Wednesday, December 7, 2011


My grandchildren were staying with us for a few days.  One night after they settled down to sleep, I listened in by the bedroom door to their conversation.  My granddaughter (age 8), whispered to her brother (age 7), "Who do you love most:  God or mom?"  "Oh," my grandson replied thoughtfully, "that's a good question!"  After a few seconds, he said, " I'll say 'God'......because if I don't, He might do something bad to me."  I quietly chuckled, but then the seriousness of his comment hit me:  He thinks God is looking for an excuse to punish him? 

We form beliefs about God.  We have our ‘God box’.  We try to define him.  We have expectations of what God should do and how He should act….and then, when he doesn’t follow our agenda, we get angry.  We assume He doesn’t care or isn’t strong enough to do anything.  What’s in your ‘God box’?  What is God like?  Where did your beliefs  come from?
Psalm 23 says:  "The Lord is my Shepherd..."
This sounds good, if you have a clue about what shepherds do.  I sing about shepherds in Christmas carols, but I've never been around sheep enough to know what it takes to care for them.  So, I Googled it.  It seems important that if God describes himself as 'My Shepherd', it would help me 'know Him' better if I appreciated just what a shepherd does.  Do sheep really need a shepherd?  Can’t they take care of themselves?  What type of person makes a ‘good shepherd’?
Some of the things I read helped me appreciate God as ‘My Shepherd’ much more.   The lid on my ‘God box’ cracked a little.  Here are some of the shepherd’s characteristics I found.  Does God looks like this to you?
Protector:  Sheep are very vulnerable to a variety of predators.
Provider:   The shepherd provides daily needs of food, water and shelter.  When sheep are eating, they don’t pay attention to where they are wandering and the shepherd must watch so they don’t get lost or hurt.
Caring:  Injuries and sickness require attention from the shepherd. 
These 3 statements weren't such a surprise to me.  But the next two statements made God and his care for me seem very special:
1.  Sheep probably respond more to proper care and attention than any other farm animal. (Isn't it interest that 'sheep' is what God choose to compare us to.)  
2.  A good shepherd will always know what is going on with his sheep.  The sheep recognize their shepherd’s voice.  He must be intimate with each of them individually-not just as a group -and should know their weaknesses and their strengths.
God - He's ‘My Shepherd’ - He chose that title for himself.  That's a very different image than the ‘mad-mean-ready-to-let-me-have-it’ God that may be in my ‘God box’ or my grandchildren’s ‘God box’.

Let's never assume we've got God all figured out!   Go to God – with no preconceived ideas – no demands – simply asking to know him.  Then, don't be surprised if your 'beliefs' get shaken up.  Don't be afraid if your 'God box' cracks a little....that's how light gets in!
Grandma Sue’s Bible Adventures in Rhyme….to share with the children in your life:
Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd….”
A Shepherd does a lot of work to take care of his sheep.
He has to watch and keep them safe each time they go to sleep.
If there is any danger, like a lion, wolf or bear,
The sheep will be protected.  They’re in the Shepherd’s care.

What if a sheep is weak or hurt and cannot walk a mile?
The Shepherd says, “I’ll carry you - for a little while.” 

There must be water for the sheep and lots of grass to eat.
They also need to rest sometimes; lie down, get off their feet.
The Shepherd knows just what they need.  He always stays close by.
He never lets them out of sight.  He watches with his eye.

God says that I am like the sheep.  I need a lot of care.
And He will be my Shepherd.  He always will be there. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Time to sidetrack a little for a short Bible study: 
I like the Old Testament.  I love the stories and history there. When I struggle, I am too close to the situation to understand the big picture, so reading about experiences of others helps me understand things that might be happening in my own life.
The story of Moses talks about a time that the Children of Israel lived under terrible slavery in Egypt.  Back breaking slavery.  They were forced to make bricks by hand and build things for the King.  Whippings and beatings and death were everyday happenings.  For years and years the people cried out to God to set them free.  God heard them.  He chose Moses to lead them out of slavery into freedom.  (You remember the movie...Charlton Heston...the parting of the Red Sea.)  These people who had been beaten and treated cruelly for years, now watch as God begins to shake things up.  Amazing displays of God's power are used to convince Pharaoh to "Let My People Go!"  God sends plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, sick animals, locus, hail, boils, water turning to blood, and even death.  Finally, Pharaoh says they can go.  They are free.  FREE!!!  No more brick making.  No more whippings.  They can walk away.  God is going to lead them to a land 'flowing with milk and honey'.
At first they celebrate.  They are so thankful.  They sing and dance. gets tough.  It's scary out there in the desert.  They get hungry - and God sends food.  For a while they relax and trust God to care for them.  It gets scary again.  They get thirsty - which causes panic.  Guess what they say?  "Moses, why did you take us out of Egypt?"  They wanted to run back to Egypt, back to slavery.  Why?  Because that's where they felt safe.  Even though it was awful and they were was what they knew.  It was their security.
I can relate.  I've watched this cycle happen to others close to me and watched it happen in my own life.  We pray and ask God to 'set us free' from something.  It might be:  Debt.  Stress.  Miserable jobs.  Abusive relationships.  Fear.  Wrong belief's.  Depression.  Complaining.  Sleeplessness.  Addictions.  Worry.  Anger.  Bitterness.  Inability to trust.  Guilt.  Unforgiveness.....and on and on.  All of these things are able to keep us from being free. Then, when God begins to shake things up in order to start the 'get'n free' process, we panic and want to run back to 'Egypt'.
I can see many times that God spotlighted an areas of my life that needed to be set free.  And He usually spotlights areas by shaking things up.  Sometimes He uses frogs. I've had to face wrong beliefs I've held since childhood that have kept me bound.  Sometimes He uses hail.  I've dealt with paralyzing fear.  Sometimes he allows death....(not always physical death, but death of a dream.)  I've had to let my demands go that I was placing on my children to be who and what I thought they should be.
Before the shake-up begins, I might hate my Egypt (my slavery), but I'm not leaving it.  That's too scary.  Leaving has too many unknowns.  I know how to live in my slavery.   I am used to that.  So, God adds some locus.   Not to be mean to me, but to get me moving so He can set me free.  And I begin to follow Him.  Kinda' excited.  Kinda' thankful.  Kinda' scared.  Wondering every step: CAN I REALLY trust God?  The future looks hopeful. But what if I get hungry?  What if I get thirsty?  What if, what if, what if....
And what do I do?  I usually want to run back to Egypt.  I felt more secure there.  But little by little, I learn to trust.  I've walked through major moves and job changes and unknown tomorrows, and found out that on the other side of change, life can be 'not only okay', but usually better.
I truly believe this current adventure is just another shake order for God to, yet again, set me free.  Hey, where did all these flies come from?  Anyone have a fly swatter?
More to come as year #2 is just a few miles ahead......

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

MY ADVENTURE PART 3: The Struggle Inside

I don't think you can rank struggle.  "My struggle is much worse than yours..." type of thinking.  When you are struggling, in a dark place, fearful and worried - no matter what got you there, you are there.  The way we each choose to react to our struggles may look different on the outside, but probably have many similarities inside.  Guilt is a strong one for me.  I find myself thinking ''s got to be my fault.  I didn't make a smart decision, or I should have handled things differently.'  There's blame. (I'm good at deciding it's my husbands fault most of the time!)  Anger loves to creep in.  Resentment and bitterness can hold on tight.  Anger towards God happens a lot.  Thoughts like, "Does God even CARE what's happening to me?" "Why doesn't He do anything?" "Maybe God's not capable of helping or just doesn't want to" or "God's probably not going to help me because I deserve this."
Year #1 contained ALL of the above.  I think these emotions and thoughts hit especially when we feel worn out and discouraged.   But this isn't the first time I've faced struggle. I have lived through many other seasons in my life where I felt like my world was falling apart.  I've lived through the 'stomach in knots'.  I've carried deep resentment toward my husband for 'getting us into this mess'.  I've lashed out.  I've cried. I've laid awake all night.  I've gone into the bathroom and grabbed a scissors and in a mixture of anger and deep grief, chopped my hair off.  I've felt like my head was going to explode.  I've refused to read the Bible.  I've stayed away from church.  I've shaken my fist at God and yelled at Him through tears, "If this is the reward I get for serving you, why would anyone serve you anyway?"
I sure want life to be easy and fun!  I am being told all the time that it is suppose to be that way, right?  TV commercials are the best! "I deserve it!"  "Now is better than later!"  "VISA - it's everywhere you want to be!"  And the messages about marriage.....Oh, my gosh!....9 times out of 10, the message is:  if you're not happy.....GET OUT!  But the truth is messy.  Life can be hard!  Commitment ain't easy.  Being dead tired and having to get up with a sick child - again -  doesn't add 'warm fuzzies' to your life.  Facing unemployment and/or foreclosure can bring on panic. Feeling lonely is lonely. Fear is scary.  And no one learns how to deal with struggle without struggling through struggle.  We struggle.  We learn.  We struggle.  We learn.
The older I get, the easier it is to look back and see the small baby steps of progress that have grown out of the struggles.  And from each struggle, I have picked up and carried another piece of 'truth' that I have learned about God and myself and life, and tucked it away in my pocket for safe keeping.  These truths that I've learned through struggle are deep down in my heart.  They have become a part of me.  They are not just head knowledge that I have read somewhere and memorized, but truth that I have struggled with and wrestled with and cried over and they have become attached and woven right into my heart.  More of My Adventure to come, but first.....
Where are you right now in your struggle?  Do you think God is just floating around on a cloud up there in the sky, and all of a sudden looks down and says, "Oh, Myself!  What's happening?"  NOT TRUE. God is VERY aware of what is happening.  He cares.  He is involved.  I've noticed, though, that He doesn't act in the way that I demand of Him.  I'm not above Him to order Him around.  I'm not in charge.  He is.  And He has a plan....
"Our world is fallen. Somehow, through it all, God is telling a good story.  Nothing will ever happen that God cannot redeem to move the story along to a glorious finale'."   (Larry Crabb)
Surrender to, get to know, learn about...that God."    

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I was not born with an internal GPS.  I have no sense of direction.  In fact, if I tell you to turn right, you probably should turn left.  I love to be the driver, but very often, my passengers will hear me say, "Where am I?  How did I get here?"  Life feels like that, too.  And if you are just looking closely at each moment of your life, like looking closely at one puzzle piece, you can think you're understanding the whole puzzle, but when that puzzle piece is snapped into place and you back up and take a look - now seeing a bigger area of the puzzle - things might look different. 
With all income gone, I began job searching and was happy to begin a new career 'cookin' coffee', as I like to call it.  It was a fast pace, physically challenging job.  But, it got me out into my community and forced me to grow in my people skills, my memory skills and my physical endurance. I worked with a great team of people who have become good friends.  I was also trying my hand at writing children's books.  I am known, in my family, for writing funny, sarcastic poems that might pop up in a birthday card, or Christmas letter.  I decided to put my quirky rhyming skills to work making Bible stories fun for kids to read. 
My husband took a sales job that aided people in selling their homes on-line, and on the side, began developing a company to help condo associations deal with abandoned condo units.  Also, during year #1, he began the process of getting his real-estate license, knowing that this would allow him to expand more in both pursuits.
Financial decisions had been made during year #1.  We were asking for a home loan modification - which we had gotten and were current on.  We had cashed in all of our retirement money and paid off our credit cards completely. We were able to stay current on our car loan.  The college loan was on hold.  And surprisingly, we were able to sit down with our list of monthly bills and found several things we could cut out.  How about that!  
Our puzzle was starting to take shape......or was it?
Near the end of year #1 of this new journey we were on, we began to suspect that things were not all well and good with the sales company my husband worked for and he was informed early in year #2 that they were filing bankruptcy.  And after almost a year's worth of work laying the foundations for his 'new company', he watched his dream die after 3 court hearings which didn't produce the legal support needed.
More puzzle pieces. 

Year #2 is right around the next bend........

Monday, February 28, 2011


Someone told me - years ago - to look at my life and my marriage as MY ADVENTURE!  Those words have helped me when I have been facing any scary, unknown curve in the road.   Once again, MY ADVENTURE is blazing new territory.......
We are moving from a 4 bedroom condo in a beautiful 'planned community'. The last 5 years have been a crazy ride.  We had been renters and worked 10 years to dig out of debt.  We were free from debt, and very committed to keeping it that way.
Our condo went from being rentals to selling to individual owners.  At that very moment in time, my husband and I both had good paying jobs.  We decided to take the plunge.  (cashing in a little retirement to have the down payment.)
The very same month we moved in as owners, I lost my job.  4 months later, I opened a notice that came in the mail from the tax assessment people.  Our mortgage payment would increase by $600 a month for one year to make up for last years tax deficiency and this years tax increase.  Each month was a struggle, but we kept our heads above water.
Then, part of my family moved in with us because they were having marriage and financial struggles (2 adults and 2 children).  During this time, our commitment to live within our means slowly eroded, and our credit card debt began to build.  We lived like this for about 2 years.
The next ADVENTURE happened March 20, 2009 at 4:30 pm on a Friday.  My husband, a top paid  manager in the company he'd worked for 14 years, received a phone call saying, "You're done!"  With a one weeks pay as our good-bye gift, we began the journey of "Now What?"  This took place right when Florida was starting to fall apart from the financial crises in our country.  Unemployment, foreclosure....Florida ranked on top, and now we did our part to help those numbers out.
We had tried to make smart choices with our money.  Periodically, we would get out our list of monthly bills and look them over to see what we could cut.  Everything seemed necessary...or at least within reason.  We had overspent sometimes, but some of the biggest over-spends had been to help out a family member in need.  We used the credit card - at first JUST for business that we would pay monthly, but over the years we got sloppy and charged 'just gotta have it' stuff.  We had loans for house, 2 cars, college.  But, didn't we HAVE to do it this way.
The little voice in the back of our heads said, "NO!"...but it was a very little voice.
.......follow MY ADVENTURE....more to come.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011: The Year of Cuddling

At the beginning of each new year, my husband and I began the tradition of naming the year.  It's a way to state a goal or challenge or hope of what the new year will bring.  We have been married 32 years, so we've gone through many names, such as:  The Year of Peace, The Year of No Debt, The Year of Relationships, The Year of Laughter and on and on. 
I am a deep thinker and love to analyze life.  This can be helpful, but sometimes (usually) it is annoying.  Underneath the mask of being 'psychologically in-touch' I've realized it is much more of a control issue.  My husband gets tired of this habit of mine.  One day, he said, "being married to you is like a never ending counseling session."  I don't think that was a compliment. 
So, here I was 'thinking deeply' about a meaningful name to give 2011.  I was considering 'The Year of Letting Go', or 'The Year of Freedom......
I brought the subject up to my husband.  "What do you think we should name 2011?"
After just a quick pause, he said, "How about 'The Year of Cuddling?"
"Well," I laughed, "since that NEVER occurred to me....I suppose that's what it should be."
Cuddling.  It says it all:  enjoying the moment, no fear, fun, laughter, relaxed, caring about each other, trust....
"2011:  The Year of Cuddling"  It's official!