Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Past Does Not Define Me

This is a hand-written essay and illustration by my son, Anders when he was six-years-old. 

How Giraffes Got their Long Necks.
Once upon a time, long long ago, giraffes did not have long necks. They could not eat leaves from trees. They were starving. When it was fall, they could not reach down to get them. They could not drink water from the lakes. There was a ditch nearby and one giraffe wanted to know what was in it. She went to find out. She asked an earthworm this question, but he didn't answer. So she went to the ditch and climbed in. When she got in, her neck stretched. It never grew back. That is how giraffes got their long necks.

I spent much of yesterday again pouring through old cartons of school work and memorabilia from my children's childhood. Anders was very precocious and most of his work at that age involved designing intricate road systems for the city. It was an intellectual departure for him to contemplate how nature was designed the way it was designed.

He is now a PhD student at MIT. His inquisitive mind never stopped pursuing knowledge.

Meanwhile, as I was going through old files in working towards the ultimate goal of downsizing to a condo, I found some old diaries of mine. This photo is of one of the illustrations I'd tucked in my diary, in between pages giving a detailed exegesis of the Batman and Robin TV shows.

In case the picture isn't clear, I have drawn a carefully exact picture of Batman and Robin, and labeled the color scheme of every part of their costume. It is clear where my son got his brilliant, inquisitive mind...right...?

And here is a poem I wrote in middle school:

The Child
At birth the child is a joy to behold,
A rocking cradle of shining gold. 
At one the child is brother's joy,
A sparkling wonder of baby boy.
At two the child, so cute to walk,
A rarely felt honor to hear him talk.
At three the child has learned to say "no".
A discouraging language destined to grow.
At four the child screams all day.
Take the child and throw him away.

I guess I had not quite yet developed a sense of the sanctity of life...

In my defense, I didn't know Jesus back then. I didn't come to know the Lord till I was 29 years old, and frankly...the difference was obvious. I cringe when I think of who I was before I gave my life to Christ. Fortunately, we are not defined by our past.

Philippians 3:13 says: Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Fortunately, that is what happened to me. Once I knew Christ, my life changed. In fact,  that dichotomy was evident when I completed a psychological inventory required when my husband was applying for a job in ministry some years ago. The results flummoxed the test interpreters.

"It is as though you are two people," they said.

"I am," I told them, "I am an entirely new creation in Christ. The old me was completely alien to what I have become in Jesus." The questions about my past reflected my years separated from God. The questions about my present reflected my new life in Christ.

Sometimes, the old me still rears its ugly head. I try to squash it back down. That battle will rage until the day I die and gratefully land at the feet of my Lord. It is a wearying, continual battle, but one we must fight as Christians. I have to keep remembering to forget the past, and press forward to the upward call of Christ. That upward call is what defines me now, despite the many stumbles along the way. The Bible tells me once I am in Christ, I am a new creation. THANK GOD for that!

This is a picture I sketched of Anders when he was reading a book and contemplating what he had learned. I love this sketch. He was 9-years-old in this picture. That means he was studying calculus. I am not kidding either. What I love about it is that he has been so caught up in his reading that his shoes are untied, and clearly nothing matters but his deep thoughts about what he has just learned. The external world means nothing compared to the thoughts in his impressive mind.

That's how I felt when I first fell in love with Jesus. I could not get enough of the Bible. I read it cover to cover, over and over.  Nothing mattered but my deep thoughts about what I had just learned.

Not even Batman and Robin....

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

When Darkness is My Closest Friend...How do We Respond?

My new book is with the designer right now, and all formatting and cover should be fully completed soon! Then off to the publisher, and it should be out and available within a week. I love the cover. It is my painting, and despite the warning some people said that this makes it look like a kid's book (it's not), I love the painting for the book cover. If you want to be sure not to miss its launch, sign up on my mailing list and I will send you an update when it goes live!

Just click HERE.

I am very excited, as I always am when a new book comes out, but I'm already feeling the pressure to get going on the next one. However, it would be nice to take a break and just read some good books for a change! I always read a little before going to bed, but soon fall asleep. I don't roar through books anyone. In the past, before so much of my time was taken up writing, I was a voracious reader. So I may recharge by settling down with some old favorite authors and soaking up their wonderful prose.

I was just getting cozy last night in my recliner to start my relaxing reading time, when I was sidetracked by a series of texts regarding the mamas I work with through my work as a sidewalk counselor at an abortion center. My friend and wonderful baby shower organizer, Sheryl and I were exchanging emails and texts trying to schedule a slew of baby showers for moms who had recently chosen life. Meanwhile, three of the mamas were texting me: one just had a baby, another is still in labor (two days and counting!), and then sadly, a third just miscarried.

That was terribly sad. This was a mama I had been counseling regularly about putting her faith and trust in Jesus, and in the truth of the gospel. What will this miscarriage do to her ember of faith? There was nothing I could say to her except I was very sorry, I wished I were there to hug her, and I would pray for her. I told her if she ever wanted to talk, just call. I am always available.

We often wonder if the moms we work with have really miscarried, or did they abort? However, this mama had just texted me a few days before asking when the baby shower would be, and thanking me for arranging it with Sheryl. She had been asking so many wonderful questions about God, including what someone who wanted to accept Jesus as Lord should pray. I don't think she aborted. Sadly, I think she really did miscarry.

It doesn't make sense. This woman was very conflicted, but once she decided to choose life for her little baby, everything changed. She was so grateful and so excited. Why would God allow her to lose the baby now?

I don't pretend to know. My new book is about how completely alien species can still communicate, especially through the universal language of love. God is love. He has communicated that loud and clear in His Word, in His creation, and in His provision. Nonetheless, sometimes events overwhelm us, and we question does He really love me? If He does, why this? In Psalm 88, the psalmist cries,

13But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?

15From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
17All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
18You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.

We have all been there. I sure have, anyway. I call out to God, and He doesn't seem to be paying any attention. I am engulfed by a flood of terror and despair. Why does God not lift me from the raging sea of grief? I feel abandoned, and all that is near me is darkness. It closes around me, suffocating all hope and joy. Psalm 88 is a cry of utter dejection and loss.

And then we reach Psalm 89!

1I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.

2I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

What happened? Somehow, even in the midst of the undeniable sadness, darkness, evil, and  inevitable struggles in life, God demonstrates His great love and faithfulness. Perhaps it is through the kindness of those who love God and speak words of comfort. Maybe it is through an inexplicable peace despite unchanged circumstances. Maybe it is through an unexpected miracle. Often for me, it is through dwelling on His promises and remembering how faithful He has been to bring me so often through the storm I was sure would fell me once and for all.

No one enjoys being in the darkness, where our eyes are unable to discern where we should go to emerge safely out of it. It helps me to remember that God who made the darkness, also made the light.

Last night, I had a strange dream that seemed to last all night. I was traveling with a wounded woman, and I knew I had to get her to a doctor. First, I had trouble finding the doctor's phone number, and then we were trapped in the wrong vehicle, and then we got lost en route. Once we arrived to the general location, many people misdirected us and we couldn't find the doctor's office.

Just as we finally reached the correct office door, the doctor emerged, locking the door.
"Wait! Wait!" I called, "We are late but we tried to call and couldn't reach you! Please, help us!"
The doctor looked at the woman, and pronounced her healed instantly. Then he shook my hand, slipping a large sum of money into it. Instead of me having to pay him...he paid me.

THIS is the Lord who enters into my darkness and rescues me, just as He rescues you. No matter how lost, or impeded, or misdirected, if we keep seeking Him, we will find Him. There is nothing we can do to repay Him for what He has granted us. The incredible, glorious irony is He pays for us!

I often don't understand the darkness, but I know the One who dispels it.

John 1:5

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

Isaiah 9:2 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. 

Psalm 18:28 

For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hiding Behind God

Yesterday, this little peanut was born mid-morning. I received her picture in a text message right before my doctor appointment. The mama is ecstatic but exhausted. I felt the usual overwhelming joy that this little girl might have never seen her birthday if it wasn't for us sidewalk counselors at the busy abortion center. A second mama I had counseled also went into labor. Many people have been involved in this young lady's amazing decision to choose life, so we were all anxiously in prayer. The onslaught of new life was good fortification as I headed in to see my oncology plastic surgeon.

I was seeing him the first time in a month since he did phase two of my breast reconstruction. He was pleased. My blood pressure was back to its healthy low normal. My scars look great. All is well in how the new breast is healing. I no longer have to wear my compression shorts (though he felt they were quite stylish as far as compression shorts go...). I am cleared to bike ride.

That's where the good news ended.

NO kayaking for a month. No sitting in or cooling off in the lake till after radiation is completed. Radiation begins August 8 and lasts six full weeks, every day except weekends. There is NOTHING I can do to determine whether I get severe scarring from the radiation or not. It is 'luck'. Some women scar a lot, some just a little. All will scar (internal breast scarring called capsular contraction). If it is painful or extensive, I need to START ALL OVER with a muscle flap from my back to reconstruct the breast.

All I can do is pray. And ask you all to pray for me if you think of it...

Oh, and one last tidbit, sometimes women go three years without problems, and then scars form,  and they need another surgery.

I blinked at the doctor. At least he doesn't try to sugarcoat anything. I appreciate his honesty. He told me before the last surgery that the liposuction to my thighs to harvest fat for my breast would leave me feeling like I had been hit by a truck. I thought he was kidding. He wasn't.

He was right.The only thing I would have added to his prediction of how I would feel post-liposuction is this: you will feel like you have been hit by a LARGE truck with SHARP spikes all over the fender.

Now one month post-surgery, my thighs only hurt a little. They DO still hurt. Nothing like how much they hurt for the first two weeks,  If you are thinking of this as an option to trimming your figure for vanity purposes --just say no to liposuction.

Back to radiation. I am really hoping to defy the odds and be one of the few with zero to minimal scarring from the radiation treatment.

Meanwhile, I reread my blog from yesterday about how BIG God is. He is BIG....REALLY BIG. Bigger than a large truck, bigger than cancer, bigger than radiation scars. He is so big, that if you need a refuge, God is the place to run. I intend to be hiding behind Him.

Psalm 62:8

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. 

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

How Big is God?

I have been pouring through all the volumes of school work I saved from the 25 years of homeschooling my three children. Many made me chuckle, like the photo above I found in Asherel's file of mementos. We share a love of all creatures, and they seem to love us too!

The picture made me laugh, as did some of the school work assignments. When she was in junior high, I  gave Asherel an assignment to write an essay entitled: How Big is God. I have forgotten so much, but after seeing her essay, I remembered.

After giving the essay prompt, I left the room, and was pleased that she was writing diligently each time I peeked in at her. After the half hour time limit I had given her, I returned.

"Are you done?" I asked.
She nodded, grinning as she handed me her essay.

This picture below is what she had written. The front and back of the paper were filled with the same word.

Asherel did not love writing assignments, and being very intelligent and clever, often found amusing ways to wiggle out of them. However, I have to admit, this was perfect.

The thing is, she needed more than a half hour of 'big' to begin to express the true bigness of God. If we close our eyes, and try to imagine how big God is, or how just, how merciful, how mighty, how loving, etc....we can't. No matter what we picture, it is too small. Our finite minds cannot possibly wrap themselves around the concept of God's infinite Being.

God is limitless, but I think we limit Him with our feeble understanding and faith. One of my favorite illustration of this in the Bible is 2 Kings 4: 1-7.

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

If the widow had continued to collect jars, would the oil have continued to flow? Every indication is that it would have. I think we are in the habit of metaphorically not collecting enough jars for God to fill.

I need to remember this. My understanding of the vastness of God may contribute to the amount of work He does through me and the blessings that ensue.

At 5 a.m. this morning, I received a text from a women who had considered abortion till I met her several months ago on the sidewalk of the southeast's busiest abortion center. This is what the text said: Hey, how are you? I don't know if it's too early to text you but I couldn't wait to share the news. I'm currently at the hospital being induced. So far I'm at 5 cm dilated! 

For the record, 5 a.m. is too early to text, folks, EXCEPT in this situation. So many of the mamas I work with walk into that abortion center saying no one can change their mind. My God can. He is big enough.

So this is my new mantra for this week: Go around and ask for jars....Don't ask for just a few! 

Colossians 1:16 

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Breathing the Scent of Distant Memories ... I Did My Best

 I spent part of the day going through files and storage cabinets in preparation to sell our house. We are downsizing to a riverside condo if all goes as planned. I won't tell you about pouring through decades of artwork, awards, writing projects, homemade cards, and diaries from my kids and twenty-five years of homeschooling. I won't dwell on the buckets of tears and heaving sobs as I remembered how much I loved my children and tried so so hard to be a perfect mom to them, as well as a perfect teacher through all twelve years of schooling each one of them.

Instead, I will tell you about artwork from the 90's that I had totally forgotten I had done! I found them in a sketchbook. Back then, I had a small travel watercolor set, and everywhere I went, I painted a watercolor!

 Frankly, I was flabbergasted. I had two young sons by then. How had I been able to take them to all these beautiful places, paint the scenery, and somehow keep those boys alive and content?

I don't remember. Maybe they weren't content. I do remember the places. The watercolor paintings brought back vivid emotions I felt at the time in the midst of such beauty;


And who is this cat? Is it my little tiger kitten Denali? It might be. I don't remember doing this pastel but it is clearly my work. It's strange looking back at a lifetime of painting. I never thought I was very good...I just knew I HAD to produce art. But looking back, I was not bad.

Some of the names on the paintings were of places I didn't remember. Villagio? Auburn Park? Shove Park? Yet my boys were in many of the paintings so we must have gone to those places and played, as the paintings depicted... my oldest son digging in the sand of a park beach I could not conjure back from the ghostly images in my head of a faded past.

Many paintings were of places embedded clearly in my mind, like my parents' lake house I loved so well. I captured little details, like wildflowers along the shoreline...

or my second boy, Matthias, hooking a worm on his fishing pole. Such good, wonderful memories!

And then I came across some old photos of me and my beloved Honeybun, and of hubby and me. All of us looked sprite, and young, and carefree. Had we really ever felt that way?

After hours of weeping and weeding through memories, I went to my radiology appointment. They marked my chest for the exact area the radiation beam would be directed to zap out any potential lingering breast cancer. I lay still in the CAT scan, eyes closed, thinking of my paintings of all the beautiful places we'd visited, my young children, and the dreams of youth. The machine whirred and clunked noisily, but I breathed deeply the distant scent of hope and optimism, and remembered I had done my best. It wasn't perfect, but it was my best. I hope that is what they remember when I am gone.

Joel 2:25 

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Contemplating God, Oil Painting framed, 16x31, available
It was sweltering on the sidewalks of the abortion center yesterday. That didn't seem to hurt business though. At least fifty babies were brought there to die. One interaction in particular broke my heart. My heart breaks often there, of course, but sometimes it breaks more than other times.

This time, it involved a woman who came off an RV up the street that provides free ultrasounds. She got in her car, and drove toward us. I always try to intercept anyone who leaves that RV and heads our way toward the abortion center. Hard as it is to believe, they have just seen their baby on the ultrasound and if they are headed our way, they usually still intend to abort.

I put on my most compassionate smile, and flagged down her car. She stopped.
"I see you just came off that mobile ultrasound unit. Did you see your baby's heartbeat?"
"Yes," she said, "I heard it too. Here is the picture." She smiled and I was encouraged. If she was showing me the ultrasound photo proudly, she must have chosen life!
"Congratulations, how far along are you?"
She told me.
"And you have chosen not to abort?"
She nodded. "I am still conflicted, but I don't think I will abort."
"What changed your mind?"
"It's wrong."
We had a long conversation. She told me she wanted the lavish baby shower we offer moms, gave me her email to send her daily Bible verses, and then prayed with me. She even took one of our 'blessing bags', a gift bag we give to all the moms who choose life.

As I stepped back, she drove on down the street, and passed the driveway into the abortion center. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Then we noticed far down the street, instead of turning to follow the street out of the area, she turned left into a cul de sac of businesses. I figured she was lost, so headed down the street to meet her as she came out of the cul de sac. As I waited, she didn't emerge, so I finally returned to my fellow sidewalk counselors.

"She went in the center," Chrissy told me mournfully.
"What?? I never saw her drive by!"
Chrissy pointed to the hill overlooking the abortion center. She had parked up there in the business park, then scrambled down the hill to sneak into the abortion center.

Obviously she was filled with guilt to go to all that trouble to avoid me. I was devastated. I had been completely snookered by her lies. I had totally believed her. For goodness sake, she had prayed with me as I lauded her decision to follow God and her conscience in choosing life.

Three women did choose to let their babies live Monday and each of them received a blessing bag too. One who I counseled on the RV was overjoyed to see her baby, and is excited to schedule the baby shower welcoming her little miracle to the world. Those three mamas seemed to have made a genuine commitment. I praise God for those victories, but my heart is still mourning. How could I have so misread that first woman, been so misled by what I believed to be sincerity and true conviction of her spirit to do what she knew was the right thing to do?

How could she have prayed with me, knowing she intended to defy the very God she was pretending to honor with prayer in the next few minutes?

How could Judas kiss Jesus, knowing he would betray him within the hour? 

Betrayal is one of the hardest things on earth to deal with. As Chrissy stood beside me, I said, "It would be easy to become cynical and jaded here."
She nodded.

Jesus didn't become cynical or jaded however. He forgave. He went to the cross anyway, knowing full well the capacity for evil of every human heart. He died for us while we were yet sinners that we might live.

I am made in His image. We all are. I am to reflect His character as best I can. I will not become cynical or jaded. I will choose to love and to forgive. I have that woman's email, and I will send her Bible verses each day as I promised and pray God works a miracle in her heart. I choose the way of the Master.

Proverbs 19:5 

A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, ...

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

But Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Tale of Two Ladies and A Study in Contentment

My Apartment, 19x24, available for purchase
This is a pastel I did of the back stairs of my first apartment. I was 19 years old, just out of college, and working for one year before grad school. It was a tiny ramshackle place, but I loved it.  I still remember the heady feeling of making my own way financially for the first time.

I worked at a nursing home as a nurse's aid in preparation for my graduate degree in Occupational Therapy. I thought it would be wise to be sure I could work with people who had compromised health before I committed to the degree.

It was not an easy job. It was not a well-run nursing home, and many of the residents were in bad shape. There are two that come to mind immediately. One was a bitter and angry woman who had been a NY City Rockette in her youth. She had been stunning and talented in her younger days. She did not age well. I don't mean only her looks, but her heart as well. She was a nasty woman. There was nothing medically terribly wrong with her, but she was wretchedly miserable. Her family visited often, but she had only venom and dissatisfaction to spew. We used to draw straws to see which one of us would be stuck helping her. She had a picture of herself as a Rockette on her bedside which she showed us often...a gorgeous woman in her day. I think the loss of all that beauty, toned physique, and talent left in its wake emptiness of soul.

Another woman had a fifty pound goiter that hung from her belly. It was an enormous blob of tissue and she usually kept it girdled. Part of my job was showering her, and then it hung loose like a wrecking ball, swaying below her belly. I had a hard time looking at it. I imagine she had a worse time bearing it. However, she was the most cheerful, friendly, contented woman I had ever met. She talked incessantly of her sons, whom she loved unabashedly. Not once in the entire year I worked there did I ever see her sons visit her. She always greeted me with a smile, and told me she hoped and expected her boys would be dropping by so be sure to clean her up good!

That memory was sparked looking at the old painting I did of my first apartment. I didn't know God yet, but I was given a tremendous lesson in contentment or despair despite circumstances. I don't know if the second woman knew God. I wouldn't have picked up on the cues back then, but now, I would bet she did.

Now compare the picture at the top of this blog with a second drawing I made of the same scene. Notice, the post is crooked in the painting above, but in the painting below it is straight. I love the symbolism, whether intentional or not. It is all a matter of perspective in whether we are upright in our attitude, or crooked. Unlike the poor ramshackle porch I drew, we DO get to choose if we stand tall in the Lord and content, or dangerously askew and dissatisfied without Him.

My Apartment Made Whole, pastel, 19x24


Philippians 4:11-12 

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Throw Off the Weight that Entangles

This is my rendering of Little York Lake. It is a watercolor painting I did of the view from the porch of the lake house my folks owned for twenty years. I was grown when they bought it, but lived only an hour away, so brought my two young sons to visit nearly every weekend of the summer. I taught them to sail, canoe, and fish. We had many marshmallow roasts over evening bonfires while lightning bugs romanced the flickering flames. I painted countless scenes of that beautiful place.

I LOVED it there. It had been my father's dream to own a house on the lake one day, and I am so grateful that he was able to retire and live his dream. They sold the lake house when it became too much for them to care for. I helped as much as I could, but then we moved to NC, and it was impossible to help as much as they needed.

Now, my husband and I are empty-nesters. Our home is too much house for just two people, and the lawn care and upkeep is more than we really want to do. So we are looking at condos on the lake. I guess I am more like my dad than I realized. I can think of almost nothing more wonderful than sitting on a deck overlooking the lake, and working on my next novel...or painting the scenery.

We visited several possible condos yesterday. Both of us stepped on the deck of this one, pictured below, and fell in love. The condo is small, and we would have to throw out half our possessions...but we think it might be worth it for this deck overlooking the water.

We are to hold loosely to the things where 'moth and dust corrupt' anyway. Clinging to possessions weighs down the soul. I know, because we collected ten bags of items for Goodwill from our linen closet alone in prep for the realtor coming in tomorrow to tell us what we need to do to sell the house. It felt very freeing to bag towels, sheets, washcloths that hadn't surfaced for ten years to give to someone else. How did we ever accumulate so much stuff?

When hubby and I were young, we biked across the country. We had to lug all our possessions we would need to survive on the back of our bike. It gave us a deep appreciation of how little one really needs to live. If one is forced to carry the weight of one's things on a long journey, those items grow heavier and heavier as the road stretches on and on.

I love the Bible verse Hebrews 12:1 -- 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,

Our possessions that weigh us down are like the sin that so easily entangles. How much better to throw that weight off us, and then run with a light step to the finish line. The difference with sin and possessions is it is impossible to remove the weight of sin on our own. Anyone who is human, and I suspect most of my blog readers are, knows that no sooner do we make the promise we will never again lose our temper, be arrogant, be lazy, be unkind, be patient...etc...than we are back to the same old business like a dog to his vomit. 

Ultimately, we need help to leave a life of sin which is sadly ingrained deeply in every one of us. Fortunately, we have help. Jesus, the author and perfecter of our souls becomes our righteousness when we put our faith in Him, and He is able to loose the terrible burden.

Now if only He will help us finish whittling away our belongings and help us move them. It would be so easy for Him...

1 Peter 3:18 

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Entrusted With Precious Lives

Many years ago, when I first started teaching homeschool art classes, the young ladies in this picture, Rachel and Jana, signed up for my class. I think they were 5 and 7 years old...maybe a little older. They were in my class for a few years, till they moved away. I always stayed in touch with their mom, Joy, because her family was an inspiration to me and one of the godliest families I have ever known.

They were coming back to Charlotte for a wedding, and called to ask if they could drop by. I was delighted to see them again, after many years of their absence. I have followed them on Facebook, but it was still a shock to see my beautiful students all grown up.

A huge delight was Rachel's decision to pursue a college degree in art, and hopefully a career in illustration. I had seen her artwork in high school through the blessing of Facebook. Her talent is stupendous.

"I owe a huge part of that to you," she told me, "And I just wanted to say thank you."

I could barely contain the overflowing joy that statement evoked. When her mother told Rachel she was considering coming to Charlotte for the wedding, Rachel told her, "OH please can we go, and can we see Mrs. Kaseorg?"

I am humbled, and floored that this lovely family thought of me, remembers me so fondly, and made so much extra effort to visit with me. It had been a busy day. We are beginning to look at downsizing, and I had some appointments to see some condos in the morning. I also had promised my cover designer/book formatter I would have the final edit on my new book done by yesterday. I raced home from the real estate appointments only a few minutes before my friends arrived.

And then time stood still. It was as though they had never left, that no time had elapsed, and the beautiful relationship I had shared with them years ago flowed seamlessly into the present day. Joy prayed for me before they left to visit another special friend. I felt like heaven had cracked open for a moment, and God's presence was very real.

I am so blessed. God is so gracious in bringing me people who love Him and love me. I never thought about what kind of influence I might have on the young people I taught art to. I just thought about showing them they had talent and they could indeed draw, building their confidence for that day. It is hard for me to be in the moment and concurrently visualize what each decision and action may portend for the future.

However, after Rachel left, I had conflicting emotions of joy and despair. Joy for the actions in my past that led to encouragement; despair for the times I caused pain and discouragement. Sadly, there were plenty of times when I failed others.

I wish I were better at foreseeing repercussions of every word, action, and thought of mine. My only solace is I have God, and He sees the past, present, and future perfectly.  The moment I asked Him to be Lord of my life, His Holy Spirit entered me, and guides me. I may listen imperfectly, but I do have a source of wisdom. I just need to learn to tap into that incredible gift more consistently. When I fail, God is always there, and unlike me, always encouraging and reminding me I can be better and He will help me. His mercies are indeed new every morning, and great is His faithfulness.

How wonderful that despite my flawed nature, God has given me the privilege of seeing not only my failings, but some of the blessings of my stumbling efforts as well.


Psalm 78:4 

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Fighting Cancer with Food and Exercise

I am walking about ten miles a day. My oncologist and surgeons all agree that exercise is key in managing the stress that is increasingly implicated in cancer. Besides that, when our bodies do what God designed them to do and when we exult in the joy and wonder of working muscles, heart, and lungs, we glorify and express our gratitude to our maker. My perspective shifts as soon as I venture on foot to the glorious wonder of nature. God created all this beauty for me! How can I not understand the depth of His love by that alone!?

I am always dismayed by healthy kids who sit hours and hours in front of computers and neglect the miracle an incredible body that should be used to run, jump, bike, climb, and explore the stupendous beauty of the world God has given them. It is sacrilegious to me to squander the gift of a body that can do so much and instead is allowed to slowly dissolve from disuse. It is infinitely sad to exchange the real world and its God-given wonders for a virtual world.

Part of the reason for all my energy is I have never eaten so healthily as I have since the breast cancer diagnosis. You really are what you eat. Here was yesterday's lunch:

Since all the famous bloggers seem to post recipes, I will post mine. This really was delicious. Warning and disclaimer: I don't measure, and I made the recipe up. However, I guarantee the ingredient are all implicated in fighting and preventing cancer. So who cares if it tastes good? But really, it does. My friend told me I needed a fancier name than 'bunch of healthy ingredients all in one pot'. Agreed. I call this 'Melange du Jour'.

olive oil to cover pan about 1/4 inch, bunch of fresh asparagus with hard tips cut off and thrown very far away, 6 large shitake mushrooms sliced, approx. 1 tsp each of ginger, cardamon, fresh ground pepper, nutmeg, garlic salt, curry, and tumeric, 4 or 5 chicken thighs cut to bite size pieces, 1 cup chicken bone broth, walnuts, fresh baby spinach leaves, blue cheese dressing.

 Instructions: heat olive oil over medium heat, add fresh asparagus cut in pieces, shitake mushrooms sliced, tsp each or thereabouts of ginger, cardamon, fresh ground pepper, nutmeg, garlic salt, curry, and tumeric. Stir to coat evenly. Add uncooked boneless chicken thighs cut to bite size pieces (perferably unfrozen if you plan ahead which I didn't) (4 or 5 thighs) . Add about a cup of chicken bone broth. (You should make this yourself too, but if not, just be sure it really is bone broth or it is not as good for you.) cook over medium heat about 45 minutes...maybe less if you thought to defrost the chicken and cut it up prior to throwing it in the melange. Remove from heat. Add chopped walnut pieces and stir in. Prepare bed of baby fresh spinach leaves on plate. Add thin coating of blue cheese dressing. Dollop hot mixture on top of spinach. EAT and hide leftovers unless you are less selfish than me.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lousy Predictor of Success and the Power of an Advocate

I was going through my report cards from elementary school days while cleaning out my folks' home as we prepped it for sale. I had remembered me as being a perfect student. It turns out, that was not quite accurate. I did receive a lot of A's...but I consistently reaped B's in the same three subjects through the early years of elementary school.

First, I want you to remember that my majors in college were Art, with a minor in Writing. Physical activity has been a major part of my life since I could walk. I am a runner, kayaker, biker, skater, skier, horse rider, etc.  I am a professional artist and writer, and usually walk ten miles a day.

Now with that premise, guess what my three consistent B's were in?
Art, writing, and Physical Education. 

Those are three of the four things that probably most define me now. The fourth defining subject in my life is God. If God had been a class in elementary school, I bet I would have gotten a B.

I also got check marks: "needs work". Needs work????? Guess what that was for? "Vicky doesn't speak. She needs work on communicating with others."


It is a good thing that others' assessment of what we can and cannot do in life don't get to determine what we actually end up doing. This story reminds me of John Mark, an early missionary with the Biblical giants, Paul and Barnabus. John Mark had apparently abandoned Paul and Barnabus in their first missionary journey (Acts 13 of the Bible). A sharp disagreement arose between Paul and Barnabus. Paul did not want John Mark to accompany them any more. He no longer trusted him, but Barnabus insisted John Mark could be redeemed. Paul and Barnabus split ways over this heated disagreement. Barnabus took John Mark with him to Cyprus, and Paul went to Syria. Paul and Barnabus never saw each other again!

Apparently, John Mark flowered under Barnabus' encouragement. In fact, later in Paul's life, he requested John Mark be brought to him as John Mark had become so useful in spreading the gospel (2 Timothy 4:11).

How we begin is not necessarily how we will end. Other's assessment of what we will become is a lousy predictor of success sometimes.

I have no idea why I got B's in the subjects I excel in as an adult. I do remember I drew green cows and purple grass and my teachers didn't like that. I remember my mom went to bat for me, but I guess it didn't prevent me from getting a B in Art. I also remember I had private art lessons throughout my childhood, and those teachers praised and encouraged me. I knew I had talent because those encouragers made sure I knew it. They changed my destiny so much that I was SHOCKED to look back and see I only got a B in art.

This is an important lesson. Our potential is not determined by any one else's opinion, or our failures, immaturity, or past. Sometimes all it takes is someone to believe in us, fight for us, encourage us and we become what God intended us to be all along. We may not all be fortunate enough to have human advocates, though we DO all have an advocate.

Jesus Himself died for us, because He believes so strongly in our worth, in our sacred, intrinsic value. That's powerful. I bet Jesus knew I could draw and write, and one day would speak of His glory.

1 John 2:1 

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Impossible Love

I spent the entire day yesterday on the final edit of my new book, Unlikely Friends. This is the picture I painted for the cover. The cover is currently with the designer, the manuscript with the formatter, and the book is to be available hopefully in the next two weeks. It is one of the most fun books I have ever written.

I started the book around the time I was diagnosed with cancer. I wrote the book as pure fantasy, a story that combined many of the things I loved in life: horses, dogs, dolphins, and God. When facing a death threatening diagnosis, it became important to let my mind dwell on things that brought me joy.

The amazing thing is this story was complete fiction, impossible, could never have happened. Halfway through writing my book, I found a video of the impossible scenario I had concocted. Only the video was reality...non-fiction. I could not believe it. It was impossible...I had made it all up...but the basis for my story was true!

This speaks to me of God. There is no way the creator of the entire universe would have the slightest interest in me...He could not possibly notice me, let alone care for me. Yet, impossibly, unbelievably, He does. That is the message of my new book told in a fun, symbolic way with my favorite animals all in one book. It is even more exciting knowing that not only could it have happened... it did.

Romans 5:8 

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak: A Lesson in Helping Others Heal

This young man in the photo above began the morning at the abortion center mocking, laughing at, and angry with our team of pro-life sidewalk counselors. The center was distressingly busy -- at least fifty babies being killed that morning. We had only caustic interactions from the abortion-minded moms, with little interest in hearing of choices other than abortion. That didn't stop us from trying, of course. God's word has a way of permeating the hardest of hearts and maybe it would make a difference at some time in the recipient's life, if not this day.

But the angry young man got tired of listening to us, and moved to the far side of the center lot, partially shielded by trees. Sherry, our Monroe HELP RV nurse, followed him to the edge of the property. He lit a cigarette while waiting for the woman he brought to have an abortion. Occasionally he yelled at us for being "judgmental."

Sherry sat down on the hot sidewalk in the blistering 90 degree sunlight, and began to share the truth of God's word regarding babies, motherhood, and the sanctity of life. She told him what it meant to have a true relationship with God. Then she asked him to tell her his story, why he was so angry at God, because clearly, he was.

Sherry sat on that hot sidewalk in the blazing sun for forty minutes, listening. The young man had had a tragic life. Premature from an unsuccessful abortion, he said he would have been better off had the abortion worked! His biological family was terribly dysfunctional. One of his sisters was raped by his biological father. He was shuttled about in the foster care system with a double digit number of unsuccessful placements. One foster father beat him.  Finally, at age eleven, he was adopted by an "extreme Christian family." The mother beat him. Sherry pointed out that a person who truly knew and loved Jesus would never have done that. Many people call themselves Christians, but then their lives do not reflect that commitment.

The young man said he himself became a believer at age eleven. He cried out to God to rescue him from his horrific life. Rather than rescue, he was sent to a family that beat him.
"Where was God?" he asked Sherry, "He could have rescued me. Why didn't he?"

I paced along the street, as I always do, calling out to women as they leave their cars and enter the clinic. But I kept wandering back near Sherry. I wanted to hear her answer. I couldn't hear her words, but I could hear her tone. Gentle, filled with love and compassion. I also saw her tears. The young man's angry expression was slowly melting away. He was listening. Intently. The pain of what he had endured was written on his countenance, but I saw an eager yearning as well. He WANTED God to be what he had hoped for as a young boy.

I returned near Sherry's side. Her voice often broke with emotion. The young man didn't come near, but leaned forward, and sat on the steps with eyes riveted on Sherry. Then Sherry noticed I had our booklet, "Healing the Hurt" in my hand. I had pulled it out of my pack to give to the young man. She asked me if I had something for him.

"I do," I said, speaking to the troubled man. "This booklet may help the young lady you brought today. Many women feel great remorse and regret after an abortion. Sherry's number is on this, and you can call her, or your friend can call her if you want to talk more. I want you to know I have been listening to your story.  I feel very sad for what you endured. I am so sorry. May we pray with you?"

He came to us, and took the booklet from me. Then the three of us held hands in a circle, and I prayed. His head was bowed, eyes closed, and he squeezed both Sherry and my hands. We finished praying. He thanked us and hugged both of us. The anger had completely melted away. I was shocked to see kindness, alongside anguish in his eyes.

As he walked away, I called, "Please remember. Don't lose the value of the message because of the sinfulness of the messengers."

His question is the most often cited and least easy to answer. Why does an all-powerful God who could stop every evil occurrence allow evil to persist? While Sherry was answering the young man, Daniel Parks (Cities4Life) director and I were having the same discussion. It is not an easy question to answer. It certainly cannot be answered in the fifteen seconds we usually have to convince women not to abort.

However, Sherry did everything right. I have no doubt that young man was changed from his interaction with her. For one thing, he saw someone who loves Jesus, who has had monumental struggles and questions herself, and who enveloped him in gentle compassion and kindness. Most importantly, she listened. She heard his story, and she validated his anger, his disappointment, and his sense of hopelessness and despair as a helpless child subjected to evil.

I can learn much from Sherry. I was grateful to be able to hover near, hear her tone, see her tears, soak in the warmth of her love (along with the hot sun), and watch a tormented young men unburden himself of a little of his pain. It is the picture of Jesus who above all else, cared for others.

Sometimes, we are not there on the sidewalks of the abortion center for just the mamas and the babies.

James 1:19 

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; ...

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Message of Hope in the Midst of Despair

I was at my parents' home, cleaning it out for sale, when I got a text. Anyone who has ever poured over the contents of fifty years of living understands the angst that accompanies the sale of a home where precious memories waft through the air like shimmering jewels. The text interrupted our sifting through piles of photographs, files, books, drawers, cabinets, and mementos.

The text was accompanied by a photograph of a precious little newborn baby, and a message from the mom. Several months ago, she had chosen life at the abortion center where I volunteer as a pro-life sidewalk counselor with Cities4Life.

In her text, she told me her baby was finally here, and she had never experienced such joy. She said her life was forever changed, and she had me and the other pro-life volunteers to thank for that blessing. It was particularly wonderful to receive such an encouraging message in the midst of the emotional roller coaster of prepping my folks' home for sale.

This sweet mama had not known God, nor had she thought she would choose anything but abortion. Everything changed when she heard the convicting message of God's mercy, grace, salvation, and redemption through Jesus. She chose life, she chose God, and her old and destructive life made an abrupt about-face.

Due to my second surgery for breast cancer, I missed the past two Mondays at the abortion center. I return this morning, praying that God will again send me conflicted women who just need a little nudge to follow Him and listen to their maternal instincts. I will remember this little baby, who would not have breathed his first breath if my fellow sidewalk counselors and I had not been there that day when his mom thought abortion was the only choice she could make.

Cleaning out my folks home was not easy. However, periodically, I clicked on the photo of this little baby, this new life, and thought of the mama just starting on the journey my parents were finishing. It made the melancholy ebb a little to think I had played a part in that miracle of new life and new hope.


Deuteronomy 30:19

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Where Our Treasures Reside - a Goodbye Story

I am back from a long trip to clean out my folks' home in prep for its sale. I lived in that home for half my childhood. My folks have been there about fifty years. It is not easy to say goodbye to a half century of 'stuff', but for all its angst, there were many moments of joy and rediscovery.

All my siblings came. It was a grand reunion, and a testimony to the love of family that all of them showed up to support each other emotionally and help in this often difficult task. We found thousands of pictures. Many, my parents had not seen in decades, like the one of them just after their marriage in the photo above.

This one is of four of the five siblings (I am second from right.) We are standing in front of the house in Illinois, the homebase of my years working at the farm that spawned my four-book coming-of-age series. I remember that dress fondly. It was my very favorite. I felt like a movie star in that dress. I stayed about the same height. John, to my right towers a good foot or so over me now.

In the photo above, my aunt is watching us as we tumble down the massive sand dunes at Truro, Cape Cod. Many summers we went to the Cape on vacation. They are some of the fondest memories of my life. My cousins were BEYOND cool, but still seemed to like us.

My sisters and I looked at old photographs till we could barely hold our eyes open. We took many digital photos, saved a few photographs, and had to throw many out. None of us wanted to accumulate piles of new possessions our kids would have to sort through one day, or that we would have to repack each time we downsized to a new home.

We each picked a few precious mementos from our old home. The week progressed, and one by one, the siblings left. The last night, I was all alone in my old, unairconditioned house. (Yes, no AC, and the temps were in the 90s the whole week....)

The last morning, I was up at 5 a.m.  I wandered from room to room, saying goodbye. I did not realize I would be emotional, since I had not lived there in 36 years, but tears streamed out of me as I closed the windows and whispered, "Goodbye house."

My car was already full, but I grabbed a last few dusty old things. My little teak wood cat my folks bought me 50 years ago, a small heron statue my mom loved, a picture sister Amy had painted. Then I took the chimes down that had rung for fifty years outside the front door and laid them on the chair. My parents would be able to reach them then, and rehang them on the deck outside their apartment.
I locked the front door for the last time and stood looking at the house, lingering to be sure it had finished saying goodbye to me.

Matthew 6: 19-21
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.