Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Last week, I attended a writer’s retreat in the beautiful Colorado Rockies. I didn’t say much while I was there. After all, I’m not a real writer, and I didn’t want to give away my secret. I don’t think humor columnists count, do they?

As I sat around listening to the real writers discuss things like characterization and dangling participles and POV (what in the world is POV, anyway?) I gazed longingly at the snow-capped mountains, and wondered if I could rent some skis and sneak away for a day.

But then, I thought better of it. I could just see Mark, picking me up from the airport in my wheelchair. Casts on both arms. And both legs.


Mark: Honey, what happened?

Me: Oh, those writers are a rough bunch. I got bounced.

Mark: What are you talking about?

Me: They had bouncers and everything. To make sure we didn’t break any grammar rules. I accidentally broke four, and this is what they did to me.

Needless to say, I stayed at the retreat. And I’m glad I did, because I met some really nice people there. It was a little intimidating at first, hob-knobbing with all of those published authors. People like Stephen King.

No, Stephen King wasn’t there. I said people like Stephen King.

But as I talked with other writers, I learned that we all have our own special gifts and talents. We all have a unique perspective, and that perspective, when used well, can bring encouragement and joy and hope to someone who needs it. I learned that I don’t have to try to be like anybody else. I just need to be the best little humor columnist that I can be.

And try not to break any grammar rules in the process.

Isn’t it silly that we compare ourselves to others? After all, if we were all the same, this would be a pretty dull place. So what if someone else can do something better than I can? I’ll bet that I have something to contribute that no one else can. And if we’d all stop worrying about trying to be like everybody else, and just concentrate on offering the very best of ourselves to those around us, the world would be a much better place, don’t you think?

The truth is, nobody is really keeping score. In real life, nobody cares if you’re a multiply published author, or if you won the blue ribbon at the county fair for the past twelve years, or if you can sing better than anyone else. There are no bouncers waiting to pounce on you as soon as you make a mistake, proving that you’re not as qualified as those around you. What people really want to know is whether or not you care about them. And you can quickly become the most popular person around, simply by using your gifts to bless others.

So, my friend, what do you do well? Are you a great cook? Perhaps you can garden, or play the piano, or hot-wire a car. (If it’s the latter, please don’t tell the police that I’m the one who encouraged you to use your gifts . . .) Find what you do well, and do your best at it. Then use that gift to bless somebody else.

Even if it’s as silly as writing a little humor column for your local paper.

Romans 12:6, 8 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. . . if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keep Going

Don’t you just love to watch people run? Whether they’re running a race, or a marathon, or just trying to get into shape, there’s something inspiring about seeing a person running. Every time I see a runner, I just want to cheer and encourage him or her to keep going.

Well, with one possible exception. If the person is wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun, I probably won’t cheer.

Just saying.

But any other kind of runner inspires me. The sight tends to stir up memories of the theme song from “Chariots of Fire.” It makes me want to go lace up my own running shoes, and give it a go.

Woman Jogging Blur

As a matter of fact, I have started running recently. Now, don’t be too impressed. I can run about .2 miles without stopping. That’s point two. Then, I walk a few steps, catch my breath, and run about .2 more. And on it continues, until I reach my goal.

Or until I collapse in the grass. Whichever comes first.

But here’s the good news: When I keep going, I eventually reach my goal. It may take a while, but I get there. As a matter of fact, last week I racked up a whopping 3.6 miles a day! Jog a little. Walk a little. Jog a little. Walk a little.

I may not win any races except my own. But in the end, isn’t that the only race that matters?

My little jogging victories remind me of the importance of continuing on in the pursuit of other goals. Like the twenty pounds I want to lose. Sure, I’d like to lose it all in a week. But even if I lose a half pound a week . . . I’ll get there. So what if it takes nearly a year? That year will pass by, anyway. If I give up, I won’t be any better off then than I am now. So I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Most of us have goals. Hard goals, or they wouldn’t be worth having as a goal in the first place. And often, we are tempted to just collapse in the grass before we get there.

Goals like finishing that college degree. One class at a time. Or getting that garage cleaned out. One square foot at a time. It may take a while. But if we just keep taking tiny little steps, we’ll get there.

Our journeys of faith can seem that way, too. Sometimes, having faith in God is hard. When things happen that we don’t understand, or things don’t go our way, we often want to just quit. We want to say, “Never mind, God. This is too hard. I’ll do this on my own, without you.”

And then we collapse in the grass. And we stay there. And a day passes, then a week, then a year, then a decade passes . . . and we’re not any further along in our journeys toward becoming who He created us to be than we were when we first gave up.

Oh, the failure doesn’t come in collapsing. We all want to give up now and again. The failure comes when we refuse to get back up, when we refuse to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to keep moving forward. One little step at a time. Point two miles at a time. Half a pound at a time. And eventually, I’ll be stronger, and healthier and skinnier. And then, it really won’t matter how long it took me to get there.

1 John 2:28 “And now, dear children, continue in Him . . .”

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Has anyone out there ever really calculated all the things that a mother does? Oh, I’m sure they’ve tried. But I’m not sure it’s possible to come up with a complete job description. Just when you think you have recorded every possible thing a mother is required to do, something new will inevitably make its way onto the list.

Things like, “Teach older child not to turn on the dryer when younger child is inside.” And, “Teach younger child not to climb into the dryer.”

Not that anything like that has ever happened in my family.


The more experience I get as a mother, the more in awe I am of my own mother. She is awesome. Terrific. There are no words to describe how amazing she is.

So here, in black and white, I’d just like to take a moment to say thank you to her, and to all the other mothers out there who make their children feel loved and important, who make sure their children are warm and well-fed and clean and safe and happy.

Mom, thank you.

Thank you for clean underwear in my drawer. I never really knew how it got there. Never thought about it, really. All I knew was, when I opened my drawer, I always had clean undies and socks. Thanks.

Thank you for making sure I ate breakfast every morning before I went to school. Even when I refused to get out of bed on time, and made you and everyone else in the house late, you always made sure that I at least had a banana or a piece of toast in my hand, as we rushed out the door.

Thanks for wearing panty hose with runs in them, so that I could have that new pair of shoes.

Thanks for saying, “No, I don’t really care for apple pie, and I’m not hungry anyway,” when there was only one piece left. (That’s going above and beyond the call of duty, in my opinion.)

Thank you for teaching me to stand up straight, and look people in the eye, and smile.

Thank you for telling me, over and over again, that I could do anything I set my mind to. I believed you.

Thank you for not letting me get by with average grades, when you knew I was capable of more.

Thank you for teaching me that being kind is more important than being popular.

Thank you for teaching me that the girl who doesn’t date much in high school is often the girl all the boys want to marry, once they’re out of college.

Thank you for waiting up for me, when I was on a date, and acting excited to hear all the details. I knew you’d be waiting, and believe it or not, I looked forward to those girl-talks. They were fun.

Thank you for forcing me to run for freshman office, my first year of college. I thought you were being pushy at the time. But when I won the election, I was glad. I wouldn’t have had the courage to try if you hadn’t told me I didn’t have a choice. So, thanks for being pushy when you needed to be.

Thank you for teaching me to believe in myself.

I guess, Mom, what I’m trying to say is, thank you for being my best friend. I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Proverbs 31:28 “Her children arise and call her blessed . . ."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Pretty Package

In my bathroom drawer, I have about every type of cosmetic product you can imagine. There is lipstick, lip liner, eyeshadow, eyeliner, blush, mascara . . . even some sparkly, glittery stuff to give me that fairy-talish quality. Then, there is the stuff that removes all the aforementioned stuff: cold cream, cleanser, astringent . . . Finally, there are lotions and creams and moisturizers to put back what the cleansers and astringents took away.

And that’s just for my face! I also have hair products galore. Hairspray. Gel. Mousse. Shiny spray stuff to give my hair that fairy-talish quality, so my hair will match my face. Of course, with all that, I need an assortment of shampoos and conditioners to remove the hairspray, gel, mousse, and shiny stuff.

The sad thing is, much of it only gets used a few times. Then, I discover that it doesn’t do what it promises to do. No matter how much stuff I put on my face and hair, I still look like me. Not Julia Roberts. Not Cinderella.

The word “cosmetic” actually comes from the Greek word, “cosmos,” meaning worldly. It refers to a skin-deep beauty. It’s all about the packaging. Funny, if we spent more time working on what’s inside our packages, instead of spending thousands of dollars and hours trying to make the wrapping look great, we’d sure get a lot more from our investment.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love a pretty package as much as anybody. I like a pretty house. But if there isn’t love in that house, it’s no more than a box. I like a pretty face. But if there’s not a kind, generous, loving spirit behind that face, well . . . I’d rather move on to another face. It’s kind of like getting a gigantic, sparkly, beautifully wrapped bag of fertilizer. It may be pretty on the outside. But after a while, it’s gonna stink. It’s not worth any more than a pile of rubbish.

In the end, this package – my body, is going to be discarded like wrapping paper and ribbons. I don’t want that to be all there is – just a big ol’ box of nothing special. When all the glitter and sparkles and packaging are removed, I want what’s inside to be so lovely that the packaging looks like what it is – worthless. I want the real value to be inside the box, not outside.

God’s Word, His wisdom shows us how to increase the value inside our package. He teaches us to be kind and generous. He teaches us to be humble and compassionate. He shows us how to really love others, and to make every single person feel important. And when we spend time learning His ways, it’s kind of like He takes a cosmetic brush and makes our spirits more lovely, more valuable. Only His changes are the kind that last and last, and can’t be washed away – no matter what kind of astringent life throws at us.

I John 2:17 “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”