Saturday, October 31, 2009


“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees
that were pleasing to the eye and good for food…. God took the man
and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Genesis 2:9, 15 (NIV)

Many people believe that the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is merely myth. As a nature lover and tree-hugger, I find it quite credible.

The wooded area behind my house is my Garden of Eden—the sacred place where I walk pensively with my Creator. And yet, this small area of woods vividly represents our fallen world—the garden after Adam and Eve sinned.

The forest landscape is scarred by timber harvesting of oak, walnut, cherry, elm and sycamore trees. In the meadow, beneath towering poles hung with heavy wires, the wildlife habitat is like a war zone. Viable trees, shrubs, grasses and wild flowers were ripped from the ground by heavy equipment to clear and widen the easement.

Before the devastation, there was a trodden path that meandered through the trees and meadow, connecting to another well-worn trail that hugs the banks of the White River. The river trail used to be passable, but now, much of the path is strewn with crowns, severed from their trunks and left to wither and decay.

Beneath these fallen crowns are younger trees, their spindly, supple trunks bent low to the ground under the dead weight of expired elders. The crowning glory of foliage sweeps the forest floor, wildflowers interwoven with the branches, like a grapevine wreath strung with anemone, violets, bluebells, mayapple, asters, spring beauty, toadshade, daisies…

I miss my leisurely walks along the riverbank. Climbing through the dying crowns is like trudging through the wreckage of a tornado. It is difficult to recognize—or visualize— what once was. Now I must clamber over immense trunks and climb through a maze of branches. The spirits of the trees whisper among themselves in the breeze as I wend my way through the tombstones of their cemetery.

Recently, a friend said, “the land has a way of recovering on it’s own.” Yes, and no. I wonder how many critters have fled to quieter meadows and woods, safe from bulldozers. Those one-hundred-plus-year-old trees are goners; it will take as many years for saplings to reach heights necessary to recreate the canopy. I’ll be fodder for trees by then.

Even though I must resign myself to the victimization of the woods, it remains my sanctuary. Just as I now walk with God through the havoc of the woods, so I must walk with God through the turmoil of my life. With God’s help I weave my way through this fallen world and he weaves a floral wreath of promises to care for me, no matter what befalls me.

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.
Genesis 28:15 (NIV)

I am with you always.
Matthew 28:20 (NIV)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"NOoooooo!" - August 1, 2009

“Evan, eat your green beans, please.”

“No,” replies my twenty-month-old grandson, his hazel eyes locked intently with mine.

Hmmm… I never had this problem with his daddy, Matt, who inhaled “greensie-beansies” by the can-full. Matthew was master of the “NO!” under most other circumstances. Surely I can get this sweet son of his to eat his beans.

Evan’s vocabulary is rich in ways to resist. There’s the sing-songy “NOoooooo…,” with O’s streaming from his O-shaped mouth, like bubbles streaming from a bubble wand. Initially, his Mommy and Daddy thought this was cute, but it quickly lost its charm as Evan’s vocabulary of “no” grew.

As with my green beans example, there is the matter-of-fact “no,” with eye contact emphasis, testing the adult, “How far can I go?”

Then there’s the quiet “no,” with a slight movement of his head back and forth, when he is engrossed in an activity, such as playing with the remote control.

And, of course, the emphatic “NO!!!” said with eyes ablaze in vehement opposition, that makes living with a toddler so charming.

I relish those blessed times when a toddler says “no,” and then immediately obeys. “This is MY idea to comply, not yours!”

Imagine yourself a toddler in relationship to your Heavenly Father. I routinely get stuck in spiritual toddlerhood, my first reaction to God’s nudging usually some form of “no.” I take consolation from my Biblical ancestors:

Moses employed the “Who, ME?” tactic, when God spoke from the burning bush, saying, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." Moses queried God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh…?" (Exodus 3:10-11 NIV)

The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, adopted the, “I’m too young” line of defense when God informed him that before he was even born, “I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah replied, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” (Jeremiah 1:6 NIV)

Jonah utilized the “Flea-to-the-Sea” strategy when God instructed him to take bad news to the people of Nineveh. Due to acting like a spineless jellyfish, Jonah landed in “time-out”—in the belly of a whale.

There are countless ways to say “no” to God. For example, God says that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but I mistreat it by ingesting the wrong things, eating too much, and by not getting proper exercise and sleep. God wants me to be a good steward of my time and talents, but I squander both of these gifts far too often. I let my fears of rejection and abandonment get in the way of standing up for God’s truth and the welfare of others.

To be called a child of God is both an honor and a reflection of the reality that, spiritually, I will always be a child in need of my Father’s guidance and discipline. As parents, we have our children’s best interest at heart when we “don’t take no for an answer. “ God does, too.

Monday, July 6, 2009

FINDING NICK - July 4, 2009

“I know the plans I have for you…plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

This is the story of a boy and his dog who met in prison; the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. I am privy to this saga, because the dog was my dog, Faith.

Faith is the third puppy my husband Rex and I fostered for Leader Dogs for the Blind. At one year of age, Faith returned to Leader Dog School to begin formal training. Six months into training, she was released from the program due to kennel stress. We adopted Faith, with the intent of finding her an alternative avenue of service.

Canine Partners of the Rockies, a program that matches dogs with adults with disabilities, eagerly accepted her, only to release her a few weeks later. Though her guide dog skills were excellent, they did not transfer well for wheelchair work. As her “mom,” I was distressed that my golden girl had not yet found her purpose in life, or a home and family to call her own.

The boy in this story is Nick, a nine-year-old with Down’s syndrome. At age 2 ½, Nick was speaking simple sentences and enjoyed singing songs with his mom. Then one day, Nick disappeared into a private reality, no long speaking, singing, or answering to his name. When Nick was eight, he was finally diagnosed with autism.

Nick is a sweet, loving child, but when upset, he cries, screams, hits, bites, and throws things. In public, he often refuses to hold a parent’s hand, runs of, and plops to the ground to stage a “sit in.”

Nick’s mom, Katrina, intuitively knew that her son would benefit from having a service dog. Although Nick does not have the usual disabilities for which people typically receive service dogs, this determined mom searched for a program that could help him.

During the same time period, my husband and I were contemplating a third placement for Faith—and that is when God brought Faith and Nick together, via the Indiana Canine Assistant Network.

After several months of training, Faith was ready to be matched with a child. Three days into “team training,” when the child and parents work intensively with the service dog and trainer, Nick began speaking—to Faith. Like most children with autism, he needed something to spin, but one day in training, Nick threw his cup and pencil to the floor and made a beeline for Faith.

Faith was allowed to go home with Nick during training and one night, when Nick was crying, Faith went to him. Nick wrapped his arms around Faith and cried into her fur. With Faith’s comforting presence, Nick’s behavior did not escalate into rage or violence.

Nick is beginning to interact more with humans as well. He speaks in sentences. He sings with Mom—the tunes and lyrics he knew at 2 ½, intact.

“I’ve searched for my son for all these years," says his mom, “and it took a dog to find him.”

“Prayer is the key to Heaven, but FAITH unlocks the door.”

I dedicate my column to the ICAN trainers
at the Indiana Women’s Prison.

You are awesome! God bless you!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

FLEDGING - June 2 2009

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles…
Isaiah 40:31 NIV

There’s a nice young couple who have taken up residence in our home—on a support beam situated on the underneath side of our second story deck. It ‘s a safe place to lay a few eggs, sit a spell, and then hatch some young’uns. From nest construction to empty nest, I’ve enjoyed peeking in on my houseguests.

Ladies (and gents), have you ever noticed how fast another mother’s pregnancy proceeds? My pregnancies dragged on at a tortoise pace while everyone else’s pregnancies fly by like the hare in Aesop’s fable. An avian gestation goes by in a flash—for a bird the size of my housemate, approximately 11-14 days. Once hatched, baby birds grow at the speed of light, so you need to be alert and observant if you want to catch the action.

When Mama bird’s behavior changed from incubating her eggs to making umpteen trips to the grocery store, I began making bed checks on the nest several times a day to see how the babies were growing. I was elated when I first caught sight of little pin-feathered heads and beaks popping up. Then one day a baby bird was pushed out on the edge of the nest, due to cramped conditions, and I knew that, of necessity, the babes would take flight soon.

Later that same day I heard a commotion in the direction of the nest and looked over in time to see one fledgling flutter like a befuddled butterfly, fighting to gain altitude. Its wings were flapping wildly and he was darting this way and that, like a kite being played by a fickle wind. But soon he was able to control his wings and negotiated a less than perfect landing on a tree branch.

I walked over to the nest to inspect it to see if anyone else had fledged. As I tilted my head to look up at the nest, the three remaining babies fled the scene and immediately flew to nearby branches. I sat in wonder as I watched the fledglings flying back and forth. It was like watching my child taking off on her maiden bike-flight. I felt the same pride and elation that I have every time one of my kids masters a new challenge. “Whoo hoo!”

In a week’s time, “my” baby birds (I tend to quickly develop attachments to animals) were transformed from pathetic, helpless, naked newborns into teenagers, eager to earn their flying licenses and receive their flight wings. What an amazing miracle!

Do you ever feel like a baby bird being forced out of your security nest, fearful that you won’t be able to wing it? Over and over in life we find ourselves in new and challenging positions, pushed out of our comfort zone. Put your hope in your heavenly Flight Instructor and let God carry you—and “soar on wings like eagles.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"GRACE MEANS GIFT" - May 2, 2009

“For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”
Ephesians 2:8 KJV

When I was forty-something, my mom gave me her most prized possession—her mother’s Bible: a lady-like sized, leather-bound King James Version, with petite print.

What I treasure most about this Bible is my Grandmother’s written notes. My own Bible has many passages highlighted and underlined, with comments written in the margin, the really good pages dog-earred. So with great interest I opened Grandma’s Bible to see what passages were most dear to her. Leafing through its delicate pages yielded only one, concise comment—but it is a comment that speaks volumes.

In carefully executed cursive, at the top of the “Presented to” page, Grandma wrote “grace means gift.” That’s it. Grace means gift. After my initial disappointment, my heart swelled with the realization that this one tiny phrase was the “heart” of my grandmother’s heart.

At the time I discovered her note, I was in the midst of my own discovery of God’s grace. I’m always amazed (but not surprised) at God’s impeccable timing. If I had read Grandma’s comment a couple years earlier, would it have had the same impact? I think not. God saved this precious discovery for a time when I would be most able to receive the full impact of its blessing.

Grandma’s legacy—the realization of God’s amazing grace—was passed down to me through my mother. I’m not referring here to Mom handing over Grandma’s Bible to me, but to her own faith journey. Every time she shared her personal encounters with “grace means gift,” with me, her face glowed and her voice took on the quality of music—an expression that made me say to myself, “I want that! I want to have what she has!”

Even though my mom was raised in the church, it wasn’t until she was 59 that she really “got” grace. In her eighties, Mom wrote her autobiography for her children and grandchildren, and in it she stated, “Unknowingly, there had been a struggle in my life as I wavered back and forth for many years, trying to earn my own salvation FOR God, instead of accepting it as a free gift FROM God through Christ!”

Each one of us has to experience our very own encounter with grace. Grace is such a difficult concept to grasp. But once we’ve “got” grace, we want to share it. And it is through demonstrating grace toward others that we help them “get” grace.

We can lead our loved ones and friends to the water trough of grace, but they have to taste it for themselves in order to experience its refreshing, life sustaining truth. Often times, we arrive at the water trough via trauma, crisis, loss, grief—literally dying of thirst, spiritually. Care for a sip?

Grace means gift!

In memory of my grace-filled grandma
Wilhelminia Schelesky Reuman

Monday, April 13, 2009


During March, my daughter, Beth, led a mission trip to Antiqua Guatemala for Ambassadors for Children. My husband, Rex, and I also went to Guatemala on a medical mission with People Helping People. Beth was in Guatemala from the 7th to the 14th; we were there from the 14th to the 21st.

On March 14, we were like “two ships passing in the night,” in the Guatemala City airport as Beth and her team were checking in to ticketing to leave Guatemala, at the same time that our team was arriving. There is no crossing over from the “departures” side to the “arrivals” area, and there wasn’t even an opportunity to wave at each other through a window. To be that close to my daughter in a foreign country and not give her a hug was pure torture.

When traveling out of the country, one’s passport is a traveler’s most precious possession—even more valuable than my aerosol hairspray, which was confiscated at the new Indianapolis terminal. I didn’t carry this document with me to the clinic site or while sightseeing or shopping, but I was always a bit anxious when it was not on my person.

While I tend to be a worrier in my normal life, beyond the U.S. borders I develop the mind of a Stephen King. What if our bus is ambushed by bandits, we’re robbed and abandoned on the side of a winding mountain road, without currency or documentation? Or what if a volcano erupts and…

Even more important than a passport issued by our government is our spiritual passport, given to us by God: GRACE. We are birthed into grace when we are born, for God’s grace permeates everything. It’s like air which is necessary for life, but we can’t see it. Or like water to a fish: invisible, but essential.

No need to purchase this passport: just say “yes” to God’s free gift of grace. While not tangible or visible, you can “feel” and “see” it in the way a grace-filled person demonstrates grace to those around them. This spiritual document can’t be lost or stolen. There is no expiration date; no need to renew it or pay for it, and then wait ten weeks for it to arrive in the mail. And, best of all—no ugly mug shot that you’re stuck with for ten years; our image is a reflection of Christ.

As we observe Holy Week, remember that the events of Christ’s last week of life—his entry into Jerusalem, the Passover meal taken with his disciples, his passionate prayers in Gethsemane, his arrest, beatings, trial, conviction, crucifixion and burial—were all a part of God’s plan to redeem us. Our passports are stamped with Jesus’ blood.

On Easter we celebrate God’s unlimited, uncontainable, unrestrainable Grace, as demonstrated in our Savior’s resurrection.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Ephesians 2:8 NIV

FASTING - March 7, 2009

I am not a big fan of fasting. I tried it once, but only due to peer pressure. Eons ago, a pious person in my Bible study group decided it would be spiritually edifying to fast during an overnight retreat. I’m not talking eight or even twelve hours; no, twenty-four excruciating hours of gnawing emptiness—to help us focus on God.

Oh, I fasted, and survived, but my eyes were more on my tummy than on God. And I was so famished when it was time to “break fast,” that I ravenous gorged on donuts that a thoughtful Martha among us supplied. I learned two spiritual lessons from this rigorous discipline: 1. fasting is definitely not my mug of mocha, and 2. greasy pastries hit the empty tomb like a tub of rancid lard.

In Old Testament times, the Israelites engaged in fasting—laced with “attitude.” God sounds slightly sarcastic in the following response to the fasting of his Chosen People:

"The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won't get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?” (Isaiah 58:3-5 The Message)

Actually, God sounds A LOT sarcastic—and angry. I think these are good words to keep in mind if fasting for Lent, whether for extended hours, or in refraining from chocolate, pop, alcohol, or some other addictive substance or activity.

If you’re primarily giving up desserts just so you can fit into your bathing suit over spring break, I strongly encourage you to rethink this. I have a hunch that this motive falls into the “unspiritual attitude” category that brings out God’s cynicism. The object of Lenten denial is to express devotion for God, not adoration for the Sun god of Daytona Beach.

I’ve occasionally given up chocolate, Diet Dr. Pepper or desserts for Lent, but I must admit to mixed and self-serving motives. To my relief, God provides another fasting option; a “doing” fast rather than a “denial” fast:

"This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families." (Isaiah 58:6-7 The Message)

Our Savior would say a rousing “AMEN!” to that:

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least
of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Matthew 25:40 The Message

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CHANGE - February 21, 2009

"I tell you the truth,
unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:3
Just as I get comfortable, something changes. Sometimes the change is for the better; sometimes it makes things difficult; and sometimes change falls somewhere in the middle. Mostly, change slides up and down the continuum of life and I am dizzied in my attempts to keep up with it.

I’m most uncomfortable when change comes unexpectedly. Just as I tend to be klutzy in the physical realm, I am also emotionally klutzy, falling on my face as the speeding ball whizzes by me, or worse, strikes me dead-on, right where it hurts, especially in my “family bone.”

Right now, my family bone is in good shape. Changes are on the horizon, but they are exciting ones, including a mission trip to Guatemala with my husband, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. I look forward to warmer temperatures; but dread the packing and traveling. I love experiencing another culture; but get frustrated because I “no hablo mucho Espanol.”

I would like to think that I’ve grown more adaptable over the years, but there’s a troubling rumor going around that people in my age bracket begin to get stuck in our ways. This was true for my parents, but I can’t imagine this happening to me.

My hubby and I are definitely keeping up with the times. Rex and I each have our own cell phones (but can only execute a paltry few functions). We just entered the postmodern era by purchasing a flat screen TV (we were forced out of our comfort zone when our good-old, good-enough antique set died right before our eyes). And, I am on Facebook (but I have no pictures of me all dolled up, bedecked in “my little black dress,” nor do I have any place to wear it).

Not one school counselor advised me that I would need to minor in computer science in order to manage my daily life in the 21st century. For heaven’s sake, today’s three-year-old knows more about the computer than I do! Must I “change and become like a child” to enter the computer age?

There’s a bittersweet change just around the corner for me. I have been writing for The Herald Bulletin since May 2005 and thoroughly enjoy doing so. However, this column will begin appearing monthly, rather than weekly, beginning in March. To wean you from a weekly column, I will be skipping the last Saturday of February, and then begin the monthly routine. So be sure to look for me on the FIRST Saturday of each month to catch up on my adventures with Grace.

In the event that you go into withdrawal, you can get a fix by logging onto my blog: Is not the fact that I am a “blogger” substantial proof of my ability to adapt to change? Don’t answer that. I don’t want to hear it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

HEART-BREAK - Valentine's Day - February 14, 2009

“O my Comforter in sorrow,
my heart is faint within me.”
Jeremiah 8:18 NIV

I have a sobering Valentine’s Day message. I wish to share with you a burden that is heavy on my heart.

By profession, I am a Mental Health Counselor and a large component of my practice is with women who were sexually abused as children or sexually assaulted as adults. Boys and men do not escape such abuse, but are far more reticent to report. They’re more likely to end up in drug court or jail rather than in a therapist’s office.

When you’re attending church, a ballgame, or shopping this weekend, be aware that roughly 25% of the women there were sexually abused before the age of eighteen. There are children near you who are currently being sexually abused. If they do tell someone, it is often years after the occurrence. Many of these girls and women will NEVER tell anyone.

You will likely to be standing in line, or sharing a pew or bleacher, with perpetrators. Most will never be confronted with their crimes, and those who are will escape conviction due to “lack of evidence.” There’s no DNA test for the damage done to a human heart and spirit. If convicted, the sentence will not reflect the life-long devastation wrought on their victim and her family.

Many people are baffled that victims often don’t report. “Why didn’t you scream?” “Why didn’t you tell someone?” Perpetrators tell children, “Don’t tell anyone or you’ll get in trouble.” “If you tell, I’ll hurt your mommy (brother, sister, YOU).” Big sisters will often endure abuse in the hopes that younger siblings will be left alone.

Women rarely scream for help because they are frozen in fear. Violence—even threats—is a powerful silencer. Most sexual assaults are perpetrated by people the victims know. Imagine breaking the silence and telling on a relative, pastor, neighbor, family friend, husband or boyfriend; now an entire family is affected. Will you be believed, or accused of lying? (“The rate of false reports of rape is approximately 2%-3% which is no different than for other crimes.”).

Ironically, “22% of all women say that they have been forced to do sexual things against their will, where only 3% of men admit to ever forcing themselves on a woman.”

Shockingly, “The United States has the highest rape rate among countries which report such statistics (13 times higher than England; 20 time that of Japan).”

Sadly, “18% of women who reported being raped before age 18 said they were also raped after age 18.” These women are not “asking for it” by how they act or dress. They are dramatically more vulnerable than non-victims and perpetrators easily find and target them.

Despairingly, those who have the courage to pursue prosecution of their perpetrator, will be further emotionally wounded by painful experiences with medical personnel, law enforcement, the legal system and media. Sitting in a court room with a perpetrator is a nightmare. If they’ve been assaulted by someone they have previously had consensual sex with, they will probably settle out of court; juries are stymied by this dilemma. It’s better to settle for a lesser conviction than to see one’s offender walk free.

Survivors numb their emotional pain via eating disorders and abusing drugs and alcohol. They suffer from long term depression and anxiety disorders. If they ever establish a loving relationship, their love life will be scarred by the abuse. Husbands and boyfriends often do not understand the long term consequences of abuse and, in frustration, push for sex, further wounding the women they love—and their relationship.

All is not well this Valentine’s Day. Heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, bouquets of roses, and romantic dinners cannot heal these bleeding hearts.

Compassion, patience, a listening, nonjudgmental ear, are healing ointment and protective bandages—dispense liberally. There’s no greater gift.



Sexual Assault Statistics, Men Against Sexual Assault, University of Rochester

Bureau of Justice: Crime and Victim Statistics,

Bureau of Justice Statistics Rape and Sexual Assault: Reporting to Police and Medical Attention,

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network,

Violence Against Women Online Resources: Document Library,

WHO (World Health Organization): Gender-based Violence,

Monday, February 2, 2009

NANA BANANA - January 31, 2009

I spend Mondays with my grandson Evan. We both love bananas. And we love words—or for Evan, he loves babble.

“This, is a banana,” I say. “This is Nana,” I say, pointing to myself.


After a breakfast of O’s and flakes—and bananas, it’s playtime. Evan’s attention span is typical of a fifteen month old—short—and so we do lots of different activities.

Santa brought him a ball pit, a great idea at the time Santa’s elves purchased it, but a not-so-great idea at 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve when Mommy and Daddy were huffin’ and puffin’ to inflate it. The pit is basically a small pool filled with colorful plastic balls, topped off by a corkscrew track.

“Eh, eh!” coaxes Evan, as he holds out a ball to me.

“Red ball,” I reply as I comply and drop the ball atop the track.

“Plop!” announces the red ball as it falls into the pit.

“Eh, eh!”

“Blue ball."


Tiring of this fascination, Evan heads to the house Papaw made for him out of an H.H. Gregg dryer box. Peek in window; enter house; peek out window at Nana. “Boo!” Nana can’t resist squeezing into the house via the toddler-wide door (Papaw didn’t take into account the likelihood that an adult might want to play inside). Evan lights up with delight and quickly joins me for a brief visit.

Then it’s on to his ATV (all terrain vehicle—Papaw went wild in the toy store). Evan’s short legs don’t quite reach the floor yet, but he’s more interested in the sound effects and lights than he is with driving.

Time for a workout on the Fisher-Price fort and slide. No need to “Eh, eh” at Nana for assistance; Evan’s up onto the platform and slipping down the slope head first on his tummy before Nana can say “Nana-banana.”

“Oh! What’s that?” Daddy’s bench press. “Oh, look at that cute baby in the mirror. Would you look at that—two Nanas!”

Time for a walk pushing the nifty, pint-sized, plastic car that transforms into a walker.
Push the button to turn on the TV. Grin at Nana. Turn off the TV. Turn on the TV. Grin at Nana…

Dig through the toy chest. Press lots of buttons that make animal sounds and music; boogey briefly to the beat. Open and close everything that opens and closes. Stack; unstack. Put in; take out.

Motor a matchbox car across the carpet, vocalizing motor sounds.

Sit on Nana’s lap. Have Nana read the six-page, indestructible, cardboard book about baby animals a gazillion times.

Time for a nap—Nana’s.

After a week’s rest, I can’t wait for Monday. I count the days. Can’t wait to kiss those baby soft cheeks and blow raspberries on Evan’s tummy. TGIM!

The Bible refers to God as our Heavenly Father, but I just bet he’s really our “Thank Goodness it’s Monday” Granddaddy.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Panda, Hope and I have been enjoying excursions to the Bark Park since last July when I purchased their required “Pooch Passes.” One frigid, 24 degrees morning, I donned my long johns, insulated socks, and boots, grabbed a hat and gloves, and loaded my eager, fur-clad companions into the car.

Panda is always uncontrollably excited when she recognizes the Bark Park and I have to let her out of the car first. Hope, on the other hand, waits patiently for her turn. I leashed Panda and she pulled me over the icy pavement to the park entrance. The gate has a keyed entry, but it was standing wide open.

Panda dragged me to the second gate and sniffed the fragrant ground as I unhooked her leash and released her into the park. I turned to leave to retrieve my other retriever—and my gloves, hat, and cell phone—and discovered that the gate had swung shut. I grasp the handle, but it didn’t budge. So I stuck my key in the keyhole and was puzzled that the lock didn’t open. “Maybe the lock is frozen,” I hypothesized, so I removed my key and tried again. No luck.

There I stood, shivering: no hat or gloves; no cell phone by which to call for help; nobody in sight to rescue us. I had visions of my thirteen year old dog freezing to death, paws frozen to the ground. What to do? Against my better judgment, I decided to climb out.

This is quite a dilemma for someone who is klutzy, afraid of heights, and recently underwent microfractive knee surgery. But I rose to the challenge, driven by panic, frigid air, and stinging, snowy mist. My “Center for Fight or Flight Operations” took over, flooding me with adrenaline and reducing my brain to that of a cave woman fighting for her life.

Facing my Mt. Everest—a six foot chain link gate—I began my ascent: right foot on lower gate hinge; left foot on support bar; s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g up; left hand grasping top of left gatepost; right hand grabbing the chain link. Utterly amazed, I heaved myself atop the gate.

“Now what do I do?” I’d only thought of how to ascend, never dreaming I’d make it this far. With my right leg dangling, my left leg scraped across the chain link, throwing my weight over and down. Gravity claimed me, and unbelievably, I landed on my feet. Granted, my landing was not graceful, but I’m certain that angels were involved. With the assistance of a very nice man at the Animal Shelter, I retrieved my senior retriever and all was well.

This adventure got me thinking about when it’s my time to approach the Pearly Gates. I believe that the Gate himself will be there to welcome me with open arms.

"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.
He will come in and go out, and find pasture."
John 10:9 NIV

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

LOST & FOUND - January 17, 2009

I once was lost, but now I’m found…
“Amazing Grace”
John Newton

I have a long history of losing and misplacing things. “It’ll turn up eventually,” says my hubby. Here’s my track record from the last two months, as it might appear in the Herald Bulletin classifieds:

Lost: one CD containing precious pictures of grandson. Lost in the vicinity of my home. Have looked high and low. If found, please call Nana at 555-5555.

Found: one CD containing precious pictures of grandson.

Lost (again): same CD containing precious pictures of grandson. Lost who knows where. If found, please call...

Lost: one flash drive, created by my son with precious pictures of grandson. Lost in the vicinity of my home.Bold

Found: one flash drive, created by my son with precious pictures of my grandson. Yea!

Lost and found, repeatedly: planner; cell phone, keys; my senses, my mind, my temper…
I have numerous CDs, but the one I lost is priceless to me. I have turned the house upside down. I have mentally and physically retraced my steps trying to remember where I may have put it down. I’ve even enlisted my husband in the search. We’re still looking…

In my favorite parable, Jesus uses the metaphor of a lost sheep: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.”

I cherish the image of my Shepherd searching for me when I go astray and rejoicing when he finds me. And to imagine myself sitting upon Jesus’ broad shoulders gives me shivers and brings tears to my eyes.

Not only does Jesus rejoice, he throws a party: “Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:3-8NIV)

I will most definitely rejoice if and when I find my CD, but my joy is miniscule compared to God’s joy when even just one of us repents. He created all of humankind in his image and longs to be in perfect relationship with us.

I have a card that depicts a shepherd, his knees resting on the edge of a cliff. He’s reaching over the ledge with his crook to rescue a lamb perched precariously on a branch growing out of the cliff. Have there been times in your life when you have felt like this lamb? If so, be assured, for God is seeking you relentlessly. You are on your Shepherd’s mind continually and you will be found.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

QUEST FOR THE PERFECT FIT - January 10, 2009

Ye shall seek me, and find me,
when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13 KJV

There are two goals I doubt that I will achieve: finding the perfect purse, and finding the perfect pair of jeans.

It is common among women to bemoan to each other about the difficulty of finding a pair of jeans that truly fit. Slacks and blouses, sweaters and skirts, and even shoes, we can find. But jeans that fit all aspects of our feminine physique? Unattainable.

If the jeans fit our hips, they definitely will not fit our waists. If we try the low riders, our paunches pooch out over the waist band. If the crotch fits, then you can bet your bottom dollar that the derriere won’t.

Recently I psyched myself up to join my sisters in the quest for the holy grail of dungarees (my mom’s word for jeans). I was desperate. I had stooped to wearing my faded, timeworn Levis that I retired from public display years ago, which are reserved only for solitary activities like hiking in the woods and gardening. I love those jeans! They’re soft and fit every curvature perfectly. I can’t imagine ever tossing them in the ragbag.

So last Tuesday I approached the wall of jeans in Kohls and, on hands and knees, hunted through every single pair for my size. Those disgustingly cheerful morning people, who had been standing outside the store chatting when the doors were unlocked for the big after Christmas sale, had already foraged through the once organized stacks of neatly folded jeans, and reeked havoc.

After two shopping trips and countless treks to and from dressing rooms, a stack of jeans came home with me. Final scrutiny before my own mirror narrowed the field down to three pairs of jeans that I’m satisfied with. They’re not perfect, but nothing can measure up to my beloved relaxed fit, boot cut Levis.

Questing after God is similar to my pursuit of jeans. I often have to psych myself up to find God in my life. The closet of my spiritual life is cluttered and I lack the energy and motivation to be a seeker.

There’s a scene in the movie ET in which the mom opens the kid’s closet which is crammed full of stuffed animals. ET is sitting among the toys but blends in and goes unnoticed by the mom. But if you know what you’re looking for—as the audience does—you can’t miss him.

Sometimes God becomes just another entity that gets lost in my busyness and disorganization. Of course, God is not really lost. I don’t need to go shopping for God; just open the door—to my prayer closet, just as Jesus directs me in Matthew 6:6 (KJV).

Is your prayer closet cluttered with timeworn worries and crisp, new concerns? Whether you prefer to pray figuratively or literally in your prayer closet, do take time to talk to God.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Well, how are you doing with transitioning from 2008 to 2009? It’s time to take down the tree and holiday trimmings, sweep up the pine needles and hit the after Christmas sales—and stock up on Valentine’s Day chocolate, the displays of which are already prominent in the stores. Go ahead, pop a chocolate morsel into your mouth and snuggle into the hibernating months of January, February and March.


Perhaps a more apt metaphor might be of struggling into last year’s stiff, slippery, overstuffed snowsuit that you’ve outgrown and sludging through two feet—no, let’s make that six feet—of snow, while bracing yourself against an icy wind chill of -10—no, let’s make that -60. Severe weather causes painful frostbite, confines body, mind and spirit, and drives you stir-crazy. I see you in my mind’s eye as you shutter at this image and drop to your creaky knees to plead with your divine Weatherman for an early spring. I do envy those snowbirds…

I’ll know that I’ve successfully crossed the final hurdle into the new year when I no longer write 2008 on my checks. Even though I’ve hung the glossy, clean calendar (one I created myself featuring none other than my grandson, Evan) and have entered appointments into a fresh planner, it will still be awhile before I’m fully present in 2009.

Some years I have a mission trip in Central America to look forward to in the winter. Fond memories of sweating in the hot humidity of the tropics offers little comfort. I do so hate to sweat, but I would trade my shivers for sweat beads right about now. Alas, we’re not heading to Guatemala until April.

As you flip the calendar page and turn up the thermostat, would you say that you are snuggling or struggling with your Maker? Do you feel crammed into a religious format? You know: church every Sunday and Wednesday, committee meetings, and yet another pitch in dinner requiring that you use the oven for something other than warming up your buns (a fine Christian friend of mine, who happened to be from the South, living in Northern Michigan during our Air Force years, actually employed the stove in this very manner).

Let’s use the gift of nasty Midwest weather as an opportunity to snuggle into on our relationship with our Heavenly Father. I’ve found that a cup of hot chocolate goes well with prayer and Bible study.

I will snuggle (dwell) in the lap (house) of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:6 NIV

FYI: My hubby got my goat this Christmas—I’m referring to a goat given in my honor to the India Gospel League, so a family can have milk and raise a few goats for income.