Let the Redeemed of the Lord Tell Their Story

October 13th, 2018

I’ve been reading in Psalm 107 lately. I think NIV has tweaked the translation, and I love the way it reads now, at the beginning:

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…”

Then the psalm is about various people, in different kinds of trouble, who cry out to the Lord — and he comes through, every time.

There’s a format to each story, a refrain.

God has come through for me, multiple times and in multiple ways. I thought I’d take one of those times and put it into a Psalm 107 format:

Some were lonely and broken,
rejected by the one they loved most,

told they were unworthy of love,
told their failings were unforgiveable.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.

He sent forth his word and healed them,
he sent a community to nourish them.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

for he heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

How about you? What is your story?

Christ-life Inside Us

September 15th, 2018

I’m reading in C. S. Lewis’ Book of Wisdom: Meditations on Faith, Life, Love, and Literature, compiled by Andrea Kirk Assaf & Kelly Anne Leahy, and found this quote on page 56, taken from Mere Christianity:

The Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or — if they think there is not — at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.

To me, this puts the whole idea of guilt and that we can somehow disappoint God into perspective.

He doesn’t love us because we’re good. He makes us good because He loves us.

Was the Father disappointed when the prodigal son took his inheritance early and chose to squander it and go feed the pigs?

Well, it’s not like he was happy with the choice, and it’s not like he wouldn’t feel his son’s pain along with him.

But an all-knowing, all-seeing Father would also know that the son He ended up with has much better character, is a much better person altogether than if he had pouted and sulked and not really lived out his rebellion. In fact, he ended up in a better place than his older brother who did everything “right.” So, knowing the big picture, can the Father really be disappointed?

He sees His son make a bad choice — but knows that it going to make him end up as a good person — and better than he started out.

He loves his son. His bad choices, his treating the father disrespectfully don’t change that. And he knows that in the end, good will come out of his son’s bad choice.

And that, to me, is an answer to when I feel like I have let God down. Who do I think I am? Did I think God loved me because I was doing everything right and now I’ve jeopardized that?

No, God loves me. God loves me!

I do think He watches with joy when I make good choices. And He feels my pain when I make bad choices.

But He knows that the circumstances He lets into my life are shaping me into a better person, in spite of myself. And that’s delightful.

Wow.

Seeing the Other

August 31st, 2018

I’ve been thinking about Patricia Evans’ books on verbal abuse lately, because of an abusive argument on Facebook saying it’s not even a valid definition — and the argument was so hurtful, it reinforced my belief that she has a great definition.

She says that when someone defines you — tells you what you think or feel (“You’re too sensitive!”), what you want, or anything else about you that they could not possibly know better than you — that is verbal abuse.

She points out that verbal abuse begins with pretending — pretending to know what’s really going on inside someone else. In her book Controlling People, she says that many people who get into habits of abusing and controlling do it because they have created a Pretend Person in their minds. When you respond as yourself — different than this ideal, pretend person — they take it as a personal offense. They tell you how you should really be responding.

I’ve been thinking about this lately in the context of my marriage that ended after my husband had an affair and left. I was completely blindsided by the affair — I thought we were both happy in the marriage. He thought we were both miserable. In fact, he argued with me that I’d been miserable for months — even though I had journals that recorded how happy I was. We were both making the mistake of reading our own experience onto the other.

Recently, when I was writing Project 52 and looked in my journals from our years of marriage, I found plenty of evidence of fights and disagreements. But I would pray about it in my journal and remind myself that my husband loved me and make myself feel better. But I think I assumed if I felt better, than he must feel better, too. How much of my husband did I not see?

Now, in my defense, neither one of us should expect our spouse to be a mind reader. When I’d ask my husband if something was wrong, he would usually tell me he was fine — and I’d usually take him at his word. I see how messy it was after the fact.

On a less significant level, since I’ve learned the definition of verbal abuse, I’ve noticed that exactly when I feel out of sync with my girlfriends is when they make assumptions about what I’m thinking or feeling. I’ve got a friend who will praise me for spending lots of time reading — as if it’s something I’m dutifully doing instead of a guilty pleasure! Or in some other way, it’s jarring when a friend reads you wrong.

But when my friends read me wrong — they are willing to be corrected. That’s the difference with verbal abuse — an abuser tells you that your motives are bad and even argues from what you’ve said that they can prove your motives are bad. (This is nonsense, by the way.)

But how often did I expect my spouse to read my mind and know how to please me without me telling him? And how often did I expect him to be pleased when I did something for him that would please me?

I’m an INFJ — and I think that does make me prone to snap judgments about people. I got a crush on my husband rather quickly, and I still get crushes today. And once I’ve got a crush — it’s harder to see that person for who they really are. I need to remind myself that they don’t automatically see the world the same way I do. That doesn’t automatically make us alike in every respect. That doesn’t automatically mean they’re going to be easy to live with.

Those kind of assumptions can be somewhat shocking when you do try to build a home together. I’d like to go into any future relationships with eyes wide open. Not only for my own sake, but also for my partner’s sake.

And I’d like to have a humble spirit — willing to learn from him. Not only to enrich my life by seeing things from a different perspective, but to learn how I can best make him feel loved — not assuming I already know what my Pretend Partner needs.

All this reminds me of a quote from C. S. Lewis’s book, A Grief Observed:

“Not my idea of God, but God. Not my idea of H., but H. Yes, and also not my idea of my neighbour, but my neighbour. For don’t we often make this mistake as regards people who are still alive — who are with us in the same room? Talking and acting not to the man himself but to the picture — almost the précis — we’ve made of him in our own minds? And he has to depart from it pretty widely before we even notice the fact.”

Lord, help me to see the other person in front of me and not the Pretend Person I’ve invented and that I want or expect to be there.

Part of loving someone is seeing who they really are. May I learn to love like that.

Jonah’s Lament

July 15th, 2018

I was thinking about Laments a couple days ago. Then today, our pastor began a sermon series in Jonah.

Why did this strike me? Jonah chapter 2, his prayer from the belly of the whale, is a Lament.

Now, when a modern reader reads Jonah, the prayer seems, frankly, a little odd. If I were swallowed by a great fish, I’d pray something like, “Lord, I need out of this fish!” Or: “In the name of Jesus, fish, I command you to vomit me up!”

But Jonah’s prayer as given in the account is exactly the appropriate prayer from the perspective of his time and his culture.

According to the professor of my Psalms class at Biola, the Lament form wasn’t unique to the psalms. Other Ancient Near East poetry used the same form. And this form is one of the most common forms you’ll find in the Psalms. To those of that time, this is a good way to pray when you’re in trouble.

The belly of a whale is proverbial trouble.

Now, the form doesn’t have every component every time. And when I look more carefully, it seems closer to the very-closely-related Thanksgiving Psalm form. Let’s look at the verses with that in mind:

I. Introduction

In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.

[Note: II. Call to Praise is missing, which is often true in the Psalms, too.]

III. Account
A. Crisis in Retrospect
[This is very closely related to the Lament part two, the Complaint. The main difference is that in a Thanksgiving Psalm, it’s usually past tense – as it is here in Jonah.]

You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.

B. Deliverance (slight order change here)
2. You heard and you intervened.

But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.

1. I called.

When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

IV. Praise
[Here this more closely fits the Lament finale – Vow to Praise.]

Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’

So why would Jonah, in the belly of the whale, pray a Thanksgiving Psalm?

Well, his words answer that. We are used to thinking of being in the belly of the whale as the worst thing that can happen to you. But remember, first he was thrown into a raging storm:

The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.

I’m thinking that the great fish didn’t swallow Jonah the moment he hit the water. I’m thinking when his “life was ebbing away,” when he was minutes from drowning – that’s when he desperately called on the Lord.

For Jonah, the great fish was a rescue, a place to reflect.

We forget that drowning was the danger – the great fish was the deliverance. And Jonah was given a gift of three days to reflect. Now he had time to compose a psalm.

Thanksgiving was completely appropriate.

I also think that after miraculously escaping from drowning – I seriously doubt that Jonah was terribly concerned that God was going to leave him inside the belly of the great fish. He’d just experienced a miracle, after all.

But that also explains why he’s still using the “Vow to Praise” at the end, rather than the straightforward praise of a regular Thanksgiving Psalm. In a Lament, the psalmist generally finishes off with, “When I get out of this, I’m going to tell the world how wonderful you are!” In the belly of the great fish, Jonah wasn’t yet in a position to testify to God’s faithfulness to anyone else. But he has enough confidence in God’s deliverance – already saved from drowning – to vow that he will do it.

So there you have it. The next time you find yourself metaphorically in the belly of a whale, or metaphorically saved from drowning – think about following Jonah’s example with a Lament or Psalm of Thanksgiving. I like the way these psalms remind us that God hears and answers.

Psalms for Prayer

July 13th, 2018

I was thinking about Laments today.

I talked about forms of psalms – Laments and Thanksgiving Psalms in posts from three years ago.

The idea is that we can use the forms used in the book of Psalms to pray our own prayers. But to be honest, I’m a little embarrassed by the psalms of my own I wrote and posted as examples. (But part of the point is that it doesn’t have to be good writing!)

Here’s the form of a Lament:
1) Address to God
2) Lament or complaint
3) Review of God’s Help (Confession of Trust)
4) Petition
5) Words of Assurance
6) Vow to Praise

I was thinking about Laments because I currently have multiple friends, relatives, and acquaintances dealing with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. On top of that, I’m discouraged by what’s happening to our country.

With a Lament, you’re allowed to question. You’re allowed to complain. You’re allowed to feel pain.

You do come back around. You remember how God’s helped in the past. You ask for help. You express belief that God will come through. You make promises that you are going to praise God when this is over!

To be honest, I don’t feel adequate to write a Lament for my friends, or for our country. At least not that I’m willing to post.

But where I am in my own life is a spacious place. After a long, dark time. After some wilderness wanderings. So I’m going to try a psalm of Thanksgiving. Here’s the form for that:

Thanksgiving Psalm
I) Introduction
II) Call to Praise
III) The Story
A) Crisis in Retrospect
B) Deliverance
1) I called.
2) You heard and you intervened.
IV) Praise

Okay, I’m going to try it. I’m going to be rather vague, in the name of symbolism. (And because I’ve been rescued from obsessive thoughts!) Remember: They don’t have to be great literature. I will probably borrow heavily from the Psalms. And I’m going to try to include parallelism. Also remember that you don’t have to slavishly follow the form.

Fluttering

Lord, I’m here to praise you.
May my heart always sing to you.
You gave me new life.
You brought me out of the cocoon.

Let everyone rescued by the Lord remember.
Let us sing
for the joy of being alive today,
for the light of hope again in our eyes.

For his voice when all was dark,
for his healing when the world spun,
for his solution when my resources were spent,
for his presence when I felt all alone,
for his confirmation when I was without confidence,
for his notice when I felt utterly insignificant,
for his good gifts when I felt worthless,
for his calling when I felt useless.

O Lord, you gave all these things.

My mind was spinning and obsessing.
My hopes and plans were shattered.

You changed my tears to laughter,
my disappointment to joy.

The cocoon was dark and dismal;
now flowers line my path.
I may not be soaring,
but my wings have dried,
and I’m beginning to flutter.

Lord, I didn’t understand the darkness,
but your love has made me new.

Praise the Lord
for his unfailing love
and his mercies that never fail.

Praise the Lord.

***
That’s my example. The real reason to post is in hope that you’ll try it yourself. But also that you’ll join me in praising the Lord.

Envision Today

June 29th, 2018

A year and a half ago, a friend suggested an exercise to me: You envision a day in your life ten years in the future. What do you want it to look like? Describe it in great detail.

The promise is made that you will be surprised about how much that you envision will come true.

I was thinking about that exercise today. I was going for a walk by my lake. It was warm, yes, but cool breezes were blowing. I’d gotten a close up look at my friendly neighborhood great blue heron. Lovely flowers were blooming. It was simply beautiful. My heart was overflowing.

I started thinking, if ten years ago I had envisioned today, could I have imagined much better than this?

Now, if I were imagining a perfect day, I would have gotten up a whole lot earlier than I did today. But there are a whole bunch of elements of today that will be dreams come true:

— I’m going to spend hours reading out on my balcony.
— I got to go for a walk in a beautiful place.
— I *can* take a nap, take it easy, sing along with Christian music….
— I will post thoughts and they will be “published” on my blogs.
— I’m on the Newbery committee, for crying out loud!

Okay, it’s not as impressive when I write it out. But I’ve been thinking lately about Psalm 103:5 — “who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.” When my desires are satisfied with good things, I want to *notice* it. I’m a bit stressed because I need to spend every spare minute reading – but that’s a dream come true!

The truth is, when I envisioned my life ten years in the future – Future Sondy had a wonderful husband who was sharing in all the activities of that day I envisioned, and making them better.

But I’m noticing lately that dreams can come true even if that particular dream hasn’t come true yet.

Lately I’ve met some single men near my age – and I haven’t been attracted to them, and they have shown no signs of being attracted to me. And I just hate the part of me that is disappointed by that! It’s an attitude of scarcity – that single men near my age are rare, and I’d better hope if I meet one that we’re a good match, because otherwise none of my dreams will ever come true!

I’m speaking against that. I like what Michelle Obama said at ALA – that she’s found you can have it all, but usually not all at the same time.

The truth is, right now I’ve got a dream come true of being on the Newbery committee and getting legitimately to spend hours and hours of my time reading. Often out on my balcony with birds chirping around me and gentle breezes blowing.

And you know what? It really is easier to do that while I’m living alone.

At the same time, I’ve noticed how richly blessed I am with friends – and a wide variety of friends, women and men, young and old, from so many different backgrounds. Last night I got to read at Silent Book Club with a friend who’s older than me and a delightful storyteller and another new friend who likes to read horror stories and is a young college student and drives out an hour from West Virginia to meet with us.

But I like this idea: Envision Today.

Sure, I’ve frittered away a lot of this day, but that’s a luxury in itself! I’m going to get to sit out on my balcony and read. I’ve gotten to post on a blog some of my thoughts about life. I’ll get to connect with some friends on Facebook.

And look at that. A box of books just arrived at my door from a publisher!

Yes, I can imagine a day where NO dreams come true. But I don’t want to generate that kind of vision, so let me instead look at some really bad days I’ve had:

There was the day I went to court and my divorce became final. That day, my lifelong friend, who was my maid of honor at my wedding and a witness in my divorce, along with another much newer friend, took me out to eat. Showing that even on my worst day, I have loyal friends.

Or how about when I was in the hospital after my stroke? Again, friends came and helped. I went in the hospital the day before my son’s birthday – but my ex-husband rose to the occasion and drove to pick up my son a day earlier than we had planned. I was cared for even when I couldn’t care for myself. Even my work colleagues contributed some of their own sick leave for me.

Tomorrow I have to work. Working in a library has many situations that are definitely *not* dreams come true. But it also has many situations that are. Tomorrow, I’m hosting Family Math Games, and I can easily imagine that I’m going to get to see parents interacting and having fun with their children, who are learning, also having fun, and feeling loved. I can easily imagine that I will get to help a child find a book they’re going to love. And after work? Why, some more reading, of course!

I’m not trying to say that every day is a dream come true. But when dreams do come true, I really want to notice it!

And, honestly, until January 28, 2019, I’m on the Newbery committee – so the truth is that every day *does* have at least one dream come true.

But what about January 29?

I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like to make a new habit. Envisioning a day ten years in the future is a great exercise. I added some good things into my life after I did that.

But I would also like to make a habit of Envisioning Today.

I’d like to do meaningful things, and I’d like to notice that I’m doing them.

And when my dreams come true, I’d like to notice it.

Birthday Reflections

June 14th, 2018

I had a lovely day today – I got to spend a few hours out on my balcony reading with blue skies and gentle breezes blowing.

And I drove a short distance and went for a walk in the woods by the Potomac River.

On the way to Red Rock Wilderness Park, I heard Casting Crown’s new song on the radio, and it struck me as a perfect Birthday Song. Truly God is the God of all my days.

But that also got me thinking of Psalm 37:4 — “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I am in the middle of getting the desire of my heart, make no mistake about it.

No, I don’t have every desire of my heart.

But I am in the middle of a huge one being fulfilled – I am on the Newbery committee! I get to tell the world about great books! And – I get to spend my birthday reading great books, sitting out on a beautiful balcony. I get to go walk in the woods and have my spirit restored. I even have loving friends who come read with me (I spent the evening at my Silent Book Club) and bring me cupcakes and flowers.

Truly, God has given me the desire of my heart. My cup overflows.

May I continue to see all the reasons He gives me to find delight.

Rolled Away

May 27th, 2018

I’ve been thinking about these verses for the past couple of weeks. And I can’t avoid the thought that God’s trying to tell me something.

The women were on the way to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body. Even though he told them more than once he was going to rise from the dead. And they were stewing about how they’d move the stone. It was very large.

This should have been a legitimate concern – The stone was very large. Three women probably wouldn’t have been able to move it. But maybe they could have found someone to do it. Maybe with some effort they could have figured it out. Maybe the Roman guards would have taken pity on them. They weren’t planning to steal the body – just wrap it with spices.

As it was? This example is the epitome of needless worry. They’re worrying about who’s going to roll the stone away – when a much, much bigger miracle had happened.

Yes, their worry was taken care of – the stone was miraculously rolled away – but that was only the beginning of how God came through for them.

***

In my life, I’ve got something I’ve been praying about for a long time. It’s something I can legitimately put some effort into trying to make happen. (And I’ve worked on it in the past with no luck, but maybe I just didn’t work hard enough!)

But I feel like God’s been telling me “Wait on the Lord.” And I also feel like God’s been telling me, “I’m going to take care of this one for you.”

But I still get tempted to stew. Right now I’m on the Newbery committee, so I don’t have time to put in effort on this anyway. But what about after my Newbery service is done? Maybe I should start working on it again then? Who will roll the stone away? Above all, even though that’s still a ways away, Hadn’t I better make plans?

About a month ago, the verse that kept coming up was John 4:50 — The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

Now it’s The stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.

I do believe that in general, we have a certain responsibility to do our part. My pastor has talked about the Path of Trust – somewhere smack in the middle of Control and Letting It Happen.

Me? Without fail, my tendency is to be on the Control side of the diagram – at least trying to be in control.

How many ways does God need to tell me He’s got this?

And maybe there’s a bigger miracle going to happen than even the part I could have tried to organize myself.

Who will roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb?

Let’s watch and see. Maybe it will be God Himself.

And maybe that will be the smallest part of the miracle God’s going to do.

[Photo: Skerries Beach, Ireland, July 2001]

My Story Revisited

May 22nd, 2018

It was my turn to tell my story at my small group on Sunday. I didn’t want to tell the same story I told in church last year, mainly focused on my divorce and all I learned from that.

So – I focused more on growing up in a big family and growing up as a rule-follower in a conservative Christian family – basically becoming a Pharisee.

I’d been thinking about what to say for awhile. I didn’t, however, write it out ahead of time, as our small group leader suggested that we do. And when I was done, I was dissatisfied, even a little depressed. Because I talked about some hard things that happened to me, but I didn’t bring out all the good results.

So, now that it’s after the fact – I want to pull some things out of my story. What’s the important part? Not that I got hurt in certain specific ways, but that the person who I am today was shaped by the things that happened to me.

The approach I’m going to take is: Who am I? I’m going to pull out what feels true about me, and talk about how I know that from my story.

The things that follow may be in random order, but they feel true about me:

I’m a person who needs to live near some green. Something wild, or something beautiful in nature, or where you can walk in the woods, or near some rolling hills.

They asked why I was so upset to leave Kent, Washington, when I was a little kid and move to the Los Angeles area. As if it wasn’t obvious. And, apparently, it’s not. Apparently most other people can happily live where the sidewalks are a grid and you’d never ever see a deer run by (or a great blue heron).

Okay, living in a place like that didn’t really happen for me until I was 32 years old and we moved to Germany. And that is the big thing I loved, loved, loved about living in Germany – in the countryside. The view fed my soul. The walks in the woods. The deer running by. But that yearning for beauty in nature had already gotten into my heart in Kent. But I’ve gotten to live places like that for at least 20 years now. And now it’s a need.

Hmmm. I also love castles, too. But I pretty much have to do without that now.

This is also tied with loving to travel. I mostly like to travel to beautiful places – you know, places with castles! Or perhaps with forests or mountains or ocean….

And it’s tied with loving to take photos. A photo of a beautiful place I’ve been can pull me right back.

I need a little snow in my life.

When I was 4 years old and not in school yet, Seattle got a “big snow.” Ricky and Becky got to get out of school early and walk up the hill in the snow. We played in the snow and made snowmen. The next year, when I was in Kindergarten – the *only* time it snowed that year was a tiny bit of snow – while I was supposed to be taking a nap. Gone when I was allowed to go outside. I overheard our bus driver actually say she was glad we hadn’t gotten any snow! I vowed then and there never to be the kind of grown-up who didn’t like snow! I have pretty much kept that vow, though it’s challenged a bit when I have to drive in it. (But when I was an adjunct math instructor, a snow day was the only way I got paid time off – so I liked snow even more.)

This is, actually, closely tied to needing to live where there’s some green. I’m not a fan of heat or deserts or bright headache-inducing sun.

Christian music – and singing along – is important to me.

And, what do you know, it’s been important since I was 4 years old, dancing around the house and singing along to Little Marcy records.

Then singing hymns with my sister Becky with our little faces out the back windows of the van on vacations and all the way to church and back for years. Then A Capella Choir in high school and the Biola Chorale in college. The William Locke singers. Even the German-American choir. And still, music filling my home, and singing a hymn every morning while making breakfast.

I’ve read that affirmations are good for you. Well, I prefer to sing my affirmations. And put them straight into my heart.

I do love babies.

I’ve often said, if you catch a little girl when she’s eight years old and put her around a lot of babies, she’s always going to be confident taking care of them. I love babies.

I did, however, learn from my mother that just because you love babies doesn’t mean you have to give birth to them.

My own babies, though, were the most wonderful of all! And the two people who were once my babies are the two people I love most in all the world.

Loving babies is perfect, though, for being a children’s librarian.

I love reading. And I love reading to kids.

My Mom taught me to read when I was 3 years old. And I’ve always loved it. I remember her reading to me when I was small enough to fit on her lap. And I remember later reading to my younger siblings. And I remember the one-hour naps she made us take every day (when we were home) – and we could spend it reading instead of sleeping if we wanted to. I remember once I stayed in bed after the nap was over and spent 5 hours reading until I’d finished The Black Stallion Revolts. I also remember when my Mom made me go to bed awfully early (when I was still in elementary school but my older brother and sister weren’t), and I went into my walk-in closet and read books instead of going to bed. I remember reading Little Women that way and crying when Beth died.

I’m an introvert who loves attention.

I’m an introvert – so I love time to myself and time to read. Living alone actually feels like a luxurious privilege.

But – I’m from a big family and somewhat starved for attention. When someone actually notices me, listens to me, pays attention to my thoughts and feelings – that feels amazingly good.

I mentioned these things were in random order, right?

I love Jesus.

I remember my Mom being my Sunday School teacher when we lived in Kent and I was 3 or 4 years old. I played with flannel graph Bible story pieces. I believed it – and God has walked with me my whole life.

As early as junior high, I started doing the Bible Fellowship, a devotional system by mail that was fond of check charts. Then our high school youth group put a big emphasis on daily quiet times – and that’s still an important part of my daily routine. I spend some time reading the Bible, memorizing, reading some other books, and especially journaling about it. I think that’s an important part of keeping my eyes on what life is about.

I know an awful lot about the Bible.

My parents paid me to memorize Scripture. I love God’s word. I’ve memorized (a chapter at a time) all of the New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Hosea, and more. I also attended Christian schools from 3rd grade through college – Long Beach Brethren Elementary School, Brethren Junior/Senior High School, and Biola University.

Now, my memorizing Scripture meant that I didn’t swallow what people told me the Bible said easily. I can read it for myself. If you think the Bible supports your view, tell me where it says that, and I will consider for myself if I think that’s a valid interpretation. When political groups tried to say the Bible teaches what only one political party believes, I knew full well it was a load of hogwash.

My eyes were opened when I memorized John 9, where the Pharisees proved from Scripture (what they thought their Scriptures said) that Jesus was not from God — “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

Since Jesus surprised the theologians of his day when he came the first time, who’s to say he’s not going to surprise everyone the second time? As C. S. Lewis says, “He’s not a tame lion.”

I believe that God will eventually save everyone.

I came to this belief as an adult, from reading the writings of George MacDonald. He obviously knew and loved the Bible, so how could he think this was true? Well, I searched the Scriptures (I began by reading the New Testament and looking for the words “all” and “every.”) – and I came to believe that this fits beautifully with the pervasive teaching of the Scriptures.

I still believe in hell – but not that it is unending. I’ve done some reading in many other books and learned that the word translated “eternal” in English is better translated “of the eons” – it means an indefinitely long time, but not necessarily unending. And – that fits with the overwhelmingly consistent message of Scripture that God loves everyone, while they are still sinners, that Jesus died for the whole world – and God’s punishment is to restore us. Nowhere does the Bible say that death is the deadline for coming to Christ. On the contrary, one day “Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” And one day Christ will be all in all.

This belief changed my whole outlook. If God is really going to search for every lost sheep until they are found – then it cuts off my pride at the feet. Then my privilege of growing up in a Christian family and hearing of God’s love from an early age – is nothing to be proud of. It’s a responsibility to then grow to be loving like Christ. And that love reaches to everyone.

I believe God is personal, and God speaks, and God leads each person on their own path. I believe that God delights in His children and that He knows and loves us for being the quirky people He created us to be.

I learned more about that as God walked with me through my divorce and as I’ve connected with the people at Gateway Community Church here in Virginia.

I’m politically liberal.

This is not how I grew up. I think it came out of living in downtown Los Angeles as a young adult and then in Germany as an older adult. I saw some common sense things that worked really well there – better health care and much better social safety net (even “Kindergeld” – money for children!) and better gun laws. I felt safe to walk around outside at night. Also no billboards by the Autobahns and hiking trails everywhere.

Besides, Libraries are socialism done right! When communities invest in the good of the community (like libraries) – everyone benefits.

I’ve been tremendously blessed in my jobs.

Okay, the first job – MacDonald’s – was nothing special.

Working as a Student Programmer for Computer Services, programming for the university administration, was an awesome college job.

A teaching assistantship paid for grad school.

Turning around and teaching at Biola was a great way to start my adult life. They were good to me with maternity leave, too. And then I was able to get part-time adjunct math instructor jobs quickly when we moved to New Jersey and then Illinois.

I wasn’t *crazy* about teaching kids who didn’t want to learn math, but I learned to enjoy it – and it enabled me to spend most of my time with my kids and not put them into day care. Their dad took care of them while I was teaching – and that was fantastic for his relationship with them and his confidence as a father. Especially that first year when I was working full-time, so he was full-time with our baby.

I taught college math for ten years. It also enabled my husband to get an Associate’s degree in Computer Science (on top of his Bachelor’s in music) for a deep discount.

And then after we moved to Germany, I got a half-time job at the base library – and found my calling. I worked there for eight years.

When I came to Germany, while I was still taking library science classes, I got a part-time job at almost the closest library to my house.

When I finished my MLIS, I got a full-time job at the very closest library to my house.

The worst part was when I got RIF’d and had to work for the Office for Children for six months. But the good part of that was I still had a job – and it brought me to the regional library where I still work now and eventually got the Youth Services Manager position.

I am doing what I love and what I am called to do. I am blessed that way.

Let’s see. Also true about me:

I love telling people about good books.

I began my website of book reviews, Sonderbooks, in 2001 as an email newsletter. It’s still going strong, and now I’m on the Newbery committee as well.

I almost forgot to mention:

I love math.

I was a math major at Biola, got a Master’s in Math from UCLA, taught college math for ten years – and now make mathematical knitting projects, which delight me.

Tied with this, I love logic puzzles and playing Euro games (which is often like solving a puzzle).

It was a shock when my youngest went to college and I had to find people to play games with outside of my own home. Growing up, of course, that was never ever a problem. And I trained my kids to play games with me. Fortunately, I found some gaming groups and now get to play games most weeks. Intellectual stimulation plus getting to connect with friends – an all-round win.

I love to write.

Blogs and emails and book reviews are the main way this gets out now. I do have two books written – some day I’ll get published, though that’s on the back burner now that I’m on the Newbery committee. And I also write daily in my quiet time journal, writing out prayers to God about what’s going on.

I like to keep my friends.

I’ve been friends with Kathe and Darlene since 3rd grade and with Ruth since 7th grade. I love Facebook – because I get to hear about people who have touched my life, people I care about.

I wanted to keep my best-friend-that-was, my ex-husband, and tried to stand for my marriage for a very long time, but I did learn that you can’t keep a marriage by yourself.

I’ve talked about the divorce process elsewhere, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. But I’m still glad I married him. He was my best friend, and we became adults together. Being married to him meant I got to live in Europe for ten years and discover how much I loved working in a library – getting a job via Spouse Preference. And we adventured in Europe together for several years before things went sour. I loved his sense of humor, and he was a great dad to our kids – and even recently spent two weeks when our daughter had a crisis and I couldn’t be there.

Now, at this point I’m also thankful we’re divorced. I hope that a new life partner is in my future, because living with your best friend brings joy and challenges you to grow. But I have to admit I’m enjoying this interlude of living alone in a beautiful place with plenty of books to read.

I made this “Visual Mission Statement” a few years back. I think everything I said above is included in it somewhere.

So – it didn’t come out as a coherent “story,” but I hope this gives you an idea of who I am.

I guess I forgot this one:

I believe that God works all things together for good. I believe that Joy is the hallmark of the Christian.

That statement about Joy was something a Biola professor used to say. I think Joy is important. Because I believe it’s part of trusting God.

So that’s why I wanted to post this addendum to the story I told yesterday. That story (which I didn’t write out) focused too much on things that happened to me. I wanted to finish up by thinking about what it meant and who I am.

God is so good, and He has walked with me all my life.

Right now, my life is very happy and full. And I’m excited to find out what comes next!

Three Little Lessons

April 6th, 2018

I was thinking today about what I’m learning in my life lately. And I came up with three things. Thinking about them made me happier today.

The first one came from lately being hyperaware of single men somewhere near my age and whether I might meet them. A friend told me about a single man she’d met – and there was absolutely nothing to indicate that he might have anything in common with me – except that he appeared to be single. (No ring on the fourth finger of his left hand.)

On top of that, I’ve been joking with friends about where I might meet single men – it’s pretty much an attitude of scarcity.

But lately I’ve been talking with other single women. We talk about how nice it is to set our own schedule and make our own choices and pursue our own interests. I’m remembering a bigger truth:

Lesson One: Even if I never get married again, I’m going to have a richly happy life.

When I think about what I don’t have, I forget how wonderful my life is right now.

I by no means want to get married just for the sake of getting married. I do believe that someone may come along who could enhance my life and make it even better than it is now. But if such a man never comes along? It is no tragedy. Life is very good.

There’s a balance. I don’t want to rule out finding a partner or shut men out of my life. But lately, I was thinking a little too much about “finding a man” as being a problem.

But I absolutely don’t want just any man. Being single and somewhere near my age is not enough! He’s going to have to be exceptional to win a place in my life!

And today was a good day to remember that. And relish a day that was exactly what I wanted it to be.

Lesson Two: Enjoy this time while I’m on the Newbery committee.

I recently made a new plan to get more reading time in: Reading every day from 7 to 9, whether morning or evening or both.

But then I noticed I wasn’t necessarily getting in a quiet time. And I was getting a little bit uptight about whether I got the reading time in.

And I just need to remember – this is a time I’ll look back on all my life. Might as well enjoy it!

With that in mind, today I sat out on my balcony in the afternoon and read a book from start to finish!

It meant that I needed to do some other things from 7 to 9 tonight. But while I was out there, winds were blowing, and birds were singing. It was warm enough I didn’t need a jacket. The wind meant I could hear gentle ripples coming from the lake. I have a comfortable chair and can put my feet up.

In short, it was a lovely, idyllic afternoon. I’m so glad I seized the opportunity while I had it.

Lesson Three: Remember how far the Lord has brought me.

This came from reading Mark 5:34 this morning. Jesus says to a woman whom He healed, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

I’ve been reading Project 52 this year, which I wrote last year. And it reminded me that 12 years ago, I was suffering. Suffering greatly.

Today, I am free from my suffering.

And I am so thankful.

Okay, those lessons aren’t as big as the ones I learned when I was suffering. But they were good to think about today. Call them Lessons in a Time of Joy.