fear and loathing … in a bumper sticker

“some people who seek God in the 11th hour, die at 10:30”

yup. that’s what it said. I blinked a couple of times hoping it would change, and the cartooned dead guy next to the last text would be gone too.

nope. still there.

So…that’s your message to the world? In the middle of all this loss, pain, rage and misery, you’d like to add a dash of fear, panic, guilt to the mix? awesome. because I am sure Jesus wants us to choose to follow him in an effort to save our own butts. “fire insurance” so to speak.

If I’m honest, I admit, I get it. Time is short. Life with God (as opposed to without) is amazing and seeking it NOW instead of later is certainly going to afford us more of the best life possible… more time for hope, joy, freedom and redemption.

But, seriously, there has got to be a better way to communicate that. There has got to be a way to communicate the JOY and HOPE integral to the promises of a life following, loving and in relationship with God – who loves and cherishes us beyond measure. I can’t accept God as some uptight person, standing on the front porch tapping His watch, waiting for us to come home in time to meet curfew.

I guess I shouldn’t get so irritated by a stupid bumper sticker on some car. The driver is probably a wonderful person who loves Jesus better than I do. He or she most likely lives a more morally upright life than my own. I battle demons daily. I forget the love and passion of my Savior all the time. In truth, I seek God most often in the 11th hour of my crises – desperately trying to handle them on my own…under my own control, power, and wisdom (feel free to chortle here).

And, I need to remember all the ugly ways I have represented Jesus.

I need to remember the insane amount of grace that has already been afforded me.

I need to seek God.

Long before 11…

…or even 10:30 for that matter.


one word

So yesterday I posted about waking from my possum like state. At which point, I got pretty scared. That frozen state I was choosing to walk away from was looking more and more attractive. Maybe it was nostalgia, maybe fear. Either way, last night through now has been a series of very challenging hours. Basically, the hopeful me was running into a vicious battle with the mess of approval seeking me.


Then I remembered how I was SUPPOSED to spend this year. We have this amazing, beautiful and brilliant 8th grader in our ministry who never ceases to amaze and inspire me. Actually – we have many students who inspire me and I don’t intend to take anything away from them. Something about this particular student, though, is remarkable.

In January, she told me of this family tradition they have at their house regarding the New Year. Instead of making a bajillion resolutions about habits, health and happiness, they each choose one word that will set the tone, set the goals, set the mission for the coming year.

How cool is that? And by cool, I mean wise. And simple. And clear. And cool.

Never one interested in re-inventing the wheel when unnecessary, I decided to snatch up this plan for 2011 for myself. But picking a word for the year was HARD. It should be easy, right?

There are loads of great words out there.

joy. hope. risk. imagine. dream. laugh. soar. win. nap.

Unfortunately, I felt a nudging in a very different direction. God seemed to be reminding me of somethings I am less than proud of. Things like – I have lots more starts than finishes. I am super easily distracted…and discouraged. I give up easily. Oh, yeah, and I play possum.


He seemed to be saying things like I need to increase in obedience. I need to chase after and actually live out my calling. I need to follow him. I need to trust him. Without reservation.

Really… I need to commit.

I do NOT like that word. Back in the day, I struggled with that word, much the same way men are accused of doing. And although I do not struggle with fidelity to my amazing and wonderful husband, I am not faithful in far too many areas of my life. My health. My job. My faith.

That sucks to admit.

Bottom line, the top of my phone has tiny print on the screen that reads “commit”. And until yesterday, I chose to ignore it. I chose to “forget” that I had picked that word for 2011.

And yes, I see the irony of that.

That doesn’t mean I intend to re-commit. After all, that wasn’t my word.

What word do you think your year has been shaped by so far? Is that the word you by which would like to define 2011? If not, what word would you choose to pursue for the remaining 6+ months?


playing ‘possum

Yes, you saw the title right. And, you saw the date. It’s been well over a year since I posted. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Those closest to me know that I just had surgery about a week ago. It was a gall bladder thing. I no longer have one. I can’t tell you what that means exactly, but from what the doctors tell me, it’s kind of like having a built in Olestra side-effect. ummm…ew?

During recovery, I have been attended to by my mom (who moved in with us in November), my son (almost 8 and very sweet when he wants to be), and my husband (a real hero in this whole journey). My mom is wonderful, but sometimes can hover a little too much (like all moms – including me) and more than once I found myself semi-feigning sleep to avoid getting a bunch of questions or solicitations.

Don’t get me wrong, I was EXHAUSTED and very queasy the first and second day, so it wasn’t a total act. And, when I needed something, she was a huge help. But, I did start to feel a little guilty when she’d wander out of the room no doubt feeling helpless to fix me. I just needed some downtime and instead of being honest, in an effort largely to save feelings, I chose to play ‘possum.

And all of the sudden…I realized that I do that a LOT in my life.

Take the date of this blog entry…compared to the last one (I told you I’d come back to that). Anyone who knows me know that it isn’t for lack of something to say that I haven’t posted. I tend to find a personal soap-box on a daily basis. The fact is that this past year has been pretty tumultuous. And one victim in the melee has been my confidence. Without going into the gory details in this post, I have felt marginalized on a new level in almost every single area of my life.

And when I feel rejected, I shut down. I climb in a box. I hide my true self.

I play ‘possum.

The logic works something like this… if everyone thinks I’m dead, they can’t expect anything from me. And if they don’t expect anything, they won’t be disappointed. So, I curl up in my proverbial emotional/mental ball and go completely rigid. At which point, or course, I become paralyzed.

So, in this small moment of recovery, as I closed my eyes and lay still against the onslaught of over-care, I made a decision.

I decided that I would no longer be paralyzed by the gap in the blog dates. I  would no longer play the part of a gross-tree-dwelling-often-sighted-as-road-kill-rodent. I would, I could, wake up.

After all, I do have purpose. And if I am paralyzed, I can hardly live that out. And it didn’t work out so well for the dude who buried his talent, did it (Matt. 25:24-29)?

So, have you ever played ‘possum? Did it work? Are you playing possum in some part of your life now?


Queen of Putrescence

The Princess Bride is definitely one of my favorite flicks. Funnily enough (thank you Christine, I totally agree it’s a word), it’s not just a favorite among chicks and my husband and several of my best male buddies like it as much as I do. Whether or not they would admit that in public…meh…different story. C’est la vie…

One of my favorite scenes is Buttercup’s nightmare when she envisions being “booed” by a village hag. It’s not my favorite because it’s a dream sequence – i usually hate that. It’s not my favorite because Buttercup is getting booed. It’s not my favorite because of the old hag…even though she is awesome. It’s my favorite because of the words the hag uses to insult Buttercup. Awesome words…like “refuse” not reFUSE (like my son reFUSES to eat mushrooms), REfuse. Made more impressive by her british accent. And…putrescence. Just a fabulous word. Rolls right off the tongue. Again – more impressive if you are fresh off a flight from Yorkshire. Try it. … I’ll wait. … Awesome – right?

I think I should verify that I looked up the definition. Not because I didn’t know its meaning (I mean, context is king, right?), but because I have been guilty MORE THAN ONCE of adding a 50-cent word to a sentence…only to owe change to the conversation. Putrescence defined: the state of being rotten, putrid.

That got me started thinking about the condition of my heart. And it isn’t pretty. I mean, there are parts that have been cleaned up. Parts that look a little bit like hope and joy and peace and forgiveness. And then there is the rest of it.  So much of what is harbored in the recesses of my heart is rotten…putrid. The hate, anger, fear, self-doubt….all of it rotten. Envy, greed, gluttony, disdain, cowardice…all of it putrid. Proverbs 4:23 says: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. If I am honest, I don’t GUARD my heart at all…I feed it. I seem to spend more time cultivating and feeding those parts of my heart than I do the good ones. I cuddle the anger like a lost child…nurturing it, reassuring it that it is justified, righteous. I reward my work with gluttony and grow the greed for fame, recognition as deserved offspring of that same hard work. I have disdain for those with whom I disagree. And don’t even get me started on the fear-self-doubt road I walk every time I look in the mirror.

Do you smell something? Yeah, me too. Yuck.

I don’t want to walk around this world spreading the smelly putrescence that is in my heart. I don’t want to be “that” girl…the one that brings down the room, that wet-towels everyone else. I never used to be, and now, I am finding it hard some days, to be the joy-grace-peace spreading chick I was not so long ago. Who can I blame? Yeah – that’s right – me. The Queen of Putrescence.  I have got to start GUARDING my heart – getting out that big ol’ giant can of Lysol (you remember the one – yep – every Kindergarten had one for the pukers) and clean up the stench instead of feeding it. But I can’t do that alone.

I have found that the only way i can actually start to REMOVE the nastiest, most putrid corners of my heart is the love of Jesus and intervention and grace of God. I don’t have enough strength, joy, compassion or even love on my own to muck out these stalls. Time and time again, when I turn the worst things over to him, laying them at his feet saying, “I am at the end, YOU deal with this junk”, he shows faithful. The putrescence is smaller and less important. I don’t need to cuddle the rottenness anymore.

Not today anyway.

We will see how things smell tomorrow.


a boring tsunami

please know i have no intention of minimizing tragedy. i cannot imagine the heartbreak, courage and strength of those in chile, haiti, and so many more locations globally experiencing and recovering from natural disaster.

this week in our middle school ministry we started a series based largely on the book The 6 Most Important You’ll Ever Make by Sean Covey. the opening two weeks are a crash course in the famous “7 habits“. habit #2: begin with the end in mind, is probably the habit that speaks the most to me. actually, to be honest, it probably screams at me. i have never been able to do this well.

even on a daily basis. like – when i get up in the morning, i never say – ok i need to do these three things so i am well prepared to face these two things today. i should…oh how i should…but if i am honest…i don’t. ugh.

so this weekend, i was scanning cnn.com (yep – nerd alert) and i found a time-lapse video of a tsunami overtaking some land in hawaii (i think it is hilo, but i am so not sure…bad research on my part). i was struck by how boring it was. to my albeit-untrained-eye i just looked like some wimpy waves that happened to overtake a stretch of land…and then recede. oooh. not even a little tweet-worthy.

but that is how our lives tend to go, when we aren’t looking at where we are going, how we are getting there from an every-day-decision kind of way. one minute, we are brushing away our nasty morning breath, and the next we are calling our attorneys for bail money. ok maybe not that one. but, if we lack vigilance, isn’t it all to common for us to suddenly wake up completely under water? and the, once the waters recede, we have no idea what happened, or how to even start the clean-up?

i don’t any great wisdom on this – as i already said – i am really terrible at habit #2. my prayers this week (this year?) will be centered on

clarification of “the end”

the courage to embrace it

begin start over with “it” in mind

what about you?

how does habit #2 work, or not work for you? are you under water, in clean up, or vigilantly sandbagging?


Balancing isn’t a solo act…

So the other day, John was practicing on his new Razor scooter (somehow we didn’t factor going from three wheels to two wheels in the purchase…but – meh – he’ll catch on eventually). At the same time, he had decided that he wanted to collect trash along our route. I would love to say that I was incredibly supportive of this fabulously green 6yo venture (what a conscientious civic-minded child I have so carefully crafted). But, alas, that would be a slight stretch (read: a lie). It was very frustrating to me to see him struggle. I knew he was not ready to take on a secondary task while still trying to keep from face-planting on the sidewalk…or in the mud…or kamakazi-style slamming into innocent passers-by attempting to share the normally wide stretch of walkway we were walking along. Plus, we were walking the dog, it was cold, and there was homework to be done. At first, he was scooting along just fine, touching his foot down to propel him forward.

He would also stop periodically to snag a piece of trash. At this point, I would fuss that it was nasty or not to take to long or that I didn’t see why he couldn’t just go forward – you know really powerful parent encouragement kind of stuff. The kinds of words his little ego can safely take to the “my-parents-support-me-whatever-i-dream-of-doing” bank. At one point, he stopped to take on a particularly large piece of trash that he had trouble cramming into his already full hands. I knew his load was unsustainable. I knew he was precariously perched to begin with and that this addition would tip the scales so to speak. As the over protective parent SHOULD do, I immediately broke out my phone and…

…set it to multi-shot mode to record in inevitable.

Thankfully, in general in our house, no blood = no tears. He immediately launched into “I ok, I ok” and started laughing (also in our house, verbs are overrated). Closely on the heels of picking things back up, helping him reassemble his holding pattern for all the trash, and sending him back on his way scooting down the sidewalk, the spiritual thoughts started creeping in.

I sorta think we often ride through life like that – over-committed, albeit to good things, periodically crashing only to rely on the kindness of others to help us up and back on our teeteringly crowded journey. One major difference, God is most certainly watching, but not with the motives of a time-hyper, overprotective, selfish parent. Undoubtedly, God watches us and is pleased by our heart to do right, to do good, to make a difference and yet grieved by our determination to be self-reliant in the process. I doubt He is plagued by the impatience I felt as John stopped every 4 feet or so for a new piece of trash. I doubt He is rolling His eyes at our persistence to stay on task and complete our “mission”. However, I do wonder if every now and again He allows our crashing as a recentering point. A reminder, and not always a gentle one, that we need Him to balance all that He has planned for us to do. After all, He planned for us to do them. But not under our own steam. For our own glory. For our own purposes. For our own…anything. All that He calls us to is for His kingdom, His glory. And for that to truly be accomplished, we need to rely on Him. And when we fall, perhaps we are given an opportunity to look to Him for a new way to see things. A new way to do things, A new way to understand, love, give, share, and hope. The next time John wanted to head out an collect trash on his scooter journey, he was a lot more confident and skilled on his Razor. And, he took me up on the suggestion to bring a bag along to collect the trash – thereby freeing his hands to create and maintain better balance.

My questions to you…

What has a recent crash shown you? What is God asking you to reexamine for the purposes of growth and improvement? And…Why didn’t I buy this kid knee pads?


2009…in a surgically repaired nutshell

As 2008 waned and we cheered in 2009, I am more than certain I never expected to be writing this KIND of holiday letter. But, as they say, c’est la vie!

Our year did start with a bit of a bang…or crack perhaps is more accurate. On February 1st, JR was walking our pooch around the lake, slipped on the ice, and promptly snapped his ankle and fibula in a classic spiral fracture.  Unfortunately, he didn’t know it at the time, so he stood…which didn’t exactly help the situation. Many many painkillers, a metal plate, 7 screws later, JR is almost back to normal. His doc estimates total recovery to be a year or more. It was an interesting anniversary…at least the Steelers won the Superbowl that night (not that you’d know it from the current season – but that’s another letter). We experienced remarkable generosity from our friends and extended family at this time with help coming from all corners – walking our dog, transporting John, and wonderful meals.  Thank you doesn’t begin to cover it…it was very humbling.

JR continues to enjoy his job as a Project Manager. Thankfully, although the economy has been unkind in general, he has been blessed with job security thus far. On March 1st, I (Heather) was offered a new challenge as the Middle School Director at our church. Middle School absolutely SUCKED for most of us, so my personal job motto: “Making Middle School Suck Less”. If I thought for a second I could get away with it on our team t-shirts…you know I would have them printed tomorrow!

The year got significantly better as we enjoyed some wonderful visits with JR’s family and John wrapped up his Kindergarten year. John had a rockin’ birthday party at a local bowling alley and even the tiniest attendees got in on the fun.  One of our littlest ones decided to chase a ball down the lane, and as I went to rescue him, I discovered that magical waxing/grease they put on those lanes (who knew?) and landed flat on my butt. Ah, bowling AND a show. Thankfully, I had smarter friends who rescued me… in their socks…
In July, we headed out on our first real family vacation to Portland, Oregon. Getting out there was insane but John was a trooper, making the two flights without even a DVD play to distract him. He was determined to celebrate the wedding of my cousin Amber and to see “the kiss”. The wedding was phenomenal – on top of Mt. Hood in Oregon, outside on the amazing patio with the glacier rising behind them.  The bride and groom totally hooked us up with lots of things to do. All three of us rode a wicked high ski lift to 8000 ft. JR and John loved it, but I rode most the way white-knuckled and eyes closed. We made the rest of the trip in a whirlwind with a trip out to Canon Beach and Haystack Rock, Tillamook Creamery, downtown Portland for some Voodoo Doughnuts and the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls and Vista House. It was wonderful and we left ready to pack up and move out west!!

We had our first experience with summer camp this year as John attended Camp Sonshine in Silver Spring, MD. On a 60 acre campus, he had run of a huge forest for exploring, creeks, paddle boats, a camp store full of treasures and some wonderful counselors. Not only that, but he spent a week in West Virginia, running around with the Nicholson/Sporka family. He STILL talks about how awesome that was and how he can’t wait to go back.

This fall John started 1st grade & his teacher is amazing – he only has 17 total kids in his class, plus a teaching assistant! He has some attention challenges that we are all working together to address but overall he continues to be an incredibly happy (and funny) child. He has been ridiculously aware of and excited for Christmas this year, only asking Santa for a Nerf Gun, but noticing and claiming EVERY SINGLE toy advertised. Were we this annoying about that as kids? Surely not… (hahahaha).

My mom and grandmother (now 94 and still incredibly active) came up from Florida to celebrate Christmas with us, and to bookend the year with more surgery.  On December 15th, my mom had BOTH knees fully replaced.  While surgery went very well, she would tell you that she was flat-out crazy to have them both done…but I know in the long run she will be so glad. As a bonus, she is in a fantastic rehab facility and is “forced” to work out with a Wii fit! Wrestling with a Wii penguin everyday has brought back the snarky mom we all know and love.

One thing 2009 has taught us?  That there is always HOPE.  We have seen incredible generosity and patience this year and we are more than certain we could not have survived without it. We have been reminded so often and in so many ways that even in the insanity of this self-centered, chaotic, hurting world that we are also deeply loved by a God of Joy, Hope and Peace and it is these things…love, joy, hope and peace that we wish for all of you in 2010.

and here’s hoping I actually learn to blog a wee bit more frequently in 2010.

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