Tuesday, October 31, 2006

No Other Gods- Part II

As I grow in my faith, it becomes easier to identify three kinds of people:

1) Those who have been so hurt, offended or neglected by "Christians" that they completely dismiss the faith and do whatever they please.
2) Those who idolize the church and are cheerleaders for their particular brand of religion virtually saying, "Rah-rah us, we have the truth and no one else does. Stand up tall, like a steeple, 'cause we're God's only chosen people! Goooooooo ------------'s" (insert name of church) To them everything is black & white with no room for variance.
3) Then there are those who are broken, questioning and truly long to be part of God's Kingdom- wherever it takes them. I call them 'Kingdom Seekers'.

Those who play church are content- they have it all figured out- don't mess up the routine or challenge them to think outside the box. You will tend to hear the same proof texts, cliche statements and old presentations from this bunch. Often their outreach tactics are irrelevant to modern culture.

A true seeker never stops learning, changing and growing. A true Christian isn't out for their own glory- that's why they can freely admit they are "chief of sinners". Members of God's Kingdom aren't working to save souls for bragging rights about how many converts they've won or because they want more stars in their crowns. Kingdom builders still make mistakes, but reach out to others because they truly care. There's NOTHING they wouldn't give to help or encourage another human being. People put up buildings and run churches, but God controls The Kingdom. There is new life and vibrance in Him!

The Cross is the great leveler of mankind. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female- only children bearing a simple message. "God is love". "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". "By Grace you have been saved and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, lest anyone boast".
God looks past the sophisticated fables we live out to see the heart. How deep is His searching- how great the invitation- "whosoever will". His embrace reaches beyond economic status and denominational boundaries. Who can define His Kingdom- except to say there's always room for one more? It isn't necessary to define every little detail of faith. The Spirit moves as the Spirit wills. Kingdom mentality understands that we're all born to unique circumstances and see things a bit differently. There is freedom within the Kingdom because nobody is trying to push their own agenda. The focus is Christ and Him crucified.

No Other Gods- Part I

In the darkest of times, the melancholy part of me kicks in and I get lost in my contemplations. I spend hours in prayer trying to figure out what God wants from me. This week, I had a revelation and one that brought me to my knees- even wrote a song about it. You see, I am guilty of worshipping things other than God.

Most of my existence has been built around Church. I wanted to grow the church, to be a leader in the denomination. The church was my entire life, education AND my husband's vocation. Now I see the church became a god for me. So caught up in being proud of my earthly religious heritage, I took little notice and found small comfort in the fact that I was a child of God. The hard times we've been facing for so long have served to help me re-focus. You see, God doesn't want us to be about building a church. He wants us to grow a Kingdom. God's vision goes so much farther than our own little box. We are content when someone gets in the baptismal tank and claims our denomination as their own. God is not content until the heart is truly connected in loving relationship with Him. We are content to be polite, shake hands and exchange small talk with each other on a weekly basis. God wants us to support each other consistently with familial love- one that would give anything to help the other person. This kind of love has been shown to us recently and it is very powerful!

Taking a step back from the mindset of churchianity has been a big eye-opener for me. It's been interesting how people react to my questions and examinations. Some lecture and chastize verbally, others write accusatory letters asking me to leave the church, however, there are some who simply love me and allow me room to grow as God leads. These people are my only lifeline with a stale church. If we could set aside prophecy, health message, fundamental beliefs, the big focus on 10 Commandments for a time and give whole-hearted effort to uplift the Risen Lord, perhaps we would find ourselves revitalized? Maybe we would find a renewed passion for God?? Maybe we need to realize that we are nothing- even with our schools, hospitals, publishing houses and big satellite television station. Those things we are so proud of have burned before and they are all going to burn in the end. Then it will boil down to character. How did we treat people? Were we self-righteous and judgemental? Did we step on others to work our way up to top positions in the church? God is not mocked- He sees the goings on, the politics, the headgames that go on behind the scenes in the religious setting.

God is building a kingdom- He's calling people out. More and more I meet other people who are disillusioned with organized church and all the expectations, rituals and exactings that are imposed within it's walls in the name of earning Salvation. (Salvation is a gift- freely given not earned) Kingdom seekers connect on a deep spiritual level, because we have suffering in common. We are outcasts- fringe elements- those who want something real and are willing to do whatever it takes to find it. Don't believe churchianity exists? Try asking questions- be who you are in Christ and see what happens. There will likely be pressure to conform. Those who consider themselves so rich in theological wisdom will be quick to try and shut you up and straighten you out. Why? Because a simple message is not welcome among those who pride themselves in being spiritually complex. If it's not complicated, then it's below them.

Truth is plain and simple. I'm a sinner in need of the Grace God offers. I've tried with everything in me to be good and keep all the rules & restrictions. Like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7, the good I want to do, I fail to do and the evil I want to avoid is the very thing I tend to migrate toward. Guess what? I can't do it. That's why Jesus came and kept the rules FOR ME. He died to cover my mistakes. He rose again to give me hope. He loves me. Now I can rest in HIS MERIT under a New Covenant knowing it's not about my being perfect, but in accepting Christ's perfection. Jesus said, "If you love Me, feed my sheep". What are the sheep starving for? L-O-V-E. They want to know a God Who cares and a people that show genuine concern.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Blind Horse...

(Not sure who wrote this- it was an e-mail forward, but it really touched me so I wanted to share it:)

Just up the road from my home is a big field, with two horses in it. From a distance, each horse looks like any other horse. But if you stop by to observe, you will notice something quite amazing. Looking into the eyes of the bigger horse will disclose that he is completely blind. His caring owner has chosen not to have him put down, but has made a good home for him in lush pastures. This alone is a miracle...

If you stand nearby and listen, you hear the sound of a bell. Looking around for the source of the sound, you will see that it comes from a smaller horse in the field. Attached to the horse's halter is a small bell. It lets the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow. As you stand and watch these two friends, you'll see that the horse with the bell is always checking on the blind horse, and the blind horse listens for the bell, then slowly walks to where the other horse is, trusting that he will not be led astray. When the horse with the bell returns to the shelter of the barn each evening, it stops occasionally, looking back, making sure the blind friend isn't too far behind.

Like the kind owners of these two horses, God does not throw us away because we are not perfect or when we have problems or challenges. He watches over us- even bringing others into our lives to help us when we are in need. Sometimes we are the helpless blind horse being guided by the ringing bells of those who God places in our lives. Other times we are like the guide-horse, helping others find the way home.
Good friends are like that... you may not always see them, but you know they are there. Please listen for my bell and I'll listen for yours.

Remember... be kinder than necessary - everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Meth Mom...

I recently read an article about a mom who was found passed out in her car which contained Meth Amphetamine- she had a naked baby sitting in a carseat. It must have been a disturbing sight for whoever found them there by the road. Understandably, the mother was arrested and heavily sentenced for possession of an illegal substance and child abuse. She is now making a plea for leniency and help so that she can return home to be with her three children.
As I scrolled down through the reader comments below the article, I was disturbed by the cold remarks that were made. "Serves her right", "Lock her up and throw away the key" "Her poor children are better off without her", "Let her rot in Hell for what she did", "I can't believe she did this in our community", etc. Will nobody hear the cries for help from this woman? The two people who did post sympathetic comments were loudly booed by the angry and self-righteous posts of the others. (Guess none of them have ever made a mistake before and are now entitled to come down hard on someone else?)

The mother messed up bigtime- YES. Should she be punished? YES- she needs to take responsibility for her actions. But she too is a life and God loves her. She needs help not hatred. If the community is sooooo concerned for her poor children, then they would know the best thing to do is help their mother get cleaned up as soon as possible so she can be with them. It CAN be done. She is their birth mother and nobody else will ever take her place in their lives.

I too am outraged when children are abused or neglected- it's heartbreaking! However, was the response from this woman's community appropriate? They are very quick to deal out shame on her. However, she did not just wake up one morning and say, "Hey, just for kicks I think I'll be a druggie and abuse my kids." It was a long, slippery slope that happened over time. Where was the community then?? Why do we not focus more on prevention and less on punishment after the fact?

Having lived among some of the poorest people in America and knowing them as I do, I see things a little differently than the average or privileged American. Many people have been incredibly sheltered and as a result, often turn a blind eye and deaf ear to those who struggle just to get by. People turn to a life of drugs and drink when they have tried to succeed and had the door slammed on them one too many times. Some have been sorely abused and rejected all or most of their lives. As a teen, I watched one of our neighbors- a single mother- try hard to get work, but nobody would hire her because she had been in jail nearly a decade before. Her children were taken away. I remember her sobs as she watched the CPS van drive away with her kids. We are too often a very uncaring, unforgiving people- so caught up in our own agendas that we fail to see or choose to overlook the need around us.

What kind of community is so blind that they cannot see the signs of a family struggling financially, spiritually or emotionally? To those who are so quick to point the finger of blame at the ones who fall- where were you BEFORE they fell? Where was your church?? There are probably several congregations in their city. Why didn't they reach out to help this woman before she ended up passed out on the side of the road???? Too often, by our neglect, we create desperate people, then punish them. Will we excuse ourselves saying, "Am I my brother's keeper"? It comforts me to know that God sees the bigger picture. The meth mom is an adult who needs to be accountable for what she did. However, the greater burden of neglect is laid upon the community for not acting on the part of this family. Though I am making NO excuses for her behavior, I feel for this woman and her children. We are so often graceless. Mercy is difficult to offer- until we ourselves have truly received it.

If Jesus Christ were born today, He would likely be born to a homeless young woman in the back ally of a ghetto. Nobody would recognize Him now either. We tend to prefer flashy, happy, eloquent, influential people in suits. I believe God allowed His own Son to be born into poverty so that He could understand the hurts of the less fortunate. If you haven't, then just for a week, try to put yourself in someone else's shoes. There is charity in this country, but that is not a cure-all. You see every form of charity has requirements that must be met before you qualify. Contrast that with the fact that God offers grace and mercy- simply because we're breathing. At times my family was quite poor, but often we did not get any assistence. We fell in the crack of earning too little to get by very well, but making just a little too much to qualify for help. People would tell my mother to quit her job and live off the government, but she was too proud for that and with all her heart wanted to work to feed us. Can you blame her? So we got by as best we could.

There have been some hard times in my life- I can easily understand how people get off on the wrong track when they are hurting. Heaven help them- it's very likely nobody else will.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Last Night...

Had a great time at the concert last night! It was packed- standing room only. Barlow Girl is really cool. Three young sisters who are incredibly talented and have devoted themselves to spreading a positive message. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed herself and was able to get all of the girls to autograph her program. We were able to have a little talk about the facts of life on the way down and back. I love my daughter- this little blossom of a woman. She is growing in feminine graces and her cooking is really good. If anyone ever abuses her like I was hurt at her age, they will have to tie me down to prevent me from hurting someone. She is smart, creative and changing every day. I'm glad she's not boy crazy. I think it's important for a girl to have a strong identity without having a boyfriend as a crutch. When I was in school, I didn't date much. Lots of girls would go from one guy to the next and they were completely uncomfortable just being themselves without some significant other. Now, we are designed for companionship, but unless one has a good sense of self early on, they will lose themselves in someone else- which sounds romantic, but is not at all healthy.

One of the great things about being me is that I have such a wide appreciation for music. I had a huge Classical library- before my computer crashed, but I also enjoy some Country, Pop, Contemp. Christian, etc. I'm not of the opinion that God only endorses one certain kind of music- or only certain instruments as worthy to be used for His glory. I think it's more about the message of the song itself. I don't like fluffy, sing-songy type music in any genre. I like material with depth. 'Barlow Girl' music reaches me where I am right now.
The crowd at the concert was mostly young people clapping and singing along during some of the songs. I stood against the wall in the back with tears rolling down my face- especially during the song 'Never Alone'. In the words of David, "How long oh Lord will You hide Your face from me?"

I believe healing comes. I know it's possible. But it doesn't make it any easier being in the fire and feeling so alone. I am completely undone- what more can God possibly do but take my life? If my man and I recover from the events of the last 3 yrs, it will truly be an act of God, because we have nothing left from which to rebound or rebuild. I want to believe that although my heart is cold right now, someday I will be warm again and able to write songs about victory over this experience. I choose to believe that someday I will look back on all this and laugh about it.

Interestingly enough, I keep bumping into this guy named Chris who started a group called 'The Black Sheep Coalition'. He and his wife were ejected from their church for being independant thinkers and for their "liberal" views on how Christ receives sinners. They have now started a group that meets for fellowship, prayer & praise. Last night, I turned around while waiting in line with my daughter for autographs and there they were. They seemed as happy to see me as I was to see them. Chris had a hard time of it. A former heavy-metal player and biker, he was refused entrance to the church and baptism at one point because he had tatoos. What nerve! Who gave the church authority to turn people away? Christ said, "Whosever will", often the church says "Whosoever will..... conform to every minute detail of organized religion". Chris has a testimony, knows his Bible, loves the Lord and can preach a real sermon off the top of his head. He is the first to admit he's still learning. But the one thing he does know is that God loves black sheep- the broken, the misfits, outcasts and rejects that nobody else wants. Chris is a little edgy- reminds me of what disciple Peter must have been like, but I respect him. The three of us had a good talk last night and they gave me their phone number, saying I should call them anytime if I want to cry, pray or testify. Cool! Too many Christians are quick to correct and slow to listen. Not the case with Chris & Kelly. I feel like I could share anything with them and they wouldn't judge me, lecture me or turn me away. Jesus didn't go around dictating to people. He did set up some guidelines for behavior in the Beatitudes, but He mostly challenged people to examine their lives. Most people are smart enough to figure things out if they are sincerely seeking after God. Christ did not insult their intelligence by laying everything out, He invited people to THINK for themselves. That's a kind of love you don't often find. We are going to invite them out for a visit in the near future.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


This week I've been working myself ragged. Thankfully it's nearly Friday and next week will be a little easier!
Our stinking luck holds. My computer died last Thurs. Lost all my music- over 10,000 songs. Lost many of my articles, website stuff and photos. Whatever hit the hard drive wiped it so completely out that nothing was recoverable.

Yesterday, Jay's car broke down- oil pan ruptured and had to be welded. Cost hundreds of dollars to fix. These are examples of the constant barrage of headaches we receive in life. My man has put a bunch of resume's out in hopes of finding better work around here, but honestly feels it's not much use and that God is going to slowly snuff us out. Our prayers for help seem to go unanswered. Our house is for sale in hopes that we can dump this big mortgage. We are scaling way back in the amount of possessions we have- going to have an estate sale. Hope it doesn't take long to get rid of this place. Will have to dig into the children's savings accounts just to make the house payment this month. Yes, could be worse I suppose, but it COULD BE BETTER too and it's not. God has allowed us to endure extreme discomfort living in this area and maybe it's time for us to relocate?? Not sure what we'll do when the house is sold. Can't afford rent around here for a family our size, yet to buy another place that we really don't want isn't a great option either...

Good news is that my children's parent-teacher conferences were this week and went very well. I'm so proud of my kids! Their teachers had only positive to say. My children are creative, intelligent and prone to leadership. Bessie is at the top of her class and is in an excel program. Jeddy is also doing well, though not quite as highly ranked scholastically, his teacher says he is gifted, creative and a deep thinker. She says he is a joy in the classroom with his sense of humor, helpfulness and pleasant nature. My oldest and youngest are also doing well in their schoolwork. The positive reports are a healing balm to this weary mother's heart. It feels good to receive positive affirmation this year.
The puppies are doing well. What sweet little bundles of love! Ember is laying in my lap as I type this. Completely adorable and the house-breaking is coming along nicely. I regret that I am not here a whole lot this week, but my man is making sure they get to go out regularly for potties.

Heard from a friend this week. Nothing really long or detailed, she wasn't asking for anything- just saying "hi". It was so sweet of her to think of me. Thanks Tricia. :o)

The MofM girls surprised me last weekend. I was feeling poorly- had my very first Migraine. I was in bed when they called and asked me to come down for a surprise. So I got up, showered and headed that way. When I got there, they had a little gift bag full of goodies for me. They did my hair and make-up. Really made me feel special and I liked the way I looked when they were done. Just don't have the time to fuss over myself much.
Sometimes I think I am positively hopeless. I know some people do care about me and are trying to reach me, but I'm like a broken cup- empty and starving for relationship- completely defective. I believe God is there, I believe He is a God of love, however, it's tempting to think that for some reason I have displeased Him and for the rest of my days only bad things will happen. I hope this is not true...

Tonight, I have a "date" with my oldest daughter who is nearly a teenager. I am taking her to see her favorite band, 'Barlow Girl' in concert. They are sisters who promote modesty and sexual purity in young girls. Their music is awesome! I think this will be a good bonding experience for us. That's all the update for now.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Reflections on Wallace...

I am of Celtic and German descent. Sadly, I was never really able to be close to any of my Grandparents. Not because of a lack of effort on my part. We lived apart and they just never really seemed like they wanted to connect and didn't put much into having any sort of relationship with me. I always felt an emptiness when it came to family- it's far too complicated to go into in this post- however, now I have a family of my own to enjoy.

I haven't researched my German heritage much. It's not a major part of who I am. Although my maiden name was German, my biggest influences genetically were of Scot-Irish origin. Culturally, I am more interested in my Gaelic roots. German history hits a sore spot for me. Not all Germans were Nazi's and some helped the victims of hatred, but I do feel that many were weak-minded and gullible to the rhetoric of Hitler and his death machine. I have great respect for Germans today- perhaps someday I will find an interest- for now I am content to study the other branches of my family tree.

I am one who believes it's important to know who and where you came from. Everyone needs a sense of belonging. As my children grew, they began asking questions for which I had no answers. This sparked a strong curiosity in me to know my heritage. So I began to investigate online and with the help of some relatives, found that I have a very rich and distinct background ethnically.
My Great Grandparents on my Dad's side were influential Irish Millers and fisherman who came to the US from Ireland just before the Potato Famine of the 1800's. Things did not go well for Francis and his family. There was quite a prejudice against the Irish here in America at the time and the environment was so hostile that my family actually returned to Donegal, North Ireland during the famine! 10 years or so later they returned, but this time, afraid of being mistreated they dropped the O' from their name and became Gallagher. (prounouced Gal-o-her in Ireland) The people at immigration pronounced the name with a hard 'g' in the middle and it stuck. They made a success of their lives here with their 11 children the second time around.

My Great-grandfather Campbell on my mother's side came from one of Scotland's biggest and most powerful clans. In fact Clan Campbell still holds several castles- including the beautiful 'Ivenaray'. I have obtained the family badge, crest and plaid. I am not royalty, but I come from good stock. I know this to be true as we recently attended the 'Highland Games' here in TN where I was able to connect with more of my heritage- which confirmed much of my research. Rob Roy Campbell MacGregor is a distant relative. A most interesting tidbit of information is that the great hero of the Scots, William Wallace had many Campbells at his side while turning the English out of Scotland and winning freedom from tyranny.

I finally had the courage to watch a movie about his life. I wept through much of it. How we humans abuse one another never ceases to shock me! I could identify very strongly with the passion and indignation that Wallace felt as he witnessed the cruel, unethical behavior of English Lords and the self-serving Scottish nobles who did their bidding. Wallace took a stand and people noticed. He was a unifying force who brought quarreling Scottish clans together in a common cause and even many Irish joined the cause. (The Irish were equally mistreated by the English during that time period.) Truly, it is a challenge to sort out fact from fiction with any legendary character, but Wallace is one of my heroes. He died just as nobly as he lived.
(If you are weak of stomach, don't read the next paragraph.... it's disturbing, but serves to illustrate why I was so deeply moved by the story....)

Wallace was betrayed by his own, beaten to unconsciousness and handed over to the Pagan, English King Edward I or 'Langshanks'. Quickly tried and found guilty of high treason, William was sentenced to die. However, they couldn't just take his life, they first hung him by the neck for several minutes, then dropped him down and asked him to claim Edward as his King. Wallace refused, remaining silent. They racked him by stretching his body with ropes against the weight of a draft horse, pulling his shoulders, wrists and hips out of socket. Then they dropped him down again asking him to recant his claims to freedom. Though many of the English present at the execution begged for mercy to be shown, the tormentors then laid him out on a table, disemboweled him & burned his organs before his eyes. All the while imploring him to acknowledge the King of Wales as his soveriegn lord. Wallace refused, nor did he cry out until the very end. They asked again if he would submit, to which he cried loudly with his last breath "Freeeeedom!" Wallace was then beheaded. His body was cut into pieces- each sent to different parts of England to be displayed. What detestable barbarism!! (It is to be condemned in any culture. Certainly Americans have done their share of the same in the unjust treatment of African slaves and Native Americans.)

I am inspired by courage and conviction in the face of death. Wallace wanted one thing for himself and for his people- Freedom. None of the Celts who died on Scottish fields loved their lives any less than we value ours- yet they gave. That is deserving of honor. The horrific death of William Wallace won over many of the enemy and was the battering ram Scotland needed to oust the English once and for all.

The whole story reminded me of another great Hero of mine- Jesus the Christ. He was also betrayed by His own, beaten beyond recognition and died a horrible death for the freedom of His people- not only from sin and death, but from religious tyranny. This kind of passion is not manufactured- it is a Divine gift and one that moves me to silence, how can I express the reverence I feel? It is the same deep stirring I felt while attending the deathbed of my mother-in-law, visiting the Vietnam memorial wall and walking the Gettysburg battlefields... an inutterable appreciation, an intense mourning for the loss of life.

God, we all die sooner or later. Don't let me be snuffed out quietly- never making a difference here. Let this fire You put in me also be used for something good...

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Photo Shoot!

Okay, here's a chance for you to vote for the best 'Message of Mercy' PR photos from our most recent shoot. (I'm the short redhead in the bunch.) There is one picture of me in a green shirt holding my little puppy, 'Ember'. (YES- I had to have at least one picture with her in it.) LOL

Here's a link to the gallery- hope it works- if not, let me know. (I'm writing this post from my daughter's computer since mine crashed and burned this week.) If you have a moment, jot down the numbers of the pictures you like best- both of me and of the group. Thanks a million! :o)

MofM Photo Session:


PS. You can visit the group, read the latest news and hear clips of our music anytime by clicking the 'Message of Mercy' link in the right column.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Simple Blessings...

The warmth of someone sleeping beside me
Puppy kisses, snuggles and enthusiastic tail wags
Hearing the laughter of my children
Listening to the breeze in the Pines
Enjoying the Fall colors
Knowing I have a job I like that helps provide
Long Weekends
Sitting by the warm fireplace with Cedar logs
Tomato soup & grilled cheese on a rainy day
Soothing music
Family meals- these are becoming a rare thing
Having Ice Cream
Downtime with friends
Prayer and contemplation

These are what keep me going...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bundles of Joy :o)

Well, after 4 years of waiting, saving and researching, I finally found both the breed and the breeder I wanted. My little 'Ember' is a Toy Poodle- she's finally home with me. She is as red as my hair. We drove up to get her and the breeder really liked us. When she saw that my oldest daughter had fallen in love with an Apricot colored pup, she basically gave us a second Poodle pup that day saying "pay as you are able". So YES, we have two pups running around the house and they are WONDERFUL!!! People can scoff all they want about little dogs, (which is rude to do in front of an enthusiastic owner) but they really are awesome! These dogs are super smart, very quiet, portable and cuddly. Pays to do research though- not all breeders are ethical and even some Poodles are wimpy, unhealthy yappers.

In the midst of all our trials, there have been some bright spots. Being involved with the musical last winter was great. Watching my adorable little 'neice' Emma last summer was fun. She's so cute! I had to stop watching her when my work schedule got busier. Now these little dogs are pure comic relief.

I have observed on more than one occasion how judgemental people can be toward those who struggle financially. Often rich people just cannot relate to those less fortunate and can be pretty harsh. A comment was made, "Why on earth do you spend money on things that are not neccessities?" To which I must ask, do we not deserve any joys in life? Our children are eating and well clothed. We do a lot to 'pay it forward' and help others, so why do people begrudge us the few small pleasures we do allow ourselves? I'm a Sanguine/Melancholy personality. I'm not afraid to pull my share of the load- I can work hard. But to me, life should be largely about building relationships, having fun and spending time with friends- I hate conflict and want everyone to get along. I'm not difficult to please- as simple things delight me. Love to spend time in my barn, with my kids and pets. I find great pleasure sitting at my piano and writing music- although recently life has frozen my creative vein in that respect. I may never be rich, but I do know how to have fun- owning pets is one way.

I want to say there have been some people this past 3 years who have reached out to us and I greatly appreciate them. My friend Kim and her family, Pastor Jerry, my blog friends. There have been some awkward attempts by some, but I do appreciate the gestures. At times I am guilty of allowing my pain to overshadow my blessings. There are many people out there who have worse to deal with. I am trying with everything I've got to find my joy again.

As I type this, Ember is laying in my lap, curled in a tiny little ball. She is so soft and warm. She melts me. I really needed this. The great thing about dogs is that no matter how badly other people may treat you, no matter what things go wrong or how your dreams may be broken, you are still a hero to them- it's reassuring. People can be fickle, friendships come and go, but a dog- now there's a loyal friend!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Finding My Endurance...

When I was in college, I trained for the Dallas 26K marathon. I ran like crazy working myself up to the big race- it required great dedication and discipline on my part. Barely over 100 lbs, I was light as a gazelle. I could run 5 miles and barely break a sweat. I studied up and pulled from the experience of other runners who had gone before me, to get the best idea of how to succeed. My goal was not to win the race, but to finish honorably. My endurance wsa built slowly, but gradually and eventually, I could outlast a whole lot of people. I'm not really fast, but I am what Native Americans call a long-runner. A sprinter specializes and excels in short bursts of speed over short distances. They give it all they've got and then it's over. An endurance runner is slower and steadier in the race- they are in it for the long haul.

I find a lot of truth in the story of 'The Tortoise and the Hare'. Do you remember the tale? The Hare is overly confident in his own speed, technique and intellect. He takes off from the start line with a burst, leaving the others way behind. He gets so far ahead that he just assumes nothing will ever be able to catch him, so he decides to take a nap in the shade. Meanwhile, the humble little Turtle who has been mocked for even entering the race, trudges along consistently, overtakes the sleeping Rabbit and to everyone's shock and amazement, wins the race! Great story!!

I want to be like the Turtle. Too often I have been like the fast-n-flashy Hare. My whole life has been lived in fast forward. Forced to grow up too fast, I got married young and had kids, way before many of my friends were even hitched. My man and I poured on a burst of speed and jumped many hurdles, but somewhere along the way we got pretty worn out. I don't want to lay down and get lazy now. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to try and finish the race I started with my partner 14 yrs ago. Sometimes I'm tempted to think I could have done better, but really there is no one else on earth I'd rather be with. Jay has a calm, predictable nature that steadies me, while my passionate energy lights him up. If we can just get a break from major trial for a while- maybe 3-6 months where nothing awful happens to us, perhaps we would feel able to press on? (Those of you out there with more experience- does the breather ever come or is it unrealistic to hope for it?)

Jay and I finally had a chance to talk over the weekend. This comes a lot easier for me than for him. He really has to wind down and focus before he can put his thoughts/feelings to words. It came up in our conversation that if it weren't for all the outside factors that have slammed us over the years, things would be better. My man is easily overwhelmed. (more-so than me) When he is stressed, he shuts down and goes into what he calls "robot mode". He can't think and he can't feel. That's where he's been for a long time now and we both see the value of simplifying our lives. All I can do is consistently invite him to connect with me and be ready to listen when he does. The rest is up to him- these things can't be forced or rushed. So, it's not that we are a poor match- it's just that we really need a break- some time to unwind and re-connect.

Long runners don't try to do sprints and hurdles. They stick with the races they know and have trained for. When an endurance runner gets tired, they pull back the pace a little, but keep moving. The worst thing any athlete can do during a race is come to a complete halt- it overloads the heart with stress- people have been known to collapse- even die from stopping like that. The key to endurance is to find the pace, then hold on until the second wind kicks in. I think sometimes he and I both expect too much from ourselves. Providing for a family of 6, raising 4 kids, performing on a regular basis through several avenues, trying to sort out the trials in our lives and do all of this with smiling enthusiasm and flare. Well, neither of us are superhuman and unlike superman, we are fully capable of crash-and-burn. We need to simplify, but it's challenging- especially when you are an enthusiastic socialite like me. However, my family and marriage are more important than anything else in this world. So, like a disciplined athlete on a diet, I've got to cut back on extras.

God, we've never been this tired or challenged before. Grant us the strength to endure and overcome...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Something's Got to Change...

My man and I are both near a breaking point. We feel our life together has been incredibly stressful. Every little inch of progress financially or otherwise has been a big struggle. Yes, suffering tends to bond people, but pleasant experiences can do the same- so why are those so rare?
I got married for companionship. I wanted a soulmate who could connect with me on deep spiritual and artistic levels. My main love language is quality time. I like to feel like I'm working as a team with my man to get things done and to get somewhere in life. We don't pull together or play enough.
I don't know what he wants- not sure he even knows as he can never tell me when I ask. I'm not really sure I'm what he needs? I pursued him bigtime when we were young. Now, I feel like I get on his nerves a lot and he has thrown himself heavily into his work all these years partly to avoid closeness. We got married really young and had kids right away. I'd like to say that if we had waited until we were older we would still have chosen each other as life-partners, but I'm not quite sure that would be true?
I feel inadequate to meet his needs or to understand him. I think he needs a quiet, demure, simple-minded woman who has no greater pleasure in life than mating socks and baking. I am not that woman. I am fire and he is water. Can the two balance out and respect each other? I tried unsuccessfully in the past to change into someone who will compliment him better. I can't do it anymore- maybe that's why there is such tension?
For the few good times when we really connect, there are the times when we are so distant- I don't know why and it kills me. I can no longer bear the entire burden for this relationship- it takes two to make a marriage work. I love this man. He says he loves me, but why can't we get this together? A good team is equally yoked, with similar priorities and passions. At least that's what I always thought, but maybe not. I'm really not certain of anything anymore... and feel myself withdrawing into this place inside myself where I can disappear and try to sort out what I'm feeling and come up with a game plan. Thank God for this journal, because I really don't feel like I can talk with anyone in the church about all this. Everybody else has their own struggles... and there are few who can simply listen without giving a bunch of unsolicited advice or sharing what you confide. Writing this will have to do.

I appreciate my husband's patience, loyalty and mellow personality, however, we don't have a lot in common. (The music thing is a touchy subject for both of us right now- so it's not worth mentioning.) We've had to pull away from several activities that I loved recently- very hard for me- yet I have no idea what else to do. I have a shaky feeling inside of me. What is happening here?? I can honestly say this has been the toughest 3 yrs of my life. We moved. We were mistreated by the people we looked up to. We had to face the demons of my past and level with my Bi-polar mother who was so upset she left the state. My husband was fired. After 11 yrs of staying home, I was suddenly thrust back into the workplace. It's not all bad- just a HUGE change and now we never even see each other. Like ships passing in the wind. Why God? Does it please You to see us falling apart? How long will our feet be held to the fire like this??? I really enjoy the YMCA- however, this week I've been working long shifts as a sub and frankly, I'm exhausted! There has to be more to living than this. I've never felt so unstable in all my life. I'm managing the best I know how. I'm still smiling and enthusiastic at work. I love people and that will never change.

We're probably going to put our house on the market. (about time) We can't keep killing ourselves just to keep this place. People keep telling me to hang in there- that someday our ship will come in. I think that's bull. It's just something people say to make you feel better about being financially, spiritually and emotionally devastated. I've been there several times now. Does it ever let up? Something's got to change. My man needs a better job. We need benefits. We need more time together. I need to be able to enjoy creative pursuits. I need to be warm again.

If you are the praying kind, pray for me, for my family... at this point, I really don't know what will become of us and how we will ever pull out of this slump... sometimes I feel ashamed for struggling like this. I hate being in crisis! My kids deserve better than two exhausted, emotionally damaged, financially challenged, spiritually drained parents. God, I want to give them more than this...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Enough- Really IS Enough!

The days of my striving are winding down. This life is one BIG rat race! After 11 years of being a stay-at-home mom, living a quiet life, my re-entry into career life reminds me of why I decided to stay home with my kids in the first place. You see, it's all about more, more, more out there. I really enjoy where I work and couldn't ask for a better place, but even there, it's the whole competitive thing going on. It never ceases to amaze me how easily people who- for all appearances seem to be great buddies at work, will take up gossip and put-downs behind each other's backs to make themselves look better. Guess it's just the way it is, but I'll never accept it. Are there any REAL loyalties out there?? I really like everyone at my workplace and get along with them, but sometimes I wonder what is being said when I'm not around? I was blessed to be out of the madness for over a decade- now I'm back to work and able to see somewhat objectively. People tend to walk on each other in attempts to get more power, more influence, more money so they can get more stuff. I don't ever want to walk on anyone or use other people to my own benefit.

When I was in college, I wanted to close the door on my past. I was going to be a career woman with lots of education that I could flash in people's faces. Nobody was ever going to call me 'poor white trash' again! I wanted the money, the big car and all the fancy clothes so I could rub it in the faces of those who tormented me. Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing SINFUL about having things and enjoying them. But I'm learning to be comfortable with who I am and my family is even more precious to me since we don't have as much time together now. It's not what one possesses that makes one rich. It is connectedness and contentment that make us wealthy in this life. I don't want a house full of stuff, I want a home full of happy memories. I no longer feel I want it all. I just want enough...

Enough lovin' to feel satisfied and appreciated
Enough time with my family to invest in them emotionally
Enough inspiration to be creative
Enough freedom to be myself
Enough critters to entertain me
Enough space to fit necessities and a few extras
Enough joy to keep me going
Enough sadness to keep me human
Enough downtime to nurture my spirit
Enough challenge to keep me on my toes
Enough friendship to keep my heart open
Enough sunshine to feed me
Enough fresh air so I can breathe

Funny how life goes in full circles! When I was really young, all I wanted was to be with the one I loved, build a house, have a big family and work a farm. Then I got bit by the modernitis materialis bug. That's when I became discontent with the love I had and the life that I had been building up to for 10 years. I wanted to travel the world, get educated and "go somewhere" in life. I wanted to make albums. There were plenty of people to string me along- keeping my hopes up that someday I would be a recording artist. So I left everything- including my best friend- behind to pursue all the things I thought would make me happy. Well, guess what? Now all I want is to be with and enjoy my big family and work my little farm. Were my other pursuits a waste of time? No! This journey has been valuable in showing me what's really important. I really am a big nothing in the big scheme... and I'm learning to be okay with that.

My music dreams were precious and I've worked hard for the past 4 years to move ahead with those goals, however, I think it's just spinning my wheels. It's best to invest in what I have right in front of me instead of constantly reaching for something I may never obtain. I was willing to dream and invested myself in getting there, but the doors to that future remain shut. I must accept that as the will of God and embrace the life I have. I could play 'What if', but it's a game that never ends. What if we had more money? What if someone believed in my music enough to sponsor a CD? What if people took me seriously? What if we didn't have such terrible luck? What if I just happen to perform where someone discovers me? Well, I'm getting over it...
I will take what opportunities I can and work to support my family, but I'm not going to be part of the rat race.

Ever heard the saying, "Enough is as good as a feast". Grandpa used to say that. Well, I whole-heartedly agree and the simple life is the life for me.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s Grace.
And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s Grace.”
--Jerry Bridges

Finding the Trail...

Part of my job every summer as a trail guide was to clear trails. It didn't matter if they were well used or not- all needed clearing at the start of every season. So, arming myself with a hack-saw, sharp machete, small shovel and a hachet I set to work clearing trails we would eventually ride on horseback. I needed to make sure there were no bees nests in the ground or on branches overhead. Even one bee-sting can be disastrous to a string of horses on a trail ride! I moved big rocks, filled holes, cleared fallen branches and grasping thorns that would catch people's tack, hair and clothing. A clear trail should be at least 6 ft wide. This was hard work- especially when there were trees or limbs to saw. Sometimes I would only get so far before calling for back-up with a chainsaw. It was hot and exhausting, but I was happy to do it because I knew it would be worth it when we hit the trail. Sometimes it took several days, but eventually I had opened a clear course to ride through the mountain and valley. The effort was always worth it for the joy of traveling together and taking in the beauty of nature with my riders. I had church everyday out there under the blue sky! The people I was leading trusted me and I cared about every one of them. They called me 'Trailady' and would listen carefully to whatever I suggested for their safety and enjoyment. As I turned my horse out of the corral gate at the start of a ride, I would always say, "Follow me to paradise". All of my riders came through safely each year. I wonder if they even gave a thought or ever felt grateful for whoever cleared the trail. Probably not and that's okay- they simply enjoyed the ride and that was my goal.

I believe that long ago, God sent a Guide to clear a trail for us. Now, He had sent other guides who tried to blaze the trail, but few people would listen to them. Some were in a rut, going down a well-used path, rarely even giving a thought to God, while others were constantly sweating and hacking away branches trying to clear their own narrow trails in an attempt to reach Him. Some tried to plow and weave through uncut trails until their horses were lame or they got stuck in the brambles. There were many trails with dead ends and no turn-arounds. So finally, Jesus Christ came and cleared a path for us. He's a great Trail Boss! He simply mounts up, opens the gate and says, "Follow Me". He doesn't force anyone to ride if they don't want to. He never goes faster than an inexperienced rider is able to go. He's the first to go over and around obstacles to show us how. When I balk at any river-crossing, He stands on the other side patiently encouraging me. He never gets frustrated or takes off without me, leaving me to find my own way. He truly cares about me and is a calm presence in the face of emergency- He always knows what to do to fix a problem. I love this Guide and with all my heart, I want to follow His trail...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Life is A Winding Road...

Navigating this life really isn't about speed or skill.
Sometimes it's up and then downhill.
It's not about having the newest wheels or flawless bodywork
It's about winning and losing without being a jerk.
Set your cruise control, stay under the radar
Head toward the sunset wherever you are
Keep your fuel tank full and you will go far.
There are plenty of speed bumps and potholes
fix your flats and get ready to roll
Keep your eyes on the road and pay your toll.
Don't compare yourself to the other drivers
This world is better because it's diverse
Read your map, keep your lights on
Travel light- 'til you find your destination.
Whether you travel fast or slow
Keep 'er steady on that winding road.

~ Trailady

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Sometimes I feel sooo strange inside. Don't know if it's my passion or merely a wicked state of discontent, but there are times when I'd rather be anyone else but me and anywhere but here. Sounds lame, I know. Sometimes I just don't feel like anyone respects me. I have a LOT of life experience, and it irks me when other people with less experience act like they know more. I read a lot, try a lot of things and stay well informed. I'm a thinker, so why do I get treated like an idiot and so often overlooked? I don't know everything, I'm still learning, but surely I know enough to be considered even a little smart? Does everybody feel this way??

As much as I love people and thrive on interaction with them, sometimes in all honesty, they really get on my nerves. They all want it their own way and think they're so smart, funny and wonderful. It's like there's no room for me to lead or have a real say anywhere. Sometimes it reminds me of feeding my chicks. The selfish-bully chicks get all the food they want, while the sweet, polite chicks who patiently wait their turn end up puny and weak. Yet, I'd rather be puny than pushy...

Guess I'm just reaching a point where I'm able to see that I'm a valuable person. BIG change in my thinking. I'm tired of being taken for granted, taken advantage of and rarely being taken seriously. I know some of it's my fault because I still don't have a strong ability to speak my mind or set boundaries. I often end up doing things for others that I really can't or shouldn't. I don't have unlimited energy, or resources. I'm slowly learning the value of a beautiful word- "no". Maybe it's just selfishness rearing it's ugly head in my life, but sometimes I just want to be like old Herman. Just chuck it all, ditch my crazy dreams and go live a quiet life in a little cottage with my animals, read books and work in the yard all day. I worked long hours this morning, spent all afternoon trying to help a friend get her website functioning. Tonight, I drove an hour, just to sit on my butt and observe a dress rehearsal. (Thought I was going to be involved, at least consulted on blocking for the music I wrote. But I wasn't asked for input. I did make a couple suggestions to show I was willing to help, then I felt stupid for saying anything.) So, I basically sat observing for 3 hrs and drove home. One of the play's main characters has terrible posture on stage. He's supposed to be a hero and he slouches like he's totally unsure of himself- am I the only one who sees this? The love song between the married couple was completely dispassionate- as was the other music I worked so hard on. Tomorrow is opening night- Heaven help them- they're not ready! Anyway, I'm tired. I didn't get to spend time with my family today and I have to get up early in the morning to work. Why do I do this to myself- just not worth it?!

I'm still trying to figure out why God put me on this planet. I surely didn't ask to be born, but here I am. My parents thought they saw something special in me so had me professionally tested as a child- they determined me to be a 'gifted child' with perfect pitch and encouraged my parents to develop my mind with music, art, dance and cultural activities. Well, they were too busy trying to figure out whether or not to stay married, so that kinda got flushed. Most of my early years, I was the brunt of people's jokes- shortest one in my class, reddish hair & freckled, often one of the least priviledged. I was a loner who learned how to fake confidence and laugh in the face of great inner struggle- it got me somewhere for a while. Now I often feel invisible. Have you ever felt an emptiness that filled you? I know what that is like.
I have a big heart and a HUGE capacity for love- to give and receive it, but mostly I gave without reciprocation. (People are often just too busy to be bothered with being nice.) Bullied, threatened, abused and ignored for most of my formative years- I guess when a kid grows up that way, they feel they don't deserve any respect. But something has changed- can't put my finger on it, but I finally understand that it's okay to like myself, to nurture my interests and to have an opinion. I'm not saying be self-absorbed, just that it's okay to be okay with who you are and just breathe and live your life pursuing what you love.

Sometimes the futility of living really gets to me. There are no set rules for success or survival. I'm a fool with big ideas/dreams. I think it's time to accept that God really doesn't have any special plans for me. I will live my simple little life and barely even make a blip on the screen...

There are so many painful memories in this area now. Sometimes I just want to ditch everything and move to Montana where the air is fresh, where nobody knows me or expects anything from me and I can have a new start with my family. They are really the MOST important thing in this life.

How can someone feel so passionate, yet cold at the same time?? How is it that I feel I'm opening up in so many ways- yet closing down? I want other people to feel my warmth and energy, but sometimes I'm the one who needs warming- then what?
God is there, but not in the flesh. My man and I are like two rats running in a wheel... crazy, crazy world!

Life is just really hard to figure out! Sometimes I think I'm getting it- other days I'm just as confused as a teenager. (big sigh)
Sometimes I just have to say, "It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to". I vent my frustrations and sort things out here, so I can be nice and functional out in the real world and not make any waves".

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My Every-day Heroes!

I remember back in grade school, I was asked to make a list of my heroes and tell why I looked up to them. I sat there wracking my brain, but near the end of class I had a blank sheet of paper, while other kids were getting up to read theirs. Many of them listed their parents, sports figures, actors and politicians. Having suffered some emotional/spiritual traumas, I was highly disenchanted with the world at the time- very low point in my life. I had NO idea who I would list. Teacher warned that a blank paper would bring me a zero, so I quickly wrote about Jane Goodall & Lucille Ball. I got a good grade, but you should have seen my teachers face when I said who my heroes were! ha ha ha

Times have changed! Now there are many people with qualities I admire- however, I understand that ANYONE is capable of letting me down, so I still don't hero worship anyone. I have listed my more famous heroes on this blog in the past. Recently, I have added a whole new line of heroes to my list. I call them my 'every-day heroes'. You see, every day while I'm working the Front Desk at the YMCA, a constant stream of people go by. My job is an interesting one- we get ALL kinds! Some are sweet, some are visibly impatient but tolerant, while others are outright rude to us- as if we were put on the planet to wait on them hand and foot and answer any & all questions they may have as to the programs, schedules, finances and inner-workings of our organization. We get the strangest inquiries, but if we don't have an answer in 5 seconds flat, we may get pounced on.
As I watch people go by, I notice them, try to learn their names and welcome them. Bradley Hospital has a rehab center in our YMCA. Since I started working at this 'Y' I have come to respect the following people: (I will not list last names)

Chris, age 17- Had everything going for him. Young, handsome, great personality, athletic. Then a car accident nearly took his life. He comes in with a walker or arm braces, barely walking and his mother is always there supporting him to prevent a fall. He is still very bright, but his speech is quite slow. You can see the mark at the base of his throat where Paramedics did an emergency tracheotomy to help him breath. But none of this has stopped Chris from smiling. He has impeccable manners and a winning spirit. He's come a loooong way and I think his good attitude will carry him further still. Last week he fell and hit his face which resulted in a BIG shiner. He just jokes about it and keeps going. Having had several accidents and recoveries myself, I know how hard it is to come back from head trauma and injuries and mine weren't nearly as bad as his. This kid has the heart of a lion!

Martha- I've mentioned this elderly YMCA regular before. Today, she showed up wearing a T-shirt that says, "Granny's Rock"! Martha doesn't sit around feeling sorry for herself or wallowing in loneliness- she is still 100% ALIVE. You GO girl!!
I want to be like Martha when I'm old.

George- He worked for the government and while swimming offshore near Hawaii, he was attacked by a large shark that took his left leg from mid-thigh down. He walks with a cane and a prosthetic leg, but it doesn't stop him from swimming, walking the treadmill and doing Pilates. George is funny and cheerful. I'm always glad to see him coming because you know he's going to brighten your day!

Jessica- She works as a LifeGuard at the YMCA. This is "Friends Month" at our facility. Any member can bring a friend or relative to try out our branch. Just this past week, Jessica very skillfully and tactfully handled unusual and awkward "situations". First, a 5 yr old child used the overflow gutter around the pool as a toilet and made some "deposits". Clean up is never fun when that happens! Then a visitor from Japan, emerged from the Women's locker room completely naked and proceded to walk a leisurely lap around the pool complex, then she went to sit in the hot tub with some very stunned members. The smiling woman barely spoke a word of Engrish, but Jessica brought her a towel and somehow persuaded her to return to the locker room and obtain some clothing! The Japanese woman was still smiling when she left the 'Y' over an hour later, so she was neither embarassed or insulted. Good job, Jessica!!

Elizabeth- stood calmly while being cussed out by an enraged patron and his mother because he was asked to move to a different treadmill when his 30 minutes were up. They were asked to leave by male staff and obliged, but came back the next day to cancel their memberships. Oh well...

Isn't life interesting?! Some face adversity and soon fall into despair. Others draw from some hidden strength and make the best of it. Inspiring!! Are there every-day heroes in your life??

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

There is No Escape...

I can turn off my TV, stop reading the news, turn the radio off and it will still get to me. This most recent school shooting literally hits home with me as I am originally from Pennsylvania and am well acquainted with the Amish, Mennonite and German Baptists of that area. We once rented a farmhouse from the plain people and have family who still live in Lancaster Co. For anyone, let alone a father of three to be able to murder innocent little Amish girls is beyond understanding. There is little else to say.... except that we have seen a great evil. True to their Christian beliefs, the Amish extend forgiveness toward the shooter. There will be no hateful rantings, retaliations or screams for justice from their community. Their trust in God carries them through this experience- not without tears, but without malice. Today we mourn the passings of:

Anna Mae Stoltzfus, age 12
Lina Miller, 7
her sister Mary Liz Miller, 8
Marian Fisher, 13
Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7

Let's pray the other 5 girls will survive and recover quickly. But what life will they have now? Innocence lost...

Roberta Flack once sang a song called 'People On A String'. A line from the song,

"When fools try to take control of destiny, no one with a heart is ever free"

So true.