Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pathetic prayers

The prayer life of a Monk is not one I can claim to practice. I don't spend my days on bended knee and I don't even have a designated "prayer closet" where I go to find solitude with the Lord. To be quite honest, my prayer life is often quite pitiful. It ranges from practically non-existent to self-seeking to tearful distress calls. Picture an SOS written in sand and you have a pretty clear picture of my prayer life.
I used to pray for healing. Oh, how I prayed for healing and relief from my physical ailments. I prayed so long and hard for that and it didn't come. So then I gave up. I stopped praying and embraced that Beatles hit, "Let it Be."
Then I decided to pray for companionship. I prayed so long and hard that God would relieve me of my loneliness and send me a mate. I prayed and still the mate hasn't come. I've had rejection after rejection and never an answer to my prayer.
So, you guess it, I've given up on that prayer, too. I've decided to stop praying for healing and stop praying for companionship. But even more than that, I've decided to stop praying self-seeking prayers. The laments and cries to the Lord on behalf of my own lot in life have left me feeling empty and pathetic. I get discouraged when I don't get the outcome I'm looking for. And all along I'm missing the point of prayer. It isn't to serve the self, it is to serve the Lord. By taking my precious prayer time to focus on my own desires, wants and complaints I am denying God the prayers He longs to hear.
So I'm changing my prayer life. The new prayer on my lips is this: "Lord, make me your reflection."
What does that look like? What does that mean for my life? What does that do for my healing or my loneliness?
Quite frankly, I don't know. But I do know this. Jesus was alone. Jesus was rejected. Jesus was beaten. Jesus didn't have an easy life full of the "stuff" of prayer lists. He encountered push back from His followers and isolation. He was hunted down and taken to the Cross to be killed. And all the while He was the only truly innocent man to ever live, the only perfect man to ever walk this earth and the only man who was and is God in flesh.
When I ask God to make me a reflection of Jesus I'm not guaranteeing easy street. Just the opposite is more likely. To reflect Jesus I must understand Jesus and to understand Jesus I must suffer. My suffering probably won't lead to a cross with nails and mocking but the struggle will still be unpleasant, painful and trying. But how can I reflect Jesus if I don't know Jesus intimately and partake in what He endured in this life?
Self-seeking prayers aren't what the Lord desires. He wants our lives to be a mirror of His Son. I don't want to be caught up in anything other than being more like Jesus. Not even desires that seem harmless and maybe even good - after all isn't health good? It may be good and who knows, it may be what God has for me in the future. That is for Him to know and for me to find out in His time.
My focus and the cry of my heart is to be a reflection of Jesus and His love. I want to be so fixated on my Savior that I completely forget about the desires of my heart and become surrendered, sold out and committed to being a mirror of the image of Christ.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We've all got bruises

I remember falling off my bike. It happened on the road right in front of my house when I was in elementary school. It was painful and bloody and it stung like you wouldn't believe.  I don't know if I was trying to do a fancy trick or just cruise up and down the road, but somehow I ended up knee to  ground, hands outstretched with my bike on top of me. I cried...a lot. And my knee bled... a lot. But, of course, I survived. The pain subsided, I got some neosporone and a dose of comforting from my  mother. Now I have a scar to remind me of that fateful day.
Every scar we wear provides a good, "Oh, wait till you hear this!" story. And lets be honest, who hasn't recounted an intense, edge-of-your-seat account of a situation gone wrong, a painful wound and the resulting scar it has left behind. We've all told the stories. We've all heard the stories. Living has given us these scars and has given us these tales to recount years after the pain of the fall has long ago subsided.
As we travel this road called life we are bound to get nicked up along the way - both physically and emotionally. We'll accumulate our fair share of bruises. Life pushes us around and knocks us down and when we pick ourselves up again we realize that we are a little black and blue and there are cuts and scraps that weren't there before.
In life we are going to fall off our bikes, so to speak. Our cuts heal and leave us with scars that remind us that even the most painful of wounds won't be open forever and suffering will end. The pain subsides but the story lives on as a reminder that suffering is not perpetual. No matter how much the cut may sting today it will not go on forever. Someday, probably not so very far away, our pain will be nothing more than a memory, only to be remembered when our stories are retold in great detail and we will marvel at the healing that has taken place.
I think God lets us have scars as a physical, observable reminder of the promise of healing. As we walk this road of life we can look to our bruised and scared knees and remember that God heals in good time. Whether it is physical or emotional we need to be reminded that it is not going to last forever and ever amen. It may sting and hurt like hell but it won't be that way forever.
Some days I need to look at that scar on my knee, or the one on my ankle, or the one on my ring finger and remember, this pain won't last forever. Whatever pain I'm dealing with today will be a scar in the future. Maybe it will take a few days to heal, maybe it will take a few years but the physical scars of my childhood are my ever present reminder that even the most punishing of falls ends up being a good story in the end.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holding lightly

A wise woman once said that if you hold a bird too tightly you will crush its wings (V.C. Andrews). Of course anyone reading those words knows that the truth of the statement applies to more than just flying fowl but to human beings, love, dreams, wishes, aspirations...the wings of life that cause us to soar will inevitably be crushed if held with a fierce grip.
The trouble is that a light grip is often hard to manage. You and I are always so afraid we'll lose what it is we want most, what we cherish. So we grab hold of that something special and squeeze. What will happen if we loosen up just a bit? The thought is too devastating to even consider. Best hold onto it with everything we've got so that we never have to face a day without it.
In our desire to keep hold of that something we lose sight of the life of the something. Just like that bird with its delicate wings we too will crush the life out of anything we hold too tightly. The wings won't work. The bird won't fly. Our dreams, love, wishes they can all die, too, when held with a vise like force.
When we grasp too tightly at the things of this world we not only cause harm to that something but we cause harm to ourselves. You may ask, how can love be harmful? How can the dream of success be harmful? How can wanting to have a thriving ministry or a happy family or a fruitful career be harmful? The truth is that anything that we hold too tightly, apart from the Lord himself, will cause harm. A death grip will cause the loss of circulation and a severing of our direct line God. The free flowing communion with the Holy Spirit can't reside in a heart that has an unrelenting grip on the things of this world.
In all things, with all things and through all things we must be willing to keep our hand open and our grip relaxed. God may have another "thing" or "person" or "dream" He wants to place in our hand and to receive it we must be willing to have the old plucked away. Or maybe God wants us to continue having that love, dream or wish but just don't want us to hold it so tightly that we crush its wings!
By keeping a loose grip we are not showing indifference or complacency but submission and obedience to God. To follow God wholeheartedly we cannot be attached to anything apart from Him. We must be willing to deny every desire of our human heart so that we can pursue the desires of God's heart without competition for our attention or distraction from the ultimate purpose of our existence, furthering the Kingdom of God.
Jesus told His disciples in Luke 9 that when they went out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and do miraculous works in the name of God that they should, "...take nothing for the journey--no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt." (v. 3). 
To be effective for the Kingdom the disciples couldn't be gripping anything that they had come to know, depend upon and value. They had to give it all up for the sake of Christ. A tight grip on their livelihood, their money and even their family would have made them useless to Jesus' great mission of soul saving. They had to abandon it all to be abandoned to God. 
If God asks us to drop the thing in the palm of our hand will we do it? Or are we holding on to it so tightly that our fingers are locked in that white-knuckled, death-grip position? Dear Reader, hold loosely to the things of this world. No matter how much you may love that person, value that possession or crave to see the reality of that dream, hold it with a palm wide open. Allow God to give and take away that which He sees fit. It is much less painful to drop that dream than to have it pried out of your locked fist.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

If it makes you happy...

The 90's saw its fair share of hits that a brief decade later remind me that pop singers make very poor philosophers." The 1996 melody belted out by countless driving divas, "If it Makes You Happy," is one of those songs.
The whole premise of Sheryl Crow's Billboard Top 100 single is completely off base. "If it makes you happy it can't be that bad," is a terrible philosophy. Just because something makes us happy does not make it good. Things that make people happy can actually be downright harmful, sinful, corrupt, detrimental...pick your troubled adjective of choice. What produces happiness does not necessarily equate with goodness. The two are entirely separate entities and they don't always coexist in blissful harmony.
This morning as I struggled with another flareup, this time producing vertigo (aka a constantly spinning room), this song and its flawed message popped in my mind as clear as a bell. There I was lying on my bedroom floor in front of my electric fireplace begging my internal thermometer to rise even if only a degree when all of the sudden Sheryl Crow began to sing in my head, "if it makes you happy it can't be that bad."
The word, "huh?" might have audibly been spoken in that strange moment. Why would that song come to mind? MS flareups and vertigo were not making me happy. What the symptoms of this latest exacerbation have been doing to my physical body and energy level are certainly not making me happy. And MS in that moment didn't look at all good. So where on earth was Sheryl Crow coming from? Not from my stereo I can tell you that much and certainly not from the experiences of my day thus far.
And then it hit me....
As I lay there on the floor feeling exhausted, beaten, defeated and utterly useless satan was having a field day. My condition and what it was doing to my spirit was making him ridiculously happy.  If being defeated was making satan happy then being defeated was indeed very bad, not very good.
In that moment of revelation a new thought dawned on me, "get up." As tired as I felt I knew that to trample the happiness of the devil I had to pick myself up off of the floor and make myself useful. Satan wanted to keep me down. My defeat was his pleasure and his happiness. But his happiness is always bad news for me. If the devil is happy than there is something seriously wrong with my attitude and spirit. No matter what my physical condition may be or how beat I feel I never want to let that be an excuse to be spiritually deflated. That only brings a smile to the face of my enemy. Instead I want to rise above my struggle and crush the devil underfoot.
I don't think I will ever be able to hear Sheryl Crow's 1996 hit without reliving that decisive moment that occurred this morning on my bedroom floor. God brought me to a decision point in my spiritual life and taught me a lesson I don't want to forget and it is this: If my circumstances, attitude and feelings are making the devil happy than they are bad, very bad and in no way good. The only good is the good that pleases God and makes Him happy. The Lord doesn't smile upon the same things as the devil, they are in direct opposition to each other. If I want to make the Lord happy I must stomp on the happiness of the devil by choosing to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit. His is the true good and it will fill me with something better than human happiness. When I am living to please the Lord I will be filled with abundant joy, peace and love. Now that is what make God happy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The story of my life

"I just want to know how the story ends."
Have you ever read a book, watched a movie or heard a story and as the plot drags on, thought to yourself, "Just tell me how it ends! Assure me that everything turns out alright in the end!" The anticipation of how there will ever be resolution is so great that we want to jump right over the climax and the turning point so we can get to the happily ever after.
Unfortunately, stuck in the seat of a movie theater we have no control over the projector. We can't skip over scenes or fast forward to the resolution of the character's dilemma. When we read a book we'll miss the whole point of the story and key elements of the plot if we skip over chapters. The ending won't mean anything to us if we don't take the time to see how the author of the story arrived at a harmonious ending to a tumultuous journey.
In life the same dilemma often presents itself. We want to know the ending of our story without having to sit through the previews, the dull scenes and the "edge of your seat" moments. We don't want to have to read every line of every chapter. We want the ending. We want to know that everything will turn out okay in the end.
All the while there is an Author who has written a compelling story with clever twists and turns, shocking revelations and surprises along the way and more than anything He wants our full attention throughout every scene and every turn of the page. While we are trying to skip ahead He is trying to pull us back to the place where we left off so that we don't miss a moment of the story He has so carefully imagined and penned especially for us. This story He has written is written for us in His hand, with His blood.
There are days I am tempted to want to jump over chapters of God's story for my life. The pages full of sadness and struggle leave me worried that maybe the story won't have a happy ending. And then I turn the page and see that God is the master of the unexpected. He can take the story in a direction I never saw coming. It is a joy and a thrill for Him to surprise His readers.
On days when I am tired of reading every line and ready to skip scenes God reminds me that the whole story is worthy of my attention because every syllable was written especially for me. By jumping to another page I'm missing the beauty of the story in its entirety. In the end I won't be able to appreciate what God brought forth in the final chapter if I didn't see the struggle and miracles it took to bring the story to its fortunate end.
Today God is writing my ending and taking me on a journey to my happily ever after. The plot He penned just for me is being acted out before my very eyes. God is begging me to never skip ahead; never press fast forward lest I miss the greatness of what the greatest Author of all times has recorded just for me. This is the story of my life and I'm going to read every line, watch every scene and love every minute of it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Down but not defeated

Defeat is often a stepping stone on the path to victory. There is no better example of this truth than George Washington.
The heroic figure of American history and our first president certainly had his fair share of setbacks. From a young age Washington had obstacles and defeats and disappointments. When he was a young man his father died and Washington was never able to finish his proper schooling as he had intended. Instead he became the surveyor of a little county in Virginia. This was his mothers wish. She didn't want him study far away and she didn't want him in the military. Surveyor seemed safe.
During the French and Indian War Washington was called on to fulfilled the role of "adjunct general." He didn't command many men but did share in a number of defeats. Worst of all was at Braddock. As the British were attempting to take over the Ohio Territory they experienced a massive set back when, in 1755, the Indians pushed back the army and served it a severe blow in regards to causalities and land acquisition. Throughout the war Washington longed to be commissioned by the army but the call never came. He headed up a small regime of men but was never elevated to the military status he had hoped for.
Then came the American Revolution and Washington's big promotion. The man with little experience and no professional title to his name was appointed commander of the Continental Army. This would have probably been more exciting if Washington would have had ample supplies, a strong force and endless financial resources but he didn't have any of the above. Instead he had a ragtag army, challenging weather conditions, a lack of military provisions and even a shortage of shoes. But in 1775 Washington became commander.
He fought in Boston and won. He took his army to New York and was terribly defeated. He couldn't keep his enemy out of Philadelphia and suffered terrible loss due to disease and trying weather conditions in Valley Forge. The future of the Continental Army looked bleak.
But then came the summer of 1779. Washington hadn't given up the fight. He plotted one last campaign to overtake the British and miracle of miracles, it worked. For the next few years the American army beat back their foes until the British had retreated all the way back to Europe.
Even in those final years of victory Washington was fighting not only an opposing army but the dissolving of his own. Supplies ran short. Money was scarce and the troops were getting restless. Yet Washington never gave up. He fought until the battle was won. In 1983 America claimed victory and the revolution was won.

This may seem like a bore of a history lesson that you learned in grade school. Maybe you remember the details or maybe you promptly forgot them after you took the test on the subject. But there is a method to my historical madness and a lesson in the life of Washington.
Washington endured so much defeat that anyone would have understood if he had completely given up. Not only was he being defeated by an opposing military but he was freezing and hungry, too. And we know how people are when they get hungry! Not a pretty sight.
Yet, with all of the cards stacked against Washington he refused to let defeat stop him from trying again. Even after military losses Washington never stopped devising new strategies and new plans. Even after harsh winters he picked up the pieces of a ravaged army to fight again. He never let defeat keep him down and out. He rose above it and kept the hope of victory alive.

If you are like me then some days you need to be reminded to try again. Defeat is a dangerous trap and it threatens you and I to stop moving forward in our lives just like it threatened Washington and his army. But just think, what would have become of this nation of ours if Washington would have given in to defeat?
That is a question I don't even want to know the answer to. The ramifications of a defeated spirit would have been so great that history dares not ponder the possibilities of it for too long. 
The great news is Washington never stopped trying and believing that victory was possible. He looked defeat in the eye and overcame it. You and I can do the same thing. Whether it is on a physical battlefield or just the battlefield of our mind, we can overcome any defeat with the power of Christ in us. We have the great promise of a victory already won. So laugh in the face of defeat and try, try again because the battle is already won and the foe has already retreated.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

All Hope

What I am about to write is as much (okay, it's more) for me than for anyone else. Maybe, hopefully, some lonely and frustrated soul will stumble upon this post in their time of need and find comfort in what I have to say. That is my prayer for all of these posts but this one in particular. So here it goes...

Dear Reader, do not put your hope in people. They will fail you and let you down. Putting our hope in people is a sure-fire way to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, disappointment and let down is what you seek then by all means, put your hope in the human race.
As for me I don't want to be rejected, let down and disappointed any longer. I've spent years alone - literally years. Not a single date and very few "friend" outings to speak of. I can count them on one hand and that isn't an exaggeration. It is the sad truth of it. The loneliness I have felt and continue to struggle with has taken its toll.
Even in the face of my despondency I've continued to have hope that I would someday find friends and maybe even a significant other but as of late that hope has been dashed. I have thrown in the towel on ever having a life that includes interpersonal relationships and meaningful human interactions. I have hoped long enough. Now it is time to abandon that hope and move forward.
If you are feeling weighed down by crushing rejection and disappointments then the only advice I can give you is to put your hope in something else, someone else. Because human beings just won't cut it.
So I'm taking the hope that I've held out for God to bless my life with companionship and I'm shifting that hope to simply a hope in meeting Christ. That is the only thing I know for sure I am safe to hope for without the danger of being letdown. The only one thing in this world that I know without a shadow of a doubt is that God is real and His Son is real and the Holy Spirit is real. Every word written about God in the Bible is real and true. Jesus came to this earth to save me and He is coming again. Until then He has left the Holy Spirit as my companion. I know all of this to be unshakable, unchangeable truth.
I can put my hope in God and know that it is safe there. I will never face rejection from God. He isn't going to make a promise He can't keep. He isn't going to suddenly abandon our relationship. Sometimes He might be quieter than others but He is still there. After all, no one talks all of the time!

There is no point in putting my hope in anyone or anything apart from God and God alone - not what God can do for me or what blessings God could bestow on me. That hope is faulty, too. The only hope that is secure and unshakable is the hope that rests on the person and character of God.
It is that simple. Put your hope in God and meeting Him face to face. You don't have to wait for Heaven to meet Him. You can do it in your closet or driving in your car. Putting your hope in God is the only way to ensure that your hope won't ever be crushed. You can bet the farm on God. You can rest assured in putting every ounce of hope in Him. He'll never let you down. The one and only God never fails those who put their hope and trust in Him.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lost and Found

Lost and found. The two appear to be opposites. Either your sock is lost or it is found. Your dog is either lost or he's found. Something or someone can be lost for a time until their whereabouts are no longer a mystery and they are found. Right?
This is the common understanding of lost and found. At least, it's what I have always assumed was the common and correct understanding of the phrase. In my simple mind I always assumed that if you were in the lost category you were obviously not in the found category. And if you were already found then there was no reason for you to be thrown in that lost and found bin.
My simple thoughts about lost and found have long extended past dogs and classified ads, all the way to faith and salvation. I can thank the hymn "Amazing Grace" for my long held belief that if you were lost then you weren't found. As my favorite hymn sings, "I once was lost but now I'm found." Simple, concise and to the point. If you're lost then you aren't found. End of story.
Or is it? Is lost and found that simple? As a Christian are you really one or the other?
A thought dawned on me today and it is making me question and rethink my whole belief on lost and found. Could it be that the key to the Christian life is to be both lost and found at the same time?
You may be thinking, "Lost? Doesn't that mean I'm wayward and still stuck in my sin?" No, the lost I'm referring to is lost to self. This might be the biggest road block standing in the way of many Christian's embracing a life of complete surrender. They don't want to be lost to the self - myself included.
It is easy to say, "Yes" to being found in Christ. Well, maybe not exactly easy but it is far easier to embrace the love and grace of being found then it is to be lost to self. Being lost to self means putting to death sin that entangles. It means relinquishing control and the right to one's self. Being lost to self means being lost to our ideas of what our life should look like - in our humble yet deeply engrained opinions.
Here in lies what many struggle with in the Christian life. We sing of being found in Christ. That discovery happens when we repent of our sins and accept Jesus' free gift of salvation paid for by way of His death on the cross. But what about the self that we have become so accustomed to relying upon? Are we still found in ourselves or have we lost our indivdual hold on our lives?
Instead of being lost in the way we were prior to our re-birth we must be lost to ourselves. We are found in Christ and therefore we can no longer also be found in ourselves. Because we are sinful. We are fallen and imperfect and terribly, terribly flawed. If we try to remain found to self and found in Christ then we will constantly be in a state of struggle trying to have our way while trying to go God's way. The two cannot coexist. If we want to be completely found in Christ then we must be completely lost to self.
I wish I had the golden ticket, fail-proof piece of advice that could help my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ learn to lose themselves. Quite frankly I'm still working on this key aspect of my faith, too. I'm still trying to run so far away from my old self that it is too lost to ever be found. And I'm finding that this is more difficult then I could have ever imagined. Ask me to lose a hat or a pair of gloves or one single sock and I'll have no problem fulfilling the request. But ask me to lose myself and I hesitate. Lose myself? You mean lose my ideas, dreams, will, control and desires? You mean let all of that fall away and get buried under a pile of rubble? 
It isn't necessarily painless and easy to lose oneself. But it is what Christ requires of us. In Matthew 16:25 Christ says that, "whoever loses their life for me will find it."
There you have it boys and girls, brothers and sisters. We must be willing to lose ourselves while at the same time be willing to be found. We must be lost to ourselves so that we can be found in Christ and share in eternity with Him. If you are found in Christ but not lost to yourself then a battle will constantly be under siege for control of your will and direction. To fully submit and surrender to Christ then our old self must go missing, vanish, wander astray never to be seen again.
Once we are lost to self we are free to experience the peace of being found in Christ, a peace that only comes from giving up the fight for control. A peace that is only found in being lost to the ways and the sin and the control of the self.
So my question to you is this, are you lost and found?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Good posture

Posture is important, very important. How you stand, place your shoulders and align your spine can impact your entire body. Rounded shoulders are more than just an unflattering way to stand. A curved spine affects more than just the lower lumbar. Bad posture can cause some real heartache for the nerves, blood vesicles, digestive system, discs and even the mood. Yes, poor posture can lead to depression. Did you know that not sitting up straight enough could actually be hindering your brain's ability to be energetic and positive? Even your cheerfulness could be compromised because your posture is all out of whack!
It's crazy but true, your mood and your outlook on life are impacted by how you carry yourself and your body's posture. Lay around like a slouch on the couch and you increase your risk of having your attitude fall into the same lazy, languid state. Walk around with rounded shoulders and a downcast gaze and don't be surprised if your spirit starts to wane while depression sets in.
But, take heart, there is good news. Posture can be corrected. When you stand up tall, place your shoulders back, fix your eyes forward and maintain a straight spine your mood will fall in line, too. Your energy will increase. You may find that you have a renewed pep in your step. All because you're standing up just a bit straighter.
There is no denying the power of the body's posture.
But I believe there is a posture even more powerful - and infinitely more important - than our physical posture. That is our prayer posture. I'm not talking about how you place your body while talking to God - standing, sitting, kneeling, or dancing. I will leave that posture up to you - although I will recommend that you keep your spine in alignment during prayer. (Your chiropractic bills will thank you.)
The posture I'm concerned with is the posture of the heart. Is your heart (and mine) in a constant position of prayer? Are we carrying our spirit in such a way that we are in perpetual and continual communion with God on an intimate and personal level? What is the stance - the posture - of our hearts?
The question is one worth asking today and everyday: how is my prayer posture?
The most powerful and important posture is our prayer posture. Our prayer life is our direct line to God, the Almighty King of Kings. When our posture on prayer is out of alignment the rest of our life will be off whack.
The Bible makes it clear that prayer is critically important. It impacts ever facet of our life and without it we will suffer. I suppose that's why the Bible talks so much about prayer. Here are just a few examples: 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to, "pray without ceasing." Colossians 4:2 says to, "continue in prayer..." In Luke 18:1 Jesus taught His disciples to, "pray and not give up."
The Bible and the teaching of the Lord Himself define what our posture should be. They give us the diagram for proper prayer alignment. Prayer should be continual, steadfast, never ending and hopeful. If you and I let our prayer lives become couch potatoes then our mood, spirit and entire life will suffer as a result. Prayer is that powerful. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes people and transforms hearts. Most importantly, you and I are directed by God to pray and keep praying.
So remember to stand up strong with our spine in line with God, eyes fixed on Him and heart in tune to His spirit. Once you check your prayer posture and realign your heart you just might find that the rest of your life will follow. Your mood, your attitude, your joy. Yes, even the pep in your step. It all starts with your prayer posture. So be sure to check yours today.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Happily Ever After

It's time to be honest...brutally honest.
Lucky for you (or maybe not so lucky), brutal honesty is one of my strong suits. Well, at least that's what a ninth grade teacher told me. He said I was, "...brutally honest and although that was good it might get me in trouble someday."
I hope today isn't that day because I'm about to indulge my brutally honest inner self and reveal to you the difficulties, struggles and, thankfully, triumphs of my recent days.

My ex-finance is getting (And yes I'm aware that he very well could stumble upon this post someday. I'll take that chance.)
He's getting married today to a girl who seems to be a wonderful match for him. Honestly, I'm happy for both of them. Those aren't just empty words. I mean them. I want him to be happy. He is not a bad guy. He just isn't the right guy for me and , if we had married, it would have been a struggle. I couldn't see that when I said, "yes" to a marriage proposal on the beach but I can see that now. We might have stuck out a marriage for the sake of keeping a vow but I don't think it would have been the union we were hoping for.
Since our breakup my ex-fiance found another girl to date, fall in love with, propose to and now, today, marry. From what I can tell the woman he is about to marry is much better suited to him then I could have ever been. The pictures of them playing paintball together are proof. I was never going to be playing paintball. Bless the woman who does, but it just isn't for me. Thankfully for Mr. Ex, he found the woman who would dawn heavy, combat style gear with him and shoot balls of multi-colored paint in the woods. Till death do them part.
So you see, I understand and recongnize that entering into a marriage with my ex would not have been in my best interest - or his. Or his new bride's for that matter. They were meant for each other. We, on the other hand, were not.
So today should be no big deal, right? He's marrying the right woman. I was spared from a difficult marriage and possible legal proceedings.
Today should be easy. But it's not. And here's why: I'm still alone.
Oh come on, you had to have known that was coming, right? My lonely laments have given away the pleading of my heart. I want a companion! I want someone to want to get to know me! I want it so badly that it is my number one personal request prayer to God. It is borderline (or not so on the border) begging. Send me someone...please! And soon!

It has been so long since I've had a single male interest in me that I've begun to believe that there simply is no "right guy" for me out there. In fact, I'm starting to believe there is not even a single date or casual get together out there for me. My loneliness feels perpetual and, at times, hopelessly permanent.
On days like today the sting of being alone is extra excruciating. I want to be genuinely joyful for the blessing of companionship that others are feeling but my happy thoughts are stuck under a cloud of my own singleness. My desire to have what they have - albeit with someone else - keeps me from fully entering into a state of joy on their behalf.
Deep inside me there is a twinge of resentment and jealousy that I know is straight form the pit of hell. I don't want to give in to its dangerous, lustful trap yet I have tripped again and let my wandering eye take control. As a result my heart has grown discontent and my joy has tanked.

The internal struggle to break free from this lust and sin was raging inside of me this morning in the pitch black, early hours of the day. I was losing my battle until the sun started to come up.
There, right outside of my kitchen window, I saw a pink sky begin to creep up above the rooftops in my neighborhood. It was a brilliant pink unlike any I've seen before. There was no yellow or orange or blue. It was a pure pink sky as far as my eye could see.
Suddenly I was overcome with the brillance of God and His creation. Not only His creation of nature but His creation of me and my life and even my circumstances. They are not an accident, they are beautifully created by the artistic hand of God. He paints the sky with the same care and eye as He designs my life.
If He can make the sky so beautiful why couldn't He do the same with my life?
The truth is, He is doing something beautiful with my life. Right now the canvas He's painting with my days hasn't included marriage or companionship. Maybe it never will. But my life doesn't need an "I do" or a dinner date to be something beautiful. Beauty can come in all different colors and patterns - some include matrimony and others do not. What is important is who creates the design. If God is the one painting the canvas and stitching together the fabric of my life then it is indeed going to be brilliantly beautiful.

This morning I hope that my ex-fiance's bride woke up and caught a glimpse of a beautiful sunrise. Because the beauty of life is for her, too, and I want a blessed, blissful marriage for her and her new husband.
So, in case he or she ever come across this post I hope they know this: My prayers for a blessed union and lifelong friendship go out to them. I genuinely hope that the journey they travel together is one of peace, joy and an abundance of Christ-like love. Happy wedding day... and live happily ever after!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Goodye Worry Wart

I can't stand the term "worry wart." It makes me think of podiatrists and foot ointment. Yuck. As much as I detest the term I think I detest the character trait that accompanies it with even more passion. A worry wart is "person who tends to dwell unduly on difficulty or troubles."
Again, I say yuck.
Who in the world wants to be in the company of a worry wart? They are downers. Fun-suckers (a little Lindsey Lohan reference for those of you who think I just came up with a new term). Worry warts look at life in shades of grey, more grey and black. There is no light. There is no hope. There are no blue skies and butterflies. The cup is always half empty and the forecasters prediction for 10% chance of rain may as well be 100%. They don't see a silver lining or a light at the end of a tunnel. All they see is gloom, doom and massive amounts of worry.
So what does a worry wart worry about? The question should really be what do they not worry about? Relationships, illness, finances, the weather, the dog, dust... if you can imagine a possible concern the worry wart will be able to dwell on it and become all consumed by it.
It is easy to point to the characteristics of a worry wart and see the flaws in their ways. They are overly negative and pessimistic. They lack a rest and peace. Instead they are wrought with concern and emotional instability, letting the "what ifs" of life control their thought life and outlook.
Yet, despite all that I see wrong with the worry wart, I myself fall into the same troublesome trap. I, too, focus too much on the negative, on what I don't have, on what tomorrow will or will not bring. And I worry about it. I worry so much that today's joy gets sapped right out of my spirit. I step into the shadowy company of a worry wart, pull up a chair and get comfortable.
There is a reason the characteristics of a persistent worrier has such an unappealing name - the characteristics of a persistent worrier in and of themselves are unappealing. Both to man and God. In fact Jesus was so against worry that He spoke against it directly and with crystal clear clarity. In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus said,
 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Worrying isn't just wrong because it sucks the fun out of a room. It is wrong because Jesus says so! There are many examples of Jesus speaking in parables and stories but this isn't one of them. He came right out and dealt with the matter of worry plainly and concisely so that not one person would miss this important command: do not worry.

Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of Nazi Germany who hid Jews in her home during World War two, said this about worry: "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”If there is anyone you can trust (apart from Jesus) on the matter of worry then it would be Corrie ten Boom.
Hiding Jews in Nazi Germany was punishable by death. She faced the possibility of torture in a concentration camp if her acts of disobedience to the Nazi's would have been discovered. She had to feed the hideouts in her home along with her family during a time period when food was scarce and a rise in food coming into her home could have set off suspensions to the authorities. She could have worried about all of these things and more. Needless to say she had countless reasons to be a worry wart. But instead she trusted God. Corrie ten Boom lived according to Matthew 6:25-34.

There is simply no question that worry is unattractive. God doesn't like it. Your friends won't appreciate it. And the name you'll earn for your worrying personality won't be appealing, either. There truly is not a single redeeming quality to worrying.
So why waste another moment worrying? Cast your worries upon the Lord and let Him handle them. He'll do a much better job. After all, all the worry in the world won't change a thing. But God can. God can change everything. Let Him have you worry and let Him have your praise. He commands us to give Him both and in return our burden will be light, our hearts will be at rest and our name won't be one with the word "wart" attached to it.
Can I get an amen?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Heed the call

Five years to the day. One thousand eight hundred and twenty five days. Forty three thousand eight hundred hours. Two million six hundred twenty eight thousand seconds.
It was on November 2, 2009 that I surrendered my life to Christ. I didn't wake up on that morning anticipating a dramatic life change or conversion experience. It was just a Monday and who expects anything earth shaking to happen on a Monday?
November 2, 2009 was anything but a boring, mundane Monday. In fact, it is the most extraordinary and miraculous of days I have yet to experience in my life. It all started with the haphazard decision to open a book. I had purchased the Oswald Chambers devotional book a week or so earlier while vising Parkside Church but I had yet to open it. At the time of purchase (and on the morning of November 2, 2009) I was living in an out-and-out state of rebellion against God and my parents. I don't know what possessed me to buy that devotional in the first place given the state of my spiritual life but something, or someone, planted in me a seed that took that book to the checkout line in my hands. From there it traveled back to college with me where it would stay in its bag until that fateful Monday morning.
For some reason that I will never know I decided to open that devotional on that particular Monday morning. And in it I found God's call on my life: complete surrender. I finished reading the day's short devotional and immediately committed my life to Christ. I asked for forgiveness for my rebellion and ugly sin. Then I decided to obediently follow wherever God would lead.
Since that day I haven't been perfect, trust me on that! I've made mistakes, had setbacks and been angry with God for allowing hardship to befall my life. But God has always forgiven me. Even when I've ignored Him for days on end He has always taken me back.

My road of obedience all began with that one simple decision to open a book. I still don't know what possessed me to open it or why I choose November 2. I look back on that day now and I can see that it was the hand of God guiding me to the words He had destined for me on that particular day. He stirred my heart, my hears perked up, I listened and the course of my life was forever changed.
Dear Reader, if God calls, listen. If He tugs on your heart, pay attention. If He sends you a word, read it. You never know how that one little decision to follow God in the small, seemingly insignificant details of life may impact the entire course of your future.
On November 2, 2009 I thought I was just reading a few paragraphs in a book. Little did I know I was about to be reborn. And it all happened with a single decision to repent, surrender and follow Jesus.
All it takes is one single decision for you, too. Heed the call. Make the decision.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You've Got God

I like You've Got Mail.Wait, did I say like? Let me correct myself.
I love You've Got Mail.
I've always loved that movie since the first time I laid eyes on the opening credits. You remember them, don't you? The computer mouse clicks into different boxes as the music strolls the viewer down a Manhattan street right up to the front door of Kathleen Kelly's brownstone apartment. The leaves, the sounds, the jazzy music, New York City - What is there not to love about You've Got Mail?
The answer: nothing. It is the perfect movie. (This is not up for debate).
And if you thought New York in the fall with Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks and a love story involving book stores wasn't good enough then you have forgotten about George, Kathleen Kelly's aloof employee at the Shop Around the Corner. His hair is long, his expression is one of a pathetic downtrodden bachelor whose only hope in life and love is meeting a poet loving, yogi at an interpretive reading while they both sip on their chai tea at the locally owned coffee shop. He is a bit depressing but completely endearing. I challenge a woman on earth to walk away from watching You've Got Mail saying anything other than, "Aw, poor George." We all love George. Do you want to know why? Because we all have a little George in us.
George symbolizes the rejected. He's the guy at prom standing against the wall, cute in a little boy kind of way but too dorky to get a date. George is the nice guy that we all fear might finish last. Most notably, George speaks to that part of each of us that is lonely and given up the search for real true romance and lasting love. Failure and repeated rejection has left us, the Georges of the world, exhausted from the let downs and dashed hopes.
I love George because I get George. In so many ways I am George. I've experienced rejection from all sides, all directions and all modes of communication. If you can name a way to get rejected then chances are I've experienced.
And George probably has, too.
I know I'm not alone in my plight. This problem is so prevalent that movies have whole characters devoted to voicing the pains of the rejected. Nora Ephron knew that movie goers would understand the loneliness of a romantically rejected children's book store worker, so she created George - a man whose primary role in a two hour film is to be a sad sack. And why he is a sad sack? Because he has been rejected. Over and over and over again. He doesn't even use the internet anymore because as he says it's, "just another way of being rejected by women." Poor George.

Sometimes I'm tempted to be a sad sack just like George because I'm alone and because I've experienced rejection from all angles and every avenue - including the internet. George was spot on when he deemed the World Wide Web as just another source of romantic rejection. When I relive my own rebuffs from the internet world, telephone world and face-to-face world I slowly slip into a depressive funk.
Rejection isn't fun. It isn't enjoyable. Rejection leaves the rejected wondering what in the world is wrong with them. I know because those very words have haunted my thought life on the heels of rejection.
If I replay those past experiences I get down. And I stay down.
Until I get back to the Bible. It is in the Bible that I find the truth about rejection. And what is the truth about rejection? Is a to be expected. Woah! Try telling George that.
John 15:18 says, "If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you."
Before you and I were, Jesus was. And when He walked this earth He was hated and rejected. As the Bible says, His own didn't even receive Him (John 1:11). Talk about rejection!
So it would follow that if you and I are in Christ we will not be received, either. We will actually be hated. Enter massive rejected. We will come to the people we think should be our own and they won't accept us into the fold. We will be outcasts. We will be rebuffed. We will be the lonesome soul standing against the wall at prom, so to speak.
And all of this is to be expected because Jesus endured it first. He went through this same rejection (and worse) and knows the feelings of loneliness we face as a result. The road of rejection that you, George and I walk is one that Jesus has already walked. He came and faced our rejection and, as the Bible teaches, overcame it.
In the end rejection couldn't keep Jesus in a grave and it couldn't separate Him from the love of God. Rejection wasn't fun for Him. Being nailed to a cross is anything but pleasant. But even that most torturous of rejection wasn't capable of separating Jesus from God. And that is what matters most: being one with God.

You may be feeling like George and I today, totally rejected and completely depressed. George and I understand your emotions and we sympathize. Most importantly, Jesus sympathizes, He relates and He understands. Bring to Him your hurt and your lonely burden and let Him fill you with His love. When you and I come before our God broken and rejected He is faithful to fill us with His compassion and companionship. He will accept us and love us just the way we are. The world is going to hate us, you can count on that but God loves us more than we will ever know and more than we can comprehend. So come to Him and let His free gift of acceptance lift you from the downtrodden state of a sad sack and into a state of overwhelming joy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Every morning

I wake up every morning in a bed by myself. Well, not exactly by myself. Pippy is there. Every night she curls up at the foot of my bed and immediately falls asleep. I never thought I'd be sharing a bed with a dog. I was always one of those "dogs stay on the floor" kind of people. That is until I met Pippy. She entered my life and all of my rules about dogs flew out the window. Dogs riding in the car to run errands? Yes. Pippy does that almost daily. Dogs on vacation? Of course! Don't dogs deserve a break, too?And dogs wearing raincoats? Duh, if its raining!
As you can tell, Pippy changed my perspective on a dog's place on the family tree. And she changed my sleeping arrangements. I went from sleeping solo to feeling out-of-place if my bed isn't filled with my furry friend.
As usual, this morning when I woke up Pippy was there, right where she always is, but still I felt all alone. My mind started wandering to marriage and life-long companionship - male companionship. Don't get me wrong, I love Pippy and our sleeping arrangement but sometimes, many times as of late, I have been wanting to add to the arrangement. I've been longing for a husband.
It was still pitch black outside my window as my longing once again set in. God promises to give His obedient children the desires of their heart. Well, this is the desire of my heart but it feels like a million miles away from my reality. There is no prospect of a companion in sight. I survey my life and I don't even see a glimmer or a spark of any possibility for a mate in the future. As I laid there this morning thinking on my singleness and my husband-free bed I began to mourn the marriage I've never had and lament what I deem a grim future in the matrimony department.
And then God shook me. Well, not literally but internally. It dawned on me that I was already in the presence of all the companionship I'll ever need. And I'm not just talking about Pippy.
Every morning I wake up in the arms of Jesus. I may not be able to see them but that doesn't mean they aren't there. I may not be able to feel them but that doesn't mean they aren't holding on to me. Jesus has promised to never leave me. He made a vow, a commitment with the shedding of His blood. And He hasn't abandoned that promise. He is my constant companion all day, every day...even in the wee hours of the morning.
As I laid in my bed longing to be held my a man I could call my husband I was reminded that I was already in the arms of my most faithful lover of my soul. In the midst of my lament a scripture came to mind, a message of comfort in my time of need. I couldn't place it to a reference but I knew the words by heart, "The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." 
It wasn't until I got out of bed and found that scripture in the Bible that the irony of it hit me. Lamentations 3:22-23
In the midst of my lament Jesus reminded me that He is enough to quiet my discontented heart. His arms are big enough, strong enough, faithful enough and loving enough to hold me every morning for the rest of my days. The union I share with Him is the only union I'll ever truly need and it is more than enough to satisfy my soul.
My lament of the morning has given way to praise for the privilege of waking up next to Jesus. Who am I that He should love me so much that He would keep me company every night and wake up ready to comfort me every morning? And who am I that He should have given me such a faithful little furry friend to keep my feet warm and toasty even on the chilliest of mornings? 
I am blessed. I am overwhelmingly blessed by the steadfast devotion of my Savior, the Lord of Lord and King of Kings, the One I wake up with every morning.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A consuming fire

In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted. Volcanos had erupted prior to that fateful day and they have certainly erupted since but there is no more infamous and devestating volcano in recorded history than the eruption of Vesuvius. That volcano leveled cities and buried them in ash. It demolished towns and obliterated whole populations of people. Molten rock, stones and ashfall laid waste to the land it attacked and stole the lives of the unsuspecting inhabitants below.
The story of Vesuvius is well known and often taught in grade school. If you recall the lesson from your days spent starting at a chalk board then you probably remember that Pompeii was the most notable of cities destroyed by Vesuvius. For most people that it as much as they will ever know about Pompeii. It was in Italy and it was destroyed by a volcano. But there is more to the story of Pompeii.
The town of Pompeii was established at the foot of a volcano, not the greatest of locals but apparently that didn't raise alarm bells for the inhabitants because they built up a thriving port city. In 89 BC they were annexed from Roman rule and that is when things really started boombing. They revamped their infrastructure, built temples, grew their economy and added to their population. Suffice it to say, Pompeii was popping.
But then strange things started happening: earthquakes. It started in 62 AD with minor quakes and then in 79 AD the world as Pompeii knew it erupted. Vesuvius woke up and consumed the whole town below in a show of volcanic force that has yet to be duplicated.
What makes the eruption of Vesuvius even more chilling then utter death and destruction is what was taking place right before it erupted. Just the day before it came to its fateful end, the town of Pompeii had been celebrating "Vulcanalia," the festival devoted to the god of fire.
It is presumptious to say that because the citizens of Pompeii worshiped a "god of fire," the true God reigned down on them with all the fiery fury in His power. I won't pretend to know the mind of God. But there is a lesson in the life and tragic death of Pompeii. It is the lesson of being consumed.
No matter who you are or what time period you live in there will always be a temptation to become consumed with false gods. The false god doesn't always fall into the category of a bronze statue or angry volcano. Sometimes the false gods are money, relationships, material possessions or even something as seemingly good as compaionship. When put on a pedistal and fixated upon those things become all consuming and, in turn, all destroying.
There is only one thing that is to consume us and that is God himself. As Hebrews 12:29 says, "our God is a consuming fire." In Deuteronomy it says that our God is a jealous God, wanting to consume us. He doesn't want idols, fixations, money or any earthly desire to consume us. Those are all false gods that will only destroy us in the end. But when you and I are consumed by God we are not headed for a firey end. We are consumed by the God of love who will take us up to Heaven when our time on earth is done. We have the privilage of being consumed by the God of the universe who knows every detail of our past and has every second of our future plotted on the palm of His hand. There is no other god like our God. The god of fire that the citizens of Pompeii worshiped led to death. Being consumed by the one and only God leads to life.
In Pompeii, back in the late BCs and early ADs, the citizens of that town fell into the habit of being consumed. First they were consumed with building a city they could take pride in. And by human standards they succeeded but that life of material and idol fixation didn't lead to an eternal life. They worshiped fire and statues and false idols but their worship gave way to their destrction. The town they labored over and the gods they worshiped pointed straight to their utter ruination when Vesuvius consumed them in a firey furnace.

You and I face the same temptation that the citizens of Pompeii faced. We can become consumed with the wrong things. We can worship false idols and labor for fleeting glory and worldly success. But it will all end in ruin.
Being consumed by Christ and the love of God is the only path to eternal life and everlasting glory. Our jealous God wants all of our attentions, all of our worship and every ounce of our dedication. When we give that to Him here on earth He will give us a beautiful ending that leads straight to the golden gates of Heaven. There we will come face to face with our God, the all consuming fire, who will be waiting with open arms to greet us into His House of endless praise and worship.
Dear Reader (and dear self), don't allow yourself to become consumed with the false gods that abound on this earth. Fix your eyes on the God of the universe, the King of Kings. He alone is worthy of praise. He commands us to submit ourselves to Him and be consumed by His mighty power. So let Him have His way. Fall into the arms of your all-consuming fire and let Him have His way in your life.

Friday, October 17, 2014

An October Life

Don't you just love October? Maybe it is silly to qualify months and rate them in order of goodness. If it is then forgive me for my upcoming silliness but October truly is the greatest month. The colors alone are worthy of the top spot. The landscape (at least up north which is also the greatest place to live - and yes, I'm a bit biased on that point) takes on the characteristics of a painters canvas brushed with golden hues of red, orange, brown and yellow. When the wind whips between the leaves the magnificent color display sways as if to the rhythm of an imaginary orchestral accompaniment. This is the beauty of nature that can only be found in the blessed month of October.
L. M. Montgomery said it best when she breathed a classic line into a young girl named Anne. "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." My only regret about that famous line is that I didn't think of it first. It is the perfect summation of the month of October and of life itself. Because the beauty of October doesn't end at the leaves and the weather and the sweet scent of spiced candles and apple cider. October captures the essence of beauty because it is the perfect picture of life.
October boasts beautiful colors and crisp air but it also boasts some not-so desirable characteristics. October can bring with it grey skies, pounding rains and unpredictable temperatures. One day you can be surrounded by the perfect humidity, perfectly blue sky and gorgeous golden trees and the next day a storm can roll in that send the air into a fit of fierce wind and torrential rains. October brings with it a lingering uncertainty. Will winter come early? Will the leaves be torn to the ground before kids get to trick-or-treat? In Northern Pennsylvania the question of snow even enters the conversation of weather predictors.
This isn't just the story of October, it is the story of the life hidden with Christ. It is an unpredictable ride. There are ups and downs and countless unknowns. One day can be all sun and the next can be overcast and totally covered with dark clouds. When you and I entrust our lives into the hand of God we aren't signing up for a month like August where high humidity, blazing hot sun and green grass are to be expected. We're singing on for October and October is anything but predictable.
Despite all of these unknowns I can say with confidence that I am so glad I live a life hidden with Christ, a life like the month of October. Even when the circumstances of my life turn grey and the storm clouds roll in I can hang on to the beauty that even the roughest of weather is part of God's plan for my life. The trials and storms are part of a bigger picture, they are necessary for the changing of life's seasons and turning of the leaves. I can look out my window on this month of October and be reminded that without the cold snaps the green leaves never turn bright gold. Without the rain the pumpkins don't grow. And without the wind I would never get to see the beautiful display of swaying colors on the hillside.
The storms, the sun and every change of weather in between are part of God's plan for this beautiful world I get to enjoy. And the storms and sun of life are part of God's master plan for my good, too. They are there to bring about necessary change in my soul and sometimes to change the trajectory of my life's course. God uses the challenges of life to strengthen my faith and assurance in His omnipotence and sovereignty. He uses the storms to break my will and my pride. He uses the storms to draw my focus back to His face.
I'm so glad that God has turned my life into one big October, my favorite of all months. No matter how difficult this journey may feel - and some days it feels overwhelmingly trying - I can look to the promises of God and the lesson in the month of October: there will be ups and downs but God is doing something beautiful. All I have to do is look at the trees and the changing leaves to be reminded that God is doing a work in me and if I let Him have His mighty way He can make me as beautiful as the month of October.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dying with Dignity

Yesterday I came across an article titled, "Dying with Dignity." You might have read it, too.
A 29 year old with an incurable form of cancer has decided to choose the date of her death in the state of Oregon thanks to their Death with Dignity Act. This act gives terminally ill patients the choice of dying by lethal injection. It is a practice that is only legal in three states but it is gaining wide spread support since the story of this young woman hit the headlines.
I read many articles about this woman and countless comments about the decision she has made to choose her own death date. The cancer she has is vicious and, doctors tell her, will cause her a slow and painful death. It is a devastating prognosis and one that no one can imagine receiving unless they have themselves had such a diagnosis.
I am not here to judge her choice in dying by lethal injection. I am not in her body and did not receive the prognosis she received so I can't say unequivocally how I would handle such a situation.
But reading about this woman and about dying with dignity I couldn't help but think about Christ and His death. It certainly wasn't a death that most would call dignified. He died slowly, painfully and brutally. And He knew it was coming. His whole life was spent on the road to that brutal end. He knew every day that He was going to have to die a sacrificial death to set sinners free. It wasn't dignified. It wasn't quick. It was incomprehensibly horrific.
Yet, Jesus didn't try to get out of it early or minimize His pain. Through His death on a cross He knew that He would be fulfilling the will of God. He prayed and asked God to change the course of His life, take the cup from Him. But God didn't do that. He had a plan of salvation that only Jesus could work out. And so Jesus didn't ask His disciples to end His life early and quickly so that He wouldn't have to be crucified on a cross in front of a mocking crowd. He carried His cross, endured the nails and the slow death and asked for God's forgiveness to rest on the murderers below.
When you and I die we won't be bringing salvation to sinners. Jesus alone did that work and it was a one time gift for all of humanity. But just because we aren't saving souls doesn't mean we aren't fulfilling God's will in our death. God's name can be glorified by how we die just like it can be glorified in how we live.
There is an appointed time for each of us to be born and an appointed time for each of us to die. It is not ours to determine, it is in God's hands and it is His alone to know. How He wants to use us up until that very last moment is part of His plan. Even with our last breath we can be a voice for Him. Our peace in the face of pain can be a picture of His presence. Our relentless hope in the mist of difficulty can speak volumes to the lost.
I don't know what you're facing today. Maybe it is a death sentence of a diagnosis. Whatever your trial may be, keep living fully in Christ. He can make His name great through your life and through your death if you will allow Him to have total control. Submit your days of vitality to Him and your days of weakness. Release your will and your dignity into His care and He will use you to glorify His great name.
God has a plan for you and for me from the day we are born to the day we die. And He has those days marked out for us. They are a mystery to us but an appointment to keep in God's date book. Let Him have His way in your life and in your death and He will use you up until your final breath.

Friday, October 3, 2014

It's not about me

It has been a while since I've posted on Pippy Love. Most of my time spent writing and posting has been on Baking on the Fritz where I have been regularly chronicling my life in the kitchen and my life post multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Most of those posts have a recipe and a lesson learned while baking a particular treat. God has been using the kitchen as a classroom to further mold me into a woman after His own heart. (Trust me, I have quite a ways to go).
So much of what God has been revealing to me and teaching me has been coming from my experiences (failures and successes) in the kitchen. It is as if when I put on my apron God is saying, "Oh, okay, so you're here to learn now, aren't you?" I never knew there were so many life lessons in flour and sugar. I never knew that failed baked goods could provide such spiritual growth. But God knew and He planted in me this desire to bake and in turn has used it as a way to continue the work He has been doing on my heart.
But not every lesson that I've been learning has come while wearing an apron. Some lessons come without a list of ingredients and a preheated oven. Take, for instance, this morning.
This morning, for whatever reason, I was struck by an intense and overwhelming sense of loneliness. It was as if someone hit me with a bat. All of a sudden I was down and out, depressed and utterly lonely.
Immediately I began to cry out to God with the question, "Why?"..."Why are you allowing me to be alone for so long? Don't you know how lonely I am?"
My lament to God took place at the kitchen sink as I stood at the window and looked out into the front yard. I didn't even want to see the world clearly so I took off my glasses. Seeing the world in blurry bunches of color gave me the sense that I was able to somehow escape its reality. It was my way of crawling into an isolated cocoon.
It was there, standing paralyzed in my kitchen in a state of pathetic self-pity that God came knocking at the door of my heart and mind. He didn't speak with audible words but His truth came kindly and rationally to me, like a Father lovingly disciplining a child. God started to discipline my heart's attitude.
The thoughts and words flooded over me and it was as if He said, "Don't you know this isn't all about you?"
At that moment I was overwhelmed and humiliated by own selfishness. There I was, consumed by my own pitiful depressive state and God had to remind me that loneliness is nothing compared to eternal separation from Him. I needed to be reminded, even after all these years under His teaching that my life isn't all about me.
God reprimanded my heart and redirected my attitude. I put my glasses back on and realigned my spirit's posture. In those moments I heard a little word from God, almost like a pep-talk and it went something like this, "This life isn't all about you. We have bigger fish to fry. There are people out there perishing who don't know me. They aren't saved. They are going to spend eternity in separation from me. You are alone and true that isn't enjoyable for you but the souls of people are on the line. That is bigger than your loneliness. That is a more pressing need. If you are consumed with your loneliness than you can't focus on the really big problem. That is the problem of lost souls. If you want to help me in the mission to save them then you can't be so concerned about your lonely heart. That can't even be on the radar screen. I need your focus to be on helping spread my word of salvation. I'll be blunt, that's more important then you wanting a companion."
Dear Reader, I won't claim to you that I've now closed the book on my loneliness and that I will never spend another moment of my life lamenting my singleness or my lack of companionship. I'm too flawed too claim such victory. But I can tell you this, I will continue to heed the discipline of my Father God. When I fall into a state of overwhelming loneliness I will cry out to Him and let Him kindly guide me back to His ultimate purpose in my life. It isn't for me to have a love interest or to be surrounded by friends. His ultimate purpose for me is to use me in furthering His kingdom. That is my life's work. That's why I was created. I was created to spread the salvation that is only found in Jesus Christ's death on a cross. He came to set the sinner free by the blood He shed on Calvary. My loneliness is such small potatoes compared to that eternal truth. My loneliness doesn't even make a ripple in the ocean of importance when compared to the souls of sinners. Their salvation is of utmost importance and God wants to use me in His mission to save them.
I have the great privilege and honor of being a soldier in the Lord's army. But to be an effective fighter I must be focused on the battle. I must cast my loneliness aside so I can be fully engaged in the fight to spread the word and truth of salvation. That's what this life is all about. And it isn't about me.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I am beautiful

I am beautiful….
I'm beautiful because I am made in the image of God.
I'm beautiful because before the world was created God knew who I would be, when I would be and what I would become.
I'm beautiful because I was born on April 12, 1990 at six pounds, twelve ounces precisely as He ordained me to be.
I'm beautiful because I have been given unique abilities and talents.
I'm beautiful because in me is a mind that God crafted with His own hands so that I can think on His majesty and greatness.
I'm beautiful because I'm little yet empowered by the strength of God to do things bigger than man can fathom.
I'm beautiful because I have a heart that was fashioned to seek and yearn for God.
I'm beautiful because I was created with a purpose that is all my own.
I'm beautiful because there is truly not another person on this earth just like me. I'm a one-of-a kind. I'm uniquely me. To the rest of the world I may look like an alien. I'm small…shockingly so. My weight, or lack of, provoke eyes to stare, to gawk and look upon me with sideways glances. But that's okay.
What those people don't know is what is going on inside. They don't know about the MS and the battle for my health that has taken place over the past four years. They don't know the taxing ordeal my body has been through and that's okay. I can't blame them. They simply are unaware that I'm a different kind of beautiful than they're used to seeing on the covers of magazines. I don't fit their glossy ideal of what an ideal woman should look like.
Perhaps I was created to be Christ's kind of beautiful, not the world's.
On days when it seems that all I receive are anything but adoring eyes all I need to do is smile and remind myself that the world doesn't measure beauty by God's standards, but I do. My kind of beautiful is the kind of beauty created by the hand of God for His pleasure and for His glory. I may not be what this world considers beautiful, but if God smiles down on me then I know I'm beautiful in the eyes that matter most, my all-suffieicent creator and lover of my soul. To Him I am beautiful and that will always be enough.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Refining Fire

Fire does one of two things. It refines or it destroys. Just as there are two types of fire, there are two starters of fires. The fire that refines is lit by God, the fire that destroys is lit by the devil himself. It may seem as though you and I have no control over who sets our fires and who controls them, but that is not the case. You and I have much more control over the fires in our lives than we often give ourselves credit for. We are not helpless victims in the middle of a burning building. We can choose to be consumed by a destructive fire or we can choose to become a piece of ceramic in the midst of the blaze, made more beautiful by the heat of the kiln.
This morning my Mom and I wandered down to a farmer’s market just down the road from where we are staying in Hilton Head Island. I was expecting to find an array of luscious vegetables. I was surprised to see that this particular farmer’s market boasted more local artisans than it did local produce. Booths were lined up in rows selling lotions, butters, relishes, purses, paintings, and, my personal weakness, handcrafted ceramic coffee mugs. I’m a sucker for interesting mugs. I have a ridiculously large collection of them but that doesn’t stop me from buying more of them, especially on vacation. I rationalize that they are my souvenir of choice (the truth is I have a lot of souvenirs of choice).
Well today I did some more rationalizing and some more unnecessary purchasing by picking out a beautifully, hand crafted blue mug with a special handle perfect for grasping to sip on a warm cup of morning coffee. This mug has me looking forward to tomorrow morning at seven AM when I will pour myself a cup of black coffee with no cream and no sugar (I’m hardcore).
As I was turning the cup upside down and all around, taking in the intricacies of its design and feeling its perfect curves in the grip of my hand I was reminded of the refining fire. Without it my mug would never reached this level of perfection. The glossy finish would have been unattainable. The glaze could have been applied but without the heat it would have never change its chemical structure to attain the lustrous blue that caught my eye. The process of being under heat caused the chemicals in the clay and the paint to meld together to create a perfectly glassy finish. Paint alone couldn’t create this beauty. It needed the heat of the kiln. It needed to be refined by fire.
Just like me.
All of the greatest of intentions and abundance of knowledge won’t change me or mold me until I am put under fire. It is under the pressure of heat that I can become more than what I am now. I can be refined, molded, shaped and enhanced. Even the greatest of paint and fanciest of materials won’t do me any good unless some heat is applied. It is the kilns of life that bring about the most remarkable beauty.
There are bound to be days, months, and years in life where we feel like the heat is turned up to unbearable temperatures. This is when we have a choice: let it refine or let it destroy.
God can make that heat into a kiln. He can use it to refine but we must let Him.
I want to be like that mug I bought this morning. When I get under heat I want to become better, more beautiful, more breathtaking. I don’t want to crack or crumble in the heat of my fire. I want to get into God’s kiln, let Him turn up the hat and see what design He has in mind especially for me.

The choice is mine and the choice is ours. Who’s setting our fires? Who’s controlling their temperatures? Most importantly, what are we letting those fires do to our lives? Dear Reader, let God set your fires, control the blaze and create something beautiful under the pressure of high heat. Let the Lord refine you by fire.

Isaiah 48:10
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Armor against doubts

There is nothing that the devil loves more than when God's children doubt their heavenly Father. It is music to satan's ears. When doubts arise he knows that he has that little wandering soul right where he wants it, on shaky ground, sinking fast into the depths of a dark, faithless place.
If you've been a Christ follower for more than a moment, or maybe even just a moment, then chances are you've experienced what I'll call, "the dangerous doubts." They come in all forms of questions and concerns…. Does God hear me when I pray? Does God have an actual plan for my life? Is there a Heaven? Will God take care of my loved ones? And here's one that hits a bit too close to home, was I created fearfully and wonderfully like the Bible tells me so?
I will admit to my fair share of doubts. Not only have I had doubts but I've rationalized them, too. It's easy to do when you are in physical suffering and ill health. I've made the excuse that of course I have doubts, how could I not when my body is on the fritz, reducing my physical capabilities and causing me real suffering? My internal dialogue goes something like this, "I have every right to doubt God. Anyone would if they were in my shoes, physically speaking. In fact, it makes sense for me to doubt."
This dialogue can go on for quite some time. All the while satan only grows happier and happier, knowing that with each gripe, complaint and concern I am drifting farther and farther away from the security and foundation of the Lord. With every passing moment of apprehension I sink deeper in despair and deeper into the evil depths of the devil's darkness.

Dear reader, if you find yourself in a place of doubt this morning I urge you to flee that dangerous trap. Rid yourself of the doubt that threatens to pull you away from your all-loving and all-knowing Savior and get back to the basics of God's goodness.
Recognize that as the Bible warns, you are in a battle. Satan has his weapons and they aren't so secret - doubts, questions, concerns and worries are just a few of his favorites. He wields them with wild abandon. Without proper protection you and I run the risk of getting struck and taken down. Thankfully we have our own weapons and a suit of armor that, if we choose to wear, will protect us from every sling, arrow and bullet the devil will throw our way.
When I am overcome with doubts I turn back to Ephesians 6:11-18 and I am immediately reminded that those feelings are nothing more than a weapon of my enemy. They are not of God. They are tricks meant to bring me down and overtake me. But God has given me a weapon of my own. It is scripture and it is truth. I can stand on the rock of God's authoritative scripture and know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know it full well because in Psalm 139:14 God told me that very word!
The scriptures are protection and security for you and me.  They are words of unshakable truth and abundant life. His words are armor against the lies of the devil.
The devil will throw doubts on you, I can guarantee that. He is out to steal and destroy and his number one targets are the lovers of Christ. The good news is that you and I are not ill-equipped to handle the onslaught. We are soldiers in the greatest army ever gathered. We fight for the mightiest King that has ever and will ever reign. Doubts may come but they are no match for the armor of the Lord. He will always protect, always defend and always win in the battle for His beloved children.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Yes, I truly am on the fritz

It's been a long time coming…or at least that's how it's felt.
Four years have passed since I've been able to explain the ups and downs of my body. There have been more downs than ups and more questions than answers. It started with weight and didn't end there. Digestion, numbness, muscle spasms and, most recently, spotty vision and patches of blur that have left me concerned and frantic for answers. 
Finally answers have arrived.
A brain MRI confirmed my suspicion: multiple sclerosis. 
This suspicion has been lingering in my mind for the last six months ever since I heard the voice of God speak this very diagnosis into my car on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I wasn't praying or even seeking God at that very moment. I was singing along to the tune of a song in my car when all of a sudden God spoke simply and clearly, "It's M.S." Ever since then I have believed that what God spoke was true and that, in His time, there would be confirmation. Sure enough, the MRI results showed visually what God had spoken audibly. 
On the face of it the diagnosis  of MS sounds devastating. MS is associated with all sorts of limitations, classically the loss of vision and loss of mobility. The prognosis appears grim with no "cure" and just a lot of management techniques. Despite all of the doom and gloom associated with MS, since receiving the picture of lesions and demyelinating sheath in my brain I've felt overwhelming relief. Odd as it may sound finding these spots has given me a peace that I was desperate to receive.
Over the course of the past four years I've felt like I was going crazy, as if my symptoms were "all in my head." Well, they have been in my head - literally. I haven't been imagining these symptoms or making up my ailments. The evidence has been found and the images have proven my case. My brain is very much on the fritz! 
In a strange way knowing I have MS has given me a renewed strength. I made it. I survived these past four years of confusion and questions. The struggle didn't ruin me, it grew me. God remained faithful the entire time and He never stopped carrying me even on the roughest of days. 
On the morning that I received the results from my MRI I read Psalm 30. When I read it I had no idea how true those words would ring for me in just a few short hours. In Psalm 30:1-3 David wrote, "I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit."
That is truly what the Lord did for me. I was floundering and struggling under the weight of an undiagnosed condition that I couldn't control or understand. But God didn't leave me there. He sustained me even when my faith was weak and tiny as a mustard seed. When I was fatigued and worn out He breathed into me His limitless energy and vitality so that I could face another day. He spared me from the depths of the pit of the unknown that weighed so heavily on my heart, mind and body. 
In my limited scope of time the four year long wait felt endless but to God it was just a blink of an eye. Although difficult and trying, these four years have been a sculpting tool God has used to mold me into a more patient and enduring child who trusts wholeheartedly in her Father. 

This morning I am thanking God for giving me an answer to my questions and a diagnosis that I can understand and make sense of. Now I can begin the journey of regaining my health and experiencing the healing God has in store for me. As I go forward into my new life of healing and wellbeing I am doing so on the strength and power of God, believing wholeheartedly that the future He has for me is one of good health.

To follow my journey post-diagnosis follow me on

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A devastating donut distaster

It all started with a Wilton 6-Cavity Donut Pan and some very good, albeit naive, intentions.
I tried to make homemade donuts. Tried being the key word. Online I'd seen countless recipes and reviews raving about the texture, consistency, flavor and downright divine goodness of the oven baked donut. The recipes didn't seem all that challenging. The hardest part of the whole process was finding a donut pan but a trip to a local (and quirky) cooking supply shop remedied that problem. All it took was a twenty minute drive and a twenty dollar bill and I was in possession of my very own Wilton Donut Pan, plus a mini-donut pan perfect for making mini-donuts for little hands and little tummies.
The next morning after purchasing my new equipment I went to work on the donuts. I chose a vanilla cinnamon sugar cake donut made with flour, buttermilk, melted butter, sugar and some other essentials like baking powder, vanilla extract and salt. The pictures looked promising. For a topping I chose a recipe that promised the perfect classic maple glaze. With my oven preheated, ingredients placed on the counter and donut pans greased I felt more than prepared for the task at hand.
I followed the recipe precisely, making sure to heed the warnings about over beating the batter and not scorching the butter. I felt quite pleased with my progress. The batter looked just like the picture!
I poured the batter into my prepared pan and was again pleased to see that it looked just like the picture!
Then I stuck my creations into the oven and waited exactly seventeen minutes, just like the recipe said. Then I turned on the light of the oven to peer in on my tantalizing baked creations. And suddenly I was not so pleased. They looked nothing like the picture. My confectionary creations looked like small rubbery tires. They were pale with not even a hint of the golden brown I was promised in the recipe's description. The pleasing cinnamon scent I was greatly anticipating was barely detectable. I opened the oven, pulled out my pan and sunk into further disappointment. When I poked the donuts they didn't feel the least bit fluffy. They were hard and tough. Without even having to take a bite I knew they were bound to be the chewiest "cake" donuts ever baked at three hundred and fifty degrees.
I stuck them back in the oven for a few minutes. The donuts were already a disaster I knew that but I was hoping that with a few more minutes at a high heat a golden brown might appear on the tops of my lousy donuts. But no luck. A few minutes later the donuts still looked the same.
Reluctantly, my Mom did the difficult deed of taste testing the so-called donuts. Her face said it all. These were not donuts at all. They were tasteless, dense balls of dough cooked for twenty minutes. In no culinary universe could these tire-like substances be called "donuts."
The verdict on the vanilla cinnamon sugar donut was in and it was two thumbs down plus an "eww." At first I was disappointed. I had been excited to bake donuts in my nifty donut pan! The tray was so cute and the pictures on blogs and websites were so promising, but the result was nothing like the pictures. My donuts were nothing like the descriptions written by bakers and reviews written by tasters.
My donuts were a big fat flop.
The amount of waste that was in those tasteless, rubbery tires made my stomach sick! I had put in an hour trying to follow every step of the recipe to perfection. Now all I was left with was a bag full of hard cooked dough and a sink full of messy bowls. The disastrous donuts made me want to return my cute little pan and write scathing reviews on all baked donut recipes posted online!
But then something came over me. A small little voice said, "try again…" I looked at my counter full of ingredients and sink full of dishes, took a deep breath and headed back to the computer. I searched again for "baked donuts" and found another recipe with more reviews and more promises of a mind-blowing treat sure to please the whole family. With low expectations I set out to bake again.
I measured out my flour, sugar and even browned butter this time around. I once again followed the directions to a T, taking my time to double check amounts and the order of each step.
I cleaned out my donut pan, re-greased the cute little tins and re-filled them with donut dough #2.
I popped them in the oven and waited eight minutes - the new "perfect" amount of time for baked donuts when baked at three hundred and fifty degrees.
After eight minutes I pulled them from the oven and you want to know what happened?
I pulled out six pale, rubbery tires someone claimed would be "donuts."

So far my donut baking escapade has been less than appetizing. "Stephanie's Donut Shop" is not about to be the next hot-spot to pick up a morning box of America's favorite doughy breakfast treat. But I can tell you this much, I'm not giving up.
Sometimes in life the creation we bake up isn't always what we had anticipated. We put in certain ingredients, hoping for a desirable outcome and instead we end up with life's version of tasteless, colorless balls of dough. The let down is huge. Instead of a great treat we have a great big mess to clean up. The temptation to give up and never try again is overwhelming.
Failure, when given the chance, will lead to giving up. But it doesn't have to. Like Thomas Edison with the light-bulb, you and I can choose to keep trying even in the face of failure. Edison had thousands of patents on inventions that never turned the world upside down or the lights on in anyone's kitchen but he didn't stop trying. Eventually his determination paid off for him and certainly for you and I. Thanks to his overcoming spirit you and I have the ease of simply turning a switch and turning on light.
I still don't have the ability to put ingredients together, fill my donut pan, bake for X amount of minutes and pull out a culinary creation that pleases the palate, but that doesn't mean I won't someday. Mark my words dear reader (and maybe dear donut lover) someday I will bake perfectly golden brown vanilla cake donuts with maple glaze. Maybe not tomorrow but someday. I'll keep trying till I find the right recipe, the right temperature and the right time because I'm not a quitter. I will simply keep baking.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Baking up a blessing

I have been MIA.
For those of you who read this blog this is not a news flash. My writings and ramblings have grown few and far between. My one to two a-day blog posts have been reduced to nothing more than crickets. I would like to say that this absence was a planned hiatus but that is not the case. My dry spell of prolific words came without warning and struck me with such great force I didn't even have the desire to write a "taking a break from writing" post to alert the blogosphere of my impending absence. Instead, I just dropped off the radar screen altogether.
But not forever, I hope, because I've missed my daily random ramblings that sometimes were deep and other times just an outlet for pent-up frustrations. And let's face it, who doesn't have some inner frustrations and rants they'd like to post online for the world (or maybe just one single soul) to see? The world of blogging is perfect for such thoughts. It gives the thinker the chance to blow off some steam and gives the sympathetic reader reassurance that they are not the only one in the universe to share their particular frustrations and feelings.
During my blog hiatus (I'll call it that, as if it were planned, even though you all know it was certainly not) I missed this chance to be real with an audience, no matter how small that audience might be. For all I know it might be an audience of just my Mom reading my posts for grammatical errors. Or maybe it will end up being a complete stranger in another country who happens upon my words while Google searching and mindlessly clicking. I don't know who reads these words, but I know that as the writer of them there is a therapy in putting the feelings of my heart on paper or should I say, on screen.
So, why the absence if I enjoy writing so much? I wasn't in the hospital or on an exotic cruise to a location devoid of internet access or a 3G network. I simply didn't have the stamina to keep airing my feelings. The feelings have been there, trust me, feelings don't fade. But my energy to think on them, explain them and work through them went kaput. I got tired. The thoughts still rattled around in my head, blog post titles even came to mind a time or two, but I simply couldn't find the stamina to sit down and type out all that was on my mind.
So I just started baking instead.
Odd as it may seem, the girl who doesn't eat sugar and hasn't had a cookie in four years, has been baking… a lot. Daily to be exact. It started with brownie sundaes for the kids. For some reason I got the itch to cook something for them. I checked the cabinets and came up short on every type of mix. A stroke of can-do spirit took over and I embarked on baking from scratch. And so I looked at the ingredients we had on hand, narrowed down my confectionary options and landed on brownies. After a quick Google search I landed on the "Mmmm… brownies" from "All Recipes" and went to work.
An hour later a sink full of dishes with a shockingly minuscule amount of crumbs was all that remained after my culinary adventure.
The brownies were a success.
So the next day I tried again. This time I went back to an old standard, the oatmeal cookie. I added some walnuts and chocolate chips, baked at 350 and hand delivered a plate full of treats to my favorite house full of kids (and chocolate loving adults). And once again, the plate was cleared in record time.
Over the course of the next few days I baked up peanut butter chocolate chip cookie bars, double chocolate no-bake cookies, banana bread and a multi-color funfetti cookie cake!
I've never bought so much sugar, butter and heavy cream in my life.
And I'm just getting started.
I've caught the baking bug. There is something therapeutic about baking. You put together certain ingredients in a certain order in certain amounts, bake at a certain temperature and, voila! a certain creation is born! The whole process is one with ordered steps and a sequence that is understandable. I can read the directions and choose whether or not to follow them. I can measure to particular lines on particular cups. I can check to see when my sugary mix is still baking or reached its perfect level of golden brown. Baking promises that by following a given recipe you will get a proven, tested result.
When I pull the sugary confection from the oven, apply icing or sprinkles or just deliver with a tall glass of milk, there is pleasure and delight on the face of the recipient. The kids bite into their favorite treat with excitement. My Mom, the quintessential cookie-lover, lets out an audible "yum." The simple combination of ingredients brings with it an abundance of blessings from the very first bite.

From that first night in the kitchen with a hot saucepan of melted semi-sweet chocolate and a bowl of flour, I've been hooked on baking for the people I love and cherish. I've found that I can spread a little joy by spreading a little icing, creaming a little butter and baking up a little something sweet.
Not only does this new found love of baking bless my beloved family, but it has been a therapeutic release for me, too. When I'm standing in the kitchen, moving about between bags of ingredients and bottles of extracts, I'm not thinking about myself, my trials or my struggles. All I'm thinking about is what I'm baking. I'm focused on creating something that will bring a smile to the face of someone else.

From the world of blogging to the world of baking I've found that at different stages in life there's different places and different ways to release the feelings and emotions of the heart. For years now I've let all of mine spill out onto the world wide web. As therapeutic as that can be it can also be an overly self-involved practice. The blogs are my thoughts, my feelings. Do you sense a theme? It's all about me, me, me.
But baking has turned me outward. Baking isn't about me at all - I don't even taste test, that's the beauty of having a dessert loving Mom, she does that job for me. Baking has taken my focus off of my own selfish thoughts, desires and struggles. It's taken my gaze and pointed it outward, directly onto the lives and taste buds of the people I love deeply. By baking, the worries of this life are put on the back burner. In fact, they are taken off the stove altogether. Instead, my focus is placed solely on what blessing I'll be baking up next.

Baking up a funfetti cookie cake blessing! Recipe below.