For When You Need a Sign

Rainbow Pictures, Images and Photos

My trip home is not off to a great start. Departure is delayed by weather in the upper Midwest, causing me to fret equally about crashing and barfing. Plus I worry that I’ll miss my connection in Minneapolis – I only have one hour, and I’m scheduled for the last flight of the day to Lincoln.


Finally the gate agent calls for boarding, and I’m five from last in line when I see him eye my purse, laptop and roller bag. I know what’s coming, and sure enough, they ask me to check my bag, even though I’ve seen at least a half dozen passengers ahead of me with purse, laptop and roller bag – one more than the sanctioned two carry-ons. I want to protest, but I am too tired to muster any fight.

I let the elderly lady behind me pass by, and I notice she has three carry-ons, too – a roller bag, a paper shopping bag and a purse. They don’t stop her.

I make my way toward 12D. The elderly lady with the three carry-ons sits in 12C, and I wait as she hoists herself from the seat to let me slide next to the window.

“Do you travel alone often?” she asks, after I’ve stashed my water bottle in the seat pocket and rested my book on my lap. “No, not usually,” I answer.

I open my book. I’m not much in the mood for small talk. But she continues. “This is my first time traveling alone since my husband died in November,” she admits. “I don’t much like it. I feel a little nervous. It feels wrong.”

I nod, understanding. “It’s so quiet, the house is just so quiet,” my best friend’s mom had said to me earlier that afternoon as I hugged her goodbye, flowers from the funeral home still fresh in crystal around the house. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the quiet."

“It’s so hard, isn’t it?” I say to my seatmate, nodding and closing the book in my lap. “But it’s okay. You’ll be okay.” I lean a little closer, because my words sound so inadequate. She nods back. I wonder if her eyes are tearing or just naturally red-watery. I want to pat her arm, but I don't because we are strangers.

I turn back to the window, pressing my forehead against warm plastic.

“Look!” I say, pointing. “Look, it’s a rainbow, a full rainbow – it spans the entire runway!” I flatten the back of my head against the seat so she can see past me and out the window. She cranes forward.

“Oh my,” she breathes. “It is a rainbow.” She looks at me. “It’s a good sign,” she says, smiling. “It’s a sign that the trip will turn out okay.”

I’m not much of a believer in signs. And I’m not sure those who have died and gone before us present themselves that way, to be honest. But glimpsing that rainbow bloom against dark cumulonimbus, arching from one end of the runway to the other, I wonder if it’s a sign from my friend’s dad, a sign of a good trip indeed.

The lady in seat 12C and I talk on and off for half the flight until she dozes, purse clutched in her lap. And then I watch night descend out the window, sinking sun casting a brilliant sheen on the airplane wing.

You shall cross the barren desert,
but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety
though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands
and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid.
I go before you always.
Come follow me,
and I will give you rest.
 
Lyrics from the hymn Be Not Afraid


Linking with Emily...

Image from Photobucket

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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Ask


Last week Brad and the kids took a trip up to Minnesota. As he backed the mini-van out of the driveway, I called out warnings while they waved from behind the van’s tinted windows: "Drive carefully! Call me when you get there!" I always get nervous when all three of my family members hit the road without me. I worry something terrible will happen to all of them. I fret all day, and then sigh relieved when the phone rings and I know they have arrived safely.

After I knew they were tucked into my father-in-law’s home, I was struck by a realization: I’d been besieged by anxiety all day, yet I had forgotten to pray. There I was, distracted, anxious, glancing at my watch every hour or so, yet I never prayed.

Seriously, what kind of believer forgets to pray at a time like that?

It never crossed my mind, even as I stood at the end of the driveway and waved while the mini-van rounded the corner out of sight. Even after the screen door slammed shut, and I leaned on the kitchen counter in my quiet, quiet house.

I didn’t pray once for them all day.

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened,” says Jesus (Luke 1:9-10).

In our reading today Jesus tells me that I need to ask.

Asking isn't a requirement for him. I suspect God takes action even when we don’t explicitly ask. But asking helps. Asking opens the doors of communication. Asking helps to deepen the relationship, because asking implies trust.

It always comes back to trust, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I do pray. I pray every day, in fact – usually early in the morning before I start my day, or while I’m running, or in the car. And I pray in church, of course – that’s “extra” prayer time.

But as I wrote about earlier this month, my prayers are formulaic – they follow a typical pattern. I pray for people on my prayer list, those grieving or ill or suffering. I pray thanks to God for specific blessings and gifts. I pray for my children and my husband and my extended family members. And then I’m done.

I don’t allow myself to be vulnerable when I pray; I don’t actually hand over any of my burdens to God. I tell him about them, sure, but I don’t hand them over.There's a difference, I think.

Handing over requires trust. 

I think that’s why I forget to pray when I most should be praying: because I still think I’m in control.

Have you ever forgotten to pray during a time when prayer should have been obvious? Do you ever rely on formulaic prayer? Or are you more of a conversationalist with God?


And linking up with Jen and the sisters:







Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up.

Or you can simply copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and paste it into your own post. Remember to including the link to your post down below...not your blog address -- that way visitors can be sure to read the right post.

Typically we write about the lesson we read or the sermon we heard in church on Sunday. That said, I am pretty loosey-goosey – you can write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime during the week to link up – it stays open until Friday.

Thanks so much for participating...and don't forget to visit other participants and comment on their thoughts this week if you can. It's wonderful to have you here...and I have to say, I am super excited the community is growing! Thank you for that!

PLEASE NOTE: "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" will be on hiatus July 4 AND July 11. We'll be doing some traveling, and I will succumb to the guilt if all you lovelies link up and I can't visit (we'll be staying at a place with no Internet access for a bit -- egads!).

So...the "Hear It, Use It" link-up community will resume again on July 18!

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The Eye Must Travel


During the school year I spend the greater part of each Friday writing. I’m militant about it. I decline coffee and lunch invitations, schedule doctor and dentist appointments on other days, and don’t run any errands. While the boys are in school I write and write and write, taking advantage of my one full day off from work to catch up and get ahead [for the record, I never actually get ahead].

For the next eight weeks or so, though, the boys are home on my day off, so instead of writing, it’s Field Trip Fridays from now until mid-August.

I worried that I’d resent the lack of writing time, but just the opposite has happened, in fact. Not only do I love the freedom of a non-scheduled day, I find the adventures themselves often fuel the creative process.

We seldom wander far. One morning Noah suggested we take a picnic lunch to the park. Usually I would tell him no (I’m not the spontaneous sort, you know), but that Friday I packed a canvas bag of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit snacks, a nectarine and Capri Sun fruit punch and grabbed the red plaid picnic blanket from the basement. The three of us headed up the alley, down the gravel road and along the bike path toward the park.

“How about over there?” Noah suggested, pointing to a sprawling white oak on the edge of a grassy field.

I spread the blanket in the dappled shade, and we sat cross-legged in a circle, sandwiches on our laps. I sliced the nectarine and doled out disks of the ripe fruit. Noah leaned back on the blanket, arms behind his head. Rowan pointed out the painted lady butterfly flitting between stalks of prairie grass.

Last week we ventured a bit farther to visit a shrine that sits atop a prairie vista halfway between Lincoln and Omaha.




The boys and I spent some time in the church itself. They bent low over the stream that trickles down the nave toward the altar, and I prayed as we each lit a candle in memory of my friend Andrea’s dad, who had died the day before. Then we stepped outside, where rolling green met silver sky.

Noah spotted a switchback trail that crisscrossed down the hillside and around a pasture. We followed the path away from the soaring church, across a rickety wooden bridge and into an evergreen glade.




“Smell the berries, Mommy,” Noah urged as we stood in the dim cathedral, ground soft beneath our feet. I inhaled clean crisp from a spray of green. The three of us were quiet for a moment beneath the swaying trees before we made our way out into daylight again.

Our Friday Field trips aren’t fancy. They don’t come with a pricey admission fee or a lot of thrills, and we don’t wander far. But as Vogue editor Diana Vreeland once said, “The eye must travel.” I may not know where next Friday will take us, but one thing is for certain: our eyes will travel indeed.


Where are your eyes traveling this summer? Have you taken any field trips yet?

Linking up with Laura for her Monday Playdates with God.



And with Rachel at Finding Joy for her Friday Favorite Things.
friday favorite things | finding joy

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The Caller


He leaves garbled, incoherent messages punctuated by long pauses and throat-clearing on the answering machine. It’s an elderly man with the wrong number. I stand next to the telephone, but I don’t pick up.

“He sure is persistent,” I joke to my husband, Brad, the third time the phone rings. The caller ID displays the name: Leo Something-or-Other. I don’t know a Leo.

On the third try, though, Leo’s halting message booms clear across the kitchen. I hear it from my seat on the bar stool:

“Well, the phone book here says this is the number for a Michelle DeRusha.” Leo pauses, breathing heavily. “But I guess it’s not…okay then…” He hangs up, clattering loudly over the answering machine.

“Oh, no!” I yelp to Brad. “He’s trying to reach me! Why is a man named Leo trying to reach me?”

...I'm telling my story about Leo over at The High Calling today. Will you meet me over there?

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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Not Any Old Love


When I was a kid, I vacillated between being afraid of God and deeply respectful of him – or sometimes a combination of both. The God of my childhood was a distant God – authoritative, all-knowing, powerful and wise. I was taught to respect him, to pray to him and to ask him for forgiveness when I sinned. We had a formal relationship, God and I. I approached God like I might approach Queen Elizabeth: politely, respectfully, a little fearfully and with awe.

Deep down inside, I knew God loved people, but I thought of his love more generally, a protecting “because I know what’s good for you” kind of love love. I figured God loved the human population, but I never considered the fact that he might love me, personally, as an individual.

Honestly, this idea of a personal God-love might just be beginning to sink in now, five years after my return to faith. I suspect I spent the last five years concentrating on comprehending God’s grace and coming to terms with the fact that I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, try to earn his favor. I might have even kept the thought of his love for me at arm’s length. That idea may have been a little too big for me.

It may still be.

Still, there’s no escaping God’s individual, personal, just-for-me kind of love, is there? If you read the Bible, references to that kind of love are everywhere. And that’s what I thought about when I heard today’s reading, from Romans 5:1-8, and particularly this verse:

“For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5).

Notice the word “dearly.” Not simply that God loves us, but that he dearly loves us. Not just that he loves me, but that he dearly loves me. Not simply with kindly benevolence, like a ruler “loves” his people. Not just from afar, with distant affection. But like a parent loves his child, up close, personally and deeply.

I was curious about the use of the descriptor “dearly” in this verse, so I went over to Bible Gateway to read some of the other translations. Out of the ten or so I read [and for the record, I’m glad I use the NIV and not the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition, thank you very much], not one used the adverb “dearly.” Ordinarily this would have prompted me to assume there had been some unnecessary editorializing by the translator, but this time, I was okay with it. Quite honestly, that one little word breathes new understanding into the concept of God’s love. “Dearly” makes it feel personal.

So God loves me, maybe even the way I love Noah and Rowan – deeply, forever, with all of my being. And it just may take another five years to wrap my mind around that.

What about you? How do you interpret God's love for you?


And linking up with Jen and the sisters:





Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up.

Or you can simply copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and paste it into your own post. Remember to including the link to your post down below...not your blog address -- that way visitors can be sure to read the right post.

Typically we write about the lesson we read or the sermon we heard in church on Sunday. That said, I am pretty loosey-goosey – you can write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime during the week to link up – it stays open until Friday.

Thanks so much for participating...and don't forget to visit other participants and comment on their thoughts this week if you can. It's wonderful to have you here...


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Tips for Successful Shop-Notting

Less than three months to go on the Shop-Not Project – if I reach September 1, I'll have gone the full 12 months without purchasing any clothing, shoes, accessories, purses or the like.

Honestly, I’ve been tempted more than once (read about the Great Flip-Flop Temptation here), but over time I've developed a few strategies for keeping myself on the straight and narrow.

1. Procrastinate – If I think I have to buy something, I put off the decision…at least until the next time I shop. Even when I’m not doing Shop-Not, this diversion strategy helps me focus on whether I really want something, or if I am simply making an impulse purchase.

2. Shop with cash only – A couple of years ago Brad and I established a strict budget, allotting ourselves $100 per month each for personal spending. This $100 covers socializing (i.e. dinner, drinks, movies, golf), clothing, accessories, books and frivolous household purchases (pretty dishtowels, just because). Let me tell you, you spend your cash wisely if you know you have a finite amount of it each month.

3. Don’t browse catalogs or sales flyers – All those Lands End and Pier I catalogs that stack up in the mailbox? They go directly into the recycling bin. And the Kohl’s and Target flyers that come in Sunday’s paper? I recycle those without even looking at them, too. Why pine over cute aundresses and strappy wedges when I know I can’t buy them? Recycling cuts down on the Shop-Not angst.

4. Avoid shopping carts – This one is a suggestion from Andrew Mellen, author of Unstuff Your Life. How many times have you gone into Target for a single item and left with four brimming bags and a receipt for $150? Yeah, I thought so. It’s the story of my life, too. Now when I walk through Target’s automatic doors with one item in mind, I grab just the small plastic basket…or none at all. That way I’m not tempted to fill a cart with merchandise I don’t need [I will point out, though, that lipstick, jewelry and hair accessories fit rather well in a hand basket. Just saying.].

5. Don’t shop for entertainment – This is another of Mellon’s suggestions…and this is how we know Andrew is a Man. There are some things Men simply can’t understand, like the fact that women shop for entertainment. Period. And when we shop with girlfriends, forget it – all hope for pragmatic purchasing is gone. That said, I see where Andrew is headed with this. If you don’t need to shop, find something else to do – go out for a latte with your girlfriend, meet for a margarita, get a pedicure – anything is less expensive than hitting Banana Republic with your BFF.

That's all I've got, people – well, that and an envelope in my cabinet marked "Shop-Not Compassion." And that's really all the incentive I need.


What about you? Have you ever employed one of these tactics to help limit your own spending? What other strategies do you use to cut down on shopping or spending?

Curious about my year-long Shop-Not Project? Click here for the story of what prompted the whole gig. Click here to read other posts in the Shop-Not Chronicles.

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My Thin Place: Precious Paintings

[Got back from Massachusetts at 1 a.m. to find an email in my in-box this morning about my post running at Mary DeMuth's website today -- so this is a quick, late-breaking post to encourage you to hop over there to read my "thin place" story. Thank you, thank you! I'll be in touch soon...]

::

I find them in an upstairs closet in her studio – a pile of paintings, watercolors splashed onto thick slabs, paper curling at the edge. There must be thirty or more, all “rejects” deemed not good enough by her. I spread them out on the carpet: regal irises, cotton-candy peonies, scenes of blooming gardens and cobalt seas, a row of Dutch windmills, a stone farmhouse.

My oldest son, Noah, pulls one from the stack – a desert landscape, stately saguaro cactus climbing toward lavender sky, while my youngest, Rowan, is drawn to the still life, a vibrant parrot standing amidst orange tulips.

“Can we have one?” they ask. “Please? Can we pick one out to take home?”

...Please will you continue reading my thin place story over at Mary's place?

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The Bounty

I admit, $400 seemed like an awful lot to pay for vegetables, even after I did the math and it worked out to be just $20 a week.

I wrote the check, but I wasn’t sold. Not until I swallowed my first bite of carrot, that is. I don’t exaggerate when I say I have never in 41 years tasted a carrot so freshly sweet. It tasted like dirt – and I mean that in a good way – like untainted, clean, healthy earth . Like pure, essential, life-sustaining goodness.

Rowan and Noah ate the carrots for breakfast, right off the stems.

This past winter my friend Sarah sent me a link to Robinette Farms, a family-owned farm just outside of Lincoln. I’d vaguely heard about CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), but I didn’t know how they worked or if we could actually afford to join one. Plus I’d always assumed CSAs were for rich people – people who could afford to buy local and organic and sustain the Earth and be green and all that.

I shop at Super Saver, a bag-your-own, warehouse kind of grocery store. I didn’t consider myself CSA material.

But that carrot (and later the spinach, lettuce, bok choy, asparagus, turnips, garlic and fennel ), that one carrot changed my mind forever.




The farmers set up a small tent in a parking lot just a few streets over from our house. I make sure to bring the recyclable bags – it’s important to look as green as possible when you are a CSA member, you know...even as I motor up in my Chevy mini-van and park next to the Prius and the circa-1986 station wagon. We read the week’s selection from the chalk board, and I point to stacks of vegetables as Rowan fills the bag with our allotment.

I love that the farmers know my name. I love that they suggest recipes to go along with the more exotic selections. What in the world does one do with bok choy? Stir fry it with a bit of olive oil and garlic and serve it over rice, that’s what.

I love that my kids can’t wait to see what’s available each week, and I love that they are willing to try something new, I think because they feel connected to it somehow. The melt-in-your-mouth turnips braised in a bit of butter were a surprise hit. “They're so juicy, you can actually taste water when you bite into them,” said Noah, his fork poised above his plate in amazement.


Have you ever heard the words melt-in-your-mouth and turnip uttered in the same breath?

I think seeing that freshly harvested produce makes us all a little more grateful, too. Grateful for God’s bounty produced so close by, grateful for the people who work so hard to cultivate it. I don’t know about the kids, but when I see those mounds of butter lettuce and the stacks of tender carrots still leafy green, I feel a little bit of awe. In awe of the land and the rain and the sun. In awe of the God who makes it all possible.

Have you ever joined a CSA or another kind of agriculture co-op? Are you into the local food movement?

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The Dentist

"No! No!" The groans burst from the back seat of the mini van. "We hate the dentist, why do we even have to go? We brush our teeth – our teeth are fine!" they protest.

"Going to the dentist is a privilege," I lecture, my eyes on the road. "You're lucky that you have someone to take care of your teeth. Plus, you shouldn't complain. Your dentist is like a trip to the park compared to the dentist I saw as a kid," I add.

This gets their attention. "Why? What was wrong with your dentist?" asks Noah, concerned.

My dentist's office was tucked into the first floor of a ramshackle two-story house. I would sit in the dark-paneled waiting room, absently paging through Highlights magazine, dreading the moment the receptionist called my name.

Tucked into the reclining chair, pallid green paper napkin clipped around my neck, Dr. Mallard would lean in, big belly pressed against my arm, cigarette dangling between his lips.

That's right. My dentist smoked. In the office. While he cleaned my teeth. He even had a floor-stand ashtray where he'd set his smoking cigarette when he had a particularly taxing procedure, something that required two hands, like a tooth extraction.

Worse yet was the "fluoride treatment." While my kids get the "tooth vitamin," as their dentist calls it, delicately painted on each tooth with a swab, I suffered through a Styrofoam tray, always a size or two too large to fit properly in my mouth, filled to the brim with supposed bubble-gum-flavored goop.

Dr. Mallard would jam it into my mouth, tabs protruding from my stretched lips, and set the timer, while the noxious fluid dripped down the back of my throat and I wretched and gagged.

I kept my eyes on the cuckoo clock high on the wall in front of the gurgling spit sink and swish cup. Finally, at the end of those excruciating five minutes, Dr. Mallard would lean in, grab the tabs and pull the goopy mess from my mouth, leaving a trail of pink-colored spittle draped onto the napkin. Then I would lean over the spit sink, drain the water from the Dixie cup and rinse the foul fluid as the pirouetting dancers sprung out of the cuckoo clock and spun back through the engraved doors again.

My kids are transfixed in the back seat as I relay the details of my dental experiences, the look on their faces simultaneously aghast, thankful and entertained.

While I'm telling my story, though, I have another vision: images from my church's dental missions to our sister church in Honduras. A few times a year a team of dentists and assistants travel down to La Ceibita, Honduras, where they perform dental work on dozens of patients.


I'm always struck when I see those photographs of grinning children and adults, many of them missing several teeth, by how happy they seem. Joy radiates from their faces. And for what? For a tooth extraction? For a filled cavity? For a root canal?

Their joy makes sense, of course. These are people for whom dental care is a luxury, like a trip to the spa or the nail salon for us. These are people who have suffered through hours and days and weeks of excruciating pain. These are people for whom a tooth extraction, by a capable, trained professional, is a gift from God.

They are happy and grateful for procedures we dread. They are joyful about a visit to the dentist, a visit so much less comfortable than ours.



"They don't even have TVs on the ceiling," observes Noah, when I show him the Honduras photos [my kids watch Sponge Bob from televisions suspended from the ceiling as they lay in reclined chairs for their cleaning. I prefer Oprah during my visits.].

"And why is everyone holding those paddles?" he asks.

"No TVs, that's right. No TVs anywhere in their village, not just in the dentist's office," I remind Noah.

And those paddles? They are paper fans to provide a tiny bit of relief for the dentist and the patient from the stultifying heat.


It's a matter of perspective. My kids think they have it hard. I even think I've had it hard, recalling the fluoride and my cigarette-puffing dentist. But we don't. We don't have it hard at all. We are the lucky ones. And we don't even realize it.


Celebrating Global Missions Sunday at Southwood Lutheran Church. Photos by Lori Buchmann, from Heart to Honduras dental mission trip, 2010.

* A respost from the archives as I travel to Massachusetts for the funeral of my dear friend Andrea's father, Uncle Bill. Thank you for grace, prayers and the respite to love and grieve. 


Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up.

Or you can simply copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and paste it into your own post. Remember to including the link to your post down below...not your blog address -- that way visitors can be sure to read the right post.

Typically we write about the lesson we read or the sermon we heard in church on Sunday. That said, I am pretty loosey-goosey – you can write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime during the week to link up – it stays open until Friday.

Thanks so much for participating...and don't forget to visit other participants and comment on their thoughts this week if you can. It's wonderful to have you here...

Read more...

The Light-Shiner


At first I assume it’s the result of a venti latte. A caffeine high is the only reasonable explanation. How else could someone be so personable, so kind, so attentive at such an offensive hour?

It’s not yet 6 a.m., and we stand in line at the Omaha airport security checkpoint. When we reach the podium and hand over our boarding passes and licenses, she makes small-talk with the agent. Not any small-talk, mind you. Genuine small-talk. And yes, there is such a thing. When he asks how we’re doing, I manage a polite smile and mutter, “Fine thanks.” But Deidra? She looks the agent straight in the eye, shines a broad smile at him and asks him how his morning is going. She chats up the security agent. And it’s not even 6 a.m. We’ve been up since 4.

This gracious attitude is not a fluke, I later learn. During the entire weekend we spend together in Birmingham, Deidra lavishes this kindness and grace on every person she encounters. No exceptions. From the flustered lady behind the hotel desk to the concessions vendor at the conference center, Deidra treats each person like he or she is the single most important human being on Earth. She isn’t proper or polite for the sake of being proper or polite. She doesn’t offer a distracted, cursory nod or a pseudo-smile. Deidra is 100 percent tuned in. And it’s real. It doesn't matter whether you are the hotel clerk or the security gate agent or the server at Panera, once you meet Deidra, you feel like you are her best friend.

Have you ever met someone like that? Someone who makes you feel like you are IT – the one and only thing happening? I tell you, it’s enchanting. The way Deidra fixes her gaze steady and meets the eye, the way she smiles warm, not with thin, closed lips but big and broad, I tell you the truth: it makes you feel like one in a million.

Brad, the kids and I had dinner over at Deidra and H’s recently, and when she opened the door, Deidra said to my kids, “I am just SO excited that you are here! I’ve been looking forward to you being here all day!”

Mind you, this is something I would say to someone else’s kids and absolutely not mean it. Deidra meant it. I could tell by the look in her eyes and the smile that lit her face.

Deidra shines a bright light wherever she goes. It’s God’s light, I know that for sure – and it’s catchy. By the end of our weekend together in Birmingham, I found myself making an effort to smile more and engage in real conversation with strangers. And for this standoffish New Englander, that’s really saying something.

What's more, she continues to inspire. Now, whenever I’m at the post office, or in line at Super Saver or at the bank drive-up window, I smile broadly and make eye contact with the cashier or the teller. Sometimes I even make conversation. I admit, at first it felt forced and contrived. But it’s getting easier. Soon I may even be naturally graceful.

And when I am, I’ll have Deidra to thank.


Who are the light-shiners in your life? Let’s see if together we can try to emulate their graciousness. How about this: for one full day, let’s shine light onto every single person we meet. I’m willing to bet that before long, it will be a habit!

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Filling the Pool


Last week as temperatures soared into the 90s we spread a plastic tarp on the backyard grass, hauled the electric pump out of the basement and inflated the kids’ pool. We upgraded this year. A couple of weeks ago we trolled the aisles of Menards until we found a suitable pool – one that’s a step or two up from the standard kiddie pool but yet can still squeeze into our postage-stamp backyard.

The kids danced around the blue lagoon as freezing water sloshed from the hose into the pristine plastic. It took several hours for the pool to fill to the top – 3,463 gallons in all – but it wasn’t until the pool was completely full that we noticed the problem. Because of the slight slope in our yard, the pool was uneven. Unfortunately, the filter side of the pool happened to be the shallower side, so instead of sucking in water, the filter wheezed air, straining the motor and threatening to burn out.

There was only one viable solution: drain the pool and move it to a flatter spot.

...I'm over at Ginny's place today. Will you hop over to read the rest of the story...and to find out how it relates to a great global cause? You might want to read this, because it's about a really easy way to make a BIG difference! Thank you, thank you!

[Or if you're in a super big hurry, just click over to the Charity Water page to learn about how blogger Matt Windley aims to raise $1 million in one month to provide clean water -- you can donate in about five clicks! ].

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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Thirsting, Fainting, Clinging


I’m an extrovert. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to chat, laugh, socialize and have a good time. That said, I don’t bare my soul to many. My husband, my sister and my best friend are privy to my deepest thoughts and worries, but that’s about it. I keep conversation on the surface with most everyone else.

That’s why when I heard today’s reading from Psalm 63, I was immediately struck by the psalmist’s vulnerability with and passion for God:


“My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water…my soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:1-8).
Look at the verb choices: thirsts, faints, clings. We’re not talking about moderate emotions here. This person doesn’t hold God at arm’s length but instead clings to him in everything.

In his sermon Pastor Ryan outlined three distinct spots on our journey with God.

1. I know about God.

2. God’s an acquaintance.

3. My best friend is God.

When he got to point number two, Noah leaned over in the pew and whispered, “That’s where I am. “ I nodded, “Me, too, honey.”

I certainly don’t approach God like he’s my best friend. I don’t tell him what’s embedded deep in my heart. I don’t unburden myself to him in any real way. I pray, yes. I pray for my children and my husband and my family, for loved ones and friends and even acquaintances and strangers I meet online. I ask God for patience and humility and for eyes to see him in my everyday, and I thank him specifically for the gifts I receive from him. But that’s where my interaction with him ends. I don’t really sit down with God and have a heart-to-heart, like I might with my sister, Jeanine or my best friend, Andrea. I don’t talk to God conversationally throughout the day, and I don’t really express my deepest fears and insecurities to God like I might to my husband.

I have a formal relationship with God – if he weren’t God, I’d probably refer to him as a Mr.

I remember a few years ago Pastor Greg preached a sermon about “having a relationship with God.” I recall laughing to myself at little bit over that one. At that point I was so busy clapping myself on the back for getting to the point where I even believed in God, the thought of having a relationship with him seemed inconceivable.

That notion doesn’t sound nearly as crazy now, which I take to be a good sign. After all, I’ve gone from simply believing in and knowing about God to engaging in some kind of relationship with him. It’s not deep, but at least it’s friendly.

Still, if I’m really honest, I know this: I don’t let God get close to me. I keep God at arm’s length.

I think it’s time to change that, to take the next step. While I’m not exactly sure what that looks like, I do think God is asking me to take the leap from acquaintance to best friend. I think he wants me to dig deeper and get more real with him, to show him my true self, even the darker, uglier parts of myself.

Thankfully, God knows me. He knows I’m a little standoffish, hesitant to reveal my true self. He knows I have very few in my innermost circle and that I am slow to admit anyone new. Thankfully, he’s also a patient God, and as he’s demonstrated so far along this journey, he’s a God who is willing to wait.

So what about you? Where are you in your interactions with God -- knowing about him; friendly but distant; or BFF?


And Linking with Jen and the Sisters, too:





Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up.

Or you can simply copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and paste it into your own post. Remember to including the link to your post down below...not your blog address -- that way visitors can be sure to read the right post.

Typically we write about the lesson we read or the sermon we heard in church on Sunday. That said, I am pretty loosey-goosey – you can write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime during the week to link up – it stays open until Friday.

Thanks so much for participating...and don't forget to visit other participants and comment on their thoughts this week if you can. It's wonderful to have you here...











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When All Your Good Intentions are a Bust

I hear them talking, but I don’t pay much attention.

“If you’re going to do it, do it right,” Noah says. “Let me get the scissors.”

It’s only when I see them sitting on Rowan’s bedroom floor with the plastic Batman castle between them that I realize what’s going on. They’ve decided they don’t want the toy castle anymore, so they are destroying it, clipping the strings of the drawbridge and cracking apart the plastic pieces on the hardwood floor while they giggle.

I stop short in the hallway between the bathroom and the bedroom. “What are you doing?” I pause. “Please don’t tell me you are intentionally destroying that toy.”

My voice rises. “Seriously. What are you doing?”

Noah freezes with the scissors still in his hand. “Well, we decided it was babyish,” he says, gesturing to the castle. “We don’t want the castle anymore, so we’re…” His voice trails.

“So you’re destroying it? Your solution because you don’t want it anymore is to ruin it?” I am yelling now, hands on hips. Flames jet from my eyeballs. Smoke billows from my nostrils.

“Did it ever cross your mind that another kid might like it? That another kid who has nothing might want the castle? Did it ever occur to you, ever?”

Noah and Rowan howl as I pack up not only the castle, but the Nerf gun, the Hot Wheels Shark Bite Bay play set and the Bakugan Maxus Dragonoid. I haul the toys down the stairs, open the back of the minivan and shove them inside.

“What are you doing? No, no, we weren’t destroying everything, just the castle!” the boys protest. But I can’t help it. I’ve completely lost control. I am so angry, so disgusted by the rampant ingratitude and disrespect, I simply can’t stop raving.

With each trip downstairs – and I make several, a toy in hand each time – I rant louder: “What’s wrong with you people? Haven’t you learned anything?” And this, I remember, just days after I write about cultivating gratitude over at my friend Jamie’s place. The irony kills me. "What a bunch of baloney." I think to myself. "I am a total failure, a complete hypocrite."

In the end, Brad comes home from work to find me maniacal and the kids bawling upstairs. He talks quietly to the boys while I deep-breathe face-down on my bed. Later I apologize to the boys for my over-the-top reaction, and Brad has each of them count out $7 from their savings. They will purchase a toy with their own money and donate it to a charity in town.

They seem contrite.

I retrieve some of the toys from the mini-van and haul them back upstairs to their bedrooms. But deep down I am still mad. Or perhaps just simply sad.


Does it feel sometimes like cultivating gratitude in your family is two steps forward, one step back? How do you handle what seems like a giant step back?

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An Attitude of Gratitude


He's only taken a single bite from the burger in his hand, and already he asks the question: "Can I get another one? Can I get another hamburger when I'm done this one?"

I'm irritated. "Why don't you enjoy the one you have before asking for another one?" I suggest to my six-year-old son, Rowan. "Why are you already looking ahead to what's next?"

"I just know I want another one," he answers simply.

It's not like my kids get everything they demand, and we certainly don’t cave in to their every request. So why the demand for more, more, more? And how can I diminish it without non-stop lectures and nagging about gratitude?

...I am delighted to be at Jamie's place today -- Six Bricks High -- writing about the small ways in which we are trying to shift toward an attitude of gratitude around our house...will you meet me over there?

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All material and photographs copyrighted Michelle DeRusha 2012

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