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Cave to Cliff

One woman's journey from darkness to light

Peace

I needed to get away. I long for a place where water, sun, and nature live in harmony. I’ve been feeling boxed in by my house, car, buildings, and pavement. I needed to go to a place where I could listen to worship music and sing loud if I felt so inclined. I needed to sing my little heart out in a place where it didn’t matter that I can’t sing on pitch. Ginger, my dog, was with me, but she doesn’t mind my singing.

We get out of the car and immediately I feel a calm come over me. Ginger was excited by all the new smells. I was excited about the way the sun lit up the blades of grass and the trees reflected on the water.

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We walked. She sniffed. I sang, “I Exalt You” while the sun was rising higher in the morning sky. Everything was so perfect.

Then I saw a couple of birds. My heart leapt. I love birds. These 2 looked like some sort of crane. I’ll go out with my camera and telephoto lens next time so I can get closer to them. They were sure to keep their distance. I saw them do a little dance together. It was so simply beautiful to me.

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At one point Ginger was pulling so hard on the leash that I let go. She ran into the pond, swam about 20 feet out, then circled back toward me. I laughed. I’ve never seen her go swim into the water on her own. I’ve walked in rivers and taken her with me, but she wasn’t a willing participant at all.

When it was time to leave neither one of us was ready. It was time to move on to the rest of the day. I’m thinking that next time I’ll get there earlier and bring my camera and journal. Maybe I’ll even do my Bible reading out there.

These warm summer days will quickly fade into Autumn. I want to soak up every piece of goodness that I can.

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What brings you peace? When you’re feeling wonky and way off center, what do you do to get right again?

 

Three Months

Well, we’ve made it to the 3 month mark, people! You know what that means, right? On the 14th of each month we dress up in our wedding clothes.

So, here we are after church with a small group of people that we had lunch with afterwards.

Church was special yesterday. It was an all worship day. The musicians are skilled with hearts for worship. Lennox does a brilliant job of bringing people from different backgrounds to mesh beautifully into one amazing worship band. We had visitors from several churches blessing us with their voice or instrument.

Afterward, we threw together a potluck with several of the visiting musicians and some new friends that came down from Portland. If you ever have the chance to meet Edwin and Lisa, do NOT pass by that opportunity! Their story of how the met one another and how they met Jesus is nothing short of amazing.

I left with my heart full. I love how sitting around a few tables sharing food can bring all our hearts together. There is purpose in eating together.

Our hearts bond. Our tummies get filled. We get to know people outside of rushed conversations after church. We begin to dwell together.

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Summer Pears at 90 Days

Many, many years ago I learned to can pears. My Christopher was only about 2 years old at that time. I remember thinking how magical this whole food preserving thing is. For a little hard work you can feed your family yummy summer goodness in the dead of winter. Of course, we now live in the year 2016 where you can pretty much buy any kind of fruit all year around. We ship it in from all kinds of exotic places. I am grateful for that. After all, I’d never know the taste of a pineapple or avocado since they don’t grow here in Oregon.

I feel such pride and joy when I put up food. I’m not even particularly a huge fan of pears, but I certainly won’t pass them by. We have a tree in our backyard where hundreds of pears have already fallen. My husband, a man who grew up in a family not given to waste, took it upon himself to get into that pear tree and start picking. We don’t have a ladder, but he came up with the idea of driving my Yukon under the tree then putting a plank of plywood across roof rack. When he had picked all he could from that spot, he climbed into the tree.

I laughed.

I laughed because I never thought I’d see him up in a tree.

I laughed because seeing him up there made me so happy. It’s another way of him loving me and providing for our family. We’ve picked strawberries and cherries together. Now he’s up there picking pears. (I”m really hoping we get to pick peaches soon. We missed the blueberry picking time.) He later asked me what he could do to help get them ready to can. Right now they have a little more ripening up to do, but then we’ll get to work on it.

Even now I laugh out of sheer happiness because he’s so willing to do these sort of things with me. This life with him is good.

That, my friends, is how day 90 of this amazing marriage started out.

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Today’s the Day

The alarm sounds off early today. Today is the day I get up earlier for some alone time. I will pray and exercise before sitting down at my computer or doing dishes.

I have a lot of those “today is the day” moments. Yet, days often fade into obscurity. At the day’s end I lie in bed wondering where I brought value to anyone and how can I do better in the morning.

Really, though, it’s those old lies that whisper to me as I lay my head on my pillow, “You’re not good enough. Look at you. Your desk is a mess, your house is a mess, your kids are out of control. You can’t write well (nobody looks at your blog), you’re a terrible photographer (remember that one time you royally messed up), and you can’t at all sing (off pitch and a nuisance to the people in your life who really can sing. Oh, and you’re STILL fat.” And so, I drift off to sleep with a weak reply of, “That’s not true. I mean, all those things are true, but I am more than that….right, Lord?

Do you have those moments where you forget which way is up and where to go next? In those moments I remember a poem I heard of many years ago. I would spend my days listening to Elisabeth Elliot on the radio and on tapes at home. She would say, “When you don’t know what else to do, do the next thing.” For 20 years I’ve had a little poem from an unknown author up on my fridge. Part of it says:

Do it immediately;
do it with prayer;

Do it reliantly, casting all care;j

Do it with reverence,
tracing His Hand

Who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on Omnipotence,
safe ‘neath His wing,

Leave all resultings,
“DO THE NEXT THING.”

I laughed as I wrote that last line. I can still, after all these years, hear the voice of Elisabeth reading that poem and telling us all, “You are loved with an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

I pull out my Bible turning to 1 John to read all about the great love that God has for us.

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I light candles, pet my dog, and look at pretty pictures I’ve taken. Then I remember the beauty of all that is around me and I suddenly feel lighter.

Today I’m grateful for:
* my dog
* friends coming to visit today
* the rain
* the sun
* my Christopher

 

A Heart of Gratitude

It’s been nearly 6 years since I began my gratitude journal. You can read more about the start of that here. A woman I only knew as @delightingdays on Twitter had gifted me an amazon gift card so I could buy One Thousand Gifts. I now know her as Stacy Karen @delightfulhome. She likely has no idea of what an impact that small gift has made on my life.

Back in 2010 I was a single mom raising 4 kids on my own. Three of those kids have come to me through adoption. Day-to-day life was a battle. Every. Single. Day. I was alone and couldn’t figure out how I could better parent children with a background of trauma.

Depression was my constant companion. It lurked in the background, other days  I wore that thing like a robe. It was all worn out and comfortable to me. Shaking it off left me feeling empty.

I didn’t know it could be replaced with JOY. I had never known such a thing.

I knew there was something more. There had to be. Jesus didn’t come so that I could be trapped in my own mind. I didn’t know how to get out. Then I began to read A Holy Experience Blog by Ann Voskamp. She had begun the practice of listing 1000 for which she was thankful. Interesting concept. It certainly couldn’t hurt, right?

In One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are Ann points out in Luke 22:19 that Jesus broke bread and gave thanks before feeding the people.

In the original language, “he gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.”

I underline it on the page. Can it lay a sure foundation under a life? Offer the fullest life?

The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace”. Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.

But there is more, and I read it. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Joy. Ah…yes. I might be needing me some of that. that might be what the quest for more is all about ` that which Augustine claimed, “Without exception…all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, joy.”

There it was! Grace and Joy wrapped up as a gift in our giving Thanks.

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This isn’t anything new to us, is it? God’s word tells us to pray always giving thanks. Paul is a great example to us. In each one of his letters he’d say that he gives thanks for them [the people he’s writing to]. It has been right there all this time. There is no secret to joy.

So, I sit down to write. Some days I forced gratitude until it began to pour out of me. It was like those old water pumps. You begin to pump and the water doesn’t come at first. Then suddenly there’s a deluge of water, overflowing your bucket.

Today I’m at number 1147. I don’t write every day, but it has become my habit to look at this life through the filter of gratitude.  I find that is most important for me to practice gratitude when I feel the world closing in on me. We can sit in a room full of people we love and still feel so alone.  Get out that gratitude journal and begin by counting the gifts you have right there.

My friend used to say, “Look at your hand. What’s there?”I thought it was silly at first. Then suddenly it was profound.

What can you be grateful for today? Running water, paid bills, new deck, chirping birds, electricity?

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Today and yesterday I wrote:

1139. Joshua and Jessica’s wedding.
1140. Though today had some really tough spots, the day ended well. I count that as a victory.
1141. The migraine that threatened to overrule my day has quietly slipped away.
1142. Dinner was delicious – yay me!
1143. Kitchen is clean.
1144. All the laundry is done.
1145. Late night quiet moments to work and write.
1146. Early morning vineyard sunrise shooting with the love of my life.

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Fitness Friday

Several weeks ago I bumped into an old friend at a quaint bookstore in downtown McMinnville. It was a most joyous reunion! No matter how much time passes it feels as though we’ve never parted. Then when we talk, it feels like time stands still even though hours have passed!

I mentioned something about my weightloss journey when she looked at me with great love and tears filled her eyes. She said something to the effect of, “Dar, I admire you so much. You just keep going. You don’t give up.” I don’t remember exactly what else was said and I’d hate to embellish the story.

Yesterday I wrote about excuses. I tell myself that I don’t have time or that nothing ever changes. I’m still fat. My last “before” picture is the worst of all because I squeezed myself into a tank top that’s too small to wear. I want to know what it feels like when I can fit in appropriately.

Today it was really hard to get up and exercise. I thought of all the other things I could be doing. I thought, “Well, it matters more what I eat than how I move my body.” That’s true, but I was using it as an excuse.

So, I mustered up the willpower and got it done! It was a simply 5 minute quick warm up and a couple of videos that were less than 10 minutes each.

10 minute abs
10 minute butt and thigh workout

That’s it! In less than 25 minutes I did a great workout! Neither of those required any special equipment and were low impact. I couldn’t always keep up, but that’s alright! Next time I’ll work on improving on that.

At the beginning of summer I asked someone, “Do you have goals for the summer?” She laughingly replied, “Get in shape!” When I asked more about her plan she didn’t really have a one. I could tell she wasn’t ready to continue that conversation so I let it go. I get it, I’ve been there. We don’t believe we’ll do it so why even try. It’s a dirty lie, people. We can do it when we fully choose to do it!

Lennox and I recently started a 90 day challenge. He’s much better at getting in his protein and exercising every day. I often hear him say, “I’m winning this thing.” I believe him. I have affirmations I want to say, but they haven’t been made into spoken or written word. This fitness battle is won and lost in our head.

How do you go about reaching your goals?
Do you have someone to back you up, encourage you, be your accountability partner?
What are you doing every day to create the life you want?

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A Day To Remember

Life is precious. It’s short. We get old and talk about how quickly life passes us by. A loved one dies and not matter how old that person is, it simply wasn’t enough time with them.

I went on a walk with my dog today. We cried. Okay, I cried. I cried because I’m so proud of my oldest son, Christopher. He’s been in Georgia at boot camp then his cavalry scout training. I’m so happy for him and I’m so sad for me that I couldn’t also be there. (Truth be told, I’m struggling with feeling angry, left out, and jealous about the whole thing, too. Yes, I realize it’s wasted energy to entertain those emotions.)

Winter sent me a short video clip of the end of the graduation ceremony. I cried then, too. My little boy has become a man. The baby picture of him is when he was 10 months old on our first Mother’s Day together. Now, he’s a 20 year old military man. I don’t know how these 20 years have past so quickly. One day he’s here cuddling with me on the couch and the next day he’s a soldier. One day he’s telling you all about Star Wars characters and the next day…oh wait, that hasn’t changed. He can still talk all about that.

This day feels important. A day that we’ll come back to.

Life

We never know how much time we get to be in relationship with the ones we love. This photo is such a good reminder to me.

8 years ago I was given this card, flower, and key ring full of encouragement from my friend Sarah. She had enlisted the help of another friend, as well. Here’s what I wrote about this in a previous blog:

This is a gift I found on my table one morning after dragging myself out of bed. In fact, it was the Fourth of July. I had kept my kids up really late the night before so they would sleep in and not be so tired for the celebration that night. I also wanted to sleep in. I did hear my door open, but I thought perhaps the kids were letting a cat in or out of the house. I had no idea that I had a visitor. She let me sleep. This friend knew I was having a hard time getting out of bed each day so she came up with 32 reasons why I should. I keep them with me. I pressed the rose petals in my Bible where they remind me of the love of my friend. The still smell good. I cried as I read them out loud to my children. When I am stuck in my cave, afraid to move, I look at these to remind me why.

Sweet Sarah went home to Jesus 3 years ago today. I think of her crazily dancing with our Jesus and making people laugh. I love that she was never afraid to ask the hard questions and loved you even if the answers weren’t pretty.

Another dear friend of mine, Elaine, went to be with Jesus recently. I’m nearly laughing at the thought of those 2 together! It’s a riot up there!

Daniel and No Excuses

Just now I took several hours to get around to exercising. I had already decided to do it. I had already chosen the workout for the day. I just didn’t want to do it! I do want a strong and healthy body. Sometimes I just don’t want to put the effort into it. As I was working out I was thinking of the consequences of not exercising today or any other day. The first thing that came to mind for me was depression. What a slimy black pit that is. When I stop taking care of myself and start spending hours watching tv shows I feel depressed, then I start isolating myself, which then makes me lonely. It’s a horrible cycle. I’d even go as far to say that it’s a deadly cycle.

*disclaimer: for me this is only one of the factors that lead me down the road of depression. Others include: eating poorly, allowing myself to get offended easily, not reading the Bible and practicing gratitude, filling my head with negative and mindless things (whether that comes from music, movies, reading, or people)

On August 1st Lennox and I began to read the book of Daniel together.  I remembered that an author, speaker, and sister in Christ – Jennie Allen – is doing an online Bible study of Daniel this month. It’s called “Humble & Bold: How to Love God in a World That Doesn’t“. So, we started that together, as well. Today we discussed the first several questions in the study for Daniel 1 and 2 this morning. There’s some deep stuff there, people. I highly recommend doing this study and talking about with a friend. Jennie will also do live videos on Sunday evenings where we can all chime in via the comments.

Daniel chose to set himself apart from the rest of the nobles taken into captivity. Daniel 1:8 (HSCB) says, “Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank.” God then granted him favor and compassion from the chief official. Daniel is confident that he would be strong, but for the sake of the official he tells him to test it out for 10 days. If it doesn’t work, then Daniel and his friends will eat what the rest of them did.

Guess what happened?

Daniel and his friends looked BETTER and HEALTHIER than all the other young men! 

God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom. On top of that, Daniel was given the gift of understanding visions and dreams of every kind. (That saves a bunch of lives later on!) When the king interviewed them he found none equal to these 4 men. In fact, they were found to be TEN TIMES better than all the diviner-priests and mediums in the entire Babylonian kingdom! What????

This has me thinking about us, the people of God. Who are we? We are tourists here. Jesus tells us we are pilgrims and that while we are in this world we are not of this world. The word “holy” means set apart. Daniel set himself apart.

I think too many times we know what we are gifted in or called to do, but we just won’t step into it. We refuse to set ourselves apart and do what others aren’t doing. I think about the kind of life I want for my children and I know that it’s not going to magically happen. I know what I want my marriage to look like. I want it to be extraordinary. In 50 years I want Lennox and I still be glowing and look at each other with that twinkle in our eyes. I want my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren (they’ll call me G-Lola) to have incredible stories of God’s faithfulness. I want to hear the stories of their faithfulness to Him.

My excuses get in the way of that dream. My shortsightedness robs me and my future family of some incredible gifts. We wait for that magic moment when we feel like doing the thing we don’t want to. Or, if we’re real spiritual we wait on God. We say that, but sometimes that means we don’t want to actually put in the work. So we wait and get disillusioned and bitter. We sit at home waiting for something when we simply need to get up and move.

As people of God we should stand out in the world. I don’t mean stand out because we wear different clothes, cut our hair, don’t cut our hair, etc. I don’t mean outwardly at all. Stand out by loving better, being more honest, having a better work ethic, kindness should be our normal, that sort of thing.

As Lennox said this morning, “Discipline leads to distinction.”

Guess What Day It Is???

It’s the day we celebrate being married for 2 full months.

It’s also the day we welcome our Zurvita team to Dallas, Texas for the 2016 Zurvita National Conference!

I’m sitting at a desk in my hotel room at the Omni here in Dallas, Texas. My room is comfortably cool, yet when I walk outside it is oppressively hot. Several team members have arrived while some are waiting in airports or airplanes. Excitement is rising in the air. We’ve seen so many people from our Zurvita family so far. Lots of hugs, squeals of excitement, and hearts connecting. I’m so looking forward to what this weekend has in store for all of us.

What do we expect to get out of it? What do we expect to contribute to it? How can we add value to the people around us? Who can we build relationship with? How can I help my team become who they dream to be? I have so many thoughts and questions as I sit here.

For now, I’m going to venture out into the halls of this hotel and find more people to love on!

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