Saturday, March 28, 2009

Foolish Arguments

I wanted to write about prayer...I've been reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and Jim Cymbala is preaching to the choir. I think a prayer meeting is about all that is generally necessary in the body of Christ--ok, maybe not all, but pretty close. That's not what my Friend wants to discuss.

I spent a good part of this evening talking with an avowed Catholic, who loves Jesus very much and is probably (giving Jesus the benefit of the doubt) saved. I kept trying to pull him back to the thought that our work is useless in comparison to the work that God does when we ask Him. At the end, I was pushing salvation by grace, though I didn't realize it, and he was pushing trans-substantiation and the place of the priest in salvation. Quoting scripture was useless and I'm sure that he was equally annoyed that quoting the church councils was lost on me (even when I knew what they did in those councils).

I missed a good chunk of an evening with my family and I don't know that it did either one of us any good. I'm glad my friend is pro-life. I'm glad he loves and wants to follow Jesus. I'm glad Catholic people are praying--My dear God-friend will break through if they give Him a millimeter to do so, you can be sure of that. I had hoped I would find a friend to prayer-walk our neighborhood regularly. I've been struggling to walk it consistently in the way I know is needed.

Paul and Titus were right...foolish arguments waste time and ruin the hearers. Maybe someday I'll learn.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


It feels strange that all of us are so profoundly influenced by circumstances that are so far out of our control--Maybe this is the first society that would even see that as strange.

I'm coming to realize that the Florida State Legislature may completely eliminate the need for most of what I do within the next few weeks. It is my job to make sure that when an individual development is planned, transportation facilities (read that "roads") will be available to serve all of the vehicular whims of its patrons, at least within the first 3 years. The unintended consequence of this policy has been that development doesn't occur in old areas because they're out of room to serve the cars they have. Instead, people build out in the hinterlands because there's still plenty of room to drive. The proposed laws mean Florida is throwing in the towel-- individual projects won't be judged that way. Instead the State will require the local jurisdictions to make sure that people can get from here to there, without insisting on how they do it. (I prefer teleportation.) This could be a disaster or a really good thing. No one knows yet.

So, I'm not sure what I'll end up doing, if I end up doing anything like what I do now. Yes, I'm wondering--with momentary lapses into worry. What is most comforting is my contract with the Father (see previous post). It's his job to keep me busy and fed. It's my job to do what He provides for me to do. I'm considering other careers, but until this evaporates--which may not be a long wait--I'm doing what my hand finds to do.

I have a feeling we're all facing this kind of uncertainty right now. We've provided really well for ourselves--what will happen when, through no fault of our own, we can no longer do that? We will sit down and cry. We will remember it wasn't us that provided in the first place. Then after some understandable grief, we will take our empty hands and open them toward the Father.

I love it when a plan comes together...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Journalling and God's presence

Yesterday in staff meeting they asked how we deal with worry. God has really freed me of a familial tendency to worry over the last few weeks--at least it isn't as bad as usual. After our company president mentioned prayer as one answer, I noted that a prayer journal helps me to let things go and trust that God has heard and does answer.

Unfortunately, a few months ago my dog ate my journal--the elegant brocade binding chewed, the velvet cover slobbered on. For awhile I could still use it but without the backs it was getting harder to write. Gone was my normal routine. I wake up in the night frustrated or worried and I don't have my journal to pour my prayers into. God's presence has been no less real and his comfort has not abated, but it puts a cramp into my style. You think I write a bunch here...

This weekend I glued it back together and am using up the final 10 pages or so. It's a relief to have it back, but it's equally comforting that even when I'm robbed of my normal pathways to His presence, His lovingkindness (hessed) endures forever.

This leads me to the book recommendation for the week. One of my all time favorite books is Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. In it, he discusses 9 different ways to worship and how we all by gift or by temprement favor some over others. As a contemplative, I prefer quietly meditating or writing in my journal. Of course, I have day's that my favorite worship pathway is tilting windmills. It's comforting to me that the God of all of those pathways will use whatever is needed to connect with us, even when our normal routines are trashed...which seems to be more routine than not.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Honey here, honey there...

Saturday morning...and PJ and Katie are watching the cartoons I was never allowed as a kid.

Unfortunately the topic today is a little too close for comfort.

Pooh is (again) stuck in a log because he has eaten too much honey--another reminder that my own pants are a bit more snug than I would prefer.

"Farewell my sweet honey..."

The solution has been derived, and pooh is on board, but it is far more difficult than anticipated. Trying not to think about it is counterproductive. Distraction is the order of the day. After some play, he gets free and goes right back to his honey.

Hmm...I don't remember cartoons being so pointed when I was a kid, although it seems like the solution is short lived.

Next episode--Neat little Piglet is convinced to play in the mud and finds it IS fun. However, as enjoys a cool nap in the mud, the sun encases him in a mud sarcophagus. I think he was better off being neat. Contentment in slop leaves you trapped.

The only time a diet worked for me it had to do with changing focus. Don't think about do's and don'ts--go live life. If you're physically hungry, by all means--eat! If you're only munchy because you're tired, bored or out of sorts, eating won't fill that hole, and will leave you with indigestion. So now you're bored, out of sorts and have an upset tummy. One of highest praises of the Pr. 31 woman was that "she eats not the bread of idleness..." I wonder if that includes girl scout cookes...

A recent Harvard/LSU study showed that within limits, the biggest thing that mattered was the amount of calories--eat less and there is less of you. All of these diets that have been trying to trick your body into losing weight turn out to be just that--a trick. Some may really work, but only when it does the basics.

This reminds me of trying to beat the stock market. A small group may be able to make a killing, but only at the expense of someone else getting killed. Is that really a good thing? All of this eventually means a massive bailout--the equivalent of stomach stapling surgery for an obese marketplace. Poke in one place and it pops out another. Greed for food, greed for pleasure, greed for money--same stuff, different day.

If God is really our friend, he must have a path out of this mess. Colossians 2:6-8, 20-23 was the core scripture for the one program that truly helped me lose weight:
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ..."

"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."
In other words, instead of feeding your body, feed your soul. Be downright careful about who defines what is able to satisfy you. Contentment with slop is easy, but leaves you trapped. In the end, no amount of willpower will help if your heart is empty.

That's probably why the Harvard/LSU team found that counselling increased the average weight loss from 9 lbs to 22 lbs.

I know all of this, so where did I go wrong?

At one point, I had lost so much weight that people began to ask, "Are you ok?" I felt great, but their criticism was enough to derail my obedience. I suppose that's the final key. Pick your cheering squad carefully. Do not listen to the disinterested, the jealous, the concerned or the opposing team. Only God has the ability to speak life into your existence--everything else is just noise. It might be good noise or bad noise, but it needs to be checked to see if it is in harmony with that ONE important voice.

I'm back on track and down 2 lbs. Here's to a full heart and a not so full tummy!

Monday, March 9, 2009


I hadn't wanted to post over the last week because I'm just tired. Bone tired. Exhausted. Pooped. Turns out my little germ magnet has Influenza Type A and I probably gave it to her last week. Her cough sounds bad, but isn't frequent. She had a high fever yesterday but she's just warm today. Happy as a clam even though she's sick as a dog. I think I'm going to call this clam-dog syndrome.

These are also unexpected blessing days. When I dropped of Kate's prescription at our local beleaguered WalMart, they put a rush on it and told me to come back in an hour. Kate looked like she was ready to collapse in exhaustion and I felt about the same--but what else can you do?? So I decided we would use the time to enjoy something special and recharge. Spoiling time!! Ice cream, cokes, Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs and a happy mommy and daughter--tired still, but not as bad.

As soon as we were done with our treat, we remembered the birthday party Kate has this weekend. The birthday queen is Kate's chaperone and companion in Kindergarten--an unrecognized benefactor (and beneficiary) of inclusion. It was a delight to see Katie enjoy going through the toy aisle with her friend, not herself, in mind. In the end, she was surprisingly decisive--it will be the Barbie on a bicycle instead of the Cinderella and the bejewelled steed.

I often wonder how much Katie understands. Her language still has so far to go. It would be easy to assume that there is so much she misses. I'm continually delighted by how much she catches. The local Down syndrome association had their annual clinic this weekend and it pained me to explain to the university speech researcher how little nuance we get from Kate. It seems like asking the question, "What do you like best about your friend?" is akin to asking "What is the primary geological formation on the moon?" We've been torn as to whether to move her forward with her classmates into 1st grade or keep her in Kindergarten (again--3rd time) to give her a chance to be able to achive more before moving ahead. She's still spotty on her colors. She sounds out 3 letter words, but barely speaks full sentences on her own. Memorize the word "of"?? Does she even use it yet? And yes, Katie, 16 does belong in the number line regardless of your preferences on it. As the researcher described working on conceptual frameworks, it felt like we still have so far to go. Then Katie actually came into the room and after about 2 minutes of interaction, the researcher said, "This is not at all what I envisioned from your description--her prognosis for next year is really good." So the details are still spotty--the gestalt is in place.

One of the Senior Associates at our office has been enthralled by the book, A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink. The endorsement on the front of the book is euphoric: "This book is a miracle. Completely original and profound!" He uses Left Brain/Right Brain neurological concepts to put forth the thesis that it is those right-brain activities, supported by their left brain underpinnings that will help you succeed, win the day, bring back the life to our searching world. The neurology wasn't new. The concept that most low level rote technical folk can be replaced by a machine isn't particularly surprising. The pathways to stimulate and grow the 6 "new" essential senses have all been around for awhile. I'm glad that people are beginning to recognize the need for whole brained thought--it has often felt like it was only recognized as hair-brained.

The most interesting point he makes in the book is a need for transcendence that has arisen out of our affluence. I've been praying that this would be so and watching as it happens. We have satisfied all of our physical needs and nearly all of our wants, and still find ourselves wanting. I see what Katie can't do and hurt for her, hoping that there is more--that there can be more. Ecclesiastes 3:11 has been my life verse for over a decade now and it's interesting how often it shows how profound God brought Solomon to be:

"He (God) has made all things beautiful in His time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men yet they cannot fathom the scope of it from beginning to end." (my parphrase)

So it's ok to wait to see what will happen--He will make things beautiful on his timetable, not ours. The details are important, but may not tell the whole story. In the end, the point of view that will matter is His--we just won't get it all, even if He has set the desire and overall understanding in our hearts in the first place. There have been times in my life when I've understood the big picture and where we fit in it. It didn't make things any easier. The only thing that made it truly ok is the knowledge that we are loved profoundly and that will never change. I am not transcendent, but I know the One who is and He knows me and that makes eternity my friend as well.

Tricia (and Kate)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Going home...

Like many in the development industry, our company has struggled through this economic crisis. We've looked for new clients, spoiled old clients and done all we can to hang in there. Still, two weeks ago we had to let a huge number of people go. Some of them had great places to go; many of them didn't. We just didn't have enough work to keep them going. I'm sure few of them were surprised, but it doesn't make it hurt less for any of us. To avoid more layoffs and keep us at a level that we can still pay our bills, some of us were asked to go to a 32 hour work week--including me. I start tomorrow.

For me, this is a God-send. Since I went back to full time work two years ago, I've wrestled constantly with the fact that my kids need more than 2 hours of my time each day and the fact that an engineer is usually expected to keep lawyer's hours. My own boss is nowhere near that demanding, but I have expectations about what I need to be able to do the job well. I've read time management gurus talking about "crunching your can" (doing more because you set a tight time boundary and made your time more effective), but I don't know that it really works that way. Another part of the job is the connection between people. (whine, whine...)

The truth is, keeping track of two kids, both with their own special needs, is a full time job on its own. Even if they didn't have struggles beyond most ordinary kids, they deserve more than 2 or 3 hours a day from their mom. The deserve more than that from their Dad. It doesn't always work that way. Guilt is an ordinary part of parenting, but after awhile you really get down to the fact that you are just guilty, you don't just feel guilty.

People all over the world work hard; many harder than we do and for much less. Still, it seems like most of them get to do that alongside their kids and it makes it a little more sane. I love my children and I miss them. When you do head work, it's harder to find ways to include them in it. Dropping to 32 hours a week means that I can log the hard hours early in the morning a few days a week and pick them up myself after school every day. I still won't be able to be class mom or volunteer for field trips, but at least I'll be able to spend the 2 hours doing homework that they need and still have some time left to cook a healthy meal, teach them to keep a house straight or just have some fun. The money will be less, but that's ok. I don't know that we could break even without my work, but losing that 8 hours won't kill our finances and I'll get to enjoy this time in their lives instead of forever regretting missing it.

I have my hesitations. Will I get ignored or passed over? Maybe. Will people forget to give me work and cost me my job? Possible. Will I even be able to keep house at all? I didn't do that very well before...

After PJ was born, I had not planned on going back to work until they were in college. When the Lord convinced me that it was in His plan, I went back, but my agreement with Him was as follows:

You are the boss
You send the work
I do what you send
I'm not looking for work.

Part of my job description now is to look for work, so that last part has gone by the wayside, but the first three definately still hold true. I haven't run out of work, though I have come close at times. Even if I lose my job entirely, I know my God, my friend, will take care of me, though it may not be as comfortable as we are now. He still blesses my work but I'm delighted that He cares enough about my children to allow these limits that they need so desperately. We're going to be ok--probably even better than before.