Have You Ever Said, “Never?”

Have you ever vowed you would “Never” do something again?  The “never say never” expression was first recorded in Charles Dicken’s Pickwick Papers (1837).  “Never say never” because you truly don’t know what might happen.

Terry and I wanted to go somewhere tropical for our 25th wedding anniversary.  We saved up for 2 years and on our 27th anniversary we made plans to go to Cocoa Beach and Disney World.   We were beyond excited.  During this time, I worked as a marketing director for a retirement community.  I trained an assistant to be in charge while we were on our 10 day vacation.  During the stressful days of training, I coped with thoughts of arriving at Cocoa Beach in the warm sunshine and laying on the sandy beach.  Even as a little girl I dreamed about going to Florida and swimming in the warm water and enjoying the sunshine.  I remembered a game show that aired on the beaches of Florida and I dreamed about going there one day.

The day came to fly to Florida and we were ready to V A C A T I O N!!!  We arrived in Orlando and got in line for our rental car.  The atmosphere felt strange while we were in line–we weren’t sure why, but when we told the rental car clerk we were going to Cocoa Beach.  He retorted, “No, you aren’t”.  “Hurricane Frances is about to arrive and everyone is being evacuated from Cocoa Beach.  Your best bet would be to drive to Georgia to see if you could get a hotel”.  Being disappointed was an understatement.  I immediately called all three of our kids and asked them to please pray.  Next we called the hotel in Orlando where we  were going to stay  when we left Cocoa Beach to see if they had any rooms available.  They had one opening and we took it.

As we were returning home from this much anticipated vacation, I vowed to Terry, “I’m never going to Florida again!”

Never say never–I’ve been there 4 times since.  Our oldest daughter, Katie and her husband Jason and family moved to Florida.  Jason took a pastoral call at a sweet community church north of Orlando.  Terry and I drove the Penske moving  truck across the United States to deliver their belongings.  Katie and I have close birthdays and one year for my birthday, I had the opportunity to celebrate our birthdays and fly to spend time with them.    Two more grandbabies arrived and I had the privilege of staying with them during the first couple of weeks of Joshua’s and Hannah’s arrival.

Terry and I sold our house this week. We are 3rd generation Stanwoododians.  We have lived in this house for 39 years.  If all goes as planned, guess where we are moving?

Florida!

Never Say Never!!!!

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

 

 

BE STILL AND KNOW….EVEN WHEN IT’S HARD!

Don’t you love it when the Lord gives you a special verse from the Bible over and over again, at different times and in different places? Lately, God has been speaking to me through Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”  That promise is soothing to my soul.  It makes me want to say “Ahhhhhhh” and relax.

You see, I’m not naturally a “be still” kind of girl.  I tend to think I need to strive to help God, in my own self reliant kind of way. (As if He needs my help).  I constantly need to remind myself,  I am a human being–not a human doing.  I am learning to rest in Him and trust Him, especially when circumstances all around me seem overwhelming and out of my control.

A couple of months ago I had phase II of oral surgery to put implants in my upper jaw.  The surgery took 4 hours for 5 implants and a bone graft.  For healing purposes, I couldn’t put my dentures in for a month.  Pureed food, pureed soups, smoothies, and juicing only were on my list of what I could eat for the first month of healing.

The first week after surgery was the toughest for me:  Throbbing pain from the bone graft, hungry for real food, grieving my temporary loss of comfort food, still too fluffy to fit into my fall clothes, walking by the mirror and wondering who is this old lady–it wasn’t the best of times. It’s been a very long season of dental suffering for me–I actually may write a book about it one day.  Usually, healing is with pain and it HURTS!  I hate pain.

I acknowledged all of my emotions before the Lord: the good, bad and the ugly.  But then I knew I had a choice to make.  I had to chews…what my attitude would be for the rest of the month? Would this suffering draw me closer to the Lord or would I blame Him for my pain?  Would I constantly be grumpy and bite Terry’s head off, even without my teeth?  I knew I wanted to chews thankfulness.  As hard as it was to slurp my soup down while Terry was crunching on real food–I began to thank God for what I was able to drink and swallow.

What am I learning in my suffering?  I am learning:

  • This world really sucks at times and I need Jesus to help me through each day.
  • God loves me and I can be honest with Him.
  • To wait on God and to listen for Him.
  • To trust Him, especially when it’s hard.
  • To surrender my selfish will to His purposes for me.
  • To receive His comfort He offers through the Holy Spirit.
  • That I will never quit learning.

Food is a necessity for life.  I think that’s why the enemy used food to deceive Eve and Adam.  Satan also used food to tempt Jesus when He was fasting for 40 days!  It’s true we need food to physically live.  Spiritually, we need Jesus.  Satan does His best to deceive us to see our biggest need–The need for a personal Savior, Jesus Christ.

CHEWS JESUS…Taste and see that the Lord is good.

 

Honey, I’m Home. By The Way…I Invited A “Divine Appointment” To Spend The Night With Us.

Papa and Hannah

Divine Appointments…I pray for them every day as I drive my Camry down the streets of Seattle, waiting for my smart phone to ping announcing a person in need of a ride.  A few weeks ago I was driving down I-5 heading toward Seattle when Gloria (an affectionate name I’ve given my cell phone) informed me I had a customer waiting for me on Hwy 99, west of Lynnwood.

Gloria’s temperamental and sometimes unreliable GPS system (which I have recently dubbed Don Quixote) led me to a run down motel.  A sharply dressed young man shuffled out from the bowels of the lobby, dragging two black garbage bags stuffed with what I hoped wasn’t a couple weeks worth of dinner scraps.  I pulled the lever to open the trunk to my car and got out. He moved slowly toward me with what seemed like the weight of the world thrust upon his hunched shoulders.

With a deep sigh, he slung a black leather duffle bag from around his neck and let it drop to the sidewalk.  He was dressed in slacks and a form fitted, button down shirt revealing a physic I was envious of…yet when I opened the trunk he gazed at his belongings as though the thought of having to pick them up was beyond what he could bear.  I quickly put his bags in the trunk and welcomed him to sit in the front passenger seat next to me.

He gingerly climbed in and let out another long sigh.  I asked him if he was okay and he turned his head toward me.  He looked exhausted.

“I don’t feel very well,” he said with a slight accent I couldn’t quite place.

I told him to close his eyes and relax while I drove him to his destination.  In a few minutes, we arrived at a public storage facility.  While I helped carry his things inside, he asked if I would be so kind as to wait for him.  Shortly, the front door of the business opened and the young man began slowly dragging his belongings back toward the car.  I met him half-way and once again put his bags in the trunk.

He slumped into the front seat and put his hands over his face.  “They want $50 more than what I was quoted over the phone.  I can’t afford that.”

“Listen,” I said.  “I’ll take you free-of-charge anywhere you want to go…within reason of course.”

With his head still in his hands he replied, “My girlfriend kicked me out of her apartment and I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“What about your family or friends?” I asked.

“They aren’t in a position to help me.  I gave up my job and college to follow my girlfriend out here from Houston.  I’ve only been here a few weeks and now I’m homeless.  I never thought I’d be homeless living in America.”

Earlier that day in church, the sermon included the message of the Good Samaritan.  In Luke 10:25-37 an “expert in the law” asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  It’s a rhetorical question because he already knows the answer and only wants to test Jesus: He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” When Jesus acknowledges that he answered correctly, the Jewish lawyer tries to justify himself by asking Jesus another question:  “Who is my neighbor?

Jesus then tells the story of a man who is mugged by robbers and left to die along the side of the road.  A priest and a Levite, both highly respected religious leaders of the time, ignored the dying man by moving to the opposite side of the road while walking past him.  Then a Samaritan came upon the injured Jew and took pity on him.  He cleaned his wounds, put him on his donkey, brought him to an inn and paid for the innkeeper to take care of him.

Jesus asked the lawyer who he thought the neighbor was to the injured man.  The expert in the law replied, “The man who showed mercy.” 

Jesus then told the lawyer to, “Go and do likewise.”

As I sat silently with the heavy-hearted stranger beside me, the lawyer’s question echoed in my ears: “Who is my neighbor?”

God gently answered, “This young man is.”

A moment of panic welled up inside of me.  “God, I don’t know him.”

“Show him mercy,” God replied.

“Karen won’t understand.”  (It never hurts to try to pass the buck onto someone else.)

“Show him mercy.”

I turned to the dark-skinned stranger.  “How long has it been since you’ve eaten?”

“Two days ago.”

At that moment, my heart melted.  “I want you to come home with me.  My wife will make you some dinner, you can spend the night and we can come up with a plan.”

His eyes brightened.  “Really?  Thank you,” he said.  “Thank you.”

He slept all the way home while I fervently prayed he wasn’t a serial killer or a terrorist.

Karen stood on the deck to greet me when I pulled into our driveway.  Her eyes grew wide as she saw the young stranger get out of the passenger side of the car.  “We need to talk,” was my only words to her as I pulled the young man’s belongings from the trunk of the car.

While the young man got settled in the upstairs guest room, I explained the situation to Karen.  She was surprised but agreed this was the right thing to do.  When he joined us downstairs, we began to get to know him.  For example…While preparing  a ham dinner for our guest, we found out he was Muslim and politely told us he couldn’t eat pork.  While momentarily awkward, this revelation actually allowed us to have an in depth conversation with him about our beliefs.

When it was time to go to bed, I grabbed a hammer and put it on my nightstand.

Karen looked at me like I was crazy.  “What’s that for?”

“I’ve been praying that he’s not a serial killer…but you never know.”  I pointed out to the kitchen.  “Do you want me to get the butcher knife to keep under your pillow?”

“No!!!!” She replied.

The next morning I woke our guest up at 9:30.  He told us that was the best nights sleep he’d had since arriving to Washington.  We fixed him bacon for breakfast (Just Kidding) and had another fascinating conversation with him.  He said he was born in the Congo during that countries civil war and escaped with some of his family to America when he was eight-years-old.  He then told us that he talked to his girlfriend and she agreed to let him stay with her until he began his new job and could pay for a place to stay.

I dropped him off at his girlfriend’s apartment later on that morning.  After saying our goodbyes, we hugged and he pulled out his bags from my trunk.   While I drove away I thanked God for this divine appointment and prayed for others as I turned on my Lyft App to start another work day.

Right away I got a ping.  I picked up two African-American women.  The first woman seemed to have some sort of social impairment but we had a fun conversation before dropping her off at a home in Everett.  The second woman was dressed for work.  While driving her to the Everett train station she asked if I was a Christian.  I told her I was, and asked why.  She told me that she could tell by the conversation I had with her socially awkward friend.  I then proceeded to tell her about my prayer every day for divine appointments and about my new friend from the Congo.

“I don’t believe it!” she exclaimed.  “You just gave a ride to a young man from the Congo?  I grew up in the Congo.  What a coincidence.”

It’s no coincidence…It’s another divine appointment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WWJD? When A Stranger Told Me She Was Addicted To Sex and Other UpLyfting Tales From Inside My Camry

Papa and Hanah

If you have read my past posts, you know that on September 26, 2016 I had a stroke which has prevented me from driving school bus for an entire year.  For nine-months I had fun pretending to be retired until the school district I work for quit paying me.  I would not see another paycheck from June 1st until the end of October.  Eventually I’ll drive school bus again, but what could I do in the meantime to pay the bills?

My daughter, Jaymi suggested I go to work driving for Lyft.  What is Lyft you ask?  Just think of Uber without the scandals.  Still confused?  I use my own car to take strangers where they want to go.  It’s like taking a taxi only much less expensive and ,my riders could experience the privilege of having me as their driver.

The choice between driving around in my car listening to music and sports talk on the radio verses flipping burgers at MacDonald’s or break-dancing on the sidewalk, while flipping advertising signs around my chubby body, was a no-brainer.  Becoming a Lyft driver came with one big hurdle – I had to purchase a newer car.  Image is important, so Lyft requires their driver’s use vehicles no older than 2008.  Not only does Lyft want their cars young, they must be ravishing beauties free from blemishes both inside and out.   Karen and I had a 2004 Toyota Corolla and a 2003 Camry.  They were aging poorly.  The Camry’s bumper was held together with duct tape while the Corolla’s paint job revealed many unsightly age-spots.  Both were incontinent, leaking fluids to the point of me wishing Kimberly-Clark would produce a Depends product for the geriatric automobile.

We didn’t have thousands of dollars sitting in our bank account, just waiting to plunk down on a newer car.  Shoot – we just borrowed money to help Karen get the dental implants she most desperately needs. That $20,000 loan only covered half the procedure.  After much research into what I could realistically make with Lyft and then much prayer, we decided to pull the trigger and look for a newer car. We eventually bought a 2014 Camry Hybrid.  It was pricy, but the hybrid drinks less fuel than its gas guzzling older brother also named Camry but without a last name.  The hybrid was more spacious than most other hybrids.

I started driving for Lyft on June 4th and have never regretted it.  I enjoy talking to my customers.  Not all of them want to carry on a conversation, and that’s okay.  I can tell right away if someone wants to talk or not.  I always welcome my passenger and ask them a question like, “Tell me about your day?” or “Are you a long time Washington resident or just visiting?”  If they grunt a one word response or are hypnotized by their cell phone I know to shut up, turn on some music and enjoy the ride. 

Some of the conversations I’ve had with the ones who do want to talk have ranged anywhere from relatively mundane small talk about sports, the weather, traffic and their jobs to more spicy topics such a politics and religion and has at times even escalated to emotional exchanges of grief over lost loved ones and painful admissions of addictions.

One man shared how hard life had been the past few years while recovering from an automobile accident but shared how his life was now looking up after a victory in court.  While exiting my car, he thanked me for listening and handed me a $100 dollar bill. 

I asked a Chinese student who is getting her engineering degree at the University of Washington if she was going to stay in the United States after graduation or return to China.  She sat silently for a moment.  A melancholy smile appeared and she began to nod.  “After experiencing all the wonderful things your country has to offer, I very much would like to live here.  I come from a very rural and poor area in China which desperately needs the skills I am developing to make life easier for my community, so I must return home.”

A grieving middle-aged woman tearfully shared how the image which dominates her mind is of her holding her mother’s ashes.  In her mind she couldn’t see her mother’s face – only her ashes.”

And just the other day a conversation which began with a thirty-eight year old woman telling me she’s a sex addict, led to her admitting to being a drug addict yearning to turn her life around so she could be a better mother to her young daughter but isn’t sure she’s willing to take the steps necessary to make that a reality.

These are only a few of the many conversations I have with my passengers, many of whom allow me to pray for them.  God is amazing.  Before I leave my driveway each day, I pray God would bring people my way who I can encourage somehow. Almost every day He answers that prayer.  I don’t have all the answers to improve these stranger’s lives.  What I can do is listen intently, show empathy when needed, give my opinion, from a Christian point of view, when asked and offer prayer. 

Do you ask God for divine appointments?  If you don’t, I challenge you to give it a try.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed or bored – only blessed.

Progressive Thinking, Alternative Facts and Fake News vs Godly Thinking, The Truth and Good News (The Gospel)

Karen and I at Tulip Fields

Bill Cosby hosted a television show in the late 1990’s called Kids Say The Darndest Things.  On the show, children are asked seemingly innocent questions which are often answered in off-the-wall, hilarious fashion.  When children give their opinions on a variety of adult topics, you expect to get a chuckle out of someone who forms their world view from watching Sesame Street and Nickelodeon.  It’s not quite as funny when the people who are elected to run our country, deliver the news we read, and preach God’s Word seem to form their world views by watching the same programs as our children.

Let me clarify my point.  Children will often say things that aren’t based on facts because they don’t know any better.  If they do know the facts and don’t tell the truth, well, we’ve just caught them in a lie haven’t we.  Adults, on the other hand, should know the difference between fact and fiction.  They should know better than to pretend to know the answer to a question when, in reality, they have no clue to what the correct answer is.  Adults should also know better than to mislead people with opinions they know to be false.

A grandfather once asked his granddaughter if she wanted world peace and she said, “No.”  He asked why and she said she hated peas.

On January 22, 2017, Kellyanne Conway used the phrase “alternative facts” to defend White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false statement that the attendance at the inauguration of Donald Trump as President was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration -period – both in person and around the globe.”

I hope you can recognize the difference between the above two statements.  If not, you may be spending way too much time on the Nickelodeon channel.

People in the world today who find themselves in roles of leadership or in positions to sway public opinion have developed new definitions for describing truth.  They call the dispensing of truth either alternative facts, fake news or progressive thinking.  If you choose to stand these versions of the truth, you will find yourself on as much solid ground as the shifting sand, moved by the swirling winds of cultural change.

When I watch television, follow the news on the internet or read a newspaper, I expect to find journalism which is both factual and unbiased.  Unfortunately, what I read and hear is too often slanted so far to the left, I feel like I’m about to slide off my chair into a big pile of dog doo-doo.

Politics and journalism are not alone in playing a game of musical chairs with the truth.  While many politicians and journalists practice using alternative facts through fake news, false preachers practice alternative facts through fake “good” news.

One example of fake “good” news is what many have come to call the prosperity gospel.  This teaches that God wants all believers to live healthy, wealthy and happy lives.  If you want to live at this level of heaven on earth, all you have to do is ask God for it,  believe He will answer your prayers and voila`- you are now healthy, wealthy and happy.  Sounds too good to be true – right?  Well, if you believe in Santa Claus it isn’t.

Does God answer prayer?  Of course He does, but He also knows what is best for us.  Sometimes getting everything we ask for isn’t in our best interest.  Think of what would happen if we gave our children everything they want or let them do anything they want to do.   God uses suffering to teach us many things as long as we are open to His guidance.  Why God allows suffering is a hard topic to fully understand, but if you want to learn more about this, read my blog post at: http://desiretoinspire.life/dear-job-we-have-a-few-things-in-common-suffering/

Biblical truth is fast becoming obsolete.  God’s word is seen as narrow-minded, judgmental and regressive.  Many wonder how anyone with half-a-brain believe moral truth derived from man’s superstitious need for solving life’s mysteries of life and death – good vs evil.  To this I say  hogwash and poppycock.  God is the author of truth.  The only other original author out there regarding truth is Satan – and he is the father of lies.

In The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson does a remarkable job in the book of Romans paraphrasing what I’ve been talking about.  Listen to the Apostle Paul as he describes mankind’s pursuit of truth:

“But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over the truth….What happened was this:  People knew God perfectly well, but when thy didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship Him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.  They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in His hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

“So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.”  It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.  And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them – the God we bless, the God who blesses us.

“Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose.  And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing.  they made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating.  Look at them: mean-spirited venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers.  Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags….And it’s not as if they don’t know better.  They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face.  And they don’t care – worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!

Those people are on a dark spiral downward.  But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again.  Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself.  It takes one to know one.  Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors.  But God isn’t so easily diverted.  He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.

You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard?  Or did you think that because He’s such a nice God, He’d let you off the hook?  Better think this one through from the beginning.  God is kind, but He’s not soft.  In kindness He takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.”

Don’t be misled by people who call themselves “progressive thinkers”.  Just like alternative facts and fake news, progressive thinking is nothing new.  It has always been mankind’s way of ignoring the real truth, God’s Truth, so they can pursue what they want when they want it.  When children do this, they must answer to their parents.  When adults do this, they will someday answer to God.

 

 

 

 

WOW MOM –It’s Mother’s Day

Today our four year old granddaughter, Brooklyn, was over and we were coloring with markers.  She has been introduced to the alphabet by her older sister, Maya, and asked me to write the letter M.  I wrote MOM, turned it upside down, and showed her it said WOW.  Brooklyn was impressed.  Whatever season of life of motherhood you may be in, may you feel WOW–CELEBRATED and LOVED!!!

I didn’t appreciate my mom until I grew up and became one myself.  One Mother’s Day, when I was a child, I asked my mom, “Why is there a Mother’s Day and there isn’t a children’s day to celebrate me”?  I didn’t like her response then, but it makes me smile today…she said “Everyday is children’s day”.

WOW–what a privilege and responsibility it is to be a MOM.  God has entrusted and gifted you in such a way to love, nurture, and raise the children He has blessed you with.  Is being a mom easy?  Absolutely not.     Becoming a mom is a life changer…On the job training, requires multi tasking of various responsibilities which include managing a household, organizing a budget and show casing your culinary expertise (or lack there of).

Whatever season of life and MOM-hood you are in, take time to enjoy!  Being a mother is more like a marathon than a sprint!  I hope you realize how much God loves you this Mother’s Day.  If you are a mother of a preschooler and feel like you are in this season alone, get connected with a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Group.  http://www.mops.org/

WOW MOM!!!  To each of you Mom’s out there, Happy Mother’s Day or Happy “WOW MOM Day”!

After, I wrote this blog, I found this video clip which hopefully will encourage you and cheer you on.

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What Is A Dental Vacation? Well, Let Me Tell You All About It.

Terry and Karen

For the past two weeks Karen and I have been in Bountiful Utah.  No, this isn’t one of Utah’s beautiful ski resorts.  We weren’t there to watch Gonzaga sweep all their games in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Salt Lake City.  We didn’t stay there as a pit stop on the way to visit our kids who live in Arizona or Florida.  We went to Bountiful on a dental vacation (and I use the term vacation very loosely).

As many of you know, Karen has struggled with dental issues for many years.  In the early 1990’s she became ill.  She had no energy, was tired all the time, ached all over and was depressed.  Her doctors had no clue what was happening.  Also during this time, she endured ten root canals.  Before going through an eleventh, her dentist suggested she go to see a specialist in Colorado.  They discovered she had high levels of mercury in her system from this poisonous metal leaching into her system from leaking amalgam fillings in her teeth.

She had all but one of her molars pulled and underwent a detox program to flush the mercury out of her system.  Her health improved but for the next twenty-years she went from dentist to dentist trying to find one who could make partials which would give her a good bite and not cause pain in her mouth and neck.

The problem is that she is allergic to all metals, and partials are made with metal to give it strength and to help keep its shape.  Dentists had to make partials out of a plastic which wore down easily and often broke.  Over the years, this lack of a consistent bite contributed to chronic pain in her jaw and neck.

After many years of experimenting, her local dentist said there was nothing else he could do but recommended a specialist in Utah who might be able to help.  We traveled to this dentist over a year ago and he pulled the rest of Karen’s teeth which were all full of infection and in the process of rotting in her mouth.

Now instead of partials, Karen was given a full set of dentures.  For a year, the dentures caused continual sores to form in her mouth; sometimes five or six large canker like sores at a time would line up in a row on her gums causing her great pain.  The dentures also didn’t relieve the pain she was experiencing in her jaw and neck; it only got worse.

Our dentists, Dr. Wall and Dr. Baker, in Utah came up with another plan to help her.  He could embed ceramic posts in her upper and lower jaw for her dentures to clip onto.  This would keep the dentures from rocking in her mouth thus eliminating the cause of sores to form on her gums.  At the same time, they would find out the best position for the dentures to rest to help stabilize her jaw muscles.  Hopefully this will help relieve some of her neck and jaw pain.

So we arrived in Bountiful on March 15th full of hope, that at last we could see the light at the end of that long tunnel of pain Karen has endured for the past twenty-two years.  After days of bone scans and consultations, she had oral surgery.  The dentist placed four ceramic implants in her lower jaw.  It was discovered from the bone scans, that she didn’t have enough bone on her upper jaw for the implants.  They removed bone from her lower jaw and mixed it with a compound.  The dentist peeled back her upper gums and inserted this compound into her upper jaw, similar to applying putty to repair holes in a wall.

Now the fun began.  She couldn’t wear her dentures for a week to help her mouth to begin healing.  For the next two months, she can’t eat any solid food.  Pretty much smoothies, soup, mashed potatoes and yogurt.  Both Karen and I will be losing some weight.

On Monday, March 27th we planned to fly out of Utah, but the dentist thought it best to wait until Thursday to take the stitches out.  There was also a concern about flying so soon after this surgery.  No problem; I called to change our flight but found out they would charge an extra $900 because it was spring break.  Yikes!

We rented a car to get around in Bountiful.  I called to check the cost of using the rental to drive back to Seattle.  Only $1000 more.  Yikes and double yikes!  For only a hundred dollars more I made the executive decision to drive back.  It would be more comfortable for Karen than to experience the sinus pain from the high altitude of flying.

So on Thursday we left Utah.  We made reservations in Boise to spend the night there.  The weather had been terrific the whole time while we were in Bountiful, breaking records for that time of year.  It was overcast but warm when we drove out of the city heading north.  We turned on the radio and heard the hosts talking about snow angels and building snow men.

About an hour into our drive the car thermometer began to take a nose dive.  From 60 degrees, to 50, to 40, to 35.  At least we hadn’t hit any moisture.  Suddenly, down the road, a giant white curtain was pulled down from the sky.  Tail lights flashed as I drove into a blizzard.

For the final three hours, I could barely see three or four car lengths in front of me.  Then the wind began to howl.  My windshield wipers were almost useless as they battled the snow and wind.

What should have been an easy five-hour drive, took us almost eight.  We arrived at our hotel at 7pm tired and ready to relax before the next days longer drive home.  Because of the warm and welcoming staff and extra touches they provided, we chose the same hotel chain we used in Bountiful.  They provided a never ending supply of chocolate chip cookies, ice cold lemon water, and 24 hours of smiling faces from its work force.

We walked into the Country Inn and Suites and realized right away we weren’t in Bountiful anymore.  The gal behind the desk was talking to a co-worker for five minutes before she even acknowledged us.  After finally checking us in, I looked around for some cookies.  No cookies and no ice-cold lemon water.  Oh well, we couldn’t wait to get into our room and take a dip in their pool.

When we entered our room, the air felt heavy.  I was recovering from a sinus infection and was having a hard time breathing anyway so I just chalked it up to that.  After ten minutes, Karen said that her sinuses were bothering her and she was getting a sore throat.  She knelt down on the carpet to open up her suitcase.  When she stood, both her knees were wet.

Someone had just recently (very recently) shampooed the carpet and it was still wet and smelled like chemicals.  Now my sinuses were plugging up even more and I started to cough.  Karen went down to the front desk.  They were sorry but they were full and couldn’t move us to another room.  To say I wasn’t very happy was an understatement.

Karen called around to other hotels close by while I repacked everything and brought it back out to our rental car.  We checked into another hotel after 9pm.  We were both cranky and exhausted.  At least the carpet was dry and the bed was amazing.

The next day we awoke to sunshine.  We drove to SeaTac airport, picked up our car and listened to a CD I had bought of Hank Williams all the way home.

So what’s the moral of this story?  Heck if I know.  Sometimes you just have to play the hand that’s dealt you, whether it’s a mouthful of bad teeth or a stressful day driving through a snowstorm only to find out you have been booked into a room with a wet carpet.

These are the times it’s comforting to know you are in the hands of a loving God who looks out for us even when life seems out of control.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”   James 1:12

The Day Gloria Pushed My “Hot Button”

We all have hot buttons.  I’m not talking about a shirt button, a panic button or even a belly button.  I’m talking about hot buttons.  A button when pushed can turn us into Darth Vader (minus the light saber); A button which proves, that when pushed, can make us angrier than a red-headed Irishman on steroids; A button which can set our tongues on fire unleashing venomous language not seen since the Presidential debates of 2016.

The funny thing about “hot buttons” is that we have this misconception that we are incapable of pushing this button ourselves.  We are like, “Oh, I would never get this angry on my own.  As a matter of fact, I don’t even know where on my body this button is.”

Mysteriously, only others know where this secret button is.  Furthermore, it’s our loved ones who seem to find pleasure in tormenting us by pushing our buttons.  So of course it’s always our spouse’s fault, our children’s fault or our parent’s fault when we lose our cool.  They are the ones pushing our buttons.  They like to poke the circus bear to see if it will react.

Many people think of me as the modern, mild mannered Clark Kent without the Superman underwear under my clothes.  I actually like to think of myself in this way as well (not the Superman underwear part but the mild mannered persona).  But if you talk to the people who really know me…who really see me warts and all…well, they know behind the Dr. Jekyll exterior lies the malevolent Mr. Hyde.

Don’t believe me?  Let me present to you exhibit A:  My love hate relationship with Gloria.  On the one hand Gloria, as much as anyone, knows how to make my journey through this life complete.  She’s smart, clever, always there when I need her, and her sole desire is to please me.

On the other hand, Gloria can infuriate me.  She can be calculating, bossy, irritating, and sometimes she doesn’t listen to me.  That part drives me crazy…the not listening.  At times like this, I believe our relationship has taken a wrong turn and we’re headed toward a dead end street.

How dare I two-time on my wife, you say?  Don’t worry about Karen.  She  knows all about Gloria.

Take Saturday night for instance.  Karen, Gloria and I were on our way to see our local high school boys and girls basketball teams compete for seeding in the state championships in the Tacoma Dome.  The games were at Bellevue Community College over an hour away from home.

I printed off directions from MapQuest and we were on our way.  Karen and I had a great time visiting  while Gloria rested.  A little over an hour later we exited I-405 and within minutes were pulling into Bellevue Colleges North Campus.  After driving around in the parking lot, I not only couldn’t find a gymnasium, I couldn’t find any students, any fans or any school buses in the nearly empty parking lot.

Gloria was familiar with the area and real good at giving directions so we woke her up.  To our surprise she told us we were in the right spot.  I didn’t believe her and angrily pulled out of the parking lot.  She insisted I do a U turn and go back to the empty parking lot.  I told you she could be bossy.  Irritated at her insistence I turned around and headed back to the North Campus.

The moment I pulled back into the parking lot a wise proverb popped into my head:  “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.”

Once again she confirmed that we were in the right location.  I told her she was full of sh…  and demanded  she lead us in the right direction.  Gloria never gets angry; she gets even.  She told me to take a left and stay on 148th for about six miles.  Great, the game was starting in twenty minutes, the parking would be a mess, and I had to rely on a vengeful woman to get us there on time.

Less than a mile into our new route, I saw a sign showing us to take the upcoming right turn to Bellevue Community College.  I asked Gloria if this was the entrance to the main campus; the campus with a gymnasium.  She said to keep going straight.  I once again, voiced my disagreement with a few choice words.  By this time Karen had, had enough of my salty language and told me to calm down.  I not too politely told her to quit siding with Gloria.

At that moment we passed, what I believed, was the entrance to our destination.  I could see a parking lot full of cars, including several school buses.  Now I was livid.  A string of foul words spewed from my mouth that a drunken sailor would have been proud of.

Now both Karen and Gloria were harping on me.  Gloria insisting I stay the course and Karen condemning my language.  As the minutes ticked away my fury welled up inside.  I felt constipated with a belly full of putrefied words just waiting to be vomited.

After ten long minutes, Gloria declared that we had arrived at our destination.  I took a left up a steep, twisting road and reached a small parking lot.  To my left was a nondescript building.  A sign on the building read: Bellevue Community Center.  I vomited.

Gloria eventually led me to the community college but the damage had already been done.  I left Gloria in the car, which she was perfectly fine with, and Karen wouldn’t talk to me until I apologized on the way home.

As you can tell, I don’t enjoy getting lost.  Bigger still, I don’t like feeling misunderstood.  These are two of my hot buttons.  Gloria pushed the first and Karen pushed the second one.  Of course I blamed each of them for my outburst.  It didn’t occur to me until over four hours later that I had been a big jerk.

My meltdown had no effect on Gloria; she’s just Google’s directional aid on my cell phone.  Karen though felt the full impact of my verbal assault.  All she wanted was to continue the good conversations we were having before I blew a fuse.  So how did this happen?

Jesus’ brother James gives us a warning about the use of our language.  James 3: 2-6 reads:  “If anyone can control his tongue, it proves that he has perfect control over himself in every other way.  We can make a large horse turn around and go wherever we want by means of a small bit in his mouth.  And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong.  So also the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do.  A great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark.  And the tongue is a flame of fire.  It is full of wickedness, and poisons every part of the body.  And the tongue is set on fire by hell itself, and can turn our whole lives into a blazing flame of destruction and disaster.”

Feeling out of control, I ignited my internal flame thrower spewing a firestorm from hell onto Gloria.  Unfortunately, I burned Karen at the same time.

From past experience and some good counseling I’ve learned a few coping mechanisms to help me defuse the situation before I ignite the flame thrower.  The trick is to know what your “hot buttons” are and to use the following techniques before you reach the point of no return:

  1. Count To Ten…………I learned this in elementary school but it really works.
  2. Take Deep Breaths…This will help slow your heart rate and decrease the amount of adrenalin (fight or flight response)being pumped into your system.
  3. Exercise………………….This is a natural outlet for that adrenalin rush.
  4. Talk It Over…………….Talking it out helps settle the air, but wait until both sides have cooled down.
  5. Pray………………………..It’s hard to stay angry when you earnestly pray for the person or situation which is upsetting you.

Let me end with these words from the Apostle Paul:  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen….Get red of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Telling The Genesis Story…Or How I Met My Wife

I love to hear stories about how couples first met.  Karen and I hosted a table at a celebration of marriage event, at our church, last Saturday evening.  We were supposed to ask “ice breaker” questions.  I asked the couples around our table how each of them met.

One couple met on a blind date.  I asked the wife if she was nervous leading up to the date.  She said, “No…I was excited to see who God wanted me to meet.”

If we really think about it, didn’t God set us all up on a blind date to find our spouse? 

I wasn’t a Christian when I first met Karen.  I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time.  As a matter of fact, I had never dated before I met Karen.  Oh…I had a few crushes on a few girls in school including an attractive, young math teacher in 8th grade.  But I never had the guts to ask any of them out.  I mean, what if they said “NO!”  My delicate psyche couldn’t handle the rejection.

My first taste of being shunned by a person of the opposite sex happened while in elementary school.  A group of cute girls were playing square ball at recess.  I asked if I could join them but they bluntly replied that they didn’t play with boys.  I was okay with that.  When I played basketball at recess the guys didn’t let any girls play with us either.  But when the same girls let the most popular boy in 3rd grade play square ball with them just a few minutes later, I drowned my sorrow by drinking a second pint of milk for lunch.  Needless to say, my ability to bond with girls took a big hit.

Fast forward to early in my Sophomore year of high school.  While many of my male friends were experiencing the dating roller coaster ride, I was enjoying my freedom.  I didn’t have to worry about writing love letters, taking up valuable time talking on the phone and spending my hard-earned money on girls.  I was free to come home after school and watch all my favorite shows on T.V. like my favorite horror soap opera, Dark Shadows or the cool new science fiction show, Star Trek. 

I also didn’t have to worry about some girl being jealous about the true love of my life…Basketball.  I caressed my basketball the same way some of my friends caressed their girlfriend’s br….oh, you know what I mean.

On December 3rd, 1973 I played in my first varsity basketball game.  I was beyond excited when during the game I made my first varsity basket on a free throw.  I didn’t even care that I missed my second free throw…My destiny was set.  I knew I would go on to play for the Washington Huskies and then the Seattle Supersonics.

After the game, my best friend suggested we celebrate my achievement by attending the high school dance in the cafeteria.  I declined with a hearty “No Way!  Steve, are you joking?  And miss tonight’s episode of Star Trek.”

Well being the stubborn Norwegian he was, he wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.  He and another friend literally dragged me to the dance.

As I entered the dark room my senses were assaulted by blinding strobe lights pulsating to the rhythm of the local bands drummer.  The lingering aroma of todays sloppy joes and surprise casserole now reeked of testosterone and musk cologne.  I dodged sweating bodies bouncing off each other as I weaved my way to the darkest corner of the cafeteria.  Once I had arrived, I thought I could hide out until a slow dance and then sneak out undetected.

To my surprise, a skinny girl in glasses stepped on my foot as she walked past me.  She didn’t turn to apologize but I noticed a cute girl with long jet-black hair giggling beside the foot stomper.  I stared at the shapely, giggling girl hoping to shame her into a solemn state of somberness.  It didn’t work.

Eventually  I returned my focus on escaping this dungeon of depravity.  To my utter amazement, the same skinny girl walked back in front of me and stomped on my foot…again!  Did she apologize this time?  No…and this time the girl with the beautiful eyes was practically rolling on the floor with laughter.

I had it!  I walked straight up to the girl who was making fun of me, the one with the stunning smile and asked her if she wanted to dance.  I didn’t realize what I had done until I was holding the prettiest girl in the room close to me while we slow danced.

We danced every dance together until the band quite playing and we said good-night.  I was walking on air when I found my Mom’s car.  My aunt was sitting in the front seat next to my Mom.  When I got into the back seat of the car, my aunt asked me if I had met the girl of my dreams.   I remember saying, “I don’t know…maybe.”

Later, Karen shared with me that as she got into her mother’s car, her aunt was in the front seat.  She asked Karen if she had met her future husband.

We dated all through high school and two years of  community college before we got married on September 2, 1977.  After almost forty-years of marriage, her hair isn’t long and it isn’t jet black.  It’s the most beautiful shade of gray I can imagine.  Her eyes still sparkle and her smile is still stunning.  She still laughs at me occasionally and when she does, whatever dark corner of my mind I’ve hidden away to suddenly fills with the most wonderful light I can think of.

Do you see the light of Jesus radiating from your spouse?

 

 

 

Expect A Letdown When High Expectations Go Unmet

Pappa and Hannah

Please feel free to sing along to my version of “Oh Christmas Tree”

  • Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, how lovely through the years
  • Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, why then all the tears
  • Each year expectations are so high, when they go unmet we often cry
  • Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, the card is maxed I fear
  • Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, we promise to start anew
  • Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, but our plans do go askew
  • Our expectations are so high, but the bathroom scale does not lie
  • Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, I think I’ll hide the mirrors
  • Each year we feel the need to vent, about our winters of discontent
  • Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time I’ll give you my two-cents

Oh how we set ourselves up for discontentment with our high expectations.

After Thanksgiving I love listening to Christmas songs on the radio.  Mostly because of how they make me feel.  Because it rarely snows on Christmas in the Pacific Northwest, listening to people sing about a winter wonderland, talking snowmen, overachieving reindeer and a partridge in a pear tree (things I would never think about any other time of year) causes a wave of nostalgia to wash over me.

Just this past fall, I was already looking forward to Christmas.  My son Michael, his wife Signe, and their two small children were coming home for Christmas (Christmas day evening to be exact).  They live in Chandler, Arizona and make it home for Christmas every other year.  Also coming home from Florida, the Wednesday after Christmas, was my oldest daughter Katie and her youngest out of five children.

Needless to say, both Karen and I were very excited to have all our children and six out of 10 grandchildren home for the holidays.  Four or five years had passed since the last time our three children were under one roof together celebrating Christmas.  It would be a time stay up late reminiscing about Christmas’s past.

But then came the winter of my contentment.  One by one, a series of trials and afflictions met me head on.  It all started on September 25th with me having a mini-stroke, losing my job for a year because of my stroke, having two heart surgeries and a third surgery resulting from an accidental puncturing of an artery which led to a hematoma in my right hand and forearm.  (For the whole story of this Job-like experience, see my last article)  http://desiretoinspire.life/dear-job-we-have-a-few-things-in-common-suffering/

So for the first four days Michael and his family are home, I’m sleeping twelve to sixteen hours a day.  When I was awake I felt ten seconds behind every conversation with all the pain pills I was taking.  Because my arm was sliced open like a carved turkey, I couldn’t pick up and hold two-year-old Esther.  That broke my heart.  Michael did put 3 month old Daniel on my lap.  I didn’t hold him for long though.  He not only is a cute, butterball of love but he’s built like a Butterball turkey and I was scared to death I’d drop him.

Karen and Michael would take Esther for walks to look at the neighborhood cow and horse while I slept on the couch.  While the rest of the family had the kind of in-depth conversations I enjoy, I would fall asleep on the couch.   I love to take pictures but I couldn’t hold onto the camera.

I was beginning to feel depressed even though the thing I wanted most this holiday  (my three children all home together for Christmas) had come true.

Our family loves to play games.  I was not about to miss out on that time together.  One night five of us were playing Settlers of Catan…a game where you need to think and communicate well.  I’m a pretty competitive guy and my daughter Jaymi is the undisputed champion of this game.  I started fast and thought for sure, despite having a distinct disadvantage of being under the influence of a drug induced coma, I was going to win.  But in the end I messed up by making a few mistakes with strategy and not only didn’t win but came in tied for last.

I blamed the loss on being high on drugs and told my son-in-law Matt that the winner had to put the game away.  I walked into the living room, sunk into my couch and sulked.  My Christmas wasn’t supposed to go down this way.  I desired to squeeze out and drink up every ounce of family time I could.  Instead the drugs and fatigue were draining every ounce of energy I had.

I felt cheated.  The best conversation I had with Michael came on the eighty-minute drive back to Sea-Tac airport.  My head was finally clear.  I had quit taking the pain pills the day before, not because I didn’t need them, but because I was so constipated.   If anyone poked my belly button I would explode.

After saying good-by to Michael and his family, Karen got behind the wheel for the long drive home.  As we pulled away from the airport, I began to cry; partly from the pangs of constipation but mostly because of unmet expectations.  Karen said that Michael understood my situation and reminded me that we still had Katie and our granddaughter Hannah home for another few days.  I still had time to enjoy them while they were home.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Don’t feel too bad though.  Even the wisest and maybe wealthiest man to have ever lived struggled with feelings of discontentment. 

Solomon was King David’s son from Bathsheba.  When he became king of the nation of Israel, God found favor with Solomon because of the king’s love for him.  God told Solomon, “…Ask for whatever you want me to give to you.” 1 Kings 3:5

Solomon humbly asked for, “…a discerning heart to govern your (God’s) people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”  1 Kings 3:9

God was so pleased with Solomon’s request that he gave him the things (wealth and a long life) he did not ask for along with wisdom.  Solomon’s life was filled with many great accomplishments:

  1. “It was during his reign that the kingdom gained its highest splendor. Solomon was renowned throughout the ancient world of his time for his wisdom, his wealth and his extensive political and commercial alliances with the nations in the region. It was he who built the First Temple of Jerusalem, thus establishing the city not only as the political capital of the kingdom but also as the religious center of the People of Israel.”                Excerpt taken from http://www.kingsolomonlegend.com/King-Solomon-Great-Construction-Achievements.html
  2. “The royal palace of Solomon took twice as long to build as the Temple, and was much more complicated. In fact, it was a whole complex of buildings, with many different functions. According to the Bible, our only source of information, there was:
    • The Queen of Sheba visits King Solomon in Jerusalem, Sir Lawrence Tadema, detail of architecturethe cedar-pillared House of the Forest of Lebanon, perhaps an audience hall
    • a treasury or strongroom
    • the Judgement Hall where Solomon’s magnificent ivory throne stood
    • a special palace for the daughter of Pharaoh, Solomon’s most high-born wife
    • living quarters for Solomon’s multitude of wives and children. Though the ‘thousand wives of Solomon’ is probably an exaggeration, there were certainly many of them. Solomon cemented alliances with neighboring territories by marrying their rulers’ daughters, and by giving his own daughters in marriage to governors of provinces.”          Excerpt taken from  http://www.womeninthebible.net/bible-archaeology/solomons-palace/
  3. Finally in Solomon lists all the ways in which he strove to find fulfillment in his life.  In Ecclesiastes 2 he says, “…I tried to find fulfillment by inaugurating a great public works program…next I bought slaves, both men and women…I also bred great herds and flocks…I collected silver and gold as taxes from many kings and provinces…In the cultural arts, I organized men’s and women’s choirs and orchestras…and then there were the many beautiful concubines…Anything I wanted, I took, and did not restrain myself from any joy….But as I looked at everything I had tried, it was all so useless, a chasing of the wind and there was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.”

In his youth Solomon loved God.  But throughout his rule as King, he began to turn his focus on other things.  At the time of writing Ecclesiastes, he is an older man reflecting back on his life with what I believe is regret.  During his reign, Solomon constantly strived in vein for what would make him happy.  Instead of happiness he found discontentment.  So what was missing?

He soon forgot to look up to heaven to rediscover his true joy.  In the conclusion to his book he acknowledges the folly of his ways.  In chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes he states the following:

“Don’t let the excitement of being young cause you to forget about your Creator.  Honor him in your youth before the evil years come – when you’ll no longer enjoy living….Here is my final conclusion:  fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty of man.”

Wait a minute!  I’ve heard that God = Love.  How do we reconcile the phrase ‘fear God’ into the equation? 

While at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, I have no fear toward any of the animals while enjoying them from the safety of the walking trail.  I will wet my pants if I ever find myself in the same cage as a tiger.  I know what they are capable of, especially if hungry or provoked.

Most of the world doesn’t fear God because they either view Him from afar or don’t consider Him at all.  Christians who understand the nature of God fear (respect, have reverence for) Him because that fear helps to prevent us from giving in to our sinful desires.

Now a tiger can no more love me than share a steak dinner with me.  Actually, I am the steak dinner.  God, on the other hand, loves us so much that, “… he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

This past Monday I was having another pity party.  My hand hurt, my arm full of stitches was itching like crazy, I felt 100 years old just walking up our stairs, and we received a letter from the insurance company questioning one of the surgical procedures.  Then my daughter Jaymi called and wondered if Karen and I wanted to go for a walk out at her house on Camano Island.  We did go even though I wasn’t convinced I was up to it.  I can’t tell you the joy I felt just being around my daughter and her three kids.  When we left their home I felt 100% better.

Was it just being around my family which made all the difference?  Maybe some but not all of it.  It was what I did on the way to their house which paved the way for an attitude adjustment.  I prayed that God would help me change my perspective on today’s circumstances.  I thanked God for my family and thanked him that I was well enough to enjoy this day with them.  That was it but it changed everything.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.  If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”