Tag Archives: perseverance

Dodging Tornadoes

It’s not been the best of weeks. 

the perfect gift from Kansas

the perfect gift from Kansas

My house smells like cardboard boxes from packing. Stuff isn’t where it should be. I wonder if it ever will be again.

My thoughtful, kind, generous neighbors threw me a party. They gave me gifts from Kansas. I will miss these ladies. Our neighborhood has been one of the biggest blessings of our short time here. It’s hard to say goodbye.

Our son’s school and teacher this year have been huge blessings, too. His class performed a Salute to America program this week. They sang patriotic songs and gave speeches as famous Americans. They ended the show with a fitting quote from Ronald Reagan:

“I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.”

the stage is set

the stage is set

Could you just absolutely weep?

The program was noble and right and good. It’s what American elementary school students should be doing. I will miss this school. It’s hard to watch my child say goodbye.

A family member in North Carolina was unexpectedly hospitalized for most of the week. It’s nauseating to know that although we’re so close to being there, we’re not there now when we could possibly help. It’s hard to feel helpless.

I worked on writing a challenging assignment this week. Wrote my little heart out, or at least it seemed to me like I did, and I’m not sure it matters. The question of what will Aimee do when she grows up remains outstanding, unanswered, and flapping in the wind.

Life feels out of control and unsettled. So I wave my white flag.

medium_2673925463

surrender, image credit: portobeseno

Not my will, but Yours. Not by my power, but by Your Spirit. Help me to trust that in my weakness, You are strong. I give You my worries because You care for me. Wrap Your care around me and help me to stand.

But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV

White Flag by Dido is one of my favorite songs. I know she says she won’t wave a white flag and I just wrote I will, but neither of us is giving up, so there you go.

Who helps you dodge life’s tornadoes?

photo credit: portobeseno via photopin cc

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God Made a Farmer

Did you see this ad on the Super Bowl last night? My husband Jeff and I sat mesmerized through Paul Harvey’s eloquent reading.

Jeff and I have both spent time working in or with advertising agencies. At the end of this commercial, we declared, “Now that was a good ad!” It was magical really. Here’s why:

The alchemy between the creative and the client worked. The Richards Group agency and the marketing people at Ram Trucks obviously shared a vision that allowed the creative to flourish. It’s rare when this happens, but the result is genius. On message, on target, emotive, evocative.

We were hanging on the edge of our seats. We wanted to know: Who was responsible for this commercial? The payoff came silently at the end of the two-minute spot. We own a Ford, but we’ll remember Ram.

farm sky

farm sky

It captured the essence of the American farmer. Many jobs are strenuous, underpaid, and thankless, but farming stands in a class all its own. The farmer is an entrepreneur. The farmer assumes all the risks, performs executive decision-making side-by-side with menial tasks, and endures browbeating from people who’ve never set foot in a field. And yet the farmer perseveres, spurred on by love of the land, the work, the life, and the noble mission of feeding people.

The message was elevated, and so was the viewer. This commercial told a story without dumbed-down slapstick comedy or sexualized crudeness. The visuals were simple, beautiful, dignified—the makings of great theater. We applaud and request an encore.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT

What were your impressions of this ad? What were your favorite Super Bowl commercials?

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Yoga Face Time

Returned to yoga class this week. Took some time off over the holidays. Time to eat turkey, dressing, a dozen chocolate crinkles. You know, that sort of thing.

So did the rest of my class. How do I know? My instructor felt the need to speak this bit of wisdom to us:

frowning2

There are legitimate reasons to frown. The inability to do ardha chandrasana is not one of them.

Keep on keeping on. We’ll get there soon.

A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 NRSV

Closer to Love by Mat Kearney.

Enjoy your weekend!

 

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Reader’s Choice ’12: Chicago Songs

Lisen Stromberg

Lisen Stromberg

Lisen Stromberg and Anissa Ward Hutchins are worlds apart. 

Lisen is my co-blogger on Finding (Un)Common Ground. She and I met this year at the BlogHer Conference in New York. Lisen is a self-described progressive humanist living on the Left Coast with her family. Her writing has been featured in countless major media outlets. Steve Jobs was her neighbor.

Anissa Hutchins

Anissa Hutchins

Anissa is my childhood friend. She and I went to the same schools, cheered on the same squads, and ran in the same circles. This year, I was tickled to learn she was reading my blog. Anissa lives with her family near the town where we were raised in the most beautiful Old North State. She is a Christian.

Both women chose the same post for their Reader’s Choice. Normally, I would have asked one of them choose something different, but I was intrigued by their responses to this story. When it was first published on November 8, both women shared the story with their Facebook networks. Lisen wrote:

Please take a moment out of your crazy day to read this beautifully written post by my friend and co-blogger Aimee Whetstine. Her words are gracious salve to the “losing” side of this election. Her faith and her call to others to remember their faith in a time that might lead them to believe they have been forsaken speaks to her own wisdom. I may not come from her world, but I understand the beauty of her words.

At the same time, Anissa wrote:

When I woke up this morning I was feeling just a little anxious and nervous about what the future may hold for our country, but as I was going through my emails, this blog post came up. Aimee Whetstine is a friend from middle school and high school. Her wonderful post just soothed my soul, my nerves calmed, my anxiety diminished. Thank you, Aimee, for reminding me that my future holds promise. My hope is in my saviour JESUS and my stand is the Word of God.

Two women. One post. Lisen and Anissa’s Reader’s Choice is:

Chicago Songs

Moody Church entrance

click to read Chicago Songs

readers choice

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Filed under America, faith, life

Advent

Growing up, I couldn’t talk without my hands. 

tis the season

tis the season

I had to animate to express my words. Ask my childhood friends; they’ll tell you. If I wasn’t allowed to use my hands in a conversation, the conversation ended. Can anyone else relate to this?

For almost two years, I’ve been learning to talk with my blog. 

The phrase “don’t blog about it” is the kiss of death. It feels very much like a challenge. Don’t blog about it? Oh, yeah? We’ll just see about that!

This past year I wrote about a lot of different things, including some subjects nice, Christian, mommy bloggers normally avoid: abortion, terrorism, politics, Chick-fil-A.

I fear I’m not finished yet. The stream hasn’t run dry. 

My mind is crowded with stories waiting to be told. They stand in line like patrons at the post office in December, restless and impatient. There are inspiring stories about attorneys who become novelists, dancers who become designers, soldiers who become entrepreneurs. Stories of devotion and loss and the able hand of Providence for people who are often overlooked.

self-portrait

self-portrait

There are more words to remember. More verses to consider. More characters to meet. More humor, I hope. More surprises, I’m sure. More Grace (much more Grace) and more Love (much more Love) to cover a multitude of sins. More meals to cook; I didn’t forget our recipe series. Autumn just unsettled me a bit and bumped me off track.

But now we’re entering winter.

Perhaps it’s good to be unsettled. It spurs me on to pursue Peace. To find a way to get the words out.

Maybe there will be snow this winter covering the ground like a clean, white sheet of paper. I imagine the endless folds of the Flint Hills flush with snow against the backdrop of a smooth, clouded sky. White, white, white. Punctuated by wind, wind, wind.

What words will be written on your winter? What stories will be told in the new year? Huddle together by the fireplace and drink a cup of kindness with me.

We’ve so much left to discuss. 

“But for you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings…” Malachi 4:2 NLT

Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson.

Joyeux Noel

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.
Thank you for being part of this community.
Please join us for Reader’s Choice 2012 and a look back at some favorite posts from this past year. 

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Dare to Hope

I love Christmas. Really, I do.

pink poinsettias

it’s beginning to look a lot like…

I love that our culture still reserves a time to celebrate Jesus’ birth. But the churning of the holiday season is a mixed bag for me, and I’m not the only one.

After I published the bah-humbug-ish post Saving Duck this past Tuesday, my best friend, my closest cousin, and my brother all contacted me within a three-hour period. These people are more dear than I deserve, so their concern could be a coincidence. Just in case, I thought I better clarify.

First, I’m okay. You’re okay. God willing, we’ll all make it through.

Second, this is not a retraction of my thoughts from my last post. The unrealistic expectations of a perfect Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s are destructive. They steal our joie de vivre and drain our bank accounts. We question our faith and our sanity.

Now I know there are a few of you who would prefer I only write about shiny, happy things. I appreciate that, and I wish I could meet your demands.

But I can’t.

It’s not my intention to be a negative Nelly. I do write about fun stuff as well from misread song lyrics to missing underwire, from discontinued lipstick to dismissed hair accessories. But to me, it wouldn’t be honest or helpful to present as if everything is sunshine and roses (or pink poinsettias) when it’s not.

Yesterday I hung out with some Christian girlfriends. One caught my attention when she said, “I don’t really like this season. I mean I like Christmas, I just don’t care for all that goes with it.”

Her courage struck a chord. One by one, every woman recounted personal stories of how painful the holidays can be. My December dread didn’t seem so abnormal after all.

The wisest of all the women shared a story from when her kids were younger. She and her husband piled their little ones in the car and drove across three states to visit a relative for Thanksgiving. The trip wasn’t a surprise visit; the relative knew they were coming. Imagine their shock to arrive just in time to stand in the driveway and wave good-bye.  Grandma had made other plans to go out with friends for Thanksgiving dinner instead.

chocolate turkeys

don’t be a turkey

“We laugh about it now,” said my friend. “We joke and say, ‘Remember when Grandma left us on Thanksgiving?’ But at the time, it wasn’t funny.”

This is in part why we need other people in our lives. It’s why we need to tell each other the truth. It’s why some of us write and read and comment. How good to know we’re not alone. Others have walked this road or on it with us now. Many have survived. Maybe we will, too.

Walk on, pilgrims. Walk on.

Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease. Lamentations 3:21-22 NLT

He Walked a Mile by Clay Crosse. An oldie but a goodie.

Do you still dare to hope? Tell me more.

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Chicago Songs

When life takes the wind out of your sails, go to Chicago.

Chicago subway tile

Chicago

That’s what I did. In 1997, I was 26 and newlywed when my husband and I moved to the Windy City. My mother had died less than a year before. I was awash in grief, living 13 hours away from home, cloistered in a 35th-floor apartment, spending much of my time alone. Imagine a low-budget production of Lost in Translation set in America without Bill Murray.

I paced the streets. Trudged up and down Michigan Avenue, walking and waiting for something, anything, to strike me. Hit me. Wrestle me back to life.

Moody Church entrance

The Moody Church

One Sunday not long after we’d moved, my husband and I ventured into the historic Dwight L. Moody Memorial Church at Clark and LaSalle. That day I heard Dr. Erwin Lutzer talk about grief and heaven and what was to come when we died. He was preaching the sermon series that inspired the book One Minute After You Die.

Coincidence? I think not. This. This was where I needed to be. For our remaining 18 months in Chicago, we treasured our time at that church listening to that preacher. And we learned songs I hadn’t sung before.

A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing;

Yes, I know. It’s a textbook hymn of the faith written by Martin Luther. The churches where I was raised sang praise songs. Fine, scriptural praise songs. To my detriment, Luther and his brave, abiding words had been kicked to the curb.

Not in Chicago. There we sang Martin Luther and Charles Wesley, Walter Chalmers Smith, Samuel Trevor Francis, and Horatio Spafford. And we began to learn how to stand. When you’ve done all you can do, when there’s nothing left, when no one seems able to help—to stand. It’s a lesson I’m still learning today.

Our Helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

Barack Obama was in Chicago the same time I lived there. We must have walked the same streets, felt the same icy wind blow across Lake Michigan. I wonder, did we eat in the same restaurants? Unknowingly, did our paths cross at the Harold Washington Library stop in the Loop? What different experiences we must have had in the City of Big Shoulders. How much has changed since then.

Fast forward to this week. The status updates on my Facebook feed tell the tale. So many people are hurting from the results of this past Tuesday’s election. They’re afraid. Disappointed. Confused. Awash in grief. Unable to understand the bent of the electorate and the heart of the President.

Did God forget the unborn Tuesday? Does He no longer care about them or their parents? Did He change His mind about stealing? Is taking something that belongs to someone else now fair and just in His eyes? Perhaps He is disappointed with His flock. In anger, has He disowned American believers struggling in a culture that careens toward destruction?

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also—

There were calls to move to the middle. Move to the right. Establish a third party. Ban evangelicals. And then there was this from a pastor friend:

“Whether the election results leave you euphoric or stricken, let’s remember that whoever holds political power in America, the Lord holds sovereign power everywhere. He says, ‘By me kings reign and rulers decree what is just.’ Again, ‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it wherever he pleases.’ (Prov. 8:15, 21:1)”

Hancock building in clouds

Hancock building

Today the wind rushes across the Kansas prairie as powerfully as it whips through the concrete canyons of Chicago. It caresses the waters of Savannah just like it rocks the waves off Santa Barbara. It flies over the hill country of Texas with the same intensity it batters the ravaged and bustling streets of New York. We cannot tell where it comes from or where it’s going. But God knows.

This is a time to stand. Actively trust God and rest in Him. Examine ourselves, confess sin, and be restored. Return to the certainty of the Word that does not change with political pressure.

March fearlessly into the future of America, knowing that come judgment or prosperity, God Himself has ordained it. He will not desert His own.

The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever!

Our fight is not with people. It is against the leaders and the powers and the spirits of darkness in this world. It is against the demon world that works in the heavens. Because of this, put on all the things God gives you to fight with. Then you will be able to stand in that sinful day. When it is all over, you will still be standing. Ephesians 6:12-13 NLV

 What helps you to stand?

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Filed under America, faith, life

When Carrots Expire

Consider the humble bag of carrots.

bag of carrots

humble bag of carrots

There it goes down the conveyor.

down the conveyor

there it goes

Whoosh!

down the conveyor

whoosh!

But wait! Look at the date on the package.

date on the bag of carrots

11.09.12

Best if used by 11.09.12. 

By then, the election will be over. We hope.

If the carrots can make it, so can you.

Hang on. It may come down to the wire.

But don’t give up!

Smile and think of the day when carrots expire.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. A little melodrama goes nicely with beta carotene.

Name a root vegetable without repeating any named in the comments before yours.

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Stay or Go, God is There

I’ve been known to stay long past the bitter end, forever and ever, amen. But as I age, my impulse is to run.

crosses

crosses

Running seems more efficient. The minute the malaise sets in and my gut says maybe everything in this situation (or friendship or outfit or whatever) isn’t going to be okay after all, I’m set to fly. Don’t usually act on it, but I want to.

God in His wisdom paired me prone-to-bolt with a husband who is built-to-stay.

He does not easily move. He possesses patient, long-suffering stick-to-itiveness. Comes from growing up on a farm, I think.

There’s a lot of waiting on a farm. You wait for the weather to change. Wait for things to grow. Wait for the prices of your crop to go up. Wait for the costs of your implements to come down. Wait for homemade dinners. Wait for trips to town to get supplies.

In the suburbs where I come from there’s very little waiting. We devour instant gratification. Malls, 24-hour grocery stores, fast food restaurants, extreme makeovers at your choice of salons. Want to satisfy a craving? Change your life today? Walk-ins welcome.

This isn’t a contest between farm and suburbia. There are pros and cons to both. Just like there are times to run and times to stay put.

Mercifully, God is there no matter what.

When the pregnant Hagar ran, she saw God.

When the fugitive Moses ran, God met him in a burning bush.

When David ran, he sang to God Who was with him: I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.

When Elijah ran from Jezebel, he heard God whisper.

On the other hand, when Miriam stayed among the bulrushes of the Nile, she saw God save her baby brother’s life through the hands of an Egyptian princess.

When David stayed to fight Goliath, this was his battle cry: All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.

When Jehoshaphat’s people stayed in the face of destruction at the hands of their enemies, they heard the echo of David’s words: Do not be afraid because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

When Jesus stayed and did not run from the Roman soldiers in Gethsemane, He set in motion the work of the cross.

I’m thankful for people in my life who ground me from flight. I like to think they’re thankful for people like me who bid them to fly once in a while.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

I’m astounded by a God who remains steadfast in spite of us.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10 NIV

Me Without You, new from TobyMac.

Are you prone-to-bolt or built-to-stay?

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Jesus and the Bicycle

Jesus didn’t have a bicycle. If He had, I wonder if He would have used it to teach us how to follow God and help others do the same.

bike on the path to follow God

on the path

You can’t ride a bicycle for someone else. You may steady them as they start and run alongside until they pedal. But you can’t push them all the way.

Once they get going, you may ride behind them to watch for cars, in front of them to cross streets, beside them to buffer against traffic.

You might catch your breath when they nearly collide with trees or learn to use the hand breaks or jump off before a complete stop.

They’ll have spills and accidents.

They’ll have boo-boos and band-aids.

You’ll encourage them to get up and try again.

Sometimes you’ll fall, too. You’ll remember, and they’ll see, you’re imperfect like they are. You’ll get up again. So will they.

In an unexpected moment, you’ll notice they’re tracking with you. They don’t need your help as much. You’ll stop by the water and enjoy the view together.

bike stop by the water, follow God

rest stop

You don’t easily forget how to ride a bike once you learn. You carry it through life and it carries you.

Pass it on.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25 NIV

I’m With You by the sweet voices of Nichole Nordeman and Amy Grant.

Who helps you follow God? Who are you helping?

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Challenge: It’s a Good Thing

My what a difference a week makes.

blogher nametag

my name tag

First syndicated post, first blogging conference, first trip to New York City in almost 20 years, first opportunity to meet several online blogger friends in real life, first time seeing THE Martha Stewart speak live and in person.

My brain is full to overflowing. 

I can quit or press on. Give up or give it my all. Be afraid or be brave. Cave to other people’s ideas of who I should be or reaffirm who I am and continue to be that person. Keep writing in series of lists—my favorite literary rhythm—or learn to break it up a bit.

I’ve been challenged in more ways than I could have imagined a week ago. In the words of THE Martha, it’s a good thing.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:5 NIV

Aaron Shust sang the perfect rallying song on the radio as I drove home from the airport yesterday: My Savior, My God.

How have you been challenged lately?
Will it defeat you or inspire you?

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$5.85

That’s my take from 40 days of WordAds. I didn’t expect to make much, but $5.85?

Christmas tree

Christmas 2013

I don’t even get paid until I reach $100. At this rate, I’ll see my first check in time for holiday shopping—Christmas 2013!

The ads were charming, but distracting. I couldn’t approve them in advance or negotiate fees, yet they commandeered some of the best space on my page.

As my friend Janice of A Colorful Adventure said about her experience with ads on her blog, “I wanted the prime real estate for myself!”

Me too, Janice. So I’m ending my WordAds Beta.

The quest for ways to generate income doing what I like to do continues. I have a few ideas up my sleeve. Or maybe a more traditional approach is in order.

You never know until you try.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14 NIV

This calls for bluegrass. I Ain’t Gonna Lay My Hammer Down by Blue Highway.

When do you call it quits? When do you persevere?

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