Here We Go

I am writing my first novel and I must confess that I have picked this up and put it back down for years! But God is nudging me and saying, “Finish it. You have something to say.” So I have made a goal to set aside July and August for some solid writing.

There are already so many people who have helped me as I have started this journey. I am part of a writer’s group that does a yearly retreat and they are so encouraging. I met with Kent Sanders, a writer in St. Charles MO, and he was SO supportive. I felt like I had just been to an awesome pep rally after spending time with him. If you have never listened to his podcast, The Daily Writer, I highly recommend it for anyone who writes. https://www.kentsanders.net/podcast/.

When I was on my vacation in Las Vegas, I met with a long-time friend who just happens to be a psychologist. She gave me some wonderful feedback that will be helpful on my journey.

So watch for snippets of my book, The Porch Swing, on this blog. Occasionally I will be asking for feedback from my readers. Sometimes I will just share my challenges and my triumphs. So starting tomorrow I will be writing. I will let you know how it goes.

So here is a teaser: As a 17-year-old high school senior, Stephanie King was raped by her youth minister and cast out of her home by her father, who chose to believe the youth minister’s word over hers. She was disillusioned with Christianity and her relationship with God. But she is left grappling with unwanted emotions when she hears of her father’s death. Follow her story as she finds redemption, reconciliation, and reckoning for her abuser.  

Gaining a New Perspective

I recently posted about a “dry fire” I had at my house on Mother’s Day. (https://lindadelaywallace.com/2022/05/13/smell-that-smoke/) It was quite an experience and because there was no soot or ash–only a house full of smoke–insurance would not cover anything. That meant that everything in my house had to be cleaned by yours truly, and luckily some faithful friends and family! It was an interesting two weeks following the incident.

Photo by KWON JUNHO on Unsplash

As I washed every cabinet and closet (and everything in them) in my house, I noticed that I had items I never used taking up space. Some of them were beautiful pieces of crystal that just sat in my upper cabinets the entire six years I have lived here. Some of them were clothes that I wondered what was I thinking when I purchased them. I have a fairly neat house, but when you must take every single thing out and clean it and evaluate it, it gives you a new perspective. My daughter cleaned my spice cabinet and ended up with about half the items I had before, because, well, you do not want to know how many expired spices I had!

After I disposed of expired items, gave away some of the crystal, and took bags of clothes and unused household items to the thrift store, I felt like a burden had lifted. I was unhindered by all of the things in my house that had been bogging me down and I look forward to not needing to “spring clean” or sort through clothes or cabinets. For now. Because no matter how careful I am, somehow clutter starts again, spices get expired, and laundry still needs to be done. But for all the hard work, there is a great freedom in the process I went through after the smoke cleared.

With all of this, I was reminded of a scripture in Hebrews 12:1. The writer of Hebrews is talking about all of those who have gone before us and were witnesses of the greatness and goodness of God. He says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (NIV) Hebrews 12:1

I love the way it is paraphrased in The Message, “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (The Message)

It took a house full of smoke for me to do some deep cleaning. In the same way, in my spiritual life, I need to always be evaluating where I have let sin in my life, always letting go of the things that tie me down to this earth, and racing toward the finish line to heaven. I love the part where it says, “When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls.” Maybe it will take some “dry smoke” for me to evaluate my life sometimes, but it will be well worth it in the end!

How Should We Love?

In the book of Acts we see the infancy of the church. As we read we find that as early as the third chapter of Acts, the body of believers was established after Peter addressed the crowd on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 3:42-47 we see the response of the believers, who devoted themselves to the teaching of Christ and to fellowship with one another. Some of the highlights of this passage: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship”, “selling their possession and goods, they gave to anyone who had need,” and “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

The early church understood the need to live as brothers and sisters in Christ, making sure that everyone in the church knew they were a part of the family of God. They became a living, breathing, body of Christ–a fellowship of believers who lived with glad and sincere hearts. They loved one another. Oh, the church wasn’t perfect, as we see throughout the rest of the New Testament. And the fact remains, that Satan is our enemy and would love nothing better than to sow discord and deceit into the mix so that believers turn their hearts from God.

I could write all kinds of blogs about the things that are wrong in today’s church. But I am so glad to be a part of a body that can still show their love and their willingness to be the kind of church that is modeled in the New Testament.

This past Sunday we had prayer time for two very special people in our church–Emily and Kathryn. You see Emily has been need of new kidney for quite some time, and Kathryn, the very special sister in Christ who stepped up, was found to match. On Tuesday, Kathryn gave the gift of a kidney to Emily, her Christian sister. When I think of the kind of love that allowed this event to happen I am in awe.

Many prayers have been said over Emily as she went through the process of waiting for a kidney. You see, a few years earlier she needed a liver transplant and that gift was given to her through organ donation. Because of the medication needed for the liver, it affected her kidneys to the point where she needed the transplant. Despite her health issues, she has put her trust in the Lord. Emily has been an example to all the believers who gather in our church. She has served and worshiped with us, has always been a huge encourager to others, and has studied God’s word diligently. Kathryn, too, has been a devoted Christ follower and serves Him willingly and lovingly. When God put this on her heart, she answered his call.

Today the latest word is that both women are doing extremely well and are actually ahead of the curve on their recovery. Her doctor even commented on how well Emily is doing. I am pretty sure she probably told him it was all because of God. I can only believe that it is in answer to the many prayers going up on their behalf.

Sometimes I wonder, when did the church get so far away from how they were in Acts? I hear occasionally of small groups of Christians establishing house churches and trying to go back to the Biblical model that we read about in Acts. It has merit. But I think our biggest need is to just to love one another. Oh wait, I think that is what Christ meant when he said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” Then he added, “The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

So how should we love? Maybe we should love enough to even give a kidney if God calls us to do so!

No Easy Answer

As with many others, I am shocked and saddened for the people of Uvalde, Texas–a place I had never heard of before Tuesday. There are no words that are adequate to help the wounded hearts in that town. I wrote a post of May 25, 2009 that expresses a lot of how I feel. Just a few months after the original post, my husband passed away unexpectedly and I was left with lots of questions and no easy answers. But love certainly helped me recover and take one step in front of another while grieving.

Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash

I could easily talk about all the reasons I think this happened–none of which make sense in light of the carnage–or all the things we need to do in the United States to keep this from happening again. But I will not in this post. The fact is there are no easy answers for the wounded right now.

The following is my facebook post on May 25, 2009

In the past month individuals I love have lost loved ones–some to suicide, some quickly and unexpectedly and some because of long, lingering illnesses. There is no easy way to say goodbye to the ones we love. It is even harder when you don’t have a chance to say goodbye, to tell them how much you love them, how proud you are of them, what a privilege and blessing it has been to know them. It’s hard to let them go after you have watched them battle their demons and finally come out stronger, healthier, and looking forward to what life has in store for them.

There is no magic answer, no quick cure for the pain, nothing to make it all better. We just hold on tight and let the ones left behind know we love and care for them.

The fact is death is a part of life: unescapable, final, an end of all you have strived to accomplish. But as a Christian, I believe that death is but the beginning of a new life of love, worship, and adventures with God. This body is just a vessel housing my spirit, waiting for it to be released to a far better place, in my real home with God. And while I selfishly want to stay here for a while yet, I realize that the day will come when this life as I know it will cease and a new, far more exciting one will come.

But for now for all of those who are grieving, take solace in knowing you are loved by a God who knew sorrow at the loss of His son and who carries our sorrows with him. You are loved by your family and friends who sorrow and grieve with you and for you. No, there are no easy answers, but you are loved deeply by God. And sometimes, love is is the only thing to see you through.

Hidden Potential*

When they were first married, my son and his wife purchased a home that was a short sale. When they first brought me to see the house, it was somewhat difficult to look past the dirt and junk. There were piles of toys, clothes, and miscellaneous items that had been left by the previous owners.  In the bathroom, the tub surround was full of crayon scribbles and the toilets were in dire need of a good cleaning and disinfectant. In the basement the refrigerator still had food in it, and the smell was rank when the door was opened. Even trash had been left in the kitchen can.

The outside had ivy growing unchecked around the entire foundation. The large back yard was full of weeds and shrubs that had been allowed to grow wild, not to mention a pile of cinder blocks that served no useful function that we could see. Dead trees had fallen and the decaying logs were lying on the ground.

Most people would have walked away after seeing the first room, and indeed, at first I just saw all of the surface issues. But on a deeper, second look, I could envision the possibilities they saw in the home. As they worked hard at making the house into a home, a beautiful picture emerged.

Everything was sorted and either thrown away or given to the thrift store. The walls were cleaned and painted. Hardware was stripped of years of grime and coats of paint and looked new. Hardwood floors were sanded and sealed. Broken windows were replaced, and ivy was pulled. Suddenly the house was living up to its potential. It was not an easy task and took hard work and perseverance.  

Just cleaning the refrigerator and stove were huge chores. My daughter-in-laws’ Dad and Mom literally took them apart and cleaned them piece by piece. As layer after layer of dirt and grime was washed away, the stove and refrigerator became clean and sparkling. After all was finished my son and his wife had a home that showed its true character. Underneath all the junk was a jewel waiting to be discovered.

All of this made me think that it is a wonderful thing that God sees beyond our flawed selves to the beautiful people we can become. He takes lives that are broken, used, abused, and discarded, and makes them into something beautiful. Sometimes it entails a lot of hard work as God cleans up the garbage and throws out the bad things in our lives. Sometimes it means that God takes us apart piece by piece, stripping us down to our bare selves so that he can bring out our true beauty. Sometimes it means pulling out all of the weeds and dead, rotting timber in our lives so that we can grow something beautiful.

When God sees us, he sees the hidden character beneath and when we allow him to do his work in us, suddenly the hidden jewels shine forth. I am so thankful that God looks past the surface to see the potential. Aren’t you?

*originally posted April 4, 2011 on CWRN blog.

Smell That Smoke

On Mother’s Day many families choose to grill something for Mom and a commonly heard phrase is, “Smell that smoke.” It invokes memories of grilled pork steaks (if you live in the Midwest), grilled chicken, or maybe even grilled steaks. They are all typical b-b-q fare where I live.

But on this Mother’s Day, “smell that smoke” took on a whole new meaning. My son and his fiancee came over after church. I started cooking some ground beef on the stove because it needed to be used, and I thought I could fix spaghetti or sloppy joes–something quick and easy. My son quickly informed me that they were going to take me to lunch and so we started talking about where to go where there would not be a long wait. We have a Townsquare Pub close to me that serves good food, so I called to see what the wait time would be. She indicated that right at that time there was no wait. So we got in my car and off we went.

We were seated in the restaurant fairly quickly and had a leisurely meal. When we arrived back home, I noticed a funky smell in my garage, but could not quite identify what it was. Then I heard the smoke alarms blaring. When I opened the door to the house, thick, gray smoke billowed out. Unwise I know, but I quickly ran in and realized I had forgotten to turn off the stove. I turned it off, and ran through my house and threw open windows in every room. My wiser and anxious son kept reminding me, “Mom, you need to get out of the house. You have breathing problems already and the smoke will make it worse.” He was right, but sometimes in a situation you do not stop to think through the wisest course of action!

Luckily I had put a lid on the pan, and it created a barrier for the charred meat, but the odors left by the burned pan and smoke were just about unbearable. The fire department did come out and checked for any hot spots and deemed the house okay to be in.

But the smell. It has permeated everything! And much to my dismay my insurance will not pay on the accident because there was no soot or ash. I guess I could have emptied all of the ash out of the pan, but I did not think that would be a very good thing integrity wise. It did not matter that every single thing on my main level must be washed. It did not matter that my furniture and rugs and light fixtures will need cleaned or the walls will need washed and probably painted. It is not covered. Period.

Leaving cabinet doors open to help clear out the smell. Even with washing every dish and cleaning all the surfaces, the smell lingers.

So I am now awaiting quotes from the restoration companies (that in itself takes a week to a week and a half) and then I will see how much my forgetfulness has cost me! It will always be a Mother’s Day to remember.

But never fear, I do have some things I am thankful for. I am thankful the pan did not catch on fire, spreading quickly to the rest of my house. I really think that was only God’s doing since we were gone quite a while for lunch.

I am thankful I have a finished basement and am able to sleep there since it was spared the smoke damage. I could have stayed with any number of people, but then it would be a hassle coming back and forth to clean at home.

I am thankful for friends and family who have helped me with cleaning.

I am thankful that I have a new awareness of having too much stuff, despite having pared down when I initially moved here. So I have started a give-away pile.

I am grateful that we had two days of moderate weather so I could initially open my windows, as opposed to the record high we had on Tuesday.

But most of all I am thankful that God helped me to remember, that after all, it is only stuff that needs cleaned and that is truly not the important things of life.

Five Things to Remember When Life Becomes Overwhelming

One of my friends shared on facebook that she is really struggling with all the things that life is throwing at her right now. Unfortunately, I think we can ALL identify with that feeling of being overwhelmed on occasion! Women, who tend to be fixers, sometimes have difficulty admitting they need help when life becomes overwhelming for them. So how do we learn to swallow our pride and ask for help? How do we let our friends and family know that we have reached a point where we are ready to scream, or cry, or just hide, until we can face life with equanimity again?

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

For those of you who find yourself in this circumstance, here are five things I’ve found helpful.

5.  Everyone feels overwhelmed occasionally–you are not alone. When life is coming full throttle and sometimes circumstances are conspiring to get us “out of whack” we sometimes feel a sense of helplessness and a loss of control. We may often feel that we are unworthy and unloved because we cannot keep it together. Most women I know have been there at one time or another. It’s okay to express your feelings of inadequacy, fear, frustration and even anger to a person you trust. You may be surprised at how many others have felt the same way.

4. It is okay to be honest about your feelings. For most women, friends and family really do care, even though sometimes it may not seem like it. They may be oblivious to your feelings because you have never let them know you are struggling! It is okay to be honest with your spouse and children to let them know in age-appropriate ways that you are sad, or overwhelmed, or even angry with life. You may be surprised at how honestly sharing with them can make a difference. Just be sure not to make it a blame game, which only complicates everything in unhealthy ways. My husband would often say he was not a mind reader, but many times I expected him to be one!

3.  Feel free to ask for help!  Don’t feel like you always have to do everything on your own. Sometimes people just need to know you are struggling and when they do, they will be there for you. Find a trusted friend, a pastor, or a counselor to give you honest feedback and support. In all honesty, I am not always good at picking up those verbal and visual clues when someone is struggling, but if they share their struggles with me, I am there for them. So if you are acting like everything is alright, do not be upset with your friends and family because they do not know how you really feel. Sharing burdens is actually a biblical concept.

2.  Take drugs! I say that jokingly, but seriously, sometimes there are chemical imbalances that lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness. Don’t be afraid to talk about it with your physician and GET HELP if you need it. There should be no shame in seeking the help of a professional, be it your physician, a therapist, or a psychiatrist. I say kudos to you if you recognize that it can be a life changer.

And just as a side note, it is okay as a Christian to be treated for depression or anxiety. Do not let someone guilt you into thinking you are not a good Christian just because you are struggling.

1.  Take your struggles to the Lord. Pray about it, journal about it, trust in Him to send you deliverance. He truly cares about our struggles and hurts. It is easy to feel distant from God when we are struggling, but this is the time we most need to saturate ourselves in His Word and recognize that He is ever-present in our lives. Even if he feels far away, do not stop immersing yourself in his word. Even if you feel that he doesn’t hear your prayers, he does. Sometimes we cannot trust our “feelings” when it comes to thinking about how God loves us, but instead we just cling to his word and trust his promises are true.

I caution women not to be too hard on themselves when life seems overwhelming and they have a crying spell about some seemingly insignificant thing. Sometimes it is a good release valve for all that tension. It happens when we live in an imperfect world, so we need to cut ourselves a little slack on occasion! Life happens and struggles happen, but it helps to know, we’re not in it alone.

Psalm 55:22, NLT Give your burdens to the Lord and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

I Peter 5:7, NLT Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Other verses to study: Psalm 27:1, Isaiah 41:13, Joshua 1:9 There are many verses in scripture that remind us of God’s care for us. Scriptures about fear, anxiety, and worry abound. The fact is that God encourages us to rely on him and reminds us over and over again that he loves us and cares about our lives.

End of an Era

There are times in our lives that we consider milestones. Becoming old enough to get a driver’s license, graduations, college, marriage, birth of our children, and more all fall under that heading. But for me, yesterday was an opportunity to travel back in time to one of the biggest milestones in my life—college.

Photo by Cindy Bingamon

The Bible college I attended for four years has come to the point where they merged with another college and the existing campus will be sold. Yesterday was the last opportunity to visit the campus to see the dormitories where we lived and walk the halls where we had classes.

Saint Louis Christian College was small, but it was just what I needed for my hungry heart. I think I would have been somewhat lost in a larger university. My freshman year was everything I dreamed of, despite the fact that first semester I failed a couple early morning classes! I was challenged to grow in my knowledge of the Lord and to develop more than a surface relationship with God. I was exposed to new ways of thinking and looked at theology in a whole new light. I found relationships with peers, faculty, and staff that turned into lifelong friendships.

I made four years of memories. Attending classes, participating in skip days, going to basketball games, meeting at the picnic table under the huge, old mulberry tree—all these things I look back on with nostalgia. Traveling for a summer with the Kaleidoscope Players (our drama team) and going on choir tours provided their own unique memories. College was where I experienced my first heartbreak, where I realized that just because you are a Christian does not mean you will not have struggles, and where people on pedestals were revealed to have flaws just like everyone else.  

I have always maintained strong ties to the college. I taught drama classes and coached a drama team before I got married. I served on the Alumni Steering Committee for several years, two of them as President. My husband was their Vice President of Development for almost fifteen years, and I was manager of the bookstore for nine years. One of my sons and daughter-in-law received an associate degree from there.  So to say I had many memories is an understatement.

Some of the class of 1974

Yesterday was a day to reconnect with so many of the people who made those memories a reality. I saw an old roommate who always greets me with “Hey, Roomie,” every time she sees me. I saw several of my graduating classmates and many other people I have known through the years. It was a time to reconnect with those I only see occasionally, and to catch up with others I see more frequently.  

My senior year

And so yesterday was bittersweet. I realized as I was leaving there were some I would never see again on this side of heaven and that made my heart sad. But then I remembered to be so, so grateful for everyone whose paths have crossed with mine because of Saint Louis Christian College. My life has been richer because I have had the privilege of knowing so many brothers and sisters in the Lord because of one small college.

Worry Warts

This past week I was able to vacation at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I have been two other times with my friend, who swears it is her happy place. And I believe her. She makes a better guide than most of the employees since she has been there so often! For a newbie like me that is a blessing, because she doesn’t get lost (unlike I would) and knows shortcuts to take through the parks.

Normally, I would be walking with her ahead of the vacation so that I am not utterly exhausted at the end of each day. About three weeks out, I was having a problem with my foot hurting, but assumed I needed new shoes. So I went to my favorite store and got fitted for my shoes. I picked out a cute (as much as tennis shoes can be cute) corn yellow Hoka shoe and was so excited. But alas, my foot still hurt when I walked.

I exchanged those favorite-colored shoes for another expensive pair of recommended walking shoes, and still had difficulty. Of course, by then I figured it wasn’t the shoe and would have gone back and traded for the Hoka’s again, but they were already gone!

I had a vision of wearing a boot the entire time for a stress fracture (which I have experienced three times before), and I was bummed at the thought. All I could think about was that maybe I needed to rent a scooter and how much that was going to cost and how inconvenient it was all going to be. I fretted about it for the two weeks I had to wait to see my podiatrist. When I finally was able to see my podiatrist three days before leaving, I was relieved that there was no fracture.

Now you need to understand this about me. It is an unwritten rule that I am always the one to get something weird. All my friends and family know it, and no one is surprised by it. It is almost as universally true as my waiting in line–even if it is the shortest line, it takes the longest time.  

Apparently, I had seed warts (as opposed to plantar warts) growing inside a callous on the side of my foot. Who knew such a thing existed? I didn’t. But it must be more common than I think because the doctor knew right away what it was. With just a simple excision they were out, and my foot immediately felt better.

Small steps compared to some I know.

Just wish I had known two weeks prior and then I would have been more prepared for all the walking we did at Disney World! And I would have saved myself a lot of what if scenarios. Fortunately, I was able to walk (with some resting in between) and did not need a scooter, although it was tempting on some days!

Isn’t life like that sometimes? It throws you a curve and your plans seem to go awry. But then just when you think you are going to need to make big adjustments, a solution is there for you. We get so fretful and imagine all the what ifs and in reality, there is a simple solution.

The Bible says so many times “fear not” and “do not worry,” but I find myself doing it anyway. What about you? What things do you worry about and make much bigger than they are? The reality is I should have just given it to God and let my worry go. Whatever the outcome, be it a stress fracture or a seed wart, He has got it covered.

They Did Not Know It Was Good

This evening as I was sitting in our Good Friday service, listening to our minister eloquently speak on the significance of Good Friday, I couldn’t help but think that for everyone who was present that day, it was not such a good Friday.

The fact of the matter is that not one individual who was present that day knew with certainty what was really occurring, not even the disciples who had spent the last three year with him. Indeed, even the last week with Jesus did not prepare them for what they experienced, even though Jesus himself spoke of what was coming.

Following an evening where Jesus was falsely accused, tried, struck, beaten, and flogged, it wasn’t such a good morning. For those who watched Pontius Pilate as he tried to set Jesus free by offering Jesus or Barrabas, it was not such a good day (oh, how fickle the people when riled up!).

For Jesus’ followers watching him along the road to Golgatha, and seeing him so faint that another carried his cross, it wasn’t such a good day. For Mary, Jesus’ mother to watch her son being nailed to a cross, and then hoisted in the air to fall with a thud into the earth, the small death to her heart was not a good day. For the many disciples who were probably scattered, maybe fearfully watching while their heads were covered, hoping that no one recognized them, it was not such a good day. Especially, for Peter, who had denied Christ three times the evening before, it was not a good day.

For John who listened as Jesus spoke to him from the cross and gave him the responsibility of being a son to Mary, it was not such a good day. For the women who had followed Jesus and been given value and had been known Christ’s love, it was not a good day. Even for the centurion, who realized a huge error had been made and acknowledged that surely this was the son of God, it was not a good day.

Photo by Alicia Quan on Unsplash

For Joseph of Arimathea, who begged for the body of Jesus to be laid in his very own tomb, it was surely a day filled with sorrow. And for Mary Magdalene who had been delivered from seven demons, and the other Mary who were sitting across from the tomb and watching, it was not a very good day.

The good news is that after three days, what was surely so sorrowful for all who loved Jesus became a day of joy as the news of his resurrection filled the rooms where they were gathered. But even then, I am not sure they realized the huge ramifications of what Jesus had finished.

But for us, we who can look back and see what Jesus has done–for us it was a very Good Friday.