Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Cheer

Every year for as long as I can remember we have done this family tradition we call "Christmas Cheer". It's something I probably came up with years ago when we were spending Christmases alone since our family was so far away. Those years were a bit lonely and I wanted to focus instead on the joy of the Christmas season. I'm not sure who came up with the label, maybe Zach or Kayla. In any case it's something we look forward to every year.

This year Zach and Kayla are old enough to understand that Christmas can be challenging for people who are alone or who have fallen on hard times. In the past we have spread our Christmas Cheer around to our neighbors by delivering them plates of Christmas cookies or loaves of pumpkin bread. We will do that again this year but we managed to add something new to our plate this year.

Zach and Kayla decided to give away their good student certificates to the men who sell newspapers on the street corner on Sunday morning. These men are out there every single Sunday whether it's raining or 100 degrees. They work hard, and I have often wondered if this is their only source of income as they often appear bedraggled and and unkempt. Many a Sunday I've driven out to the street corner and received my newspaper from the same gentleman. He always smiles, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. Greets me with, "Good Morning Miss," and then, "Have a nice day." There's something about that interaction that blesses me, maybe because there is kindness in his eyes. It made perfect sense for Zach and Kayla to give their free hamburger coupons to this man. And they were excited to do it.

We drove through the intersection last Sunday afternoon. Zach dangled his arm out the window, hollering, "Excuse me, excuse me!" The newsman hustled over to our car and we all hollered, "Merry Christmas!" Startled briefly by our yelling he paused, recognition spread across his face as he looked at the coupns. Then he did what he's done every Sunday morning, he smiled and said, "Thank you have a nice day."

It was a small kindness to be sure, but one that Zach and Kayla talked about for the rest of the afternoon. "Mom, do you think he'll share his coupons," Zach asked. And, "Mom, I wonder if he'll use them today." Kayla said.
I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders. Our season of spreading Christmas Cheer had begun...now I better go bake my cookies. We've got some more cheer to deliver.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Just Do It

Today I bought a Nike t-shirt. I've always wanted one. Not sure why I've never bought one until now. It's pink, of course and the slogan sprawls across my chest announcing to the world that I too am a crazed enthusiast of the Just Do It alliance. Did you know it's an alliance? People all over the world embrace the idea that Just Doing It will make you stronger, more agile, more muscular, more peaceful, maybe even smarter.

So I checked out of the Academy Sports, happy with my purchase that bounced along deep in the bowels of my crinkly plastic bag, beside two pairs of snow boots and a pair of dress boots for my son. And yes, I know it doesn't snow in Texas. As I pulled out of the parking lot I imagined shedding my dress up clothes and pulling out my new shiny bubble gum tee. I would join the club, I would Just Do It.

I dumped the bag onto my bed exhilarated to finally be a part of the Just Do It club. I threw my high heels into the closet while ripping my blonde head free of the sweater that caught on my glasses. Woops, again with the glasses?? Tore through the pile of shoes until my fingers caught the smooth edge of the pepto colored garment that I quickly checked for holes or loose threads, and then pulled my arms through the holes, and my head poked through the top.
I ran to the full length mirror to check for immediate change and said to myself, "Dang, somebody take my picture, cuz I'm looking good."
Much to my disappointment no music randomly played, no spotlights magically appeared and certainly no photographer hopped from out behind my rack of sweaters to take my picture. Somehow the get up and go of the Just Do It club, had got up and went.
I do love the tee, it's cute and will make itself right at home with the rest of my tees. And believe me when I tell you that I wore it around proudly all afternoon, while I munched on Halloween candy. So I think I've decided that Just Do It is cool, and a fun marketing ploy but for me I think I'm happy being part of the "I'll Just Do It When I Feel Like It" club. There's much less guilt that way don't you think?
And besides, I'm not so sure I've got what it takes to be a part of that alliance anyway, what if Just Do It for me means "Just eat the candy" or "Just sleep an extra hour". Maybe Just Do It is random and subjective...in any case. I have this really cute new t-shirt that's telling me right now that Just Do It, means I can go ahead and have that extra little piece of chocolate. Go ahead, Just Do It!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Once Over

I got the once over yesterday. If you're a girl you know what I'm talking about. It's that look you catch someone giving you when they literally look you over from top to bottom. It was from another girl, that can only mean one thing...she was measuring me up. I wonder if I made the cut? Anyone else ever been on the receiving end of the once over? Or worse yet, the once over coupled with the whisper? That's when they look you up and down and then turn to their friend and whisper. Nothing can make you feel more exposed as when you catch someone giving you the once over and they don't even hide it.

It's important to state that because we are humans, and God gave us eyes, it's impossible to not look at other people and to not have a picture of who they are embedded into our psyche. That's part of who we are and part of how we relate to eachother, and that's okay. What's not by God's design, however, is that look of judgement that comes with the disgust or disapproval that registers in the lookers eyes. When you are on the receiving end, you feel the sting, just like they stung you with a sharp pin. It hurts, it wounds and sometimes can weave itself into the beginnings of some serious personal attacks.

As a woman I recognize it's nice to be noticed. I can think of many times I've received a complimentary glance or a verbal compliment that I've floated on the tails of for an entire day. It feels good to know that we look good or that someone liked what we had to say. But the quickest way for my balloon of happiness to deflate is when the once over I get is accompanied with a look of disgust or disapproval. That takes me right back to my elementary school days when I wore toughskins and polyester pants. Oh, how I wish our society wouldn't focus so much on what we look like on the outside and instead follow God's commands and appreciate the little gem that's hidden within us.
In Matthew 7:12 it says, "Do to others what you would have them do to you?" And in Romans 15:3, "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on Christ." So, as much as I wanted to feel hurt and angry at the person who gave me the once over, and believe me I had to work for a little while to let it go, it would not have served me or her any purpose to hold onto that. Sure, if I want to allow my worth and my value to be tallied up by someone who doesn't even know me, then I could choose to let that look stay embedded in how I feel about myself. But as a daughter of the King I choose to instead remember that passage that states with such emphatic love, "The King is captivated by your beauty," by me. He is captivated by me, no matter what I'm wearing, no matter if my shoes are with the trend, or if my hair is styled just right. The King is captivated by me, his gem, his treasure, his precious child. That's where I find my worth.

The next time I catch someone giving me the once over, instead of wondering if I made the cut, I'm going to remember that I did indeed make the cut, in God's eyes. And that will be enough.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This is Zach and This is Kayla

This is Zach.

This is Kayla.

Zach and Kayla are two of my favorite people and they just happen to be my kids. I'm not sure how we got so lucky but we did. They are pretty cool... I guess I can say that since I'm their mom. I know we're blessed and not a day goes by that I don't shake my head in wonder when I see the things they do that are truly gifts from God. Sure they bug eachother but more than anything else they are really good friends, they actually like eachother. Which I know at this age could go by the wayside at any moment but I'll hold onto the hope that it won't change even as we enter these teen years.

Zach is a brainiac and so is Kayla. There is a subtle competitiveness between them, and Zach always wants to be on top. Kayla in her 11 year old wisdom already knows to not fight this battle, somehow sensing that his need to be #1 has nothing to do with her. Her insight inspires me and Zach's mettle inspires me just the same. They make me want to be the best person I can be. When I see them in the morning, even if they've challenged me the night before, they still walk into my arms and I'm only too happy to hug them.

How are you inspired by your children?



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who's Rocking Your Boat?

I tucked my knees beneath my chin as I sank onto the wooden planks stretched across the shallow opening, creating a place just large enough for me to fit. The black water tickled the sides of the boat as I wondered where I was and how I had ever strayed so far from the shore, from the familiar landscape of my life. The sky ran for miles into the horizon where the ocean and the heavens meet. Straining to see just a glimpse of land I closed my eyes in disgust. How did I ever end up here?

Wrapping the thin nightgown around the bottoms of my feet warmed my hardened soul for a moment before the sting of the wind began to swirl around me. The calm sea began to swell, frosting the black peaks with white foam, throwing buckets of water into my once dry boat. The thin fabric of my nightgown, pelted with salt water, grew heavy like a potato sack and pulled me deeper into the boat. The waves crashed, tossing my dinghy around, throwing me deeper and deeper into the boats shallow depths. My fingers clung to the sides of the boat as it rocked and bucked tossed about like a child's toy. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I cried out to God, to anyone to save me. "Please, someone, please...I'm going to drown! God, please rescue me!"

Pushing off from the boat's edge that now lay submerged beneath the surface of the ocean, I stood wrapping my arms around myself, bracing my feet in the bowels of the sinking boat. The wind raged around me, throwing salt pellets into my face, stinging me like a wooden switch on the hind end of a six year old boy caught for stealing. Straining against the salted air, I searched the heavens and then the depths of the sea, but all I could see was the empty black hole that was about to swallow me up. And then in the distance I saw him. He stood at the end of my boat like a gracken risen up from the depths of hell. His giant hands gripped the end of my boat, splintering the wood as it cracked with each heave. His eyes gleamed with hatred as they peered into my soul. He laughed as I tried to cover my secrets, my fears, my greatest weaknesses, but he saw it all and said, "You think you can hide from me? You think anyone is going to save you now?" His words clattered throughout my anxious brain as I searched my heart, cowering beneath the weight of this truth, accepting this as my fate. There was nothing I could do, my time had come.
I surrendered in defeat, waiting for the final blow to come. I begged internally for it to be quick, painless, and asked for mercy. Seemingly he knew what I was saying in my mind as a horrific bellow gurgled out of his mouth covering me in darkness.

And then as quickly as the storm had raged, it disappeared. The peaceful waves held my weakened body as I clung to a wooden remnant of the boat. Streams of light streaked across the sky, sending small fire like explosions across the heavens, as the darkness was again consumed by light. Looking all around me, my brain struggled to place where the gracken had been when all I could see was the glimmer of sunlight bouncing off the pale blue water. I rolled onto my back, floating along as the waves carried me. I had no idea where I was going but for once I was sure I didn't really care. Somehow miraculously I was saved. I laid my head back, smiling to myself, soaking it all in. What had seemed like certain doom before had turned into something wonderful.
As I lay there bouyed by this revelation, I realized I wasn't alone and opened my eyes. Right there attached to the toe of my right foot was a rope. I followed the length of it with my eyes, startled to discover another boat. An exact replica of the boat I had been in before, only this one was perfect. I unhooked the rope from between my toes and pulled myself towards the boat. Questions rolled around my head as it came closer. Painted brown this time, it was bigger then my previous boat. Grabbing onto the sides, I pulled my battle weary body into it's waiting arms and collapsed. None of this made sense to me, how did this get here? And what happened to that gracken anyway? I looked around searching the horizon once again but there were no clues. Curling my body onto one of the plank seats I wondered once again how I had gotten here to begin with.
As I settled onto the firm bench, I heard the faintest rustle of paper in the wind. Down in the deepest corner of my new boat was tucked a folded up piece of paper. Blinking my eyes a few times, I reached down to get it and held it out in front of me. On the outside of the creamy cardstock was my name. Allison.

Dear One,

In spite of what you might think, I have never ever forgotten you. I never could. You are my created being, part of my kingdom and a treasure to me. I promised you that I would watch over you, give you rest and shed my blood so that you could have a relationship with me. I have always loved you and would never willingly turn you over to the pit of hell.
Allison, the battles you choose to fight on your own, you will surely fail. The battles you choose to fight with me at your side, you will always win. Victory may not look how you want it to, but I assure you, I am always for you and never against you.
Surrender your will, trust me and believe that when you are once again sinking in your boat, all you have to do is cry out to me and I will be there to lift you up.

Love Your Father in Heaven

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bras, Customer Service and When it Crosses the Line

I don't know any woman who enjoys shopping for bras. I know I don't. In fact I know many women who think there is some kind of conspiracy among bra manufacturers who are determined to make a mockery of us every time we set foot in the lingerie section of any department store. Not only do we have to hunt for the sizing as we meander through rows and rows of bras that are meant to entice us, we also have to try them on because who knows if the full figure bra from one manufacturer is going to fit the same as the one from the competitor.

It's frustrating, and humbling...unless your built like Heidi Klum of Gisele Bundchen, then I suppose you should stop reading this post right now. Probably I wouldn't want to be your friend if you're built like them anyway, I would develop a complex. As if I don't have one already.

Now back to bras, customer service and when it all crosses the line. I spent years working at Nordstroms in a number of different cities. Nordstrom is known for it's impeccable customer service and prides itself in the mantra, "The customer is always right." I've learned over the years since my days at Nordstrom that not every Nordstrom lives up to this, and that in and of itself is disappointing to me. The last time I went shopping for bras I naturally went to Nordstrom where I knew I would get great customer service, a knowledgeable sales associate and perhaps hold onto some of my dignity at the same time. But what happened while I was there was interesting to say the least.

I'm usually pretty clear on what I want, and try very hard to be pleasant to the sales associate. Since I spent many years in their shoes, I know what it's like to have a crabby customer and I definitely don't want to be one of those. I gathered up my variety of bras, asked the sales clerk to check on something for me and found my way through the myriad of colorful tables displaying all kinds of distracting undergarments and settled into the dressing room. And so I proceeded to try on my assortment and amused myself in the mirror trying not to laugh out loud when something was way to big or way to small. Meanwhile, I waited for my sales associate to come back...did she have to go to the warehouse herself to get my question answered? Or maybe she decided to sew me up the newest rendition of Le Mystere'...in any case I waited for what seemed like an eternity.
Now you and I both know that waiting while you're trying on shoes is one thing but waiting while you're trying on bras is a completely different experience altogether. Imagine my surprise when a new rather young looking sales associate knocked on my door to see if I needed anything. By then I wanted to wrap my arms around her and invite her to name my next baby, of course I don't plan on having another baby, but you get the point. She came in took over for the sales associate who by now had caught a flight for Siberia and managed to talk me into quite a variety of different garments I would usually not have entertained. She was fun, knowledgeable and exactly the kind of girl you want waiting on you when you're half dressed in the lingerie department at Nordstroms.
Right about the time she was doing the final fitting there was a knock at the door. Our eyes met across the dressing room floor and like two schoolgirls caught we shared an uncomfortable giggle. My original sales associate was back from Siberia and she wanted to see how I was doing. Finding my voice I said, "Oh, I'm good, I have everything I need." Expecting her to leave us alone I looked back at my sweet young helper and smiled. We both paused for a moment to see if she would go on and leave us alone. That's what I would have done, the sale was lost to her and she knew it. But, apparently she missed the Customer Service 101 class and unlocked the door to my dressing room and walked right in.
In the history of my adult shopping life, and believe me I've done some shopping, I've never ever had a sales associate barge in on me and then begin to demand that the person who has rightfully earned the sale leave the room so that she could take it over. Nevermind the fact that I was standing there half dressed, what was so shocking was the blatant disdain and disregard this woman had for her co-worker much less me the potential client.
And so I did what anybody who knows anything about customer service would do...I politely but very firmly kicked her out of my dressing room and informed her that she had crossed the line of appropriateness.

I still don't like shopping for bras, but I do know this...if that ever happens to me again, I'll be shopping on the internet from now on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Community in the Home

I work from home, almost all the time. I sit at my computer and navigate my current manuscripts, book proposals and my blog. I take phone calls from coaching friends, and connect with potential clients via email or phone. I'm at home all the time...did I mention that already?
And here's the thing, I like being here.

There was a time a few years back when being here at home was the very last thing in the world I wanted to do. I couldn't stand being here in my own home and so I was always on the go. Telling myself there were errands to run when there really weren't any. I volunteered all the time at church and at school and filled up my days with shopping, lunching and being anyplace else but here. It was extreme and I felt empty all the time. I had no connection with myself, with my family or even with God. Everything about my life was wrong, felt wrong and made me sad and so I self medicated with a false sense of community that existed outside the walls of my home and I was miserable.

The turning point came one summer as I prepared to begin Lay Counseling training at church. My husband became ill and I had to step out of all my other leadership and volunteer duties to focus on him and my children. Now, don't you think that's where God intended for me to be all along? I used to think if only I had paid attention to the things happening here that maybe we wouldn't have gotten so far off track. When I was forced to stay home and deal with the issues at hand, I was angry and didn't like it very much. But at the same time, if I didn't face the issues that were alive and well within the four walls of my very own home, how could I ever expect to be an encouragement and support to those in the outside world. My heart was to encourage and be a help to others but the only way I was ever going to do that was to clean my own house and deal with my own stuff. And no one I know really ever likes to do that. It's usually only when push comes to shove or we find ourselves dangling on the edge of a cliff that we will finally stop avoiding and start engaging.

I'm one of those people that really thrives in being around others. I like socializing and connecting. I love listening to people talk about their own lives, their challenges and how they overcame them. I love my friends and being with them fills me up, it's something that I've come to understand is a part of me. Like you need air to breathe or water to drink, I need people. I like them. But the danger for me is to keep a careful balance with this need I have for community, otherwise it can overwhelm the balance of my days and I'll find myself running all over again like I was before.

And so here's what I do now. I know I have this innate sense about me to connect and create community with others. Instead of running all over town and volunteering for every single thing, I now choose carefully the activities I do outside of my home because, guess what? When I stopped avoiding and started engaging issues with my husband, issues with my parenting, issues with my relationships, I started to see that my real community started with the man I married and the two children I've been blessed with. My friends are important to me and I love my work but community for me begins at home.

I like being here at home now and have learned to navigate a careful balance of working several days a week while keeping a day or two open for errands, lunches with friends and bible study. It's a balance that I'm committed to keeping because when I don't I find that I miss these new connections I have with my husband and with my kids. Yes, it takes effort but it's worth it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Announcing the Christian Coaching Magazine

Hey everyone, I'm excited to share with you a new magazine for coaches, leaders and anyone who is interested in improving their own leadership skills. The Christian Coaching Magazine is an online magazine that you can subscribe to and have delivered right into your email inbox every two weeks. I'm happy to say that I've been subscribing for quite awhile. Before when it was called the Journal of Christian Coaching, I actually had my first published article printed. Wahoo! That was cool. Now it's changed just a bit but still packs a whole lot of great content into an easy to read format. And...I'm writing two professional profiles for some great coaches I know.

You can check it out at: www.christiancoachingmag.com. Click on the "us" button and you will find out all about the magazine, the staff and how to subscribe. Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Walking in Faith

I've had the pleasure of interviewing a fellow coach for a profile piece I get to write for the Christian Coaching Magazine. Joe is someone I met while just beginning my training to become a life coach and I've thoroughly enjoyed the time we've spent together. His willingness to allow me to ask all kinds of probing sort of intimate questions will only serve to enrich the profile, I hope. He was a good sport and I'm excited to write the piece.

One of the highlights of interviewing Joe was to see how complete and unwavering his faith is. He shared with me in detail how he left his job and answered the call on his heart to become a full time life coach. By the world's standards what he was doing sounds a bit crazy but to me it is inspiring and reminds me of when Jesus called to Peter to get out of the boat. Joe got out of his boat and has been walking in faith ever since. Without giving to much away I just want to say "Thanks" to Joe for being an example to me, for obeying the call, and for continuing to seek God in everything you do. You are an inspiration!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lots of Change Over HERE

I'm not a big fan of change. Never really have been, but I'm learning to adjust. I don't think of myself as being rigid, that's such a negative, but rather flexibility challenged. That has a much more positive ring to it. Shows there is room for improvement and I'm okay with being challenged.
I'm a planner, an organizer a structure junkie if you will. Quite simply, I like to know what's coming around the next corner. Sometimes I wish I could be just a little bit omniscient like God so that when change comes it wouldn't rock my world so much. I know, not gonna happen but still I wish it were.

In the midst of change I end up feeling like I'm two steps behind. Two steps behind my work, or two steps behind my kids, or two steps behind what's happening in my friendships...you get the idea. I can see and feel that something is different but I can't quite put my finger on it until Voila! It hits me, it's CHANGE.

It's strange to me that I struggle with change, maybe it comes from all the years of Grant's illness. Or maybe because of my family dynamic growing up. In any case, change is something I've come to understand isn't to be feared, instead it usually signals growth, and huge opportunities to learn.
I love to learn, and if I can look at the change monster through that lense of opportunity then I'm much more open to it. Change can be a good thing, and ultimately I think God uses it in our lives to show us that He's always on the move. Leaning into Him through the changes that come helps me with my innate desire to turn around and walk the other direction. I am human afterall, it takes an act of my will to seek God and ask him to help me with these things.
So today I'm asking God to help me understand the changes, asking him to expand my ability to roll with it and asking him to remind me that in the words of Sheryl Crowe, "A change will do you good."

How do you handle change?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

They each know someone with bipolar...

Here's what I find so interesting...Well a few things really but let's start with this. Every single person I've talked to personally about the book I'm writing says this to me, "Oh, I know someone who is bipolar" or "Oh, I have a family member who is bipolar." That just amazes me. Even though I know the statistics say approximately 6 million people have bipolar, it still just boggles my mind that God continues to bring me people who validate what it is we are doing with this book.

So the second thing that I find so interesting is how God uses struggles in our lives that we never, ever anticipated using ourselves. I've always wanted to write books, but never imagined that I would be writing a book on bipolar and marriage. Of course, I never imagined we would be dealing with this illness but here we are right in the thick of it, so why not write a book about it?

The third thing I find interesting is how God has given us peace through this process. I mean when I think about where we were when this whole thing got started, to where we are now...again, it just boggles my mind. Not only have we written a book that chronicles very intimate details of Grant's diagnosis and treatment, but we've also shared some significant marital strife because of his illness. And we haven't had one disagreement about it. Grant's 100% on board saying, "If one person is encouraged by this, then it will have all been worth it." That is a miracle in my opinion, especially since he's a guy and guys don't generally want to share their stuff, especially not with potentially a whole lot of readers.

God has used this process to continue the healing in our marriage and in each of us as individuals. Oh, how I never would have imagined being where we are today, and can only say that I'm amazed at how God works and how he uses things in our lives.
It could have been so different for us. Grant could have died that day, leaving me behind to grapple with an illness that I really knew nothing about. But instead God intervened, and carried us through the most horrific storm we could ever have imagined. To try and sum it all up in one final chapter feels almost impossible...the story isn't finished yet so how do you say, "the end".

And so that leads me to the fourth thing I find interesting. Maybe we don't say "the end". Maybe we say "the beginning" instead. Because that's exactly where we find ourselves today...at the beginning of something new, something wonderful and bright and alive with hope. We are at the cusp of some new chance at love and life and we want to embrace it fully, living here in this moment knowing that tomorrow is in God's hands, trusting that He will provide and meet us right here right now.
So, I can't say, "the end", because it's not the end...it's the beginning. And I'm so thankful for that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Understand or Misunderstand?

Here's what I'm thinking today...It's easier to poke fun at that which we don't understand, then it is to admit that we don't understand at all.

Profound? Probably not, but an important truth...yes, for sure.

What do you think? And how do you feel God's leading when you find yourself in the midst of something you know you don't quite qet? Do you fake it or do you make fun, or do you actually admit it and go seek the truth?

I'm curious...what do you do?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Just so you know...I don't have it all figured out.

"So you're a Life Coach?" She says with a question behind her blue green eyes and then politely waits to hear my response. I nod my head and with a smile say, "Why yes, I am a Life Coach." Her eyes blink as she digests my reply...you can almost see the wheels turning in her head as she carefully tries to find the right thing to say next. I wait expectantly wondering what she will say next, and then sure enough out it comes. "Well, does that mean you've got life all figured out?"

Woop, there it is...the quintessential question of the hour. "Does that mean I've got life all figured out?" I've heard that a few times since I finished my Life Coach training and it makes me smile every single time. First of all let me be the first to tell you that, No, of course I don't have life all figured out. And second of all, let me just say that I would never pretend even for one second that I did. It just isn't possible, doesn't work that way and besides, how much fun would that be.
No, Life Coaching isn't about having it all figured out, or having all the answers or telling people what to do. And it's definitely not about condescending to people as you try and put yourself in their shoes. There is no way to do that, no way to even begin to understand the paths that other people have walked and to pretend or attempt to do that would really be presumptuous and egotistical. Let me assure you that my closest friends would tell you that I'm my own piece of work, all crafted and twisted and convoluted...and I'm just waiting to figure out what God intends to do with my puzzle as each piece gets pulled out by the daily grind.

My job as a life coach is to be a support, an encourager and to help people shift their focus onto what they can do about their situation or their predicament. My greatest joy is to work with someone who has been knocking their head against the wall about some big issue and when they finally have a break through you can just hear the heavens open up and the angels all applaud. It's awesome! That's what coaching is about for me. It's about helping people find their purpose, and about believing they have what it takes all along to figure it out for themselves.

And sometimes in those break through moments I am reminded that good things do happen, that sometimes we do get the answer we are seeking and when all the pieces in the puzzle fit together...well, that's just about the best way to celebrate and give glory to God. It's an honor to be a part of something like that. That's why I love being a coach, even if I don't have it all figured out...God does.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Middle School Already?

This morning at 4:30 am my son Zach woke me by whispering quietly, "Mom are you awake?" Well, no, not awake but somehow I ended up awake, and in my waking managed to scare myself half to death and spastically throw my arms out slapping him upside the head at the same time. It was one of those waking up moments that startles you and startles them and then everyone is startled and upset. Not pretty, especially not at 4:30am.

But that's not what I really wanted to talk about this morning...even though it was sort of a rude awakening things turned around quickly. I tylenoled him, crawled into his bed with him, hugged him and whispered in his ear how much God loved him, how he was going to do so great at school, how he had nothing to be afraid of since God had already gone before him charting his path, and would definitely come behind him making sure he was hemmed in on all sides. We stayed snuggled up like that for awhile, with me quietly praying over him as I listened to the sound of his breath even out signaling to me that he was peacefully back to sleep.

Eventually I left him and found my way back to my own bed again, my thoughts wandering over the memories of past school years and the excitement over the first day. And then I thought of Psalm 139 and how the same words I spoke and prayed over Zach also applied to me. I was reminded that not only does Jesus know every single thing about me, he also has charted a course for me, and promises to cover me all the time. There is no place on this earth that will ever separate me from God. Just like I believe that with all my heart for my children, I choose to believe the same thing applies to me and every other believer. We are always in the presence of the Lord, all the time.

Psalm 139 says, "You hem me in behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me, such knowledge is to wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." So as much as I can't completely comprehend the truth in this statement, I choose to believe and trust that it is truth, and will hold onto it as such. I will wait for Zach and Kayla to come home from their first day of middle school knowing their path has been set before them, trusting that every aspect of their time has been charted by a loving and mighty God.

A brand new school, a brand new schedule, probably new friends, definitely new teachers and a whole new adventure awaits them...I'm okay with that because I know they are covered all the time, every single day by a God who loves them way more than I can ever begin to imagine.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Southern Manners

While driving across the state of Washington last month I reclined in the front seat of the borrowed truck Grant was driving and immersed myself in my Southern Living Magazine. Zach and Kayla were seemingly entranced by their Nintendo DS games and Grant was listening to something on the radio. The road stretched long before us, it would be six hours before we arrived in Sandpoint.

I thumbed through the magazine making mental notes of recipes I would come back to examine later and found myself at the very back of the magazine. Normally I am religious about the way I read a magazine. I always give the entire thing a cursory glance, folding pages of articles or photos that I would want to examine in greater detail later. With my strategy set, then if I need to I can set the magazine aside and come back to it later, not having to start at the very beginning again. I suppose this whole thing got started when I had kids and I had to pick things up and put them down again.
But since I had six hours to wander through the photos, recipes and articles I abandoned my rules of reading and read the back of the magazine first. Oh the horror...I know.
I jumped into a fun article called "15 Ways to Charm Her" that detailed all the ways men can impress a Southern Girl. Since I'm a Southern transplant I wasn't sure if I would relate but decided to read on and see if any of the suggestions were in fact, true for this true Northerner.

Here are a few of the suggestions that I read out loud to Grant, and little did I know Zachary was listening to every word. Check out his response at the end.

1. Stand up for a Lady...doesn't always involve a chair
2. Know that the SEC has the best football teams in the nation...this doesn't necessarily apply to me.
3. Kill Bugs...yes for sure do this for me.
4. Hold Doors Open...I love this one!
5. Fix things and build stuff...Yes, I am always fascinated by the things that Grant can build.
6. Wear boots occasionally...Um, hmm.
7. Take off your hat inside.
8. Grill stuff...and this means besides hamburgers.
9. Call us...Yes, please, even if you just saw us that morning.
10. Stand when we come back to the dinner table...doesn't mean when we are at home but it sure is nice when we are out on a date.
11. Pull out our chair.
12. Don't show up in a wrinkled, or untucked shirt.

So, one of the things I've come to love about living in Texas is how polite everyone is. How the kids all say "Yes, Ma'am and No, Ma'am" and how even some of my adult friends when speaking to an elder use the same kind of language. I love it. It might be old school but it's refreshing to hear especially when it seems like the world we live in could use a taste of good manners.

When I finished reading the list to Grant and we agreed that he does most of these things for me most of the time. And I felt satisfied that, yes indeed, even though I'm a Northern girl by birth, that maybe the South is a place that I can live and love, I heard a little voice pipe up from the back seat.
"Mom," Zach said, "Do you think I could read that article?"

I had no idea he was listening, and second of all, I had no idea he was interested. Grant raised his eyebrows at me and I stifled a laugh. "Well of course, you can...but let me ask you a question. Why do you want to read it?"
Zach reached for the magazine and smiled sheepishly, then shrugged his shoulders. His response was more to the magazine page then to me but I heard it anyway, "Well, I figure that if I'm going to live in the south, maybe I should make sure I know about southern manners, especially if that's what makes girls happy."

So, there it is. My son wants to have good manners because it "makes girls happy". Not sure how I feel about that. Of course I want him to have good manners but am not quite sure I'm ready for his reasons behind it...Girls, really??

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Getting Settled Again

I've been cleaning my house for the last two days. I keep telling myself that the house just needs a good cleaning, it's been six weeks afterall. There's an inch of dust that needs to be dusted, and floors that need vacuuming and mopping, blinds that need to be cleaned, toilets that need swishing...the list could go on and on. But today I decided it's more than that, since I seem to have this pattern of behavior every year after we've been gone. All this cleaning and organizing and throwing out is me really finding myself again after being on a traveling journey for the last six weeks. This is me exploring and reminding and settling myself into my own space. This is me working through my sadness about having to leave my family again after such a blessed time. This is me getting to the heart of my grief over not seeing them again for an entire year.

And so my house will be clean and I'll be tired and eventually the tears I'm holding in will spill over my cheeks and I'll have a nice long cry. And then, for whatever reason, I'll feel like my old self again and life will go on and I'll feel settled in my own space again knowing that the time we had was a gift that I will continue to enjoy throughout the coming year through my memories, my photographs and the anecdotes me and my family will share in the weeks to come. And on those days that I'm missing my family and wishing that we were all together, I'll daydream about the next summer and the fun times I know we will have.

Lord, thank you for the special time we had with all of our family members this summer. I am so grateful for the gift of time that you bestowed upon us and yes I'm even thankful for those challenging moments that you allowed so that we could all grow and learn more about eachother. Lord in the weeks that lie before us, I ask you to be with each one of my family members. Please reveal yourself to them in a new and different way and help each of them to know that you love them with all of your heart.
In Jesus name,
Amen

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Time to go Home

It's been six weeks almost to the day since we've been in the great state of Texas. We hopped on a plane on June 29th and have been in Washington and Idaho enjoying a fantastic summer vacation. The time has flown and we are always amazed at how quickly the days rush by...it's over and it feels like it only just started.

Zach has already had tears tonight, and I'm sure there will be more to come tomorrow at the airport. Kayla and I are always the ones that crack when we say goodbye at the security gate and my Mom has to walk away... I hate that! I'm okay with the tears, it's the walking away part that is the hardest because all I want to do is hold on to her. Hmmm, I'm getting choked up now as I type so I think I'll move on now, I would like to put off the emotional breakdown until tomorrow.
It's been a great trip and in the weeks to come I plan to share some of the highlights with you. Until then, stay tuned, and please pray for a smooth trip home, smooth transition into our daily lives again and a that even though we will be far from our family members again, that somehow it will feel as if we have brought them home with us.
Thanks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The House I Grew Up In


In 1973 my parents bought this house for around $27,000. Recently my parents sold it for 10 times that much and are now preparing for the buyers to move in.
The house reflected the early 1970's with it's rust orange carpet and wood paneled walls. It was a single story rambler with no yard to speak of and not a lot of character. It begged for an owner to love it, nurture it and grow it into the home it became for us. In the 36 years my parents lived here they made major changes which included digging out a basement beneath the house, they put in an underground pool, planted copius amounts of flowers, grass and trees, painted the interior, gutted and remodeled the kitchen, tore out the orange carpet and replaced it with a lush cream shag. There are really too many changes to list here but suffice it to say the only thing that is really the same about this house 36 years later is the interior framework, everything else has been changed.
As I helped my Mom clean for the new owners a cacophony of memories, not unlike the echo of voices that reverberate across an open space, tumbled through my mind as I wandered the empty rooms. Memories of sleepovers, late nights with fevers, Christmas mornings, swimming parties, birthday parties, dinners as a family and so many more...every single memory I have is somehow connected to this place where I grew up. And now I have to say goodbye.
I know that I'm not the same little girl I was when I lived here, but the integral part of who I am and who I was meant to be are still the same. These things in me have grown and been enhanced by time and my life experience. I think houses are a lot like people, we both have a core internal framework that doesn't really change but is molded and shaped according to time and the natural courses of our environment. Sometimes a house needs a new coat of paint like a woman needs a new hairdo, or a man needs a shave. And sometimes a house gets sick and needs repairs just like a person who needs a surgery or a few days of rest.
This house was my home. It is still, even though I don't live here anymore. This is the place I will think of when I think of my parents and my siblings and all the great memories we have of our life together within these four walls. This house was a haven, a safe place that changed and adjusted according to the needs of it's inhabitants, just like a mother who provides a haven for her young. This house will always be my home and I will miss it, but am thankful for the memories that I will be taking with me.
Goodbye House.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Running Again...YAHOO!

About six years ago I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the joint connective tissue. Unlike Osteoarthritis which is the kind of arthritis you see in the elderly, RA attacks the entire body including in worst case scenarios the sack that holds the heart, and other internal organs. RA causes severe joint pain and fatigue, it's not a pretty picture to say the least.

At the time of my diagnosis I was in training to run my first marathon. I had been running pretty well for about a year and a half, and had started competing in some local 5k and 10k runs. It was empowering for me, even though I was slow, to cross the finish line knowing that in my own little world I had accomplished something that was quite simply just for me. The diagnosis was devastating, or course I know there are worse things, but it seemed a cruel punishment to force me out of an activity that I had come to love so much. The doctor ordered me to stop running immediately, which in a way I couldn't argue with since I was really quite ill. But the stubborn streak in me said internally, "Fine, I'll stop...for now." I didn't know that it would be six years before I would get to run again.

I've always been athetic, and used to dance but running was my love and I mourned having to give it up. I didn't do anything for an entire year even though I had been told I could do other non-impact activities like swimming and yoga. No offense, but after you've had that runner's high, swimming and yoga don't quite cut it, at least for me. So, after about a year I got off the couch and started walking my neighborhood, then bought an elliptical trainer and I confess, I was hooked.

But here's the thing, I have never gotten running out of my system. There is something about the mind numbing pace that takes over my brain that allows me to mentally check out. I love the rhythm and the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I love the even sound of my breathing as I ease into the middle miles of a long run and the tightness in my chest when I know I'm pushing for a strong finish. I love the early morning runs that allow me to catch the sun coming up, and the late evening summer time runs when I say goodnight to the day. It's one of the most exhilarating activities I can imagine and I'm happy to say that I get to start again.
It took two years for my arthritis symptoms to go away. I was under the care of a very good rheumatologist who cautioned me that even though I was feeling better, "You're never going to be cured." I spent the next three years visiting the same doctor only to see that all my tests were coming back negative and I was feeling fine. I often left the appointments wondering if I was feeling so good, and my tests were negative, was I really sick at all?
Finally I decided to pursue a second opinion and visited a new rheumatologist who had a completely different perspective. He ran, I swear, every blood pathology test you can imagine, taking ten vials of my blood. And took approximately 20 xrays of my hands, feet, and pelvis. The idea was to start at the beginning again.

It turns out that all my xrays are normal, no RA progression, no signs of any connective tissue deterioration and all my bloodwork came back normal accept I'm anemic and low on vitamin D. Apparently six years ago when I was training for the marathon I had Epstein Bar Virus aka: Mono, and that wreaked havoc on my autoimmune system producing a false positive for Rheumatoid Arthritis. So, I'll take a little iron, and a vitamin D supplement and continue seeing my doctor on a regular basis to check in.

The good news is...I ran three solid miles this morning. Not a lot but it's a start, and I'm feeling good!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Finding my brain again.

The last few weeks have been a blur of activity. Last day of school, fifth grade graduation, preparing for company, then having company, then recovering from having company to now getting ready to leave for six weeks. Somewhere in there I think I lost my capacity to think clearly much less have any kind of creative thought. All these events were fun and exciting. I felt like we were on our own little staycation while our company was here. In fact I cleared my calendar of anything that resembled responsibility so that I could fully engage my sister in law and her family. It was great, we had a super fun time measured by the fact that once our house was empty again it took two full days of doing absolutely nothing for me to feel like I had caught up on my sleep again. Maybe a little too much fun?? Nahh.

Now almost a week later I'm trying to find my brain again. I can feel the pull in my heart to be productive again, to be creative again and to put words to my thoughts again. At the beginning of the month I deeply craved some time off, and I got that with our company and the fun things we did. Now I realize that it's time to turn my brain on again and get to work. The problem is...I can't find my brain. I'll let you know when it turns up. Meanwhile, I'm going to start packing suitcases for our trip to Washington...stay tuned. It's bound to turn up sooner or later.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What kind of friend are you?

What kind of friend are you?

I was thinking today that I want to be the kind of friend that listens first and asks questions later. I want to be the kind of friend that gives the benefit of the doubt, doesn't pass judgement, offers input only when asked, meets someone halfway and forgives quickly never holding a grudge. I confess that this is my wishlist because I know I'm not these things, and in fact can be quite lazy in my friendships, always being the one who needs filling up but not doing a very good job of filling anyone else. Probably if you asked my friends if I meet any of the aforementioned criteria they would tell you that I most likely interrupt, ask a lot of questions, analyze everything, give input no matter what, can be quite judgemental and have in fact held grudges. But I think they would also tell you that I love them, that I try to be a good listener and that more often than not I'm going to tell them the truth. I'm definitely not perfect, just being real with you.

I find myself on the receiving end of such grace and mercy all the time and it just blows my mind. It's amazing to me the set of friends God has given me, in spite of myself. I'm truly thankful for them, and would not be the same person I am without them. I learn something from each one of them almost every single day. How to be more loving, giving, understanding, gracious, caring...the list goes on and on. I supposed God knows exactly what I need and who best to deliver it because more often then not one of my sweet friends will deliver the exact learning that I needed. And sometimes it's not exactly what I want to hear. But that's what friends do right? We teach each other, we hold each other accountable and we stand in the gap for each other when we feel like we don't have the energy of strength to stand up for ourselves. I've been on the receiving end of that kind of love and believe me, there is nothing like friends who will love you no matter what.

So I look at my friends and I hold them in high esteem, I want to love them the way they have loved me. I want to stand in the gap for them, and care for them regardless of their circumstance. That's what Jesus does, he's there all the time when we need him, never turns his back, never tells us he can't love us because we made the wrong decision or did a bad thing. He forgives us, shows us mercy and gives us grace. He makes us a priority, he chooses us because He loves us all the time.

That's the kind of friend I want to be. How about you?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Getting through the tough stuff so we can have a happy ending.

Today I've been writing one of the hardest chapters of my book, Between Two Poles. It's been challenging to say the least and I've been struggling to stay with it for about a week, at least. You know how you have an idea of what you want to say, but can't quite put words to the emotions? Well, that's been my experience and I've really had to dive in, swim around in the deepest parts of my angst and try to come up with the best way to write this chapter. I've cleared everything off my calendar to focus all my energies onto this project and wouldn't you know it, my words dried up. Or at least I thought they did until this morning when it clicked.

I was out for a walk with the dog, listening to my new Kris Allen download from American Idol and just asking God to be with me as I swam around in my deep ocean of angst. I was walking along singing along to the song, and all of a sudden it came to me. It was one of those moments where I knew it was God speaking to me. Immediately a started to cry and realized why I was having such a hard time with this section.

See, during this particular time of my journey with Grant through his bi-polar it felt like we were fighting an invisible enemy, all the time. And I was so tired, exhausted really and had no idea how we were going to climb this particular mountain. He was not getting better, we were struggling to figure out why and it felt like nothing was working at all. So, when I sat down to try and put words to this chapter it felt so hard like I was fighting the invisible enemy all over again. I kept asking God to give me the words, to show me what was important and how to write it the way he wanted it to read. All I was getting was a whole lot of tears, sadness and probably not very good writing. I was frustrated, which is why I went out for the walk this morning.

One of my biggest challenges is to let God help me. I am stubborn, unwilling to ask for help, and perfectionistic to a fault. It takes a lot for me to recognize that I've got to lay down my will and allow God to carry the burden, and that's what he showed me today. He reminded me that in our scariest times, in our biggest challenges and during our darkest hour, He will be there and all we have to do is ask. He was there for us when we were trying to get the medication for Grant figured out and he is with me now as I try and put words to what happened.

The words he whispered to me this morning were, "I carried you Allison..." That's how we got through it all, He carried us. He carried us through the tough stuff so that we could get to the happy ending. Now I've got a better direction of where I'm headed, he's carrying me through writing about this tough stuff so that I can finally get to the part where I get to tell about the happy ending. That's sort of how life is sometimes, we've got to go through some tough stuff sometimes so that when we get to the happy ending we will appreciate it, enjoy it and celebrate it. Stay tuned...the happy ending is coming. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Making our Hearts Whole

I've been thinking a little bit about destiny and how as a general rule most people don't think about destiny or where they are headed. We think about our immediate need and we want that immediate need satisfied. Maybe it's a survival mechanism or maybe it's just human nature. Anyway, I was thinking about how when we don't pay attention to where God is leading us it's so easy to get off track. And, how quickly we assume that when something bad happens that we must be off track. What if that's actually part of the road to our destiny? What if the bad choices we make or the mistakes we wish we hadn't made are actually part of what God intended to help us get to where He wants us to be. I'm not suggesting that absolves us from taking responsibility for our actions but what I am saying is that even though things happen that we wouldn't necessarily choose, they are part of us, part of our story and part of how God will move in our hearts.

Jesus states in Isaiah 61, "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." He binds us up, releases us from captivity and shines His light on those things we keep hidden. It takes an act of our will to choose to allow Him to keep us on track, and to allow Him to touch those parts in us we wish we could ignore.

George MacDonald prayed, “Gather my broken fragments to a whole . . . Let mine be a merry, all-receiving heart, but make it a whole, with light in every part.” But you can’t do this at a distance; you can’t ask Christ to come into your wound while you remain far from it. You have to go there with him. (Wild at Heart , 128–29)

Sure our immediate needs will be satisfied because we are good at figuring out how to do that in our own strength, but if we really want our hearts to be whole, we have to allow Jesus to bind up our broken hearts, we have to be willing to let him in to our darkness and we have to go there with Him. His light shines into the weeds that have grown up around the tombstones in my heart that I gingerly navigate around. His pure light helps me see the weeds, gives me the ability to cut them down and beckons me to open the lid on each tomb so that His light can fill up the darkness that has been hidden there. Once the tomb is filled with light, it disappears taking away the burden and replaces it with a permanent imprint on my heart; a sign that says "Jesus Was Here".

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm so Thankful!


This is a photo of me and my family taken this past Mother's Day. Kayla is my daughter she is almost 11, Grant is my husband and Zach is my son and he is almost 12.
Kayla is the silly one, she makes me laugh with her goofiness and slapstick sense of humor. She also possesses an innate sense of discernment that I've never seen in a child her age. From the time she was a small child her instincts about other people were usually right on. Somehow God enlightened me to this and I have always tried to encourage her to trust her gut. She's a smart girl and I'm thankful that while young she already understands her instincts, and most of the time sticks by them.
Zach is much more cerebral and enjoys the process of how everything in this world fits together, for him life is a giant puzzle and he loves trying to figure out how the pieces fit. He has a dry wit and already recites lines from Monty Python with a deadpan that would give the "Knights that Say Nee" a run for their money. Zach feels emotion so deeply and has a tremendous degree of empathy. His heart hurts when he sees people do wrong and desires to set things right. His greatest strength is that he already knows how to be a good friend.
And then Grant...he is the love of my life, my soulmate and my best friend. I have loved him for as long as I can remember and every day I'm reminded by the gift our life is. He is quick witted, silly, intensely passionate about certain things and loves to have a good conversation. He also has an empathetic heart and enjoys relating to people, in fact that is probably one of my favorite qualities. He desires to have relationships with others, and will open his heart. I love that!
As we celebrated Mother's day this year I couldn't help but feel reflective about where we have been as a family and how far we have come these last four years. We have climbed mountains called: mental illness, financial crisis, sickness, separation among others and every time we thought we couldn't make it another step God stepped in and carried us. On Mother's Day two years ago I sat in the Larry's Market in Seattle with my two children, wondering where the future would lead, hoping my family would survive our latest challenge, never dreaming that God would not only help us climb the final mountain, he would carry us into an entirely different realm.
And so I look at this photo and I see a family that has beat seemingly impossible odds with God's help. I see a family that has been on the receiving end of God's grace and mercy. I see two parents who love each other and have fought the enemy head on to keep their family intact. I see two kids who are kind and loving, I see happiness on our faces and I feel relief.
Thank you God for restoring and renewing us, each and every day. Thank you for helping us as individuals to grow, change and trust in you.
Thank you God for making me a Mom and thank you for this family that means so much to me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Are you a nag?

I'm a nag. It's not debateable, it's truth and I'm willing to admit it. Now before you who know me best try to run quickly to my defense, there can be no, "Oh Allison, you're not a nag," or "Oh, don't be so hard on yourself," kind of talk allowed here. If those things are going through your head right now, you are going to miss my point. So...stop thinking that and take a breath. Now, keep reading.

I know many of us believe that if we didn't make requests or direct every single detail during the daily lives of our families and friends, nothing would ever get done. I find myself, like a lot of other mom's I know requesting, requesting, requesting, thinking that I'm just making a simple request, is that too much to ask? But when does a request turn into a nag? Probably when your son looks you in the face and says, "Mom, I get it now stop nagging me." Does that sound familiar to anyone? Hmm, well maybe or maybe it sounds like this from your husband, "Don't I always get it done on time?" Well, yes...but what do I do now?

I mean, if I stop making my "requests" that are actually making me into a nag, how do I know that what I've requested will actually happen? Worse yet, what if I stop nagging and actually have to trust that my request has been heard? Why is that so hard for us? Why do some of you right now, actually have anxiety pulsating through the blood in your veins? Because, we want what we want when we want it...we are nags.

Here's the thing...I don't think any of us want to believe that we are nags or what we are doing when we repeat our requests over and over again, is actually "nagging". And I know saying to yourself, "I'm a nag," doesn't sound great. But if you think about it and find yourself constantly requesting, requesting, requesting, it could be that what you are really doing is nagging. And no one likes a nag. So, what are you going to do about it?

Here is my "How Not to be a Nag" list...

12. Know that if you want something done and need help, it's okay to ask.
11. Know that your needs are important, sometimes we just have to communicate them.
10. Know that some things are outside your realm of control, some are within...figure out which realm your request is in and then proceed.
9. Be open and direct in making your request.
8. Don't have expectations that go unmentioned, that's not fair.
7. Make your request reasonable, and then trust the requestee to follow through.
6. If there is no follow through, check number 8 again, then communicate your feelings appropriately.
5. Know what triggers your shift from making requests to being a nag...resist them.
4. When you don't know what to say, don't say anything...wait.
3. When you do know what to say, then say it--and then let it go.
2. Believe the best about those people who love you, know they want what's best for you too.
1. Believe the best about yourself

Being a nag really boils down to our need for control. Once we know what our triggers are, we are on the road to recovery. So, I'm asking, Are you a nag?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trusting God

Sometimes when I'm alone and being very still I hear God speak. His words are so different from mine and I love the way they flow through me and around me, making themselves at home. A few years ago I was feeling very alone and fearful. Trust has always been challenging for me and it was during this season the Lord spoke to me. The book of Isaiah is one of my favorites and I had been studying Isaiah 26 quite a bit. I asked God all the time to make himself known to me in a way that I had never experienced before and to help me make this scripture passage a part of me.
Eventually, I heard him talk to me like he loved me, like I was important to him and that before I could ever really trust anyone starting with him would be a good idea. I hope as you read this, you will hear God speaking to you and these words will encourage you to put your faith and trust in him.

Isaiah 26:3 “You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.”

Beloved, you are my child and I love you. You are a blooming flower and I will care for you. I will be your nourishment and give you rest. I will provide for all of your needs and never will I leave your side. I have always been here, watching over you. Never have you been alone. When your heart was heavy I carried you. When you were frightened I comforted you. When you were hurt I hurt with you. When you cried I cried too. When you were joyful my heart was filled. When you had victory I had victory too.

Beloved, let my heart be your heart. Be one with me and know that I will always be here. Do not be distracted by the things of this world, but lean on me. Follow me and I will fill you up. My heart has always been filled with love for you, do not ever doubt. I am all around you, you are never really alone. When you confess that I am your King my heart rejoices, all I really want is to be one with you.

Oh my child, so long I have waited for you. It is I who makes your path straight. It is I who goes before you and comes behind you, hemming you in. It is I who stand against the evil forces that come against you. It is I who protect you and promise to never leave you or forsake you.

You are blinded by the things of this world. Filled with doubt and fear, wondering which way to turn. You are like a leaf blowing in the wind, turning this way and that, you who claim to be my follower, you who call me King. Where is your heart? This road I have laid out for you and this road I will walk with you. When you forget, I will pick up the pieces and put you together again. Do you not see how much I love you and want you for my own? I call you beloved because you are mine. I claimed you even before you were born. It is I who gives you perfect peace, and keeps your purpose firm; you only have to trust in me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

God's Order in Chaos

There are not many things we can control in this life. Sometimes bad things happen that send us freefalling into a dark black hole, making us wonder if we will ever be able to climb out. What you do when the bottom falls out can make all the difference.
The morning of August 16, 2005 I woke up feeling a familiar wave of sadness wash over me. My husband and I had been fighting, a lot. Just that morning he had gone on a business trip and I couldn’t help but feel relieved for the respite I would receive. We both had fresh wounds from the words we exchanged the night before and I felt exhausted by another sleepless night.
I was determined to make the best of the day and managed to check my email before my two 2nd graders bounded into the game room. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found when I clicked the minimized icons on the bottom of my screen. Pictures of coffins, tombstones and directions for burial covered my computer screen. Were these suicide clues? I couldn’t fathom what I was seeing and wanted to believe it was a joke. Fear wrapped its ugly tentacles around my heart as I plummeted into a cave of darkness. The bottom of my world had fallen out and I was falling fast into a realm that I only imagined in my nightmares. I had no idea what was happening but I knew that something terrible had begun.

Look Up
Jesus said, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”
When bad things happen we are assured of the promise from God himself, the fire will not burn us, the torrents of water will not sweep over us and the flames will not set us ablaze. No matter how frightening our situations seem we can take heart that God has us covered. When the bottom falls out of your world instead of looking down trying to figure out where you’re going to land, look up. Look up into the face of Jesus, cling to His truth. As you feel the cold hard walls close in on you, keep your eyes on the light at the top of the cave and wait. Watch for the mighty hand of the Lord who loves you and when He reaches out to you, grab hold and don’t let go.

Feel the Breeze
For an experienced skydiver freefalling is measured and calculated to the exact altitude. He jumps on purpose into the atmosphere, controlling his fall and lands without a scratch. He feels the breeze, knowing instinctively how far to fall. When we are in the midst of crisis it’s hard to imagine doing anything that makes sense. Even the most faithful give in to panic and desperation. Let’s face it, freefalling through crisis or tragedy is ugly and very painful. Our lives are in peril and we have no idea where we are going to land.
We might not have the luxury of controlling our fall when crisis comes but we do have the ability to reach out and place our trust in Jesus. He knows exactly how far our descent will be. He knows what we need to get us where He wants us to land. Sometimes feeling the breeze means we have to accept our situation. Sometimes we have to be in that moment in order to see what God intends, no matter how scary that might be.
We might not understand and maybe we never will. That’s okay. It’s for these challenges that God equips us. He has a plan and purpose and says clearly in Jeremiah 29:11 “I have plans to prosper you not to harm you.” Let the breeze blow over you and look up, trusting God to land you safely.

Expect the Chute
When a skydiver yanks the cord to open his chute a powerful force pulls the skydiver upward. His freefall has suddenly stopped. In that moment he is confident that the rest of his descent will be smooth and he operates the cords deftly as he floats to the ground. Freefalling for a sky diver is graceful, measured and calculated to the exact altitude. He has the luxury of controlling his descent.
When tragedy strikes there is nothing graceful about the fall we take. We desperately try to grab onto anything that will slow our drop, only making our situation worse.
God’s deliverance doesn’t always look like we think it should. But when we trust in God, and rely on him to navigate us through uncertain times we are sure to land gracefully, safely and with confidence. The skydiver places his trust in a man made parachute, but we as God’s children can trust in Him to be our chute. When times get tough we can believe with assurance that our chute will open. We can expect it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Christian Broadcasting Network

Hey Everyone! Part of my last post: "A Letter From God" is being featured in a devotional today on CBN.com. Here is the link: http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/devotions/markins_letgodspeak.aspx

Thank you Diane for promoting this...I appreciate you!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Letter From God

On the last night of Glorieta Christian Writing Conference, I was praying and having some very intimate time with the Lord. The following are the words He laid on my heart that night and I came across them in my journal today. I think they are meant to share, I pray your heart will be touched.

My precious child,

I am here. You are not alone. I have held you in my hands for all of the days of your life. I will move mightily and you will be amazed. Do not fear, do not doubt, trust in me and know that I am God. Be patient, I am working things you will never understand, and I am.

Dear one, turn your heart to me, and remember that I am not against you. I find you in my favor and because of where you are I will be able to move mountains. Do not question me, but allow me to work in my way in my timing.

I saved you from the darkness; I pulled you out of the pit. I have a plan for you. You are mine. Because I love you I am working, though you cannot see it, I am working. Though you doubt I am in this, you must remember that it is because of me that you can do all things. I am your God, you are my child. I AM.

Proclaim me to all, I want you to speak of me, I want you to shout from the rooftops how I have moved mountains for you. I want you to put no other Gods before me, I want you to declare yourself mine, let there be no prideful arrogance in you. Confess your frustrations and worries to me; lay them at my feet and trust me to carry them for you.

I bless you with many gifts and talents; I have a purpose and a plan for this new life I have given you. You may not understand it now, and I know you are very capable, but it is because of me you are capable. Dear child of mine, do you think you are alone? Do you believe I have forsaken you, search your heart and you will find me in ways you have never thought possible. Search your heart, and know what I am doing. Search your heart my child, know that I am creating a new life in you; a life worth living.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Courtesy...

I've titled this post "A Courtesy" but what exactly does that mean? The concept can be subjective and open to anyone's interpretation. For the sake of this post I'm referring to courtesy is something that is offered to someone else. For example, if you know you're going to be late for a meeting do you call ahead to let them know you're running behind? Or if you are invited to a function do you reply quickly? You would be offering a courtesy to those people waiting for you at your meeting if you made that quick informative phone call, or if you let the host of the function know right away if you're planning to attend. These are simple acts of courtesy that I enjoy receiving.

What does courtesy look like to you? Is it a helpful person holding the door open, or a service agent on the phone politely helping you through your bank statement, or perhaps it's another driver in a car allowing you to scoot in front of them in a traffic jam. I love when someone holds the door for me or a polite service person works patiently with me. I also enjoy when I'm invited to participate in a function, perhaps to speak or facilitate and I'm given the appropriate information upfront so that I can prepare.

We all know what it's like to be on the receiving end of discourteous or even rude people. No one likes that. One time I was visiting the new Nordstroms here in San Antonio and was working with a salesperson who would receive commission for my purchases. When it came time to check out we walked to the counter and he began to process my bill. He politely chatted with me while adding up my bill until the phone rang.

Now, we have to stop here for just a second because this is an issue that goes way back to when I was a customer service person at Nordstrom. We were trained to never answer the phone if we were waiting on a customer. To be fair, I don't know if their policy has changed but in any case for me old habits die hard. My sales clerk stopped working on my order and while I'm standing right in front of him proceeded to answer the phone, take another person's order and actually left the counter while explaining to me that whoever it was on the phone had an urgent need and he would be right back.
I stood there sort of dumbfounded, stunned really and watched him walk away. Hmmm, that in my opinion is the perfect picture of someone being discourteous. He could have easily finished my order and sent me on my way, allowing himself the freedom to work on whatever urgent need the person on the phone call had.
More recently I was asked to speak at a function and I pressed the coordinator repeatedly for the date, time and details of what I was going to be speaking on. It took three emails, and three different people to finally be told the date of the event and wouldn't you know it, I had a previous engagement.

So, I share these little things about offering courtesy because it is just such an important thing. As I raise my children one of the tenents of my parenting is to speak with politeness and to treat each other with respect, offering courtesy whenever we have the chance. We all want to be treated fairly and with courtesy and so it's important to remember and maintain what courtesy looks like to us so that we in turn can offer it to others.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Qualities That Speak of God

One of my favorite Christian writers is John Eldredge. I love the way his writing makes me feel like God really understands who I am and what I was meant for. He and his wife have written a beautiful book called Captivating. It captures the essence of woman, what she was made for and how God views her. After reading this book I felt confirmation that God truly does pursue me, desire me and find me worthy. Here is an excerpt from Captivating...

Qualities That Speak of God
April 8, 2009

Can there be any doubt that God wants to be sought after? The first and greatest of all commands is to love him (Mark 12:29–30; Matt. 22:36–38). He wants us to love him. To seek him with all our heart. A woman longs to be sought after, too, with the whole heart of her pursuer. God longs to be desired. Just as a woman longs to be desired. This is not some weakness or insecurity on the part of a woman, that deep yearning to be desired. God feels the same way. Remember the story of Martha and Mary? Mary chose God, and Jesus said that was what he wanted. “Mary has chosen what is better” (Luke 10:42). She chose me. Life changes dramatically when romance comes into our lives. Christianity changes dramatically when we discover that it, too, is a great romance. That God yearns to share a life of beauty, intimacy, and adventure with us. “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). This whole world was made for romance—the rivers and the glens, the meadows and the beaches. Flowers, music, a kiss. But we have a way of forgetting all that, losing ourselves in work and worry.
Eve—God’s message to the world in feminine form—invites us to romance. Through her, God makes romance a priority of the universe. So God endows Woman with certain qualities that are essential to relationship, qualities that speak of God. She is inviting. She is vulnerable. She is tender. She embodies mercy. She is also fierce and fiercely devoted. As the old saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” That’s just how God acts when he isn’t chosen. “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god!” (Ex. 20:5 NLT). A woman’s righteous jealousy speaks of the jealousy of God for us. Tender and inviting, intimate and alluring, fiercely devoted. Oh yes, our God has a passionate, romantic heart. Just look at Eve. (Captivating , 29–30)
Don't you love that? Did you have any idea that our relationship with God is part of a great romance?

Monday, March 30, 2009

You're Gonna Miss This

You're Gonna Miss This
by Trace Adkins
You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back,
You're gonna wish those days
hadn't gone by so fast.
These are some good times,
So take a good look around.
You may not know it now,
but
You're gonna miss this...
This is one of my favorite songs right now. It captures a sentiment that I think many of us quickly sweep over as we go about our days. We don't take the time to really experience the here and now, instead we wish for the future. We are dissatisfied with the present, and so we focus on something else, wishing for something different instead of relishing every single moment we have right now.
When Zach and Kayla were little I was admittedly exhausted, weary and irritable a lot. Any mom can tell you that having two toddlers at the same time is a full time job and there isn't a lot of energy left to handle much more. Zach and Kayla were almost exactly a year apart. They are in fact one year and ten days apart. When Kayla was born Zach was not walking, still taking a bottle and had just dropped the 4am feeding. The first few months of Kayla's life are a blur, there aren't as many photos of her as there are of Zach during this time; probably because the camera was buried beneath the mountain of diapers we went through.
I remember Zach was ready to drop his nap but I wasn't ready so he had quiet time in his crib while Kayla slept. That turned into my sanity time...usually I collapsed on the couch and fell asleep just in time for one of them to wake up, needing me again.
As much as I remember being exhausted and crabby during that time, I also remember the joy of holding my sweet babies when they woke from their naps. I remember holding them and smelling their sweet smell. I remember giving them raspberries on their chubby tummies, and bath time, reading Good Night Moon at bedtime and praying over them when they went to sleep.
I remember wanting to soak them up because every single day they changed. They crawled, they walked, they ran...and now they are so big that to hold them on my lap I have to be on the couch so it's big enough.
Where does the time go? Why does it go so fast? And how can I keep from wishing I could go back and do it all again?
Yes, I miss those days, I want them back but I know there is no turning back the clock. So, every day I'm going to try and soak them up because before I know it...they'll be adults with their own families wondering the very same thing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Some Things I Love...

The sound of the ocean crashing on the beach.
Riding on the back of a Harley Davidson smelling the scent of fresh jasmine mixed with the sounds of spring.

Standing at the top of a ski hill charting my course, and then the thrill of adrenaline as it
races through my veins on my way down.
A long slow kiss.
Holding hands.
Playing catch.

Smelling fresh cut grass in the early morning on the back porch of my parents’ house in Yakima.
Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, shared with a very good friend
Really powerful Praise and Worship that moves me to tears.
Classical music, chocolate and a really great glass of red wine.


Listening to my children giggle while they tickle each other, begging the other person to stop.


A deep, intelligent conversation that exemplifies two people understanding each other.
The look on someone’s face when they have an “Aha” moment
The smell of suntan lotion mixed with salt water.
Movie trivia.
Drinking my morning coffee on the patio of Playa Grande, watching the sun come up.
Dancing.
A really good book that has a mixture of suspense, heart ache, resolution and not necessarily the ending I would choose.

A great pedicure, the kind that includes at least 30 minutes of foot massaging.
When a friend understands my heart, doesn’t try and change it but accepts me for who I am unconditionally.
Holding a sleeping baby that smells like powder.
Making the front of my body curve with the back of Grant’s while he’s asleep so that I can feel his heart beat.

Kayla's smile.
Building a really cool sand castle.
Cooking an awesome Italian dinner that leaves everyone asking for more.
Talking with my Dad, Mom and my siblings.
When someone believes in me.
Letting someone else go in front of me in line at the grocery store, they are always so surprised.
Feeling the tightness in my chest the signals a really good cardio workout.
Listening to Grant and Zach talk to each other…like two kids.


Making a first impression in fresh fallen snow.




What are some things you love?

Friday, March 20, 2009

One of my weaknesses.

One of my biggest weaknesses is shame. That might sound funny but I've learned that it can rear it's ugly head in all different ways. It washes over me in an instant when I least expect it. Maybe a strange look from someone, or an invitation I offer that falls flat or in my relationships when people try and care for me. Oh, that's the hardest one, to receive care from someone else is hard because it means that I'm vulnerable.

I struggled for years any time I would get sick, feeling like I was a burden. It wouldn't matter what ailment I had, the stomach flu, a cold, simple sniffles or healing from childbirth; I always felt like a failure somehow and believed that if only I could will myself towards healing all would be right with the world again. I think many times early in our marriage Grant tried to care for me but for some reason I couldn't accept it. I remember one time in particular I was sick with the stomach flu and he wanted to help me while I was vomiting. Even though my heart cry was to be on the receiving end of his show of compassion, my head screamed, "No way, you can't let him see you like this."
Now that I'm older I realize this mind set was deeply embedded in my way of being. The root of my resistance to being cared for was shame. After a healing class for women who had been sexually abused I began to see that I was worth being cared for. It took awhile but the old patterns began to fall away. I began to believe that I didn't have to be strong and perfect all the time and was in fact worthy of being cared for, especially when I was sick. Grant never stopped trying to care for me and I'm happy to say that now I can receive it. Thank you God!

If you are in the San Antonio area and want more information about the Healing Hearts class at Community Bible Church please email me.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What's Your Mind Set?

There's a scene in the movie Mr. Mom where Michael Keaton is driving the carpool to school for the first time. He plows his paneled station wagon into the carpool line, mowing down traffic cones, oblivious to the astonished stares all around. He is a man on a mission, confident in his new position as carpool driver extraordinaire. When a concerned parent knocks on his window, he looks up at her as she announces loudly, "You're doing it wrong!"
That scene always brings a smile to my face...especially the part where you see his kids sink lower in their seats to avoid being seen by the other kids. How many times have you had the thought, "I must be doing this wrong?" I know I have had that thought more times than I can count. I've spent years wondering how to shift my focus from what I'm doing wrong to what I'm doing right.

Recently I started examining my mind set and began to see that my brain was in a rut that kept me from fulfilling my potential. In fact, this mind set was keeping me stuck in the negative belief that I was always doing things wrong. It was time for a perspective shift... but how?
I made a list of all the times throughout the day I felt defeated or had any pang of self doubt. In the beginning it was amazing to see all the ways I was beating myself up.

I decided to take one topic from the list and began to affirm myself in that area. Instead of telling myself there was no way I was going to be able to run three miles, I began to immerse myself in anything that would encourage me to believe I could run three miles. I read magazines, I looked at articles online, I even bought some new workout clothes. All of these things served as reminders of my goal to shift my mind set from believing I couldn't do it, to a much more positive outlook that said, "I know I can do it!" It worked and after awhile I did run three miles and then eventually went on to run some three mile races.

If you feel like your brain is in a rut consider asking yourself, "What is my mind set?" And how is this way of thinking keeping me from fulfilling my dreams and goals? Once you've identified your mind set, ask yourself, 'What do I want to change about this mind set? And then set a tangible goal, that will allow you to measure your progress like a check list or a chart. Or find a friend who will help encourage you out of your rut and into a more postive way of being.

Grace and Peace!
Ally

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It's time for socks!

February 3, 2009

Ahh, sweet February. I love this month. Not only because it’s short and has a lover’s holiday right in the middle but also because it signals to me the very essence of winter. Images of snow covered plains, frozen ponds and freezing temperatures float through my brain as I imagine what it would be like if I didn’t live in South Texas where it’s sixty degrees in the middle of February. Before we moved to Texas we spent a few years in Salt Lake City where the snow fell with force and I routinely had to dig my car out.

In South Texas flip flops can be worn year round but when the temperatures fall, watch out, the winter girl in me takes over and I wear socks. I decided a few years ago that if it wasn’t going to snow, or even freeze once in awhile I was going to treat myself to some fancy socks to remind me of what winter is usually like. What I found was a great way to give a gift to myself and I didn’t even realize it.
I have my own personal sock store. I know the complete inventory and rely on my own stocking system to figure out which socks will warm my feet every day. In fact my sock drawer is overflowing…with socks of all different colors, textures and fabrics.

I can’t help it, I’m a winter girl and even though you might be shaking you head wondering if I’m a little bit crazy, I know that my enthusiasm for socks is one of the little ways I can treat myself on a cold winters day. A little pick me up, if you will. Socks do for me in the dead of winter what sunscreen and a swimming pool do in the summer. They make me smile and make me feel like I’ve done something nice for myself. Definitely important ingredients for a quick little pick me up.

Sock wearing might seem simple but I’m curious…do you know what gives you that little extra hit of excitement or motivation when the whether outside has gotten you down? Or maybe when it’s been a long day at work and you are utterly exhausted? What do you do for yourself when you need a little zest? If it feels like you are running on empty and tired of the gray skies and frigid temperatures, it might be time to find a way to invest a little zest into your day. Consider asking yourself the following:

How can I pamper myself today?
What sounds like fun?
If I had five extra minutes what would I do?

For more information on how to give yourself a little zest visit my website: www.resurrectedgirl.com and contact me for your free 30 minute consultation.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hairspray and humidity don't mix!

I'm going to confess something right now that I've never admitted to anyone, although if you know me at all you've already picked up on this idiosyncracy...I love hairspray. Not the cheap $2.00 kind you get at the drug store but the really fancy expensive stuff. My favorite is from the Aveda Store, the Witch Hazel Light Hold. It is supposed to, "add light hold, reduce static and eliminate flyways for all hair types." Wow, how can you go wrong with an endorsement like that? So I buy it. It's not cheap but after trying all the other bargain brands, when I'm feeling like I can't justify $18 a bottle, I always come around again.

I've discovered that living in South Texas does not mix with my hairspray addiction. Yes, it is an addiction and someone needs to come up with a 12 step class to over come, but I digress here. Being from the North, Washington State to be exact, hairspray is really a must. Because the air is dry and the weather cool using hairspray allows for just the right amount of control, static reduction and really controls the flyaways. One would think that the same product would work all over the country, not so.

One of the terribly humid mornings that are common in San Antonio I was fixing my hair. I blew it straight, flat ironed it and then scrunched and tugged as I applied a light covering of spray. Very satisfied with the result, "Somebody take my picture, cuz I'm looking good," crossed my brain as I headed out to run some errands. A little heat and humidity wasn't going to stop me. I ran back to the bathroom for another quick spritz and off I went.

I floated from errand to errand, enjoying the time to window shop and crossed things off my to do list at the same time. I stepped into the dressing room at one store and happened to glance at myself in the mirror as I slipped on some shorts. Gasp! What had happened?? Gone was the perfectly coiffed hair that I had so carefully spritzed and flat ironed only a few hours before. In it's place was a perfectly shaped blonde helmet that moved in uniform when I began to tug on the pieces in a vain attempt to re-do my do. Every strand of hair was cemented together by the "light hold" spray mixed with the moist, humid air. The humidity had completely glued my blonde locks together and now they resembled an 80's wig that my mom used to wear. Nice!