Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Making a Change: Part 5 in a 5-Part Series

This is the last in a series from Christian author and blogger Michael Warden.  Enjoy!

5 of 5 Essentials for Change: You Need Love

"If not have love, I gain nothing." ~ 1 Corinthians 13:3b
In his book, No Perfect People Allowed, my friend John Burke offers a beautiful metaphor for understanding what it's like to be a human being. We are, each one of us, a unique and beautiful masterpiece, says John, a glorious work of art crafted by God for his pleasure and our delight. But, he adds, we are masterpieces splattered with mud...mud that hides some of our God-given beauty and distracts us from the beauty beneath.

If you came upon a masterwork of art—say, a Picasso or Van Gogh—coated in mud, you wouldn’t judge it harshly or scrape haphazardly at the unsightly mud in disgust, would you? Of course not…because it is a masterpiece. You would treat it with care. You would treat it with love. You would be careful. You would be gentle. You would know that the thing you are holding is priceless, and the mud does nothing to diminish that fact.

And yet, many people try to change, not because they love the masterpiece of who they are, but because they hate the mud. This is a self-destructive fuel for change, and though it may produce some results, they rarely last, and the damage wreaked on their soul is far greater than any external benefit that may be gained. You cannot change the world by hating the world. You cannot change yourself by hating yourself. For real and lasting change to come, whether in your life or in the world, love is only fuel that matters.

Love sees the masterpiece beneath the mud. And this is what drives it to act. There is no greater power than this. There is no more effective means of change.
“Love…always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7-8
Love is inexhaustible.

We’ve covered in previous posts the other elements you need for change: Anger, A Crystal Clear Dream, Faith, A Solid Plan. But for change to truly come, love must cover it all. Love for yourself. Love for the world. Even love for the mud you are working to remove. Love, above all other things, is key to change. Because there is no obstacle, there is no weapon, there is no pain or injury or injustice in the world, that Love cannot overcome.
There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer;
no disease that enough love will not heal;
no door that enough love will not open;
no gulf that enough love will not bridge;
no wall that enough love will not throw down;
no sin that enough love will not redeem . . .
It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble;
how hopeless the outlook;
how muddled the tangle;
how great the mistake.
A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.
If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world…
Emmet Fox
So let love lead the way. When in doubt of the path, or lost in the competing motives at war in your soul, ask: What would love have me do? And do that.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Change Continued: The 4th in a Series About Moving Forward

From visiting blogger Michael Warden.  For more on this series and Michael himself, visit

4 of 5 Essentials for Change: You Need a Solid Plan

"If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten." ~ Author Unknown
I loved watching reruns of the old TV show "Get Smart" when I was a kid. The series highlighted the adventures (read that: slipshod shenanigans) of Secret Agent 86, Maxwell Smart. Talk about a man without a plan! Max wouldn't know a good plan if it called him on his shoe phone. He wouldn't know a good plan if it screamed at him under the Cone of Silence. He wouldn't know a...okay, I'll stop. The point is, what made that show funny was that most of the time, Max didn't have the slightest clue what he was doing, but he did it anyway, and so went bumbling into every situation with the bravado and confidence of a complete boob. It was his faithful partner, Agent 99, who generally won the day and kept Max from danger, but because she had a thing for the guy, she always let him take the glory.

Of course what makes for funny TV is not nearly so fun in real life. Not having a plan, or worse yet, having a plan that doesn’t work but trying to follow it over and over again anyway is absolutely no fun at all. Yet all too often, that’s what we do when we try to make change real. Like Sisyphus we push against that boulder again and again thinking, This should work. This really should work! And that’s the problem, because it should. Or rather, it could.

See, that’s the thing about plans: There are lots and lots of them out there that could theoretically work. I mean, some are ridiculous of course, but most are…well, pretty feasible. They make sense. They could work. Whether you’re looking for a plan to grow your business, get out of debt, find the love of your life, change careers or get in the best shape of your life, you are, right at this moment, one Google search away from finding a dizzying array of pretty reasonable, fairly believable strategic plans to help get you there. So what’s the problem?

In my experience, there are two reasons most plans fail us. We think the plan is all we need and neglect the other essentials of anger, having a crystal clear dream, engaging our faith, and letting love lead the way (which I’ll talk about next week). But the other reason is this: To really make a significant change real in the world, you need a plan that does more than simply make it possible for you to succeed; you need a plan that makes it difficult for you to fail. And that sort of plan is much rarer…not because it’s harder to create, but because it takes a lot more courage to do (and thus, it’s harder to sell).

So, here you go, time for some truth telling. If you want a plan for change that’s actually going to work, it needs to be built on a foundation of SMART Goals. Each step in the plan needs to include ALL of the following elements:
  • SSpecific: Not, “To lose weight” but “To go biking 5 times a week for 1-hour at a time, and practice healthier eating habits by eating vegetables or fruit at every meal and recording everything I eat every day until I drop drop 10 lbs of fat.”
  • MMeasurable: If you’re goal is specific enough, it will be measurable. But basically, you need to be able to answer the question, “How will I know that I’ve reached my goal?”
  • AAccountable: Without question, this is the most important element of a successful plan, and the hardest for most people to employ. You need to make yourself accountable to at least two other people, and your accountability needs to have real rewards for success and (possibly, if it works for you) real costs for falling short of your goal. Some of my clients reward themselves with a professional massage each week or month they meet their goals, and pay their accountability partners a chunk of money each week or month they don’t reach their goals. (The partners generally pass the money on to a charity of their choosing.)
  • RRealistic: You have to do your homework. Research how long a change like the one you’re proposing actually takes. Avoid magical thinking. If you’re going to err, err on the side of giving yourself more time than you think you’ll need. Set yourself up for success, not failure. Make each step easily achievable, and let them build on each other gradually over time. Realistic also means you need to get some honest feedback about whether your dream is really feasible. You may want to be a professional singer, but before enacting a plan to get there, you need to get some honest professional feedback about whether you genuinely have the level of talent required for that job.
  • TTime Bound: In other words, you need deadlines. You need goal dates. You need actual mile-markers on an actual calendar that give you something specific to aim for and tell you that you’re actually making progress. For those who prefer to “feel” your way intuitively through a process of change, okay, go ahead. But know that it will take you three to five times longer to reach your goal than it will those who employ accountable deadlines, if you ever reach your goal at all. Honestly, I find that most people who say they work better without deadlines are really just trying to avoid the risk of failing.
To make change real, you need a solid plan. And that plan needs to be SMART, not DUMB. SMART plans are not harder to set up, but they are harder to do, because they commit you to change. They make it difficult for you to bail or fail. But isn’t that what, deep down, you actually want?
“You see, idealism detached from action is just a dream. But idealism allied with pragmatism, with rolling up your sleeves and making the world bend a bit, is very exciting. It’s very real. It’s very strong, and it’s very present.” ~ Bono

Monday, December 27, 2010

Parachurch & Parenting

Let me begin with a caveat: I used to be obsessed.  I would find every one I could, making sure to be familiar with the latest and greatest.  I would devour every morsel of knowledge and teaching.  I would quote them to friends and recommend them left and right.  I'm talking about parachurch teachings, in the form of books, lectures, conferences. 

I would latch on to a particular teacher and immerse myself in his or her perspective on what it means to follow Christ.  The teachers varied in background and focus and included Neil Anderson, C. Peter Wagner (and his wife, Doris), T.D. Jakes, Floyd McClung, and John Dawson, among others.

I sought out these sources of leadership when I was still a baby Christian.  Young in my faith and years, I was hungry to grow and looking for help to do so.  Unfortunately, I was at a place in my life (college) where I had no stable local church influence and, therefore, no regular source for pastoral covering, leadership and teaching.  I now believe I used these teachers and their books to fill that void.

Let me be clear: I have nothing against parachurch teachers or organization or Christian authors in general.  On the contrary, I know first-hand that they serve a valuable purpose and often stir up the Church in ways that bear excellent fruit.  My problem with the parachurch world is two-fold: I do not think it a Biblical or effective substitute for the local church; and, I, personally, experienced pain when I did what I see many young believers doing around me today. 

I tried to learn about God from books other than the Bible.

I know that sounds over-simplified, but it's the bluntest way to explain what I did.  I was at a time, as a young Christian, when I was laying the foundation for my new life in Christ.  I spent more time in other words rather than in The Word.  As a result, I often became over-zealous, hyper-religious, confused, and stalled on the journey to true faith - a faith that is utterly and completely God-centric (versus angel-and-demon-centric, warfare-focused, evangelistic-obsessed, or any other version that would fit when we put fruit before the Fruit Giver & gifts before the Gift Giver).

I tend to have an excitable personality.  As my mother-in-law pointed out (an observation which I greatly appreciated): I'm one of those people who hears about something and immediately wants to try it.  I invest resources into whatever the new thing is (sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, etc) and become obsessed with it.  For about a day, that is, and then I'm on to the next thing.  This relates to the hyper-emotionalism I wrote about in an earlier post.  I know this about myself, so I know that I have to be careful before I swing in the direction of the next, big thing, even if the next, big thing is legitmately valuable.  Therefore, I actively put my energies into things that last: Jesus, Scripture, relationships and activities/interests that feel solid to me, not easily blown about by the wind.

(Incidentally, it was so hard to remember the names of the teachers I used to obsess over that I actually had to do some research to make sure I was remembering accurately.  As I did, I ran a Google search on "books on spiritual warfare", which used to be a particular interest of mine.  All of the authors of the latest and greatest books were names I did not recognize, save one: Neil Anderson, author of The Bondage Breaker.  It's funny that he's the one who is still around, fifteen years after my obsessive years, for, in my life, his teachings are the ones that bore the most lasting fruit, while many of the others served to merely stir me up emotionally and distract me from the point: Jesus Himself.)

(On another side note: I may not remember the names of the authors and parachurch leaders, but I remember every pastor and priest, every small group leader, every youth minister, college leader, or young adult's minister.  But that's probably a discussion for another time!)

My point?  I'm going to recommend two books, and I wanted you to know that I do not do so lightly.  I don't know that I agree with everything that's said in either, but I think they raise important enough points that they should be read by parents and discussed in light of Biblical Truth.  The books are: Bringing Up Boys & Bringing Up Girls by Dr. James Dobson.

I have come late to the SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) world.  Most of my SAHM friends have been doing it from day one.  I, on the other hand, gained the privilege of staying at home with my children when Gunnar was two-and-a-half and Lilian was eleven months old.  As such, I cherish every second with them.  I feel called to be their primary caregiver; I firmly believe it's the most important job that any mom out there has (and dad as well, but I'm speaking from my own experience). 

How does all of this relate?  It's slightly disjointed, I know, but I'm tieing these things together in this way: when I experienced a headship vacuum I became a little lost along the way.  How much more so when our children are left to fend for themselves, to try to understand Truth without the covering God has given them.  It's our job, not society's, not our culture's, to raise them.  Both of these books have helped me (and my husband) to think through ways to intentionally and proactively raise our children, and to be aware of the world in which we are raising them.  There are many other ways to engage that process, of course.  This is just one I have found immensely provocative and helpful, so I wanted to pass it on.  If you've read either of them or start them in the weeks to come, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

One last thought before I conclude: the impetus for this post comes from something I read in Bringing Up Girls today. 

"Children are a gift from God, ans we are stewards of their welfare.  Training up our daughters in this sense implies helping them to navigate the cultural mindfields that lie in their paths - teaching them eternal values, talents, and perspectives.  It means instilling within them an appreciation for truthfulness, trustworthiness, self-discipline, self-control, gneerosity, and sweetness of spirit." (Chapter I)

When I came across the words "self-discipline" and "self-control" I said a quick, silent prayer: "oh Lord Jesus, please help me teach my son these things" (my daughter too, of course, but I was particularly thinking about my ants-in-his-pants son).  I prayed it out of exasperation and with little faith, not really believing he could actually learn not to touch everything in sight (he's a tinkerer). 

As I prayed, I saw a picture of my own heart.  I realized that my desire was for him to learn these things once; I had the attitude (hidden to me until that moment) that if I could just get these character traits instilled in him, I'd be done.  I could let out a big "whew" and move on.  When I realized that that was actually want I wanted, what I was secretly hoping for, I laughed at myself.  As if, I wanted to say.  Parenting is not that simple, I'm learning, and we humans aren't wired that way.  We have to learn things over and over again.  That's why "love is patient"; that's why God is the best parenting model.  He never gives up on us and kindly re-teaches us lessons we've learned a thousand times before.

So, to bring us back to my original point: I'm thankful that there are parenting books out there to help us for the long haul; but I know that the most important parenting book is the Bible, and the most important model is God Himself.  Lord, have mercy on us all!

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today.  So glad to be back.  Check out the links of the ladies who contribute - you won't be sorry!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Root Cause

This is my update on the fast:

For three and a half weeks it was going really well.  I didn’t even feel tempted to go to that grumbly, angry, negative place.  Then, Christmas traffic happened.

I was in my car at the stop sign at the end of my road one night.  My street T’s into a very busy thoroughfare.  As I waited for an opening in traffic, the person behind me honked.  I was surprised because there really was no opening for me to merge into, but I dutifully sat up straighter and inched forward – so this person could see that I was paying attention even though she had just seen me dial a phone number on my cell.  Five seconds passes.  Still no opening.  Honk.  REALLY?  I gesture in exasperation, look in the rearview mirror, and tell her to hold on.  She honks again.  I put it in park and fold my arms over my chest, staring her down all the while.  I almost got out and told her what I thought: “Seriously?  Don’t you know it’s Christmas?  What in the world could have you in so much of a hurry?”  After several seconds of making her wait while I sat there in park, I shifted into drive and finally turned off my street.

“Hmmm,” I thought.  “I’m pretty sure I just broke my fast.”

Then yesterday, swimming happened.  I swim laps regularly at my 24 Hour Fitness.  I’ve complained to management twice about this (before I started the fast, of course), but it happened again yesterday: a non-lap swimmer was taking up a full lane doing exercise jogging.  Let me explain: there are only three lanes for swimming at the pool – lanes which are always full; the other half of the pool is occupied by open space for non-lap swimmers to exercise.  I asked the woman if I could use the lane for lap-swim.  She graciously said, “sure” and then proceeded to slide over.  In other words, she kept up her exercise routine, simply confining it to one-half of the lane rather than moving out of the lanes entirely.  I was steaming.  I couldn’t concentrate during my swim (a time that usually allows me to clear my head of junk like this).  I fixated on how annoying this woman was and how I was going straight to management as soon as I finished my swim.

“Hmmm,” I thought.  “That would be breaking my fast.”  My whininess rebelled: “but, someone has to tell; I mean, she’s breaking the rules and causing inefficiency.”  (There were many other, less coherent thoughts in there, but that about sums it up.)

I did not go tattle on her to management, though part of me still wants to.

So, where do I stand?  Much to my disappointment, I’m not yet purged of my go-to, fleshy place of bitchiness.  I definitely still have it in me to whine about all the things I see as unjust (anything I view as rule-breaking is tantamount among them) and make sure the people in charge know how I feel. 

Predictable, understandable order makes me feel safe.  Therein lies the rub.  If I know the rules, I know what to expect, how to make sure I’m not upsetting or disappointing others, and simultaneously how to not be rejected and to not have to submit myself to the whims of other people’s perspectives, judgment, understanding of right and wrong.  Your understanding of how to treat others doesn’t matter if the rules are followed.  There’s no wishy-washy understanding; there simply is.  I can live in a world with brick walls, but a world with tent flaps and rickety poles, where the wind can shift the boundaries around me at any moment, terrifying.

Where am I going with this?  I think I’m realizing the root of my urge to complain.  Ultimately, the root is fear.  I use structure, order, efficiency as a way to keep myself safe.  When people step outside of those boundaries I become impatient and angry because I feel out of control.  It’s similar to watching a two-year-old throw a temper tantrum.  I’m not mature enough to respond to the chaos in a way that gives me time to adjust; instead, I let my emotions dictate my response (see Simmering).

Unfortunately for my flesh, “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).  Yes, I serve the God of Truth, who created a world in which every part adheres to a know-able order.  Yes, I serve the God of Wrath, who judges man and deserves our awe, where justice will prevail (note the distinction between justice and judgment).  But I also serve the God of Mercy, who sent His Son to live among us and take His wrath upon Himself. 

The woman in the swimming lane may have deserved to be told off and forced to move.  The woman behind me in the car may have deserved to be forced to wait because of her impatience.  But it would have been better to gift them with things they did not deserve in that moment: mercy in the form of graciousness for the swimmer and patience for the driver.  There lies the way of life-giving Truth.  I do not find life in rules; I find life in love.  I have experienced that truth over and over again during this fast.

That’s what this fast is about – about transforming my flesh into more of His likeness, about living abundant life in Him and not a shadow-life in rules.  I want to “love for the day is near” but I’m, ultimately, horrible at it (Romans 13: 8-14).  I need His grace daily.  I need His Spirit to be at work in me constantly.  In short, I need Immanuel, God with us. 

This Christmas season, may He come again and again.  And may I come before Him as the Wise Men did, bowing before Him in his own rule-breaking humility: a King in a manger born to make a way for redemption.  Amen, come Christ Jesus, come.

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today.  Be sure to stop by and read what these awesome women have to say!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I have longed for many things in my life, and each of them has threatened to consume me. 

I am the kind of person whose enthusiasm is infectious.  I get excited about something, and I make sure everyone around me knows about it.  I stir things up - people, hearts.  Or, at least, I used to.

In my younger years I was all over the map in this respect.  A starter - that's a good way to describe me.  I'd see a need, feel passionately that it needed to be met, and whip myself and others into a frenzy to get something done.  Examples abound:
  • I started a dance program at my private high school (a place that supposedly emphasized a classical education but had no space for dance - gasp);
  • I started a community service program at said high school (again, this is an Episcopal school focused on liberal education for well-to-do kids with no focus on giving back...nope, this was unacceptable to me so I did something about it);
  • I helped found the first-ever Protestant student group at a Jesuit university in Mexico City (all Christian campus organizations up to that point were Catholic only);
  • as a college student I lobbied Congress on behalf of student Pell Grant funding and found myself at the head of a procession of thousands of students nationwide (literally thousands). 
I could go on.  If I felt a rent in the fabric of how things should be, I simply had to do something about it.  (Who was I to know how things should be?  Excellent question, but one that doesn't precisely pertain to this day's rants.) 

I do NOT share these things to toot my own horn.  On the contrary, I don't look back and think "wow, I'm pretty awesome."  Instead, I look back and constantly struggle that I did not, have not, do not do enough.  I only start things, you see - I rarely finish them.

For many years I was fueled by emotion.  If I felt something, I acted on it.  Until a very wise, dear friend challenged me with this: "Jenny, I think you've made feelings an idol in your life.  You need to repent."

My response?  Unabashed, intense anger.  Furor, actually.  I wanted to cuss this sweet fifty-something-year-old woman up, down and sideways.  That's when I thought: "hmm, maybe she has a point."  I got on my knees.

Not knowing what I was doing, I simply confessed to God that I often served my feelings rather than Him, looking to them to guide me, to tell me what was right or wrong, to show me how to act.  I remember the night like it was yesterday.  My body trembled as the anger that someone could dare tell me I feel too much coursed through my body.  I could barely get it under control enough to steady my breathing.

That night changed my life.  It was the beginning of a process of turning things upside down.  Things that had once been paramount, occupying a pinacle-space, would now become subjugated to my true Head, the all-knowing, all-wise, trustworthy King of kings.  I was a practicing Christian before this point - this was not a salvation moment.  This was a repentance moment.  This was one in a long series of choices I have made and will make as a Christian: Jesus first; me last.

Today I operate much differently.  Instead of flying off the handle the minute I feel passionately about something, I simply acknowledge my feelings, validate them, and take note.  I let them sit there and simmer.  By so doing I learn if something - some One - more concrete than emotions is behind my passion, if there's really something to build on.  Once I've simmered for a good, long while only then do I begin to ponder a course of action. 

I must say I like this way of living much more.  It's less exhausting and more fulfilling.

I'm writing about this today (perhaps it is obvious) because I'm in a process of simmering.  I have felt the Holy Spirit tug me in the direction of a manuscript that, quite frankly, frightens me.  It will require a lot of me to write.  I will need skills that I feel incredibly weak in.  In short, I will have to wholeheartedly rely on Him to get me through.  The simmering phase is over.  It's time to start writing.  I will begin Thursday.  Lord Jesus, have mercy.

I'm linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today.  Check it out!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dancing on the edge

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for...." (Hebrews 11:1)

My faith is being tested.  I could dwell on all the ways I'm FREAKING OUT, on all the things that are going wrong, on all the fears I have about how it's not going to work out.  However, I'm fasting (in case you missed it, check out this post:  Part of my fast is refraining from complaining; the other part is choosing to dwell on the good gifts God has given me.

So, I choose to dwell on the promise.  I choose to focus on what I have to look forward to, what I am hoping for.  For He has given me specific things to hope for in this season...promises I know He is working out.  But...

"Hope is fragile.  It has been said that hope 'dances on the edge of wishing.'"  This from last Sunday's Advent sermon at St. Michael's.  It struck me.  I have been carrying it around inside ever since.

If hope is fragile, then what am I clinging to?  God has given me hope, yes, but He has called me to something greater.

I've been carrying something else around inside of me for a little over a week now.  It is this excerpt from my friend Michael Warden's blog series about addressing a need for change in your life: "Faith is not hope. Hope says, 'It’s possible.' Faith says, 'It’s inevitable. No maybe about it. It will happen.'"

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for...."  Or, in the New Living Translation: "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see."  (Hebrews 11:1)  Faith is hope taken to the next level.

God has spoken to me and my family very specifically during this season.  He has led us into new places and asked us to have faith that He will provide.  The crux?  The place He has led us to is a place we have hoped to be all our lives.  Now, we are living in hope through faith.

Our priest said something else during Sunday's sermon that stuck to my insides.  (I'm paraphrasing here...) "It's okay to need evidence."  She was talking about how the early Christians looked back at their Jewish heritage - at things God had already done - to remind themselves that He will act.  Another example from Scripture: God's rainbow (Genesis 9). 

"I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures for all generations to come.  I have placed my rainbow in the clouds.  It is the sign...." (Genesis 9: 12-13, NLT)

God knows us so well.  He knows our faith will falter.  He knows that sometimes we will slip back into hope alone or even simple wishing.  During those times He's there to remind us, to give us a sign, to help us remember ( bring together, to make this instance, to draw me back to Him, to Truth). 

By His grace and with His help, I believe that what He has spoken to me, to my family will come to pass.  Not just believe but act as though it is already so.  Even on the days when I'm totally, completely, hopelessly freaking out.

Amen, Christ Jesus, let it be.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Making Change: third in a series from visiting blogger Michael Warden

3 of 5 Essentials for Change: You Need Faith

"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right." ~ Henry Ford
This was one of my earliest drawings. I sketched it the year I started university. At the time I was obsessed with sailboats and sailing, as I thought they presented an elegant metaphor for what it really means to live by faith. (I still do!) The symbolism goes something like this:

  • the sailor = you
  • the sailboat = your journey through life
  • the rudder = your goal, your dream, the direction or place you want to go (the rudder, at times, can also represent The Truth)
  • the wind = the Spirit of God
  • the sail = your faith
This simple metaphor made the whole experience of a faith-filled life easier for me to understand. To move my life, all I need to do is point my rudder toward my dream (or the deep truth I am choosing to pursue), deploy my faith and catch the wind of God’s Spirit to carry me forward. Now if you’ve ever sailed, you know that the art is a little more complicated than that, but the principle still holds. There can be tons of Wind at my back. I can even have my boat pointed in the right direction. But if I don’t raise my sails, I still won’t move. No faith, no go.
The best definition of faith I’ve ever heard comes from the Bible, in the book of Hebrews:
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1
One big distinction I draw from this is one I find a lot of people overlook: Faith is not hope. Hope says, “It’s possible.” Faith says, “It’s inevitable. No maybe about it. It will happen.”
Sometimes, when people go after a big change in their life (or in the world), they rely solely on hope to get them there. They look at their Crystal Clear Dream and say, “I really hope it can be so.” No mistake, hope can take you a long way. People do a lot of things, take a lot of risks, based on nothing but their hope. But when it comes to making change happen, faith is better. Faith is confidence. Faith is assurance. Faith is knowing you will eventually, inevitably, reach your goal. Faith is so confident that the thing you are after will happen that it kinda already feels like a “done deal.” Success is assumed. It’s a given. It’s just a matter of time.
I’m not talking about wishcraft or some ridiculous “name it and claim it” nonsense. We’re assuming here that your dream is not a fantasy, that it is grounded in the Truth and Reality of your actual life, in what could quite reasonably happen. I can have all the faith in the world that I will breathe underwater just like Aquaman, but that won’t keep me from drowning if I ever really give it a go. But assuming your dream, your New Reality, is genuinely possible, if you don’t believe it will actually happen, then what are you fighting for?
Faith is simple, but it is far from easy. It’s both a choice, and a muscle you have to keep working to make stronger. Here are a few workouts that have helped me and my clients step more fully into faith around a Crystal Clear Dream:
  • Stop trying to believe, and just decide: When it comes to your dream, will you believe, or merely hope? Either way, be resolved about it. Never underestimate the power of a sincere, authentic decision, made from the heart.
  • Pray all the time. But when you do, don’t ask God to “do” your dream for you. Instead, tell God what you are going to do, and ask Him to give you the courage to do it.
  • Create a short, one-line affirmation of faith, and say it out loud every time you think about your Crystal Clear Dream. One I especially like is, “It’s inevitable. It will happen. It’s just a matter of time.”
  • Feed your faith with stories of others who have traveled the same (or a similar) path and succeeded.
  • No wallowing! When you fail or have a setback, get up, dust yourself off and get back on the path. Negative self-talk will not serve you here. Instead, reconnect to your dream, and if necessary, your anger.
  • Be ready for weak days. Some days it’s hard to find that internal assurance that you’ll reach your ultimate dream. When that happens, focus on this day—right here, right now. Do you believe that you can move closer to your dream today? Then act on that. If you don’t have faith for the journey, have faith for today.
  • Though it sounds counter-intuitive, don’t ignore your doubts or try to stuff them into the shadows. Doubt and faith are intimate partners in the journey of believing, so when you have doubts, engage them with curiosity and not with fear. What is your doubt trying to get you to notice? What is the question your doubts are pushing you to ask about your dream? about yourself? about God? Don’t be afraid to wrestle it out.
    “Belief and confusion are not mutually exclusive; I believe that belief gives you a direction in the confusion. But you don’t see the full picture. That’s the point. That’s what faith is. You can’t see it. It comes back to instinct. Faith is just up the street. Faith and instinct, you can’t just rely on them. You have to beat them up. You have to pummel them to make sure they can withstand it, to make sure they can be trusted.”  ~  Bono, of U2
    Note: This post is part of a series. To go to the first entry of the series, just click here. And if you find this series helpful, please forward it to a friend or post a link to the blog on your Facebook page. I’d appreciate it!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Making Change: second in a series from visiting blogger Michael Warden

2 of 5 Essentials for Change: You Need a Crystal Clear Dream

Nothing happens unless first we dream. ~ Carl Sandburg
On a recent trip to Colorado, I came across this massive chess board in a public garden in Pagosa Springs. I loved its clean lines, the crisp colors of its form set against a clouded sky, and the implicit invitation to play that it carried. The way it inspired me made me wonder about its creator. Who dreamed of this? Who walked the grounds, sketched the possibilities, drew up the plans? In whose imagination did this thing I see before me begin?

Take a look around at the room you are in right now. Every single item you see that has been created by human hands began as a dream. It was once just a thought in somebody’s head. An idea. A possibility. That’s how all new realities begin…as dreams. That’s why dreaming is essential to the work of creating change. It’s hard to know which path to take, or which plan to follow, if you don’t have a clear picture of where you’re going, or what exactly you’re trying to create.

To really make change happen you have to have both a clear sense of what you’re saying “no” to (see my earlier post for more on this), and a crystal clear vision of what you’re saying “yes” to. A fuzzy dream produces fuzzy results. Everybody wants to “make a difference” in the world, but what are you going to do with that? It’s all mush and sentimentality. Same goes for “I want to find love,” “I want to be ‘financially free,’” or “I want to lose weight.” Those are not yet crystal clear dreams. They are merely desires. Now, desires can point you in the right direction, but they need to be knocked around a bit, tested and stretched, given 3-dimensional clarity and color, until it is no longer merely a vague pull along a general compass heading but has become a crystal clear image of precisely where you want to go. A new Reality; a very specific outcome that you deeply desire and long to create.

Once you have a crystal clear dream, it becomes like a powerful homing beacon for your soul. You know exactly what you’re aiming for, what “new reality” you are fighting for, and it is that crystal clear image that becomes your chief motivator to keep on track and stay the course when the journey gets hard. (And…it will get hard.) This all points to the difference in power between positive motivation and negative motivation. Negative motivation—knowing what you don’t want and focusing on that—is effective in short spurts only. My distaste for the way things are right now can motivate me to take action…but on its own, that kind of negative motivation won’t last long—certainly not long enough to make any lasting change. To get where you want to go, you need to cultivate positive motivation—that is, you have to see, in rich, vibrant, colorful detail, the new reality you’re trying to create, and you have to let that vision be the fuel that drives you to act and keeps you on the path of change. We change most effectively over the long haul by moving toward something we want, rather than away from something we don’t want.

So, how do you take a desire and make it a crystal clear dream? It’s really pretty simple: You “visioneer” it by combining your imagination and your five senses. Begin by imagining that it’s 10 years from now and you have achieved your deep desire. You’ve accomplished your dream. You’re there. Really use your imagination to put yourself in that vision. Flesh out the vision by connecting with each of your senses in this new reality:
  • Sight: What do you see around you in this new reality? What does the scene look like? What’s happening? What stands out to you? When you look in a mirror, what do you see in yourself?
  • Hearing: What kinds of things are people saying to you in this new reality? What are you saying to yourself? What other sounds are you noticing?
  • Touch: What’s the “feel” of this new reality on your skin? As you use your hands to interact the environment of your imagination, what do your tactile sensations tell you about this new reality?
  • Taste: If this new reality had a flavor, what would that flavor be? How does that flavor inform your experience of this new reality?
  • Smell: What does your new reality smell like? What scents do you notice in this new place?
As you explore each question, write down your responses. When you’re finished, shape those responses into a one-paragraph description of your new reality. Write it in the present tense—“I am…,” “I see myself…,” not “I will be…,” or “Others will be saying…”—and put it on an index card. This card now holds your crystal clear dream. You read it every morning first thing upon awakening; you check in with it at midday; you read it again at night before you go to sleep. You do more than memorize it. You let it get under your skin. You meditate on it throughout the day. You pray about it constantly. You obsess on it so much that you dream about it at night. You connect it to your passion…you let it drive you.

Can you see how designing a plan of action to move toward a crystal clear dream is far more effective than trying to design a plan for moving away from something you don’t want? That’s why it’s so important to push yourself to create a crystal clear dream before you create any action plan. The best way forward usually becomes obvious only after the dream is clear and has had time to settle and resonate in the deep places of your soul.

So…what’s your crystal clear dream? Post your comments below.

NOTE: This post is part of a series on change. Click here for the first entry in this series. And if this has been an encouragement to you, please forward it to your friends, tweet it, or post it on facebook. I’d appreciate it. Thanks!


As many of you are no doubt aware, the season of Advent began on Sunday.  According to, Advent is defined as "the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world." 

For me, Advent signifies two things: expectation and preparation.  It is always an exciting time, but this year I'm especially excited about it because my two-year-old can (sort of) understand that something is afoot in the Forgey household.  There is something different - special - about this time of year.  It's not just the presents or the decorations; it's also the attitude and focus.  We spend a lot of time talking about the "reason for the season" at my house and focusing on ways to teach the true nature of gift-giving.  We give because we have received. 

This year I've decided to give God a gift directly.  After an incredibly challenging fall, during which my fleshy nature seemed to win more often than not, I've been struck by how much I like to bitch.  Excuse the word, but there's really no other way to say it.  "Grumble" and "complain" don't quite do what I do justice.  I love to tell everyone how I feel about everything, and, more often than not, that equals bitching about stuff.  During the last few months, when I had legitimate reasons to complain, I noticed how not fruitful complaining is.  I only felt worse after spewing my negativity all over the place, even when I was justified in my opinion.  And I certainly didn't spread love or joy but rather anger, frustration, and anxiety.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit (for I know this idea came from Him), I decided a few weeks ago that it's time to change this behavior.  So, I'm fasting.

During Advent, I'm giving God my complaints.  Quite literally.  I'm trusting that He knows them before I speak them, that He's defending me when I need it, that He's at work for justice in the world everywhere injustice exists.  I don't need to single-handedly change the world by addressing every situation I confront.  I can leave them to Him.  I can simply be...silent.

My fast from complaining will involve choosing not to speak (something that is incredibly difficult for me).  But it will also involve choosing to speak.  "But as I stood there in silence--not even speaking of good things--the turmoil within me grew worse" (Psalm 39:2).  I will turn from anger, dissatisfaction, fear even, and turn toward joy, hope, goodness.  I will choose to spread love and not anger.

I'm really excited about this.  Feel free to ask me how it's going or to tell me if you hear me complaining.  This will be a learning process, so I'm open to feedback.

In the meantime, may you have a blessed Advent season, and may you see Him coming into your life in many ways this Christmas.

[The Advent daily readings in the Episcopal church, of which I'm a member, are: Psalms 5 & 6 (in the morning); Psalms 10 & 11 (in the evening); Isaiah 1:21-31; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Luke 20:9-18.]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Forward Change: a visiting blog

A new friend has recently posted a blog series that I have found interesting and helpful.  I wanted to share it here.  It's a series, but I'm only reposting the first in the series.  You can navigate to his site if you want to follow/read all of it:  I highly recommend that you do!  Enjoy!

From Michael D. Warden's Blog:
"Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better." ~ Richard Hooker
Everybody wants to make a change. Some kind of change. Whether it's to lose 20 lbs (or 50, or 150), or to get out of debt, or to become more "successful" (however they define that), or to find true community, or to encounter God in an authentic, meaningful way, everybody wants something to be different about their lives. Desire--our capacity to want our lives to be something more than they are, something truer to who we are at the core--is one of the common ways we can all relate to one another. "What do you want?" is perhaps the most powerful of all the powerful questions out there. Certainly it is one of the first we should consider when getting to know another person. Or when getting to know ourselves. And especially when getting to know God.

What’s the change you want to make right now in your life? I bet you could list off several without even trying.

But as much and as deeply as we all desire change, we certainly have a helluva time trying to figure out how to do it. Change is really why people hire a coach (the smart ones do, anyway). smile They either want to make a change and don’t know how to make it happen…or else something in their life is changing (whether they want it or not), and they don’t know how to navigate it to arrive safely on the shore of the new thing that awaits them beyond the horizon of all they’ve known up ‘till now. Having coached many clients of both kinds by now, I’ve noticed that the common thing we all do when we want something to change is (you’ve already guessed it, haven’t you?)...we make a plan. We plot a course of action. We create a program. We design a system of next-steps that will get us from here to there.

And the plan works for a little while. But then the plan fails. So we try a different plan. And that fails. So we try a third. And that fails too.

Naturally, having a good solid plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be is essential. So the plan matters. But the problem in this scenario probably isn’t the plan…er, plans. The problem is that the plan is only one-fifth of the solution. If all you’re doing is creating a plan for change, and trying to follow it, you are (potentially) missing four other key elements essential to making change actually happen in your life. If you really want to make that change in your life, you need to seriously incorporate all five.
I’ll be expanding on each of these “essentials to change” in a fresh series of blogposts in the coming weeks, but here is a quick list of the five essential elements you need to make any significant change in your life (or in the world):
  • You need Anger
  • You need A Cystal Clear Dream
  • You need Faith
  • You need A Solid Plan
  • You need Love
I hope you’ll join me as I explore each of these elements in the coming weeks, and join in the conversation with me—either here in the comments, or on Facebook. If you find them interesting, forward the posts to your friends. And if you ever want to talk with a professional coach about a change you’re facing (or want to face) in your own life, contact me, and we’ll set up a time to talk. Next week: Anger!
“We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.” ~ Thomas Merton

Monday, November 22, 2010


(Side note - what I am doing right now: writing while watching a PBS special on the demise of the independent bookstore.  Sigh.)

Thank you.

This is what is on my heart.  When I finally got quiet today - after a lot, a lot of noise - this is what rose to the surface: I am thankful.

There are many reasons I feel this way, but tonight I'll focus on one in particular: money.  Cold, hard cash.  Money has been extra tight since I began my career as a stay-at-home mom (or SAHM, pronounced "sam", as my other mommie friends have told me).  My husband and I had saved a large sum of money in order to provide a safety net after I left work.  But, within two weeks of my leaving work, an unexpected incident happened that forced our financial hand, so to speak. 

Our health care costs skyrocketed, reaching over $1,000/month to cover all four of us.  This does not include copays, deductibles, out-of-pocket costs.  We had been expecting to pay around half of that for health insurance.  On our already thin budget, this extra expense was really pushing it.  We've limped along for a month, trying to hang in there until we got word from my husband's employer.

We were under the impression that his employer would be switching plans soon, in an effort to significantly reduce out-of-pocket costs for the employees.  Today, however, we learned that this new, "inexpensive" option would cost us exactly $998/month.  A net savings of around $50/month.

Okay.  Now what?

My husband called me with the news in the middle of the day.  All of the joy and faith I had been feeling from last week's "manna revelation" (see my post dated November 22nd entitled "Catching Up") leaked out of me like hot air from a punctured balloon.

Panic ensued.  "I know the Lord is calling me to this SAHM-business, and I know He's promised to provide step-by-step, but, really?  This no longer seems wise or prudent.  I mean, I have kids to take care of, regardless of what I think I'm hearing God say."  These are the thoughts that cascaded down the cliffside in my mind. 

After several hours of exploring options and doing, I finally found a moment to sit and be still.  It was in the middle of dinner - a dinner I didn't feel like we could afford but that my husband really wanted to bless his family with anyway (we were using a gift card he had received for his birthday).  I sat outside the restaurant for a few moments in order to listen to my heart, and, like I said, thankfulness is what I heard.  Not fear or anxiety or worry, but true thanksgiving.  I felt like God does and would provide; I reached a place of inexplicable peace.  I knew it would be okay.

I went inside, finished dinner, and asked the waitress for the check.  (My husband and son were in the restroom; I had my one-year-old daughter with me at the table.)  "Um, about that," said the waitress.  "You see, another table bought your dinner."

"Excuse me?"

"I know, right?  I thought it was crazy too, but they wanted to.  I asked them if they knew you and they said no, that they just wanted to pay for your family's meal."

I looked at the waitress and said the first thing that came to mind: "well, thank you Jesus."

The coolest part about this?  We had the money to pay for dinner.  We could have afforded it.  God didn't provide because he had to; He wasn't giving in order to meet a need.  He wasn't even doing it to teach me a lesson (I had already come to a place of trust and peace, remember?).  He provided because He wanted to; it was nothing but love.  It felt like abundance - like He was giving us abundance out of His abundance.  Providing above and beyond.

We don't serve a skimpy God.  That's my deep thought for the night.  Enjoy.

(Side note #2 - what I'm doing now: watching another PBS special, a concert that includes Josh Groban, Sting, Katharine McPhee and many other amazing musicians.  I'm thankful for PBS.  And I'm really thankful I don't have cable.)

Catching up

Wow, I've been away a long time.  Sorry about that!  I have no excuse, really - just life.  And, I've been dealing with some heavy stuff that has pulled me into a withdrawn place.  Not depressed, just withdrawn so that I can process.  Good fruit has come of it.  Can't go into detail here, unfortunately, but there is reason to rejoice.

I've also, I must confess, stayed away because I feel overwhelmed about what to write.  I have a million ideas swarming around in my head but can't seem to make any one of them stick long enough to develop.  So, this will be a random catch-up.  It's my attempt to get back into the swing of blog writing.  Here are some of the things that have been occupying my head/heart space:
  • Christmas shopping.  I'm obsessed.  First, my husband and I love giving gifts, and, second, money is tight.  The confluence of these two realities is making me research, research, research the best deals so that I can make my money stretch.  I am absolutely NOT the crafty type, so making things is out.  Anyway, I've been living on sites like and  Last night I decided I needed to cut myself off.  At least for a day!
  • Thanksgiving.  I'm cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the first time ever this year.  I'm so stressed out about it that I actually dreamt about prepping the turkey last night.  My turkey anxiety dream woke me up!  (Feel free to laugh out loud here.  I'm fully aware of how ridiculous this is.)  Self-talk: "Okay girl, time to take it down a notch."  As my son says, "it will be ooohhhh-kay" (with a pointed finger for emphasis).
  • Manna.  My sweet two-year-old learned about how God sent manna from heaven at his preschool last week.  The school used the story from Exodus to explain why we celebrate Thanksgiving.  So, he came home talking about how God provides during a week when I was particularly despondent about how we're going to make it on just one salary.  I spent the week half-listening and half-answering his questions about the manna story.  "Yes, yes, Gunnar, that's right; God sent down manna so His people wouldn't go hungry."  All the while incessantly checking our bank account and reworking our budget.  Then, FINALLY, one evening after putting him to bed and going over the manna story again, I decided to go read the grown-up version.  I realized God just might be using my son to tell me something (ya think???).  Exodus 16.  It blew me away.  I had forgotten.  The Israelites were to gather enough for that day only and were forbidden to keep any until the next day.  God promised to provide daily and He called them to trust Him.  My heart was convicted.  Since then, I've been chewing on those verses in the hope that I will sincerely digest them.  Praise God for little voices.
  • Writing.  I've submitted four children's stories in the last two weeks.  I'm excited about all four of them.  I need to keep submitting them to other places, but I at least have the process started (on those - there are two other major projects in the works that are still in the very early writing stages).  I am so hopeful that these will get picked up.  More than hopeful, actually - I'm longing for it.  If you'd like to pray for that, I would GREATLY appreciate it!   
  • Raising Godly children.  As my son gets older my desperation in this area increases.  Right now I feel overwhelmed by my inadequacy.  I feel like there are so many things to teach him, on so many levels, and I sometimes think there's no way he'll get it all.  I know in my head this isn't true, of course.  We serve a transcendent God; He explains things that defy understanding at times (and then, often, lets our brains catch up later!).  I'm just sharing that I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the start of this journey.  I can pray - I know how to pray.  I'm just not always that great at teaching.  Lord Jesus, please make up for my lack!
So there you have it - a few of the musings of Jenny Forgey.  Oh, I almost forgot: I've been digging into my fantasty fiction obsession a little bit, reading up on Christopher Paolini** and standing in line for the seventh Harry Potter movie.  That's been fun!*

*For those of you who might have a problem with fantasy, as Christians, I just have to say that, in my opinion (I definitely don't claim to know all on this), God uses all things to point toward Himself.  I find that transporting myself to these elaborate worlds that others create helps me reflect on my own.  And, I also enjoy watching creativity - always a gift from God, whether acknowledged or not - take its many shapes and forms.  I find it leads me to worship the Creator as I stand in awe of his limitless supply of interesting ways of seeing things.

**I recently came across an excellent blog about Paolini's Inheritance Cycle.  I particularly found the interviews under Random Buzzers to be helpful to anyone thinking about becoming a professional writer.  Paolini is very open about his process, and he gives several references for aspiring authors.  Check it out:   

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Noonday Collection

Hi friends,

You may notice a new button on my blog: Noonday Collection (look to your right and scroll down).  This is my friend Jessica's new company.  She's launched a women's accesory company, accessible via her website and home-based trunk shows, to support women around the world.  All products are made by women in impoverished situations, looking for ways to support themselves and their families.  It's fair trade and its finest.  Also, a portion of the proceeds from every sale help families adopt orphans the world over.  Go check out the site to learn more!

Thanks, Jenny

Blissfully Domestic

This week has been about cooking.  In the process of becoming a stay-at-home mom, I've had to learn new things, stretch unused muscles, make my brain work in ways previously unthought of.  So, this week I've been trying to learn how to cook.  More, that is.  Beyond the "dial the pizza place at the last minute" dinners, and the spaghettis and mac-n-cheese's.  I'm trying to learn how to really cook.

I've been inspired by a lot of sources:

1.  The Cheapest Family in America (self-proclaimed).  They have a book out and were interviewed on NBC's The Today Show.  I was inspired by how organized the mom is when it comes to grocery shopping.  She plans out EVERY meal for a whole month, planning around coupons and specials.  She can switch the meals she's cooking which days, but she always cooks those meals.  They are a family of five and their entire grocery bill - staples and all - is around $400/month.  I should be so lucky.

2.  I haven't read it as much as I'd like (yet), but the name itself inspires me.  I truly feel blissful that I get to spend time on being domestic.  It feels like I'm giving my family really good gifts every day.  A peaceful home that is not constantly chaotic or on the brink of everything that needs to get done feels like an excellent starting point to help my husband and children face what they need to out there in the world. 

3.  Blogs.  There's and and and  I read and feel inspired to be a better mom.  Thanks ladies!

Today, our second full day of cool, fall weather, I'm making crock-pot chili.  With ingredients I bought for my two-week meal plan (I decided to start with planning out two weeks instead of one month.  Besides, my refrigerator isn't that big!).  It's simmering right now and smells delicious.  I've never made chili before.  This is my second first this week (the first was brisket - see the "Juicy Meat" blog entry).  I'm having a blast!  I love making things.  I love feeling like I'm actually striving to be a Proverbs 31 wife and mother.  This is so much fun.

Just wanted to share the joy I'm feeling, especially since my last blog entry was such a downer.  Obviously, I'm doing better.  Fighting through the madness....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I'm angry.  I've been fighting it for weeks but the ugly, seeing-red, energy-draining emotion keeps beating me down.  Right now it's winning.  It won't be this way forever, but right now, I'm face down on the mat with the ref calling the count.  We're almost to ten.  Will I get up?

GET UP!  Someone, something shouts.  A voice that lives so deep inside I have to be incredibly quiet to hear it.  GET UP!  It shouts again to fight through the noise and win through the fight.  GET UP!  It calls my name, knows my number, tells me to just move, to will myself to keep going.

Get up, I respond, inside my head.  I will keep moving.  I will keep going.  I will beat this thing.

What the hell is happening? you may ask.  I can't talk about it.  It's so crazy that you probably wouldn't believe me anyway.  There are accusations.  There is injustice.  There is most definitely misunderstanding and undeserved judgment.  We're not talking about everyday bullshit.  We're talking about insanity

"The Lord is my Defender," another voice says.  This voice lives inside my head.

Yes, yes, I know the Truth: I know that it is useless, absolutely USELESS to waste energy on this fight.  When I try to defend myself, I will always lose.  Not because I'm not right.  Not because I don't make valid points.  But because I steal from myself through an effort that should not be mine to begin with. 

"It is mine to avenge (sayeth the Lord); I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them."  (Deuteronomy 32:35, italics and parentheticals mine)

Even as I read this I soften.  I don't want "their foot to slip" or "their doom" to rush upon them.  That would make me sad, honestly.  These people who have made my life a living hell over the last three weeks - well...they're just people.  Just like me.  They have as little as I have and need as much as I do.  I don't want disaster or doom for them.  I just want them to leave me alone.

I keep reading.

"They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support." (Psalm 18:18)

One commentator expands on this verse with this:
They prevented me - They anticipated me, or went before me. The idea here is that his enemies came before him, or intercepted his way. They were in his path, ready to destroy him. In the day of my calamity - In the day to which I now look back as the time of my special trial. But the Lord was my stay - My support, or prop. That is, the Lord upheld me, and kept me from falling.
I can relate to this.  I need someone to prop me up.  Everytime I think I've worked through the events of the past few weeks something new gets thrown at me and threatens to topple me over.  I am not strong enough.  I can not do this on my own.
"They prevented me, anticipated me, ... intercepted (my) way ...."  A new way to look at this, perhaps.  Perhaps there is a "way", something God might have for my family in this, some purpose that I'm too angry to see or acknowledge.  Perhaps the enemy knew that and wanted to cut if off before we reached our destination.  Before, even, we began the process of moving toward it.
I think I find comfort in that.  Hard to tell, though.  I'm still angry.  Angry at a God that lets bad things happen so that his children can learn lessons.  There.  I said it.  What kind of a god does that?
I've been here before.  It is the age-old question of suffering.  I know that I will have no other answer than acceptance, faith, belief.  Belief in a goodness I do not always feel.  I will believe because I know better.  There are too many good things, too many good gifts to ignore the Truth: God is good.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Juicy Meat

Today, I made a brisket for the first time in my life.  It was quite an experience.  I started at 9:30 a.m. and only just finished, over eleven hours later.

Now, I have to confess: I didn't do everything a die-hard grillmaster would have done.  For example, I short-cutted the marinade time and cooked the meat in the oven, not on the grill.  I know: gasp.  But, bear with me.  It was, after all, my first time.  For those of you who are still reeling from shock, be encouraged: I did let the meat rest.  Honest engine.

Being a thoroughly symbolic person, I can't resist posting this little rambling about the symbolism I found in the process.  I've avoided my blog for almost two weeks, avoided it because I have been dealing with something I never thought possible.  More on that later.  For now, trust that this little rambling is actually much more: it is my way back, my attempt to fight through a fog that has threatened to consume me, my voice breaking through a lot of really horrific noise.  I'm not giving up.  No, instead, I'm cooking.

Cooking, cleaning, going to the grocery store, these are the daily tasks that occupy my days.  These, and playing with my children.  Playing with my children is my primary job responsibility.  And it's also my most fun responsibility. 

Again, I ramble a little.  Forgive my lack of cohesive thought: it's been a tough two weeks.  My point?  Depression threatened to consume me, but I fought back with the ordinary.  I fought back by performing daily, repetitive, normal tasks.  And one of those tasks was cooking.  Back to the brisket.

Step 1: pick the meat.  Raw material is key.

Step 2: prepare the paste, the rub, and the mop sauce.  (Hmmm.....mop sauce.)  Get your hands dirty.

Step 3: apply the paste.  Rest fifteen minutes.  Apply the paste, second layer.  Rest fifteen more minutes.  Rest is required.

Step 4: rub the meat.  Make sure you reach into all the crevices, hidden places must be revealed.

Step 5: let meat marinade for 4-6 hours.  Patience is mandatory.

Step 6: cook at low temperature 3.5-4 hours, basting with mop sauce once every hour.  Constant attention required.

Step 7: cover meat and cook 4 more hours.  Like I said, patience in mandatory.

Step 8: after twenty minutes of resting, taste meat.  Fall off the fork tender.  So juicy it drips down the chin.  Success, the brisket is ready.

Cooking this brisket is like my life - my life the way I want it to be.  I want to be so raw that I'm worthy of a good, Godly process.  I want to be open to a good rub, the kind that uncovers the cracks.  I want to rest when it's called for, and begin working again when it's time.  I want to be patient for the work to be done.  When the work is done, I want to be so tender that I fall apart at the simplest touch, and so juicy that my life overflows into all the lives around me.

Today, I'm linking up with Finding Heaven.  Stop by and read the musings of my friend Jen and the many wonderful women who have posted there today.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


My daughter turned one this week.  I know it's cliche, but I can't believe the time has flown so quickly (I can hear my dad saying the same thing about me!).  It seems like a breath ago she was a lumpy bundle of goodness who loved to sleep on my chest.  Now, she's not content to be held but rather, with legs pumping and arms flapping, insists in her non-verbal way that I put her down and set her free.  Free to roam, she scoots the whole length of the house (no, she's not crawling or walking yet either) and does adorable things that make my heart melt.  Today, in a move that is decidedly "toddler-hood right around the corner", she picked up a calculator, held it to her ear like a phone, and looked at me expectantly.  I spoke: "ring, ring, hello Lily."  My reward?  Bright-eyed, toothy grin.  Sigh.

I have been reminiscing a lot this week, remembering where we were as a family exactly one year ago.  I remember going to the hospital the day before she was born only to be told "you're not in labor" and to go home disappointed.  I remember returning exactly fourteen hours later, after laboring at home in my sleep (thank God!  for all you pregnant women out there, take a Benadryl if you think the time's'll never get that much sleep again!).  I remember excruciating pain, wholly unlike the pain I felt with my first labor, as my friend and her daughter rushed me to the hospital where my husband waited.  I remember back labor, vomiting, and making the difficult decision to get an epidural (my first birth was completely natural).  I remember loving that decision after it was made and texting while I awaited Lily's descent.  I remember feeling everything, even though I was numb, and wondering at how I could still engage the process while accepting the additional help of pain relief.  Grace personified in my person. 

I remember feeling excited to meet her, the sweet anticipation of mother-hood.  I remember working with labor, not against it, in an amazing act of co-creation that is too beautiful to write about.  I remember a four hour active labor.  I remember the air conditioning failing in my room at Seton Hospital.  I remember doctors and nurses sweating.  I remember it felt like poetic justice.  I remember my husband holding my hand and telling me he was proud of me.  I remember her first cry - even then it seemed gentler than her brother's.  I remember how her brother loved her from the very first moment and, even today, how he still insists on hugging and kissing her "night night" before she goes to bed.

I remember that she felt gentle and calm from the very first touch.  Her brother felt strong, like he could carry a lot.  Lily felt grace-filled, like the love in her would move forth from her like a river, caressing those that step into it with a slow, steady movement that will change them the longer they experience it.  Deep, still, beautiful.

I remember the women who visited me in the hospital, sat with me, held Lily when I couldn't due to my fainting spells.  I remember a much easier, faster recovery the second time around.  I remember "there's no rest for the weary" with a sweet, then twenty-month-old wanting his mommy.  I remember an unknown neighbor, now a friend, bringing me homemade soup to welcome us to the neighborhood and congratulate us on the new baby.  I remember Lily sleeping at six hour stretches from day one.  I remember feeling complete, finished, as if Lily were the missing piece and she was now at home in our family.  

I remember loving her more than I ever thought possible, just as I had felt when Gunnar was born.  I remember knowing that she was a gift.  I remember experiencing, even before she was born, that I was already learning from her in a way that would change me forever.  I remember fearing that change, accepting it, and, later, praising God for it.

I remember thanksgiving.

I remember joy.

I remember.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jumble Gym

I am jumbled up today.
I am feeling many ways.
I cannot untwist this mat.
My feet are straight;
My arms are flat.
I do not know which way to turn.
I love to listen,
Seek to burn
A tired message in my head
Aound and round, its play is dead.
The needle is so old it's worn.
I cannot hear the truth it scorns.
I love to listen;
I'm loathe to speak.
I need the source;
That's all I seek.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I have the best friends...

This blog is my sweet friend's fault.  Her name is Jen Ferguson, and we've been friends for about fifteen years.  She started a blog last summer and encouraged me to start this one.  She also encourages me as a mother, wife, writer.  You name it, and she's helping me walk my path.  I love my dear friend and am very thankful for her.

Today, she sent me a gift.  An award, actually.  She awarded me a Lovely Blog Award, which she received from another blogger.  I think this one of the highest forms of praise: accommodation from those "in the field" trying to slug it out daily like I am.  They know from whence they come, so their praise means all the more.

Here's the award:

Part of accepting it is a call to "pay it forward" to 15 new blogs you enjoy.  I'm still fairly new to the blogging world, so I can't list 15 blogs yet!  But, here's a list that inspire me in one way or another.  Enjoy (and feel free to suggest blogs to me...I'm interested in reading witty blogs about politics, writing, and motherhood):

1.  Finding Heaven.  Jen's blog about finding God in the daily.

2.  Fullness of a Joyful Heart.  A blog about motherhood. 

3.  Farmama.  A blog about sustainable living.  I wish I was cool enough to live like this.

To Hell With You

"Devil, you can go to hell!"

That was my seminal moment this morning: yelling that phrase at the top of my lungs while racing home before picking up the kids from school. 

My word choice made me laugh out loud.  What prompted such an outburst? 

I had called a fellow writer friend for some encouragement.  Today is my first day to truly focus on my writing career (I plan to use the time when the kids are in school to write and pursue publishing).  I had just finished several hours staring at a blank screen, during which time I managed to eek out one measly outline for my new book.  No, not even an outline - a draft of an outline.  All sorts of negative thoughts were running through my head.  I felt exhausted, fried, and generally discouraged.  So, I called this friend to check in and see if he could give me some pointers.  Also, I just wanted to speak to someone who's been there.

He was incredibly helpful and encouraging.  I felt better almost instantly.  But every time we started to dig a little deeper into some nitty-gritty advice, my phone would drop the call.  This happened five times before I finally gave up and yelled: "D--"  Well, you get the idea.

Though the outburst was a bit silly, it was also heartfelt.  I needed that encouragement as much as a two-year-old boy needs a bath.  And I was in the process of getting that need met when something kept cutting the source off.  I was angry, righteously so.  My anger rekindled my energy, so here I am telling you all about it. 

The point?  I'm writing, which is exactly what I'm meant to do.  Negative thoughts be damned.  And devil, well, you know exactly where to go.  Best be on your way, dear heart, because I'm not listening any more.

Monday, October 4, 2010

And the journey continues...

The second post in a series about being a newbie stay-at-home mom.

This is my first official day on the job.  For those of you read my last post, you know that I quit my job and wrapped things up last week.  Today, Monday, it's all-Mom, all-the-time.  Several of you have checked in to ask how it's going.  So I decided to post this update.  Here it is: the raw, unadulterated truth about living the dream life.

The day started with anxiety.  Again.  More dreams about not doing enough, not producing enough.  These dreams happened to be about my physical therapy workouts, but they echoed the theme from last week: not enough.  So much for the short-lived bliss from the day I left the office.  Now, during my first morning, I was struggling to hold my temper with my two-year-old, snapping at my husband in the process, and generally feeling overwhelmed at what to do next and how to do it. 

The breakfast routine started with physical therapy for my littlest one (she's dealing with a gross motor skills developmental delay), which completely stressed me out.  Lily screamed through her workout in general frustration at not being able to move the way she wants.  All the while Gunnar, her big brother, wanted to take her therapy toy and interrupt play with some play of his own.  Of course, these interruptions increased Lily's frustration which increased the screaming which decreased Mommy's patience threshold.  I thought to myself: I will pray a lot more now that I'm home full-time.

That was the first fifteen minutes.

After my husband helped me calm down, I corralled the kiddos for a trip to the gym.  Yes, that's right.  I had been on-the-clock for a whole hour before seeking refuge in the sanctum of Kids Club.  Don't judge me until you've stared down a one and two-year-old, thinking, "I'm supposed to entertain you for a full day?"  It's tougher than it sounds!

Kids Club was a success.  Both kids had fun and lasted the full hour-and-a-half.  I, meanwhile, was able to finish my morning pages* in the sauna (talk about multi-tasking), get in a long swim workout, and actually take a shower.  By myself.  In silence.

I finished a little early and decided to veg out for a few minutes.  Several minutes later, after flipping through a magazine I indulged in at the grocery store, I gathered my things and headed to Kids Club.  I glanced at the clock.  "Oh no.  How did I let twenty minutes go by?  I'm a horrible....  No, wait a minute, I am not a horrible mom.  I gave myself twenty minutes - twenty minutes.  Get over yourself.  You'll need a lot more than that if you're going to do this well.  And besides, your kids probably need the time away from you as much as you need non-productive down time."

All of this self-talk whizzed through my head on the short walk from locker room to Kids Club.  Self-talk happens a lot in my brain (I know - you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?).  In fact, hours later, it's still happening.  I'm quite sure the loving me hasn't won the back-and-forth with the harsh me yet.  I still feel guilty over that twenty minutes.

Anyway, we decided to treat ourselves after the gym.  Actually, I needed some carb's after my long swim, and I wanted to be able to give my kids a little focused attention.  We went to Einstein's and sat together.  No agenda, no timeline, just snacks and catching up.  I heard all about Gunnar's adventures at Kids Club and watched in fascination while Lily realized she could put her food inside Gunnar's empty milk bottle.  I was very impressed, as was she.  She squealed in delight every few minutes when another bite actually made it into the container.

When Lily began rubbing her eyes we headed home.  She fell asleep in the car and stayed asleep through the transfer.  Another opportunity to pour into Gunnar was presenting itself: I decided to keep him outside so that Lily could sleep in peace.  After pretending to wash his Gunnar-sized car, he decided we should wash Mommy's car.  I told him we didn't even have to pretend.  I mean, what's better than playing and getting stuff done at the same time.  I'm brilliant, I tell you!

Out came the buckets, brushes, and hose.  Everything went swimmingly for the first several minutes.  And then, I looked over to see a shivering two-year-old dripping wet and exclaiming that he needed to go potty.  "Okay," I said.  "Here I come, honey."  I ran over, pulled down his pants, and told him to pee in the yard (yes, the front yard).  I ran inside to get a towel only to hear a panicked "MOMMY!" come out of Gunnar's little mouth.  Racing back outside I screamed, "what's wrong?"  "I pooped," he calmly replied.



I ran over, checked out the scene, and asked if he was done.  "Yes, I'm done.  I need you to wipe me."  "Okay," I replied.  "Wait here and don't move.  I'll be right back with toilet paper."  Asking a two-year-old not to move is like asking the Titanic not to sink.  What was I thinking?

I came back outside only to find Gunnar rooted to the same spot - a miracle, I thought - but with a rather disconcerting look on his face.  He was clearly concentrating very hard.  And squeezing, holding something tightly.  But what?

"Mommy, my poop is waiting for you."  Huh?  I looked behind him to see one large log on the ground and another long and skinny one holding on for dear life between clenched cheeks. 

Yes, it took all I had not to laugh.

I won't go into the gritty clean-up details, but, needless to say, they involved a hose.  Fifteen minutes and several hand-washings later we all sat down for lunch together.  I called my husband to tell him about our little poop adventure.  He laughed as hard as I wanted to.

Deep breath.  Post-lunch signaled time for round two of Lily's physical therapy at-home workout.  I geared myself up for another melt-down.  It's a wonder how things don't always turn out the way you plan, and thank God for that.  It was perfect.

I calmly explained to Gunnar how he needed to help Lily, and he happily obliged.  I arranged the "workout" in such a way that they were playing together.  We even had an object lesson: when either child achieved a goal, however small, I taught them to clap for eachother because, as I explained, "in this family, we celebrate one another's accomplishments."  It was beautiful.  Truly, I say this without sarcasm.  I was having a great time and loved, absolutely loved, being able to be the one who gets to do this with these two precious children. 

So two poo-poo's, two physical therapy sessions, and one gym trip later, I'm wondering what made the difference between morning and midday?  Why did the second session go so much better?  I think it's a combination of factors, really. 

First, Mommy was calmer.  That always helps.  Second, both of my children had had their cups filled with concentrated Mommy-attention.  Third, and probably most important, I chose myself this morning.  Not because I didn't want to be with my children, but rather because I did.  I knew that I needed to get a little space to clear my head before I dove into our new routine, so I took it.  And that extra twenty minutes clearly has made all the difference.

*Morning Pages are a medicine prescribed by Julia Watts, author of The Artist's Way.  I highly recommend her book to everyone, artist or not.