There is one area in life where writers truly have an edge.  If you are a working writer, you get to the point where you are not afraid to fail.  Recently I had an agent recommend a huge change for my book.  She recommended that I split out about half of my text as sidebars  “I can see that working.  I’ll give it a try.”  With an 800 word picture book, why not give it a try?  If it doesn’t work, I just go back to the old version.  Often it takes five or six tries to find what will work.

I think that athletes and artists of all kinds have this mentality.  Give it a try.  Try again.  Keep going untl you find a solution.

What can I say?  God created me with a big dose of stubborn.  The funny thing? I still don’t think of myself as a patient person. Persistent, yes.  But not so patient.




There’s a sketch on Sesame Street: Grover demonstrates the difference between near and far by running back and forth breathlessly until he collapses into a dramatic, Grover-ian heap. I don’t know why this sketch popped into my head; maybe it’s because I’ve been pondering the notion of God’s nearness…and far-ness. Turns out, it’s got me every bit as addled as poor, exhausted Grover.

Sometimes God seems very near — even uncomfortably near. At the best of times, this nearness is like a warm blanket of hope and reassurance. It can quite simply impart the ability to go on, especially during dark times. But sometimes, that same nearness makes me squirm as if I’m wearing an itchy wool sweater (or possibly an itchy wool straitjacket). God is calling me on the carpet. God is asking that I get real with myself and deal with a situation that I’d rather run from. God is near, and God knows me. There’s no place to hide.

Then there’s the feeling, sometimes quite pronounced, that God is far away. God has left me alone to suffer. God has not provided a solution to my troubles. I am lost and God is not showing me which way to turn. It’s all too much to bear by myself.

Maybe it’s because I struggle with nearness and far-ness in my physical being. I remember the first time I heard about people who prefer that others not invade “their space.” It was a revelation. It was normal, after all, to not want acquaintances to touch me or impinge on my “bubble.” Yet I also consider myself a “touchy-feely” type. If I like you, I will touch your arm as we talk. I will hug you every time I see you. I hold hands whenever I’m with someone I love especially much.

Whatever my personal hang-ups, I know that others struggle with God’s proximity every bit as much as I do. It seems none of us can get a handle on just where God is — in God’s heavens? Wherever two or more are gathered? Is Jesus the cuddly Good Shepherd or the guy who rowed out to sea or went into the desert just to get as far away as possible from the crowds?

Near. Far. God is both, sometimes at the same time. Prayer can draw God nearer. Our own fear can seem to drive God away. I suspect that God is where God always is, all the time — everywhere. We simply don’t realize how near everywhere can be.

I’m not sure when it happened but I’ve become fascinated by movies and books that examine what it means to be good.  The first on my list is Dunkirk.  I didn’t much care for the movie with its highly variable timeline but I loved the war-time exploration of  two men – one clearly damaged but caring and the other strong but . . . did he really just do that?  

Now I’m reading The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.  It tells the stories of two women.  One story is set during World War I.  The other takes place after World War II.  Both of these women have made unconventional choices that make them “women of questionable character.”  Then there’s the male character with a record.  Again and again, without a sermon, their actions play out alongside those of “good” people, people who are quick to judge but slow to act.  

Both the movie, which I don’t truly recommend, and the book, which I do, drive home the perils of judging others.



Change is normal. Change is normal. Change? Still normal. 

Fingers crossed that I’ll chill if I keep telling myself this.  Long ago, I came to the realization that I’m okay with change if I’m the one making it happen.  Decide to paint my office door with chalkboard paint?  Good.  Also going to repaint my bathroom a new color?  Also good.  Discover a leak in our water-bed . . . whoa.  What?

Yes, not only do we still have a water-bed (remember, I’m iffy on change) but it has a pin hole leak.   My husband had already fixed it once.  Yesterday it started up again so it is time to face the inevitable.  We will be shopping for a new mattress.  And probably a frame.  And the carpet is in awful shape so we’ll pull that up.  And as long as everything is out of the room, we guess we should paint.

In 30 minutes, I went from being good with the changes coming in my life to really wanting to crawl under the bed but that’s probably not a good idea.  It is, after all, leaking.

At Bible study last night, we were talking about God’s assurance that he will be with us when we are suffering.  Not that I think I’m suffering.  I’m inconvenienced. I’m a tad overwhelmed.  Suffering?  Nope.  Suffering is knowing that you can’t keep your children safe from their own government.  Suffering is knowing that other countries will condemn your leaders, but take you in?  Thanks but no.  That would be too much change.

Change is normal.  When will we learn?



As much as I post about forgiveness, you might think I’m really good at it.  If only.

Sometimes I am.  But other things I have troubles letting go.  Very often the person I have the hardest time forgiving is myself.  I’m really good at counseling others to forgive themselves but what I need to do is learn to apply that to myself.  No one but no one is perfect and that includes me.


I don’t tend to think of myself as an abnormally hopeful person.  I’m a bit too sarcastic or so I’ve always believed.

Then I had a really strange conversation with a group of friends.  Everyone was talking about the things going on in their lives.  Sick parents.  In-laws in the hospital.  Kids in trouble with the legal system.  The list went on and on.

“What about you?”

“What about me? I guess I’m just lucky.”

“What do you mean you’re lucky.  Our moms are still alive.  Yours died really young.  Your dad had a stroke…”

Apparently, my list goes on and on too.  But oddly enough I don’t think of myself as unlucky although I do sometimes get fed up.  Just ask my family about that.  Still, most of these things are just life so I might as well be hopeful.

After all, if Bishop Tutu could be hopeful, I think I can swing it at least a few days a week.

Hmm.  That sounded a touch sarcastic.  Apparently I can do both at the same time.




Once upon a time, I was a world-class grudge bearer. I’d harbor ill-will toward people who’d wronged me for years on end. But when I found faith again about ten years ago, I realized that there’s only so much space in your heart. If you only store the broken china and the ratty old throw rugs of the past, there’s not much room left for good things to come.

So I came up with a couple of personal policies.

  • If you say something to me that is factually accurate, I won’t get mad.
  • If you say something factually accurate, but say it in a “jerky” way (as we say in Jersey), I’ll respond immediately, while (hopefully) keeping my cool. I won’t harbor it in my heart ad infinitum, but will make sure you know that how you said it was not acceptable.

Get it out, or you store it up. Say what you have to say. If not? You put it on layaway.

Before you know it, that person will be doing that same thing again in the same way. But at that point, you’ll really be steamed. Why do they keep doing this? Don’t they know better?

Sometimes they do.

But what if they don’t?

Could it be that they don’t realize that most people don’t stand two inches from your face in a conversation? I had to gently correct one of my son’s friends who had that habit when he was younger. “Personal space, please, son,” I said. After that, he gave everyone space. I actually did him a favor by giving him this advice.

When somebody crosses a line, you’ve got the right to speak your piece, for your own peace of mind. You may even help them break bad habits they didn’t even realize they had.

This week I found myself in the strangest dispute.  My son’s engineering study group was at the house yesterday working on their final project.  I made an aside comment to a relative that her demands on my schedule had thrown off their timing and they’d now be here til 7 pm.  “I’ll have to fix them dinner.”

The logic seemed pretty straight up to me.  I’m not skipping dinner.  But I’m also not going to cook for myself and ignore them.  It’s rude.

But, according to this relative, I’m allowing myself to be victimized.  These boys are college students.  They shouldn’t expect to be waited on.

I am constantly amazed by how different two people can grow up in the same family.  Between my southern relatives, my Texas relatives, and my country Missouri relatives, I learned one thing and I learned it well.  Be hospitatable.  Be nice.


For me, its a good fit with the Golden Rule.




People are a strange.  It seems like one moment they are ignoring ugly realities and the next they are dwelling on the negative.

But when we face fact, hope can make a huge difference.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading the past few weeks about various animal species and the environment.  I can already hear your groaning but stop.  Seriously.  Knock it off.  Because there are stories of hope.

At one point the Bald Eagle was endangered but when we faced the damage that DDT was doing and banned it that was the beginning.  Eagles have made a comeback and I occasionally see one soaring over our church.

The American alligator is another success story.  This one was endangered because of habitat destruction and hunting.  People conserved habitat and hunting was banned.  Alligators are no longer endangered.

Reality and hope.  Working to make a better world.  God gave us inquiring minds as well as drive.  We just need to apply them.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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