Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Year to Forget

On New Year's Eve, Gene and I toasted the arrival of 2015 with flutes of sparkling juice. Our toast was not so much herald as dirge. "Thank God it's over", we said of 2014. There were some highs-the weddings of our nephew in January, and our oldest son in July. But loss, grief, and heartache had been unwelcome companions for most of the year. We prayed for an easier, happier 2015. Maybe you prayed that prayer, too.  But Margaret Feinberg's new book Fight Back With Joy, forever changed the way I see hardship and loss, and the way I view the year I bid such a harsh farewell. This is too good, too powerful not to share.

Margaret says it so beautifully.

"Life's thorniest paths can lead to great joy. 

Someone in our group confessed, "If I had known how challenging this hike was going to be, I never would have gone."
Most of us are naturally risk averse. We avoid that which might harm or injure us.  We cling to sidewalks and safer paths.  We prefer the comfort of the known versus the pangs of the unknown. 

God in his fierce love, keeps nudging us off-road.  He knows that something special-a transformation that cannot happen on smoother paths-emerges along the rocky, unpredictable terrain of life."

I didn't pick the fights of 2014. As Margaret says, "the fights picked me." My stepson passed away at 24, when all the doctors said he would live.  Several "friends" walked out of our lives, leaving us  deeply wounded.  My mother-in-law slipped further into dementia as Alzheimer's ravaged her memory. I would never have chosen these battles, but through the lens of God's fierce love for me, I see how He revealed His presence when it seemed He was absent.  As we sat in hospital waiting rooms together, day after day, sharing coffee and memories and tears, a lasting and beautiful friendship with my stepson's parents was born, and love healed old hurts.  As friends we broke bread with broke ties with us, God brought new peace and strength to our faith community. And as my Mother-in-law's battle with her mortal enemy raged, we found joy in lucid moments and happy memories. 

Joy is much more than I imagined. 

"More than whimsy, joy is a weapon we use to fight life's battles. 

Sure, the virtue of joy is an upbeat companion for life, but that is not the whole story.  The true power of joy supersedes a chirpy disposition, candy-coated emotion, or saccharine fantasy. It's far more tangible than any magical notion of clicking your heels and discovering your bliss.

Joy serves a useful and mighty purpose.  Sometimes it comes through others as a gift of grace, but just as often it requires intentionality.  

God is an unconventional teacher.  He uses paradox to imbue us with common sense, propels healing through pain, and hauls clarity into our lives through the most confusing circumstances. In my case, God interrupted my misguided joy experiment in order to take me on a joy expedition.  This journey was fraught with depression and loneliness, tears and turmoil-using unlikely circumstances to deliver joy instead of destroy it."

With artful, vulnerable storytelling, Margaret shares her very personal battle with breast cancer and outlines a clear strategy for fighting our own battles using the powerful force of joy. I'm so excited about the life-changing message of this book, I chose Fight Back With Joy for our Winter Ladies Bible study.  We are all impatiently waiting to start this study/journey together.  May God transform you and me as we learn to Fight Back With Joy!

Get the book here: Amazon; or here: Barnes and Noble; or get the Six-Session Bible Study kit for your book club, study group, or your own library.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


"And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us." 2 Corinthians 1:10

The morning was so peaceful.  I was enjoying the beautiful view from my window, sipping my coffee, reading devotions and email.  Suddenly, there was a ruckus outside. As I stepped onto the porch, I could tell the commotion was coming from the downspout.   Obviously, some small creature had slipped into the downspout from the gutter on the roof above, and was trapped inside.  In order to prevent the downspout water from gushing into the flower bed below it, my husband had attached a small elbow, which causes the water to flow underneath the rocks and into a drain.  For our critter-friend, that meant no way out but up the pipe, and the inside is too slippery for climbing.  So the frantic sound I heard was the panic of the creature who discovered there was no way out. That panic stirred compassion in me, I had to do something.

Now, those who know me know that I am not handy in the least.  I can tell a phillips screwdriver from a flathead, and that’s the sum total of my fix-it knowledge.  So how am I going to get this whatever-it-is out of my downspout?  I called Gene, who cheered me on, but offered no help.  Thanks honey.  I put on long sleeves and gloves, just in case whatever was stuck in there was grumpy or rabid, gathered some screwdrivers (both phillips and flathead) and headed for the porch.  After a few minutes of removing screws, I was able to push the sections apart just enough to see a fuzzy brown head.  It took just a minute longer to separate them wide enough to see the captive inside.  There, looking up at me with shiny black eyes, was a very small chipmunk.  It took him a second to realize he was free, then off he went into the forest.  I was so thrilled.  I rescued the little guy!

I thought as I went back inside how Jesus rescued me.  When I was without hope and without God, He drew me to Himself.  As Pastor Ed shared the gospel on that winter Sunday morning in 1989, I heard Him call, and I wanted Him to rescue me.  Setting the little captive free this morning was a small kindness that made a life and death difference to that creature.  How much more should we have compassion on the thousands of people in our cities who have no way out unless we share Jesus, the Rescuer, with them?  Do you know someone who needs the rescue only God can give?  You can do something! Invite them to go to church with you this weekend.  Share your story.  Help them find their way.

Prayer for Today:  Father, thank you for rescuing me from sin, for giving me new life and freedom in Christ.  Open my eyes to the needs of those around me.  Grant me boldness, that I may lead them to You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Strawberry Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie

This is quick, easy, filling and yummy! Perfect breakfast for hectic mornings, and kids love it. Thanks, allrecipes.com!

For 2 servings:

 1 cup soy milk (or almond milk, coconut milk, etc)
 1/2 cup rolled oats
 1 banana, broken into chunks
 14 frozen strawberries
 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar (or equivalent amount of your favorite sweetener)

Combine ingredients in the blender and pulse/blend until smooth. Serve immediately.  Experiment with the recipe! I like to add whatever I have on hand: some blueberries, a few peach slices, a small amount of fruit juice instead of sugar...always a treat! Enjoy :o)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fresh Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips. Yes, please.

Trust me, when you bring this stuff to a party or shower, you won't bring home any leftovers.  Oh so fresh, fruity and pretty too! Super easy and quick to make.  Thanks to allrecipes.com for this gem!

 Fresh Fruit Salsa
 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
 2 apples - peeled, cored and diced
 8 ounces raspberries
 1 pound strawberries, coarsely chopped
 1 cup fresh, ripe pineapple, cut in chunks
 2 tablespoons white sugar
 1 tablespoon brown sugar
 3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor (I love orange marmalade)

 10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
 butter flavored cooking spray
 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

Directions (15 mins prep, 10 mins baking, ready in 45 mins)
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, apples, raspberries, strawberries, pineapple, sugars and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees. Coat one side of each flour tortilla with butter flavored cooking spray. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle wedges with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Spray again with cooking spray. Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes. Don't over-brown. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes on a wire rack. Serve with chilled fruit mixture.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Different is Good

Different is good in all kinds of ways. My husband and I are SO different, even after 34 years together.  For instance, I came downstairs this morning at 6:15, turned on the lights, fed the critters, made coffee,  tidied the kitchen, started breakfast, opened the blinds, and Febreezed everything that didn't move. I may or may not have been humming the whole time.  I'm a lot like this in the morning:

Meanwhile, Gene ambled into the kitchen about 6:45, got a Diet Coke from the fridge, and shuffled back upstairs for a bath...in complete silence.  He's a lot like this in the morning:

Growing up, his family bought theatre tickets, mine bought National Park passes.  His family took student groups to England, mine took the Plymouth to Salt Lake City. He says 'sushi', I say 'cat food'. Let's call the whole thing off! 

Fortunately, we don't have to be alike to have a thriving relationship. Recently at church, we looked at Ephesians 4:16.

"He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love."
(emphasis mine)

I'm so thankful there are artists and musicians, visionaries and detail people, neat freaks and mess makers, leaders and followers, out-front people, and behind the scenes people in my family and in my church! Isn't it awesome that God equipped us to fit in families and churches, and made us to need each other to grow? Many people search for a mate, or friends, or a church full of people just like them, when what's most beneficial to us is exactly the opposite. I can't grow or be healthy like I'm supposed to without you.

What would it look like if we celebrated our differences with our mate, our kids, our church instead of bemoaning them? What if we stopped trying to mold others into our image? Ephesians 4:16 says our relationships, families, even His body the Church, would be healthy, growing and full of love. Different is very, very good!

Prayer for Today: Father, You've made us fit together, each using their own gifts and talents to help others grow.  Help me to embrace the differences in my spouse, kids, family, and church so those relationships will be healthy, growing and full of love.  Amen.