Tag Archives: inspirational

Power in the Hands of Church Dudes – Godly Men Rock!

Godly men rock

Their locker room prattle may not hold you spellbound, but it will not insult. Godly men. The ones that do the next right thing. Fathers, husbands, grampas, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, even strangers. Powerful men who unknowingly serve as an antidote for a menagerie of hurts. Godly Men Rock

I love the men of my church. The church dudes. Through them I have witnessed healing, straight from God’s heart. Strong men who use their strengths for good. Heroes to those who witness their kindness, like… Godly Men Rock

The brow beaten widow, who lives with hurtful words. A lurking, haunting inheritance.

The invisible, fatherless son shadowed in a hoody, desperate for attention, acceptance…words imagined from a caring dad.

The guy, in the back pew, face cradled in palms who believes he’s less than. Godly Men Rock

The twenty-something beauty with a history of predator beaus.

The mother whose grown son, no longer calls.

The recovering alcoholic who’s burned all bridges leading anywhere else, but here.

And so on. People hurt by men from the past, present and the potential future. Godly Men Rock

Before I go on, here’s my disclaimer: Godly Men Rock

You might find a lone turkey in the woods, but the gang is hanging at the turkey farm.  Likewise, it’s more likely to find a healthy flock of good men at church. Just saying. You’re welcome to put on your Elmer Fudd hat and hunt elsewhere. Also, I’m aware of men in churches who do more harm than good. Sadly, they have power as well. But they are not whom I choose to celebrate.

As I was saying… Godly Men Rockromans 5:4 character

Kind men… good men… hold mighty tools in their righteous hands. When they give time to a lonely child, speak softly to a down- trodden woman, or place a gentle arm around their wife’s shoulders. When they fix the widow’s fence, stand up for a bullied boy, or encourage the shy to shine. When they lift hands to praise and bend knees to pray. Even when they tell a goofy joke, laugh like goons, and repeat. 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be courageous

I’m watching. You’re watching. And if we’ve been hurt by past ill-examples of good character, we experience healing.  I know I do. They’re not the men we avoid on the corner, or the internet, or the big mouths spouting demeaning tales. They are different, set apart, special. Not just on Sundays, but 24/7.

A few months back I wrote “The Ladies who Church,” determining, church is a verb. I realize now, men “church” as well. They are action figures with Bibles instead of capes. In closing I ask that you tell a good man in your circle how  much you appreciate their character. These men deserve our praise.

Church Ladies… Hot Flashes and Faith

The Best Place Ever to be with your Spouse – Take the Marriage Trip

couple on beach sunset marriageIn the middle of blasé, I’m slapped awake by love. It happens while looking at my husband, Sandy. With 25 years of marriage in our pocket, it’s against the odds. Why does he still tweak my heart strings? We do have that “magic” going on, but that’s not what I’m talking about. This is different. It’s as if all my senses have the gift of sight. I see with my heart, soul, mind. Like seeing him through a pair of divine glasses. About now, he asks….

“What? Why are you staring at me?”

Vision blurred, I dismiss his question moving on with the mundane day, grateful.

I love those sloppy, in your face moments of love. Like:

  • Catching him knelt by a child, giggling.
  • When he smiles through a backache because his hard work and talents blessed others.
  • Watching him in prayer, worship or meditation.

Or recently, when he lifted my suitcase, into the car, placed his arms around my shoulders, and kissed me softly. After confessing he’ll miss me even if I’ll be away only one night, he hands me a bag with apples and almonds for the road, and says— marriage

            “I want to pray for you.”

Golden moments to savor. The times you think it just doesn’t get any better. Yet, it does There is something even more incredible…marriage

It’s a place. A destination.  I can’t say how long it takes to get there, but I guarantee, it’s 5+star and worth whatever the cost. We chose the long route. The wide highway with multiple lanes, all mysteriously located on the edge of a cliff. I don’t recommend this well-traveled road, as it is in perpetual rush hour. It zigs. It zags. And, it takes a spiritual enema to blast you out. At least that’s how we got through the bowels. marriage

When the portal leading to the “place” opens, it’s glorious. To enter you must be alone, and together, at the same time. And, mysterious as it sounds, you never arrive. Enough riddles. I’m talking about standing before God together. It’s the best place a couple can be. There we are independent of each other, yet interdependent with our Father. marriage

We are one in quiet… one in prayer… one in awe and praise… one in gratitude. If I named this place it might be Clarity… or Peace or simply, Good. Here is where I know who I am, who Sandy is, and most important who God is. It’s a place packed with power, wonder… magnificence.             marriagemathew19 marriage scripture

We often visit this place alone, which somehow brings us closer together, enriching our relationship beyond any other cure. But when we stand before Him as a couple, bothersome worries and gargantuan challenges flee. Just like shining the light on a nest of roaches. Nothing is too big, complicated or irreparable. You might enter empty and discontent, but you’ll leave full and satisfied. A guaranteed occurrence.

I wish we’d taken the short cut. It’s not like we didn’t see the signs, have a map or hear the Guide offering help. I recommend the fast train to this destination. Why not skip the detours we suffered? I don’t plan on getting lost again. I keep the coordinates for His presence close to my heart.

Coming soon: Check out a sample chapter of our book – “In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God.”

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

 

 

Hey You… Mountain….Move! I’m Armed with a Mustard Seed

moutain lake mustard seed  Remember those carefree childhood days? No worry. No fear. Just un-obliterated delight and adventure? mustard seed

I don’t.

As long as I can remember, my closet had a boogie man and something lay waiting, with raspy breath, under my bed. mustard seed

Its name is Anxiety. Continue reading Hey You… Mountain….Move! I’m Armed with a Mustard Seed

What are the Desires of your Heart? Need a Motive Check?

     Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.        Do you ever catch a glimpse of your faith–that wee mustard seed, dwarfed in the palm of God’s hand? Recently, a peek at my faith meter, raised a question: Do I truly believe God longs to give me the desires of my heart? Continue reading What are the Desires of your Heart? Need a Motive Check?

How Will You Be Remembered? Does Your Character Paint a Pretty Picture?

purple and yellow pansies    

      CharacterShe smelled of juicy fruit gum and carnations. The gum, she offered freely to grandchildren and strangers alike. The Blue Carnation toilet water, spritzed on a lace trimmed handkerchief, awaited up her sleeve to be waved at the first hint of a tear or runny wrigley-chewing-gumnose.

CharacterElsie, or Nana to family, would have been 116 years old in June. Sounds silly right? Yet, I know, when I’m tottering around in my elder years, I will stop, each June to do the math. You see, Nana, left a legacy that matters.

Character  “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water… no matter how suddenly jarred.” Amy Carmichael

Character  Like Michelangelo, Da Vinci or Picasso, she left hauntingly beautiful images behind on the canvasses in our minds. sweet peasCharacter

Character  Sweet Peas climbing the pickets, smiling orange and purple pansies in the stone pots, aside the painted stepping stones, leading to her one-bedroom cottage castle.

            Red painted nails with matching lipstick, rhinestone, button style, clip on earrings and finger waved hair; all of which she claimed to be “naked” without.

            A 1930’s rose mohair sofa with doilies on the arms. A picture perfect cake, iced white with dyed pink coconut, on a pedestal plate. The molasses cookies, cedar paneled walls and the oil stove hogging a third of the 9 x 12 living room.

            Nana left mantras and sayings both wise and silly for us to ponder.

            “A stitch in time saves nine.”

            “Bless your pea picking heart.”

            “Red and yellow catch a fellow.”

            “Thirteen is my lucky number.”

            With perfect timing she’d sling the apropos saying. Like the moment you stubbed a toe she’d chime in with:

            “Just think how much better it will feel when it quits hurting.”

            And right after you snarled a response to the above quip, she’d retort with:

            “Only dogs get mad.” mad dog

            Even more powerful than the scents and images or words of wisdom, are the lessons of character she lived and gifted to those around her.

            Another Nana witticism is: Always keep an ace in the hole.

            This served her well. With a humble retirement income, she was the family tycoon. The only person with money in the bank to loan when trouble threatened any one of us. And, without ever asking for it back, she managed to make you feel good about taking care of the debt. These were the days of penny licorice ropes, five cent gum packs and $5 bags of groceries given as prizes for radio bingo that supplied her weeks’ worth of needs. Yet, footing a loan for $200 or $300 was of no concern to her.

She oozed of character, most of which was taken for granted. I remember her letters in the late 1960s, hand written to me, a know it all teenager with her own apartment. My friends and I read them aloud after smoking a joint, laughing at the sweetness.

Dearest Debbie, Bless your heart. How are you doing? I hope you like the new apron I made for you. I used scraps from your favorite circle skirt. Remember the one you wore when you did the Mexican hat dance in kindergarten?

vintage apron character

 

Character

The thought of wearing my frilly handmade apron, while slaving over a box of macaroni and cheese, always cracked us up. I admit, after the laughs we shared an admiration for her pure heart of gold, followed by a quiet sadness and longing to believe life to be as good as she did.

She was known to read the Bible and give to the televangelists begging for money from her black and white console television. I remember a few times she was shushed for mentioning Jesus.

One thing I know now, that I was clueless to then, she prayed. One prayer in particular on my behalf. I know this because….

I pray for my grandchildren. I pray for a variety of God’s blessings but my most urgent prayer is that they will have an intimate relationship with Jesus.  That’s what my nana prayed for me. I know this because…
He answered the prayer. He pursued me down each road… waited patiently when I took a wrong turn… showered me with love when I deserved scorn… and so on and so forth.

When I was given the gift of grand-motherhood, I chose to be called Nana. My bucket list for this life, is filled with pleas to be remembered by joyful things and my faith and love for Christ. That’s the legacy I seek.

 

How to Live with a Writer – 5 Tips Guaranteed to Make Life Easier

How to Live with a Writer

First I apologize for stalling on the blog. I miss my readers. I hope you’ve missed the stories as well. When the end of our book waved encouragement, it was like sending a marble down the track, racing through the obstacles to the finish. Trust me, had I stopped to write a blog, it would have been a wordy resentment as to how I had to take time away from finishing the book. In the meantime, my dearest husband suggested (after much whining) that he write a blog for me. With that said:  I introduce a very special guest blogger – husband, Sandy Palmer. Obviously, I did not choose the topic. How to Live with a Writer

As long as I can remember, I have loved reading. Still do, whether magazines, (read cover to cover), a daily newspaper, or at least one book. But writing? I suck at it!  Any class I’ve taken involving writing, was painful, and book reports, unless given orally, received unremarkable grades. I’ve never been partial to one type of book; i.e. novel, sci-fi, thriller, mystery, etc. Likewise, I’ve never had a favorite author, at least not until twenty-five years ago, when I met Deb, my wife to be.  She was finishing her college degree in Print Journalism.  From the start, I enjoyed anything she wrote, as she had a way with words, capturing what was important, pertinent, what needed said. How to Live with a Writer

When we first met she was writing for the college newspaper; human interest feature articles. Post college, while working for a non-profit organization, she launched a newsletter, convincing the agency they needed a public relations officer. Soon after, we hung a shingle on our house, “Palmer Business Communications,” where she freelanced for other agencies, wrote a column for a local newspaper and cranked out resumes that pretty much guaranteed you an interview.  After several years of writing for other people, she burned out, gave up the writing and spent the next twenty years in the antique business. How to Live with a Writer

Her passion for writing, starting when she was a little girl, didn’t go away, it just took a break. Like a serial killer, destined to strike again, Deb’s desire to write returned with a vengeance. Writing consumed much of her time.  Not just the physical part of writing, but thinking about writing, planning about writing, editing writing, proof-reading writing, rewriting writing, publishing planning, marketing planning, and so forth and on and on. How to Live with a Writer

Did I mention that I am not a writer?  From early on, I have been involved with Deb’s writing.  Having done many things in my work career, I was useful in terminology and knowledge of skills needed, in numerous fields, when it came to resume’ writing.  Once, shortly after she had quit smoking, and was dangerous to be around when she was stressed, I finished the last paragraph of a newspaper column, when my physical well-being was at stake. How to Live with a Writer

In the past several years, since Deb came back to her writing, she has written two books and maintains a blog.  Both of the books are great, and I look forward to them being published.  The first one, a collection of short stories, based on the beatitudes, is very entertaining, laced with much humor and a big yellow dog.  By the time it was finished, Deb hated it, and it was put on the back burner.  One of the stories has been published in a Christian Anthology, called, “The Birds of Passage.”  The second book was recently finished in rough draft form, and Deb is again disliking it, saying that no one will want to read it. She’s nuts!  Three chapters from this book have been posted on her blog, with rave reviews.  I know that something big will come of Deb’s writing. How to Live with a Writer

Did I mention that I am not a writer?  Deb thinks I am.  I am not an editor. Deb thinks I am. I am not a proof reader. Deb thinks I am.  I know that her writing is exceptional, and will be read and enjoyed by many. If she can be convinced of this,our lives will, possibly, become calm. I doubt it! On to the next writing project!!!!   I am not a writer, but I will continue to be whatever Deb needs me to be, and mainly her #1 supporter.

If you, like me, live with a writer; my heartfelt condolences. I will offer some advice how to survive. Here are the 5 tips that I’ve learned the hard way. How to Live with a Writer

 

Tip One: Be Willing to Listen… NOW!

If said OCD writer approaches with a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence, a word or even an idea related to writing, respond as if they are holding a ticking bomb. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is more important. It doesn’t matter if you’ve drank three cups of coffee and are sprinting to the bathroom finish line…. Stop! Listen! Wet clothing can be changed; words may expire or combust.

 

Tip Two: No Faking

Let’s say the writer is reading a section to you that you really don’t understand, or even like.. Whatever you do, don’t plaster a grin on and say “I like it,” or it’s nice. I’ve come to believe writers have a special type of Extra Sensory Perception when it comes to this. Be sincere, but tread lightly. Honesty is your only way out, but stand back a ways.

 

Tip Three: React to the Writing…

I know this sounds silly, but it is for the best. Trust me. Practice your facial responses in the mirror. You will most likely need to times your normal reaction by three. If your normal response is “uh huh,” or “yeah, I like it,” times it by ten. Listen for humor and laugh as if you’re a drunk needing to be heard over the entire bar. Besides humor, expand your responses to cover content, story line, word choice, etc.

 

 

Tip Four: Repeat Yourself and Repeat Yourself

OCD writers are either hard of hearing or attention deficit when it comes to their work.  Here is a typical conversation.

                Me: That is really powerful. It’s great.

OCD Writer: You like it?

Me: Yes

OCD Writer: Why do you like it?

Me: Because I think it is powerful?

And don’t be surprised or lose patience if later they ask:

                Did you really like it?

And

Do you think anyone else will like it?

 

Tip Five: Take away the Club

OCD writers beat themselves up. If you don’t stop them, they often believe they cannot continue. Exchange the self-abating Billy club with the real source of power – God. When all else fails, I ask one question:

Have you asked God’s help?

With a divine light bulb above her head, she calms, thanking me for tipping her face toward heaven.

Check out a sample chapter of our latest book:

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

Wait on the Lord…but in the Meantime

Psalm 27:14 Wait on the LordAt times, my husband, Sandy, grows weary of my writing process. Wait on the Lord…but in the MeantimeWait on the Lord

Morning Convo:

ME: “I’m stuck. I don’t know where to go from here. It’s  all gobbledygook!”

SANDY: “God always shows you. Don’t worry about it.”

Afternoon Convo:

ME: You won’t believe what God showed me. Remember that guy, the drunk? I had to pick his false teeth up off the sidewalk? It’s the perfect lead-in for where we need to go. Right? I’m so happy.” Wait on the Lord

SANDY:  “Me too.”

Evening Convo:

SANDY: “What’s wrong? You look upset?” Wait on the Lord

ME: “I don’t know what to do. There’s nowhere to go from here. It’s all garbled.”

SANDY: God always gives you direction. It will be okay.”

He has a point (“sigh”). And, (long “sigh”), he’s right. Our book is built; word by word, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, page by page, one prayer at a time. I know that. Wait on the Lord

But then…

At 10,000 words, I start to pray for the ending to our story. The big finish. Where do you place a period in God’s story? After all, He’s still writing. My thoughts wander… What if I drop dead, mid-sentence, without ever finishing our story? Wait on the Lord

Wait…

Trust. Wait on the Lord. Remember, if this book is meant to be, I won’t fall face-first onto the keyboard before it’s complete. Keep clicking away at the keys, trusting His signs and landmarks. Listen and follow God’s GPS signals. Wait for Him to whisper: “You have reached your destination.”

But then… Wait on the Lord

At 40,000 words, WORRY creeps back in alongside its buddy DOUBT.  I feel like I’m writing with a big rubber plunger, attempting to unclog the words, retrieving merely a hairball destined for the trash. Striving reaps one reward; pressing me to my knees, head raised in fervent prayer. The result? Words gushing forth, and hubby dear echoing his beloved, “I told you so.” Wait on the Lord

Scrolling the pages, through 80,000 words, I’m grateful for each character, and hope for reaching the “THE END,” is flashing like a beacon from that clichéd tunnel. God has provided; the means; time, content, energy, patience, hope, drive, perseverance, wisdom. Yet the prayer, requesting a stop sign, remains unanswered. I feel the journey’s climax, but I’ve no clue of the destination.

I picture my petition in heaven’s inbox, buried under a mound of others, awaiting attention. Before long, I slip into that lonely seat behind the control panel. I’ll just get things rolling while I wait on God. Help out with the creative process. It seems the book needs a big finish to compete with other popular books. Like surviving a bloody shark attack! And we should save hordes of souls! Proof we deserve all He has done for us. Wait on the Lord

Oh, but wait…

This is non-fiction. And we, nor anyone, deserve the Sacrifice made for us. That’s the whole point of our story! We are the ordinary, the mundane everyday sinners, trudging through the ant farm tunnels. We are the least of the least. Yet He loves us, through it all.

Back to prayer.

 “Lord please show me how best to bring glory to You.”

Meanwhile, back at the pages….

I often write in the car on my laptop while Sandy evaluates the driving skills of all within his range. Clicking away at the keys keeps me occupied and, therefore, both of us happy. On the way to the beach, for a two-day needed get-away, I finish the first draft of the second to the last chapter of our book. It leads the reader straight to the sweet spot begging satisfaction.

“Sandy, we’re at the end. I still don’t know how…”

“(Groan) Wait for it. He’ll give you the end. You know it.”

In prayerful memory, I took time recognizing His faithfulness thus far. Closing the lid on my laptop, I let go. I walked…snuggled… read…prayed… worshiped… listened. The book with no end took a seat in the back of the brain bus.

Wearing headlights atop our hooded sweatshirts, we took a late night walk on the beach, savoring the mist, the waves, and each other. Nearly 25 years ago, we strolled this same beach, as honeymooners.

To our right, we eye a seagull confidently holding its spot on the beach. Nodding agreement, we rush the bird, in honor of our deceased 110-pound lab, Gabe. His mantra? Never let a gull go unchased. Thoughts of Gabe, stir a nest of memories. In the midst of recollecting tears and guffaws, I realize we  are performing the end of our book. God is showing me, providing a detailed script, a live scene, like I’m watching a play.

I wrote the end, in the form of an epilogue on the drive home, like a court reporter transcribing a trial. It’s the easiest writing session I’ve ever experienced. I won’t be a spoiler, telling more of the end. I will say, although the book ends on the beach, there are no sharks in our story. Even so, lives are saved and the Hero wins.

God was not late in giving his answer… he was perfect.

See below to read a sample chapter of our book in progress.

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

Granny Tennis Shoes… Sword Tongue… Praying Hands… What’s Your Legacy?

High top all star converse tennis shoes Praying Hands Legacy

Everyone knew her. That woman, older than dirt, bent like the crook of a cane to half her height. Back then, in the 60s, an old lady in trousers is today’s equivalent to a tube top and Daisy Dukes. Thus, all elderly women wore floral jersey dresses. But this lady, had it going on, donning the expected uniform dress, and thick, sagging, support stockings with her signature Converse All Stars high top tennis shoes. Praying Hands Legacy

The fashion statement earned the nickname, Granny Tennis Shoes, and a story, told as a warning, locally and beyond. The tale not only explains the physical ailment but also solves the fashion mystery.

It went something like this…Praying Hands Legacy

            One day a poor penniless widow found a pair of Converse All Stars in a dumpster. While lacing them up, the plan emerged, catapulting the old woman from rocking chair to entrepreneur, soon branded as Granny Tennis Shoes. During peak traffic times, taking a two-point stance at the street corner, she’d wait for the light to flash green, pouncing onto the crosswalk, (hence the tennis shoes) in front of a car, (hence the crippled body). Afterward, Granny drug her tired, tread riddled bones to court, suing the traumatized driver, for all they had.

And the saddest part of the story?

We all believed it.

It was not until I told the story as an adult that I realized how unlikely it would be that she would survive more than one attempt. Poor old Granny Tennis Shoes, clueless as to why… fingers pointed… cars swerved at the sight of her… wide-eyed children gawked or ran away. Praying Hands Legacy

Have you ever wondered what stories are told about you? I cringe at the thought. Labeled a feisty redhead with a nasty temper, my brother nicknamed me Sword Tongue saying,“Watch out, if you make her mad, she’ll slice you to pieces!” Praying Hands Legacy

That’s not a good legacy. I pray today my words be sweet, that the blade of my tongue is guarded, never wagging amok, or used as a weapon. I confess and repent of times my nearest and dearest have witnessed my tongue unsheathed. It’s true, I ’m not the person I could be, but it’s also true, I’m not the person I once was. The one who took pride in verbal slaughters. Glory to God for the changes and praise for His continued work. Praying Hands Legacy

I remember the first time I knew there’d been a paradigm shift in the way people define me. It was my birthday, the one when my now 18-year-old grandson was just four years old. With no help or suggestions from others, he selected my present. By the look of anticipation on his beaming face, I knew whatever it was, he believed it to be a grand and perfect gift. I expected a mug, or socks, maybe even a “NaNa is the best” placard. I did not, nor could not, have imagined the treasure concealed inside the box, wrapped slipshod in the funny papers. After peeling the last layer of comic, I opened the lid, lifting the mysterious cube from the box. Dazed, I stared at the gift, mirroring what my grandson sees when he looks at me. A battery operated crystal cube that lights up, revealing a silhouette of praying hands. The loveliest gift ever. Praying Hands Legacy

A drop to my knees, state of mind, moment. Hyper aware of the miraculous transformation, present in me, a task only God could pull off. How flattering… what an honor… to know my grandson pictures me as a woman of prayer who loves God. I’ve never felt more gratitude for God pulling me up out of the muck and mire, hosing me off, presenting me as lovely, in my grandson’s eyes. Praying Hands Legacy

Had I kept going the way of my past, my grandchildren might see me as someone chasing the wind, or worse, they might not know me at all. Because of our powerful awesome God, my five grandsons know what’s important to me. God, their Grandpa, and family.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

That birthday was a defining moment for me. A day when I received a priceless jewel. Proof that God is working miracles every day, in every way, even if you are just a “me,” like me. Undeniable evidence that I am not the godless woman I once was. For me, the wondrous change is no less a marvel than if I’d sawn off my leg and God grew it back.

Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!

Thank You God that who I see reflected in the eyes of my loved ones, is good.

Hmm… maybe Granny Tennis Shoes’ grandchildren and those who actually knew her, saw her as a loving grandma, who happened to wear cool high top tennis shoes. I hope so.

 

See below to read a sample chapter of our book in progress.

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

Last Peek- New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

new author chapter preview

new author chapter preview

I’m the person that finds the perfect Christmas present in April, buys it, sticks it in the closet, waits several hours, then calls you to come open it now. new author chapter preview

That’s how I feel about our book, “In Spite of Us, Stalked by a Loving God.” How can I possibly wait until it’s finished, before I share it? Besides, your enthusiasm and encouragement for the other two sample chapters, helped spur me on.

So, here we go again. Since, I’m currently writing the final chapters, (Yay! Finally getting to spew God’s glory!), this will be the last peek of our book.

The book is written, in dueling perspectives, mine and husband Sandy. Chapter 39, (my voice) is about three quarters into the book. I’m sober, but just as crazy as not. When plans to score prescription drugs fail, I walk through the proverbial, “last door,” A.A. More interesting than following my zig-zagging path of desperation, is the look into what God is, was and continues to do.

Chapter 39

 

You keep saying that. Are you sure? New Author Chapter preview

When I said the words, I hoped for relief, a sense of closure to my insanity. Instead the words floated around the room with nowhere to rest.New Author Chapter preview

“My name’s Deb. I’m an alcoholic.”

As I tell my story, the voice in my head screams, “shut up!” I want to keep it simple, like Veni Vidi Vici, only instead of I came, I saw, I conquered… I drank, I quit, I’m fine now. The faces at the table look like our cat Slim, when I treat her like a dog. I confess to being sober, or dry, for the past eight years. All eyes glaze over under one giant group frown. Even my quest to score meds turned into a bizarre circus. Why did I get the self-absorbed, confused psychiatrist, instead of the normal, stable, old man, glasses on nose, saying stuff like, “It’s okay dear, everything will be fine.”  And why did my magic bean leave me the color of cherry Kool Aid, super charged like a Chatty Cathy doll on speed?  Once again, I’m left behind, waving bon voyage to all America as they pop a pill, floating off to chill island. New Author Chapter preview

So here I sit, in an A.A. meeting, attempting to explain the sober alcoholic clause. Do I care if I meet the base requirements to join their little club? Not really. I loathe the clichés, the constant self ass-patting for not doing something stupid yet today, and the guy whining about his ex-wife. Yet, I want what they have, well what a few seem to have found… a God they believe in… serenity… hope. There must be a way to get what they have, without hanging out with them. All I know is, I don’t know diddly, and I have nowhere else to go. New Author Chapter preview

I got a sponsor, nicknamed Little Sue, a friend from Alanon. She’s a cocktail like me, two fingers A.A. with an Alanon mixer, a splash of ACOA, and a little crazy, on a toothpick. If you’re not familiar with those terms I’ll simplify it for you, it’s the trifecta of the disease of alcoholism… A. A deals with the alcoholic… Alanon deals with all the others harmed by the alcoholic…. ACOA… is specifically for those who’ve lived under the chaos of alcoholic parents. Crazy is… a bonus, for winning the trifecta. New Author Chapter preview

The first time I meet with Little Sue, I’m certain she tries to scare me off. I don’t blame her, who wants to take on the difficult cases. I hope Difficult Deb is not my destined nickname. New Author Chapter preview

“We’re jumping ahead to Step 11 for a moment,” she says, sliding the Big Book my way, while reciting the step. “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

She seems to be waiting for me to respond. I don’t hear a question in there, so I keep quiet.

“If I’m to be your sponsor, you’ll be looking into the Bible. If that’s not okay with you, we won’t be a good fit.”

I laugh. Lately I’ve felt like a cartoon character stalked by Bible thumpers, jumping out from every corner. Since we’ve opened our antiques store in Ellensburg, I’m at the mercy of my customers seven days a week. I’m trapped behind the counter, forced to listen to tales of their ceramic pig collection, annoying neighbors, upcoming gall bladder surgery, and God.

One day, a blonde trio approaches the counter; a young mom holding the hand of a toddler, dragging an antique doll across the floor. The porcelain doll appears to be the one from the glass case, with the $300 price tag, and sign reading: Please do not touch.

“I’m a Christian…” says the mom. “Would you take $25 for this doll. My little girl really wants it. We’re Christians and can’t afford to pay more than that.”

I did not say the words begging to spill out. I didn’t even say the G Rated version – “Listen, you presumptuous idiot. I don’t hold Christians in high regard or think by any means that you are better than anyone else.”

I really tried.

“I see she likes the doll, but there’s no way I can sell a $300 doll for $25.”

Pointing at her child, she continues.

“But, we can only pay $25. Wouldn’t you consider it, because we are Christians?”

I remind myself to be kind.

“I’m sorry…” I begin, but hearing the lie, unleashes my indignation.

“You know what, dear heart? If I could adjust my prices that easily I’d charge Christians double. Why? Because they think they’re entitled and better than everybody else. So, have a wonderful day, and God bless you!”

I fight the urge to chase her down the sidewalk with, “further mores.” Instead, red faced, I pick the doll up off the floor, finger comb the mussed hair, and return it to the shelf, next to the “Please do not touch,” sign.

Back at the counter, another woman approaches me. Her hands are empty, so I assume she’s overheard the drama, and wants to take a shot at me. I feel like I’ve just slapped the face of Tiny Tim (“God bless us, every one”). Only in my version, I snag a doll from the weak hands of a deprived little girl, a Christian child.

“I’m a Christian too…” she starts.

I’m wondering what’s going on. The Christians are circling, like the lions in that bible story. I’m bleeding, and they’re moving in for the kill. Before I spring with a defense, she finishes her sentence.

“… and I want you to know that we are not all like that woman. I’m so sorry she did that. It was very un-Christian like.”

I like this woman, with the kind face. Since that drama, she, Patryk, stops by daily. It seems our store is on her walk route. She listens, even when I spit vile opinions of Christians. Best of all, she’s not perfect. Sure, imperfection is common, but she’s actually aware of the ailment. I’ve never met a Christian like her. I worked with a Christian guy at People for People, who had puffy, sprayed-stiff, Televangelist hair. He had plenty of time to dampen spirits with news of the fast approaching end times, but if you were choking on a chicken bone, drowning, or in need of a kind word, he’d hurry on by.

“Christians are either crazy or jerks… you know I’m right, Patryk.”

“Well, Deb, I’m a Christian… “

“You keep saying that. Are you sure?”

Around the same time, yet another oddball Christian surfaces at the store, named Monte. We became fast friends, our bond, being a distinct distaste for Christians. He has more rotten things to say about them than me. Yet, he speaks of Jesus like someone I might actually like. I got to know Monte when one of my customers, (probably a Christian), told me I should keep an eye on him, because he looked like the type that would steal. Although we’d never spoken more than a few sentences of polite customer/clerk exchange, I knew this humble, quiet man, was no thief or threat. She, like many others, judged his blonde hair, traipsing down his back, open shirt, and bull ring in one ear. One conversation with him would reveal the gentlest soul on earth. So I lied to the presumptuous, finger pointing woman, in a voice loud enough for Monte to hear.

“Excuse me? That man is my dearest friend. And the most honest person I know!”

She slithered out the door, justifying her accusations with, “I didn’t know… I was just trying to help…”

Monte, approached the counter.

“I apologize for her.”

“It’s okay, I’m used to it. It happens all the time.”

Thus, our friendship began. We hang out, sipping tea, between customers, bashing Christians and discussing Jesus. Soon after Monte became a store fixture, my next door business neighbor, Anne, pays me a visit. The sign above her store reads: Ed’s Refrigeration Service, but it is loosely dubbed an antiques store, known for dust covered clutter.

“He’s evil,” she says, racing into my store, just as Monte left out back. “That man, with that hair… and no shirt. I know things about him.”

I try to shine light on her darkness, but she isn’t having any of that. I never told Monte about her visit, but we shared many laughs at her expense. Besides dust, she is known around town for her, “end of times” sales techniques. Her favorite: Placing fake $20 bills on the floor, lurking behind a pile of junk until a customer picks it up, then jumping out yelling “Aha!” After giving a lecture on the evils of money, she smiles, handing them a dooms day preparation brochure. Truth is, she’s great for our business, sending shaken victims through our door, seeking protection and an explanation.

Looking back, I should not have been surprised that my A.A. sponsor was in on the helter skelter Christian encounters. I thought I’d be fed the same lingo I’d heard around the tables. No one there speaks of Bibles or Jesus. So, my coffee date with Little Sue, caught me off guard and even more alarming was my response to her order to read the Bible

“Okay, I can do that. Makes sense.”

Funny thing, I have two new Bibles, one from Patryk and another from Monte. Sadly, it’s like reading a foreign language, yada, beget, yada, yada, beget, yada, thou shall yada yada. I found one part, I understood, but I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was that creep Lot, who wants to protect his sons, so he says “Hey take my daughters and do whatever you want with them.”

What? I hate that guy. I am so upset; I call Little Sue moments after reading it. She listens to my paraphrase of the story, cutting me off mid-rant.

“Okay… I don’t think you’re ready to read the Old Testament alone. You’re not really comprehending the context. Please stay in the New Testament for now”

“Is that Lot guy in the New Testament?”

“No.  How are you doing with the Big Book? Are you journaling on your fourth step? “That’s the one that says ‘Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.; Right? Well, I’ve been thinking on it. I haven’t written anything down yet.”

“Next week I want you ready to share your inventory with me. Okay?”

“Okay.”

 

If you haven’t read the other sample chapters, you can find them here: new author chapter preview

Sample Chapter 14

Sample Chapter 19

A Season of Grief… Loss… Mourning… God, Where are You?

Hebrews 13:5 Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. griefSadness… melancholy… no apparent reason, yet suspicions come to mind; the gray sky, the stillness after the snow fall, the chill. Possibly staring out my office window, waiting for the sharp edged icicles to drip, is the cause. More likely, it’s the time of year. The expectant looking back, so we can move forward… out with the old, in with the new. Grief

Like that sappy old haunting song, Auld Lang Syne, I miss the people who are no longer here. Around this time last year, I wrote about my dad, and the year before that, my mom. It’s true, I’m sad they’re gone, but forever grateful for God’s plan for them. With that said, watching them transition from this world, is difficult. grief

For me, the most painful bon voyage of all is my brother, Danny, taken by cancer, at age 52. Dark, sad, painful, and yet, a blessed time of completion, spiritual healing and deep love. Talking, or writing, about how it feels, is not easy. Even so, I’m driven to share, because the hurt is merely a speck in comparison to the bounty of peace and comfort that showered down from heaven, like a glorious refreshing rain. grief Grief

            (Deep breath) 

My Gehenna arrived, with a phone call.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Driving to work. What’s up?”

“I have cancer, and it’s really bad.”

Certain he’s playing one of his boundless practical jokes, I respond in anger. Mourning

“That’s not funny… I’m hanging up!”

“Debbie, it’s true,” he said, voice cracking.

Was it outlandish to think he was joking? No. This is the guy who carries a tube of Oragel in his pocket, ready to swipe the rim of a loved one’s coffee mug, then sit back and laugh while they gasp through numb lips, “call 911 I’m having a stroke!” The guy with an array of voices, who calls from random friends’ phones, pretending to be one of his unlimited annoying characters. grief

His favorite? grief

A man with a really bad Asian accent, wanting to buy your cat for his upcoming dinner party. I’m sorry. I didn’t say he’s always politically correct, or sensitive. So, I ask, who wouldn’t have thought he was playing the cancer card as just another poor taste joke? grief

Lifestyle changes, like my sobriety, and proclaiming new found Christianity, (admittedly not always with grace), had distanced our relationship. But with the passing of our mom, six years prior, forgiveness washed away our petty bickering. Any lingering resentments hiding in the corner of our hearts, were flushed away with the news of cancer. grief

Budding health concerns set Danny’s life in turbo, as if someone yelled “fire!” An appointment to drain liquid collected around his heart, turned into major surgery to remove the sack surrounding it. That’s when the alarms went off with the news of cancer invading his lymph nodes. Change ran amok. His ex-wife, Astrida, forever and always best friend, and only person trusted to liquidate his car lot business, moved from Florida to Seattle to help.

Before long Hospice called and paid him a visit.

“You should have seen the woman they sent,” he said during one of our daily phone conversations. “She has zero sense of humor. She just sits there, asking questions… if she smiled, her face would crack. ”

“Did you get out your Orajel?”

“Hmpf! Why bother? Anyway, I told Hospice on the phone, I don’t need someone taking care of me. The thing is… I need you to sign papers saying you’ll be my caretaker. But, I don’t need or want you here. They act like it’s over and done. I’m not!”

Looking back at the whirlwind, I can see the perfection in God’s timing. I’m reminded of God’s steady hand through it all. He used my baby Christian status to not only minister to my little brother, but also to heal the broken pieces in my own heart. I knew, the world knew, certainly God knew, I was ill-equipped to fix Danny. But God knew my lack of skill, absence of wisdom and zilch experience, qualified me for the job He had in mind.

I was left with one choice: Cling to Jesus, trust He has a plan. And, He did. His plan, way beyond human imaginings, incorporated our history, our personalities. He used what he knows like no one else, our DNA, our snowflake differences.

We were the younger two, of the four McFarland children. Even back then, four children were a tall order for a truck driving dad and a stay at home mom. Five years my junior, Danny perfected the art of pesky little brotherhood. Even so, he was my brat brother, and I loved him. With busy parents and older siblings failing to see our cool side, we entertained each other. Mostly, we played cards. Not fluffy games of Fish or Old Maid, we self-weaned off those, pre-kindergarten. We dealt pinochle, poker, gin rummy, war, blackjack, spades, hearts and quadruple deck Canasta. Hours on end, we bonded between shuffles, promising before kings, queens and jacks, to take care of each other, no matter what.

At age 16 Danny fell into the popular sport of drugs and alcohol, and lost. Newly married, and an official adult, at age 21, I was the best choice to parent a troubled teen. What I lacked in experience I made up for in “know-it-all-ness.” So, I convinced my parents and new husband, to move Danny across the state and live with me. Shortly after, we drank and drugged together, keeping mayhem at bay, since I signed the notes for teachers and principals.

After graduation, he got a job, and moved out, but, he hung out at our house, whenever he could. That’s when the gambling began. Even at the start, the stakes were sweaty palm high– lose three hands, wash dishes for three minutes. Eventually, the ante escalated, reaching high roller status…

“I’ll raise your 15 minutes of washing dishes for 15 minutes of vacuuming…” to “I’m all in for the toilet scrubbing, with a flush.”

I’m telling you this so you’ll truly understand the breadth and depth of God’s sweetness. The absolute intimacy of: “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered (Luke 12:7). The assurance of: Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31). The realization of: For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). Yes, God had a plan. Not a cookie cutter plan he whipped out for whomever, but a specifically designed plan for Danny and me.

Before the morphine took over, we were given a last season together. Of course he played his stupid jokes. His new favorite? Pretending to be dead when I checked on him in the morning. ERRRRR! He thought that was really funny. Instead of cards, we played lots of scrabble. But here’s the sweet spot: Sitting side by side, we read the Bible and prayed together. Danny trusted me, asking me questions because he knew I didn’t have all the answers. God, trusted me, maybe for the same reason. We taped his favorite scriptures on the wall by the hospital bed Hospice had delivered. We laughed a bunch and cried even more. It felt familiar, brother and sister, hanging out. Instead of making promises we could not keep, we reminded each other of God’s promises. God used many people over the years and especially during this end time of Danny’s life, to bring him into His kingdom. My task was more a maintenance or hand holding position.

His last months on earth, were emotionally brutal, but he remained, miraculously, pain free. One minute he talked about being ready, the next he cried out in fear. One day up, one day down. A day of faith, a day of fear, a day of anger, a day of peace. The daily increase of morphine, blurred reality, tainted truths and wreaked havoc on safety. He chain smoked while using his oxygen tank. He stopped eating. And, I became the bad guy, along with the rest of the family he had shut the door on. Then, he sent me away. I’m thankful he could still trust and count on Astrida, who took over care taking, until he was placed in a care facility. God

God could have healed my brother. But he did not. I trust His decision. He knows the big picture. He knows the right time. It’s not as if God was sitting on His hands doing nothing. He was at work, changing hearts, healing hurts, increasing faith, proving His love and securing salvation.

I miss my brother. Yes, even the off color jokes and practical stunts. I have no doubt, where he is. I thank God for His patience and willingness to let us take care of each other before he took him. Danny’s death is beyond sad. Yet, I’m left with a smile and a warm heart whenever I think of him. I will be forever grateful for those times, side by side… two children, talking and getting to know their Father.

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God