Monday, October 31, 2011

Plastic Bags & Prayer

Have you ever found yourself in a trivial situation where you felt you were being led one way but for the life of you couldn't figure out why God would care which freeway you took or which book was available at the library or what time you left for the post office?  This happens to me semi-daily. Of course, I generally shake it off and engage my plan to my own satisfaction.  I'm embarassed to admit that I feel I'm seeing signs - as if our Father in Heaven has the time to devote to planning my dog-walking schedule.  Surely He just controls the BIG decisions, right?

I was out running errands recently and had to stop at the grocery store to pick up some small bites to feed  friends who would be at my house within the hour.  I was in a neighboring city where a shop, Sprouts, was conveniently located in my path.  But since I knew it would take me time to navigate the unfamilar placement of their fare, I decided to double back to my own neighborhood.  I tell you I've been in this shopping center at least 100 times but it seemed that no matter which parking lot aisle I took, I ended up at a dead end to exit.  I began to wonder about that familiar feeling.  Surely, this wasn't a sign.  So I drove up the next aisle and from nowhere, a car pulled hastily out in front of me...and left available a parking space at Sprouts' front door.  "Okay, God, I'm listening.  Maybe they have a great olive tapenade you want my guests to enjoy...and it'll be on sale."  I parked, entered the store, and found almost nothing I needed.  Listless flowers, no bottled water, no soda...argh.  With half a shopping list still to purchase and 20 fewer minutes in which to purchase them, I checked out, a talkative young woman bagging my groceries in plastic, and off I went to my neighborhood anyway.  "What a collosal waste of time," I thought.  "Lord, I hope you're going to reveal the reason for this detour. Although I guess I should be grateful I didn't have to bag my own groceries."  My city banned plastic grocery bags in August and my family has adjusted, sometimes with frustration, to life without an extra bag or two around the house.

Today, my husband wanted to help Braden practice for his unit PE test tomorrow...juggling.  We looked everywhere and couldn't find the juggling scarves we used to own.  I said, "No problem, I can come up with something."  I cut some fabric and handed it to them...too heavy.  I found mini bean bags...he's not to that level yet.  I searched fabric remnants for something lightweight - and then I thought of a solution.  I went to my shawl drawer and found one remaining fashion scarf I could cut to use.  I said to the kids, "I saved this because Braden loved it as a baby.  He used to snuggle up against me when I wore it and wind it around his hands.  Sometimes he would cry for me to leave it in his bed.  Should I cut it now for him to use?"  Suddenly I didn't want to destroy this precious reminder of Braden's infancy.  My daughter cried, "No, Mama!" 

Right then, my husband walked in and said, "I think this would work.  It's our only plastic bag left." He held up an old yellow sack.  As I admired his practical solution, I realized there were more to use, "Oh my gosh, I have a new bunch of bags under the kitchen sink!  I shopped at Sprouts in Los Al and they bag your groceries there."  I didn't have to cut my scarf!  Only God could have known all three of our hearts - Drew's, Braden's, and my own - and what would transpire when those three hearts' desires collided.  Drew, diligently making sure the children are prepared for school, especially anything physical, tireless in his efforts to "make it work."  Braden with his tendency to procrastinate (I wonder where he got that trait?) and sometimes give up when conditions are unfamiliar, as he did while trying to juggle heavy fabric and unwieldy bean bags.  And me, my Father knows without question, with my desire for the children to live successful lives, willing to sacrifice most anything, even a treasured momento, to make sure that this happens for them.

How many times have I shrugged away the notion that God was working in all the little details of my life only to continue down my own course?  And how many opportunities and blessings have I lost by doubting what I knew to be true of my faith?  "That little voice inside your head" or "your guardian angel" or "intuition" - however you describe it - the feeling that makes you tingle, pulls you in one direction while you tug doggedly in the other, the sensation of little hairs standing on your neck - all of these indicators, I think, are the good Lord guiding us, no matter the obstacle we place in His way, in the direction He has chosen for us.  The path with the greatest benefit to our lives.  The path we might never have chosen for ourselves but one rich in abundant gifts.  From now on, I'll more carefully heed "my little voice" and look forward to the unexpected surprises that greet me on my way.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

I'm deviating slightly from my normal format today to participate in a program called "7 Quick Takes Friday"  from an interesting, insightful blogger at Conversion Diary.  Jennifer invites fellow bloggers to share 7 facts of any kind with readers...whatever they find interesting.  Since the number 7 is known in numeric analyst circles (is there such a thing?) as meaning "perfection, security, safety and rest" and since Libra is considered the 7th zodiological sign and I am a Libra, I decided to put together a list entitled...

7 Facts About the Number 7
(Let's do it in the style of David Letterman starting with #7...drumroll please...)

7.  Most Electrifying Fact - U.S. Park Ranger, Roy Sullivan, from Virginia (1912-1983) was struck by lightning 7 times.  He survived all 7strikes.

6.  Most Harmonious Fact - There are 7 basic musical notes as "denoted" (pun intended) in the scale   "do, re, mi, fa so, la, ti"  (the last "do" is simply the first note one octave up so does not count as an 8th tone)

5.  Oldest Fact (on this list) - There were 7 liberal arts in Ancient Rome that needed to be learned as an appropriate education for a "free man":  grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy and music.  Also there were 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

4.  7 in Our Everyday World - On Earth, there are 7 continents, 7 colors of the rainbow, 7 days in a week, 7 bones in the neck of most mammals, 7 stars in the Big Dipper constellation, 7 rows in the Periodic Table, and lastly... 7 is the number of items that most human brains can consistently remember in a row

3.  Mythical Significance - It is believed that if you break a mirror, you will suffer 7 years of bad luck.  ("I'm not superstitious...but I am a little stitious."  Michael Scott, The Office)

2.  Sacred Septets - There are 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit, 7 Virtues, 7 Deadly Sins, Sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church, 7 Corporal Sins, 7 Spiritual Acts of Mercy, 7 Joys and 7 Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, and the number 7 appears in the last 7 words of Jesus on the cross

And last but not least, I couldn't let this list go to print without including my personal favorite pop culture reference about the number 7!  So my #1 interesting fact about the number 7...

1.  Seinfeld Minutiae -   "7" was the name that George Costanza from the sitcom Seinfeld wanted to name his first child.  ("It's a beautiful name for a girl...or a boy...or a girl.")

Hope you enjoyed...have a great weekend!

Run with Endurance the Race

Well, I'm at the two week mark in training for the half marathon.  Here's my daily workout checklist:

Running Shoes 

Workout ClothesPlaylist

Pulled GroinBattered Ego

The Will to Continue Training?

In reality, I'm a little surprised to say that things are going even a bit better than planned.  I have a workout schedule I adhere to each day - today was 5 miles - and I have followed through as required...except for the day I was wearing a really cute outfit and just didn't want to get sweaty. 

I'm looking forward to picking the race and the charity to honor.  My inspiration is my children, both of whom have had to overcome incredible odds this year with their health and both of whom have shown such strength of spirit.  Who better to think of when I'm having trouble getting off the couch...having trouble being motivated to better my health...having trouble passing up that red velvet cupcake in favor of an apple? 

Exercise is such a metaphor for life.  It is hard work.  It is exhausting.  It is painful.  It is full of temptation.  But when you persevere, it is glorious.  It is gratifying.  It is cathartic.  It makes you stronger.  And with God on our side, living is the most rewarding journey we can take, making the dark night seem hopeful and the daylight, brilliant.  "And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”  Hebrews 12:3

With my eyes on Jesus, I will endure.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A For Sale Sign...and A Bigger Sign

Drew and I have been house hunting for a couple of years now...put offers on a few things but they never went through for one reason or another.  I have been chalking it up to "apparently we weren't supposed to live there right now," or "we are meant to stay nearer the kids schools for now" or "there's another house we're supposed to live in later on."  You get the picture.  I still look at the listings and sometimes will call my agent for a showing. 

We actually really love the little house where we live.  It's cozy, warm, inviting.  I love being close to the children.  And during Braden's blood sugar issues this past year, we were very happy to be next door to him as we were checking him several times each night.  So, truly, there are reasons to stay but we are also missing a few things.  The list is simple:

1.  Further from the freeway and closer to the beach
2.  A bathroom for Drew and I only
3.  An extra bedroom for a guest - or a parent if needed in the future
4.  Last but not least...a two-butt kitchen

(The McGonagles are laughing at this right now.  Since we women have been blessed with generous lower proportions, we could never get by each other in our house growing up.  We had a "one-butt kitchen."  I currently have about a half-butt kitchen and would like some extra room for at least one more cheek please!)

Anyway, I was driving my fantasy neighborhood the other day and came upon a house I had never noticed with a sign out front...For Sale by Owner.  I rarely drive down this particular street so I prayed, "Lord, is this a sign?  Is this where you've been leading me?  Please make it clear for me so I know how much energy to put into this."  I jotted down the number, called the guy, we had a great talk...nicest man....and set it up to see the house last Saturday.  I arrived at the agreed upon time (window of 3:30-4:30) and no one answered.  I knocked and rang and knocked and rang but the only sign of life in the house was the terrier barking at me from the dining room window.  I called Mark and he said he was sorry, he thought I would come at the first part of the hour.  I said, "No worries.  This just means it wasn't meant today."  (Did you notice I added a clarifier to the end of the sentence?  I asked for a sign, God sends me an empty house and an unanswered knock and I say 'not meant today.'  Can you say "denial?")

So yesterday I got another email from the owner asking if I would like to come this weekend instead.  Of course, I jumped at the chance and asked for details.  (I'm still praying at this point that the email is a second sign for me.)  This morning I wake to the necessary details - yes, I can come this weekend but please bring my agent and all of my paperwork so he knows I'm seriously wanting to purchase.

Well, for those of you who have been through this paperwork process before, it is involved.  I have done the pre-qualifying letters over and over as we have looked at properties these last few years.  It's, at best, a pain and once you've gotten it all together, if your deal doesn't happen, the paperwork expires.  Then you have to go through the whole process all over again.

So the question was...should I do it?  Should I spend the energy?  The time?  The anxiety?  No disrespect intended, God, but how dense do you think I am?  (Please don't answer that!)  I've got the message.  No energy on this house, this path, this desire for now.  I emailed Mark back and said thank you but I was passing.  And I added I would pray for him to find the right person to purchase his beautiful Tudor home.  "Apparently we weren't supposed to live there right now; we are meant to stay nearer the kids schools for now; there's another house we're supposed to live in later on."  You get the picture.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Little White Lies

Have you ever told a little white lie?  I was queen of this practice when I was a young girl.  The biggest whopper I ever told was during a 5th grade social studies presentation.  We were asked to give an oral report on a different country, and dressing up in the style of that area was optional.  I chose Vietnam and donned a yellow dressing gown adorned with tiny, pink flowers, a snap up front and a lace collar.  I creatively worked into my speech the "fact" that the traditional, Vietnamese garment belonged to Mrs. Tran at our church and she told me she wanted me to have it. (By the way, Mrs. Tran spoke no English.)  Obviously in my 5th grade mind, my knee-length cotton robe looked exactly like the ankle-length silk "Áo Dài" that Mrs. Tran wore to church.  In retrospect, I can't imagine how Mrs. Chandler, my 5th grade teacher, kept a straight face as I solemnly swore my housecoat was authentic.
The reasons for my lie telling were generally two-fold.  One, as in my 5th grade fib, was to give life to my artistic imaginings and my desire for the lies I told to be real.  Reason two, more often the case, was to escape the consequences of whatever I happened to be covering up.

How ridiculous that the lies I tell now are most often to myself.  In these cases, I've discovered I am trying to cover my inadequacies, my faults, and my impure motives (while defining them to myself as chaste).  I caught myself in one these falsehoods this past Saturday. 

I swore off this blog for the weekend, telling myself and my husband that I wasn't going to look at it, write anything (until my Monday morning submission which I do on Sunday night), or check into it.  Not an hour into my Saturday morning but I had already succumbed to the temptation of signing in.  I had to make sure I didn't need to "do anything" or "fix anything."  But the embarrassing part of my frailty is that my human nature and gigantic capacity for insecurity needed to see if anyone was reading it, commenting on it, or otherwise visiting it.  It was almost as though the desire to find out what others thought took on a life of its own, and with it trumped the motive for starting this project to begin give honor and glory to God.  Instead, I was attempting to honor myself and my words (which, of course, are never my words...I always have to pray for them).  And to top it all off, rather than fixing my ridiculous obsession with a prayer, I chose to lie to myself instead, insisting I had work to get done.  It took me a few hours to realize what I was doing and luckily, despite all of my weaknesses, at least I don't often mind admitting when I have a vulnerability, so I shut everything off and didn't look at it again until time to write last night.

So today's prayer is this:  "Lord, please help me see that honor of You is always the most important thing...that glorifying what I think or what others think is to put those thoughts and feelings above You. Help me to be truthful to myself, others and You so that I may purely listen for your bidding and watch for my path constantly being forged first by You.  Thank you for forgiving me my need to be little white lies told to cover my weaknesses."  Oh, how much less mortifying it would be to know that I only had Mrs. Chandler's reproachful gaze upon me rather than God's reproving shake of the head, wondering why I'm at it again.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Round and Round She Goes...Where She Stops Nobody Knows

Why isn't she smiling?
When I was 5 years old, I would spend the majority of my free time in our music room spinning in circles.  (Yes, I was that kid.)  I would spin until I could spin no more then fall on our couch and watch the room rotate and dance around me.  Then as soon as it stopped revolving, I would get up...and do it all over again.  I loved how warped this altered state made the room...made me.  I know it sounds funny, but I always felt more creative while I watched it go 'round.  (Luckily, my love of the altered state didn't do too much damage in my later years.)

As an adult, however, I now "enjoy" the occasional bout of vertigo.  (Boy, it was lots more fun when I got to circumnavigate a room to reach this condition.)  It doesn't happen often...two or three times a year.  But when it does, it knocks me off my feet.

I awoke this morning to that dreaded sensation.  My alarm rang, I rose to shut it off and quickly fell back into the bed, the dizziness completely overwhelming me.  Most times when I catch it early, it only lasts a few hours.  There have been other times when I didn't realize it was coming on, and it stayed with me for a day or more.  These incidents are quite humbling.  You see, with vertigo you can barely stand without falling so you're really dependent on others to help you through your day.  (I have been known to crawl down my hallway when no one was home to get myself something to eat.  Extremely attractive...)  But this morning as I lie in bed thinking about how long it may last, I realized it is like any other human weakness with which we have to deal.  These frailties are all great reminders of how dependent we are on our loving Father.  Just as Job said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord," (Job 1:21) we too realize that everything we have - our possessions, our family, our health -  are all gifts. How awe-inspiring that Job continued to praise God even when they were taken from him.

So as I watch the room whirl, I know to praise Him, for He can take away the vertigo just as quickly as it is brought on.  We are nothing without Him.  We can do nothing without Him.  He takes care of us each and every day. And when we are too weak, too small, too stubborn, too stupid, too "dizzy" to do for ourselves, He steps in and does it for us, with us, beside us.  How lucky we are!  Blessed be the name of the Lord!  (And thanks, God, for helping me get quickly over today's bout.  I got my breakfast on my own...without crawling!)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hostess with the Mostest - Part III

(To catch yourself up on Part III of our saga, please read Parts I & II of Hostess with the Mostest before diving into this, the last passage.)

October - the third & final chapter

Our story concludes with an encounter this past Sunday. Tim, the chairman for Movement of a Better World, approached me after church and said, "I've been meaning to talk to you since the meeting last month.  It was obvious you wanted to help make those sandwiches, and I wanted to say I'm so sorry that the ladies essentially said 'thanks but no thanks." 

I cracked up and said, "Boy, they really weren't interested in help, were they?  I'm just glad you said that because I was afraid I was imagining it!  But no worries...if it wasn't meant, it wasn't meant."

Tim then said, "There is something we need though.  We have three events coming up with a whole team of people helping to put together baskets for the poor.  We need a hospitality chair to set up food and drinks for all of these events so the volunteers are taken care of.  Is that something you may be interested in?"

I just stared at him in disbelief for a moment, my mouth agape.  Now for those of you who know me, you know I LOVE to throw a party or be a hostess in any capacity.  But surely I never thought in all my years that this would be a gift to help in service of God.  Are you kidding me?  You mean I can actually help AND make a room look beautiful AND make people feel good about their service?  Where do I sign?

I burst out laughing and said, "Tim, you've come to the right place.  I am GREAT at hospitality!"  He looked skeptical for a moment at my confidently joyous answer. "Are you serious?" 

"Absolutely," I said, "just ask my daughter. Hey, Colleen, am I great at hospitality or what?" 

She called out from the back of the church, "Yep, she's good."  He still looked puzzled at my happiness but he wasn't about to turn help away.  So we set it up.

Before we parted, Tim said, "I'm just really sorry again at the reception you got at our meeting."  I said, "Tim, please don't give it a second thought.  I'm finally learning to just listen for what I'm supposed to do.  And I'm finding it often doesn't line up with what I want to do or what I think I should do.  This worked out great!"

I walked out of the church feeling like I was floating.  I thought to myself how this confirmed so many questions I've had over the years about what I felt were my natural, God given feelings versus the sometimes imposing feelings of my "religious" alter-ego...

I don't always have to be somber.
I don't always have to reverent.
I can be joyous...I can be celebratory...I can be humorous, ironic, silly...
God wants us to love being with Him.
He wants us to be ourselves.  He created us as we are after all.
He wants us to serve Him and each other using the gifts He has given, no matter what they are,
no matter how seemingly insignificant or frivolous, no matter how little it seems to cost us.
They are gifts that are great because they came from Him who is GREAT.
What a wonderful lesson I now carry with me.
From now on, I'll listen less with my mind and more with my heart and spirit. 
I know they'll lead me straight to Him.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hostess with the Mostest - Part II

To recap yesterday's post...

In Part I of our story, I found myself trying to read the signs and signals for my next step forward after a suitable period of personal mourning of my vocal loss at which time I realized:  I don't have to be in charge of everything in the whole world;  I need more clarity while listening for answers; having my plans thwarted as I offered to chair a church organization was a humbling experience.  (For more details, if you missed yesterday, see Part I...July & August.)

Part II - September

So despite my disappointment that I was not to head Movement for a Better World this year, I decided to go to the next meeting and volunteer, especially with the making of the sandwiches.  This community had been gathering Wednesday mornings for years to make peanut butter sandwiches and put bag lunches together for a local homeless shelter.  I have true empathy for the homeless and had been looking forward to joining this group for years...just as soon as my kids were old enough to get themselves to school. 

When I walked into the meeting, I literally laughed aloud as I realized why God had not called me to chair this organization...the reason was immediately evident to me.  For seated around the conference table in our church hall were fifteen members, age 60+ with Tim, the new chairman, who had been a member for more than 15 years, knowing every program inside and out.  I couldn't have been more wrong for the post.  "Understood, God," I thought.  "I don't always have to be in charge of everything in order to serve you."  Those folks would have eaten me for lunch if I had come in like gangbusters, which is my way, re-organizing and bossing people around!  As it was, they all kind of looked at me as if I had lost my way and ended up in the wrong place.  I must say, though, that it felt great to be the youngest for a change!

I sat through the meeting, joined in the prayer time, listened to the minutes and by-laws, had an oatmeal raisin cookie and waited to see what I was being called to do. I signed up to help at a few events...manning the table for the feed and diaper a baby drive and a tentative commitment to help with the Christmas gifts for needy families. I knew I still had not quite found my niche...nothing felt just right, like I was being led there.  Maybe it was the lunch preparation...maybe that had been it all along!  Maybe all God wanted me to do was make pb&j's! When the floor opened up to questions near the end, trembling with anticipation, I asked how I could help make the sandwiches. 


The elderly women looked at one another covertly and one said, "Oh, dear, you don't need to worry about that.  We have plenty of support."

I thought, "Did I just get shut down?"

"Well, if you ever need anyone, I'm happy to help," I offered cheerfully.

Silence.  Sly glances.   

"Oh, we'll be fine, don't you worry." 


Yup, I was dissed by five little old ladies...


Okay, Lord, I'll man a table, I'll sort Christmas gift packages.  Clearly I'm not meant to make the sandwiches.  I'm also not meant to lead anyone here...I'm meant to follow.  You got me to the meeting (good job, God, by the way...pretty sneaky with the bulletin ad) so I know I'm here for a reason.  Kick me off the pew with a sign...
I'm listening.

(Tune in tomorrow for the final installment of this scintillating drama!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Hostess with the Mostest - Part I

Okay Folks, this was such a long one, I just couldn't make you read it in one sitting! So I've divided it into parts to unfold over the next three days.  I hope you'll hang with me as I tell the story of how my self-inflicted angst over a way to serve the community resolves itself into an answer of total simplicity. (Hopefully you get the irony here - there should be no angst in giving! Sometimes I wish I were more Irish and less Italian...sigh...)

PART I - July & August

To set the scene for those of you who weren't around me at the time, in June I was just coming off of a period of sorrow and anxiety such that I have never known.  For three months I was having trouble getting out of bed as I was mourning the loss of my vocal ability and my teaching career. I had no idea what God had in store for me. I was, however, finally coming to the realization that I needed to begin trusting Him. Otherwise I would seal my own fate as one of those reclusive little old ladies with wildly unkempt gray hair who only sneaks out of the house after the sun goes down to retrieve the mail and about whom the neighborhood children create scary stories.  The stories I could deal with - the hair, not so much!

July and August found me searching for a way to volunteer in the community as a way to focus outside myself and my problems, giving back and hopefully gaining strength.  For years I wished I had had the time to join our church organization called Movement for a Better World which makes sandwiches for the homeless, feeds and diapers babies, gives assistance to unwed mothers who want to give birth to their infants among other things.  Lord knows, I had time in abundance so I began prayerfully contemplating it.  No sooner had I been praying for a sign to guide me when a plea surfaced in our church bulletin, "Help Wanted!  Chairperson or chair-couple to take over Movement for a Better World." Oh my gosh, God - talk about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.  "Is this really what you want me to do?" I thought.  I felt I wasn't nearly strong enough for that kind of commitment, so like every good, willful Christian, I decided to chalk it up to coincidence, ignore the sign and go about my business.  As the weeks passed and the ad remained - haunting me at every turn - I finally said to God, "Look, if this isn't filled by September 1, I'll take it as a sign and I'll do it."  At least that would buy me some time.  More weeks passed and the position remained open.  You would not believe the hours I spent agonizing over how in the world I was going to suggest to my husband that I take on something so huge after being a pile of mush on the couch the entire spring.  By the middle of August, the ad maniacally staring at me from the pages of the bulletin, I broke down and nervously discussed it with my husband. Of course, my hours of angst and rehearsed mental conversation with him were completely unnecessary.  He thought it was a great idea and agreed he would help me co-chair.  In fact, he said, "I think this is exactly what we need as a family."  "Allright, God, now we're getting somewhere," I prayed.  I was finally really becoming interested in something other than my voice and my problems.  Hooray!  August 28th came around and the ad was still beckoning.  At this point, I couldn't wait to make the call to the parish to nobly and selflessly sacrifice my time in service of the needy. 

On Sunday, September 4th, anxiously attending church, knowing that the call I would make afterward would change my family's life and my schedule for an indefinite period of time, I opened my bulletin...only to see a thank you letter to the new chairman of Movement for a Better World, nobly and selflessly sacrificing his time in service to the needy.  I was crushed!  How could this be?  Would I never get my signs right?  Would I never understand my calls?  What was this excruciatingly confusing two months for anyway? 

Little did I know, the answer would be revealed before me...not in my timeline (hello, Cynthia, when are you ever gonna get that part through your thick skull?) but in the patient and chiding timeline of Him who's calling.

(Check back for Part II tomorrow when I tell how truly dense I can be!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Queen for a Day

I don't know about the rest of you, but ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of being famous.  It didn't matter the circumstance.  I even had a recurring fantasy about our pastor announcing to the congregation, "And today I'd like to recognize 9 year old, Cynthia McGonagle, for making a contribution of $.25 to the weekly collection and never missing a week.  Cynthia, would you stand please?"  And I would stand and "wave to all the people" - demurely, of course, because there's no ego in charity - and the congregation would go wild with applause!  I waited and waited but that day never came.  So I moved on to the next vision.  Over the years, I have mentally won the National Spelling Bee, an Emmy, an Academy Award, several Tonys and Grammys, and the Mother of the Year Award among others.  (Talk about delusions of grandeur!!!)  Now that I believe my performing career is over or at least indefinitely on hold, I guess I'll have to settle for the Pulitzer or Nobel Peace Prize.

Anyway, yesterday I was starting to feel anxious in the afternoon and was telling my husband I needed him to help me through it.  A bit later it was time to get Colleen from her Confirmation class so I said I'd get her.  I took my book, The Prayer of Jabez, with me and got to read about 10 pages while I was waiting.  By the time she got to the car, I was calm again.  I came home, Drew asked how I was feeling and I said, "Much better.  You know, whenever I get anxious, I have to remember before I do anything else or spin out of control, I should go first to my spiritual books.  I always find peace there."

So imagine my surprise today - not! - when I opened my daily devotional by Sarah Young and read the following:

"Anxiety is the result of envisioning your future without me.  So the best defense against worry is staying in communication with me."  Woohoo, I can't believe I actually came to this conclusion on my own before reading it.  Feeling pretty good about myself, I continued reading only to have the wind immediately taken out of my sails:

"If you must consider upcoming events, follow these rules: 1) Do not linger in the future because anxieties sprout up like mushrooms when you linger there.  2)  Remember the promise of My continual presence; include Me in any mental imagery that comes to mind.  This mental discpline does not come easily, because you are accustomed to being god of your fantasies."

Now in all the years of my televised acceptance speeches, I never envisioned God hovering over my shoulder.  Surely I got these accolades on my own, right?  Argh...I have been the god of my fantasies!

Heads or Tails, God?
So now I know moving forward, no step without God.  No moment of anxiety without envisioning His presence as my antidote.  No big move without His guidance and blessing.  And when I accept my Pulitzer Prize in a few years, I will thank Him first and He will carry me off the stage in His loving arms...then I'll flip Him for the trophy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Field of Dreams

"If you build it, they will come," are some of the most famous and profound words uttered in movie history. Kevin Costner's character, Ray, in the movie Field of Dreams struggles with a seemingly insane idea to construct a baseball field on his land rather than make that space work for him by growing rows and rows of Iowa corn.  Every time he begins to question his next move, the little voice inside his head continues to murmur enigmatic instructions in his ear, pushing his beliefs beyond what he thought capable - and of course, everything is prosperous by the movie's end.  At the very least, this is a gorgeous fantasy film about a man with the opportunity to meet greats from the not-so-distant past.  But at its' core, it is clearly a movie about faith...what form it takes, our readiness to obey it despite physical proof, and the rewards we reap when take that leap.

We all have our own instructions to follow.  I was musing to myself recently about which former greats would walk out of the meadow behind my house to greet me (that WOULD be a dream...okay, which greats would walk out of the cinderblock wall surrounding my property.  Happy now?  My dream is not quite so idyllic anymore!  Sigh...).  Anway...

Enter scene:
Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster (Founders and Editors, Simon and Schuster Book Publishers)
Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer (Founders and Editors, Random House Publishers)
Edwin Meredith (Founder and Editor in Chief, Better Homes and Gardens)
all donned similarly in suits, ties, wingtip shoes, a pencil behind one ear, dragging a battered typewriter behind them.  Each one coming to greet me and asking if they could read my work, edit it, collaborate a bit and then publish it.  Afterward bringing out their silver flasks of bourbon, offering me a drink and a cigar and then sitting in my backyard to regale me with stories of how they built some of the largest publishing empires in history.

I loved this thought and this dream.  As I continued to romanticize this sequence of events, that little voice in my own head - not the encouraging one, but the one who likes wreaking havoc on my self-esteem - started its own murmuring, "You don't have enough experience.  You have nothing to say.  You have no technique.  You don't have a writing degree.  You'll never publish anything."  As my shoulders drooped and I started to absorb the negativity, I suddenly shook my body all over (small shimmy, folks) and said, "Get out!  You're wrong."  And then another voice - the one I have come to know better and better and whom I LOVE - whispered, "It doesn't matter what you don't have...what you haven't done...what you think you can't do.  If God wants it to be so, it will be so.  He will give you the words.  He will open the doors.  He is bigger than all of the obstacles.  Just keep listening."

The next day, I was approved for the Google program I needed in order to help fund this blog and continue sharing my thoughts and words.  The day after that I was hired for my first professional writing job.

This is my "field of dreams."  And now I know that with God on my side...if I write it, they will come!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Living Each Day to the Fullest

I have an incredible friend who is a constant source of inspiration to me.  Three years ago he was diagnosed with sarcoma, a form of cancer that is incurable.  The prognosis that he was given at that time was 15 months.  They surgically removed about 8 lbs of tumor plus his kidney and some other organ material most of us would be pretty bummed to lose.  He was on the elliptical working out three days later.  (Classic over-achiever!) Today he is travelling the world, working with people to live healthier, more positive lives. He has the most amazing outlook of anyone I've ever met, much less someone with a grave disease.  He is in Washington D.C. right now for work, walking the streets in the rain, and he stopped in front of the White House while we were conversing on the phone, describing everything he saw to me with such enthusiasm and zest for life.  He kept mentioning over and over how happy he was that he didn't need a jacket, the weather was so temperate.  It cracked me up that something seemingly trivial meant that much and made him so joyful.

I thought to myself, "If only I lived every day as if it were my last...I would worry less about the small things, appreciate more the beauty of everyday moments and experiences, cherish more lovingly each encounter with the people in my life."

So here's to living each day to the lifting up all people in our setting an example of charity and generosity...and to doing all of these things in the name of our beautiful Father in Heaven.  Cheers!

P.S.  Happy Birthday, Miley!  Thank you for the blessing you are in my life!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Marathon Man

MY marathon man!
My husband ran the Long Beach Half Marathon on Sunday with a TERRIFIC finish time and another race behind him.  13 full marathons and 5 half marathons since his running career began 12 years ago, he's still going strong.  I am constantly amazed at his fortitude, drive, stamina and willingness to "push through the pain."  I don't even like to run up the street for a quart of milk! 
Edwin Romero, Male winner
Finish time:  2 hours, 19 minutes
(photo:  Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)

Abigail Swift, Female winner
Finish time:  2 hours, 43 minutes
(photo: Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)

I drove down amidst the throngs of Lookie Lous, family members and running supporters to pick him up at the finish.  I am always inspired by the familial atmosphere of these events.  Drew and I stayed to see the first elite male runner, Edwin Romero, finish and also the first female elite, Abigail Swift.  Seems her last name may have sealed her destiny!

I have recently been looking for a goal to pursue in my workout regimes, and although I don't think I could run a half marathon, I could certainly walk! After all at 4' 10" tall, I have been racing to keep up with tall people my whole life.  So yesterday I printed out a training schedule for walking and walk/running a half.  But I know, without a doubt, that I'll need a cause to support while training as it will motivate me when I'm feeling depleted.  Although we have our share of causes that could support my immediate family (Diabetes Association, Autism Awareness, National Scoliosis Foundation), I started fantasizing about the trials my friends, family and I have gone through this year and thought how rewarding it would be to create a foundation to back:

Friends of Female Pattern Baldness (several of us have lost ALOT of hair through the stress of the last months.  Alternately this could be called...)
Runners for Rogaine
Living with Lunacy (this needs no explanation)
Moms for Mania (again, no explanation necessary)
Money for Muscle Tension Dysphonia (my stupid vocal problem)
Jogging for Joblessness (Hey, thats' a good one!)
Biking for Broken Automobiles
Duathlons for Depressing News (anybody?)
Fitness for Financial Shambles  (also not a bad idea :)
(Do you have another one of your own to add to my list?)

Well, what do ya' think??  It lifts my day as I reflect upon coming out of some of these situations finally able to joke about it and as my prayers continue for those who are still on their way out.  The great news is that we can all be buoyed up if we continue to aim for faith, knowing that God has us in His hand, constantly revealing Himself to us in the little daily things that strengthen us.  Just as a physical workout regime strengthens our bodies, so does prayer life, gratitude and daily devotions strengthen our spiritual lives.  I just gotta find the time for my "daily workout" and commit to a stronger mind, body and spirit. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Miracle of Birth

For those of you who have seen the birth of any living, breathing thing, you know the feeling of total awe as you realize that you just witnessed something profound, wondrous, seemingly impossible...the beginning of a life.  (And for those of you who haven't, I'm hoping you'll just go with me on this.)  To me, it is one proof of God's existence.  The intricate workings of all of the different systems - nervous, circulatory, respiratory - coming together in one glorious creation with thoughts and feelings!  All of this and yet so, so much more.  How else could this miracle occur except through a divine presence?  (That was rhetorical.  I'm not really asking, so scientists, just pipe down!)

As extraordinary as that is, I really wanted to acknowledge the further miracle that God creates in giving us people in our lives to learn from, grow with, stand by and lean on.  Today is the birthday of one of my beautiful sister.  I know with no doubt that God placed us in the same family for a reason.  And I don't have to wonder the reasons, as I so often do.  She is a model for me of parenting, compassion, spiritualilty and of course, entertaining.  (Go Martha!)  She is often the barometer by which I judge how to handle a negative situation.  Along with these qualities, however, in case you're wondering if she's so sweet you'll get a cavity, she is quickwitted and incredibly hilarious.  In every way, she's a joy to be around.  How lucky am I that God graced me with a small part in her life?

So on this special day, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the miracles in all of our lives.  Most of us don't have to look very far for them.  But as in everything, we need to remember to acknowledge these amazing people for what they are...the riches we take with us on our journey...the birth of a connection never broken...the life of a love incomparable...the miracle that God has given each of us.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Door #1 or Door #2?

Most days in life right now, I'm feelin' good.  Excited, peaceful, genuinely cheerful.  This is a departure from how I've lived the majority of the rest of my adult life.  I've generally been plagued with anxiety, insecurity and doubt.  The weird thing is that I consider myself a relatively intelligent, creative, hard-working, smart-alecky - oh, sorry, I meant funny - kind of gal.  But my surface demeanor has questioned these beliefs at all turns.  (Or is it actually my deeper belief system?)  Anyhow, through the stress and worry of the last few months, at one point finding it difficult to get out of bed, I finally gave it all over to God and now I'm not nearly as anxious or pessimistic or unenthused.  Even my health has significantly improved.

So it was a great shock to me when yesterday, a beautiful Saturday with nothing to do but spend time with my loving husband and children, it all came crashing down on me, and I was overwhelmed with negative energy...questioning my future, my relationships, my purpose.  All of those old misgivings resurfaced.  By nightfall, I exclaimed to my husband, "I don't know what's wrong with me.  I'm SO cranky!!" 

Maybe it was starting the morning off with a crummy, watered down cup of coffee (why, oh why did Starbucks stop making discs for my Tassimo coffee system??); or maybe it was the weather turning hot again when we were finally starting to experience the cool of autumn; or maybe it was the feeling that I had NOT A THOUGHT in my head about which to write.  Whatever the reason, I felt stuck.  I prayed over and over for God to give me direction, to bombard my consciousness with a sign as He so often does, knowing I'm too slow to see it for myself.

Nothing...not a word...

More prayers, more pleas, more grovelling...

Nothing...not a word...


Literally like a lightning bolt, I thought, "I'm getting nothing because I already have the tools to change this around.  And I'm not changing it because I'm choosing not to.  I'm down to a choice for believing or not believing, staying down in the dumps of despair or lifting myself out."  Like the jackpots behind Door #1 or Door #2, except with this kind, you know what you're getting when you open it. It reminded me of a kind of perverse 1970s game show:

(Remember to say these in your head in a cheesy, over-the-top announcers voice!)
"So Chuck, tell us what we have for our contestants who pick Door #1!"
Talk about "Telling the Truth?"

"Right, Monte, for those who open this door we have a lifetime of insecurity, self-doubt and self-loathing!   And if that isn't enough, there's a bonus of unhappiness, bitterness and loneliness!"

"Terrific, Chuck, thanks!  Sounds interesting.  How about Door #2 - what will contestants find there?"
"Well, Monte, for contestants choosing Door #2, there's peace, prosperity, abundance beyond their wildest dreams, and faith no matter what the circumstance.  Add to that their bonus: people in their lives who actually want to spend time with them and a boundless, unequivocal joy, and you've got the makings for quite a prize package."

"Thanks, Chuck.  Sounds great but let's see what the contestants think.  We'll find out what they decide after this commercial break."

Well, I don't need a 2&2 commercial break to have my answer. I don't need a spin of the wheel or a roll of the die or countless flashing neon signs pointing me in a direction.  Chuck said it all.  I decided which Door I would choose.  Which one will you?

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's My Party and I'll Box If I Want To

No, not box as in as in, let me start from the beginning...

I read in the LA times Arts section recently that MTV is having to reformat its programming to meet the needs of the "millineum generation" who is taking over the airwaves from "GenX."  (God, I feel old.)  Never having been an MTV watcher, I was unfamiliar with the issue.  (We didn't have cable growing up so my only MTV memory is of my friend, Karen, rocking out to "Shout" by Tears for Fears at a sleepover...aaahhh, the 80's!)  It seems that because of the state of the world - economy, war, joblessness - the millineum gen has different views on what is cool (or is that "sick?") and what is unacceptable.  Apparently, the TV show, The Hills, at one time a big hit for MTV, was viewed as almost obscene what with the crowd's aberrant spending and petty arguments.  (This according to the article, of course.  I've never seen the show.)  Instead, they are bringing on programming for a new kind of audience who is looking to relate to circumstances similar to their own, one of less money and more quality.  I only hope they are able to represent the side of the "quality" issue concerned with giving back.

Taking a 30 second juggling break. 
Hey I need that rice for the hungry folks!
In keeping with that theme, my husband and I decided that instead of doing a birthday celebration this year, we would try and give back a little to the community at large in honor of all of the blessings we have received.  We met at the LA Food Bank with family and spent the morning filling bins, organizing foodstuffs, lifting boxes (okay, only the guys lifted anything!) and we even fit in a little juggling and moonwalking.  (They had the Michael Jackson tunes cranked at one point.)  We were there for less than three hours but in that time, we were told by our volunteer coordinator, Jeff, that we helped feed 3,500 senior citizens with the volunteerism present that day.  We couldn't believe how little effort it took to make such a huge difference!

On the assembly line like I Love Lucy...
except we didn't eat the rice and beans!

Our volunteer group after our shift
Many times I get so caught up in my own little world that I forget I have time, energy and resources to give away and that it would make all of the difference in the world to those with so little.  Even in our darkest moments of fear for our own finances and futures, it's important for Drew and I to remember that we will be taken care of if we trust, work hard  and have faith in Him who cares for us! 

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 tells us: 

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 

For myself, I will try and be a cheerful giver as often as possible from now on, boxing, packaging, sorting, lifting...okay, and if I have to, a little moonwalking too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Out of Africa

My son got in the car today and said, "Mom, what's an African boy's name?"  Now being from the Roots era and loving Alex Haley's story and its cultural significance in the 1970's, I shouted, "Kunta Kinte" with great enthusiasm and pride in my knowledge. My son, on the other hand, being from the millineum era looked at me like I was nuts (what else is new?) and said, "What are you talking about?  That's not a name."  Of course, my need to prove that I'm right at the forefront, I responded, "Just because the name isn't 'Joe' doesn't mean it's not a name.  African names sound different to us because we speak different languages.  Why do you need an African name anyway?"

So he proceeded to tell me that he was required to write a story for his English class to submit to the National PTA Reflections program, the topic being diversity.  He had decided to write about five boys, each from a different country, who went to one school.  They were from  Japan, The United States, Africa, the Caribbean and somewhere in Europe.  The plot of his story, my little Stephen Sondheim in the making, was vaguely reminiscent of West Side Story:  The boys fight in the streets because of their differences, then "they get sad" so they repair their relationships, and then, in true 11 year old boy fashion, the school closes down because "otherwise it would be boring."

"Okay, Braden, why don't you take my Iphone and Google 'African boys names' and see what you come up with?"  For the next ten minutes he regaled me with lists of names, their meanings, their spellings, cultural significances, etc.  But then he stopped at a name which seemed to tickle him, "Baako," he chuckled.  Again laughing harder, "Baako."  Soon he was practically rolling in the backseat of the car, "Baako!!!" he howled.

To that I replied, "You know, I bet there's a kid named Baako in Africa who's got his mother's Iphone, Googling American boys' names and he's stopped at 'Braden' and is laughing hysterically."  Braden looked up and said, "Mom!" but cracked up the next minute.  Then he proceeded to tell me that no one in Africa has an Iphone, the majority of the people there don't have any technology and definitely wouldn't be looking up American boys' names if they did.  How did he know?  He "saw a video at school once."  (I shudder to think of what he isn't learning daily.)

Of course, that got me thinking about how we may take one piece of information we've learned about a country, a region, a continent and condense it down to one succinct assumption that we think applies to every person, every situation, every incident that occurs there.  And then that got me to thinking further about how we may take what we know of each other - friends, family, spouses, children included - and condense down again to one succinct assumption about that person...without really knowing someone's heart or motive or fear or insecurity.  And it made me think of the many times I'm sure I've done this over my lifetime, wittingly or unwittingly, but in my haste to be right or look superior, I didn't take the time to find out the truth.

Luckily there is Someone who knows our hearts wholly, completely, lovingly, and dare I say, patiently.  Someone who will not overlook the fear, the insecurity, the need, the baggage we pack (and I don't pack light!) in our lives.  Someone who will not laugh at us but beside us as we try and sometimes fail; start then sometimes quit; live but sometimes hide from life.  And luckily that Someone is there to prod us, poke us, move us forward to our true objective, our true life, our true world purpose.  How awesome that that Someone knows, not only every single name in every single country, but every life...connecting us all together, brothers and sisters, doing Someone's bidding.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

School's in Session

Tonight was Back to School Night at my daughter's high school.  My husband and I braved the rain along with a multitude of other parents who want to stay in touch with their kids and find out a bit about their teachers and curriculum.  I was impressed at the depth of learning Colleen will experience this year and the very supportive staff leading her down her educational path. 

Go Rams!!!

One teacher in particular impressed me, not only with her warmth and humor, but also her dedication and attitude.Mrs. Davis is Colleen's Intermediate Algebra teacher (that's the old Algebra II for those of us who were in high school 25 years ago).  She came from a long line of engineers and followed suit, getting her bachelors and masters in the same.  After 25 years of success in the field, she thought to herself, "I love kids and I love math," and she left her lucrative career to start over as a high school Algebra teacher.  As she put it, "I'm here because I want to be." 

I'm here because I want to be...

How many of us are "here" because we want to be?  How many are led to their current journey by chance or by force and are simply going through the motions day by day?  How many are doing the bare minimum to "get by," trying to find stimulation and joy elsewhere, often in things and experiences that will simply mask the unhappiness?  I have led that life and I know the toll it takes.  I also know the life of choice...getting up each day loving where I am and appreciating life's offerings.  And the ironic thing is that I was often in the same job, the same mode, the same schedule each time.  The difference was my attitude. 

Mrs. Davis also said that she gives the kids an opportunity to retool and retake any exam they fail.  As she put it, "I am not here to watch a student fail.  I love to teach and I want them to learn.  I'm here to help make them a success."  As an educator for over 20 years, I appreciate this selfless philosophy so much.  She is putting the student first.  She is giving them opportunities to learn, even from their missteps.  She is encouraging them to soar.

When I think of this attitude of selfless care, it reminds me that this is also the way that we learn from our Heavenly Father.  We are allowed to make mistakes and missteps.  We are allowed to not always grasp the answer.  We often fail our tests.  But if we seek knowledge and understanding and truly learn the lesson, we are promised success!  We will soar!  We are given an "A."   And that, my friends, is a grade worth working for!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A New Perspective

"Why am I the only one in our house to replace a roll of toilet paper?"

"I'm so sick of my throat hurting from my allergies!"

"I wish my fingernails would grow in thicker."

"Why can't I afford every outfit in the new White House/Black Market flyer?"

Oh, wait, did I not mention yet that I tend to be a complainer?  It's probably my single most shameful character trait.  It's one of which I am painfully aware, in which I sometimes relish, but mostly about which I am mortally embarassed.

Like most of the rest of the world, it's been a tough year for our family:  illness, job loss, frightening investment returns...blah, blah, know the drill.  After a few months of constant complaining about all of these (and other!) worries (and sick of even listening to myself), I decided to look for answers by replacing my typical fiction reading with inspirational and personally beneficial books.  A familiar thread, a common theme leapt out at me from each.

"Successful people do not hang on to bad stuff for long...(they) get rid of bad stuff.  Period.  Sometimes quickly and sometimes through a process, but they get rid of it...They do not let negative things take up space in their lives, draining them of energy and resources.  If the tooth is infected, they pull it.  Immediately.  They have little tolerance for nagging pains that are unresolved.  They finish off problems and do not allow them to remain.  They get rid of negative energy."  (Dr.  Henry Cloud, 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life)

"Remember, whatever you focus upon increases...When you focus on the things you need, you'll find those needs increasing.  If you concentrate your thoughts on what you don't have, you will soon be concentrating on other things you had forgotten you don't have - and feel worse!  If you set your mind on loss, you are more likely to lose...But a grateful perspective brings happiness and abundance into a person's life."  (Andy Andrews, The Noticer)

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.  Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you."  (Yep, you guessed it...The Holy Bible...Paul's letter to the Philippians 4:6-9)

My perspective has started to change.  I realize now (even though I've heard it for years) that it takes just as much - if not more - energy to look at the bad rather than the good.  So my solution as I'm working to alter this habit has been to follow any complaint I have with a prayer of gratitude.

"Why am I the only one in our house to replace a roll of toilet paper?"  (Thank you, God, that we are so busy focusing on the interests in which you have blessed us, that we can't find time to replace the toilet paper.)

"I'm so sick of my throat hurting from my allergies!"  (Thank you, God, that I can afford the allergy medicines that make me feel better.)

"I wish my fingernails would grow in thicker."  (Thank you, God, that I can feel my fingers and toes, use my hands and feet, walk and run and play the piano!)

"Why can't I afford every outfit in the new White House/Black Market flyer?"  (Thank you, God, that I have clothes to keep me and my family warm and comfortable.)

My reasoning in doing this, of course, is that this yucky character trait of 42 years will not just change overnight.  But the funniest thing has happened since I started it a few weeks mind more frequently visits the blessings now than the empty wishes; acknowledges the positive rather than the negative; focuses on the joy rather than the setbacks.  Woo hoo!!

So today, on this very rainy, dark and dismal day, rather than moan, "I wish the sun would come out!" I say: "Thank you, God, for sending our world rain that the plants need, darkness that lets me turn on my favorite giraffe print lamp, and coolness of weather so I save on air conditioning my house."  How's that for a new perspective?

Monday, October 3, 2011

17 again

I poignantly remember my teenage years: the angst and the drama, the slammed doors and the prolific tears, the heartwrenching poetry and the acute knowledge that NO ONE understood me. And I poignantly remember growing out of it and never wanting to return. Little did I know, it would revisit me daily in the form of my daughter. (The sins of the mother and all that...)

Colleen at age 2.  Our curls were the same - but that's it!
 Colleen and I could not be more different. I, tenacious, willing and eager to confront a problem, boisterous and dramatic. She, quiet and brooding, private and tight-lipped, measured and yes, dramatic in her way. I, 4' 10", the darkness of my Italian roots shared with the impishness of my Irish ones. She, 5' 7", only proof of her Irishness evident with her reddish hair and pale skin. As my dads childhood neighbors would say, "Honey and brown sugar versus peaches and cream."

I shared with Colleen earlier this summer that I had been praying a specific prayer for her each day: That she learn one day it's easier to admit you're wrong and ask forgiveness than to obstinately hold on to pride; to receive someone's forgiveness and compassion and appreciate that is a blessed experience; to realize that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but a confirmation that you're open to letting others in.
Colleen and I today

The other night we were discussing her new school year, her classes, her grades, my expectations and her results. As often happens, a calm conversation turned into a mildly heated confrontation. For once, I dropped my line of inquiry and turned to my work on the computer. "Choose your battles," I told myself. She got up and left the room.

Ten minutes later she returned and tearfully said, "Mama, I'm so sorry that I was disrepectful. I'm just stressed about getting used to my new classes and I dropped the ball. You were right - the things you talked about were my responsibility. I'm just overwhelmed."

I'm sure the look of shock registered on my face. You see, I can never remember a time when my daughter has voluntarily apologized for anything - and it was the answer to my summer prayers. All of my years of parental self-doubt dissolved as I realized she actually had been listening, absorbing and maturing. I looked on her in that moment with compassion and intense pride.

I held out my arms to her and she readily came to me, collapsing on my shoulder in a mix of relief and release, and cried for a few minutes. When we pulled apart, I cupped her face in my hands and said, "I don't care about the grades. That you just came to me and initiated an apology was huge." Embarassed, she looked away. "Look at me," I hollered..."HUGE!!!" She burst out laughing and we laughed together, had a great talk about her friends and boys, her pride in her accomplishments and her misgivings about the future.

What a great lesson for me. God may not always answer my prayers in MY timeline. Often there are others involved in the process who have got be ready. He's helping make them ready - sometimes through me and sometimes through their own process - but either way, it's HIS timeline to follow. And I just have to trust and keep praying my prayers so when the time is right, He will grace me with His gifts.

So thanks, God, for my daughter. But thank ya' Jesus that I don't have to be a teenager again!!