Hug a Wrinkle!

Everyone tries to get rid of them. Cover them up. Smooth them away. Botox the bejeebers out of them.

I’ve been hanging out with my mom here in Florida. Every sign at the mall talks of the next best treatment to take care of those pesky lines, grey hair, spotted cheeks and aching muscles.

Aging is the big fat enemy—fight it with the big guns, they say.

This month I have five nieces and nephews who graduate high school. They’re full of passion and excitement – they can’t wait to see what the future holds. Big dreams. Great relationships. Best-selling novels. Cozy houses. Beautiful babies.

At the same time, as I look around at the aging gems here in Florida, I realize they were once high school graduates with the whole world before them. Some of them conquered their dreams and did more than they imagined. Some felt they were thwarted at every turn and nothing turned out well.

And they all have wrinkles.

Some have pain.

Some can’t remember the last time they laughed.

Some laugh so hard that their wrinkles twinkle.

But many feel forgotten. You can see it in their eyes, their demeanor, their shuffling gate and downcast eyes.

We honor the young and can’t wait to hear of their dreams.

Then we forget to ask the old if those dreams came true.

So today, this very day, I’m instituting Hug a Wrinkle day.

Pass it on.

Say hi to someone older. Find out their story. Hug their necks and remind them that they (and their dreams) still matter.

And if you hear any great conquer-the-world, dream-come-true stories, share them here.

And if you find out a heart is broken, hug a neck and kiss a wrinkled cheek.

It just might make all the difference.

This Christian, atheist and ex-military guy walk into a…

We’re like the start of a bad joke: An atheist, a Jesus-lover, an artist, a teacher and an ex-military guy walk into a bar…

Only it’s no bar. We met at the dog park and (most) every Monday night we walk into a coffee shop or someone’s home to talk writing.

They’re my writer’s group—and they rock.

It’s our dogs that actually brought us together. Mattie brought her owner, Jayson, to the dog park. Max and Simba Roo brought me.

Max and Mattie

Max and Mattie are sweet on each other, so while they whispered sweet nothings into each other’s ears , Jayson and I found out that we’re both writers.

Tiva hangs out at the park too, and she introduced me to her owner, Thom.

Jayson, Thom and I started chatting and they invited me to their writer’s group. We’re a diverse band of artists. Thom is a gifted cartoonist and sculptor. He’s a great writer as well, and has written a book on being the best atheist you can be. I write books on loving Jesus and then speak at women’s retreats. Jayson does Civil War fiction, Cheri writes children’s books and Pam does a little of everything, including painting and sculpting.

You’d think Thom and I would go at it at our Monday night meetings—I’d thump my Bible and he’d debunk my beliefs and the others would vote for the most eloquent argument. A good old-fashioned rivalry: like the Yankees and the Red Sox, apples and oranges, vegetarians and cattle ranchers… you get the idea.

But it’s not like that. We genuinely like each other. And while I occasionally say things that make his eyebrows go skyway, he smiles when he sees me at the dog park and still welcomes me into the writer’s group.

The others are just as engaging. We don’t share a lot in common beyond a love of the arts and a tenderness for our pups, but that’s enough. It’s enough to make us laugh together, cheer for each other and share life.

Now I’m not saying that I wouldn’t love for Thom to believe in Jesus. After all, I love Jesus and care about Thom – I’d be crazy not to want that. But I don’t hang out with Thom for that sole purpose. I hang out with Thom, Jayson, Pam and Cheri because they are lovely people with unique talents and I genuinely enjoy their company. They make me a better writer, a better artist and a better person.

And bad joke or not, that’s good enough for me.

Even if you have to switch it up – live your dream!

I’m pigeon-toed.

I looked it up on Google and asked the question: “Do pigeons actually walk with their toes turned in?”

You would think that question would garner a lot of hits. Oddly enough, it didn’t.

What I did discover is that I was supposed to grow out of them when I was a kid. Why I didn’t is a mystery. Maybe God is partial to my birdie toes.

So why is this blog worthy, you may ask?

Well, my pigeon toes have caused my pigeon knees to have major issues. Things that shouldn’t be grinding together are making music as I walk. Tendons that are supposed to be supporting things are rebelling against their God-given duties.

So in my youthful adolescence, I’ve been diagnosed with arthritic knees, and I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that I am not allowed to run long distances.

“But I have a triathlon…”

“No.”

“But I made a big deal of my goal…”

“No.”

“But my pride…

“No.”

“And what about the cool t-shirt?”

“No.”

Well, poo.

So I’m here to tell you that my triathlon goals have been dashed because my toes like to smooch as I walk.

But don’t worry. For those of you who were going to bring pom-poms to the big race, there’s still hope.

I am not giving up. I’m losing weight and I found other races I can participate in. I can do a swim-bike-swim race or a bike-swim-bike race. In fact I just joined the Endomondo National Bike Challenge. Brian and I are called Team Hope (So if you want to join our team or create your own, come on! It’s a nationwide challenge to ride your bike tons and tons from May 1st to the end of August. Click here to check it out).

Bottom line, sometimes our dreams don’t turn out as we hoped, but that doesn’t mean we need to give up. With a little adjustment here and there, we can still hit the ground running. Or walking. Or cycling.  Or crawling.

Whatever works.

How are your dreams coming? Share them in the comment section and let’s cheer each other on!

God told you what? That’s just weird.

It always weirds me out a little when people tell me that God spoke to them. Especially when they’re very specific. “God told me to bring cookie dough ice cream to 125 Main Street. I did it and it turns out they were praying – at that moment – for someone to bring them cookie dough ice cream!”

Whoa, I think. Really? If I’m honest, a little warning light goes off in my head. This one’s a wee bit strange, I think. Keep a safe distance.

See, God isn’t usually that specific with me. I get feelings, ideas, thoughts… but I always have to sift through them – is this God, my own brain or the pizza I ate last night?

But just recently he’s been very specific with Brian and me.

And it’s tough not to think, Is that really you God?

At the same time, I’ve been reading about Gideon. He was my kind of hero. He was just a puny little guy when God first shows up to talk to him. God calls him a mighty warrior who will save Israel, to which Gideon replies, “Pardon me, my Lord, but….”

Translation to Elsa language: Sorry? Did you just call me a Flighty Courier? Because I know you didn’t say Mighty Warrior.

God goes on to reassure him, “Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my Lord…” he says again. Translation: I don’t think I heard you right. I weigh 100 pounds soaking wet. They are big people with big muscles, big weapons and big attitudes. I can’t be your guy.

God convinces him. Later on in the story Gideon has a whole slew of men ready to go to battle. But God wants to shift the odds. After thinning out the crowd by sending home guys who were afraid (22,000 of them took off—oh crud), he has Gideon bring the last of the men to the water – “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps…”

Gideon does it. He keeps the guys who lap and sends off the ones who get down on their knees to drink halfway civilized.

He’s left with 300 men.

Later that night, he had to be looking around at these guys.  I bet that’s when the fears crept in. Did I really hear God? Did he say to keep the ones who lapped or were they the ones I should have sent home? Look at that guy over there. He’s scrawnier than me! And he’s still got water dripping off his beard and that goofy grin on his face. Oh man, what was I thinking?

I had to have misunderstood.

Now, it doesn’t really say that’s what Gideon thought, but it does say that God showed up during the night to confirm what he’d told him earlier. So I figure Gideon had one of those middle-of-the-night freak out moments, and God understood and met him in his fear.

Then God comes through. He pulls it off. Gideon takes down the Midianites and God gets all the glory—because there’s no way it could have happened by Gideon’s strength and his goofy lapping little army.

So maybe God is telling you something. And it feels a little crazy to trust it, to have faith that he’s really going to do what he says he going to do. And you’re looking at the situation and thinking, “Pardon me, Lord… but really?”

And maybe you’ve asked him all kinds of questions, and he’s confirmed it again. And he’s talked to you through others, and confirmed it again. And he’s been gracious with your doubts… and confirmed it again.

Well, then, I think it’s time to own it and trust it and walk in it, my friend.

Because he’s still speaking.

If we’re willing to listen.

Stupid evil scale

I lay in bed this morning eyeing the bathroom door. I haven’t weighed myself in two weeks and today is the day.

I think through all my fabulous weight diminishing decisions. No mayo. No sweets. Lots of rabbit food. Work outs that make my muscles ache.

But what if it doesn’t show anything? I think.

But what if it does? I argue.

But what if it doesn’t?

Oh hush.

I climb out of bed and walk into the bathroom. I look at my nemesis – shiny dastardly thing that’s given me more heartache then my teenage romances: first, second and third loves combined.

I prepare myself: go potty, drop the warm jammies, suck in my tummy and climb aboard.

I look.

I look again.

I’ve gained two pounds.

I climb off in a huff. Pull on my clothes in a huff. Glare at the dog, snap at my man, grumble at the ceiling—all in a huff.

Stupid scale.

Brian asks me what’s wrong. I tell him.

He loves me in just the right way.

“I think that scale is wrong, honey,” he says.

“It’s probably broken,” he adds.

“And remember love? You worked out hard yesterday. You probably bruised your legs and there’s a build up of water.”

“Your hair is longer. That stuff weighs more than you think.”

I love that man.

But I hate that scale.

Because this is usually the point when I give up.

See? It doesn’t even work! See? I’m doomed to be jiggly. Why fight it? Embrace those cute little fat cells, baby.

Then I think about this triathlon I committed to doing. And I look at how I ran my first 5K yesterday. My first 5K ever, and I ran the whole thing. And I look at the weight that I have lost—12 pounds total. So yes, I gained 2 in the last few weeks, but I’ve lost some too.

Right?

Right.

And I think of how God encouraged me even before I weighed in. Some lovely ladies in Tyler, Texas presented me with a plaque after my speaking engagement this weekend. It was a framed verse: “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Nothing. Not even losing weight and toning up and doing a triathlon for the very first time at 43 years old.

So I’m not giving up.

I’m not giving in

I might throw my scale out the window, and laugh uproariously as it smashes into a gazillion evil pieces, but I will not give up.

So you don’t either, okay? Whatever fight you’re fighting today. Don’t give up. Tell yourself the same thing I’m speaking to my own brain: Success is a whole slew of small steps in the same direction—so just keep stepping – no matter what.

Amen and amen.

Time to put on my big-girl boots

We’ve become pros at picking out a Christmas tree from the Wal-Mart parking lot – check in the back of the lot, look for vibrant colors and pray for clearance tags… but this year our family decided to brave the frigid mountain air, the wild animals and the snowy pathways to cut down our very own live tree.

Oh yeah, baby.

I donned my rugged big girl boots (and my long underwear) and Brian, Sam and I climbed into the truck. We picked up our good friend Andrea and stopped by the permit office. The city wants you to cut down trees to help with fire control, but you have to get a permit and pay $10 per tree.

Brian went in and came back out smiling. Sam asked him what was so funny.

Well, Brian explained, the woman had given him a stern look and asked, “Do you have 4-wheel drive? Chains?”

Brian had laughed (his manly laugh, I’m sure). “No, 2-wheel drive truck with no chains.”

She had raised her eyebrows. “It’s bad up there. The roads are like this—“ she’d made a triangle shape with her hands, indicating lots and lots and lots of snow. “So you’ll probably slide off the road and get stuck.”

Brian told us every detail of the conversation with sheer little boy giddiness—nothing like some danger, ice and snow to make his day. “I told her she didn’t know what kind of driver I was… that we’d be just fine.”

Sam piped up from the back seat. “I don’t think you should have told Mom that conversation, Brian.”

He looked over at me and I plastered a grin over my look of wide-eyed fear. “Sliding into a ditch? Getting stuck? No problem. What’s Christmas without a little adventure?” I hoped no one would notice that my voice was several octaves higher than normal. I was really just trying to drown out the crazy woman inside my head: We’re going to die. We’re going to die. We’re going to find the perfect tree, cut it down, load it into the truck and then slide into a ditch and die. Oh yeah baby. Merry Christmas.

We stopped by Lowes to pick up a saw. Brian was on the phone, so I confidently picked out the biggest saw I could find. He shook his head as he pointed to a saw half it’s size and twice as thin.

Seriously? I mouthed.

He nodded.

We’ll be up there for days trying to cut down a tree with that thing, the crazy woman said in my head. Did you bring any food along? You’ll probably starve. Or freeze. Or freeze AND starve. That sounds like loads of holiday fun…

The sun was shining brightly and the temperature was heating up. I could see water on the sides of the roads as we cruised up into the foothills. Maybe it would all melt?  Oh Lord, let it all melt. We made our way higher and higher, to the area of the Christmas trees.

The roads were fine.

My mountain man’s driving was perfect.

The company was fabulous.

We found the most beautiful trees, and it took all of two seconds to cut them down with the saw Brian had picked out.

Two seconds.

We did it!

We didn’t starve. We didn’t freeze. We didn’t die.

I’m sure there’s a lesson for me to learn in all of this, so I’ll be sure to think on it. But for right now, there’s a cool mountain tree that needs decorating and a rugged mountain man that needs smooching.

And yes, I think we’ve found a new tradition.

But what will you think of me?

Sometimes I care too much what people think.

This hiccup in my personality seems to come out most when I’m on a plane. And since I’ve been traveling a lot, I notice it all the more.

For example, I’ve been reading the Twilight series. I want to branch into writing some teen fiction, so I was curious about what exactly drew teens into the shimmery vampire/handsome werewolf world.

Well, as soon as a woman sat down next to me on my flight, I wanted to explain my reading material.

“I know you’re going to glance over and see what I’m reading,” I wanted to say, “but I just want you to know in advance that I’m not a grown woman with a crush on Edward Cullen. I’m doing research.”

“Don’t raise your eyebrows at me,” I’d add,  “I’m serious!”

So in order to avoid that awkward conversation, I was reading the book on my i-pad with a napkin casually balanced over the title of the book at the top of the page.

On another plane I was studying notes for an upcoming interview on purity. I was reading through the questions—several of them talked about sex (and yes, used the word). Several more talked about purity. A big burly man was sitting next to me. I caught him reading my stuff out of the corner of his eye, but when I turned to look in his direction—he quickly looked out the window, at the ceiling, anywhere but at me. I could almost feel him squeezing his body as far from mine as possible. Like at any moment I might look at him, bunch up my eyebrows, wag my finger and ask him what he’s been up to for the last few days.

Sigh.

I faced another situation in an airport in Raleigh, NC. I was sitting at a table in a sports grill type place. Brian’s birthday is coming up, so I was in the middle of working on a card for him. I knew this would be one of the only times I’d get to work on it, so I opened up my bag and pulled out my crayons, markers and colored pencils. Yes, I was making him a card. A very big and elaborate card that counted out fifty things that I love about him.

I put three things per page and colored, shaded, filled in all my cool lettering and fancy pictures.

A very business-type gentleman sat a few tables down.

“Oh,” he said, after glancing at my crafty-giftedness a time or two, “are you a teacher?”

I turned a few shades of red as I responded. “No, ummm…. I’m actually making a card for my husband.”

Making a card?”

I colored in my number 40 and shaded the words, “You are studly!” on my card.

“Yes.” I said. Without turning to him.

The waitress showed the same curiosity. “Are you an artist?”

“Ummm, no. I’m making a card for my husband’s 50th birthday.”

I could almost hear her thoughts. Hmmm… how… special.

I must have sat at the table for a few hours with various folks going by. I felt a little weird with all my crayons and markers scattered all around, but I continued to scribble, color, and draw away.

Actually, wait a second! You know what? I guess I don’t care too much what people think. Or at least the discomfort doesn’t stop me from doing stuff. Despite my embarrassment, I still read the vampire book. I still worked on the purity questions. I still sat in the middle of a busy restaurant and colored pictures for my husband like a giggly second grader.

Why?

I think its love. I love teens and want to know what captures their hearts. I love purity and want to share its amazing coolness with the world. And I love my husband, my hunka-hunka burning love and I don’t care who knows it.

I guess that’s our ultimate cure for pushing through all things uncomfortable, right? Love. Love makes us do crazy things.

So friends, what has love made you do lately?