Saturday, August 30, 2008


I've been going through a dry spell, spiritually...for about 3 years. Well, 3 years on and off. But mostly on. And it's not been miserable. I've not really been depressed or angry. Just kinda' uninterested. Sorta' bored. Pretty distant. I have been really frustrated with myself, though. It's definitely felt like a waste of time. When I look at what has happened in the past when I've been really connected with God and what He's doing around me it's amazing. I have grown and people have changed and things have moved forward. It's like real live life. And I'm not so self-centered as to believe that His hands are tied when I distance myself, but I do feel sorry that my eyes have been foggy where he's concerned. I've missed out and I am self-centered enough to feel sorry for myself.

So, I've been in the interview process for a job at a local church and when I started the process I realized that I better get my s*** together or I was going to feel like quite the hypocrite when I went in for this series of interviews. I didn't want to go in to a CHURCH office feeling like a jerk. (You understand that this is like walking naked at my wedding, sharing this in public, right?) Terribly embarrassing. Anyway, so with really filthy motives I turned to God. "I need to connect with You so that I can feel good enough about myself to interview with these people."

That paragraph reminds me of the show "Intervention". The interventionist tells the family and friends of the addict that they must say or do whatever is going to get the addict into treatment. The only important thing is getting them through the door of the treatment center. So if they need one more hit on the crack pipe or one more DQ Blizzard, give it to them. Then get them on the plane.

So I open my Bible and what do you know? God totally throws me a bone. I've come to him for all the wrong reasons and He knows it. I want to feel good about myself and He knows it. And yet, He meets me. He stoops. And He could have made me work for it, but He doesn't. He shows up and gives me scripture that I need for the moment. And He brings people into my day that challenge and encourage me. I'm inspired and that makes me feel good. But not the kind of good I was looking for. It makes me feel like a desperate little child who can't make it on my own. I cannot be truly good. I cannot be truly at peace. I cannot take a job like the one I hope for without Him. And if/when I get in there I can't base success on what everyone thinks of me. I have to believe that it's what God is doing in my heart and in the lives of the people around me that indicates success. Even if I were to fail miserably.

So as I lose patience in the process I know that it is God's timing, not my own. And it's not about the Church "liking me". It's about the big picture and what is best for God's people. And that is good to know.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


You may have noticed that I'm really into making lists right now. I've always been into making to-do lists. I cannot describe the satisfaction I get from crossing things off. I tried a palm pilot for awhile and the thing I just couldn't accept was deleting a task when I was finished, or heaven forbid, making a little check in the box beside the task. I have to write it down with some type of writing utensil and then cross it out with some type of writing utensil. That's just the way I roll.

Anyway, in our small group we have been talking about marriage and we had an assignment this week that is right up my alley. We are to make a list of 10 things we like, love, appreciate about our spouse and then focus on those things for the week. Kind of an experiment to see if it changes the way our week goes. You may not know this about me, but I don't really like being told what to do and I especially don't like homework when I'm not getting a grade that will impact my future or my self-esteem. But it's a LIST and as soon as I got the assignment I did the assignment, because it's a LIST!

Here's my list:

  1. Ben is so patient with me and with my moods (I have many)
  2. He makes me laugh every day
  3. He can build or fix almost anything
  4. He makes financial decisions based on what's best for our family
  5. He takes such good care of our dog, Winston (he even brushes his teeth)
  6. He spends time reading with Anna Grace and he plays basketball with Caleb
  7. He NEVER complains about the food I fix or if I don't want to cook or if we don't have a stocked fridge
  8. He loves people who others find un-loveable
  9. He is generous with others
  10. He encourages me to find what I enjoy and then to pursue it
  11. He took over the planning of Anna's 10th birthday party because I got overwhelmed (and that involved him taking 4 girls to the mall to purchase build-a-bears and building a fire for s'mores and hosting a sleep-over)

I have noticed that the more I focus on these 11 (I'm an overachiever) things, the happier I am and the more friendly I am towards my husband. He's a good one. So now I think I'll make a list of things I like about each of the kids...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Things I've quit doing...and I'm glad about it:
  • Secretly eating s'mores from the microwave
  • Answering the phone on the first ring
  • Leaving the house at every opportunity
  • Wearing pantyhose with sandals (ok, it's been a long time, but it just came to me)
  • Watching Austin Powers late at night
  • Feeling guilty about not having a daily quiet time
  • Separating my skittles into color piles before eating them (ok, sometimes I still do that)
  • Believing that some people are perfect

Things I've quit doing...and am sad about it

  • Journaling faithfully
  • Praying with each child every night
  • Buying fun, new clothes
  • Reading Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts
  • Wearing heels

Things I've never/seldom done...but want to start

  • Showing up and being me, all the time
  • Chasing after my creative ideas
  • Focusing on the really great stuff
  • Sitting still outside
  • Camping with my family

Things I do...and I'm going to keep on doing

  • Setting up the coffee pot the night before
  • Writing
  • Wearing lipstick
  • Calling my friends when they come to mind
  • Thinking about the Gospel
  • Returning to the the truth of the Gospel (because I forget it over and over and over again)

Thursday, April 3, 2008


It's been several months since my last post and that's because I've been feeling a bit uninspired. And things like buying a new automobile and surviving spring break have been demanding my attention recently. But I realize that I can always make time for something I love, especially the expression of my thoughts in words, inspired or not.

Some of the topics I'm considering are these: it arrogant to say that even if God took a child from me I would stay faithful to him? Does that "faith" say more about me or more about Him?

Dinner...and how much I hate to cook and the fact that we eat about 10 meals on a rotating basis.

Decorating...the way it fills that need for creativity and yet how defeated I feel when I can't determine what my "style" is.

Bible I really want it? Is it what God intended it to be?


High School Reunions...were they created to disappoint?

Car things have changed (web-based information overload) and how they haven't (gravelly-voiced salesman, reassuring from the back seat and his business manager: what can we do to earn your business TODAY?)

The to keep them woodsy, yet neat

How car-buying tactics can help when purchasing flagstone for landscaping

Economic Stimulus Tax Rebate...for suckers like us to make your kids pay half

My job...what should I do when it starts feeling like work?

So, now I'm going to ponder these and wait for inspiration (or not).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


So on school mornings I'm up at 5:50am, getting the kids up and retrieving the coffee for Ben and myself. I wake Emma at 5:55 and she says, "5 more minutes?" and I say, "ok". Then I wake Caleb and say, "I'm turning on the big light" and he pulls the covers over his eyes and I hit him with the overhead lights. Then I peek in on Anna Grace and she's usually awake from the other wake-up calls and she covers her eyes and I turn on her bedside lamp and make sure she knows what she's wearing to school. Then I double-back to wake Emma again and head downstairs for the coffee that is brewed on a timer and check the school cafeteria calendar to see if I have to fix Anna a lunch. And by 6:50 everyone is rushing out the door and Ben is driving them to the bus stop.

But not this morning.

I awoke to light...daylight. Oh crap (or something LIKE that). I rush in to wake Emma at 7:18a. The bus is long gone and on days when it's my fault they're late I can't feel good about making Ben drive them, so there I was...rushing around, making sure they're hurrying along. I head out to the car at 7:40 and just picture this: I'm in my thick black/white socks that warmed my feet all night long. Then I have on lightweight jammie pants and one of Ben's t-shirts. Over that I'm wearing my down puffy jacket. I have on some really funky glasses because there was no time to pop my contacts in and my hair is HIlarious. Half-way to school I make a comment like, "What if a teacher makes me get out and sign you guys in or something. Wouldn't you die?" And when they looked at me with these horrified eyes, I kinda' started to panic. Like oh my gosh...I would die. And then I told them that we'd totally play it off, that I was the live-in maid or something and I'd say something like, "No speak english."

But seriously, I hate that feeling of sleeping late and like there is no getting those minutes back. We're late and there's nothing I can do about it. When Anna Grace got out of the car she gave me the look of death because she was going to have to stop in the office for a tardy slip and carry it to her very intense, loud-talking teacher from up north. She was not happy with me. Not to mention the fact that our local djs were discussing this "no spanking" law that Massachusettes is considering and when I asked if she thought that we ever spanked her too hard she said, "YES. The spoon and the belt? They hurt." Now, it's been a really long time since she got a spanking, but not long enough, obviously. I guess it's not like childbirth (when you forget the pain) because she's hanging on to this hostility for dear life.

So the kids are late and it's my fault. I am dressed like a homeless person so when they're embarrassed it's my fault. And I beat my kids...which is obviously my fault. Man, this parenting gig is not always very gratifying. But there is something so cool about watching them get out of the car, walk towards the school with their backpacks hanging heavy and turn around to wave like maybe they really do like me after all.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Brennan Manning had two really cool things to say about thanks in his book, Ruthless Trust. (And if you know me well, you'll be amazed that I actually made it through a non-fiction book.) Manning said that his heart grieves for the atheist because he has no One to thank. The second thing he said (and it's been about 7 years since I read this book, so forgive my paraphrase) was that we should thank God for everything...good and bad...because He can use anything for our good. So this year instead of using this post to thank God for the abundance of obviously good things in my life I am going to thank Him for the hard things that He has promised He can use for my good and the good of the people that I love.

Thank You for Ben's headaches. It sucks that he's sick most of the time and sometimes I feel angry that you don't just go ahead and heal him already. But I know that this hardship causes us to depend on You and your perfect timing. I also know that I lack, in a major way, compassion for the physically sick and tired. I'm not sure why that is but I am going to pray that You use this to draw me into Ben's pain and remind me that you came for the weary and the sick.

Thank You for financial hardship because it reminds me daily of my flesh and my weaknesses. If I were more disciplined and creative I could prevent some of my own stress. But I choose the easy way out and on occasion I see clearly what You want for us and it has absolutely nothing to do with money or wealth. It has everything to do with relationships. Sometimes it's hard to live in such an incredibly wealthy area and not be incredibly wealthy, but it is opportunity for humility and honesty and I'm praying that you will develop that in me.

Thanks for our 1998 Volvo station's a whole 10 years "newer" than the last one I had and it has power windows. Yes, it makes some kind of jet engine noise occasionally and it's cost us thousands in repairs and maintenance, but the a/c works and it's got leather interior. Yes, it's black inside and out which makes it hotter than Hades in the summer and filthy-looking in the winter, but it's a quiet ride and we can fit a Christmas tree in the back. When we first purchased it I couldn't believe how 'lucky' I was to have it, luxury compared to the 1988 I'd just given up...but as time has gone by I've looked around and become discontent. Sorry for that.

Thanks for technology. I hate it most of the time, except when I'm blogging or receiving emails from friends and family. But it's Ben's passion and he's really good at what he does. Without it I'd probably be an air force wife, trying to keep from falling apart with three children and a husband in great peril. Thank you so much that you gave Ben the gifts you did, led him to the job he has and allowed him to work from home. It's amazing that we get to spend so much time together as a family. Technology has allowed Ben to be so involved in the lives of the kids.

Thanks for the recorder. There are very few sounds that make me as crazy as the recorder playing "Hot Cross Buns", but it's teaching Anna Grace about music, so Thanks.

Thanks for dirty laundry, dirty floors and dirty dishes because it means that all five of us are mobile and healthy enough to make a mess and eat a full meal.

Thanks for all the taxiing of children that I do because it gives me the opportunity to have time alone with each of them.

Thank You for the hard things and help me to be ridiculously thankful for EVERY thing.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


My house is a mess, 90% of the time. All five of us are slobs. We don't pick up after ourselves. The only thing you can be sure of is that the kitchen will be clean when I go to bed at night. There is nothing I hate worse than waking up to a dirty kitchen. But besides that all bets are off. Right now, on our bedroom/Ben's office (we share a room) floor there is an incredible assortment of stuff...a screwdriver, socks of all sizes and colors, Cooking Light magazines, a Woodworking magazine, computer games, file folders, disposable cameras (dating back to 2000), a mag light, a motherboard, a Sprint cell phone bill, extension cords and computer cords, a box of pull&seal envelopes, 2 green rubberbands, my bathing suit, a babydoll bed that Anna Grace doesn't want anymore, Winston's favorite toy, 2 cardboard moving boxes, a gigantic magnifying glass, Ben's leather laptop bag, a couple Harry Potter dvds, you get the idea. And as I trip over things to reach the bathroom I just have to laugh.

I give Emma such a hard time for not keeping up with her room, but look at this. It's unbelievable. I stopped by a friend's house and she was embarrassed. "My house is such a mess." And she cleans houses for a living. But of course her own is neglected (I totally get that). She made some comment about how my house is so neat all the time and Emma and I looked at each other like, "Wow, have we got her snowed!" The only time she comes over is for a monthly book club meeting and of course I can get the downstairs clean once a month. I said something to that effect and she asked me to leave it for the next book club. Just leave it the way it always is...and I agreed to do that. WHAT WAS I THINKING???

If you read ahead to my last blog entry you'll see that I was born a performer and I don't really like for people to see my dust bunnies. I act like I'm comfortable with total honesty, like my life's an open book. And to some extent that's true. I don't mind being transparent with people, but there's something about this particular truth that I'm uncomfortable with. Why is that? I can write about being a slob, but I really don't want you to see the evidence. I can write about being bad with money or aimless or insecure as a parent or as blind as a pharisee and I can even allow you to see the evidence of all of those things, but when it comes to a dirty bathroom I am completely freaked out.

Insight anyone?

Friday, November 2, 2007


I work for it every day. I want someone to tell me that I'm doing a good job. I want my boss, Kelly, to recognize me for being a hard worker and an effective salesperson. I want my children to tell me how great I am at helping with homework, or taxiing them around town or giving them wise counsel. I want Ben to appreciate the things I do around the house and/or how sexy I am. I want my small group to think I'm the hostess with the most-est. I want my friends to know that I'm trust-worthy and funny and painfully honest. I want my writer/brother-in-law to approve of how I string words together to form smart witty sentences. Even in writing this I'm looking for applause. I want a prize.

You know the phrase, "Bring your best to Jesus"? Maybe you've heard it in reference to how you dress on Sunday mornings. Maybe it's more about behavior for you. Maybe it's been taught to you like it's about tithing your 10%. Your first fruits. What does it really mean? What does my best look like? Does he really see my beautiful Sunday dress or my patience with mankind or my sacrificial giving and think, "Wow. That Michelle sure is doing a good job bringing me her best!" Do I really think that those things bring me favor with God? Can I actually fool Jesus into believing that just maybe my best might be bordering on possibly being enough? Are chances good that I can bring him something pure enough to truly please him? On my own?

I think we might be convincing each other that we can work towards this lofty goal. And I'm nervous about it.

I was watching The Simpsons with Emma and Caleb the other day and Homer had died and gone to heaven. St. Peter told him he had 24 hours to do one selfless act of kindness to get through the pearly gates. I turned to Caleb, opened my mouth, but before I could even get it out he turned to me and said, "MOM...I KNOW! You don't have to be good to get in to heaven." I have worked hard to pound this truth into their heads. Because if you can be good enough then what's the deal with the cross?

Sue, my Bible Study teacher, speaks this truth every single week. We talk about nothing else. Only the truth of the Gospel. We have no alliteration, no 5-steps to clean living, nothing but Jesus on the cross. Jesus plus nothing. She mentioned the patriarchs yesterday. You know...Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. She was wondering aloud about how in the world we could get a book of virtues from their lives' examples. "Talk about an elephant in the room!" Rape, murder, thieving, polygamy, lying. Their lives were fodder for today's trashy reality tv. We make excuses for them and then focus on the things they did right. The one time out of ten when they "brought their best to God." It's ridiculous. Nauseating. Mind-blowing. I'm quite upset.

We either need Jesus or we need the five step program. We can't need both.

But...but...but...but...but I need practical steps for godly living. I need some forward momentum to get moving in the right direction. Which is forward. I need something logical that I can really follow, so I know that I'm bringing my best to Jesus. So that I can feel good about it. So that Jesus can feel good about me.


He did not come for the healthy, but for the sick and dying. He didn't come for the ones who refused to recognize their own need. He came for the ones who were so needy that people turned away in disgust. He came to free the captives and bring light to those living in darkness. He came to bind up their wounds, our wounds. He didn't come for the ones who think that all they need is the five steps and then they can walk the path on their own. He came for the ones who cannot navigate this life. The ones who stumble and fall and who lay there waiting for someone to pick them up. Waiting for the kind of love that heals and changes from the inside out.

We can definitely continue to bring Jesus our best. And I'm sure I will. Because I'm human and I want to present the best possible version of me. But it earns me nothing. No applause. No merit. No favor. And the only one I'm fooling is myself. And even then I'm not terribly convincing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


My friend, Pam and I went to lunch yesterday. We had a waitress who was probably late 40's but was trying really hard to look about 25. She was bleached blond and had that lip liner issue that makes me want to turn into an intrusive old lady who uses her licked thumb to clean off other people's faces. (Either keep up with your lipstick or quit using liner!) And she had definitely spent too much time in the tanning bed. She was a little forgetful (or tipsy, not sure which) and mentioned that it was her five children that had made her that way (forgetful, not tipsy). She could have left it at that, but she went on. She explained that her children had made her crazy. That when her 17 year old daughter had come to her and asked to live with her dad that this waitress/mom/forgetful tanner had tried her best to look pathetic and sad but inside she was doing the happy dance. She was basically telling us that she was relieved to be rid of her teenage daughter. I laughed appropriately (?) and in my own subtle way tried to end this weird conversation.

Pam emailed me last night and asked if I was going to blog about this lady. Hmmmm.

At dinner Anna Grace asked me how many more bites of her grilled cheese she had to eat and how much more soup she had to slurp before she could be done. Caleb said, "As many bites as it takes." I teasingly asked him if he'd always wanted to say that and he said that's what he'd tell his own kids someday. Then I asked them both if they wanted kids when they grow up. They said no.

"Because kids are a hassle."
"Yes," giggling.

That got me thinking. Have I communicated that I think kids are a hassle? Have I, without being a blond, overly browned 40+ waitress, communicated that parenting is a heavy burden that I'd rather not carry? Do they really think that I'd do a happy dance if I was relieved of the responsibility?

Now, having lived with a teenager for almost a year and anticipating Caleb entering his teen years in just under two months, I can understand a certain amount of relief. Imagine someone else being responsible for the day-to-day decisions or for controlling the facial reactions to the mood swings that come with middle school.

There have been many times when I've acted like it was such an inconvenience that they had to eat to live. I've been put out when they ask me to tuck them in at night. I avoided getting down on the floor and playing with them when they were still into Thomas the Train. I've preferred reading a good book over engaging them in conversation. I've put in a second movie for them so that I could have more uninterrupted time to do what, exactly? I've rolled my eyes when they asked me the same question for the fourth time in a row. I've complained (loudly) that "no one picks up after themselves." I've said no to countless offers to play "a quick game of Monopoly." And they're going to leave.

They'll be gone before I know it. And there will be regrets. I hate it, but it's true. I will wish back all the meals, the bedtime prayers, the missed conversations, the repetitive questions, the strewn socks and the endless games. I already wish them back and they're still here.

I don't want to live a life of regret. I don't want to see this like it's a done deal. I want my words and my body language and my attitudes to reflect what's REALLY true about my life. I want to cherish the days that I get to spend with my kids. I want Emma to know that taking her shopping for a dress is fun because it's an excuse to spend time with her. I want Caleb to know that sitting on the edge of his bed at night isn't an obligation but an honor, pure joy. I want Anna Grace to know that helping her with her torturous 4th grade homework isn't torture, but that it's a chance for us to learn together and for me to cheer her on.

It boils down to being thankful, deep in my heart, don't you think? I want to be filled up and overflowing with the knowledge of what I've been given. I want to look at my children and have visions of wrapping paper and bows and cake with ice cream. They are 3 of the 4 best gifts I've ever received. And they better believe it!

Monday, October 1, 2007


Ok. So. My sister, Lorraine knew this day was coming. And I'm not even going to verbalize it, like out loud. I'm just going to write it down and hope that she doesn't bring it up. I hate my couch. Ben's eyes are avoiding mine. He's trying his hardest not to scream, "I TOLD YOU SO!!"

We've had several couches over the years. The first, a white couch from the 'damaged room' of a strip mall furniture store in a po-dunk Georgia air force town, cost us about $200. If. Then we added to our living room furniture by paying a small sum for a friend's brown velour-ish puffy couch. You know the kind: the head cushions are attached at the top edge of the couch so that when you're moving the couch they hang upside down like they'd rather be anyplace but on this crappy couch. When we made the move to Denver we rid ourselves of the brown couch, but hung on to the white(-ish) one. My folks came for our first Colorado Thanksgiving and my mom agreed to help me reupholster the couch. I was really into different fabrics combining on one piece of furniture, shabby chic. So we did a mint green for the body of the couch and fruit fabric for the cushions. Then there was a really cool 50's couch that I paid $15 for at an estate sale. Out went the re-do and in came the old, yet original. Ben detests garage sale, consignment store, goodwill anything so we decided to do the next purchase right.

Out went the old, yet original and in came our first brand new, undamaged couch , love seat and chair. We went to Krause's sofa factory where you could design your own stuff. Pick a style and then pick any fabric you desire. Well, much to Ben's dismay, I chose a gray/brown/green color for the couch, a sunshine yellow for the love seat and a plaid to tie it all together for the chair. And I use the phrase "tie it all together" in the loose sense. We hung on to that furniture for quite a long time. And before we moved to Asheville we sold it for nothing at a garage sale. The gray/brown/green (our family couldn't agree on what that color was exactly) was stained and the yellow love seat had red kool-aid on it.

We moved to the furniture capitol of the U.S. And I had about $800 to spend on a couch. That's not a lot when you're trying to pick a good, solid couch. We went everywhere and everything just seemed boring, too traditional. I should have gone with it. My sister, Lorraine, tried to help me learn from her mistakes. They got a great deal on their living room furniture but the legs have fallen off and the fabric is too nitch-y. She told me not to settle. "You want a sofa that will stand the test of time." Instead I went to Sofa Express and picked a white background with black/gray ticking stripes. That was two years ago. The other day I was trying to get my vacuum extension under the couch and realized that part of the frame has broken and it's sagging an inch or two from the floor. My parents avoid sitting on the couch because once they're IN there, they need assistance to extricate themselves. The fabric is dingy and I would give anything for a boring, traditional couch in a neutral forgettable color. Can I get an AMEN?

Friday, September 21, 2007


There was a Sunday night in 2000 that was life-changing for me. I had been visiting churches on my own because Ben was taking a break from church. The kiddos were between 2 and 6 and so I'd usually leave them home and go on my own to scope things out. I had slept in that morning and so I decided to try an evening service. An old friend of mine was part of a church plant consisting of a small group of believers that met at a big Episcopal church in town. They had all been members of the host church and yet were unable to reconcile their theology with the changing teachings of the Episcopal church. They decided to start an AMIA ( church and I was curious.

My background is very evangelical, conservative. I had no experience in the high church or with liturgy. I had no idea what to expect or how I'd feel at the service. But I felt like God was calling me to something new. I was wide open. I drove into the parking lot and as I was getting out of the car I noticed a young mother unloading her three young children from a minivan. She was beautiful, outwardly yes. But her smile radiated kindness and sincerity. It was inner beauty that overshadowed whatever else I might have noticed about her. I asked her if I was in the right place to attend the Wellspring service and she said that yes I was and that she'd be happy to show me where to go.

I got settled in a seat, not knowing anyone in this small group of maybe 20 people. There was no blending in. There was no observation that took place anonymously. I was watching them and they were watching me. Actually it was not really a "watching" on their part, but more of an awareness. They did not fall all over themselves to meet me. Their stance was welcoming and yet completely free of expectation. I knew immediately that wherever I'd come from, whatever beliefs, prejudices or failures that I'd brought with me were of no consequence.

We started with music and it was upbeat contemporary style with a guitar accompaniment. I was a bit surprised because I thought with an anglican church I would get hymns. The more sacred style. I had to chuckle at the guitar player because with each song he was getting more animated. He did this marching thing while he played, keeping time with his feet. Not a tapping of the foot but he was actually marching in place. He was REALLY into it. I was amazed by his lack of self-awareness.

We had the Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel readings. This was all new to me. There seemed to be hand signals that went with the Gospel reading, but I couldn't quite figure them out. And then it was time for the message. Guess what? It was the marching guitar player. He was the pastor. And he started talking and I wish I could import a sound clip for you, because it was the way he said "Jesus" that almost broke my heart. He said that name like the Son of God was actually the SON OF GOD. It was not a 'WWJD' version. Or a J-E-S-U-S cheerleader. Or even a 'Jesus is my best friend'. It was sacred familiarity. It was romance and intimacy. It was fear and trembling. It was awe. It was a way of he inhaled the name and then exhaled the name. Even when he was talking about a botched home improvement project or a moment of impatience with his son it was like the name of Jesus was at the back of his throat, waiting to be spoken.

We had the "prayers of the people" and people actually prayed out loud, in the middle of church. That was crazy. Praying during a church service. What were they thinking? And then communion. I had to get out of my seat and go forward with all the other 19 attendees. And I didn't know what to do or how to do it. I watched and learned and tried so hard to act right. And something happened in me when I took the cup of wine. I started to tremble and it happened every Sunday for the next 5 years. I could never take the cup without trembling. It was embarrassing, although I don't think anyone noticed. But I think it was the weight of what was being offered to me that was overwhelming. "The body of Christ, broken for you." "The blood of Christ shed for you." I wept.

As I was leaving someone introduced me to Janna, the pastor's wife. By the way, she was the one with the radiant smile who welcomed me in the parking lot. Who failed to mention her role as the pastor's wife. If there was any question about the humility and sincerity of this group, it was gone at that moment. I had come home.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Our family's reputation is a bit sketchy when it comes to dogs. I grew up with Fluffy, a mut who was waiting anxiously for me when my mom brought me home from the hospital. She lived a good, full to roam and happy to return. She died of old age when I was 9 years old. Then there was Sniffer. Some hunting breed. Hyper as heck and impossible to train. She got adopted out.

Ben also had two dogs growing up. The first, Rusty (part beagle, part terrier?), was a fun little dog who lived with them for about a year but never learned to look both ways before crossing the street. Much much later when Ben was in high school they got a shelty named Shelly (creative) and that lasted until Ben left for college. As soon as he was out of hearing range his mom found a new home for Shelly.

Ben LOVES dogs. I could go either way...although I didn't realize that until 3 failed attempts at dog ownership after we were married. Our first was a golden retriever, adopted after only about a year of marriage and left alone all day because we were both working full-time. Her name was "Roo" (like from Winnie the Pooh) and she was sweet but incredibly hyper. She piddled when the mailman dropped the mail in our box. She was never fully potty trained and after we had Emma it was too much for me. She went to a farm in the country where she could run and play (no, really...there was a farm where she could run and play). Next came "Bo" animal shelter rescue and I picked him out. I can't quite remember what went wrong with Bo but we never bonded. And he ended up with some friends of ours (he died shortly after, sorry about that). Then Ben got it into his head that we should get a cool breed, like a Rhodesian Ridgeback...African origin, bred to hunt lions, with a ridge up his back where the hair grows in the opposite direction. We got a deal from a breeder in Texas. Our Ridgeback was ridgeless. We named her "Honey" (which was a little confusing b/c that is also what Ben and I call each other). She was hyper. She ate sandwiches off the counter and hunted Anna Grace (who was 2 years old at the time). The collective eyes of our friends and family were rolling back in their heads. It took us less than a year to figure out that we were not cut out for this. Honey went to a fellow Ridgeback owner. They called her a rescue. That didn't make us feel very good.

We were total failures and we knew it. And just in case we might forget, there was always someone standing close by to remind us.

About 5 years went by and we moved to Asheville. I started talking about getting a dog. Ben couldn't quite believe it. He said that if we got a dog, it would have to be my doing because he didn't want to be held responsible when the dog started driving me mad. It is the hair that really makes me crazy. I HATE swiffering dog hair every single day. I begin resenting the hair-producer. Well, we had recently met a family who had a labradoodle. That's a lab/poodle mix. Strange but true. No shedding. Now, I'm not a big fan of the poodle but these dogs are cute! Seriously. So I found a breeder ( ... totally cheesy sight but you get the idea) and we filled out an application and amazingly they approved us. Winston was born on November 17, 2005.

He is all black. I am in love with him. My friends cannot believe it. They keep asking how this could have happened. It's a dog after all. What's the deal? All I can say is that he is precious. I baby talk him. I let him sleep on the bed with us. I feed him pork loin. Caleb bought him a kiddie pool this summer. We put him in an up-scale doggie day care when we go away. And I call to check on him. Some people practice on a pet and then when they have children they know what they're doing. We did the opposite. Winston, for one, will grow up to be perfectly well-adjusted, able to give and receive love with his boundaries firmly in place.

He does totally annoying things...he eats Emma's flip flops and cannot chill out when we have guests. He doesn't always listen to the "come" command. He barks his head off at his reflection in the window. He pulls on the leash when we try to walk him. He likes not-yet-laundered underwear. He begs at the table. And will not shut up when we take him on car rides. He failed puppy manners class. (They gave him a diploma, but who were they kidding?) I actually cried.

But he waits expectantly for us to come home. He runs away but when he comes home he is a happy puppy who doesn't realize he's been naughty. He cocks his head when we say unfamiliar words in baby-talk. He is SO soft. And his hair turns to dreadlocks when he hasn't been groomed in awhile. He runs to the neighbors and steals their dog toys, bringing them back like a prize to be the toy was meant for him in the first place. He exemplifies unconditional love. He always expects good things and never fears us. He is independent, not needy except when there's a storm. Then he follows me around or hangs out under Ben's desk. He is absolutely predictable, never in a bad mood and always ready to enjoy my company. Even when I'm unenjoyable.

When we were waiting for Winston to be born I would pray with the kids and ask God to choose the perfect dog for our family. Caleb thought this was ridiculous..."God doesn't care which dog we pick." I can understand his skepticism, but I think he's been converted.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


We have a HUGE television. It's a 50" projection tv. It's embarrassing. Our home really isn't big enough to support such a massive object of our affection. And it really is the center of our living space. Everything revolves around that area. We pass by it on our way to and from the stairs. We walk by it when we enter our home and when we leave our home. Sometimes I think Ben touches it affectionately when no one is looking.

This is a brand new thing...Up until a few months ago we had one 14" television, and only one. When we moved to Asheville and into a rental home we bought this little television because our other 14" tv was on the fritz. We moved into the house and it had one of those built-in tv holes above the fireplace. We could fit the tv, the cable box, my scrapbooks and decor that I didn't know what to do with up there. If we wanted to watch a show together as a family, we had to pull up chairs and get our binoculars out just so we could make out the expression on Ryan Seacrest's face. Let's put it this way, no way would we ever invite anyone over to watch the game.

The other thing you should know is that we are a computer family. We have 4 computers and parts to build at least one more. Plus we have two laptops. That's 6 computers. There's only 5 of us. Ben's work PC has a Mac monitor that is HUGE. It's the envy of our entire extended family. Ben has boxes and boxes and boxes of computer parts. He has a large rubbermaid storage box filled to the top with computer fans. Just fans. A whole box. The garage houses tons of computer stuff and it spills out into our everyday lives, everyday. We could open an Internet store and put our kids through college.

One of the PCs is hooked up to the BIG television. It also has Internet access. We can check our email on the 50" screen. We can download movies from Netflix right to the PC and then watch them on the 50" screen. We can listen to hours, days of music that is stored on that PC. The kids can do their homework on the 50" screen. This makes Ben very happy.

Now, before when we had our extremely modest tv I had a pride issue. People would walk in, immediately comment on our teeny tiny little screen and I would say something like, "Yes. The size of the screen reflects how much we care about tv." I think I was a little self-conscious and I was trying to compensate by making them feel bad about being so materialistic. (Sorry if I did that to you.) And it's weird how changing the size of the tv we own hasn't squelched my pride. I'm embarrassed (another form of pride) that our tv is monstrous and so I say things like, "Well, before we had a 14" tv and this is Ben's dream come true. He's been waiting for like 15 years to get a TV he can watch from the comfort of his very own couch!"

Why can't I just smile and ask if anyone wants to watch the game?

Sunday, September 2, 2007


I'm getting in touch with my inner pharisee.

I've been ranting all week to anyone who will listen about how bad I hate it when people use morality as religion. I've been upset with the gossip that gets spread as if it's a prayer request or even a genuine concern. I've been angered when I've seen legalism win out over grace, causing people to feel "less than".

And then I went to church.

Dave is preaching on John 9, where the blind man gets healed when Jesus makes mud pies with dirt+spit and spreads it on the man's eyes. He talked about how the Pharisees got really p.o.'ed and started questioning the parents of this man and the man himself, just daring this little family to talk about Jesus as if he's Someone special. The guy's folks ditch him. They turn away in fear and say, "He's a grown man. Go ask him." The Pharisees use man-made Sabbath laws to make Jesus look bad. It's ridiculous. Well, now I'm even more fired up. Those stupid Pharisees. But the more Dave talks, the more I realize that my pent-up resentment towards modern-day legalism and morality-talk is big trouble. It's me looking at my fellow humans and saying, "I get it. I get grace and you don't. You're all a bunch of jerks." And guess who's acting superior now?

It's hard. How can my sin of feeling good about "getting it" be as bad as their sins of awful self-righteousness and legalistic judgement? Well, it just is, that's how. When I receive the gift of sight it's very easy to fall into the belief that I earned the gift or that God favors me because I'm cute. I start feeling sorry for all the church-going schmucks who think they get the big picture, but don't. And now I'm beginning to wonder if God regrets blessing me with any such knowledge or understanding. If I'm just going to use this gold to make someone else feel bad, then what's the point? If I'm just going to use it to make myself feel good, then what's the point?

Simple truth: My sin is just as much sin as the next guy's. Just when I think I can wrap my brain around that I start feeling good...because I can wrap my brain around that. And then I've got pride.

John 9:39-41 And Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, "We are not blind too, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains."

So is it the admission of sin that frees me from my blindness? Is it when I can finally say, "I'm so full of sh__", that Jesus heals me? I think that's what He's saying. So I will, day after day, claim that I'm more righteous than the legalists. Then God (in his graciousness, and because I asked for it) will point out that I am blind in a very bad, needy, un-cute way. And I will learn to love because He loves me. And I will pity my inner pharisee and I will love the ones who surround me. Not because it's the seeing thing to do, but because it's the blind thing to do.