Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)
Thursday, May 27, 2010
We had our dogs, Dudley and Sprite, and they strained at their leashes, eager to explore each new scent along the trail.
The trail rose steadily for about a mile, then turned north and gentled into a horsey-manure-soft path.
The only thing we feared running into was a mountain lion. So we kept alert, scanning the upper hillsides and the trees we walked under.
We passed a rocky bluff, half knocked down by wind and soil erosion. Then we heard it: the unmistakable rattle.
The snake perched on a rocky ledge about six feet off the trail, coiled into a tense, quivering ball.
Startled, but not frightened, we hurried past. I made a mental note of the spot so when we returned we could be extra vigilant.
We enjoyed the rest of our northward hike to the turn-around point.
Three miles back to the trailhead.
As we approached the bluff where we'd seen the rattlesnake I kept my eyes peeled on the rocks
above the trail. I held on to Sprite's leash with one hand and shaded my eyes with the other hand to see through the glare cast by the afternoon sun.
Phew! No snake.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something incredibly fast strike at Kiri's leg.
No warning rattle. No hiss. Just shoot to kill.
The snake missed Kiri's leg by a mere inch. Then it coiled into another shuddering, rattling ball right in the middle of the trail.
After several minutes, hoping the snake would slither off, we finally gave up and climbed over the jumbled rocks above the trail.
Once past, we hurried to reach the trail head, both thanking God that he'd kept Kiri safe and berating ourselves for being stupid enough not to bring a cell phone along.
I shuddered each time I thought what would have happened if my daughter had been bitten. I'd have had to run the two miles to the trail head and call 911, hoping that my daughter stayed calm and still and that the paramedics would reach her quickly.
No warning. Death struck at Kiri's heel without warning.
But we'd been alert, actively looking for the threat. Even that wasn't good enough.
I don't know how Kiri missed being bitten. Perhaps an angel placed his big hand between Kiri's leg and the snakes fangs.
God is an amazingly vigilant Father. Quick to see, quick to save.
Quicker even than the lightning strike of a rattlesnake.
". . . He who watches over you will not slumber. . . " (Psalm 121:3)
Monday, May 24, 2010
The day that the conference ended, the sun finally peeked through the clouds.
Then we had a week of splendid weather.
I'm so glad my husband and I were able to get out and hike around Sprague Lake on Saturday morning before the weather turned again.
Good grief, doesn't Mother Nature know it's a few days shy of June?
The weather provides such great metaphors for life:
"Blue skies, nothing but blues for me and my gal."
"Follow every rainbow, till you find your dream."
"Grey skies are gonna clear up. Put on a happy face."
"The sun'll come up tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow. . . "
"I've looked at clouds from both sides now. . . "
"Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy."
As a singer, I could go on and on with the weather references in songs.
Blue skies and sunshine mean peace, security, and an end to our troubles.
But just as I whine when the snow and rain keep me inside, I also acknowledge that my trees and shrubs need that moisture.
I don't like emotional strife, insecure financial times or physical pain. But these inconveniences make me crave the presence of God.
Just as a sturdy roof, wind-proof walls and a warm fire in the hearth bring me physical comfort, so does God's loving presence provide peace in a time of turmoil.
I'm almost afraid to pray this because God does indeed answer prayer, but:
"God, may my storms be small, but if it takes a big storm to bring me to my knees,
Bring it on!
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.
He will be like a tree, planted by the water, that send out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jer. 17: 7,8)
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The plants haven't come in yet. But by mid-June they'll make a tasty salad for my antlered bugler.
Last year I planted flowers in the front yard that elk and deer don't like: dianthus, marigolds and heather. And they usually leave the currant bushes and potentilla alone.
We have a high deck off the back side of our house. But the ground rises on the west side to surround and support the hot tub. The big bull will come right up that hill and peer through the banister at me.
When he's this close, his size awes me. I feel the stamp of his hoof on the soft earth, the huff of his breath as he blows dust from his nostrils. His long ears swivel and turn like miniature satellites, tuned to danger signals. But his liquid, brown eyes dismiss my five-foot presence as unworthy of concern.
The real-ness, the gritty-ness of his life:
the sloughing winter fur,
the scar on his brow from last fall's rut,
the rip and pull of the dried grass as he yanks a hunk from the dirt,
his need for sustenance,
his instinct to put on weight and grow bigger than the other bulls,
to pass on his genes to the next elk generation. . .
It touches the worshipper in me. What an amazing Creator is God. Both man and animal reflect His glory.
It's not like viewing a slice of the elk's life on some nature program on tv, or in a National Geographic magazine. His daily struggle for the life God has given him has become real to me.
This summer I've decided not to try to shoo him off my hill when he comes for my shrubs. The plants will grow back, but the chance to stand nose to nose with only a few cedar slats separating me from this eight hundred pound creature is a rare priviledge.
"But ask the animals and they will teach you. . . Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:7, 9-10)
Monday, May 17, 2010
Yes, once a sound is 'out there" it can't be retrieved and stuck back inside your throat or the bowels of the piano or other musical instrument. The audience has heard the wrong note; you cannot pluck that back from their brains.
What's done is done.
Better never to have made the mistake at all. And so, my music student and I go back to the musical manuscript and work on the spot that is causing the performance mishap.
Isn't that just like our spoken words? It's so easy to let them pass through our lips, but once out, impossible to un-say them.
It's happened to me: words that have penetrated my ears and poured searing hurt right down onto my heart. And I, in turn, have dipped my verbal arrows in poison and sent them flying.
So much better to have restrained my tongue.
Wouldn't it be great if we had a "backspace" or "undo" tab that we could click each time we fail to stop our wounding words?
The problem with hurtful words is they always come back to hurt the speaker. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but sometime. Maybe the result is a relationship that isn't as open or loving or trusting.
You remember that old admonishment: "count to ten when you're angry."
I''ve decided to do that. I've noticed that when I get to ten, it gets way easier to keep the bad words from slipping out.
"He who guard his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity." (Proverbs 21:23)
Monday, May 10, 2010
I've had a very busy week, mostly involving activities with my flock at church.
I worked with a friend to organize and prepare a bridal shower for a lovely young lady at our church.
Had lunch with a couple of dear friends.
Rehearsed for a concert.
Performed the concert.
Facilitated a group of women at one of our many women's ministries.
Attended a play that had a couple of my voice students in it.
Sang for our church services.
Prepared the house for two guests who'll stay with me during the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference.
There are always lots of thanks and affirmations all around when we do all this social stuff.
But then I return to my quiet office for the work which I know God has also called me to.
There is very little "good job," "I appreciate your work," " thank you," during the hours I spend sequestered in my writing room.
I'll bet you've also got tons of quiet, solitary activities for which no one gives you praise.
It's easy to start feeling isolated and unappreciated. After all, who's there to see your work?
Are you really accomplishing something of lasting value?
We're tempted to feel that way when we do something that nobody sees.
I've placed an index card between my keyboard and the monitor. It says:
"My Writing is an Act of Worship."
No, it's not the clanging cymbals or trumpet blast kind of worship.
It's the quiet, focused work of a heart that adores Jesus Christ,
that wants to please Him with my written words.
It's hard to do that when I'm surrounded by a flock.
Perhaps that's what the turkey in my yard is doing: fulfilling some kind of God-programmed turkey activity that can only be done away from the trampling of other turkey toes and claws.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,as working for the Lord, not for men." (Col. 3:23)
Thursday, May 6, 2010
One winter a family of bald eagles nested nearby. They'd sit out on the ice, looking like a collection of black tombstones. Tall. Surprisingly so in comparison to their smaller hawk cousins.
But timid. I'd try to get close enough for a good camera shot but they always leaped into the air and flapped over to the other end of the frozen water.
One day I ran into a park ranger at Lagerman and asked him about the eagles. He went into a long description of their wintering habits.
"They sure are majestic," I said. "I'll bet they keep the prairie dog population down around here.
"Humpf." The ranger shook his head. "They're real lazy birds. They wait around for the other predators to get some food and then they swoop down and steal it."
Timid and lazy, those eagles.
Funny how appearances can be so deceiving. With their piercing eyes, powerful claws and regal stance, it's no wonder our founding fathers thought the eagle made an appropriate representation of our nation's strength and courage.
Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird.
Personally, I'd like to see an animal hybrid sitting on the flagpole above our nation's flag.
- How about a prairie dog, for its dedication to community. . .
- the wolverine for its tenacity and courage. . .
- the dove, for our Christian roots. .
- and, last, the dog, for its intelligence and loyalty.
- Are we still devoted to one another?
- Are we still characterized by determination and bravery in the face of grave danger?
- Do we still honor the Lord Jesus Christ as our nation's God?
- Are we smart enough to see danger up ahead and avoid it, and do we still care about our fellow citizens enough to try to protect them: the elderly, the unborn, the helpless, the widow, the orphan?
Or, like the eagle, do we just look noble?
Monday, May 3, 2010
I named him. . .
His big, white body and cavernous mouth hungrily accepted the sacrifices of clothing that I threw his way. He gurgled and swished them about in his mouth, then sucked the nutrients: dirt, lint, formula and mashed food particles down his rubbery esophagus that traveled somewhere into the guts of the house.
But on a weekly basis the little white idol got hungry for more than his soapy pablum and, without telling me, required as proof of my worship one of my children's socks.
It took me a couple of weeks to catch on that the socks weren't simply disappearing under the chilrdren's beds or hiding under piles of leggos.
There are hundreds of reasons why a child is only wearing one sock:
Ian used one as a drawer separater between two categories of transformers,
Garrett turned a sock into a puppet,
Kiri used a sock to wipe the chalk off the sidewalk,
But those socks were accounted for.
After careful household sleuthing, it came down to the laundry room.
That was the last place we'd seen the white sock with the blue strip at the top of the ankle that came in the package of three pairs from WalMart.
The sock god never swallowed old socks. No, they had to be pristeen, white, unstretched-out, young, perfect, without defect. A little lamb to the slaughter.
I'd say to myself, "those socks are gonna turn up when we move."
But they never did.
And when we moved to another house, the weekly sacrifices continued.
For at least fifteen years I fought the sock god.
Then mysteriously, he either decided to quit cold turkey with his sock-eating habit, or perhaps he decided that we'd sacrificed enough childrens' sock to prove our devotion.
I've shared my hard-luck story with other moms. Some of them told me that their sock god resided in the dryer.
And their socks never turned up either when they moved to another house.
To all you left-brained, super-logical types, don't try to explain away this supernatural occurance.
There IS a sock god.