Monday, October 17, 2011

Travel Light

It's a borrowed thought, but I found it tremendously encouraging and wanted to share...

A young lady confidently paced around a room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience.  She carried a raised glass of water, and everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question: "Half empty or half full?" 

"How heavy is this glass of water?", she inquired with a smile. Her audience was perplexed.  Answers were called out from around the room and ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

"That's the way it is with stress," she continued.  "If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on.

As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden – holding stress longer and better each time. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night. Pick them up tomorrow.

Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment. Relax, pick them up later after you've rested."

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. ~ Psalm 68:19

Thursday, October 6, 2011


We've all seen them.  Status updates that make you go, "huh?"  These open-to-interpretation posts have even warrented an entry into the urban dictionary:

Vaguebook (noun): An intentionally vague or one-worded status update, alluding to something else. This could be an inside joke, or anything meant for only a few people. More simply, it could be a plea for someone to comment.

Examples: Mark "is wondering if it is all worth it," Tom "decides to let go," Leila “should have not done it, now feels really guilty," Amy "loves it when a plan comes together."

Whether the intent is playful or protective, the end result is the same:  the reader baited into commenting, while knowing full well they're firmly on the outside looking in. 
I wonder if church-speak comes across that way to people.  If the specialized words we use just leave listeners going "Huh?"  "What does that even mean?"  or "I must have missed something."  It reminds me of that moment in A Bug's Life when Princess Dot gives Flick a pebble.  It's a highly personal moment, but the circus bugs just dismiss it thinking "It must be an ant thing."
And like the majority of Facebook readers, I think people are more likely to be annoyed than to get engaged.  If it's a private thing and you don't want to share, then don't put it out there for your web of friends to see.  And if you do want your joy doubled or your burden halved...give your friends enough information for a proper response!  But leaving folks in that awkward space of knowing but not knowing is just...well...awkward. 
Peter encouraged the early church to be prepared to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15).  My hope shouldn't be vague.  Neither should my source of help when I'm struggling. 
I realized that I've been sharing my faith this way.  Somewhere along the line, my Christ-centric language has morphed into something vaguer.  It struck me that I have been choosing my words in a way that could be interpreted through many spiritual lenses, justifying the practice by saying that I don't want listeners to have a hostile reaction to the J-word or that I want to start my conversation in neutral ground in hopes of embarking on a grander dialogue.  And maybe it's not wrong per se, and maybe it doesn't leave people annoyed the way that vaguebooking might, but it does seem to dilute what God is doing in my life (whether encouraging or convicting).

Dr. Seuss would have something to say to that:  "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
So I'm making a conscious effort to give honor where honor is due.  To be transparent with just exactly where my hope comes from.  I don't want to leave anyone on the outside looking in.  I want them to rejoice with me, to see where I'm growing, and to discover for themselves what a difference Jesus can make.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


[God's] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Ephesians 3:10-11

Manifold wisdom.

The first thing that popped into my head was the phrase "drive manifold."  I imagined this as a safe sphere that covers the moving parts of an engine.  Not exactly true, but on the right track. 

A manifold is a pipe fitting with several outlets for connecting one pipe with others; or a fitting on an internal combustion engine for directing the fuel and air mixture to several cylinders (or receiving the exhaust gases from them).  And it can describe a sphere. *whew*

I love the picture of God's wisdom being a safe sphere that covers the working gears of our life.  Of his wisdom connecting things together. 

And for as much as this wisdom makes our lives better, it's not just for our benefit.  The love story God is telling for us, is also a story he's telling with us.

What a thought.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


A short thought today.  It struck me why I love Spock so much.

He's a child of two worlds, and he's constantly trying to find the balance between both of them.

I feel the sting in the bully's taunt: You're neither human nor Vulcan, and therefore have no place in this universe.

Because I often I feel that way

I feel the conflict between the earthly way and the heavenly way.  I know what Paul means when he says, "The flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other" (Galatians 5:17).  I think there's a deep truth in the statement "We're not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a physical experience."  (I can't remember who said that originally, but I hear it from Steve Hall all the time.)

Like Spock, there's just no escaping it.  I'm a child of two worlds.  But could you imagine if Spock completely shut off his human side to be fully Vulcan?  Or if he completely denied his Vulcan side to be fully human?  He just wouldn't work.

Neither would I.

Thank goodness we both have support.

"As always, whatever you choose to be, you will have a proud mother." ~ Amanda Grayson

"You will always be a child of two worlds. I am grateful for this, and for you." ~ Sarek

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


During the last Men's World Cup, the Irish pub near my house promised to show every game live.  But since the games took place during the work day, they also recorded each game to re-play them in the evening.  Isn't that nice of them?  I thought so.

One evening (I believe it was a Sunday), I decided to head over to watch the replay of the Germany game.  I was greeted by a mostly empty restaurant, except for some extremely excited basketball fans who were gathered in the bar area. 

I got the head bartender's attention and asked if he could put the Germany game on on the TVs in the far side of the room.  He quickly agreed.  And as he was getting me set up with game-time fare (The Sunday night special was peel-and-eat shrimp. Yum!), we shared this brief conversation:

"Do you know the score?"
"Cool.  I'll just let you enjoy it. It's a great game"

That was that.  I settled in and enjoyed the game.  Every once in a while the bartender would walk by.  He would chat about the tournament or comment about an exciting play.  He even skipped over the halftime break, giving me 90 minutes of straight soccer.  But he never gave anything away.  He let me enjoy everything as it happened.  It was divine.

Interesting side note:  I didn't watch the whole game by myself.  The soccer game acted like a magnet, drawing all the Europeans in Annapolis to my little section of the pub.  Several accents were represented, and it was quite a fun phenomenon to behold.

There's nothing like watching a live game.  The drama.  The suspense.  The conflict.  The triumph (or defeat).  They're so much more poignant because each moment is history being made.

In a way, I'm are like a DVR -- replaying the hope I've found and the story I've lived. But sometimes I get ahead of myself and give away the ending.

Or other times, when I meet people who are on a faith journey, I feel like someone who's already seen the game (because I've been loving and walking with Jesus for a long time).  So I want to tie all the bows, connect all the dots, and share the highlights before they've had a chance to see them.

But giving away the ending robs them the joy of the journey.  I could compare also it to taking away the wonder of a child's revelation.  "Did you know in the Southern Hemisphere Summer and Winter are switched?"  Bad answer:  "Ummm...yeah."  Good answer:  "Wow, that's pretty cool!" 

The best thing I can do is just let things unfold in the proper time.

Peter said, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15).  I want to take his charge seriously, but I think I could take a lesson from my bartender. 

Clean off a table.  Be ready to talk about the tournament, to share the excitement of a good play, or the outrage of a bad one.  But don't give anything away.  I don't need to over explain. I don't need to tie all the bows. 

I just have to live my story.  To let it play and allow people to experience everything (my story and theirs), in its fullness, it as it happens.

"Do you know the score?"
"Cool.  I'll just let you enjoy it.  It's a great game."

May I have the same wisdom.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bieber Hair

It was my second concert with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra.  I was nervous because this was the first time I had been with the orchestra for a full concert session -- from first practice until performance day.  (My first concert I snuck in halfway though the process.)  I got to the venue super early and perched myself in the back of the horn section...hoping to blend in to the folding chairs until someone arrived to give more direction as to how I could help get ready.

After a few minutes, one of the french horn players arrived.  I had this dialogue in my head:  "Should I leave?  I'm totally in his section?  Should I try to make small talk?  We've never really chatted before.  His name with an 'M" I think. Quick!  Think of something clever and Regina-like to say!"  But before I could settle on any opening words, his face got an "oh my goodness" kind of look and he leaned in and asked, "Is that Justin Bieber?"


I followed the direction of his gaze.  Sure enough, there was a very-tall-for-his-age middle schooler sporting Justin Bieber's signature hair.  Employing the clever tactics of semi-whispering and significant look-giving, we spent the rest of the afternoon counting the Bieber look-alikes.  (Little did I know this exchange would signal the beginning of a very close and quirky friendship.)  In an audience of about 50, we counted five.  I make no claims to the thoroughness of our search.  We were also playing music at the time.  But five out of 50 certainly seemed like a high Justin/non-Justin ratio.  They were everywhere!

Later that night, I was leafing through the sheet music that lives in a half-organized pile on the top of my piano.  Somewhere near the bottom, I happened across the song "And they'll know we are Christians by our love."

It struck me that our love should be as noticable and distinctive as Justin Bieber's hair.  That when I walk into a room, people who have nothing else in common should notice the Jesus in me.  Even if they can't exactly name it, it should show.  (Who has swoopy hair like that?  Isn't there some kid who sings or something?) 

I'm sure those kids that day didn't have naturally occurring Bieber hair.  I'm sure they had to use any number of creative techniques to get the look right.  And I wonder how many of them had to wait for their hair to grow a bit longer, anticipating the awaited day when they could pull off Justin's signature swoop. 

Walking in love takes effort and intention too.  It doesn't just happen. 

But the person I'm imitating should should be as obvious as the hair on my head.  In fact, it should show on all of us.
They'll know we are Christians by our love.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I love Po.  I love that he's imperfect and clumsy, and that his belly makes an awesome "boing" sound whenever it gets hit.

I also love that he doesn't turn into a flawless kung fu fighter. He has brilliant moments. But right after doing something fully awesome, he's just as likely to mess up again.

I can relate to that.

But what I love most about Po. In a word: "Skadoosh."

This is a word that only shows up once in each Kung Fu Panda movie.  At the end of the first movie, when Po discovers his self confidence, and in a battle during the second movie when Po has his first moment of peace with his heritage.

No one sees it coming because Po is an average guy.  His belly gets in the way.  He wrestles with these things.  He's a slow learner.

But I found myself mulling over that extra "something" in those scenes. The bit of faith.

It may be brought on by the inconvenient pressure of being the person caught between the rock and the hard place.  Or the acceptance that good, bad, or ugly, this is what you've got to fight with and the bad guy is right there so you're as ready as you're going to be.  Or the inspiration that comes from knowing you're a part of a fight worth fighitng.   Or maybe just the clicking into place of the wisdom people have been trying to tell you all along.  Maybe a little bit of all that.

But that bit of faith makes all the difference.

Deep breath.  Skadoosh.

That's why I love Po. 

(Well, that and his belly.  I do love his sound-effect-laden belly.)

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. ~ Matthew 17:20

Friday, July 1, 2011


- - - HALF OF 2011 IS GONE - - - -

So declares a daily email I recieve from a friend.  Don't worry, the daily message also includes a quote, a ponderable, a jeopardy question, a word of the day, and list of notable events that happened on this day in history.  So it's not all gloom and doom.

For whatever reason, I thought about all the half-baked ideas I have floating in my head.  You know those little snippets that will one day grow up to be blog posts?  I have a few laying around.  (Several are scrawled on post-it notes that reside on my bedside table. I'm very high-tech that way.  Now that I think about it...some are currently serving as bookmarks in the pile of books that also lives on/beside/around my bedside table.  Poor things.  They deserve better.)

As a perfectionist and an overanalyzer, I tend to hold onto these ideas for a very long time.  I need to get back in the habit of just writing.  Letting it out while the ideas are fresh.  So I think July will be about sharing my snippets...even if they are half baked.

Stay tuned.

P.S. - For those of you who are curious about the contents of my morning email.
  • "He who lets time rule him will live the life of a slave." John Arthorne
  • Why are they called hemorrhoids – shouldn’t they be called asteroids?
  • Jeopardy category: Shall we play a game? $1000 Answer: Four of these “Hungry” animals compete to “eat” as fast as possible in a “frantic marble munching game”.
  • Word of the day: Supposititious \suh-pah-zuh-TISH-us\   adjective 
    • 1a : fraudulently substituted : spurious b : of a child (1) : falsely presented as a genuine heir (2) : illegitimate
    • 2a : imaginary b : of the nature of or based on a supposition : hypothetical
  • On this day in history:
    • 1863 - American Civil War: the Battle of Gettysburg begins.
    • 1904 - Games of the III Olympiad open in Saint Louis, Missouri.
    • 1963 - ZIP Code introduced for United States mail.
    • 1979 - Sony introduces the Walkman.
    • 1980 – “O Canada” officially becomes the national anthem of Canada.
    • 1987 - Excavation begins on the Channel Tunnel.
    • 1999 - At the first meeting of the Scottish Parliament in nearly three centuries, Winnie Ewing opened with the famous words, "The Scottish Parliament, adjourned on the 25th day of March in the year 1707, is hereby reconvened."
You're welcome. *grin*

Friday, June 10, 2011


This deep thought is brought to you by my morning commute.

I'm a rule-following driver. With as much time as I spend on the road, I feel I have to be. I want my unconscious habits to be ones that are keeping our crazy roadways as safe as possible.

On this particular morning, I was in a middle traveling lane, passing slower traffic on my right.  A car pulled uncomfortably close to me, then used the far left lane to swerve around me, barely clearing both my back then front bumpers as it dodged both my car and those in the "fast lane" to get past.  Pretty typical stuff for the metropolitan area.

What grated my nerves is that the offending driver was a policeman.  Talking on a cell phone no less.

This is one of my pet peeves.  If I drove like that, I would be pulled over in a heartbeat and handed a fair number of driving violations.  But in the past few weeks I've encountered several police drivers acting like this one -- little more than careless bullies.  This one was just icing on my commuting cake.

I allowed my annoyance to flare this driver.  How unfair!  How unjust!  You're supposed to be upholding the rules and setting an example, not disregarding them and flaunting/hiding behind a uniform.  I don't know who you are, but I know what you're supposed to stand for and represent.

Out of the clear blue came the thought:  That's just like a "Christian" who's being un-Christ-like.

Why oh why does that still small voice have to turn my anger around and back to me?

The annoyance, anger and frustration I felt at that driver:  I imagine that's just how others feel when they see someone who is supposed to be loving, patient, kind, peaceful, joyful, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled... acting anything but.

Dear Lord,
          Open my eyes.  How often do I turn a blind eye to my own actions, justifying my own bending of the rules when I would be quick to hand out citations? How often am I distracted by my own worries and completely clueless to how my driving is affecting others? Am I upholding the laws I've pledged to follow? 
          Help me.  Help me to be a be a good example.  Not because I have any more or less authority than others, but because I've chosen to carry this mantle and to make your name glorious.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


This is what I read on my lunch break today...

When I was in high school, I seriously considered joining the Marines; this was when they first came out with the commericals for "the few, the proud, the Marines." What turned me off was that in those advertisements, everyone was always running.  Always.  And I hate running.

But you know what? I didn't bother to ask if they would modify the rules for me so I could run less, and maybe also do fewer push-ups. That would've been pointless and stupid, and I knew it.  Everyone knows that if you sign up for the Marines, you have to do whatever they tell you.  They own you.

Somehow this realization does not cross over to our thinking about the Christian life.  Jesus didn't say that if you wanted to follow Him you could do it in a lukewarm manner.  He said, "Take up your cross and follow me."
Crazy Love, Francis Chan, page 80

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Mental battles.  Aren't they the greatest?  I recently found myself fighting a big one.  Epic.  It was keeping me up at night and dominating all my quiet moments. 

Long story short, I was completely over-analyzing a situation.  I was deconstructing all of my words and actions, and wondering how people interpreted them.  Did they read things this way?  That way?  Sideways?  I hope they didn't read it that way.  Or *that* way.  Yikes.  What if they did?  I bet they did.  I bet they're angry / hurt / suspicious / disgusted / disappointed.  I bet they think I'm a horrible person. I bet.... the downward, fearful spiral was out of control. 

Do you ever have a memory so vivid you can almost hear it out loud? In the middle of my mental hurricane, I suddenly heard my father's voice:  "If you tell goin' by on a gallopin' horse..."

I was nine years old, helping my Dad finish our basement.  We were working on cutting paneling for the wall at the base of the stairs.  I was as much of a perfectionist then as I am now.  And I was getting really... um... specific... (and frustrated) with this one line in the wall. 

Dad: It's fine. Grandpa used to tell me "If you can't tell goin' by on a gallopin' horse, it doesn't matter."
Me: *pointing out the obvious flaw in his statement* But you couldn't even see this from a galloping horse.
Dad:  Exactly.
Me:  Oh. *insert mental click here* 

Those words brought peace to my storm.  They snapped me out of my fearful spiral and allowed me a moment of clarity to remember that I spoke and acted the way I always would -- from a clean, sincere, loving heart. 
Suddenly all those condemning thoughts were miraculously silenced.
Sometimes details are important.  But sometimes being wrapped up in tiny imperfections is just counterproductive.  And I don't think there's ever a time when it's useful to worry about things I don't know or can't control.   
"If you can't tell goin' by on a gallopin' horse..."
Thanks Dad.  I needed to hear that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Ever since the speakers in my car decided they'd had enough, the times I spend in my car have become wonderful periods of reflection.  During one such time (driving home in the wee hours of the morning after watching Game 6 of the Red Wings / Blackhawks series), I had an epiphany.  Maybe because it's Stanley Cup season and I always have hockey on the brain.  Maybe it's because I feel guilty for not having a "word of the year."  I don't know.  But that morning I realized: 

I'm totally having "Cleary" kind of year.

I like Danny Cleary.  I've liked him ever since I was introduced to the wonderful sport of hockey.  He isn't a headliner like Zetterburg or Franzen.  He's not a living legend like Lidstrom or Datsyuk.  He's just a hardworking grinder who gets things done.  His work ethic is bar none.  He's a heart and soul player who truly loves his team. Every once in a while he gets to come into the spotlight, but most of the time Cleary's contributions are behind the scenes.  
My schedule hasn't really stopped since I came back from Uganda.  I have a highlight or two in there, but most of the time I've just been grinding away at everyday life.   (I suppose they don't call it the daily grind for nothing.)  It's been demanding.  But I'm taking a lesson from hockey.  Sometimes, it's those things that go on beneath the radar that make all the difference. 

Since it's graduation season, I'm seeing "11"s everywhere.  So perhaps it's no accident that 2011 should be a Cleary year for me.  Now that I've seen it, I want to embrace it -- to put my heart and soul in everything I do and attack this year with a work ethic that would make Dan Cleary proud.

Monday, April 18, 2011


“There is no effect more disproportionate to its cause than the happiness bestowed by a small compliment." ~ Robert Brault

This morning, I fired up my blog reader and saw this post by my friend Jen: "Hot Dogs."  As soon as I read the title, I wondered to myself, "Do they have any hot dogs left from the batch I was able to bring in January?"  Sure enough, they do!  And not only are they being enjoyed by Jen and her family, but by their friends too.  I can't tell you how happy her post made me.

But my reader wasn't finished with me yet.  A few entries later I saw a post by my friend Marie: "Simplify."  Just seeing the picture in her post made me smile, and then I got to read the rest of it too.

Don't laugh at me, but after reading those two posts this morning, I was trying not to cry in my little work cubicle.  I was having one of "those" days.  A day when I was questioning, and wondering, and just trying to keep the rhythm going.  We all have those days.  Two little "thank you"s turned it all around.  They quietly shouted to me that my life is leaving the kind of ripples of which I can be very proud. 

Jen, made my day.  Thank you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Have you ever experienced a craving?  Like coffee in the morning?  Chicken soup on a cold night?  French fries when you're on a diet? Cravings like that just latch onto your mind and don't let go.  They needle at you.  Growing more and insistent until you everything you see starts looking and smelling like the thing you're craving you finally just have to cave and give in.  The object of your affection leaves you little choice.

When I was in Uganda, I had the privilege of leading a youth group meeting.  Kenna suggested that I open the discussion time by asking everyone to give their name and an answer to a silly question.  I thought that was a pretty good idea, so I did.  My question:  "What is your favorite junk food."  The topic was fresh in our minds since I had brought two suitcases of junk food with me.  (No, that's not an exaggeration.) 

I casually listened to several of the responses, and then one of my new friends said the magic word.  "Brownies."  Suddenly, after all my careful preparation, my mind was distracted.  Brownies.  Mmmmm.  Delicious. 

All through the rest of the lesson, I had had a picture of a brownie in the back of my head.  Of course, when I picture brownies they are usually accompanied by ice cream.  And peanut butter.  And whipped cream.  But that's beside the point.  I could *almost* hear the crunch of a corner piece as it gives way to the soft and chewy center.  My taste buds were in that place where actual taste is just beyond their reach but so close they can't help but water.  Are you getting the picture?

Needless to say we made brownies later that night.

And when we did, they were delectable.  The fulfillment of a craving is a beautiful thing.  After all that longing and dreaming and working and waiting and smelling...when the brownie finally made contact, time stopped for a minute.  I closed my eyes and sighed a little sigh of happiness and contentment.  You know the one.

That's the picture I get when I read: "Christ’s love compels us."

What would my day look like if I was driven, compelled, commanded by Christ's love the way I was compelled by that brownie?  

"If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God... For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all... and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:13-15

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I've been organizing some old drawers and boxes, and I rediscovered this treasure.  While it's not dated, I would place my handwriting around middle school.  While I was reading it, Brad Paisley's song "Letter to Me" popped into my head.  But unlike Brad's example, this letter is from a young me to a present me.

Dear God,

Thank you for all the things I take for granted...a family that loves you and parents that raised me to love you, a sister that I can live with without going insane.  For friends that I have fun being around that love you too.  For people I can talk to when I need to that knock me in line when I mess up.

Thank you for dying and saving me.  Thank you for choosing me.  Thank you for all the times you direct my way and I'm not aware of it.  Thank you for your promises that will always be true.

Thank you for changing me from what I was.  Thank you for never giving up on me when almost everyone else did.  Thank you for bearing my burdens and giving me joy and peace that passes all understanding.  Thank you for my calling and what the future holds.  Even when I'm uncertain, I know you will always lead me where you want me to go.

Thank you for being my daddy, for holding me in your arms when I'm hurting and comforting me when I feel alone.  Thank you for rejoicing with me in the good times too.  Thank you for the times when you have to correct me and I become a better person through it.

Thank you for Heritage where there are men and women of God who seek your face without shame.  Thank you fro your spirit and anointing every Sunday that comes through our Pastor.  Thank you for allowing me to grow up seeing miracles and prophesies and healings.  Thank you for awakening me from my church-brat-ness so that I'm no longer a hindrance but a help. 

God I would write forever.  I'm so thankful for what you have done and continue to do for me.  I can't write it on paper, but Lord I know you can understand my heart.

I love you,

To have a thankful heart, to trust God through a period as rough and confusing as middle school, to be a help and not a hindrance, to simply love God as much as I know how -- Thank you, little me, for writing it down and hiding it away so I could find it again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Devil's Snare

Ever try to hide hurt behind a smile?  "Fake it till you make it?"  I can remember a season in my life when I was determined to be happy.

I had experienced some profound disappointment and heartbreak, but I wanted to stubbornly cling to my silver linings.  I tried to be intellectual and count all the the things I had going for me.  I wanted to find the good in the bad and just make it a part of my experience going forward.  I tried throwing myself into my work, my passions, and my friendships.

I was terrified to acknowledge how much I was hurting and grieving.  I thought it made me ungrateful and a failure.  After all, I live in the land of plenty, my life is filled with relationships, and I have this faith that is supposed to buoy me up in rough times.  I didn't feel that I had any right to be as down as I was.  Admitting that I was depressed and discouraged was conceding defeat to a battle I didn't want to admit I was fighting.  And shouldn't my faith be stronger than that anyway?

I wanted to be a good Christ follower and live as a person of hope and joy.  And I thought I was pulling it off pretty well.  Sure, I had some dark thoughts and emotional moments.  But I told myself that I get to choose how I will face each moment, and I would choose the path of peace and happiness.

I had myself convinced.  I thought I was putting on a decent show.

But I wasn't fooling anyone around me.

After a time (a fairly long time actually), I confided in a friend and told them I was struggling.  I admitted to being not just depressed, but weary and frustrated as well.  And as the words started pouring out, I was finally able to put a picture and a description to all the "stuff" that had just been swirling around inside.

I called it "Devil's Snare."  The harder I tried to fight it, the tighter its hold.  I felt like Ron in the movie.  Hermione:  "You have to relax. If you don't, it'll only kill you faster!"  Ron:  "Kill me faster?!  Now I can relax!" Of course, he makes this exclamation as he struggles harder than ever.  And just like Hermione, my friend had to remind me how to defeat deadly Devil's Snare.  Light and letting go.

Devil's Snare can't stand light.  And I needed the help of a friend to shed the light on what I was feeling.  I had to let go.  To drop the mask and the pretense and fully acknowledge my hurt and pain.  Once I did that, the tentacles loosed their hold and I was able to pass through to the other side.  Now, just to be didn't magically wipe everything away.  But it was so refreshing and empowering to not pretend to myself.  And my "Regina-ness" came back quicker than I ever thought possible.

I learned my lesson.  That picture of Devil's Snare has helped me to fend off other dark times.  I'm not afraid to admit to having a down day now and again.  Inviting light and truth into those days helps more than I can say.  So for anyone who may be fighting a similar battle, let me encourage you.  It's ok to be pulled in two different directions by warring thoughts.  Devil's Snare can take many forms.  Don't get caught up in the fight.  Even if your mask fools the mirror, it's not really fooling those who love and care for you.  Acknowledge it.  Accept it.  Shed some light, and let it go.  If you don't fight it, and if you allow light and truth into the situation, those snaring tentacles will flee and you'll emerge unscathed (though probably changed) on the other side.

Psalm 18:28 "My God turns my darkness into light."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This is an ugly lampshade.  When I bought it, I astounded even the store owners.  "You're going to pay that much...for that?  Really?"  (It cost about the same as a nice lunch.)  They had only stocked the items as a sort of favor.  I assured them, "It's ok.  I have  friend who loves ugly things.  You have no idea how perfect this gift is, and how much she will love it."  I don't think they were convinced.  But that's ok.

Upon initial review, it just looks quirky.  Orange and blue maze fabric?  Ok.  Creatively colored chicken?  Um, sure.  But stick a light bulb underneath the quirky shade, and it just looks like trash.  Because that's what it is -- half of a discarded plastic bottle with a bit of paint and paper.

What makes it perfect and beautiful for my friend is the story behind it.  The lampshade was made by street children in Uganda, and the proceeds from the sale go to a charity that is helping them to make their life better.  (Though, I think my friend would love it even without the story.  She really does love ugly things.) 

I feel a camaraderie with this lamp shade.  Upon initial review I'm colorful and quirky.  But illuminate me to the core and all my flaws become starkly apparent.  And it's not all that pretty.  But that's part of the testimony right?  I have a story.  I've been picked up and re-purposed.  Every time I let that light shine through my flaws and weaknesses, it's a chance for me to share that story.  (You paid how much?  For that?)  And the proceeds go to further a cause that brings life and hope into the dark places of this world. 

I'm loved...just as an ugly lampshade...chickens and mazes and all.  My story is just the bonus and a chance to share the light.

I'm so thankful I have a friend who loves ugly things.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I learned something while white water rafting down the Nile river.  (Can we pause for a second?  Isn't that a fun sentence?  White water rafting + Nile river = One memorable day.)  Anyway, back to my lesson:  There's nothing graceful about getting back into a boat.

Before hitting the more ferocious parts of the river, a group has to practice flipping over and getting back in their raft.  I entered the drill as a fairly confident adventurer.  Our guide said the trick is to grab the safety cord on the edge of raft, take a superman sort of position in the water, keep your arms locked, and use momentum from kicking your legs and pulling your arms just so to jump back in.  Easily described.  Easily watched.  Not so easy to do.

I failed miserably.

No matter now much I tried to readjust my posture, to kick my legs, to pull with my arms or to follow through with my momentum, I just couldn't do it.  I could barely raise myself out of the water, much less get all the way back up into the boat.

I had to be fished out the Nile by my guide.  Who literally grabbed my shoulders, wrenched me up and over the wall, and dumped me on the floor of the raft.  My outfit was discombobulated.  I still had to find my center of gravity and untangle myself from the floor to return to my seat.  It was not my most graceful moment.  At all.

It would be really easy to compare that to my unintentional sabbatical from blogging.  So I'll pause and acknowledge the parrallel.

Have you ever had to have one of "those" conversations?  The awkward ones?  The ones involving tough love?  Sometimes, no matter how perfect the form, how protective the gear, how determined the swimmer...a person could use a hand.  (Wait for it...wait for it...especially if that poor little swimmer is in denial.)  And if someone is floundering in the water, they'll never be able to survive the ferocious bits of the river. 

So if you're strong enough, if you have the foundation and buoyancy under you to support it, reach down, grab a shoulder, and pull.  It's not graceful.  Most likely there will be some discombobulation to sort through.  But once everything settled, the embarrassment passes leaving only gratitude in its wake. 

And then the fun begins.