Blog hop! Why I Write

 

red-eyed-treefrogRemember playing leap frog as a kid? Hop, crouch, hop, crouch, hop! What a fun game… inspired by frogs!

Well, I’ve joined up with other bloggers to create another type of “leap frog.” It’s called a Blog Hop and I have my friend and fellow blogger, Terry Morgan to thank for including me.

Terry writes from her experiences working with Cru for 20 years in another country. She mentors and coaches rising leaders, has raised four kids, and has journeyed in marriageTerry with her husband, Steve, for 30 years! (Oh, and so cool — she blogs in English and Spanish!) She’s a woman with a heart for encouraging others to embrace life with truth and courage. We met almost two years ago, and right away I was drawn to her authentic disposition and the way her eyes twinkle when she smiles. So grab a cup of coffee and learn from Terry at Marturitas Cafe.

For the blog part of the hop, each writer shares answers to four questions about the writing process. So here’s some insight into what, why, and how I write.

1) What am I writing or working on?

Mostly my blog posts center around everyday life – the struggles and the joys. My writing stems from the way I process life, with words and images. I love to look for the storyline in random things, for the way things are connected. Many times, my posts are tinged with spiritual thoughts. Truly, I believe, that we are all spiritual beings and that the Creator is constantly seeking out ways to connect with us and remind us of His presence.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My writing is unique because the way I experience life and love and family and loss and God are unique. Others in this genre write from their unique perspectives. In my writing, I try to stay away from teaching or preaching. I seek to share my thoughts creatively and simply, and let that be enough.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I’d say I’m a reluctant writer. I’m definitely a verbal processor, though; so writing is a natural outlet. On the surface, I began this blog as a way to practice what I teach – as a writing instructor and communication coach. But on a deeper level, I write to include others in my story as way to encourage them to explore their own stories.

4) How does my writing process work?

I journal… a lot. Most of my blog posts start with a spark of something from what I’m reading or experiencing. It could be something as innocuous as a butterfly on a flower or as raw as wrestling with God about teen suicide. Journaling allows me space to process my thoughts and record my reactions. Then, after those thoughts have marinated between the pages of my journal, oftentimes they find their way onto my blog. When I make time to journal, even if I don’t sense something pressing to process, I find thoughts I didn’t know I had. I love that kind of discovery.

And now for the hopping. Other bloggers I’d like to point you to.

Stephanie

Stephanie Reeves has wanted to be a writer nearly all of her life. That desire was first fulfilled by writing for Cru’s magazine, Worldwide Challenge, for many years. She lives with her husband, David, and 3 kids—and a dog and bird and several fish—in Orlando, Florida. Her blog Compelled focuses mostly on lessons God shows her in everyday life, but she also shares parenting tips and occasionally writes about hot topics in today’s world. She recently started a new blog, That Senior Year, chronicling her journey with her first born through his senior year of high school.

I think you’ll enjoy Stephanie’s fun and truth-filled way of sharing everyday lessons.

 

SheriSheri LeVine was a court reporter for 20 years and hit what her dear husband refers to as a midlife crisis (mental health glitch). Her time since has been seeking, wife-ing, mothering, simplifying, reading, writing, learning, volunteering, mentoring, and caring. As her 40s come to a close, she is eager to experience the elusive wisdom and confidence that she hears materializes in the 50s.

I love Sheri’s willingness to embrace the messiness of life. She’s honest and caring — two qualities you’ll immediately see in her writing. Visit her blog, It’s All About the Love.

 

So there you have it. A Blog Hop! My desire is that you would read and be inspired to pick up a pen yourself, jot some thoughts, and then just maybe, you’ll have the courage to share your story, too.

 

 

Graduation

I stumbled into a longboard leaning against the garbage can this morning. I had come in through the side door — from my walk in the sun-drenched morning, into the dark, cluttered garage — and my squinting eyes didn’t adjust to the change quickly enough. I winced as the board nicked my shin, then rolled and tumbled to the floor. Memorable.

May 31, 2014 was also a day to remember.

B-speaking gradIt was a “eyes squinting in the brightness of all that God has done” kind of day. Our first born, completing homeschool high school, coming to the other side of his recent health challenges, standing proudly with his peers in his graduation. Tears flowed and laughter spilled out of big smiles etched by years of growth and trial and error.

Here are my words to him that day… my looking back and remembering.

 

So, Benjamin – as “son of the right hand” – steady, loyal, adept at learning – you and I have invested hours and hours of our brief lives into your education. We’ve sat on the couch and wrestled with phonics – and now you can read whatever you set your mind to – from CS Lewis, to The Economist. We’ve walked through the woods – and now you can tell a cardinal’s cheep cheep from a mourning dove’s coo coo. We’ve worked through long division – and now you can recognize patterns and figure complicated equations. And we’ve waited in hospital rooms for doctor’s answers, answers we haven’t liked and didn’t ask for – and now you know something about suffering and unanswered prayer.

And who could have guessed that one week in the Rocky Mountains learning about Austrian Economics would set you heart on fire and give you a passion through which you will change the world? …well God.

God saw all that you were becoming as I fumbled around with how to teach you history and math. The Father saw the man He is calling you to be and never let go. Even when I begged Him to “let me be done homeschooling,” He loved you and had this work to carry to completion. I know you know you’re not done learning and growing and becoming, that this is just a respite in your journey of embracing all that the Father knows. But this is a moment I will cherish, and be forever grateful that I got to stand here with you.

B and us - Grad

So, maybe my sharing this moment of reflection will encourage you to pause, reflect, and acknowledge all the Lord has done on your behalf. The insignificant moments of everyday stack up, and eventually become weeks, and then years. God is working, and building, and shaping, even when it feels like all we are doing is stumbling around in the darkness.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.     Philippians 2:12-13

Suffering

suffering w: christ

… that I may know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:10-11, NKJV)

I’ve loved this verse since my college days… “marching orders” for how my friends and I planned to take our campus for Christ. In the midst of studying at the library and dining at the cafeteria, we would gather for worship and all night prayer vigils. We had the fervor of the gospel burning in our hearts — literally, we saw nothing as more important than telling our friends about the life adventure that awaited them if they chose to follow Christ.

The thing is, in my fervent reading, I think I focused on the “power of his resurrection”. I don’t think I dwelt long enough on “the fellowship of his sufferings.” I mean, what does it mean to be “conformed” to the death of Jesus, anyway?

Christians just finished celebrating the Easter holiday. We reflected on the awesome mystery of redemption and atonement accomplished in the cross of Christ. We tried to imagine the despair of the first disciples as they stood by helpless, watching the Son of God undergo a friend’s betrayal, a sham trial, brutal beatings, and Roman crucifixion. And we tried to identify with their hopelessness after they laid him in the tomb and rolled the stone to seal it shut. We can’t really know what it felt like, though. Or can we?

I’ve known something if helplessness and hopelessness these past few weeks.

Benjamin’s recent battle with ulcerative colitis has worn us, wearied us, beaten us down. And even though this suffering doesn’t directly stem from sin on his part, it is a result of living in a world broken because of the fall. The effects of sin surround us. We’re all affected. Each one.

B sickSo as we wade through the mire of disease and unknowing, as we ask the Lord for healing and wait for His response, we find something in common with Jesus and His followers as they experienced His death. A kind of fellowship.

Mystery. Despair. Helpless. Hopeless… but not for long.

Sunday is coming.

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” 

(Matthew 28:6 NIV)

Redbuds

My redbud tree is blooming.

Redbud 1It does every year at this time. As the days grow longer, the grass greener, the wind warmer, I see magenta-pink little buds dotting the brittle gray branches. And I’m comforted by the rhythm of seasons.

The dramatic seasonal changes in Indiana have taught me much about living and dying … and coming back to life. Spring, especially, reveals that the grave is not the end.

And bare branches blooming have taught me that no matter how bleak the winter, life stirs just below the surface.

Redbud 2 The change in seasons marches with regularity, like a predictable timepiece – not enough to set a watch by, but surely enough to develop a certain level of expectation. And somehow all the players in nature follow the plan — the robins, the grass, the buds – they all follow the score like a finely-tuned orchestra poised to strike the first note.

Somehow, I’ve also come to expect that when I make plans that seem to line up with what God is doing in and around me, they should unfold predictably — like I expect them to. Evidently, God doesn’t have the same expectation.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Is. 40:28)

Until recently, I assumed my plans and dreams were God’s plans and dreams for me — only that God’s were bigger and better (of course) because he has a better perspective. I didn’t think God’s plans for me would include grief and disappointment and darkness. So much winter.

Turns out, God’s plans are completely different than mine. Unsearchable, unquantifiable, unpredictable. Turns out, he’s asking me to know that he is still good even in the middle of night.

Oh redbud tree, teach me to bloom when my bark is stark and stretched from harsh winter freezes. Teach me to respond to the Son even when everything around me is fragile and dormant. And redbud tree, teach me to dance in the music of life rather than become entangled in the cords of death.

You’ve shown me life like that, redbud. You and Jesus. Yes, Jesus has shown me how to live that way, too.

Looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. (Heb. 12:2-3)

Redbud 3

Spring

I hear songbirds this morning, heralds of spring. The renewal of the earth is all around me… in budding trees, in chickadees, in green blades of grass pushing through dormant mats of brown.

 

And I’m forced to consider God’s promise to make all things new.

spring butterfly

Maybe God puts us in hard places, impossible places where the future is bleak, disease-ridden, and barren so he can show us what renewal really looks like.

One thing I know, our future depends on God being the incomparable, faithful, rejuvenating God he claims to be. Our hope is rooted in the character of God, who alone has the capacity to do something utterly new.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

Who created these?

He who bring out their host and numbers them,

calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

mighty in power,

not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord,

and my right is disregarded by my God”?

Have you not known, Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

Is. 40:26-31

Transplanted

It’s not the land of my birth, but it is the land of my growth, of my becoming… my forming.

Indiana.

Sunrise

I am formed by rich red kitchen walls tinged with splatters of bacon grease and pancake batter on Saturday mornings. Clinking silverware and stacking clean plates from the dishwasher remind me that early morning chores call as faithfully as the sunrise. And I am transformed by meals at the kitchen table shaping this family into one that loves good food and conversations that always end up about movies.

And I am formed by the Indiana clay under my fingernails as I plant and weed and tend red lillythe roses and lavender in my garden beds. The hostas in the shade and lilies in the sun have taught me about blooming and pruning… necessary ingredients for growth. The redbuds we planted out back with their spindly branches and magenta blooms never fail to enchant. Every spring, they tell me that new life lurks just beneath the surface, merely waiting for a warm sun-kiss.

I am formed by three boys whose ever-bouncing, climbing, running feet found mud puddles to splash and balls to kick. They saw forests and imagined new worlds. They saw boxes full of Legos and built spaceships. They saw me and knew I could be trusted. What a gift. And every once in awhile, I convinced them to slow down and notice the caterpillar creeping along a leaf… which fostered in me a bit more childlike wonder.

I am formed by sure-changing seasons, sometimes subtle, sometimes brash. By soft grass and smiling daisies and sticky humid days passed poolside. By falling leaves, apple daisies and lavendarpicking, and bonfire crackles in the crisp night air. By chilled still bare tree-patterns against stormy skies and the hush of fresh-fallen snow. And by robins digging, creeks trickling, and buds bursting while rain pitter-patters on the window. They’ve taught me to watch, listen, and expect beauty at every turn.

I am formed by family time on the olive green couches. Guitar strumming, scripture reading, hearts singing, quiet praying time — inconsistent, but forming just the same. We’ve sought to listen to each other and to God. Together. Sometimes questions go unanswered, but we ask them anyway. Our belief in the One who knows all is strengthened in the asking.

I am formed by hospital beds and emergency rooms, by disease and unknowing. Struggles not just with tight budgets and traffic jams, but with temptations and tempers and immune systems. I have grabbed hold of Hoosier grit. It tells me that keeping on is better than giving up. And that friends who stand with you in the darkness love to celebrate with you in the light.

And I am formed by my partner in life. Marriage has taught me about giving and receiving Hand Holdingand how to be true. My dear one has loved me well and patiently listened while I railed against the hand of the One who loves us best. He stands beside me, stands up for me, stands to protect me, and stands with me in the place we’ve made home. His strength has softened me, and his softness shows me that loud and quick are not necessarily the only way to get something done.

Oh Indiana, I’ve still yet to mention homeschool co-ops and history clubs and milk runs to Rockville. Dunes camping, summer projects, tour buses, farmer’s markets, and state fairs are all part of life that has become mine. How you’ve changed me. How you’ve taught me. How you’ve welcomed this California transplant and encouraged her to grow.

Thank you.

fall trailside

I Am From

This entry is long overdue. I wrote it in October, but somehow didn’t see fit to share it in this venue till now. It speaks of my childhood roots, which somehow seem fresher to me right now, since we are preparing to move to another state and say goodbye to a place that’s become dear to us. But those thoughts are for another post…

 

I am from a walnut-stained upright piano and dutiful students playing minuets, and fugues, and concertos, and my mother’s gentle prodding to “do it again; this time with more feeling,” and I sit at the kitchen table, the center of our home, and anticipate every note to be played, those songs etching their way into my memory.

I am from the green stucco house on Janine Drive and creamy white shutters standing sentinel on either side of the picture windows that look out front. A bed of pink geraniums lines the street, and avocado and lemon trees shade the back. Running between the driveways, a boxwood hedge grows thick and entangled. The liquid amber tree my dad planted when we moved in the summer of my 2nd grade year stands straight and tall. I see those limbs, the branches bearing scarlet and orange leaves every fall, and I realize that we grew up together, that tree and me.

1st ChristianI am from Joanie and John, the soprano and bass who found love in the choir Grandfather Gene directed… and from Grandmother Betty who knew they belonged together even before they did. I am from The First Christian Church of Whittier and Thursday night choir practice and Sunday morning donut runs after Sunday school. The backlit cross hanging over the baptistery and the stained-glass windows in the balcony point me to a faith in the One who calls us to His light.

I am from mom’s hugs and dad’s backrubs – strong hands each with a touch all their own – and Rummy Cue played late into the night while camping in the desert. I am from Peazle-Weazel stories and leprechaun hunts in the orange orchard, and “Jesus, tender shepherd hear me” ushering me to sleep every night just like it did for my Daddy. Little sister and I sing along with the Carpenters or Donny and Marie while our record player spins and skips, or harmonize to show-tunes in the back of the station wagon. Melodies and rhythms and rhymes so fill our days and nights, we hardly know a time when we didn’t have a song stuck in our heads.


I am from
ferry rides to Catalina Island and sunburned weeks at Ida Courts Apartments. I am from old quilts blanketing sandy beaches and early morning hikes up the windy roads overlooking Avalon Bay. The tiled fountains, saltwater taffy, red painted paddleboards, fishing off the green pier, and sunset walks out to the Casino all tell me that “family time” is to be savored and that things done over and over again take on a rhythm of their own, shaping us by their repetition.

avalon-beach-catalina

I am from the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service and the White Gift Processional – first known to me in Whittier, California, but rooted deep in the patchwork of Europe that speaks of my ancestry. I am from pork chops with applesauce, barbecue chicken with baked potatoes, and enchiladas with guacamole; from chocolate chip cookies, homemade strawberry jam, and frosted sugar cookies at Christmas; from Advent Calendars, Easter baskets, and ice cream cakes for my birthday. I am from hallways lined with family pictures, trinkets filling bookshelves testifying to world travels and curiosity long-lived.

I am from words spoken with passion and truth, and from The Word, who shows me whose I am and how He sees me – which is truer than anything else I know.

The Face of a Friend

Hugging the path

My faithful friends are like an autumn breeze,

With gusts of laughter, buoyant on the wind.

Like rusty red and playful yellow leaves,

Our lives entwine entangled one within.

 

When autumn zephyr blows with forceful wail
And maple shakes and shivers in the blast,
The hustling, bustling, ever-changing gale
Sends foliage flying, fleeing – none outlast.

 

In the grass

But friends of mine do bare a softer stream:

With words they mend and tend to broken heart,

With sighs they stir my memories and my dreams,

With prayers they set unspoken needs apart.

 

Theses kindred souls surround me with their grace,
Unchanging, stand beside me face to face.

If I should have a granddaughter…

If I should have a granddaughter…

Sunrise

I would take her on walks early in the morning so we could catch the sun rising over the horizon shedding its rays of pinks and purples and yellows.

And I would tell her, “Sweetheart, the sun always comes up in the morning; and even if you can’t see it through the clouds or haze or tree-shaped shadows, it’s there ready to offer warmth and a new start to a day unwritten.”

Sand

I would take her on walks along a salty shoreline lined with shells and seaweed and driftwood; and we would pause to let the waves wash over our toes.  The outgoing water would pull the sand from under our feet and we would sink just a bit each time.

And I would tell her, “Baby, the ocean never stops coming and going, one with the other.  And even though it’s painful sometimes, life is filled with hellos and goodbyes, bringing with them heartache and healing, tears and tenderness, longing and laughter.”

 

I would take her to city parks crawling with children with different colored skin and hair and eyes, speaking languages strange to her ears.

And I would tell her, “Darlin’, a smile needs no translation and the best way to approach an unfamiliar situation is open-handed rather than close-fisted; and people who aren’t like you are often the best people to help you know you.”

prayer candles

I would take her to houses of worship where Jesus is known and loved and spoken of; places where the Spirit moves freely and mysteriously, where people have “met their maker” and lived to tell about it.

And I would tell her, “Angel, you have a story to tell, a story worth telling.  It started the moment God thought of the very idea of you and placed you in your momma’s belly, and it’s still unfolding to point people around you, who know you and your story, to the God who lives to redeem.

mountain firs

I would take her to a mountaintop covered in sweet smelling firs, where the wind speaks to the trees who whisper back, “He’s here.  He sees.” And we would wait, hand in hand, blood warmth pulsing through our entangled fingers, for the moon to rise and take its place among the stars.

And I would sit with her quietly, knowing that some moments are better left unsaid, untainted by words that fail to bring understanding. And we would mull our thoughts in the cool moonlight.

 

 

Chicken Cacciatore

I’ve been thinking some about the rhythm of life… how to meet God in the everyday moments that we often don’t expect Him in.

I make dinner every night for my crew. Cooking gives me pleasure — in the tasting of food and in the breaking of bread — the fellowship that comes “at table.” I think my role in feeding them is about more than simply filling their bellies. It’s about nourishing them.

And it’s about me staying true to my God-given calling to help them grow; a daunting, and humbling task.

 

Chicken Cacciatore by Julie Sanders

Skillet clanks on grate heating

Water runs to wash veggies

Knife slices onion, eyes burning –

still she presses on.

 

Chicken sizzles in skillet browning

Peppers, onions, garlic mingle

Tomato sauce with warm, red wine, simmering –

add to chicken, turn.

 

Call men, plates loading

Chairs scrape on floor

Diners sit, expectant, hunger gnawing

Thank you Lord, Amen.

chicken-cacciatore-a2

 

What about you?  Where do you find God in the rhythm of everyday moments?

For my yummy recipe visit Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes.

Photo credit: Simply Recipes