Tag Archives: deb palmer

BETA Readers – The Heart Behind Our Book

target reader3Every morning I sip hot black coffee, telling stories to an invisible friend. We share a few tears, a giggle or two and a wink when we know a surprise is coming in the next chapter. My friend is quiet, interrupting only to ask an apropos question like “what did that feel like?” I know this friend like my own heart and blood, yet I could not pick them out of a crowd or recognize their face in a photograph.

I’m talking about my target reader. The person I imagine curling up with my book upon its completion. The person God places in my heart and mind, all day, all night. The person this story will speak to, minister and bring healing to. Who are you? Did I stand next to you selecting eggs at Safeway today? Pass you on the street? Are you the telemarketer, I hung up on?

Last week my husband and I met with our BETA Readers to share a meal, express gratitude and listen.  I felt awkwardly delighted that the book was the center of attention. I’d planned on discussing other topics during dinner, the polite thing to do. In my defense for  breaking Emily Post’s etiquette basics, this group has little common ground to share. After all, they were selected to test the reading waters based on gender, age and interest variables, not similarities. Besides, detouring the subject from the book would have been like asking a heroin addict to focus on world events while holding a loaded syringe.

Earlier that morning, I read the words I believe all writers long to hear, “I couldn’t stop reading it… I have to know what happens next.” Yes! Yes! Yes!. The best words ever, written by a newbie BETA Reader enlisted to fill an untested demographic slot. I didn’t think it could get better than that, but it did. After dinner the discussion turned to target readers, I lapped up their thoughts like a starving cat.

 I listened to my BETA Readers talk amongst themselves, and like a negative clearing in the chemical wash, the face, heart, mind and soul of my reader appeared. Seeing my invisible friend who sits by my side every morning come to life through my BETA readers refueled my inspiration tank. I highly recommend using a test group such as mine. If you’ve researched this system, you already know I ignored a rather important rule – wait until the book is complete before letting them read it… oops. I knew that,  but chose to ignore it, desperate for encouragement as the book progresses. They’ve been pushing me forward all along and I’m grateful for their willingness to stay the course.

The insights they shared are invaluable. I learned the book’s target is genderless and could appeal to young adults through seniordom. It’s a story the reader will want to share with others. It’s for those who like humor, romance and intrigue. For those who love God and those who don’t know him yet. For readers who are an alcoholic, love an alcoholic or want to learn more about the struggles of addiction. The story has something for singles and married folks as well.

Those are the bones of many potential readers. When the subject switched to whom this story will minister to, I could see the person sitting next to me every morning. Please understand, I am thrilled anyone will enjoy reading the book, but the ache in my heart, placed by God, is for someone specific… some genderless person intimately pursued… invited to experience the Grace our Father awaits to shower upon them.

This person, is hurting, desperate, searching for help in all the wrong places. They have banged on doors of self-help, destruction, human failure and quick fixes, none of which helped, and they are facing the last house on the block. They secretly want God in their life, but believe He wants nothing to do with them until they change. It’s not that they are not willing to change, they believe they are not capable, and they are right. What they don’t know is that Grace is waiting… beckoning… wanting only a willingness to accept it.

That’s who I share my story for. My story of a clueless couple whom God loved back to life. I want this for my reader, the person God has placed on my heart to care for, to love, to disciple through the story of my journey.  I want this reader to know if God could love me as I was, and as I am today, both options a messy person, then He certainly loves them!

I’m grateful for the love God gifted to my heart for my most special reader.

Psst… curious about our book? Click the link below to read a sample chapter. In Spite of Us - Chapter Previewhttps://debpalmerauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

Prayer – The First and Last Tool You’ll Ever Need

 A red tool box with the letters TOOLS.

A heart of solid stone… that’s what it would take to survive if I did not have PRAYER in my toolbox. For all the times past, present and future when I could not, would not or did not DO anything. When I stepped over the vomit sopped drunk asleep in the alley… kept quiet when gossip sprayed across a room like a sneeze… or daily, doing my thing, ignoring what I read or heard on the news.

One seemingly standard-issue day, a woman stood across the counter at my Antiques store holding a new, cheaply made, necklace spinning a story of ancient history and real gold. I wasn’t listening much to what she was saying, I’d heard the yarn many times. Instead, I looked into her dead eyes desperately seeking a sign of life. There was a hint of youth despite her cadaverous persona.

 When I explained the necklace was neither gold nor old, a new lie snaked out between decayed teeth, something about needing $10 to catch a bus because she was stranded. Again, I knew the story. I wasn’t really listening. My mind spun like a Rolodex searching for solutions. I want to help but know I do not hold that kind of power. Part of me wants her to disappear so I can return to the bliss of denying the world around me. Bad ideas exhausted, I remember where my help comes fromPlease God… help me know what to do.

“I don’t want the necklace. You need help. I can see that. I’ll give you the money. You’ll run to the nearest drug dealer. We both know that. First, would you let me pray with you?”

She agreed.

Ordinarily I pray eyes shut intently listening, this time I kept them open, revealing a momentary glimpse of light, a peek at youth, a trace of a softening heart. The dark hollows holding the dead eyes, damp from tears. My senses heightened, I heard a tear hit the glass on the counter, one of mine. We shared a smile in another world. She looked away, but not before I saw childlike innocence. With amen, the glow on her face drained, leaving a desperate look of “where’s the cash?”

I ignored her demanding stature, going on about my church, suggesting ways she could get help until finally succumbing to her outstretched hand. With the ten dollar bill in hand, she raced for the door, stopped at the stoop, turned my way…

“I’ll be okay. Really. I’ll look for you at your church, Vineyard… right?”

That was several years ago. I think of her often, and pray. I wonder, did God answer our prayer? Is she living a full and vital life today, free from the bondage of drugs? Yet, it’s hard to picture her anything but dead. Maybe it was ME God healed that day, a progressive miracle, kneading my heart.

Helpless? Yes. Without hope? Never. One tool, prayer, keeps me sane. Without it, I’m an idiot. A busy, frantic, destructive action figure believing the delusion that I can fix things like a self-help, handyman, super hero.

I don’t know about you, but some days I am not able to ignore the dead bodies piling up just beyond the sanctity of my white picket fence. My eyes open to see the child hiding behind the gang tattoos, the loneliness around the widow in the supermarket, the daily news of tragedies, near and far, now and soon to come. I try not to dwell there and sometimes prefer a blindfold to a prayer, admittedly because when I feel helpless I forget that prayer is a verb.

Still… how do you stand by and watch a proverbial scene of man repeatedly beating himself with a stick? You ask them to quit? Yes, but they won’t stop. What then? We watched a friend toss 14 years of sobriety as simply as crumpling a sheet of paper, hurled into the waste basket. He lived in a small house directly in front of our kitchen window. A close friend to my husband, a new acquaintance of mine. We stood at our kitchen window, washing dishes, witness to the deterioration of a hearty, vital, vivacious man, morphing into a soulless human shell. All the schemes and well wishes of kings could not have brought him back. We, like many others, prayed… and prayed some more. He clearly wanted nothing more than to get life over with as fast as possible. I remember many prayers that he would experience God’s grace.

After two years of warring with himself, stopping periodically to gain enough strength to return to the battle of self-destruction, he miraculously “got it.” No earthly explanation. Today he lives, that’s a big deal in itself. Cooler yet, he’s living out the miracle as a generous, boisterous, fun-loving character searching for ways to show Grace to others; volunteering time and energy to anyone in need.

I’m grateful for the prayer tool in my otherwise empty toolbox. As an insomniac, I’ve learned to embrace this time as an opportunity to listen through the ears of my heart as God whispers the names of those I should pray for. It’s a special time cuddling with Father God. More often than not, sleep returns before I can finish the prayer list; waking with the remaining names on my heart ready for a fresh pre-dawn prayer session.

Honestly, I prefer the secret intercessory times than face to face prayers. Though that’s not completely true. Better to say I shy away from it, humbled when the Holy Spirit conducts, orchestrates and completes, leaving me aware of my lack of necessity in the scheme. I may be standing there, but the “me” of the moment, is obliterated from the equation.

I try to remember those times when I am tempted to ignore the still small voice prompting me to pray with someone. Shamefully, I remember asking a woman I respected at a retreat “how are you doing?” Expecting to hear “great” or “fine” she responds with “not so good.” I heard my heart say “May I pray with you,” but out of my mouth came, “I’ve a funny story that will cheer you up.” It didn’t. I walked away, head down.

The desire to provide a quick fix like slapping on a band-aid, giving lame advice, side swiping with a compliment (great shoes), or telling a joke must be hereditary. My dear, loving, funny, best-ever Na-na could make me madder than a wet cat (one of her terms). With perfect timing… like right after a skinned knee or whacked elbow, she’d say, “just think how much better it will feel when it quits hurting.”

AAAAAAAAAAGGGH! It still gets me to think about it.

 We all have times in our life when we need more than a funny story or flippant remark. Likewise, there are times when we need to GIVE something more than a slapstick distraction. Many times, most times for me, prayer will be the only tool clanking around in the empty tool box. A funny thing I’ve learned is that when I use this tool to help another, something broken inside myself gets repaired as well.

In Spite of Us - Chapter Previewhttps://debpalmerauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

Can Your Dream to be an Author Come True?

1950s author card deck
Me, dreaming of becoming an author alongside my buddy Mark Twain. Sigh…

Like most girls in the 1960s, I dreamed of playing house with a plastic Ken-type husband gallivanting around in a pink convertible packed with smiling children. Even so, I bored easily with the game, preferring an alternative fantasy – to be an author.

The daydream took place in a cabin in the woods where I labored day and night at a primitive desk holding a stack of tattered gilded edge Mark Twain books, a flask, a fat cigar, and an Underwood portable typewriter. Other props included a No. 2 pencil as a pseudo quill fountain pen, and although I pictured a bushy beard, I settled for messy hair.

Truth is, I didn’t actually write much in those days. It was more about the mysterious writer facade. The part about putting words on paper came later and, sadly, I admit to being easily discouraged. I take full responsibility for that, recognizing that many writers pressed through rising above all obstacles, honing their craft from an early age. I on the other hand, stomped off stage with my flask and cigar with the first “boo.”

Maybe there’s a future blog brewing on the false starts, failures, brokenness and repeated murders of my lifelong desire to write, but this is not it. Instead, this post is about today, tomorrow and the next. All the days to come, promising a “do over.” No excuses or justifications. Do I have what it takes to be a writer or do I go back to swigging air from a flask in front of a blank sheet of paper?

Declaring war on my fears, I’ve been writing for an hour here and there for over a year trying to complete my first book, while maintaining an online antiques business and scaling out a pound or two of personal life. At first I could hardly wait to complete my self-inflicted writing sentence of one hour. Each word painfully squeezed out only to be deleted, exchanged or groaned at. Finally, one day a paradigm shift occurred. I no longer felt dread seeking the first word, it was the period at the end of the writing session I rued. Words came a little easier, my confidence peeked and winked at me from around the corner and a question nagged like a dripping faucet – “Could I write full time?”

That is, if all excuses were removed… the ones shielding me from finding out what I can or cannot do. Would I? Could I?… hack it as a full time writer? Or do I secretly want to remain in the pretend world alongside my justifications and alibis. Then the question became, is this book supposed to happen or not?

Tormented, I had one of those “duh” moments when I remember to take my burdens to God, so I prayed and prayed again, and again. Then one morning I awoke in an epiphany. God blessed us with a good year in our business, leaving us not only with our emergency cushion untouched, but also some extra and we are both in a rare season with flexible schedules.

Could it really be that God wants us to spend this money on ourselves? How could that be, when all around us there are people in need. Yes, we do tithe and give to charities, both ongoing and spur of the moment, but do we live sacrificially? Probably not. We continued praying until we felt certain the money was a blessing meant for us. Leaping hand in hand off the decision cliff with gratitude, we nabbed the cash, planning our dream trip with these specific priorities:

  1. Intimacy and renewal of relationships with Father God.
  2. Intimacy and renewal of relationship with each other
  3. Writing, writing, writing… more writing.
  4. Rest, long walks, good food and quiet.

We ended up in Yachats, Oregon in a charming beach house, with a bay window overlooking our front yard view of the Pacific Ocean’s cresting waves. There in the misty salty air I learned a few things about my writing abilities, limitations and style and some random stuff too.

First – I’m no Stephen King. In his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” he mentions, rather nonchalantly, that he writes 2,000 words 365 days a year. Setting this goal for myself was not productive. I spent most of my time obsessing over the disappointing progress. Wondering: Why my last outpour is only 333 words? If King counts the words in emails, grocery lists, love notes to Tabitha? How about doodling?

Second – Solitude, quiet, gorgeous scenery… even time with the Lord… can be just as distracting as our sometimes busy, noisy home. BUT these distractions renew, giving back more than they take. Whereas the clanging of nagging “to do’s” at home zap spiritual and creative strength.beachselfie2

Third – I don’t regret choosing devotional time with my husband, a prayer walk or even a nap. beachselfie1Shushing the Nazi-esque task master nagging me to sit at the computer until I reach my word quota, results in quality over quantity.

Fourth – God’s timing is essential. The first morning I left my dreamy prayer mode at 3:00 AM, anticipating a spectacular sunrise. Shortly I tired of staring out the bay window into the darkness. Not wanting to wake my husband, I turned to my other friend with all the answers – Google.

Yachats, Oregon, United States Sunset Time

Current Local Time: 3:14am PST

January 5, 2015

Sunrise

7:52 AM

Seriously?

Later, hubby rises at 7:20, three hours later than his normal “up and at ‘em” time. When I ask why the sun is sleeping in until nearly 8:00 he glibly replies “because it’s winter.” Then smiling, he adds “you won’t see it from there anyway dear, the sun rises in the east and you are facing west.”

The lesson: Nothing is going to happen if it’s not God’s timing and if you are not facing in the right direction you could miss the miracle.

Fifth – If you wait for God’s timing, and if you are facing the right direction (see lesson above), you’ll see God at work. DSCN3348Sitting in the bay window, facing west, watching the sunset swirl colors around the sun, I witness His glory in the magnificent and seemingly insignificant. People gather to watch the sunset show, snapping photos with their phones. An elderly couple hold hands… share a kiss. A man with an angry stride, head down, carrying three grocery bags, stops as if tapped on the shoulder, looking up at the progressing sunset like “hey, who did that?” Beckoned by God Himself, he sits on a bench, and although I can’t say for sure, he appeared to be praying.

In the meantime, pink and purple show up center stage, travel outward leaving a golden orb. As the final curtain is about to come down, I notice there’s about a hundred Seagulls gathered for the sunset finale. But, wait a minute… they’re ALL perched with their backs to the view. Stupid birds, what’s wrong with them? (Again, see above).

Sixth – I have no idea what God has in store for me tomorrow, nor even a clue what it should look like. I thought words were going to stack up like snowflakes in a storm. That was not the case, yet I wouldn’t trade one moment of this trip for 20,000 perfect novel-worthy words.

Seventh – I feel, therefore I write. If I stay in the writing closet without stretching my mind occasionally, just like my bottom, my stories suffer numbness, cramps, and possibly rigormortis.

What was the total word count tally of the trip? Drum roll… 9,069. Less than half my goal. Did I fail? I think not. Yes, some days I feel like the book will never see the words “The End” but then I remember it’s all about God’s timing.

            My prayer: Father, let me wait on you expectantly and please don’t let me be a silly seagull facing the wrong direction when the miracle appears. Amen.

A

In Spite of Us - Chapter Previewhttps://debpalmerauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

How Do You Choose A Church If You Don’t Know What You Believe?

Vineyard Christian Fellowship
Yakima Vineyard Christian Fellowship

While vacationing on the Oregon coast in the dearest cottage by the sea, we found ourselves with the dilemma of choosing a church for the fast approaching Sunday. Not wanting to drive out of town left three choices.

  1. Yachats Community Presbyterian Church preschurch

My personal top choice, based on the brochure that reads: “The Church of Agate Windows, ” not because Sandy thought it might be a Pizza Hut.

  1. Yachats Baptist Church bapchurch

Maybe a better choice since choosing a church for the building is rather lame. Then again, I have a tainted view of the Presbyterians, based on childhood profiling, gained from a few sporadic visits. I assumed they were cranky because they had to get all dressed up to sit still and quiet on hard, slick pews. I see from the sign reading: Come As You Are,” they’ve fixed that problem.

  1. Little Log Church and Museumlogchurch

The most intriguing choice, but there’s a slight glitch- they don’t actually have a service. It’s just to look at… hmmm… sort of like owning a Bible for display only.

Over the years, while away from home, we’ve crashed a few random churches, but we are far from experienced shoppers. Choosing a church for a single hit and run Sunday service is not a huge task, if you are strong in your doctrine and faith and believe God will be there, if you seek Him. Worse case scenario, you walk away grateful for the church back home. Contrarily, if you’re searching for a church to call home, you’d best put some thought into it.

I’m grateful for God’s hand in my church hunting expedition, which began with a list of six churches in Yakima, Washington, (our home town), recommended by various concerned friends over the years. It was some time in September 2001, before the collapse of the Twin Towers that brought hordes of new and returning temporary relief seekers to church. Keep in mind, at the time, I, like many who walk into our churches today, was ill equipped to know what I should be looking for. How do you know what doctrine to adopt if you’ve never read the instruction book? Maybe, like myself at the time, you weren’t even sure the Author existed? What then? I knew one thing only… I was hurt, broken, out of solutions and the only thing I hadn’t tried was church.

I entered the first church on my list, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Yakima, donning my best “I’m invisible, better back off” suit of armor, slipping through the doors undetected. The building itself was my ideal, thus holding the number one place on the list. It was built in 1904 using huge impressive looking stones. Inside, under a domed ceiling the stained glass windows provide a kaleidoscopic light show of jade and gold dancing round the mahogany columns, beams and majestic 24 foot tall sliding doors.church4

That day I climbed the stairs to the balcony, studying the angelic crowd below, with their seemingly perfect lives, born into idealistic Christian homes that made the right decisions, day in, day out. I wondered if they could see or sense the mess of my past, and shuddered they might have some kind of religious telepathy, capable of hearing the non-pure thoughts renting space in my head. I was confident they wouldn’t have the nerve to throw me out, stone me or point fingers my way, mouths agape. I figured they must have been taught this behavior is considered poor etiquette in “Being a Good Christian 101.”

Fast forward 12 years. The second church on my list still has no check mark next to it. Much has changed, and I’ve learned a few things. One being that, the angelic looking people that first day had some messes for God to work on also. Another, being that although the building is worthy of awe, it’s what’s inside that counts, or rather who’s inside.

At the time of my first visit, Wayne Purdom was the pastor, whom later ushered my husband into the fold with his down to earth sincere concern and genuine interest in others. Four years later, God moved the gifted Purdom family cross state to plant a new church and bless others. That left us a church in a lurch. I had one foot readied for escape as I pictured some worn out constipated-looking guy alongside a screeching soprano “everything is hunky dory” type wife, abducting our cherished “come as you are” church family.

Much prayer and several months later, no one answered the call. With a tremendous team of church leaders, our church body suffered no neglect, but time was ticking with no potential candidates in sight. Then one Sunday, a surprise announcement was made… Jimmy John Morris, our talented worship leader, would be stepping up as senior pastor.

Honestly, we were concerned. He was a super guy, remarkably talented musician, devoted worship leader, and he was funny. Even so, he didn’t seem like an obvious shoe in for this position. We asked God to show us what He planned to do with this young man, but frankly, doubt is a noisy occupant, and neither of us could hear any kind of response. So, we made a pact with God and ourselves to stick it out and see if He would show us more than a great guy with a good sense of humor and a hillbilly name.

The following months, we sat stiff necked with arms crossed in a defensive pose, but we kept our promise to suit up and show up. Neither of us could say when or how it happened, but shortly after the initial shock, we recognized the man standing at our pulpit was undeniably anointed to pastor this church. We’re grateful God didn’t ask our advice, knowing who would best serve His church. Today we’re blessed with Jimmy John and his wife Donna, who vigilantly seek His guidance under the care and protection of the Holy Spirit. Whether enjoying a season of prosperity or one that appears hopeless, they practice the positioning statement on our Sunday program “Love God, Love ALL People.” A tall order for some of us… well at least it is for me. I know… I know… it should be easy, but our church is all about authenticity, so get over it.

It feels good knowing our home church, with our family of incredibles, is a safe haven with sound doctrine, an incubator for hurting souls not knowing what they need. Number two on our shopping list may never happen – so much for comparison shopping.

We still need to make a decision for this Sunday since we cannot drive 339 miles back to Yakima. For fun, we put the choices to a vote on Facebook. Phew… not the best idea I ever had. I didn’t mean for it to become a yay or nay on any given denomination. In retrospect, I see my error and apologize for the lack of thought given prior to posting the ballot. I don’t regret what I learned from this.

Whether a mature Christian ready for solid food or an infant needing pablum, the church you select should serve healthy portions of Love.

1 Corinthians 13:1

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

As it turns out we attended both church services, consecutively. When your faith and beliefs are strong, you can give glory to God under the roof of any church. I don’t think he’ll mind if you raise your voice and heart in worship, even if you disagree with the doctrine. Granted, it may be best to find another choice for your home church.

On the other hand, if you’re a new believer shopping for a church, your first task is to read your Bible and test what is being taught based on His word. Look for someone you can trust to help. A good pastor will be more than happy to answer questions and find you the help you need to gain understanding.

 In the meantime, whether a newbie or not, keep seeking Him.

In Spite of Us - Chapter Previewhttps://debpalmerauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

The Marriage Dance – Our Top Ten Differences that Sharpen our Marriage

Marriage - Relationships- Harmony
Marriage: A graceful dance for few – a time of stepping on each other’s toes for many.

As iron sharpens iron,

so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

            The marriage dance… synchronized grace… harmony… coordination.  A couple gliding across the floor, form and shadow… perfection. Sigh…

Then there’s real life marriage, like ours. It’s a dance too. I’m the one, beat abandoned, arms flailing, one foot clogging, the other waltzing. My dance partner/husband Sandy, is the easy does it guy with a lackadaisical sway, dancing, mainly with facial expressions–just picture a stoned mime. That dance accurately describes our daily challenge to not step on each other’s toes.

            Recently on a short road trip we were brainstorming topics for potential blog posts. Doesn’t everyone do that for auto-tainment? I had a banner idea… the top ten annoying things he does that make me crazy. I scribble them with ease in my notebook while he quietly drives down the road. “Finished ta-da!… piece of cake… I’m ready to write the sequel.”

“Okay, but first, I have ten of my own, counter to yours.” he says.

A strong marriage team is like complementary colors which, when placed next to each other, create the strongest contrast and reinforce each other. So here they are below, in living color.

Number One

He’s like a GPS chatterbox. Have you ever heard that saying “ask the time and he’ll build you a clock?” That’s my husband. If you ask for driving directions, you have to know when to walk away, usually after his first three steps. After that… he wanders… listing alternative routes… sharing memories of the last time he was there… asking questions like, “remember the auto parts store on the corner?”

She never pays attention to where she’s going. Even if she’s been someplace a dozen times she’ll ask me for directions… walking away, fingers in ears before I’m finished. Later, she calls, irritated with me because she’s lost.

Number Two

I’m in the middle of a project, reach for my hammer, but it’s nowhere in sight. Why? Because Mr. Neat Nik put it away. He’s OCD about his sacred tools. One day I’m searching for a simple screwdriver. He runs into the garage, clearly shaken, accusing me of tool abuse. The specific crime was opening and closing the drawers too fast causing the pretty little rows of tools to fall out of alignment. Really?

I know Deb’s up and ready to start the day when I walk into the kitchen and bang my head on one of all the cupboard doors left open. Her logic is that she might need back in there someday. And, she’s a junkie for junk drawers. We have 27, with more on the way. What goes in a junk drawer? Whatever fits. She even carries a mobile junk drawer disguised as a purse.

Number Three

I’m forced to live my life at least 15 minutes early. All those minutes spent waiting for the normal guests to arrive. We are always first, period… no challengers. I suspect our friends will soon start tampering with the time on our invitations because they’re tired of entertaining us before the party begins.

She calculates our departure time like a ticking time bomb, not wanting to arrive one millisecond early. What’s with that? What horrendous plight awaits early guests? Do the hosts eat the first to arrive? Punctuality is not a crime. And ish? It’s not a time. Period.

Number Four

He won’t try new things. Food likes and dislikes are written in stone. If it’s green, he’s leery. If he tried something once as a toddler, he’s not giving it another chance. Memories of childhood food traumas rule his adult taste buds.

 I – DON’T – LIKE – LIVER. Is that so complicated? I don’t care how many people she has converted to “liverites” with her special recipe, the flavor and disgusting texture have not changed since I was a kid. That goes for most green foods, like avocados. How about oysters? She tosses raw oysters down her throat and wonders why I don’t trust her food judgment. 

Number Five

As picky as he can be, (see above), he has no problem devouring 30 day old leftover pizza. He responds to my concerns for his health with “what?” And expiration dates on food? They’re just some conspiracy theory bunk.

 40 years ago, she may have gotten food poisoning after eating a burger from one of our local restaurants. It’s obvious she was the only target because they’re still in business today. If they still want Deb dead, she’ll never know because she’s not going back. If I get a craving for one of their famous juicy burgers, I have to sneak for fear she’ll barge through the door with a makeshift stomach pump. Even worse, if she hears someone reported slight nausea after eating at a national chain restaurant across the world, our local version is exnayed off the list… forevermore.

Number Six

Remember the story of the Princess and the Pea? She was so delicate and sensitive she could feel a pea placed under a stack of 10 mattresses. That’s Sandy. He complains of imaginary minute particles jabbing his back side. This carries over to his clothing. He’s been known to remove tags from shirts leaving a gaping hole and according to him, he’s under constant attack from his killer underwear.

You know the saying that “____ rolls downhill?” Well, I‘m bigger than Deb, so my side is where all the crackers, peanuts and popcorn end up. There’s nothing worse than starting the day with a peanut embedded in your back like a 3-d tattoo.

Number Seven

Rules are suggestions and never apply to him. He’ll suffer dire consequences to reserve his right to break the rules. If the button says don’t push, he’s going to push it. If the sign says wrong way, he ignores it. He even jumps up and down on motel beds. My guess is he was told not to when he was three.

She’s a slave to rules. It’s genetic. You better read the guide book before meeting the family. There are rules for all occasions, even simple ones, like dinner. I was warned not to pass food in the opposite direction. If her dad orchestrates the peas, potatoes and meat clockwise, you must abide. I tried, but wouldn’t you be curious what would happen if the biscuits rebelled and suddenly turned counter clockwise? As you can imagine… nothing horrific happened… until later when I got an earful from Deb.

Number Eight

If it were up to Sandy, all life would be freestyle. No plans. There’d be no such thing as wedding planners, special event coordinators or even simple dinner menus. We’d all just show up somewhere random and fend for ourselves. Yet, when life gets messy, he’s right there asking me questions like “what shall we do?” Stick to the plan… oh, yeah… we don’t have one.

Compared to Deb, the Boys Scouts of America are slackers. She over prepares for everything. Her to-do lists have master lists, outlines for future lists and appendices for existing lists. Once she’s tortured me with the original micro-plan, the second “just in case” phase begins, . If she invites you to dinner and you find fifty hungry strays on the way, no worries, she’s ready.

 Number Nine

In his mirror, dressed up means wearing a T-shirt with a clever (subjective) statement. If it’s a worthy quip, holes or stains are no concern. What’s wrong with a starched white shirt and blue jeans? Someday I’m having a shirt made for him that reads: Disclaimer: My wife does not pick out my clothing. 

She gets a sadistic thrill when I wear uncomfortable clothing. Starch is her friend, not mine. My neck will be red, raw and my legs chaffed and bleeding from new stiff jeans… she’ll shoot me a sick grin saying, “you look so nice.” I suspect it’s payback for high heels and bras.

Number Ten

He doesn’t even try to keep up with the conversation. This is the man who can build a house from a tree, fix just about anything and tests high on IQ tests. Yet, he can’t keep up with a lighthearted update chat of the week?

Once again, I try. Yet, I’m the insensitive jerk because I’m lost between conversation change one and two while she’s darting between 11, 12 and 13. How did we go from squash to her mom’s hair color? I’m not sure what kind of tree that is? Yes, I agree the treehouse needs painted this year. I didn’t realize buttermilk was a color. Yes, biscuits sound good for breakfast. I try, I really try.

     Yes, he drives me crazy and, I guess, I have the same effect on him. The truth is, we celebrate these differences as they make us better individuals and strengthen our coupledom. There is mutual benefit in the rubbing of two iron blades together; the edges become sharper, making the knives more efficient in their task to cut and slice.

If you want your own messy relationship to flourish, we have one word of advice:

Lead each other to the cross. Start there… live there… die there.

Beauty Tips from the Acclaimed Universal Expert – God

calla lily field

“Pretty is as pretty does.”

That’s what Mom said… just at the right moments, like when–

I told my little brother I dip his toothbrush in the toilet…daily. Or after he ratted me out, screaming, “Mom, she’s slugging me again.”

If you’ve survived an impish redheaded younger brother, you get it.

Point is, Mom was right.

We look to celebrities walking the red carpet in the fickle flash of stardom. We buy their creams, dyes, wraps, and philosophies, then wonder why our mirrors betray. We follow every beauty tip Cosmo prints with religious zeal. When a star falls, caught spitting vile words, or cheating, lying and stealing, we see through the thin veil of outer appearance. They stand mascara streaked, tongue frantically wagging in defense, all that was lovely, trumped, when ugly rears its nasty head.

We all want to be attractive, men and women alike. So where do we turn for lasting beauty tips that never fade with time? Makes sense we’d ask the universally renowned expert… God. Besides painting all the colors in His infinite Crayola box, he thought them up. Go ahead, take a moment –try to think up a color. It’s a good exercise proving His ways are higher than ours. So, who better to ask than the creator of all beauty? He has plenty to say on the subject, just read his best selling book. Oh, and it’s His only book – guess you don’t need a sequel when you get it perfect the first time.

Here’s a list of His top five Beauty tips (more are available when you read the book).

1. Clean under the rug. rug

Sweep out the dust bunnies hidden in the corners of your heart. They’re ugly, pesky critters jumping out for all to see with the slightest beam of light. Likewise, who wants to drink from a lovely porcelain cup trimmed in gold if the inside is corroded and stained with gunk.

Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. Luke 11:39

child2. Be like a child.

Not childish, but childlike. Seek the humility of a child who is destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness. Children are characteristically humble, teachable and beautiful. Have you ever listened to a child pray? Not a rote prayer, they don’t understand, but a prayer sent straight from their heart to God. Their prayers soar, express delivery, because they have no excess padding and fluff. Unlike the Pharisees standing on the corner with their pretty prayers, children keep it simple. They might pray for a few dozen dead goldfish, but when their tiny hands raise in praise to their heavenly Father you’ll witness one of life’s most captivating views. Watch and listen to the children, they know what we’ve forgotten long ago.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Matthew 19:14

3. Feed the imperishable, starve the hungry perishables. mirror

Don’t be a slave to your mirror. Mirrors are unfaithful masters that break into a gazillion pieces and rot beside us in our graves. We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t take it with you.” But if you focus your energies on matters with eternal purpose, you’ll at least have something to carry through the pearly gates.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:3-4

4. Don’t worry. calla3

Anxiety, worry and striving are three unattractive traits. I think we’d all agree that Godly confidence is charismatic. A person of steadfast faith draws others near them, effortlessly. I love thinking about the scripture below about ‘how the flowers of the field grow.” It calms me because it’s true. I picture myself spinning in the middle of a field of Calla Lilies. I’m obsessing and asking why, how and what will I do? The Calla Lilies, standing tall in full vibrancy answer me, subliminally, “hey stupid… look at us. Just do what we do.”

“But you’re not doing anything… oh duh.”

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Mathew:6:28

5. Love others. cross

This is God’s number one beauty tip. I saved it for last because if you accomplish this, all the others fall into place. God is love and He is beyond beautiful. He sent his Son to show us. Nothing has or ever will compare to the beauty of His sacrifice. Yet we too can do mighty things through Love. There’s no stain it cannot remove. No darkness it cannot light. No hurt it cannot heal. It never fails. Love’s power pulls you out of the pit, prunes the clinging vines of sin, showers you with grace, and restores us for we are fearfully and wonderfully created.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John3:16

Five Reaction Styles to Fear: When the Boogey Man Knocks does Faith Answer?

The_Scream

Imagine this: After enduring Walmart, you walk to your car, slip the key in the ignition and some guy hops in next to you demanding your cash or he’ll shoot. What would you do?

The 92 year old woman in this newscast simply says no – three times. Next she tells the intruder why his plan is not a good idea.

“ I’ll go to heaven and you’ll go to hell.”

With calm assurance she points out that Jesus is with her, even now in the car. The grace-shocked, would-be assailant tears up, kisses her cheek, and goes home to pray. He did take all her money, $10, that is after she insisted on giving it to him. No wonder Jesus hangs out with her. What a woman.

Her story got me thinking. How would I respond to such a threat? A look at my past reactions to fear revealed five styles.

  • Survival
  • Self Righteous Stupidity
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a hoot.
  • Faith

 

                Survival

The Depot Café was known around town for knife fights, lewd behavior and a popular after hours cocktail, kept under the counter for special patrons. I worked weekend graveyard shifts, raking in hefty tips and wild stories to boast about Monday mornings at school. It was exciting, like entering the pages of a Dicken’s novel alongside seamy, colorful characters. There was Zeke, a soft spoken Native American guy, notorious for fighting, failing nightly at convincing his challengers he no longer wanted to compete. And Sam, sometimes lucid with tales of better times, but most often blitzed and forlorn. One night seated next to my dad at the counter, he plops face first into his bowl of chili.

“See? This is not a good job,” said Dad shaking his head.

Had Dad been in yesterday, Sam was on the same stool alongside his granddaughter, eating ice cream and giggling.

Granted, not ALL the characters were charming… like creepy Chuck. One night he flashed his pistol from inside his jacket pocket, slurring hostile obscenities at me. My boss, a walking cliché for a movie mobster, motioned for Zeke and they escorted him out the door. An hour later, my shift ended. I lived four blocks away in a studio apartment above a pet store. Within half a block from the diner, I sense creepy Chuck behind me. He’s that Boris Karloff type whose presence is accompanied by horror movie background music. My reaction was simply one of survival when adrenaline revs up and you do whatever it takes. In this case, I ran. Weaving left and right, dazing my wasted stalker, I was able to slip unnoticed under a parked car. The sound of my breathing echoed through the greasy engine above, until finally, daylight talked me out from under the car.

Self Righteous Stupidity

This reaction to fear is simply pride run amok. Just picture a Chihuahua yapping at the heels of evil. Thankfully, most my examples come from my drinking days, but not all. Recently I felt it rising up when a group of gang bangers or wannabes came across my path. The smallest of the three must have practiced his look in the mirror that morning because he had it down. With one look he ordered me to look away, cower, and flee like a frantic quail. Instead, I counter with my best mean mom look with the unsaid message of “where’s your mother young man? I’m not saying I should’ve responded with fear, but my motive, my heart behind this reaction, was neither noble nor courageous. Fortunately, they had paint cans stuffed down their pants ready to mark territory up ahead with no time to deal with an “I’m telling your mother type threat.”

Exaggerated Startle Response

This diagnosis comes from my ever-lurking husband. He doesn’t get why finding him behind a door in a dark hall causes me to spring through the air ninja style, followed by a full throttle wail alerting the neighbors, that yes, he’s finally murdered his wife. This reaction is sudden, like projectile vomiting – the body is in motion faster than my thoughts, saying, “hey, it’s just your husband lurking again.”

Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a hoot

I hope you can’t relate to this reaction to fear, but suspect there are some who do. It’s when a serious threat is rolling towards you and you don’t care enough to step out of the way. It’s the pit of depression, well below the core amongst the burning embers. All you can do is stare up at hope, thinking it’s beyond your reach.

Faith

Crawling out of the pit mentioned above comes only from reacting to fear in faith. I wish I could tell you a tale equal to our 92 year old hero in the video. Not happening. I can only hope someday to be more like her. My faith moments usually sound like this “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, help me, Jesus.” What can I say? It works. Calling on His name, knowing He is always there.

I know we’re called to “fear not,” but for others like me, that’s a calling we pray into fruition. Remember, we’re in great company like King David-

Psalm 34:4 New International Version (NIV)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

 

Psalm 55:4-5New International Version (NIV)

My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.

Would You Trust Your BETA Readers to Pack Your Parachute?

parachute2

This week I selected my BETA readers, delivering the first chapter of our book, “In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God.” It feels like I ripped my heart out, placed it on a platter and gave it to a team of television soap opera surgeons. Now, I wait trusting them to keep it beating.

          Selecting my readers was tough. They’re friends I trust to pack my parachute, defend my honor and point out food stuck between teeth. But I just handed them my writing, as nonchalant as a basket of baked goods. What if it’s one of those bad fruit cakes we pretend to like but secretly wonder why someone bothered to bake it?

After reading volumes on choosing BETA readers, I gleaned and personalized three essentials.

  1. They must know me well enough to tell the truth, dodge the verbal rock tossing and believe me when I tell them I want honesty. They cannot be wimps, easily intimated by short bouts of crying, cursing or whining.
  2. They cannot be Teacher Wannabes. You know the ones like those kids you played school with? The bossy Hitler types insisting they be the teacher. This reader would demand a flogging for using a dangling participle because they like saying the word “participle.” And kind words or encouragement would be nonplussed.
  3. They must be people whose yes means yes and no means no. People willing to commit with no hope of a reward beyond a sincere thank you and a hug.

After an excruciating process sparring between trust and distrust, I came up with four + one BETA readers. Here’s the rundown of who made the list and why:

Ray Wockner:ray

A salty, “tell it like it is” guy with a big heart. A great choice. Ray’s one of those remarkable people with experience on both sides of the fence. He’s suffered, made stupid choices, fought losing battles. When friends had nearly given up on him, he flipped over in his self-dug grave surprising us all, resurrecting new-found humility and strength along with the uncanny ability to keep on loving people… even though. He’s a long term friend of both my husband and myself. Most importantly, Ray knows… who we used to be… how different we are today… and WHO helped us.

 

Jackie Archibald:jackie

 

A lovely woman of great faith. The most determined woman I know. I’ve watched this lady persevere through unimaginable circumstances. Jackie’s that special type of friend who won’t let you give up. She cares. She prays. She asks the tough questions. Jackie feeds me hope, reminding me that God is behind my work, pushing me forward.

Ande Hising:

ande

Analytical, intellectual, thorough… a woman who won’t settle for mediocrity, not for herself… not for others. My history with Ande is intense. We don’t always agree, but after a volatile reaction (mine) we find ourselves standing side by side on an island of mutual respect. She is a hard choice for me because… well… she won’t make it easy. That’s good and bad. She passionately believes God’s blessed me with a gift to write. How awesome is that? The problem is Ande’s passion means there’s work to be done. She’ll show up at my door with 75 books I need to read, a list of 700 people I should contact and before she leaves give me some personal advice. I’m fortunate to have her on this list. She’s an avid reader, hyper-intelligent and a good friend.

Evan Garfein:evan

A solid, stable, bright and Godly young man. Our 16-year-old grandson. I’ve asked this special young man for his input for extremely personal reasons. Our book is not of interest to teens. It’s not an adventurous, action-packed tale of senior citizen zombies. It’s the truth about his grandparents… no polish, nothing omitted. All the stuff we’d rather he didn’t know… but knowing it proves God’s grace and power. We need Evan’s wise heart to witness the miraculous restoration God performed on his not so admirable grandparents.

Natalie Phillips: (the plus one)

natalie2

I refer to Natalie as “plus one” because she’s more than a BETA reader. This delightful, fun-loving, super resourceful friend plopped into my life “ka-plunk” like an angel from heaven. God’s timing is perfect along with his choice of helper. Who else would selflessly give of her skills to edit for an unknown struggling confidence lacking writer? Who does that kind of stuff? Her friendship is invaluable. Together we’re learning how to trust, be vulnerable, share our love for God, respect differing doctrines, and most importantly, let our hair down and have fun. She’s much more than my comma Nazi. She’s a sweet spirited, Catholic raised woman, reading about our messy past tales, celebrating God’s power to change hearts. Her opinion holds a place of honor.

That’s the lineup. My BETA readers for my first book. My pit crew… my friends.

Labor Day – Celebrate a Job Well Done: The American Dream? Go Get a Job

work5
1960’s dime store, similar to the one I worked at.

As the daughter of a Union trucker and his hard working wife, who waited up to serve him dinner on a lap tray, I learned four basic rules of life:

  1. Say please and thank you
  2. Take a weekly bath (using the same tub water, beginning with the eldest to youngest).
  3. Clean your plate, never leaving a scrap of meat on the bone

AND… the most important…

  1. Get a job – keep it – be grateful for it

One day early in my job history, my boss politely asked if I would please duck under the counter. To which I replied, “ Uh… okay.”

This was a time when a power outage meant using a crank on the electric cash register. It was a year before we were allowed to wear slacks, not jeans to public school. A time when dime stores like Woolworths and Ben Franklins carried everything your heart desired without a supersized building a city block long. The uncluttered shelves did not have 30 competing brands of toothpaste, but you could buy fabric by the yard, stock your aquarium, select a gallon of paint and have a key made for your front door while enjoying a chocolate soda from the fountain.

I was fifteen and although this was not my first paid job, it was a ladder rung above my prior burger joint positions. If I’m asked to duck under the counter, I’m there waiting to see if I’m told to quack. In my household, earning a paycheck was more important than good grades, perfect school attendance or even being kind to your neighbor. Besides, the early job release program meant abandoning my jobless classmates three hours before dismissal bell. It just never got old… slapping my book shut, rising to exit as if called on a mission doomed to fail without my assistance.

I noticed the request to hide under the counter or slip out the back door of The Main Street Variety Store happened whenever two fellows wearing drab brown suits with matching brief cases appeared. One day, when curiosity outweighed the suspense of hiding, I dallied long enough to get eyeballed by the men in suits.

Minutes later, Alice, my elderly co-worker (who later fought my plight to wear pants to work because she’d been traumatized by a large woman in pink stretch pants), summoned me to the office. My boss was sitting at his desk, looking as if he’d been pistol whipped, but no blood or bruises backed my theory. He introduced me to the men from the Labor Union who asked me redundant questions, taking notes as if the weight of my “yes sirs, no sirs” were a matter of national security.

One month later, I received a check for $250 with a notation reading: Retroactive Payment. In addition I was given a raise from $1.50 to $3 per hour. This was before the Washington State lottery, but to me I had won, big time. I felt bad for my boss… for about 10 minutes.

The point is, I’m grateful for a family who instilled a strong work ethic to the core of my being. Certainly we need to stop and sniff those roses and not neglect our families. Just as anything we put above God, a job too, can be idol worship. I’m not saying the unemployed should be damned. I am shouting praise that my life is better because I was taught to embrace work as a privilege.

My na-na loved her job so much she lied about her age, enabling 10 additional years of labor before retirement. Her job? Scrubbing floors at the hospital.

Mom diligently served our family, taking on the never ending task as if paid a worthy salary. When a financial emergency arose, like dad falling off a tanker truck breaking his hip, she took a paid position at a nursing home, caring for the patients most basic needs, like diaper changing. After hours, or days off, she’d visit the patients, giving haircuts and clipping unkempt toenails. Many times I witnessed Mom and Na-Na both, physically spent with aching backs, swollen knees and red, chapped hands from harsh detergent water, proclaiming love for their jobs.

I’m proud to say, I have this too (except I’ve been known to complain… okay, even whine). Still, I love my work. I’m blessed with no patience to stay at a job I hate, but resourceful enough to make it into something I enjoy. I could never survive living for the weekend, like many who hate their work.

My heart aches for those who falsely believe work is “a have to” instead of a “get to.” They miss the blessing that comes from “a job well done.” If you are among the fourth generation welfare age who’ve learned a paycheck comes from the mailbox, I’m sad for you. You’ve been deceived. The good life is not staying at home watching reruns on TV. A check you did not earn is not a gift, but more so a curse that traps and keeps you unemployable. It steals your opportunity to dive into the work force making your first of a thousand mistakes, each error a personal trainer pushing you into self-sufficiency.

What’s the solution? I don’t know. I do know we need to squelch the lie that says we are owed a life of slothdom, and remember that living the American dream means we have the freedom to work. The benefits go way beyond the paycheck.

Do we turn away from those in need? Of course not. But when does a handout slap the purpose of a helping hand up? I believe everyone is blessed with something to give back in return for financial aid. Who wouldn’t benefit from knowing they had contributed in order to receive their support? What homeless shelter couldn’t use some help? What government office wouldn’t be more efficient with extra hands? How many zillion tasks could non-profit organizations use some help with? Those with physical limitations could read to patients, water flowers, be an extra set of eyes for security. Everyone can do something… lick a stamp? Stuff an envelope? Greet people? Listen to someone?

I think we should all have a calling, a motive, a purpose. One that we know is a blessed gift from God. One we are compelled to share. One that we know enhances the lives of others no matter how mundane it may seem.

My heart aches for those who have had this basic right stripped away. I don’t blame them. They are innocents, trapped, held in bondage, by one whopper of a lie.

Are Your Expectations Dimming God’s Power?

expect8

Every day he’d march through the historic windy town of Ellensburg, turning right onto Main, passing by my store with the flapping Antiques flag. His warning blasted a block away, allowing time to move inside or duck behind something. Potential customers, eyeing the sidewalk display of old iron beds and steamer trunks, would follow me as I’d slip through the door. From a safe distance, we’d cringe at the sound of his angry words. As the clamor of the one man parade blew by, they’d look to me, eyes wide, faces begging for solace and comfort.

“Blankety blankety blank blank blanking blank blank!” he’d scream, shaking a fist at the invisible tyrant walking next to him.

          “It’s okay. He’s harmless, “ I’d say, peeking out from behind a gargantuan 19th century wardrobe. “It’s a form of Tourette’s Syndrome.” Noting their distrust, I’d add, “ Really. Nothing to worry about.”

One day, while on a ladder washing my store front windows, I hear the cursing turn the corner. There’s no time to scurry down the ladder, so I stay put, pretending oblivion to his noisy presence. I feel guilt and shame for being afraid. How can I shun a human being as if he’s invisible? It’s wrong.

Town talk claims he’s not violent, yet everyone seems to avoid him, and store owners complain that he runs off customers. My feelings of wrong doing linger, leading to eventual prayer and resulting in a sense of conviction. Befriending the cursing crusader became my mission. For starters, a simple greeting… Hmmm… Hello? … Good morning? … Howdy? … How ya doin’?

Every day, as the obscenities drew near, I’d pose in the door, ready to shout a cheer filled greeting. But as the angry banter closed in, I’d panic, stepping back through the door, breathing as if I’d just ditched a serial killer. This went on for days,… okay weeks… and some of that time I failed to even attempt communication.

Then, one day courage arrives (TA-DA!), like a late dinner guest I’d almost given up on. I was ready. When the string of expletives shadowed my door, I stood tall shouting above the swearing.

“Good morning!”

Glancing my way he replies.

“Blankety blankety blank blank blanking blank blank!”

What? I was shaken and confused. This is not what I expected. I did what I felt God would want me to do, and… and… he yelled at me!

I’ll get back to this story, there’s more, but let’s pause a moment.

Am I the only one who does this? Plays let’s make a deal with God? Spouts sentences, whether verbal or in thought like, “If I do this then you’ll do that. Right God? “If I’m good you’ll reward me and it will look like _______________ “ (fill in the blank).

His word says:  Matthew 7:9 NIV: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Of course he doesn’t specify whether that bread will be white, dark, buckwheat or cinnamon toast. How many times have I thought God was not listening to my petitions, only to find out later that the answer was in front of me all along, just not as I’d pictured it. Worse yet, not the answer I wanted. God was not following the script I had prepared for him.

A simple personal example: My husband and I asked God to give us a sign if it was time to close our 16 year old antiques business. We’d asked this before when stress was high and sales were low. Each time, something obvious would happen that turned the business back around. So this time we were expecting something similar. Maybe that designer from Montana will show up with his big truck again, or the gals who bought out my entire line of estate jewelry will come back for more.

The morning after our prayer, news came that our last subcontractor was moving out. That meant we were losing money, not gaining. We should have thought immediately, “Oh, okay God, thanks for the prompt and clear response.” Instead, we scrambled, searching for ways to keep the doors open. Thank God, in the middle of a discussion to take on a hefty loan, we heard what He was saying.

 

Please know… I AM NOT saying we should shrink our expectations of God’s almighty power and desire to bless us. That’s not the point at all. He wants to bless our socks off. But, we, or at least I, don’t always recognize the blessing because it is not what I thought it should look like.

The timing was perfect for closing the business. Once we crawled out from under this burden, we could see the stress… the desperation. We’d been frantically bailing with a holey bucket, trying to keep afloat, safe from the sharks of failure. Little did we know God had a plan for us. Much better than our script… more creative… written by the Author of Happy Endings. Today we enjoy our home business, still dealing in antiques, but leisurely, with no overhead and stress free.

 

Back to the story…

I continued to greet the entrepreneurial cussing master. Days, weeks, months my exuberant greetings reaped only creative profanities. Then on a day no different than any other, it happened… after a simple “Hello.”

He stopped… motioned for the invisible antagonist on his left to wait, looked me in the eye and said, “Good Morning.”

Then he went back to yelling at his invisible debate partner.