Thursday, August 7, 2014

One Thousand Blessings

I'm reading a book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. In it she talks about how she learned "eucharisteo" - grace, joy and thanksgiving.  She took a dare to list 1,000 things she loved and it changed her.  It taught her gratitude.  It taught her to see God in the little things all around us.  So, now I'm taking the dare.  Can I list one thousand blessings that I see from God?

Here it goes:

1. Little boy cheeks kissed by the sun during a day by the lake
2. Beach sand shimmering like gold, full of mica
3. My daughter engrossed in a book that I also loved as a child
4. My son being snuggly
5. Grandfather and grandson building a dam in a creek
6. My 10 year old daughter's observation that  "Malificent had a tragic backstory"

Would anyone like to join me in finding one thousand blessings in the world around us?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Life Decisions

Ok. I know I've been gone a long time. I apologize. Life has been busy and exhausting and once I got out of the routine of writing I couldn't seem to get myself back into it. So, here I am, trying to get back in the habit of writing.

Recently I was out to eat with a friend and we were talking about the dreams we had for ourselves and how life has changed those dreams or squashed them. I told her that I've been strongly tempted lately to give up on my dream in favor or pursuing a career that has much better prospects for improving the financial situation for my family. The talents that I see in myself don't seem to easily translate into stable income, unless I happen to become famous, which we all know is not likely to occur. So, with that in mind, I've been thinking about going back to school to do something that can get me a well paying job. I don't really know what that would be. Maybe programming or web design or something in the medical field. She said, "Yeah, you could do that, but don't you think you would be miserable?"

I asked my husband what he thought, and he said, "You have only one life. You should do what's in your heart."

In theory, I agree with them. In real life, I don't think it's as simple as that. I wonder if it would be better to spend my life doing "what's in my heart" and quite possibly staying in poverty and never finding much success or spend my life in a career that maybe I don't love but gives my family a better quality of life.

Some people would say, "Do both." Well, at this point in time, I don't feel like I can. I can't work full time at my job, go to school, be mommy and wife and also find time, energy and inspiration to write. For some reason, right now I feel pressure to make a decision and choose one or the other.

Of course, I suppose that it is possible that I could write my book, get it published and end up making a good living with it, but that's not something I can bank on. Everyone knows someone who is a writer (if they aren't one themselves) and very few people can live on what they make as such. Maybe it's just my pessimistic nature, (I prefer to call it realistic, not pessimistic) but it doesn't seem like a great gamble to make.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


I have summer-itis.  Is it even called that anymore?  I don’t know.  That’s what we called it when I was in high school, anway.  I have an acute case of “school-is-almost-over-and-I-can’t-wait!”  The crazy thing about it is that I’m not the one who is in school.  It’s my kids!  I’m so tired of homework, papers to sign, activities to keep track of, school mornings, lunches, and herding everyone out the door.  We have a week of school left and I am so ready to be done.

My daughter has one project left, and it is insane!  She’s supposed to build an electrical circuit that can turn on a light bulb.  Seriously?  She’s in the 4th grade.  I didn’t ever have to do this.  Not even in college. (Of course, I didn’t study electrical engineering, but that is beside the point.)  How is a 9 year old supposed to know how to do this?  The obvious answer is; they’re not. Mom and Dad are supposed to do it… I mean help them do it.

I am feeling so overwhelmed by this project that I nearly had an emotional breakdown about it the other night.  I had to go for a walk and pray some peace into my soul.

Also, I’m at the point that I just don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me if she gets it done or not.  I don’t care if she gets a zero on her last project of the year.  I just don’t want to deal with it.  But…I know that I should care.  It should matter to me and I should be excited about helping her with it.  I feel a lot of pressure for her project to be amazing because I know that there are kids in her class who have engineers for parents and the bar will be set pretty high.

Honestly, I think the problem is that the project is making me feel stupid.  I don’t have the slightest idea how to begin.  I’ve had to google it and even then, anything but the most basic of instructions looks like a foreign language to me.  So, it’s easier for me to mentally check out of this thing than to do the work it will take to learn enough about electrical circuits to help my 9 year old daughter build one for a school project.  It’s just hard for me to accept that I am already at the point of not understanding my children’s homework.  I didn’t think this would happen until high school.  Lord help me when we get to there!

Of course, the situation isn’t helped by the fact that, as a grown-up with a full-time job in the corporate world, there will be no summer vacation for me.  I tend to forget that though, in the race to the end of the school year. But then, one day I realize, yes, summer is coming, but the care-free days of playing in the pool, reading fun books and hanging out with friends every day are gone.  I have responsibilities that don’t go away just because summer is here.  And then, I get a bit depressed.  Yeah, there are weekends and I’ll probably take a few days off here and there, but it’s not the same. Maybe someday I will have summers like that again.   I think that's something I'm going to have to pray about.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ode to my Grandmother

This past weekend was my grandmother’s 80th birthday. Needless to say, there was a big shindig at her house to celebrate. My mom called me the night before and asked if I could “write a poem or something to read for Grandma at the party tomorrow”. Um, OK.

So, I came up with kind of a silly little poem. Some of my family members asked if I could type it up, so here it is, my impromptu ode to my grandmother:

There was an old lady who lived in a shoe. 
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do…

Wait, that was a different lady. Let me start again.

There was a young lady who lived in a pink house, and a blue house and a green house and a brown house, too.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
Those children would grown and finally leave through the front door
Just to be replaced by two or three or four, maybe more.
Over the years, she cared for so many:
Nieces, nephews, in-laws and grandchildren aplenty.

Her home came to be known all across the land
As a place where wonderful food could be had.
“Beerocks, veninakas, cinnamon rolls and bread!
Cookies, cobblers and more!” everyone said.
Everything fresh and hot, made from scratch.
Laverne at the last cookie? Time to whip up a batch!
“How does she do it?” people asked with such awe.
“Her house is so clean! There’s no dirt at all!”

But bigger than that, more important by far,
Is the part of her life that makes her a star.
This lady serves Jesus like no one I’ve known.
She serves him by serving others; sometimes all alone.
She prays for her family and friends through their trails
Even while through her own tears she smiles.

So now she’s turned 80 and still going strong.
(I think she still be here when MY grandchildren come along.)
There’s still lots to do before her time is done.
Her family still needs her, each and every one.
She taught us that family means people who care.
She holds us all together with her love and food and prayer.

I love you, Grandma. Happy Birthday!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Unexpected Solutions

After such an extended absence, I feel like I have some explaining to do. For anyone who was left hanging by my last post and has been wondering what happened, I apologize. The simple answer is that things got really, really crazy and I didn’t have the time or energy to write about it all.

So, if you will recall, September 11th was the last day we could be in our apartment, due to the 60 day notice that our landlords gave us. As of the end of July, we hadn’t been able to find any place that had the three bedrooms we needed and was in our price range. Anything big enough was way out of our price range. Anything in our price range was two bedrooms or less, and I didn’t think that any landlords would be willing to rent such a place to a family of five. I started feeling desperate.

My husband and I had been praying and really seeking God to find his will for us in the situation and we were looking for any open door. We prayed about moving away, but we both felt strongly that it was not time for us to leave the Bay Area. Things were going well for us at our church, in our ministries and at our children’s school. We believed we were somehow supposed to stay, we just didn’t know where.

Because of the way my payday fell in the month of August, I had to wait until the 4th to pay the rent. This is technically late, but we have always had a 5 day grace period, so I didn’t think much about it. On the 2nd, we received a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit from the landlords. Again, I wasn’t too worried about it, because I knew I would have it on the 4th. On the 3rd, my husband and I struck up a conversation with our neighbor. He had heard about the 3-day notice and, since his mother owns several rental properties and has dealt with many evictions over the years, he shared his knowledge with us. He said that by law, the landlord could refuse to accept our rent, and if they did that, we would be bound by the 3-day notice and would have to be out of our place in 3 working days instead of the 35 days we had remaining on our 60 day Notice.

I started to really panic. I went upstairs and started doing research on the internet. I found really conflicting information about what the law was and lots of renter horror stories. My brain went into overdrive trying to come to grips with the possibility that we might have to be out in 2 days. The logical part of my mind believed that because it was a “Pay or Quit” notice, not a “3-day Notice to Vacate” that we should be fine, but I couldn’t be sure. The emotional side of me began to fall apart. I didn’t feel like I could handle anything else. As it was, I went through each day barely holding myself together. I was hanging onto the promise that God would take care of us by my finger nails. The fear that our time had run out a month earlier than expected pushed me over the edge.

Since the kids were safely in bed, I went to my room and completely broke down. I found myself on my knees at the side of my bed sobbing. I tried to plan where we would go and what we would do, but I couldn’t think straight. The darkness of the night felt like it was pressing in on me as my fear became overwhelming and blocked out every other thought. I had trusted God, tried to serve Him when and wherever I believed he wanted me to, and now, when things were already a huge mess, they were about to get so much worse. I couldn’t understand why we were being abandoned this way.

Eventually, I started to realize that this onslaught of emotion that I couldn’t get a handle on could be the result of a spiritual attack. I had a mental image of demons all around me pressing in on me and taking advantage of my mental and emotional exhaustion to capitalize on this moment of weakness. The only words I could form were, “God, help me!” I said it again and again.

A little while later, a song came to mind. It was an old one that I grew up singing in church but hadn’t heard in years, called “In the Name of Jesus”. If you don’t know it, here are the lyrics:

In the name of Jesus

In the name of Jesus

We have the victory

In the name of Jesus

In the name of Jesus

Demons will have to flee

When we stand on the name of Jesus

Tell me who can stand before?

In the mighty name of Jesus

We have the victory

It’s a simple little song, but I grabbed onto it with everything I had left. I climbed up onto my bed and laid there singing that song, softly, over and over. Slowly, I felt peace begin to grow in my heart. The emotional darkness began to lift and I began to relax. Whatever happened the next day, whether the landlord took the rent or not, I started to believe that it would be ok. God had always taken care of us before, we wouldn’t leave us now. I went to sleep that night still concerned, but no longer terrified of what would happen the next day.

In the morning, I saw the landlord and she greeted me, just as happy and cheerful as can be, as if she had not just given us a 60-day notice followed by a 3-day notice. I asked if she had gotten the rent we left for her and she said, “Oh, yes I did. Thank you!”, sounding as if she was not at all concerned about it. I didn’t know whether to be relieved that it was all fine, incredulous that she was so flippant about the whole situation and seemingly unaware (or uncaring) of the really difficult and stressful situation she had put us in, or angry that I had spent the evening before being so tormented by possibility of something that wasn’t an issue at all. Really, I felt all three of those.

Since we were now assured of a place to live for the month of August, I got back to the discouraging work of apartment hunting. We put in an application at a “low income” housing community and were told that there would be a 4 month wait, at least. We checking into several other such places, but they all wanted application fees and credit check fees. We could have spent hundreds of dollars just applying at apartment complexes, let alone the 1st month’s rent, deposit, etc. We just didn’t have the money to do it and time was running out. We kept packing and praying and looking. Our friends were also looking and praying.

On August 18th, the moms group I belong to met and I shared with them my fear and worry about the situation. That night, my good friend shared with me that her husband had helped another family that we know from church to move some of their big furniture. They were moving in with the wife’s father since her mom had passed away a few years werlier and dad was all alone in their big house. It came out, while they were moving sofas, that they were interested in renting out their condo, but didn’t really know where to start.

I dared to hope that this could be the answer we were looking for. Since we were on friendly terms with them, I sent the wife an email. I found out from her that it was a two bedroom condo, which was smaller than what we wanted, but they knew about out family situation and didn’t have a problem with all 5 of us living there. Except for the number of bedrooms, the place had everything else we needed (and some things we didn’t need, but wanted). The price was right, too. About one week later, we met to sign the papers. It all fell into place so beautifully that I had a hard time not thinking that it was too good to be true.

The day the place was ready for us to move in was the very day we had to be out of the old place. Moving day was one of the most difficult and exhausting days of my life, but we made it. We had several friends and neighbors show up to help us and we really couldn’t have done it without them. They were my heroes that day. Not only did they work really hard, they encouraged us when it looked hopeless and we didn’t think we would get it done in one day. I am so thankful for them!

Living in our new place has been a big adjustment. We’re quite a bit farther from work, church and school than we used to be. We spend a lot more time driving and a lot more money on gas. We live in peace, though. We rent from people that care about us and will fix things when they need to be fixed. My kids can go outside to play in the front yard. I don’t have to yell at them any more for jumping in the house because there are no downstairs neighbors to worry about disturbing. It’s a better, quieter neighborhood. And, we can see the stars at night! (Maybe that sounds strange, but we really couldn’t see them where we lived before.)

So, God came through. In spite of my fear and doubt and worry, he took care of it in a way that I never could have planned or expected. He took a terrible situation and used it to get us into a much better one. It was scary and difficult and horrible, but I’m so glad it happened and that we are on the other side of it now.

Have you been through something that looked hopeless but God showed up with an amazing solution? I’d love to hear your story!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

60 Days

I know I have been absent from my blog lately and I apologize. My life went crazy a few weeks ago. Not just a little crazy. A lot crazy. I’ve been reluctant to write because I’m struggling and I don’t want my posts to always be about struggling and pain. Also, I just didn’t have any words. I would sit at the computer and stare at the screen thinking, “I should write about what’s going on,” but no words would come.

On July 10th, we got notice from our landlords that we have to leave in 60 days. They’ve been trying to get us to leave for quite some time. They just finally decided to stop trying to make us want to leave and just kick us out. With a 60 day notice there doesn’t have to be any particular reason and there is no real recourse. We just have to leave.

Initially, I handled the news well. I was even feeling a little excited because I’ve been wanting to move out of this place for so long. It’s too small for us, it’s old and it is falling apart. This is the time for God to step in and provide a new, better place to live. He has to, right?

Now I’m 21 days into the search for a new place, though, and the excitement has given way to fear. We live in the Bay Area of California and the cost of living is one of the highest in the country. The truth is, we don’t have enough income to meet the expense of renting even a 3 bedroom apartment here.

For the past few years, I’ve been praying for a house with a yard for my kids to play in and enough bedrooms that my daughter (who will be starting puberty soon) will not have to share with her brother and her grandmother anymore. I haven’t been asking for a mansion, just a modest three or four bedroom house with a little backyard and room for the kids to play and grow. I’d been trying to dream big and believe that God wants to bless me and give me good gifts. Now, though, I’m wondering if I was wrong to believe that God would do such a thing for me. Now, I’m wondering if I should stop expecting for the best from him and start looking for anything from him.

I want to believe that God is going to use this to bring us a wonderful blessing, but the money just isn’t there to afford a monthly payment for what we need. The way things have been going, I’m afraid that we are going to end up in a smaller place or in a bad neighborhood, or worse yet, living in a cheap motel.

I know that “All things work together…” blah, blah, blah. That doesn’t help me right now. At this moment, I need tangible answers to prayer. I need to see that God has something in the works to take care of this problem because it really is starting to look like he has left us hanging out here all on our own to figure this out.

I’m not supposed to be afraid though. “Faith and fear can’t take up the same space.” I’ve been hearing that a lot lately. I know it’s true, but right now fear has chased my faith away, because I don’t really know that God is going to come through with a great place for us to live. I know we will be taken care of and that all our needs will be met, but I don’t know that God isn’t going to let things get worse before they get better.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I haven’t figured it out yet, so it keeps coming up. I’ve been taught that in order for God to answer our prayers we have to believe and not doubt.

“Believe. Don’t doubt.”

“God answers our prayers when we believe.”

If God is a god who is going to not answer my prayers or bless my life because I am struggling and I’m scared and confused and angry and feeling desperate, then maybe I don’t want him. I don’t know that I want to serve a god who is limited by my faith at any given moment, because, to be honest, I’m a basket case. My emotions and faith fluctuate all the time. From day to day, from hour to hour, the way I am feeling and how much I am trusting God varies enormously. So, is God up there constantly monitoring the level of my faith in order to see if he can work in my life? Is he going to say, “Oh, you were almost there. I could have answered your prayer, but you had a bad day today and stopped believing that I was going to come through, so we have to start all over again. Better luck next time.”

That doesn’t seem like the character of the loving God that would send his son to die for the sins of people who hadn’t even been born yet so that they could one day be with him. I just can’t believe that it really works that way. I just wish that I could figure out which way it does work.


This situation has revealed to me how many wonderful friends we have and how many people are supporting us and praying for us. It’s really been an amazing blessing. What has been really hard for me, though, is how often I have had to talk about money. As in how much we have (or don’t have). I really don’t like letting people in on what really is going on in our bank account. It’s not a pretty picture and it’s one I’d rather that my friends don’t see. However, I have to tell them what we can afford to pay every month if they are going to be any help in finding something for us.

Every time I do, though, I feel ashamed. Every time I say it out loud, I feel that I am admitting to my failure to provide well for my family, because it reveals once again how hopeless and impossible the situation looks. I know that the amount of money that I have bears no relation to my worth as a person, but it is really hard not to connect the two in this culture, in this time in history. I should not be in this situation. I should be able to do better. Admitting that I can’t is embarrassing and humiliating.

People are worried about us and I don’t want them to be. I don’t want the people I care about to feel sorry for me. I see it in their eye and hear it in their voice, though. They try to encourage me and tell me that everything is going to work out, and I agree with them. I tell them that I know that God is going to take care of us and we’ll find something, and sometimes I believe that, but sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I say the bold faith-filled statements because I’m trying to make them feel better. I don’t want them to know how scared I really am. I want my friends to think that I am strong and I don't want them to know that sometimes I’m barely holding it together.

So, there it is. That’s what’s been going on and why I haven’t written, for anyone who noticed. Please don’t feel sorry for us. Just pray for us. Please pray that God will provide a good place for us to live. Pray that I can have the faith to trust him in the midst of the turmoil. Pray that we can see clearly where he has an open door for us and that we have the strength to walk through to wherever he’s trying to lead us.

In spite of it all. . . In spite of all the doubt and the fear and the insecurity, I want to go where he’s leading. I want to stay in his will because I believe that is the safest place for us to be.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Wedding, A Show and A Prayer

For anyone who has been waiting for my posts the last few weeks, I apologize. We’ve had a very busy last two weeks. My cousin got married on June 23rd, so we took a mini family vacation to L.A. to attend the wedding. It was an AMAZING event! I hope Alex and Sammie don’t mind if I post a few pictures. 

All the little details and final touches made it so memorable. We had a great time!

My family.  Just so you know we were actually there. ^_^

I know it’s nothing like what his parents feel about it, but it’s a very strange thing to watch a young man that you carried around when he was a newborn, played with when he was a toddler and teased when he was a teenager, stand in front of all his family and friends and commit his life in marriage to a beautiful young woman. He’s become a grown man, tall and handsome. I’m happy for him and sad at the same time.

I watched my own little guy running around with his cousins and dancing like crazy on the dance floor and thought about how one day, before I know it, I’ll be watching him make the same commitment to a young lady that he loves. I hope and pray that he turns out as well as Alex did.

We came back from the wedding just in time to get into the final rehearsals for the Celebrate America show that our church does every year for the 4th of July. It’s a huge patriotic event and concert that we do that the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View every year. My husband is in the choir, my kids are in the kids choir, and I had volunteered to help with the kids, so we had a lot of practices to do and were out late every night from Wednesday to Saturday June 30th, the day of the show.

That day, just before the show started, there was a very difficult situation that happened backstage, which ended with me feeling deeply hurt and rejected and my daughter not performing in the show. I’m not going to get into the specifics of it here, because I’m in the process of trying to work it out with the others involved. However, the resulting emotional fallout for me has lasted for days. It left me questioning myself, my value and my judgment. It actually kept me up for several nights because I couldn’t stop the rerunning the event in my mind and planning what I should say to whom in order to deal with it.

Needless to say, it’s been a long few weeks.

The other day while I was working, I had Air1 radio playing. The song Remind Me Who I Am by Jason Gray came on and the words kind of popped out at me. I’ve heard this song many times, but maybe I wasn’t really listening before. It was the words from the chorus that caught my attention:

Tell me, once again
Who I am to You, who I am to You
Tell me, lest I forgetete
Who I am to You, that I belong to You
To You

I think that lately I have forgotten who I am. In all the chaos of living every day in a life filled with difficulty, struggle, disappointment and insecurity I’ve lost sight of who I am in Christ.

Intellectually, I know that I am a daughter of the King and, as the Bible says, joint heirs with Christ. The problem is that I don’t know that I’ve ever really internalized that. I don’t know how to live in this fallen world and yet keep in mind that my destiny lies beyond it. Sometimes I manage to hold onto the idea that I am a Child of the Most High God for a little while, but then life comes along and shatters that perception with the reality of here and now. My life certainly doesn’t look like that of royalty. It doesn’t look like I am highly favored and blessed. So, how do I maintain the knowledge that I am who the Bible says I am when my circumstances look more like those of a pauper?

Maybe I just need to hear it again from God. That’s probably something I should start praying about.

Heavenly Father, I know that the Bible is supposed to be enough for me to know that you love me. I also know that the very fact that you sent your son to die in my place is also all the evidence I should need. I’m just so weak. My heart is fragile and I get discouraged so easily. This world seems determined to beat me down these days and it’s so easy for me to forget and feel unloved and forgotten by you. I get distracted by how hard life is and forget that this is only the dress rehearsal for eternity.

So, please forgive my weakness. And, please tell me again who I am to, that I belong to you. Please tell me again that I’m the one you love. And help me not to forget.