depricating voice in my head started mocking me for even wishing it. How could he be singing to me? I wasn't his angel. He didn't even know me. He probably lost a bet with his buddies, and they were all over at the snack table getting a good chuckle at his expense. As the song drew to a close, I became terrified that maybe he would walk away in the middle of the slow-song segment. Just run back to the snack table with his buds and leave me there in the middle of the dance floor with all these other couples dancing around me.

Thankfully, he didn't. I don't even remember what the other two songs were, but we danced right through them without a word. As the segway into the upbeat song started and we withdrew from each other's arms, he smiled and said, "Maybe I'll see you next week." Then he walked away.

Nineteen years ago, on April 26-- four days after I learned his name from my best friend as he walked away from me on the dance floor-- that boy, Scott Devore, died after being hit by a car while riding his bicycle.

Every year, his family puts his picture in the local paper Times-Reporter on the day of his death, and every year, I look on that cherubic face and daydream about first dances in smoky church basements and the innocence we all lost that spring afternoon when he left us.

Until we dance again, Scott...



Friday, April 20, 2007

I Want A Famous Face

This morning as I was drying my hair, I started thinking back on my life and realized that there was a common denominator. All my life, I have wanted to be famous. All of my ambitions and dreams as a child revolved around careers that brought fame. I wanted to be a singer or an actor. Looking back, I feel like there was something in me that drove me to want to be noticed.

The fame I desired could be on any level, big or small. In middle school and high school, I think that fame translated into popularity. I always hoped to be voted on the homecoming court, but it never happened. I wanted to be number one on the tennis team, but it never happened. I found no fame.

As I grew older, I decided that my avenue for fame would be accomplished through beauty pageants. I wanted to enter the local Junior Miss when I was in high school, but the year that I was to enter it got cancelled. That was the only year in it’s history that it was ever cancelled! That cancellation did not deter my ambitions though. I decided that I wanted to enter the Miss America pageant. Every Miss America winner became famous. I had talent which was what those girls needed to win. Year after year, something came up that deterred me from entering the pageant. To my disappointment, I never had the opportunity to enter the pageant. I found no fame.

I realized today at 28 years old that deep down I still want to be famous. It still drives me somewhat in what I do. I sometimes found myself on the look out for fame. If I have the opportunity to feel famous, I take it, but the hope of fame often leaves me disappointed because it is never satisfying. If I could stop trying to figure out how to be famous, maybe then I could be free to point fame in other directions. So, this morning, I asked God to show me how to make His name famous...not mine. Trying to make yourself famous is exhausting, and if I want to be exhausted from anything, I would like it to be from making God famous.

I don’t think that I am the only girl who desires to be famous on some level. What do you think?


Thursday, April 19, 2007

God Protects the Stupid

A coworker and I both lived in less-than-desirable neighborhoods at one time that have since gone even further down hill. One afternoon we talked, laughed, and cringed over how oblivious we were to the dangers surrounding us at that time. I thought nothing of walking to the store alone at night, taking strolls in a park that I now recognize as a haven for drug dealers and creeps of all kind, and making my way to the local library, down a busy street that took me past an apartment complex that I’ve since seen in news segments about stabbings. And no one drove the speed limit down that road either! Marcy and I both let our defenseless children walk to school. Once, while I was lugging groceries home from the store, two nice men offered to help me carry my bags home. I accepted. Only later did it hit me that they could have strangled or done who-knows-what to me once we reached my front door.

“We had no idea that we lived in the ‘hood until we moved out of it,” I told Marcy. “But some of those things would have been unwise no matter where I lived. God really protected me.”

“Yeah, me too.” Marcy shook her head. “God protects the innocent and the stupid.”

I don’t know about you, but sometimes God has to protect me because I’m just plain being dumb. Some days dumb is disguised as independent, but it doesn’t make my choice any less foolish. Growing up with low vision instilled in me a need to prove myself I guess.

For example, a big snow storm hit in early December, transforming the sidewalk into an ice rink. Regardless of how many friends told me, “Whatever you do, don’t walk to work. I know you live close but it’s not safe. Give me a call,” I insisted on walking unless it was actually snowing (I was going through one of my “I can do it myself” phases). That is, until I fell on my . . . you get the idea. Only then did I stop skating to work. It took the memory of another woman who’d fallen in her driveway and received a concussion to remind me that I might not be so fortunately next time.

Here’s one more illustration. A few years ago I got hit by a car in a school parking lot and went to work as if nothing had happened. “I got hit by I car this morning,” I said to my fellow teachers, as if I’d faced a long line at the coffeehouse or some other minor inconvenience.

“You what? Why aren’t you at the doctor?”

“Oh, I’m fine. I didn’t fall very hard.”

“But . . . but . . . it was still a car.”

“I know, but it was only going parking lot speed. I feel like a dork but I’m completely okay. Wow, praise God, huh?”

“Did you get the woman’s phone number, insurance info, and stuff like that, in case you wake up in pain tomorrow? Which, by the way, you probably will.”

I thought about it. Maybe I should have. That was, after all, what people did after accidents. But I had to honestly answer, “No.” I didn’t want to make her feel worse than she already did. Plus all that pealing myself up off the pavement and apologizing for getting in her way had made me late.

By lunch time my back hurt. The next night I woke up with intense pain in my side, and by Friday my boss ordered me, “Will you please see a doctor?!”

Needless to say I was not okay.

Yes, I’d been a bit foolish. But as with so many other close calls, God protected me from far worse.

I’m learning though, not to use God’s record for pulling me out of danger or preventing more than minor “shake up” injuries as an excuse to be . . .well, I hate to throw this word around . . . stupid. In my desire for independence I must also be smart. I must learn to recognize when my desire to prove to everyone around me “I can handle it” isn’t rooted in pride. Knowing that God entrusted me with two bright, beautiful sons should drive me to keep them and myself safe and well.

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told His disciples “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

“Shrewd” came before “Innocent.” So I take this to mean that I am to be trusting but wise. Though I should be careful about asking too much of people I also need to know when it’s safest to ask for a ride, help, or whatever else has been offered countless times.

When has God protected you in moments of foolishness or innocence that probably should have been combined with a touch of street smarts? Thanks Him for His faithful watchful eye. Pray also for the wisdom to know when you need to play it safe. I promise to do the same.

With much love,

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

If You Knew You Wouldn't Fail...

Pastor Robert Schuller is credited with one of my favorite quotes: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

I had this quote plastered on a wall of my classroom for years. And every day I would look at it, recite it, and then forget it. I hoped my students would get the message and take it to heart, but it sure wouldn’t be by my example.

Then a few years ago, I was asked to come back and speak at the high school baccalaureate at this same school. I spoke of dreams, of courage, and of fearlessness. And I walked off that stage and was overwhelmingly convicted that I was a total hypocrite.

All my life I had wanted to be a writer. Yet I had done nothing about it. Why?

Fear. (Okay, and a small amount of laziness.) I feared rejection. I feared ridicule (You want to be a what??). I feared not being good enough. I feared the dream being way bigger than I was.

And then I gave it all up to God and decided to just go for it. Through an amazing chain of events, God led me to a writer’s conference in September 2005. Armed with nothing more than twenty pages of a story, the prayer of Jabez in my heart, and one huge, totally- unlike-me-conviction that God was gonna move some mountains, I made a contact within twenty-four hours that would lead to my book contract.

Last week that book hit the shelves. In Between, a young adult novel, is the story of foster child Katie Parker, but it’s also the story of a turning point in my willingness to let fear control me. Because if fear is controlling you, God sure doesn’t have much to work with. 2 Timothy says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” Fear is not of God. I can look back and see a whole list of things I’ve missed in this life because I was afraid or lacked confidence. Granted, I’m still not touching a roller coaster, but I’m working on the rest of it—day by day.

It’s probably not a surprise at this point that I am terrified of heights. On spring break, I MADE myself go parasailing. And though I didn’t open my eyes for the first two minutes (longest twelve minutes of my LIFE), eventually I did. And I saw God’s expansive ocean beneath me. A LONNNG way beneath me. ; ) But I also saw dolphins swimming and jumping below, and clouds rolling by, and a view of the horizon that I couldn’t have witnessed from the safety of land.

I challenge you to tackle some fears. What’s holding you back? Pray and ask God to reveal your strongholds. Fear is crippling, power stealing, life robbing, and frankly, it just stinks. Fearlessness is so much more fun.

Speaking of fun, check out the picture below. Hmmmm…which one could I be? HA! I may have been a total baby on the way up, but oh, the victory was mine when the task was done! One fear conquered….a few thousand more to go…

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Behold, a White Horse

This is a crazy story but it happened in Georgia a couple of weeks ago. My daughters, Jamie and Katie, walked nextdoor to lay out by the pool and get some sun. They heard clomping and figured it was me. I stomp when I walk. :-)
They sat up and saw a white horse staring at them over the fence. He just seemed to walk up out of nowhere. Really creepy. The neighbors don't own a horse. Jamie snapped a picture from her cell phone.
I know NOTHING about horses but talked to a smart horse friend. She said even without seeing the picture that the horse is a cremello--meaning a white-cream color with blue eyes. She said the horse isn't a true white horse as mentioned in the Bible in Revelation. She said that Revelation talks about a white horse with the rider on it being called Faithful and True. My friend believes a white horse will usher carry Jesus at the second coming. That horse, she feels, probably won't have blue eyes--that seem to give an eerie look--but dark eyes and be pure white with no cream shading.
My daughters were a little afraid of the horse. They said the clear-blue eyes looked scary.
Sometimes I forget that our God will return, just as He promised.
It will be unexpected like looking over and seeing a horse while you're by the pool.
Usually, that's the way God works in my life. When I've given up and lost hope. Even when I've forgotten about Him.
He rides in.
Let's remember that the Faithful and True One always brings hope. Hope--no matter what. And sometimes He shows up even when you least expect it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

When Our Hearts Weep

Today we heard the horrific news of one person on a rampage, killing, maiming, and dying himself. It reminds me of how I felt when I first heard the news of 9/11.
Words to comfort and explain are scarce. But this hymn soothes my troubled soul:
This is my Father's world.
O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong
seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Getting to Know You

You’ve learned a lot about me over the past several months. You know that I’m a writer, a mom and a wife, that I sing with the worship team at church, love to read, and I can’t seem to watch a movie without finding some kind of spiritual application. You’ve read about my past and current struggles and the incredible ways that God has worked through them. I’m sure you’ve heard the rumor that I don’t see well and that it doesn’t hold me back much. You’ve been subjected to the inner workings of my overly active mind and my often warped sense of humor. You even met my dad, via a snapshot from Jerusalem. Well, enough about me. Now it’s time to get to know you a little.

Grab this chance to be heard and tell me the follow things about yourself.

1) What do you like to do for fun?

2) If you could do anything with your life, what would it be? Who cares if it’s a long shot, your friends make fun of it, or Grandma warns, “If you do that you won’t get married and have children until you’re at least forty. You’ll regret it. Be practical, Honey.” What do YOU want?

3) What do you love most about God?

I can’t wait to hear your answers!

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I returned home last Wednesday after two weeks out of town. When I walked in the door, my husband said, "Well, you haven't changed any. You're still as beautiful as ever." Romantic music was playing. A rose bud in a vase adorned the table.

I never cease to be amazed by this man's love. Several years ago our daughter Grace said, "Mom, how will I ever find someone who loves me as much as Daddy loves you?" I realized it was a tall order, but I hoped and prayed she would.

And she has. As of March 18, Grace is engaged.

The current trend to combine celebrity couple names--TomKat, Bennifer, Dashmi, Brangelina--maxes out my cheez-o-meter. But when I realized Grace and Curtis' names combine to make Gratis, I liked it. Gratis means free or without payment. And if there's anything that exemplifies these two's hearts, it's freedom and giving to others. Also, I thought it would be fun to start a private blog called Gratis just for them--a place where I can share thoughts about love, forgiveness, sense of humor, communication, faith, putting the other person first--all those things that work together to build a resilient, joy-filled marriage. I can offer my thoughts and advice "gratis" and they can take or leave them as they desire. I haven't started it yet, but I plan to soon.

And now, for all the romantics in the crowd, here's the fairytale-but-true story of Curtis' proposal:

They went to Bellingham, Washington, that weekend to sing in a wedding. Curtis said he needed to get back to Seattle early Sunday, so they took off from his parents' house right after breakfast. He drove the route they normally take to Seattle, but then he turned off the main road and stopped at a friend's house on the water. Grace assumed he wanted to drop by and say hello on their way out of town.

It was drizzling slightly as they walked down to his friend's dock. Just as they got to it, the sun came out and a rainbow formed framing a small island and a sailboat anchored out in the bay. The mast of the sailboat looked like a cross. Grace pointed to the scene and said, "Wow! It looks like that rainbow is telling us to come to the island."

Curtis said, "Okay. Let's go." He had planned to go to the island anyway, but he didn't plan the rainbow! That was God's artistic license coming into play.

So, they stepped into his friend's dinghy which was docked right there beside them (also part of the plan) and motored out to the back side of the island. There was a white sand beach there surrounded by beautiful vegetation, affording views of water and other San Juan Islands, but no civilization. The island is a bird sanctuary; there are no buildings on it. At this point Grace started getting nervous.

They sat on a piece of driftwood and Curtis pulled out a booklet listing 23 (her age) significant events that had shaped their relationship since they met. They talked about those memories, then he asked her to stand and he knelt in front of her. He gave her a closed clamshell, and when she opened it, there was a hand-carved koa-wood ring he'd made for her. He said something like, "So, do you wanna marry me?"

She said yes. (Big surprise there.) Then she knelt, too, and they prayed together.

After exploring the island a while, Grace said she was getting hungry. They got back in the dinghy, and Curtis started motoring back toward the mainland. But then he headed for the sailboat anchored in the water. Turns out it was his dad's boat. When they got there, the boat was decorated with orchids and plumeria. (Curtis grew up in Hawaii, which lends significance to the koa wood and choice in flowers.) He'd prepared a lunch they ate on pottery he'd also made. A CD mix of songs that held special meaning for them played in the background.

It had been raining for several days, but the sun stayed out all afternoon from the moment they stepped onto the dock and saw the rainbow. They sat on the deck of the sailboat in the sun for a while and finally motored back to the marina where Curtis' parents were waiting for them.

When Grace told me this story, I said, "And the amazing thing is all this flowed from who Curtis is. You'll be living with this kind of love every day."

"I know," she said. And her joy was alive in the words.

Life is hard. No one gets a free pass to ease and comfort. Last weekend people gathered in churches all over the world to remember the grisly price Christ paid for our freedom. But how wonderful to plow through the hard places with a strong arm of love steadying your steps.

My prayer for each young women who reads this blog is that you'll give your heart to God and let Him guard and keep it until the right man comes along. And my prayer for Grace and Curtis is that each new day they'll remember that love is a choice, and they'll joyfully offer it to each other. Free and without payment.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sanjaya, Sanjaya, Sanjaya

So, are you an American Idol fan?

And then the next question always seems to be
something about the youngest contestant, Sanjaya Malakar.

Don't you think he's destroying the season?
Isn't it a travesty he's still there?
How will the world survive if he actually wins AI?

Personally, I think he's a talented (though outgunned,) entertaining young man whom the producers have groomed for a strong audience from day one. Of the other finalists, how many of them have had the amount of airtime from the beginning of the season? Especially positive. I mean, I'll admit it as a mom, I fell for him the moment he chose to spare his sister's feelings by withholding the judges' admiration for his voice over hers. I want seventeen-year-old children who care so much for their siblings someday. Do I think he's the strongest performer on the stage? Absolutely not.

I'm talking about Sanjaya today because I'm a pop culture junkie. I love this kind of stuff. But, I am a bit miffed at many of my fellow believer AI fans and their treatment of the Kid-of-Many-Hairdos. Many of the same people who spout off on message boards and blogs about how we should vote for Phil because he's a PK, Melinda because she toured with CeCe Winans, or Jordin because of her ties to Michael W. Smith are the ones who are questioning Sanjaya's ties to the Total Experience Gospel Choir, a prestigious Seattle-area choir. I'm reading terribly critical, often mean, personal shots about his abilities, his faith, and him as a person.

And these are adults talking about a minor.

True, being in a choir does not mean you're walking with Christ, but neither does being a backup singer for CeCe Winans. I don't know where the seventeen-year-old stands with the Lord. Nor do I know where Melinda, Phil, or Jordin stands either. That's not my place.

I'm not saying the Christian community needs to become "Fanjayas," but I will say that Sanjaya is the image of God just like any of the rest of us. He should be treated as such.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Doubting Thomas

Easter has been hijacked - don't you think? I spent all day today up in Washington, DC to participate in the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll. You can read about it on my blog if you're interested, but while it was a cool experience and fun for the kids, and a great day as a family, I can't help but feel weary that Easter just isn't what it really should be.

Easter is about Jesus coming back to life. And while I don't really know what the "right way" to commerate this event would be, I do know that eggs and bunnies and pretty dresses just doesn't even come close, does it?

Our pastor spoke about faith, and about Thomas yesterday. I think no matter where we are, we could use more faith. I know I could. And I also know that I can identify with Thomas. When he heard about the resurrection, Thomas said, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hands into his side, I will not believe it." And a week later Jesus showed up and gave Thomas a chance to believe. How gracious of him!

Jesus goes on to say "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Most of us accept the fact of Jesus' resurrection. But we weren't there. We didn't watch Jesus get tortured and hung on a cross. We didn't watch the blood drip down his arms and into the dusty ground. We didn't see his dead body laid in a tomb. Thomas thought it was all over. That the journey he had been on was now over.

Then Jesus shows back up and proves to Thomas, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is very much alive.

He had mercy on Thomas, and he has mercy on us, because Jesus knows our weaknesses. He knows that we struggle to believe what we cannot see. To have faith in God that no matter what things look like around us, that He is still in control. To believe that something that looks dead, can be given life.

What if I told you that in other countries, there are those that say they have seen people, regular people, brought back from the dead? Would you believe it? If you're like me, we have some hesitation. We wonder if that's really possible. We think that we would believe it if we could see it for ourselves. We'd like to believe that it is possible, but we're just not sure. I've never seen anyone raised from the dead. Have you? I believe God CAN do it, but do I belive that he DOES do it? You see, that's not quite the same thing, is it?

I think we've forgotten how to believe in miracles here in America. We have so many other things to put our faith into - into our money, into doctors, into education, into ourselves. We don't know how to really put our faith in a God who can accomplish the impossible. A God who delights in showing what He is really capable of. He understands out doubts, he has mercy on our weakness, but he is calling us all to a greater faith in who he is. He's calling us to believe him MORE. To trust Him MORE. To believe that the impossible is possible. That dead things can come back to life. That faith is not a passive thing. It is an active way of living. Faith is not just thinking that God could do something, but it is knowing that he is actively at work in the world around us. He's calling us to a faith that is active and real as well.

This Easter, I hear him calling me. Do you hear him, too?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Good Friday For the Foreigner

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, "It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money." So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners. (Source: The Gospel According to Matthew).

Good Friday For The Foreigner
by Mitali Perkins

The news spreads through our tents and shacks like birdsong:
We have some soil.

It’s strewn with shards of ceramic,
broken bits of pots and cups,
clay of no use or value.
I’ll pick them up, clean the ground with my hands,
and make a holy place.
I’ll water the dirt with my tears.

Who paid for it?

The piles of bodies had grown, the stench,
disease adding more to the heap.
We begged, we cried, we pleaded:
We die, too. We are not just passing through.
No word. A civic silence.

Who spoke for us?

The coins were stained with blood, we're told.
They were useless, too, like the clay, like the dead.
Now our bones, blood, and flesh
will mingle with theirs under the ground.
An inheritance for our beloved.
I weep, and bury, and kneel,
and whisper my thanks to the Unknown.

Friday, April 06, 2007

That's My King

Since today is good Friday, I wanted to share a video with you that I found. This video takes words from a sermon by SM Lockeridge. This video is titled "My King." I couldn't find the way to make a link, so just copy the link below and paste it in your browser.

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Give and Take

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

During my yearly get-away to the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference I had the meltdown of all meltdowns. Nothing bad happened to trigger it. It was just one of those moments when the right words from the speaker followed by time alone with God helped me see my need to let go of some painful things that I’d been working through. So it was a good meltdown. But my roommates didn’t know that when they returned to our room and found me in tears. Without trying to force an examination out of me, they wrapped their arms around me, surrounding me with love and comfort. They knew enough about what I’d gone through lately to sense that I probably just needed to empty myself once and for all. It turned into a sweet time of sharing and getting to know one another more deeply and we all went to bed worn out but grateful for the late night therapy session.

Two days later a friend from one of my classes nearly collapsed from fatigue brought on by on-going health problems. One of my roommates and I checked on her, only to have her melt into tears of frustration. She so wanted to feel better so she could enjoy the rest of the conference instead of feeling like she was putting others out. This time it was my turn to offer comfort—to wrap my arms around a hurting friend and assure her that I, the friend who sat on the other side of her, and many others loved her dearly.

The experience stood as a reminder of the wonderful privilege we have as sisters in Christ, to both receive love and give it. God sent friends to catch my tears then allowed me to soak up someone else’s. It had been a long time since I’d had such an obvious and extreme give and take within a short period of time. I began to wonder if God wanted me at the conference especially for that. If so, I’m thankful to Him.

Paul reminded us that we receive comfort from God in times of need (sometimes through others) so we’ll know how to offer the same support to others. How has God sent comfort to you recently? Who do you know who is in need of some? Pray for an opportunity to give what you have graciously received.

In His Love,

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Easter Surprise

My 22-year-old daughter said, "Mom, I hope you're still going to get me an Easter basket now that I'm married? I love chocolate bunnies and that pretty cellophane paper. I like that you don't know what's inside until you rip it open."
"Hmmm. I really hadn't thought about it--I mean YOU'RE MARRIED."
Our 25-year-old daughter has moved home for a little bit. She's getting her life together. For the longest time, she couldn't find her pink Bible we'd given her when she was 14. Guess where she found it? Underneath her car seat.
I sat and held her Bible after the left the room. I ran my fingers over the pages and read her underlinings and sweet notes she'd made way back when.
Then it hit me.
I knew the perfect Easter present to give my girls this year. The Message Bible. Maybe they even have them in Easter colors!! And, just like with the cellophane wrapping, you don't know all the good stuff that's inside until you open it up.
Here's a part of the Message by Eugene Peterson from Proverbs 3 (since today is April 3rd). I try and read the Proverbs that matches the day of the month since there are 31 chapters in Proverbs.
"Trust God from the BOTTOM OF YOUR HEART;
Listen to God's voice in EVERYTHING you do, EVERYWHERE you go;
I can't wait to look for a pink Message Bible for Jamie and a yellow one for Katie.
Maybe I'll throw in a chocolate bunny.
Love to you all.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

In the Background

I belong to and one of the things I enjoy doing besides reading the profiles is looking at the background in the profile picture. I like the candid ones taken in the home or outside. The poises are funny, serious, silly, or a blatant effort to be something other than what the person really is. But the backgrounds are not staged.

On the walls, you can see what interests people. The furniture shows what makes the people comfortable. Colors are important, and the things just left out are telling. In one there is a jug of milk on the counter. A pile of stuffed animals graces the bed in the backdrop of one shot. In another there is a brother holding a cat. (Not implying that the brother or the cat was left out instead of being put away.)

If you look closely and listen carefully to people, you will find what is in the background, behind the image deliberately presented to the world. You can see a friend's backdrop of verbal abuse by the way he shifts his eyes away from you when it is your turn to speak. Another friend may wear an excess of make-up or a certain style of clothes that says I'm trying to be something because my I'm not comfortable with my background.

Did you know that God examines our image in the context of our background? And you know what? He gives us permission to leave behind the things that are disturbing and to decorate our surroundings with things of worth. He's interested in what's there, but only in the sense that it helps define who you are for a moment. He knows we are not part of a flat dimension like a picture. We are individuals that can separate from the backdrop.

What an intriguing concept. Have you looked at your background? Do you want to throw out things that loom in your image such as an ugly poster that last year defined your interests but this year no longer suits your maturity?

This is how The Message puts it:

2 Corinthians 5:17 (The Message)
Copyright © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
16-20Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you.

Or more simply, in NASB:

2 Corinthians 5:17 (New American Standard Bible)
Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.