2018: A Year For Hope (Week 21)

The little 4BR house my parents purchased in 1963 for $26K is now valued at almost $1.5M. In preparation for this post, I viewed it on Google maps and did a virtual walk-through via some recent listing photos. I marvel at the transformation; the brick planter box was removed from the entryway (a style trend of the 1950’s), and I hardly recognized the family room. The fruit trees on the side yard are long gone, and so is the large screened in deck my dad built. The house is beautiful, inviting, and no doubt the repository of many happy family memories. But the house also holds secrets, and no amount of paint or remodeling can change the way the house looks to me. A wave of sadness envelopes me when I view the house through the mind’s eye of my sisters and me.

Don’t get me wrong, I also have of plenty of happy memories from that house and neighborhood. We moved there when I was about 3 years old, and I lived there for 15 years. Back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, and when my older brothers and sisters would tolerate my following them around like a shadow, we would play up and down the block after school and after dinner well into the evening hours. My best friend “A” lived across the street, and I up until about 7th grade I practically lived at her house. Almost all my best memories include “A” and her family, and it would be decades later that I realized what a gift from God they were to me. “M”, my next-door neighbor to the right, had a huge cedar tree (perhaps 30’ tall) in their side yard that the 3 of us loved to climb. We’d navigate the prickles of the outer branches to get up near the trunk, and then up we’d go as high as we could, often sitting in the sanctuary of tree branches for hours pretending it was our secret fort – or just spying on other neighborhood kids!

I was young, but I remember when my dad converted the garage to a family room. He walled off a small portion of the space closest to the garage door as his workroom, and the rest he dry walled, painted and carpeted so that we had more living space (with 7 kids in the house, we needed all the living space we could get!). I have very happy memories of hanging out with him in that workroom; the smell of freshly sawed wood and playing with the remnants like they were building blocks, the way he could make/fix almost anything.  No doubt I get my mechanical aptitude from him.

Our living room was the most highly decorated room of the house, and it was there I would find my mom in the mornings reading her Bible with a cup of coffee in hand. She loved to sing hymns, and I treasure the memories of her standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes and singing songs like “He Lives” and “Softly and Tenderly” and “There’s Just Something About That Name”. It was her voice I heard in my head when I sang those same hymns to my daughters and grandchildren as lullabies.

“Be merciful to me, God; be merciful to me because I come to you for protection. Let me hide under the shadow of your wings until the trouble has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to the God who does everything for me. He sends help from heaven and saves me. He pushiness those who chase me.” Psalm 57:2-3 (NCV)

Yes, there are happy memories. And I’m grateful for every one of them, for they provide a needed counterbalance to the other activities that took place within the walls of that home. Ugly activities. Things that no one talked about back then. In fact, we all worked very hard to just pretend that none of it happened at all … and we did so quite successfully until approximately 1984. Then the lid blew off and the walls crumbled, and our perfect family façade came crashing down.

Up until then, had you asked me about my childhood, I would have told you I had a wonderfully normal childhood. We lived smack in the middle of middle-class, and while we lived humbly, we were living a version of the American dream. We lived in a middle-class neighborhood, attended middle-class schools, and my brothers were the first in our family line (going back at least to the mid-1800’s) to ever go to college. I’m the youngest of seven, and the world changed a lot and fast back then. By the time I started working part time in my teens, the impact Silicon Valley had literally changed the landscape of everything familiar to me as a child.

I had a wonderfully normal childhood, except for the fact that I can’t remember large chunks of it and the earliest memories I do have are fragmented and distorted. It’s rather like trying to examine a captured bug through the walls of a patterned Ball Jar (something that happened yesterday, as I caught another stink bug in my house!). You can see it, but you can’t really see the details clearly. But I remember the dreams.

But to dream, I first had to get to bed. I was convinced that in the darkness of night, sheetrock walls somehow softened to allow protrusions of sharp knives and outstretched hands reaching for me either from through the walls themselves or up from underneath my bed. It was terrifying, and so once I was old enough to put myself to bed, I would flip the light switch, take 3 running steps, and leap onto my bed to shimmy under the blankets as quickly as possible.  Leaving only my head exposed, I moved as close against the wall as I could possibly get, face to wall.

“I am frightened inside; the terror of death has attached me. I am scared and shaking, and terror grips me. I said “I wish I had wings like a dove. Then I would fly away and rest.” Psalm 55:4-6 (NCV)

As a very small child, to my best guess from as early as age 5 (?) up through I think about 9 or 10 (?) I had the same dreams over and over again. I still remember them in vivid detail.

1. The Stick Man: Reaching hands, stick body, a hollow circle for a face. When the Stick Man came at night, I vanished.

 

StickMan
Stick Man

2. My dad and the train: I see a train approaching and my dad is riding on the top of it. For some reason he jumps off and dies. I have no emotion about it.
3. My dad and the chair: I see my dad in the kitchen, seated in his usual chair, pushing it back to teeter on the back two legs the way he often did. The chair unexpectedly falls backwards, landing my dad onto the brick steps that led down into the family room. He dies on impact. I stand over him, emotionless.
4. Fly away: This by far was my favorite dream! I would go over to the front side-yard, the space between our house and “M” s house (not the back side-yard – because there are dark and still-shrouded memories of that space). From there, I would reach my arms up and make a slight jump, and as soon as both feet left contact with the earth I would begin a fast flutter-kick that lifted me up, up, up into light and space and freedom. Most often, after circling the space above ours and the neighboring houses I would descend and sit atop our roof; observing, unseen and tranquil. Other times, I would go higher and fly faster while expertly navigating the space between the power lines to soar above the tops of even the tallest trees. I was completely free, and it was exhilarating!

 

Fly Away
Fly Away

 

While I write this post, I’m wrestling with an inner voice that taunts:

- Why in the world do you want to dig all this up, let alone blog about it for others to read!
- People you know read your blog. How much do you really want them to know?
- What will people think of you once they know these things about you?

And I’ve got to be honest – while I’ve shared a lot of my story (on this blog, and more completely through one-on-one conversations with women I’ve encouraged over the years), I’m not exactly enjoying this particular trip down memory lane. It’s like going up into the attic, pulling the cobwebs off the neatly stacked boxes in the farthest corner, and then scattering them all over the room. It’s messy and occasionally stuff falls out of a box.

“Really Lord? Do you really want me to write about this? And if so, exactly what and how much do you want me to share?”

He and I are still working through those questions, but for now I write with the hope that through the sharing of my story, someone else will take comfort and find courage to believe God for better days. I pray my words are found by someone who needs to hear from someone who made it to the other side of the valley of the shadow of death.  And I ask God that as recompense for the pain I’ve suffered, that the enemy of my soul be paraded around and made a spectacle of – for even by his very best efforts, he (the devil) was unable to prevent my rescue!!!

Psalm 71 New Century Version (NCV)
An Old Person’s Prayer

(vs 1-6, 19-23)
In you, LORD, is my protection.
Never let me be ashamed.
Because you do what is right, save and rescue me;
listen to me and save me.
Be my place of safety
where I can always come.
Give the command to save me,
because you are my rock and my strong, walled city.
My God, save me from the power of the wicked
and from the hold of evil and cruel people.
LORD, you are my hope.
LORD, I have trusted you since I was young.
I have depended on you since I was born;
you helped me even on the day of my birth.
I will always praise you.
God, your justice reaches to the skies.
You have done great things;
God, there is no one like you.
You have given me many troubles and bad times,
but you will give me life again.
When I am almost dead,
you will keep me alive.
You will make me greater than ever,
and you will comfort me again.
I will praise you with the harp.
I trust you, my God.
I will sing to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
I will shout for joy when I sing praises to you.
You have saved me.

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

 

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 20)

It’s not something I think much about anymore, but in recent weeks the Lord has brought to my remembrance the great tragedy that was my second marriage. Take courage, male readers – this is not a post trashing the male species. Rather, this post is a reflection upon my own brokenness at the time. For sure, my ex was a terrible person (ever see the movie “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”? Yea, it was a lot like that). But had I not already been such a walking-talking-emotional-and-spiritual-train-wreck, I would not have been such easy prey.

In fact, I remember saying something along those lines to my sister years after my divorce. Oh, she was so made at me!… because she witnessed all of what he had done first hand, and most siblings would, she hated him for the way he mistreated me and our children. To her ears, my acknowledging I had some part to play in the insanity that took place was akin to giving him a pardon. No so. But we all have to own our stuff, and I brought stuff to the table too.

This is not an easy subject, nor a pleasant remembrance for me. I’d much rather stay focused on HOPE and FAITH and maintaining a positive outlook even in the mist of difficulties. But I am feeling prompted to reveal a little more of my story – in a more complete way than I have in the past via little bits and pieces.

“You said, ‘Now shalt thou see what I will do,’” she answered, and then, looking at him reproachfully, added, “But I never dreamed you would do anything like this! Lead me to an impassable precipice up which nothing can go but deer and goats, when I’m no more like a deer or goat than is a jellyfish. It’s too-it’s too-“ She fumbled for words, and then burst out laughing. “Why, it’s too preposterously absurd! It’s crazy! Whatever will you do next?”

The Shepherd laughed too. “I love doing preposterous things,” he replied. “Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection. If there is one thing more than another which I should enjoy doing at this moment is turning a jellyfish into a mountain goat. That’s my special work,” he added with the light of great joy in his face. “Transforming things – to take Much-Afraid, for instance and to transform her into-“ He broke off and then went on laughingly. “Well, we shall she later on what she finds herself transformed into.”

It was a really extraordinary scene. In the place where just a little while before all had been fear and despair were the Shepherd and Much-Afraid, sitting on the rocks at the food of the impassible precipice, laughing together as though at the greatest joke in the world.”

Hinds Feet on High Places, Hanna Hurnard

My story – and transformation – from a wounded young girl trying to survive a dysfunctional and abusive home, to a young woman looking for love and acceptance in the arms of all the wrong men, to a young wife-turned-single parent desperately trying to rebuild a life, to today. Wow. As I write that, I’m honestly not sure how I’m going to tackle all this. It really is the material for a book or a movie 😊. But that’s not my objective! I just want to share enough of my story so as to encourage others who might be on a similar journey, and I want to give praise and honor to my BIG GOD who transformed me from Jellyfish to Mountain Goat, and from complete brokenness to a woman who learned to Swing Again!

Hope you come back next week to take the journey of remembrance with me.

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 19)

As mentioned in my last post, I recently attended a women’s event at my church.  Shayla McCormick of Coastal Community Church was our guest speaker.  On Day 2, still gleaning from the story of Gideon, she shared that she often feels both overwhelmed and underqualified to do the thing(s) that God has called her to do.  I totally relate to that, and I’m sure you can too.

We hear the whisper of God prompting us to do something new.  Something totally out of the character with our usual way of acting or reacting. Something brave and daring and exciting.  And while our spirit may be quick to say “Yes, Lord.  If you say so”, our awareness of our own shortcomings (with fear along for the ride) speaks up and says “Uh, Lord … I think you have forgotten who you’re talking to.  The person you probably want for this job lives three doors down to the left.”

Right?

Which is probably why this particular bullet point really caught my attention … as well as my imagination.

Building up strength requires exertion of strength.”  ~Shayla McCormick

Or as I rephrased it in my notebook:  You won’t experience your victory until you step up to bat.

And that got me thinking, and as usually happens, one thought leads to another.

We know from Judges, chapter 6, that Gideon was called by God, from his hideout in a winepress, to rise up and lead the Israelites in battle.

cropped-gravitar-image.jpgSpaghetti Thought #1: The fact that Gideon was threshing wheat reminds me that the promise of Deuteronomy 28:12 is that He will “bless the work of my hands”.  Therefore, my hands are required to actually be doing something practical in order to be blessed.   To state the obvious, wheat can’t get threshed until someone first puts in the work to plant the seed, and later harvest the crop.  And last time I checked, if no one goes fishing, no one eats fish.  But a garden hoe doesn’t catch fish, nor will a fishing pole till the ground.  So if I want to enjoy the reward, I had better be putting in the work and using the right tools for the job.

Mighty WarriorSpaghetti Thought #2: When Gideon went into battle, he would of course be wearing armor.  You and I need to wear armor too, spiritual armor, every day.   And in the same way that Nehemiah counseled the Israelites to rebuild the wall with a weapon in one hand and a tool in the other, we greatly increase our success when we are not only busy doing the work, but are also wearing the Armor of God to keep us protected (offensively and defensively) from that rascally old devil who is always trying to steel, kill and destroy God’s plan for our lives.

“From then on half of my men worked and half stood guard, wearing coats of armor and armed with spears, shields, and bows. And our leaders gave their full support to the people who were rebuilding the wall. Even those who carried building materials worked with one hand and kept a weapon in the other, and everyone who was building kept a sword strapped to their waist. The man who was to sound the alarm on the bugle stayed with me.”   Nehemiah 4:16-18 (GNB)

But it’s not the image of Miss Hope wearing the Armor of God while tending her fields with rake and wheel barrel that stirred in my imagination that day.  It was the thought of her with a baseball bat.

 

Take A Swing, PuttingHopeToWork.com
“Take A Swing!”  http://www.puttinghoptowork.com

 

Spaghetti Thought #3:  Sometimes you just have to “take a swing“.

Life can be hard sometimes.  Disappointments will come.  My heart will hurt.  But no matter how hard the fall (be it of my own doing, or from circumstances completely outside my control), because of Jesus Christ, I don’t have to stay down.  I can be washed clean of the gunk all over my face and clothing.  I can return to the well of HOPE for refreshment when I’m weary of spirit.  I can release my pain into the care of Jesus and instead choose to forgive.  I can, in His strength, get back up and take another swing.

And another!

And another, and another, and another, and another!!!

Friend, what is your faith swinging for today?  Healing?  Finances?  A new job?  A spouse?  Deliverance from an addiction?

Remember that “building up strength requires exertion of strength”, so exert those spiritual muscles and take another swing!

And keep on swinging until you get your victory!!

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 18)

She slowly walks up to the front of the room, smiling as she moves past the familiar and unfamiliar faces monitoring her progress. She tries to steady her breathing. Everything rides on this, her entire future! As she turns, the room quiets and all eyes are on her. She silently prays her voice to calm, and then she begins to deliver the most important speech of her 18 year life.

I should know better, for I have been here -in this place- countless times before. Dreaming, pursuing, preparing, envisioning my success.

• The powerful delivery of a presentation or speech
• Hitting my weight loss goal
• Landing that promotion
• Winning back territory from the enemy
• Making the final payment on an old debt
• Arriving at a place of financial security
• Residence in ‘the land overflowing with milk and honey’

At the beginning of the process … the dreaming, pursuing and preparing part … enthusiasm is high. My imagination soars with visions of what life will be like when ______. And usually, if I really pause to examine my thought life, there is an undertone or underlying theme in my visions of victory and success: “Then I’ll be able to rest for a bit.”

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!” ― Jim Henson (The Labyrinth)

And yet time and time again, even though I know full well it’s not true – I continue to set myself up for the inevitable disappointment that will be when reality smacks me in the face and I’m reminded once again that there is always going to be another presentation, another goal, another challenge, … another mountain/valley/ocean to cross over!

Can anyone else relate?

Admittedly, I was in a bit of a funk the end of last year. There was a lot of change taking place in my day-job, and it was quite stressful. And so I did what I always do … or what eventually I always do. I took my battle-weary heart to the Lord, and received HOPE from Him that 2018 would be a year of favor and blessing. That’s why this particular blog series is entitled “2018: A Year For Hope” … because I knew He was instructing me to keep blogging, and I needed a reminder (and anchor) for the HOPE that He had given me in December.

“I hear the Lord saying, “I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.” ~Psalm 32:8 (The Passion Translation)

In January I spread my wings and took flight on this series, I even began painting again. I had gained a little altitude in February. I soared for a little while in March, until I hit the turbulent winds of April. Some personal disappointments got the better of me and I lost altitude.

Sounds rather like a recurring theme for me, doesn’t it?

Rest and Refresh! Hope! Vision! Expectation! Fearlessness! Boldness! Persistence! Fatigue! Wobbly-ness! (repeat)

And as I’ve been making my way back to the starting place these last 2 weeks, I asked myself “What in the world makes you think life is going to be gumdrops and lollypops when ___ happens! You should know better!”

Sometimes I write my blog posts for you – to encourage you like we were friends sitting across from each other over coffee.

But most times, my write blog posts are for me – something I’m working through and/or need to be reminded of. Yup, I’m a HOPE-filled blogger in desperate need for another shot of HOPE!

And today, the encouragement I’m clinging to comes from the women’s event I attended at my church this past weekend. Through the story of Gideon, our lead Pastor’s wife and guest speaker shared a one-liner that really resonates with me.
“God wants us to be Brave so that He can write our stories.” ~Ginelle Payne

Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Oh yes, that’s right Lord. My story is still being written, by You!

And there is no finish line this side of heaven (because I have an enemy who is always sabotaging me by moving flags and markers, setting traps, etc), and so it is a waste of energy to pine for the day when I can ‘put my feet up and rest a bit’.

Instead, I need to keep coming back (hourly if necessary) to the starting place of Rest & Refreshment so that You can revive my Hope, give me Vision, build my Expectation, make me Fearless, increase my Boldness, with greater Persistence! And when fatigue comes, I would do well to return to the starting place A.S.A.P. rather than waiting for wobbly-ness to set in. (I tend to get into trouble by making poor decisions when I’m wobbly.)

Regarding that enemy – the one who is always sneaking around to steal the Word from me, kill my dreams, and utterly destroy God’s plan for my life? In the words of Jim Henson … let me loudly declare this!

You have no power over me!


I’m working on a new piece … to reflect Miss Hope’s arrival landside. Come back next week (ish) to watch the word-picture emerge.
All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

New Blog Post Release Date – Thursdays

Good morning friends!   As you have probably noticed, I’ve not been keeping up with my Monday afternoon release date for the last several weeks.   Monday-Friday I’m a small business owner (OK, it’s more like Monday-Saturday,  since I’m self employed and wear all hats all the time) and my weekends have been slammed …. mostly in good and exciting ways … like playing with grandkids, and going on hikes, and lets not forget about groceries and laundry and paying bills. 🙂   All the every-day stuff of life that gets crammed into weekends.

This past weekend I attended a Captivate 2018, a women’s conference put on my church.  It was actually at Captivate 2014 that the Lord spoke to me, leading me to quit my day job (without having another job lined up) and step out onto the deep waters of faith with Him.   Before my two weeks notice was up, He had given me a dream and opened up the doors of opportunity for me to go into business for myself.  I write more about that here.

Anyways – I’m now working on the post that was supposed to be published on Monday.  And since this has already happened more than a few times, I’m going to move the release date for my blog posts from MONDAY afternoon to THURSDAY afternoon.

Whew!  I feel much better now!

“So it is impossible for God to lie for we know that his promise and his vow will never change!  And now we have run into his heart to hide ourselves in his faithfulness.  This is where we find his strength and comfort, for he empowers us to seize what has already been established ahead of time – an unshakable hope!  We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself.  Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat which sits in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold, and where Jesus, our forerunner, has gone in before us.  He is now and forever our royal Priest like Melchizedek.”   ~Hebrews 6:18-20 (The Passion Translation)

 

Morning Sips

Inspired by my last name, I'm on a journey to better understand the intertwining of FAITH & HOPE.