In a sense, I felt like I lost one of my wheels today. As a bicyclist, I think this metaphor is particularly appropriate. I have been prepping for DFWCon for weeks (a writers conference billed as the largest one in Texas, with lots of wonderful industry professionals and fellow writers in attendance). I was looking forward to being a part of the conference, going to the classes, making new friends, and pitching my science fiction novel, Alien Neighbors. To my frustration, I developed a minor (although thank God, easily treatable) medical issue, but it was enough to stop me from attending. I think there is an important lesson here. There are NO career breaking moments. My writing career was not dependent on this conference. What it is dependent on, is that I stay the course. I must admit today was a bit rough, but I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and continue the journey. We are writers – that is what we do.
We often view snapshots in a positive way. We try to catch that perfect moment and freeze it in time to remember forever. For some, we use a snapshot to define how we feel about a person. We look at a photograph and it evokes strong emotions. But snapshots can be problematic as well. I’m not talking about instagram or an old photograph but rather, the snapshots that we carry in our minds, that color our thinking. These snapshots can be an unfair representation of a person, yet it is the view we insist on having. Sadly, these mental snapshots may be influenced by comments from family or friends; people who have not seen the whole movie, only random snapshots that don’t tell the whole story.
I don’t talk about my Dad much, except that he died when I was fifteen. The years after his death were traumatic as my Mom, brother and I struggled to maintain a semblance of family identity. My brother and I were rebellious teenagers and having our anchor dislodged unexpectedly made for very rough sailing for all of us. As the years went by and I dealt with the consequences of my immature decisions, I thought of my Dad less and less. I’m grateful that my Mom remained steadfast – she was always there for me no matter what. But for some reason, we didn’t talk much about Dad. We may have done the occasional reminiscing about a family event, but we didn’t dwell on his absence. Perhaps each one of us had a hole in our heart we didn’t know how to fill, so it was easier to ignore it rather than to acknowledge it.
But for me, there was also something else. Mental snapshots I remembered, and mental snapshots that other people told me about. Like any family, we struggled with dysfunction. For my Dad, it was alcoholism. No doubt about it, our family suffered because of it. Yet, my father faithfully went to Alcoholics Anonymous, made a commitment to Christ, and was completely sober the last two years of his life. Sadly, my childhood friend chose not to remember that when we were reminiscing a few years ago, but emphasized his sin instead. So almost forty years later, I felt shame instead of pride when I thought of my Dad. That wasn’t right and I shouldn’t have let my friend’s words influence me. We all have sins we struggle with – some are just more visible than others.
How could I let my friend’s mental snapshots of my Dad influence my attitude towards him, when I have so many more snapshots that speak to the love he had for our family? I must have been around six years old when he took me on a Daddy-daughter date. I remember putting on my best dress and I was amazed it was just us at a fancy restaurant. I felt so special! He used to insist we be on time for our bedtime and if we were one minute late he would get mad at us. I would be so upset that I made him angry, I would lay in my bed and cry, then creep down the hallway where I could see him through the cracked hallway door, sitting in his recliner watching television. He would see me peeking at him and tell me to come over and give me a hug. I remember when I fell off my horse and broke my ankle (I was around eleven years old), a young man found me and put me in his car and brought me to his mother’s house. I had not shed a single tear until I saw my Daddy in the doorway – then I burst out crying because my emotion at seeing him was so overwhelming. I was truly Daddy’s little girl. I loved to draw pictures for him that always had the caption “Best Daddy in the World.”
I remember a science project my Dad helped me with. He sold yard lights and he helped me build a street of cardboard and wire in yard lights in front of the houses. He bought his horse-crazy little girl her own horse, even though we didn’t have much money growing up. I remember waiting for him to come home from work so we could all eat dinner together. Afterwards, we would all sit in the living room (we each had our own chair) and I would curl up in mine and read while we watched the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Saturday Night Wrestling or Wonderful World of Disney. I also remember making him a bunny rabbit cake for Easter one year.
Dad bought me my first Bible – I wish I still had it but somewhere along the way it has gotten lost. I can still see it in my mind’s eye – the picture of Jesus on the cover. He made every Christmas special with his famous lasagna and would take us to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. He didn’t have a very good singing voice but that didn’t stop him as he loudly sang to the Lord in church. The last time I saw my Dad, he had taken me to the church that our Explorer’s post gathered at to leave for our mountain climbing trip to Philmont, New Mexico. When we hugged goodbye I had no idea that would be the last time I would see him on earth. These are just a few random memories of many…and sadly those negative snapshots from others had the effect of my shoving all of the good memories I had into a closet – something I deeply regret. It wasn’t fair to my Dad and it wasn’t fair to me.
It is so important to think before we speak – Ephesians 4:29 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Don’t let other people’s words influence how you feel about someone. Instead, examine the relationship for yourself and search your heart. And let us give grace to one another – for we are all imperfect and in need of it. This blog post was forty years in the making. Dad, thank you for everything. I miss you and I am looking forward to seeing you again someday. I love you.
When I woke up on my birthday morning (three days ago), the thought immediately came to me “Today is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it.” I was very grateful for that, because the day before I had been struggling. I was struggling with the fact that I have been battling lower back pain the last few weeks, the knowledge that my body is getting older and telling me that in not always so subtle ways, missing those who have gone on to be with the Lord, especially my Mom, working towards getting a literary agent for my book (which can be a long, arduous process) and seeking where God is leading next. So when God had so graciously placed that thought in my head, He positioned me to see my life from a completely different perspective.
“Today is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it!”
Rejoice and be glad for:
A wonderful husband – Phil is my best friend and soulmate. He believes in my dreams, encourages me, and supports me.
An incredible son – Josh is seeking God’s will for his life and has recently been blessed with a wonderful job doing video work for a local church.
An amazing array of family – daughter Melissa – son-in-law Aaron – awesome grandkids / brothers – Eddie and Vinny / Sisters – Janet and Lynn / Sisters-in laws – Jane and Sara / loving nieces and nephews – the list goes on and on…
The gift of friends, near and far, many of whom expressed their Birthday wishes for me. Friends are truly a gift from God and I am grateful for each one.
Incredible experiences in my life – from climbing mountains to managing an engineering department. Leading an ESL ministry to being a college professor. Training horses and ranch work to writing two books. Preaching a sermon at a small country church to coordinating a school science fair. Getting to be a wife and mom and grandma. The list goes on and on, and I am truly humbled when I think of all of these blessings God has provided for me. Ephesians 3:20 comes to mind.
And most of all, for a Savior that loves me so much that He died for my sake and rose again to defeat death, so that I can be cleansed of my sins and have eternal life with Him. Not only that – He walks with me each day!
Thanks to everyone who took time out of your day to bless me with your Birthday wishes – I love you and I treasure them in my heart. And my prayer for each of you is that you too wake up each morning with the thought in your head:
“Today is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it!”
I woke up this morning thinking about how to reconcile celebrating Valentine’s Day with observing Ash Wednesday, when I realized that there isn’t any need for reconciliation; the two events complement each other beautifully. As we reflect solemnly on our sinful state and the admonition that Ash Wednesday brings to the forefront in Genesis 3:19, “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” it is certainly a time of repentance. But it is also a time to draw us closer to experiencing God’s love through the Gospel.
So let me explain the correlation I think we have between these two seemingly dissimilar events. To begin with, it would be good to get a better understanding of the word love. In the English language we use one word to describe many things. We can love our brothers and sisters, we can have a more intimate love for our spouses, we can even love hamburgers, but none of these describes the love that God has for us. When we go back to the original Greek, we see that all of these types of love have a different word assigned to it. Family love or love of an object may fall under Storge στοργή. The brotherly love of friendship is expressed as Philia φιλία, and sexual love as Eros ἔρως. The love of God for man has its own word too. It is called Agape ἀγάπη. God’s love for us is relentless, incomprehensible, sacrificial and unconditional.
I read a quote about Agape love by Paulo Coelho that beautifully expresses the magnitude of God’s love for us: “This was the love that Jesus felt for humanity, and it was so great that it shook the stars and changed the course of man’s history.”
When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of love. The Scriptures tell us in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Ash Wednesday is a stark reminder as to why each of us needs that love. In Ash Wednesday we remember our mortality, that we are dust and will return to dust. We are reminded of our sin, but the Gospel message tells us we have victory over our sin if we repent and believe. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 gives us hope:
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:8 proclaims, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” The message is clear. We are to love one another. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 22:37-39 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Today is a day we can celebrate love in all of its facets: the love that God has for us, and the different types of love that we have for one another. Today, Phil and I will contemplate the incredible love that God has for us as sinful mortals with gratefulness and repentance, and we will also celebrate the love we have as husband and wife. When you think about it, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that celebrates romantic love, but what could be more romantic than sacrificial love? Ultimately that is the type of love that lasts when the trappings of Valentine’s Day fades into the busyness of life.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, and we have the season of Lent ahead of us. Another Lenten tradition for some folks is to “give something up” for Lent. The purpose is to recognize and share in Jesus’ sacrifice as he withdrew into the desert and fasted for 40 days. Another way we can share in this tradition is rather than give something up, we can commit to do something, as an expression of sacrificial love. For me, I choose to write one card of encouragement each day of Lent (to the person God puts on my heart that day), and mail it. One has to be intentional, and carve out time to do this. Not a great sacrifice perhaps, but it serves the purpose of giving time to God to bless someone else. Just another way to show that ultimately, Ash Wednesday and Lent, while a season of repentance, is grounded in the greatest love of all and is a great way to live out the command Jesus gave us in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
Another GREAT thing to do today is to forgive someone if you have been allowing bitterness to fester in your heart. I know many people who struggle with forgiveness, in that they are either unable to forgive themselves for something they have done or they are unable to forgive someone else for hurting them. When I think about God’s limitless grace and that it is through Christ’s sacrifice at the cross that we have received forgiveness for all of our transgressions – what is even more amazing is that God initiated it, we read in Romans 5:8, “For God demonstrates his great love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” He died for us knowing we were a mess, yet loving us anyway. His forgiveness heals us and if we are unable to forgive ourselves, or others, we are unable to fully experience the peace that comes from the healing power of Christ. If you are in this category, you can read more at my blog post: Forgiving Ourselves and Forgiving Others.
There are all sorts of ways we can live out loving one another. A friend of mine is planning on choosing one item each day from her family’s clothing closets, so that at the end of Lent she will have 40 gently used items to donate to those in need. Sounds like both a sacrificial and practical plan to me! May you find special blessings each day as you spend this time preparing your heart for celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. And if you have never participated in Lent before, you might want to give it a try. It’s a wonderful way to deepen your spiritual journey.
Happy Lenten Valentine’s Day!
Valentine’s Day seems like a good time to recognize those folks around us who have had a hand in our success. Certain elements are required in order to be successful in any endeavor. In engineering, a strong foundation in your chosen area is essential. This may be acquired through education and experience. A desire and ability to learn continually (our field changes so rapidly that this is not a luxury but a necessity) is also required. Being able to work well with others is always important, even if the job is mostly solitary. There are still times when you have to interact with internal and external customers. But when I reflect on my own career, I can truly say that my success was in large part due to the folks around me that were willing to invest in me.
It all started with my first job out of school. I worked my way through college, and upon graduation I embarked on my career in electronics. I was hired to work for a major semiconductor company. When I look back at the uncertain young woman I was in 1990, entering a mostly male field and armed with an electronics foundation that was mostly theory but with no real world experience, I can see how those first months were pivotal for me. I was incredibly blessed to have an amazing co-worker named Curtis who took me under his wing. When I look back at how many times I asked him for help in that first year and his always patient and cheerful response that enabled me to complete the task I had been assigned, I can see how I became much more confident in myself and my ability to utilize my electronics knowledge because of his tutelage. His love of Calvin and Hobbes and his willingness to forgive me when I shot him in the eye with a rubber band are fond memories I carry to this day. I was only at that job one year, but it was my important first one out of school and Curtis’ mentoring made a huge difference in shaping my future and helping me to be successful.
My next job was for another semiconductor company, where I would spend the next twelve years. During that time I was surrounded by incredible people who were willing to help a still fairly new employee learn the ropes and make her feel welcome. It was an amazing experience because those folks were truly a family and they welcomed me into the fold without reservation. One engineer in particular, Norris, is one of those few people that are incredibly intuitive in electronics. They don’t have to labor through understanding like I do. Sometimes it takes awhile for the light bulb to turn on over my head – Norris was born with the light already on. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t work hard, he does. In fact, he works harder because he also takes the time to mentor those that he works with. I could bring any electronics problem, large or small, and know that Norris would provide the guidance I needed to work through it. I learned so much from him and the other folks in our test engineering group that were always ready to lend a hand. I also learned to have a great work ethic that has served me well over the years.
Another group of people that are often unheralded are the sales people that I worked with. These could be parts sales, equipment sales, or salespeople that represented several different manufacturers. Typically engineers and salespeople seem to be diametrically opposed in how they think and what their goals are. But the salespeople that were constants for me during my career have been phenomenal in providing support when I needed it. While there are too many to mention, I would like to share with you about one sales rep named Jay. Whenever I needed test equipment for one of my test racks, chances were, Jay was representing that particular manufacturer and I called on him often. He was the kind of guy that would do whatever it took to get you the product you needed on time. He was also a very smart guy and would share his knowledge to help solve problems, even if it wasn’t related to the sale. He was generous with his time and he celebrated with us when we did well and when we weren’t doing so good, he did everything that he could from his end to help things improve. He was supportive in all of my engineering endeavors, even those that didn’t bring him income. When I started teaching software seminars and needed an extra computer for a client to use – he loaned me one of his. When I created a web page for test engineering and the table I was creating was giving me problems, he came over and showed me the html code that would solve the issue. Beyond that, he helped me when my life took an unexpected hard turn. He was there to provide wisdom and tangible assistance during a very difficult time.
I met Jay in the mid-90s and although we both took different career paths since then, we always managed to keep in touch, even if it was just a phone call months or a year or two apart, until recently. The last year and a half my husband and I stayed in much more frequent touch, walking alongside Jay and his lovely wife as he battled with pancreatic cancer. Being able to laugh with him, cry with him, and pray with him, was a privilege of our friendship that started so many years ago, when he was a salesman and I was a test engineer. Jay is with the Lord now and isn’t suffering any more. The last time I saw Jay, I told him that I was really glad that God had brought us together. I would not have traded our friendship for anything. I miss him a lot and in times of trouble I can still hear him say as he frequently did, “It’s gonna be okay.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of work and the responsibilities we have, but ultimately what really matters is the people doing the work. I am grateful for all of the individuals, too numerous to mention, that gave of their time and talent to help me to succeed. The folks at Design News are also in that category, providing many opportunities for me to grow as a writer. You may want to pause and reflect on the people who played a role like that for you, or commit to be that person for someone else. If you would like to honor anyone that played a role in your success, please feel free to share.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Jay. Thanks for being my friend. I miss you.
This is one of my favorite pictures of all time. It was taken in 2017, and the occasion was my birthday. I am a little older now and hopefully a little wiser. The people in this picture portray a tremendous blessing in my life – I am honored to call them friends. So many countries are represented: Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Iran, Peru, Mexico, Rwanda, Germany, and of course, the United States. It is so much fun to have the opportunity to learn about other cultures, and I have found that we are more alike than we are different. I have also found that if given the chance, people will come together, regardless of race or country of origin, when given the opportunity. Many of the people in this photo recently donated money to buy a Car for Cyprien. He is pictured in the center, the man on crutches. The only time they have met Cyprien was at this party, yet when asked, they contributed so that he could have transportation.
It’s been almost five months since Hurricane Harvey. When an event like that occurs, it catches us completely off guard. We live in such a blessed country of plenty that the devastation wrought by Harvey is hard to fathom for those of us who are on the outside looking in. But even as far away as Dallas, we saw the effects. Evacuees made their way into our communities. Most everyone I know was shocked at the gas pump – stations were temporarily running out and prices reflected supply and demand. For me personally, I watched my son-in-law Aaron receive a phone call as we were about to eat Sunday lunch. He didn’t stop to eat and was gone within ten minutes, after bringing in school books and our grandchildren’s car seats into the house from his truck, because he needed to go directly to pick up two other members of the Army Reserve so they could deploy to Houston with their unit. Our daughter Melissa had the responsibility of our three grandchildren by herself, at the beginning of a new school year. They were ready to sacrifice for our neighbors.
Local community organizations and churches stepped up to stand in the gap and serve those who had been devastated by Harvey. Individuals answered the call for volunteers and city and government officials worked side by side with citizen volunteers to rescue Harvey victims. Jesus prayed for unity – and in this time of tragedy it was beautiful to see that prayer being answered over and over. Instead of looking at each other through the petty lens smeared by our broken humanity full of grievances and complaints, we were looking at each other through the same lens Jesus does. All of the divisive issues that have been blasting through the media didn’t seem important anymore. We were faced with our common humanity, and how beautiful it was to see our response, the same response that Jesus calls us to – love thy neighbor.
We have been given a great capacity for love and love can overcome our differences. Scripture tells us in John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” As we celebrate the holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, let’s remember his words and weave them into the fabric of our own communities: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. King also said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” Let us love our neighbor, regardless of how different they may be from us. Let us rejoice in our differences, knowing that in the depths of our hearts, we are the same.
Images from Pixabay – free for commercial use
I read this on Facebook and asked my friend Abigail Harper Christie if I could share it, because it really spoke to me about the value of reading and having access to books. As a writer, it validates my own endeavors as a way to contribute to humanity. Abigail’s story tells of the life-changing impact that books made on her:
As my trip to London and our Harry Potter Pilgrimage draws to a close, I have been thinking about the impact that Harry Potter has had on my life. I understand that it is just a book series, but for me it is a tiny bit more. Pre-HP, I had absolutely no interest in reading and was reading pretty significantly below grade level. I just didn’t care. My mom would try to force me to read to her at night and I would put up a fight every time. Then someone gave me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in third grade. I couldn’t put it down. Within weeks I had read the first three books. Before I was done with third grade I had read Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit while waiting for the fourth one to come out. By the next time they did reading evaluations I was then reading/comprehending significantly above grade level. I remember taking my books with me everywhere and talking about them a bit too much.
Harry Potter is more than just a series of books for me, it was the catalyst to a love of learning and reading. So I know we are all busy these days with relationships, school, work, adulting, etc., but try to take the time to stop and read a book. It might just lead you to places you never imagined possible.
Thanks, Abigail – I spent many a night in elementary school hiding under the covers with a flashlight and Nancy Drew mystery book (I am a bit older than you, okay, maybe more than a bit…and Harry Potter was still a long way off, but Nancy Drew had the same effect) so I can really identify with your experience and I wish that for everyone. Reading transports us to another world and allows us to see possibilities that we wouldn’t know existed otherwise. It empowers us with knowledge and reassures us with familiarity. It helps us cope by providing a means to take a break from our troubles. I think one of the best gifts you can give a child is to facilitate a love of reading. Thanks for sharing about the impact that books have had on you – as an author the best thing we can possibly hear is that we have made a difference in someone’s life!
This year I want to have more gratitude for things we take for granted. I was talking to my neighbor, Charlie, and we got on the topic of mail. I was telling her how difficult it is to receive mail in some countries. I had mailed my friend’s parents a letter and some pictures last year. They live in Rwanda and while I can mail something to Rwanda and feel fairly confident it arrives there, getting it to the intended recipient is another matter entirely. The mail must somehow travel to some location (such as a local church) and from there, the recipient must be informed that they have a letter being held for them. Sadly, my letter never arrived.
For those of us living in the United States, this is hard to imagine. We are blessed to have our mail arrive at our home – daily! We don’t even think about it. Charlie commented on how we need to be grateful for the things we take for granted. I think she is right. Whenever you find yourself getting frustrated at some minor inconvenience today, like waiting to be served at a restaurant, pause and reflect how blessed we really are and that the minor inconvenience you are upset about wouldn’t even be possible if you didn’t have the blessing of food and water readily available. Some people have to walk miles daily just to get water for their families (a daily occurrence in some parts of Rwanda). Be grateful for what you have and recognize the blessings you take for granted – rather than complaining about inconveniences. Thanks, Charlie – that’s a great lesson for all of us!
It’s been a tough year for our family. It has been a time full of challenges as I worked hard to meet the needs of my mother who suffered health issues for about a year before going on hospice in May of 2015. She went to be with our Lord in June, followed by my favorite aunt in October. A dear friend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer almost two years ago. I shared his journey, often meeting him for breakfast at the local diner, countless phone conversations, and helping when he needed a ride to a radiation treatment. We laughed and cried and prayed together. He joined my mom and aunt in heaven in the middle of November. Walking alongside my family and friends during this time was very hard on me emotionally, and the precious time I could grab to forget about what was going on, if only for a little bit, gave me the strength I needed to keep going.
My favorite sitcom during the nineties was Home Improvement with comedian and actor Tim Allen. During the past year, my son and I would be very intentional about watching an episode a day. It was a time of pure entertainment. I found myself laughing out loud and I was able to forget the sorrow and difficulties that I was facing – at least for the twenty three minutes (one episode on DVD with no commercials) that my son and I enjoyed together as we watched each show. That more than anything, has taught me the value of entertainment. For me during that time, it was watching a humorous family show that I could relate to, laugh with, and regarding some episodes, cry with. For someone else, it might be immersing themselves in a good book that takes them far away from their present problems, at least for a little while. Or taking two hours to watch a movie that transports them to another place, allowing them to relax and recharge after a stressful day.
When I have my engineering hat on, I am seeking effective and efficient solutions to problems. But I have found that entertainment is an effective and efficient solution as well – to the problems brought about through our humanity. It may not fix the problems, but it helps them to be easier to endure while we work through them. I am thankful for entertainers in all forms of media for their part in helping with that.
[images courtesy of naypong, digitalart and Serge Bertasius at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]