Fire Ants in the Rose Garden

IMG_2441I love roses. Not the artificially perfumed hothouse roses you find in the florist shops; the honest-to-goodness home-grown kind I find in my own garden. One thing I don’t love is the weeds. And the fire ants. Welcome to Florida.

The other day I was dead-heading my roses—a necessity if you want to keep blooms on them all year long—happily trimming along, enjoying the beauty and the fragrance when OUCH! I felt a sharp stinging on my foot. What the . . .! For something 1 millionth my size, that little fire ant sure packs a punch, especially if he’s invited several of his pals over to join him.

I’m not allergic to fire ant bites, thank the Lord, but I have a friend whose son is. When he inadvertently stepped on a hill, he nearly had to go to the hospital. Some quick administration of Benadryl averted a disaster.

But the itching and pain can still cause a lot of discomfort, even for the non-allergic. But mostly, I just hate the fact that my beautiful garden is a haven for the heartless beasts.

But isn’t that just like life?

You’re going along nicely, appreciating the beauty around you, being thankful for the beautiful creation, happy with your friends and family. Suddenly WHAM! something hits you broadside. Maybe a child suddenly becomes sick. Maybe a parent passes away. Maybe a pipe bursts in your house and causes a major flood.

Like those little fire ants in my rose bed, the sorrows and pains and grief of this world can distract me from the beauty. But my roses are still beautiful and fragrant.

And God is still good.

Just watch where you’re stepping.

Why I’m Choosing To Do The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

alsa_logoI’m not really one to jump on a bandwagon. Unless it has to do with chocolate. So when my friend Alyson nominated me to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, I hesitated. I didn’t want to do it just to do it. Because everyone else is doing it. I’ve watched the heart-wrenching video from Peter Frates. I know what it’s about. And I usually don’t give to organizations like that because my funds are so limited.

But raising awareness is good. Maybe not as good as raising money. But maybe if I make someone who has more money than I aware of something, they’ll be led to give. I changed my profile picture on Facebook to the Arabic “noon” to raise awareness of and show solidarity for the Christians in Iraq and the atrocities being perpetrated against them.

But did I want to jump on this bandwagon?

And then I remembered Anni.

I met Anni at a bridal shower for my friend Faith. I sat with her at the table and asked her to tell me her story. Anni is a beautiful, outgoing, faith-filled woman whose father has ALS. Anni is his caretaker. She has put her life on hold to honor him with her service. I was so impressed by Anni’s selfless attitude. She has a really hard life. But she has some really good friends. And she loves her dad.

Chances are, her dad is not going to be around a whole lot longer. Anni needs help with meals, with getting out of the house every once in awhile, with shopping, with housework. She can’t do it herself.

One thing that Anni said to me is that, though she appreciates beyond words the meals and supplies others bring for them, she can’t stand the term “beggars can’t be choosers.” She considers herself a beggar because she needs to ask for help. She wishes people would realize that she doesn’t like to have to ask, and she’d do it herself if she knew that wouldn’t kill her in the process. She’d like for people to ask her, “What can I make for you for dinner tonight? What do you really love that you haven’t had for awhile?” Why should she not get to choose just because she’s had to ask?

So, I’m doing it for Anni. I’m going to have my son pour a bucket of ice water over my head and post it on Facebook and Instagram because that’s what Pete Frates wants me to do. Though I have no funds to contribute, I hope I am raising the awareness of someone who does. You can give at this website.

Look around you. Is there someone who is taking care of a loved one who is terminally ill? Are they bearing the burden alone? Ask them what they need. Be there for them. They are there for someone else.

Like Anni.

Here’s me, being doused.

Wait, What?

huhI don’t consider myself a political activist, nor do I consider that I am fully informed about all that is going on in the world. And I take most of the things I read on the Internet with a grain of salt. I know that journalism looks less like the non-biased institution it used to be and more like a pawn of different political parties, and that bothers me, being in journalism for many year as I was. So I do tend to check out the things that I read. But unless I have access to the person about which the story is written, I know I don’t have all the facts.

That being said, there have been several stories in the news lately that made me stop and say, “Wait, what?”

First is the story of a man in Texas who was told by the manager of his apartment complex to take down the American flag on his apartment balcony because it was “A threat to the Muslim community.”

A man is flying an American flag. In Texas. How dare he be told to take it down? He wasn’t waving it in anybody’s face. He wasn’t yelling “death to Islam!” If those who feel threatened by the flag—and I’m guessing it was not a large number, but probably a vocal, like, 1—don’t like it, they can MOVE. You live in America, dude. Deal with it.

Then, I read about a military mom of 3 who was blasted on social media for her stance on her Constitutional rights.

Holly Fisher lives in West Virginia. Her husband is in the Army. She is pro life, believes in the Constitution of the United States of America, and is a gun owner. She also has small children. After the Supreme Court decision came down in favor of Hobby Lobby and other family businesses, Holly’s husband took a picture of her wearing a pro-life T-shirt in front of a Hobby Lobby holding a Chick-fil-A cup, which she posted online. Then, on July 4th, she posted another picture of herself in front of her American flag, holding a Bible and a gun. She says it was an illustration of her First Amendment rights. People compared her to a terrorist. She was appalled at some of the responses.

Later, after she complained that, due to ObamaCare, she had lost her baby’s cardiologist, someone on Twitter responded, “Good, I’m glad she did. One less conservative underling to worry about. Have a nice life.”

Wait, what? You’re saying it’s good that her baby is sick, has lost her primary specialist, and could be at risk for her life just because you don’t agree with the child’s mother? And what don’t you agree with? The Constitution? Really? How twisted is that?

Lastly, a Florida mom was arrested for letting her 7-year-old son walk to the park by himself. Remember that post on helicopter parenting I wrote recently? Stuff like this just makes me shake my head. This boy had a cell phone with him, had just made contact with his mom to say he was coming home soon and had been to this park many times before. Police saw him, questioned him, then went to his home and arrested his mom on felony child neglect charges.

Wait, what?

Could they not just have taken the boy home and cautioned his mom that it was probably not a safe idea to let her son do this alone? Was arresting her and totally freaking out her son necessary? How does letting your child walk to a nearby park by himself constitute felony child neglect? I let my 11-year-old daughter walk across the street to youth group by herself. I understand that there are bad people around, and I understand that it is not the same world in which I grew up, but this situation is completely beyond the realm of sense.

People are offended way too easily, they think the worst of people, they speak (or write) caustic, hateful words. It breaks my heart that decency seems to be nowhere to be found in the world today.

Heaven help us all.

The Four Kinds Of People I Meet On My Rides

little-econ-02As you’re probably aware by now, I ride my bike often. Because summer in Florida is, how shall I say this? stinkin’ hot, I ride as early in the morning as I can get myself out of bed. And since I’m not a morning person, that’s not like 6 a.m. or anything. This morning it was closer to 8:30 because, along with being a bike rider, I’m also a baseball fanatic, and so I stay up late in the summer watching my team—the best-record-in-baseball Oakland Athletics—until way too late at night.

But I digress.

As I was riding my 11-or-so miles this morning, I was struck by the different people I encountered. I’m a friendly person, and I’m not speeding down the street on my bike, so I greet each person I meet along the way with a friendly, “Good morning!” As I do that, I notice four different kinds of people: the cautious, the clueless, the cheerful and the condemned.

The Cautious

Maybe it’s just a sign of the times, but a large percentage of the people I encounter are not readily willing to meet my eye. They have no smile on their face, and they certainly don’t greet me first. But, I’m determined to leave no one out, so I cheerfully greet each and every person, no matter how glum they look. And you know what, my greeting almost always elicits a response, and sometimes even a smile.

The Clueless

In the era of earbuds and mp3 players, I encounter a lot of people who are simply in their own little world. They’re not looking around; they’re not engaging with what’s around them. I say my usual “good morning” and get no response in return. But this cluelessness doesn’t just apply to the walkers, runners or other bikers I see on the street: This morning, a big ‘ol truck completely blocked my way (I ride on the sidewalk because I value my life here in Orlando, a most unfriendly biking city) and the driver never once glanced in my direction to see that I wanted to get by.

The Cheerful

There are those few that will give a friendly wave and greeting even before I get mine out. They seem happy and looking forward to whatever their day holds. Be they young, old or in the middle, these people are facing life with a smile.

The Condemned

I chose this last label not because I am condemning these people, but because they themselves seem to be condemned—by others, by the world, by their circumstances. I don’t know their stories, but I know that God loves them, and so I greet them. The dirty homeless man with the startled look on his face; the young man with the off-center hat and the the tat-covered arms; the old woman shuffling along to the bus stop. They are people, they deserve attention. They deserve love. And you know what, they almost always greet me in return. In some I see the hint of a smile, in some it may just be a polite habit that was ingrained from their childhood. But maybe, just maybe, my friendly greeting will help them know that I saw them.

They are not invisible.

They are loved.

Photo from bikeorlando.net

Why I’m Pro Life

choose life feetIt breaks my heart to read stories detailing arguments between those who are pro life and those who are pro choice. So much vitriol. So much passion on either side. I cry for those who are in situations where they have to make a choice, and I cry for the babies who will never see life.

I’ve never been put into a situation where I had to make the choice of whether to keep a pregnancy going or to terminate it. I’ve been pregnant 6 times, and only 3 of those babies made it to birth. I miscarried the other 3. But all those babies were wanted and loved before they ever took a breath. When I miscarried, I grieved.

I was married, gainfully employed (if you can call being a missionary being gainfully employed) and in good health. I didn’t have any of the factors in my life that cause others to have to make the decision to carry a baby to term or not.

I could argue for hours about the logic of life beginning at conception, but I don’t think this is a logical subject: it’s an emotional one. So when a friend of mine found herself face to face with the decision to terminate her pregnancy or not, the issue drew very close to home.

Cristina, married with 2 other children, wasn’t expecting to get pregnant. But she and her husband rejoiced at the news. Then tragedy struck: As she began to bleed heavily, Cristina learned that she had been carrying twins, but one didn’t make it. Now, the second was at great risk. Because the placenta had ruptured to expel the baby that hadn’t survived, the likelihood of the other also being expelled was very high. Cristina was referred to a high-risk OBGyn and put on strict bedrest in hopes that the placenta would heal.

The family called all their friends and family around them to pray.

The next blow came when an ultrasound revealed that the surviving twin had an omphalocele, an abdominal wall defect, that causes the intestines, liver, and occasionally other organs, to form in a sac outside its body. Not only that, there was a large hematoma near the placenta, and the cervix was open because of the miscarriage.

The high risk doctor assured Cristina that there was no chance that she would carry this baby to term. She could abort it, or go home and wait for the inevitable. But Cristina’s hope is in Jesus and so we prayed.

Cristina's ultrasoundIn the middle of one night, Cristina awoke with a powerful feeling inside her body. She woke her husband to pray with her. Then she felt peace. At her next appointment, the ultrasound revealed that the baby was perfect. The omphalocele had disappeared, the hematoma was completely gone. The doctor was speechless. All she could say was that it was a miracle. Subsequently, they discovered that even the cervix had closed “by itself” without the need of stitches to close it up.

Cristina is free to resume normal life, carrying a normal baby in a completely normal way, yet with the knowledge that this was an extraordinary event.

God has a plan for every single life. This is just one example of how one of the arguments for abortion—the child having major defects that would cause it to spontaneously abort anyway—is nothing in the hands of a mighty God. Does He always miraculously heal? No. Is He able? Absolutely. 

To not trust Him who is the giver of life is to live in fear of the unknown. Perfect love casts out fear.

That’s one of the reasons I have made the choice to be pro life.

 

Why I Write: A Blog Hop

hopscotchHopscotch was always a favorite game of mine when I was a kid. I can’t hop too much these days as years of bouncing babies trying to help them fall asleep has taken its toll on my knees. But there’s a new kind of hopping going on, and it’s called a Blog Hop. The purpose is to introduce you to other bloggers I think you might enjoy.

Fellow blogger, and someone I hope will be a new friend when she and her family move to Orlando soon, Julie Sanders included me in her Blog Hop last week. julie-sanders-2I’ve only met Julie once in person, in a ladies’ room during a conference we were both attending in Colorado of all places, but I’ve been impressed in her writing by her passions for life, God and her family.

Julie says about herself that she’s a “wife, mother, daughter, friend, and friend of Jesus.” She loves good food, a good book, and talking with good friends late into the night. She admits that she’s a huge fan of her husband and her three boys. Her house is filled with their music, Legos, books and artwork. You can get to know Julie through her blog Along The Way. It was cool for me to learn that Julie and a friend of mine from college know each other. It’s a small world, after all.

So, for this Blog Hop, each writer will answer 4 questions about their writing on their own blog in the near future. After I answer those questions, I will introduce you to these 3 other bloggers that I think you would enjoy. So, here goes.

1. What am I writing or working on?  At the moment, the only writing I’m doing is for my blogs; Compelled, which is what you’re reading right now, and then the one I just recently started, That Senior Year, chronicling my eldest’s journey through his last year of high school. Compelled is a mish mash of thoughts. Most of the time I use things I come across in everyday life to draw a spiritual parallel. Sometimes I talk about parenting; sometimes I talk about current events.

My tag line is “because some things just need to be said.” I’m not very controversial, but I do have strong feelings about some things, so I will talk about them sometimes. I have always wanted to write The Great American Novel, but I keep waiting for inspiration that hasn’t come. I take comfort whenever I read about a writer who wrote a best seller after they turned 60. I’ve still got time!

Actually, I’ve been pondering writing a book that I tentatively call “From Modesty to Marriage: A Former Virgin’s Guide to Being Physically Generous With Your Spouse.” Having grown up in a household where bodily functions were never talked about, and in a church where good girls were modest and nobody really understood what that meant, I entered marriage not understanding how to enjoy the physical relationship I had with my husband. We’re still working on it, and it’s been a battle, but I’m doing much better, thanks to counseling and the Lord. I would love to help other young women enter marriage a little more easily than I did.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? Because I’m a unique person, the perspective I bring to my writing is unique. Nobody has the children I have, nobody speaks with my same voice. Has anyone else ever written about how their hermit crabs taught them about life? I didn’t think so. I speak with a touch of humor, and I try to always be respectful. That in itself is different these days!

3. Why do I write what I do? I really want my writing to influence others. Will what I say make a difference in someone’s life today? It always makes my day when someone tells me that my blog post made them think or challenged them or even made them laugh. The most fun emails I get are the ones from wordpress that say someone “liked” my post or started following me. Yay! But even if no one was reading, my desire would be to glorify God in the process. Does He like what I write? Then that’s all I need.

4. How does my writing process work? The last post I wrote, “A Fork in the Road,” came about because I actually kept seeing literal forks in the road as I rode my bike. My husband often says to me, “You ought to write a blog post about that.” Sometimes, things just occur to me. In a few days, I plan on writing a post about things that make me say, “Wait, what?” Sometimes I’ll watch a movie or read a book and want to talk about it, as I did with “Parental Supervision” and the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series. I tend to write quickly without a lot of editing, but if I think something is going to garner a lot of criticism, I give it a lot of thought and prayer. Sometimes I send it to my husband to preview before I post it. His input is invaluable. So there you have it. That’s all about me. Now, I want you to meet 3 friends.

The first is Dena Yohe. Dena has been on a purpose-filled adventure with Christ for 41 years. She and her husband, Tom, married 36 Denayears, are the co-founders of Hope for Hurting Parents, birthed out of their own pain with one of their daughters who struggled with addiction, self-injury, suicidal attempts and mental illness. She calls herself an accidental writer as her pain became her passion. What began as a way of processing the most difficult experiences of her life through journaling, turned into daily emails and then a blog to offer encouragement, resources, and hope to parents on their journey from pain to peace. She loves being mom to 3 wonderful children (31, 27 and 25) and Mimi to two precious granddaughters. Check out her blog,  Hope For Hurting Parents, and her website of the same name.

Next up is my sweet friend Becca Ramirez.

beccaBecca, a born and raised Floridian, has just recently moved to Texas with her husband and their two daughters.  She is a lover of good food, board games, traveling, books, and words.  While always an avid “journaler,” Becca only recently began seeking opportunities to expand (and publish) her writing.  Her blog, Simply Living the Life, serves as an outlet for the roller coaster of thoughts that pummel through her mind.  Her desire is to write and speak in a greater capacity, reaching the hearts and minds of youth (particularly teenage/college-aged girls). Becca is a sweet, smiling friend whom we all miss very much since her move to Texas. I think you will enjoy her thoughts.

Last, but not least, I want you to meet Rachel Knox, an almost-18-year-old that I have known since she was a small girl with wild,Rachel curly hair. She and my son Justin are just 2 days apart in age. As Rachel is also going into her senior year of high school, it’s fun to hear and read her perspective on the process. Rachel was born and raised in Orlando as her parents are missionaries with Cru. From an early age, her creativity was a dominant trait which is evident through her love of dance, sewing and anything DIY.

After attending a small Christian school from kindergarten through middle school, she enrolled in public high school, what she calls “an utterly different environment than before.” In an attempt to keep friends and family afar updated on her journey through high school, Rachel created this blog, Imperfectly Living|Perfectly Loved, to highlight the ups, the downs and the lessons learned in her everyday life.

I hope you have the time to go check out these 4 writers that you’ve been introduced to here. I think you’ll like them as much as I do!

 

A Fork In The Road

IMG_3296I try to ride my bike every day during summer break. Recently, whenever I ride it seems that I come upon a fork in the road. Literally. The one pictured here happened to be a real metal one, but most of the time they’re plastic. After about the third one, David said to me, “Do you think God’s trying to tell you something?”

No.

At least I don’t think so.

But the fact is, we come upon forks in the road all the time in life. Sometimes they’re big forks: Should I take this job or that job? Should I marry this person or not? Should I move? Which church should I attend? What should I major in? Which college should I go to? Should I even go to college?

But sometimes, those forks can be small, like the little plastic ones I come upon on my rides. But they can be significant nonetheless: Should I choose to say the kind word or lash out at my spouse/sibling/friend? Shall I let bitterness take root over some perceived injustice in my life? Should I help this homeless person holding the sign on the side of the road?

None of these are necessarily going to change the course of our life, but they can affect which direction we let our hearts go each day. Everyone has millions of choices they make in their life. Some are innocuous: What shall I wear? What shall I have for breakfast? Some are choices for good or for evil: Should I tell that cashier that she just gave me back the wrong change? Should I tell the people at the grocery store that I inadvertently wasn’t charged for an item I ended up bringing home?

Forks in the road. Will our direction bring us closer to God or take us a step away?

The choice is up to us.