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I Had a Dream

typewriter

Right before waking up this morning, I dreamt a friend and I were standing in the middle of a four-lane road with cars flying by in either direction. We were discussing the vital importance of practicing the act of writing for 20 minutes everyday, no matter what…

And then I woke up

Prior to waking up and prior to standing in the middle of the road, where I was, incidentally, holding a vintage typewriter under one arm, I had been at a beautiful gathering of writers and journalists who were sitting at tables together, sharing and listening. [Read more…]

Speak: Contemplation

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

I’ve been contemplating many things for quite some time and the more I keep it in, I feel I may implode.

Why have I held these things in rather than go with my usual mode of verbally processing my thoughts to whomever may be in the room or on the other end of the phone? To be fair, my husband would attest to me processing these with him over the years, and each time he reminds me, “Adrienne, THIS is the content of your book. Write it. Write it down. People need to hear.” I love him and need him to say this to me, especially since writing it down is part of the equation: In order NOT to implode I must write these things down and get on with living.

So, again, why have I shared these thoughts I ponder day in and day out with only a few?

Open confession: I’ve feared segments of Christendom. [Read more…]

5 Minutes a Day

I’ve been pondering what I want to be when I grow up. Or, ahem, now that I’m an adult. It requires stripping my heart naked and heading back to the mud of childhood where my curls were ringlets and my belly round and everything I ever said and did was cute, because: toddler.

Cheeks rosy. Throw head back for laughter to leave the lungs and fill the room. Pudgy hands crash together and again. And again. And again.

“More! Again, Daddy! More!”

Chasing, building, looking, exploring, balancing on anything and everything considered a balance beam. Eyes full of wonder. Seeking the knees of my Mom or my Dad, the safe space where my arms and their legs, once joined, were pillars, strong towers, the safest known place unless legs encircled around their waist and my head tucked into their neck and shoulder crook.

The smoothest ride without a care in the world is in the arms of a loving parent.

What is it I want to be? What is it I want to do? Why was I made and why am I here and how can I be of help to others because many a year has passed where I’ve more than helped myself.

What is it I wanted to be all those years ago? Was there something specific? Is it there I should be looking or forward to what I want to be or right here to discover and unfold the treasure?

And now my legs are the pillars for my little guy, and my hand and arms and shoulder and ears a source of comfort and strength for my daughter. How did I come to this age where adulthood is my label but youth and naïveté fill this bottle?

 

Practicing His Presence: The Effects of the Wind

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Woolly sheep resting in a pasture under a bent pine atop Auckland, NZ. (photo: #loneviajera)

Right now all I can hear is a wind from the north raging and whistling the sweet tiny lake cabin where we are presently staying. I’m kind of surprised my youngest hasn’t run down and jumped into bed with me yet from the ruckus…a sign he really is exhausted playing as hard as a 5 year old does. The elements have a way of carving, forming, shaping, anything that’s in its path. I’ve stood cliff side at the ocean’s edge, dared the railing at the Grand Canyon, sat above the tree line atop the Andes as the sun beat down and the winds and height made it clear no life could live at the peak too long. And we wonder, wonder why all the suffering, why all the pain and erosion? We raise our fists to the sky, maybe to the God some don’t even believe in, but whose fault it surely is for all the agony, and no answers come, at least not ones some may care to hear. It’s amazing houses withstand northeasters, but more miraculous is the beating a tree may take day after day after day. And it’s a variety of trees, too, not just those rooted down deeply. On the shores of warm beaches spanning the globe, shallow rooted palms sustain gale force winds regularly. And some days they don’t. Some storms are weathered by all sorts of trees with all sorts of root systems on any given day. And then, one day, whether it was a storm or just the specific day and time established, it was the one, the one where the uprooting determined the final number of rings to be counted. Therefore I don’t wonder. Well, I do if we think of the word wonder in a way that conjures up awe and continued pursuit and a life of curiosity, but not “wonder” in a despairing way, because we are all only here as long as we are here. Only alive hearts feel the stretch, ache, and deep pain of being bent low in the path of the screaming wind. But the elasticity with which we are made, the brilliance and endurance with which we were created, resurrects us to our original design, rising tall, again, on our firm foundation.

(*This morning I only had 10 minutes to write, so often I just don’t because it doesn’t seem like enough time to finish a thought. But I followed the cheering and advice of my writer friends and put my butt in the chair (I stayed in bed and pulled the laptop in…) and sat with my eyes closed and my fingers on the keyboard, and this is what came of it. There are links to other posts I’ve written like this if you follow the tag: Practicing His Presence.)

NOT Another Political Rant

(*This post is an unabridged version of a comment I left on someone’s repost of some guy on Facebook, a selfie of a 50-year old male caucasian US citizen of Slovak decent with a nice SUV in the background in front of a Walmart, ranting about what he assumes is an illegal alien or recent Mexican immigrant using an EBT card, driving said SUV, and he’s been working 7-day weeks his whole life and is in debt and why doesn’t he get an EBT card?)

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Imagine the ripple effects of our words, loving or hateful…either one, there are ripple effects. What kind will you set into motion?

 I was just pondering this the other day how we compare what we see on the outside when we don’t have a clue of what’s on the inside, the deeper story of EVERYONE AND ANYONE. I was thinking about how some people say they’re successful financially because they work hard, however, my husband works just as hard at his job in the non-profit world as the immigrant farmer in southern California who is farming the organic veggies for the hipster artists in popular cities who work the same amount of hours but their work looks differently from the person who’s working just as diligently in a high pressure factory job or a white collar profession, the same amount of hours, different amounts of dollars. The truth is if the guy whose 50 year struggle still has him in heap of debt is complaining about immigrants being better off than he is, I wonder if it’s more a question of the way he stewards his money (and maybe his attitude?) and whether he lives within his means (see Dave Ramsey). Because some people around the world live on a fraction of what the average US citizen (or other first world citizen) makes in a year and are not indebted to “the man.” As are some US citizens living on way less than the next door neighbor, working just as many hours, but they live within their means.  [Read more…]

It’s Not Me…It’s You

No. Really. It’s you, and we just can’t be friends…at least not until next spring.

As awesome as I know you probably are, lingering to talk in the parking lot after drop-off, or church, or the gym or whatever, just isn’t going to happen…at least not until next spring…and by “spring” I mean late spring, like early June, realistically.

You see, it’s you…it’s not me.

You’re all, “Oooooh, boots and snowflakes and mittens and hot cocoa and blankies and baking and peppermint mocha lattes…”

And I’m all, “Dear God, make me a bird, a tropical bird, so I can fly far…far, far away…to the south, preferably Mexico…southern Mexico.”

photo: seychelles.org

photo: seychelles.org

You are from here, born and raised. Your blood really is thicker. You are stronger and somehow instinctually capable of regulating your body temperature to adjust to arctic temps. You actually like building snow men and snow forts and jumping into snow drifts with your kids.

I am from the desert. Although I’ve been gone from there for 25 years, I’m cold-blooded. I’m actually a reptile…even have the scaly skin to prove it. My blood is cold and I require external heat sources like rocks, heated blankets, hot tile, saunas, the sun, steamy mugs of tea, and my husbands back and calves, to supply heat to my icy hands and frozen toes. I love my children and therefore, two times each winter, I pretend to be gleefully happy putting on 17 layers of clothing and “enjoying” time together, OUTSIDE…because in winter, apparently, you can’t do that INDOORS? #thingsparentsdointhenameoflove

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(My attempt at “snowparenting”…all in the name of love…)

I have to wrap my kidneys under my clothing just to keep my blood from frosting over. It’s a thing.

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The fur ball pom poms add bulk under clothing, but warmth is more important than appearances.

For you, ice is something you seek out, like ask for it in your beverages, pay money to skate on it, and even know how to drive on.

Heck, you even have winter festivals and carnivals where you walk around, outside, in the bitter cold, to find medallions, because? Well, I’m not sure why, but you do.

For me, ice is like the devil himself. I actually think hell might be sub-zero, not so much hot, since hot-ness would be amaze-balls. Frosty freezers hurt my bones like nails on a chalkboard, cold drinks make my whole body shiver, and, just thinking about coldness makes me want to cry.

So, please don’t take offense. I’m out. Unreachable. Going into hibernation and I won’t be coming up for breath until next spring. It’s up to you if you want to be friends with me…there is criteria during the next 4-6 months, depending on El Niño and global warming and if spring actually happens on March 21st of 2016.

The criteria is this:

  • If you want to be friends, you’ll have to come to me, because leaving the house would require me to GO OUTSIDE, and since it’s winter, ima gonna try not to do that…however, I can come to you if you have one or more of the following:

I really do think we could have a grand friendship, but it’s not really up to me, is it? Since it’s you, not me, who knows how to weather this season.

Until then…

 

When Marriage Requires Confession

Have you ever been driving along and a horrible thought out of nowhere goes something like, “Drive your car off that cliff” or “Head into oncoming traffic”? Or other abnormal thoughts like wanting to jump someone’s bones whose bones aren’t yours to jump, or even hurt yourself, or hurt someone else? The mind is a curious place and can surprise even ourselves at times.

The wrestling came with feeling a sense of “attraction” to a guy at church, one I wouldn’t have found attractive at first glance. I was upset with myself for the random thoughts popping into my mind when he would talk to me, because I loved my husband. It was during a season when Jason and I were tired and busy new parents and he was working a ton. He also admits he wasn’t close to God during that time and we were in a marital season of going through the motions to merely survive parenting, a move, and a remodel.

I felt ashamed for being a “Christian woman in leadership” and feeling a spiritual connection to a man other than my husband. I did everything “church” had taught me to do when stuff like this happened: prayed, read scripture, “took captive every thought that sets itself up against the knowledge of God…” I put on my armor every day and walked away from scenarios where the attraction could develop into anything more. But it was strong, and, at the same time, I resented Jason for what I perceived as being spiritually dry and disinterested in changing our relationship, so part of me wanted to entertain the thoughts further…because there was a “connection.”

Problem was, I was expecting Jason to meet a spiritual need in me that only I could find seeking God, projecting onto him some sort of spiritual role I had conjured up in my head, and of what I expected a “Christian” husband to behave like.

After trying to keep the battle to myself, not wanting to hurt Jason or ruin our marriage, but seeing the internal battle of containing thoughts was messing with my own head and heart, I finally confessed to Jason. I told him how I felt, the random thoughts, apologized for having unhealthy expectations, and how I wanted no secrets between us. I told him I didn’t want to jump the other guys’ bones, I wanted Jason’s bones, and how our marriage was important, totally worth it, but something was missing, and we needed to make God and our love the priority. He agreed. And the spiritual “attraction” to that other guy totally disappeared.

Rewind, and fast forward, to some other “random” scenarios, and hopefully this will lead me to my point…

Back to those random thoughts that come out of nowhere…throughout my mostly happily married life of 22 years to the hottest man in my whole world, there have been some guys I’ve met where I felt very uncomfortable and unnecessarily vulnerable around, and a thought comes out of nowhere and runs its course through my mind that has something to do with sex or attraction, and I’m like, “Whoa!?” or “What the heck?! Where did that come from?!” or, this, “Huh…that guy’s not ugly…” or “Wait! What is going on in my heart and marriage that a thought like that would come over me?!”

Being aware spiritually, and then bringing it to light, is key…even if it is just a thought, openly sharing it doesn’t allow a thing to grow and take root…it doesn’t allow it to stay hidden. Authentic sharing reveals everyone is tempted on any given day with any given thing. Confessing it to your spouse, even if you think it will hurt them, is being truthful with something that isn’t even a THING yet! When communication with our spouse is open, then saying, “Hey, will you pray for me? I just had a really random thought fly through my head and I don’t want to entertain it” diffuses and snuffs out something before it becomes a wildfire.

Recently, I had what seems to be a revelation about all of this…and I talked to Jason about it. See, I believe we are in a daily battle for our very souls. And I believe that battle is raging over us and in us and around us, whether we are aware of it or not…whether we believe it or not. I believe there are spirits waging battles against people to thwart their marriages, callings, families, livelihood, etc, but they are subtle at first…sometimes they come when times are tough, sometimes when everything is going great. And, if those subtleties, whether as “random” thoughts or about sexual temptation, or resentment and unspoken expectations like I had, go un-confessed, they can absolutely grow into inappropriate friendships and affairs. Scripture says, “Our battle is NOT against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces in this world.” In relationships, the subtlety can look like a battle with the other person, but the reality is, it’s rooted in something more.

So, then, what can we do with this information? First of all, no matter what, no matter the thoughts that pop into our heads, no matter our behaviors or choices, God who created us in His image, is totally and completely in love with us. Period. Any person who tells you otherwise is spreading lies.

  • We need to pray…I mean there are no secrets with God, anyway, so these thoughts aren’t shocking or a surprise to Him. How do you pray? I might pray something like this, “Lord, You know the thoughts that have been running through my head. I don’t want them there and I don’t want them to become anything more. Please open my eyes to see when these attempts at my heart are there, and free me more and more from their power. I need You and can’t do this on my own…”
  • We need to share these thoughts, the ones that AREN’T even a THING yet, with our spouses, family, friends, and trusted mentors, so they don’t become a THING at all.
  • We need to share because ISOLATION MAKES US WEIRD…when we sit with our own thoughts too long, especially ones we didn’t conjure up in the first place, yet “own” them as our own, then we start to wonder about our worth.
  • If the thoughts have already become a THING, it’s still not a secret even if you haven’t told another person (see first bullet above…) so the same course of action applies…especially since the longer it hides in the dark, the bigger it grows, and the more caustic the effects later.
  • And finally, instead of living in fear that there’s a demon under every rock, let’s simply be aware of the battles, call them out into God’s Light, and then, let’s get on with this beautiful, glorious life of loving God, loving ourselves, and loving others extravagantly.

“For I Know The Plans I Have For You…

…declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…” – Jeremiah 29:11

This is a scripture a lot of Christians quote to encourage one another of God’s goodness over them. And it’s good. It’s truth. He does have good in mind for all of His creation.

But it’s important to read some of the sentences that surround this statement…not because God only functions in scriptural context, because He doesn’t…He won’t be confined to a box of our limited comprehension…but because sometimes we need a reminder that His goodness and His ways don’t always look like glitter and fireworks and shiny fancy packages…

Also, I don’t view this story as one solely for people a couple thousand years ago, non-applicable to today, but as especially pertinent for people who claim to be Christians, as a directive that still holds true wherever they may live.

A few years ago, some friends and I did what was supposed to be a 12-week study on the book of Daniel, from the Old Testament of the Bible that we stretched out over the course of 10 months. The content was too rich to cram into 12 weeks, so we unboxed it and soaked in it to really get a taste for it. Well, I haven’t stopped thinking about Daniel’s life and relationship with God, and the Babylonian kings, ever since.

There are SO MANY ANGLES to go with the stories in the book of Daniel, but as far as his character, integrity, and dedication goes, I’m blown away in light of the circumstances of why he is even in Babylon in the first place and how he remained faithful in a godless nation.

Daniel was a promising young man, intelligent, strong and handsome, of noble birth and character. It’s presumed he was a teenager when he was taken into captivity in Babylon, and there he spent the rest of his life, learning from, working for, serving, and ultimately befriending, the foreign rulers. Specifically I think of King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel’s relationship with him, namely his behavior while living in a culture totally foreign to him.

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It never says Daniel tried to thwart the rulers he served under, never talks about him trying to change their governing systems, disrespect them, or slander the king’s name or laws. We know he didn’t eat the food or drink the wine the king provided for the leaders in training, and we know he prayed to God three times a day, and we also know he would interpret dreams for the king, even pleading with the king to heed the warnings…affording the king time to change.

But, we also know Daniel’s remainder of his life was spent in captivity, an exile from Jerusalem in Babylon, because God allowed for this. And we know he had huge favor and was the king’s right hand man.

The part about Jeremiah 29 and the promise of God’s good over His people is especially beautiful when the other sentences are read along with it, and especially challenging when filtered through a lens of “being in the world, but not of it” and how “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual principalities in the world.”

Here are some of the other sentences, the words and charge from God to Daniel and ALL the leaders and exiles who were carried off to Babylon:

This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon:

“Build houses and make yourselves at home.

“Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country.

“Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.

“Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.

“Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.”

8-9 Yes. Believe it or not, this is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God: “Don’t let all those so-called preachers and know-it-alls who are all over the place there take you in with their lies. Don’t pay any attention to the fantasies they keep coming up with to please you. They’re a bunch of liars preaching lies—and claiming I sent them! I never sent them, believe me.”God’s Decree!

10-11 This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

(The Message version)

It seems like Daniel was in tune with these truths, in tune with God, because he sought God, in spite of his surroundings and circumstances. His dedication to serving the king faithfully and with integrity, not trying to butt the system but rather praying for the good of Babylon, was met with great favor. It would seem Daniel’s lifestyle was a glimpse of what living and serving looks like in an upside down kingdom…what God will do when we trust Him despite what we see with our eyes or are experiencing in what feels like the darkest of hours.

I want that kind of intimacy with God and trust from Him. And that kind of favor for my “earth life.” Daniel’s example to me is to pursue God, regardless of surroundings, love my “enemies” extravagantly, and pray for the good of all people…liberal with the love shown me, liberal with the grace shown me, liberal with my trust that God sees a bigger picture…and it’s good.

(photo credit: pixabay user/TanteTati)

 

 

Life Interrupted

When I was in high school I used to keep a daily calendar…to be specific, I had a DayTimer. It was black leather with a zipper, totally official and tabbed and color-coded. And every single day over the course of a month, I wrote down and planned what outfit I would wear for the week, as to be careful never to repeat an ensemble twice in a two-week period, if not longer.

Clearly a first-world luxury.

I also used my DayTimer to plan ahead and keep track of class requirements, upcoming tests, my swim team meets and responsibilities as captain, my basketball games, youth group gatherings, and even a little red “dot” to mark important dates.

Though I’m an artist, go-with-the-flow kind of spirit, I thrive and flourish within boundaries and structure…

When I headed to college I replaced the calendar pages with a fresh new year and wrote in pencil everything each professor had given us in our syllabi, as well as all my social events and chaplain responsibilities and meetings, even first dates and break-ups. I lived and breathed and existed via the pages of my “organizer.”

After college when I had a career for 5 years, one in the field of college student development with a job description entailing a 24/7 work week, I kept my every move, hour by hour, scribed and color-coded, in my weekly and monthly schedule. If that thing ever got misplaced, I was lost…totally and completely lost. Thankfully, that never happened.

Then we moved across the country, while I was mega-pregnant, and bought a fixer-upper and knocked out walls and tore out the kitchen and Jason started at his new job 3 days later, so I sat covered in sawdust, eating chocolate chip cookies baked in a toaster oven, friendless, and started watching Soaps…

Eventually I snapped out of it, we met friends, I ditched Bo and Hope, my belly became a beautiful, little, priceless reality named Emily, and I started on the journey known as parenting…

a journey impossible to pencil into a calendar…a day to day sacred learning experience never intended to be minutely planned and scheduled into something as sterile as boundaries and structure and a DayTimer.

Parenting has been a rollercoaster ride with its twists and turns and loops…seasons of “closed for repairs” and “remodeling” and “expansion coming soon” and the fear of what’s on the other side of this upward climb and the letting go of trying to control it all.

Weirdest thing how the day I became a mom, my life no longer fit neatly into a neat, weekly-tabbed schedule…

I wear the same jeans every other day…because: COMFORT! A “red dot” is a sticker on clearance items at a store. I have “chaplain” meetings with my kids whether they are scheduled or not, and the only color-coding going on in my life has to do with laundry, on no specific day of the week.

Now, if every hour of my day and week were totally structured and written out in a planner or calendar, I’d rebel against it and feel suffocated, anyway.

But, with the kids spreading their wings little by little, I’m seeing a need to re-visit maybe a little bit of the structure I once knew and embraced. I know now better than to believe my life could be reduced to a rigid schedule, but I think part of me is longing to reign it in a teeny…maybe the creative, artistic side of me, as ironic as that sounds, is longing for a plan of action.

 

Viva Mexico!

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Growing up in Arizona, we would take weekend trips to Mexico, either to the border to do a little shopping for my dad’s building business and to eat great food, or a little further south to a place called Puerto Peñasco, or Rocky Point. It’s there I fell in love with garlic shrimp and beach spelunking.

I also just fell in love with Mexico. I fell in love with the culture, the people, the language, the architecture, the color, landscape, lifestyle, and warm sun. I don’t have a favorite part…from coast to coast and border to border, I love Mexico and her people.

There’s a secret beach near the border of Belize where you may find me if, one day, you can’t find me…

Every time I’m there, all my Spanish comes back…8 years of studying under two great women whose love for the language and latin cultures infected me…it’s the very best part…because that means I can read the signs, talk with the people, learn their stories in their language, and even translate so others can join in.

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And right now, my heart is heavy for the people of Mexico. They are a hard-working, humble-hearted people, generous and devout and gracious. And they will get through this storm, they will rise above it, but right now they are in the thick of it and need our love and prayers.

So, thankfully you don’t have to know how to speak Spanish in order to pray for these beautiful people…God’s fluent…and can translate. But please do pray. This storm is almost twice as large as Katrina, to help American’s put it into perspective. They don’t, and won’t, need our politics. They’ll just need our love and empathy…

(photo credit: pixabay users/Bayscholar & Pawiis09)