Belief vs. Knowing

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James 2:19, NIV

If you were a child in the ’80′s, you might remember a cartoon called G.I. Joe. I used to watch it most every afternoon with my father. Every episode ended with a little life lesson and the phrase, “And knowing is half the battle!” That came to mind earlier this month after a Facebook conversation with a cousin.

You see, our uncle is ill. He is in his mid-seventies, has cancer, heart problems, diabetes…. The doctors are not giving much hope at the moment. I asked for prayers for him on Facebook and commented that he doesn’t have a relationship with Christ. My cousin made sure to tell me that his family and her family and the family of another aunt all believe in God.

“Great,” I wanted to say. “Believing is a wonderful thing. But that doesn’t mean you have a relationship with Him.”

If belief meant relationship, wow! I’d not be married to the man I am today. I mean, I believe that Jordan Knight and Nick Lachey exist. Doesn’t mean that I know them, let alone have a relationship with them.

Believing in God is half the battle. It is what one does with that belief that makes a difference.

For years, I believed in God. Every now and again, I even prayed to him—mostly when I wanted something. I guess I kind of viewed God as a fast-food drive-thru—there if I wanted a quick pick-me-up, but not something that I needed to deal with daily. I believed in God, but I can’t say that I knew Him. For years, I thought believing was enough. But I always felt more than just a little empty.

I can’t say that I know God as well as I would like to. I certainly do not know Him as well as He knows me. Sometimes, I wish He didn’t know me nearly so well! Sometimes I can’t help but think that God must look at me and actually feel sorry that He allowed His Son to die in my place. Yet it is because I know Him that I can say I am not a disappointment to Him. God sees what I will one day be, not what I am now. And because He knows the plans He has for my future (Jeremiah 29:11 says so!), it gives Him the patience to guide me to where He needs me to be.

Believing in God is a great start. Knowing He is real is an awesome second step. But believing and knowing are not enough. It is the relationship with Him that matters. It is my prayer that Uncle Bob, Aunt Cookie, and my cousins all have a relationship with Christ. And if they don’t, I pray that they will allow Him into their hearts and lives.

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Apology to My Mom

There is nothing like being a mother to make a woman sorry for every rude comment and disrespectful act she ever aimed at her own mother.

Saturday evening, my husband’s family gathered at our house to celebrate Christmas. It was a great time, but it meant a lot of preparation. I spent Friday baking and Saturday morning cleaning the house. Of course, since they weren’t at school, the boys got to help with the cleaning. Oh, I think I went easy on them (though they may not agree!). They had the easy tasks of picking up toys and feeding the dog and emptying trash cans. As for me, I had the joy of sweeping, mopping, cleaning mirrors, and scrubbing toilets. Fun, fun, fun.

Yeah, NOT.

As I was scrubbing the bathroom, a scene from more than 15 years ago came to mind. I felt embarrassed and ashamed by the behavior I remembered. My mother may have no idea what I am talking about. Chances are, she has long since forgotten this day. Until this weekend, I had pretty much forgotten it. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And forgetting doesn’t mean that I don’t owe Mom and apology for how I acted.

I believe it was a Saturday morning in the summer. It was probably summer of 1993 or maybe 1994. We were expecting a visit from my Uncle Jerry and probably some of his children. This uncle had been married to Aunt May, Mom’s older sister, until the day she died in 1991. By this time, he had met a new woman, Millie, who was becoming ever more important in his life. Uncle Jerry was bringing Millie that day to meet my mother. (Well, she got to meet Dad and us kids, too, but I still think the big reason for the visit was so that Mom and Millie could meet.) In preparation for the visit, we spent the morning cleaning. Mom sent me upstairs to clean the bathroom. I’d like to think she picked me for the job because she thought I would do the best job cleaning it, but it was probably to get a break from me. Cleaning and I have never been the best of friends, and I was likely being rude and mouthy to Mom while “helping” downstairs. She probably sent me to the bathroom because she hoped I would flush my bad attitude while scrubbing the toilet!

I didn’t. Instead, I muttered and grumbled and complained. So what if Mom couldn’t hear me? I wanted to get it all out of my system. One thing that I clearly remember saying was, “Why does this have to be done? I can hear it now—Millie will say, ‘Oh that Irma is such a horrible person! Did you see how dirty her toilet was?’ Like a toilet is supposed to be clean. Just think of what its job is!” To my knowledge, I was alone upstairs. Imagine my surprise when I heard the sound of a throat clearing. I turned around to see Dad standing in the doorway. If he said anything to me, I don’t remember it. I do remember the look on his face, the look that showed his disappointment. This was a big deal to Mom and she was nervous enough without having to deal with my attitude. The look on Dad’s face made me feel guilty for my rant.

But did I apologize? I don’t think so. I am quite sure I didn’t apologize to Mom. She might not even remember that day when she reads this. But that doesn’t really matter. I remember. I remember how rude I was to her, even if she didn’t know I was rude.

I am sorry, Mom. I am sorry for the bad attitude I showed that day, and on many other days during my teen years. You’ve been a great mother, the best any girl could ever hope for. Being your daughter is one of the greatest blessings in my life.


Homework Assignment

I’ve been in a battle against clinical depression for a rather long time. A particularly nasty bout showed up this past October, leading me to more frequent visits with my psychiatrist, a higher dosage of anti-depressants, and bi-weekly sessions with a counselor.

My most recent counseling session was yesterday. We talked about some issues that have come up in my marriage. My husband is NOT the reason for my depression, and I don’t want anyone to think that I am blaming him for the things that go on in my head. However, the issues in our marriage do contribute to the “down” feelings. Kathleen, my counselor, gave me a homework assignment this week. “Since you are a writer,” she said, “it should be easy for you to put your thoughts into words. I want you to think about the things you need from your husband. What things do you need from your marriage?” She wants me to write them down and share them with her at our next session, the first week of the New Year.

There are a lot of things that come to mind. Things like respect, affection, a smile after work. I don’t expect my husband to get all excited about the things that I have done during the day. I mean, chasing a toddler and potty training and grocery shopping and housework are on the mundane side of life. Yet I would like for the first words out of his mouth when he walks in the front door after work to be something other than, “you mean you didn’t do the dishes?” He doesn’t have to praise all the chores that I have accomplished, but I would like to not have the one thing I didn’t finish up be the only thing he notices.

This exercise has led me to thinking about what a man might like to get out of marriage. What things does a man want from his wife? It has to be more than just sex on demand, doesn’t it? I welcome all comments on this. Maybe that will help me learn how to be the wife my husband desires, which in turn will lead him to noticing more than just my shortcomings.


Three Tries, Three Wins!

I did it!

For the third year in a row, I not only started National Novel Writing Month, I completed the challenge. In 2007, I wrote Forsaking the Call, which went on to become my first published novel, in the month of November for the NaNoWriMo Challenge. In 2008, I completed The Ladies of Faith for NaNo. That book was published in September of this year. November 2009 brought about Shattered. I completed the 50,000 words required to “win” the challenge. I can’t say that I completely finished the novel, though. I think I probably have another 15,000 to 25,000 words until I get to the end of the book. Still, I did it! I completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge!

One reason this feels so good? A friend of mine told me when I signed up for the challenge for the first time that it is difficult to finish NaNo and that I should not be upset or disappointed if I didn’t make it. She was right—it is not an easy thing to complete. It does take a lot of planning and rearranging of schedules to get through. Any writer who wants to complete the challenge—complete a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and November 30—has to be willing to make some sacrifices. I am one of the lucky ones; I have the support of my family when I work on this challenge. Without that support, I probably would not have completed the first NaNo, let alone the third one.

But I am so glad that I did! This gave me a chance to not only chase after a dream, but to really fulfill that dream.

Oh, and in case you are interested, Shattered is scheduled for release on March 16, 2010. If I can get all the edits done by then, that is!

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Christmas Giveaway


Oh, I love this time of year! Picking out the perfect gifts for my children, the smell of cookies and other goodies baking in the oven, the hum of the furnace, and the joyful sound of carols. And that is just a part of the fun.

My favorite part is thinking about how to celebrate the birth of Christ. I like to do something special with my kids each year, something to help them understand the real reason for Christmas. One thing we like to do is bake and decorate a special birthday cake. One year, we made a square one that looked like a gift, with green and red M&M’s as the ribbons. Last year, it was a 2-layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting and cake crumbs patted onto the sides. I don’t know yet what we will do this year. After a Christmas Eve party with my parents and sisters, we come home, sing Happy Birthday, and cute one slice of cake. That slice and a small glass of milk goes on the bookcase, right next to our Nativity scene. Sometimes, the boys put it right in the middle, for all of Bethlehem to enjoy. (A second glass of milk and a plate of carefully selected cookies and candies goes on the dining room table for “Santa”. The boys figured out last year that it was probably Daddy eating the cookies, since the plate always contains Daddy’s favorite goodies.)

I think my absolute favorite thing we have done is make our own little Prayer Chain. Everyone has made paper chains before, right? That is what we did, but with a twist. We cut strips of red and green construction paper. Each evening, from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve, we would take one green strip and one red strip. Prayer requests would go on one color and praises would go on the other. Then we would pray over each one and thank God for all of His gifts before linking the papers together and hanging them in the house. Each praise represented something we could think God for, something that showed the love He has for us. That seemed to really bring home to my sons what Christmas is about—the love of Christ.

What special things do you and your family do to celebrate Christmas? What are your favorite traditions? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment at the end of this email with one of your most treasured memories. One reader will receive an autographed copy of my novel Forsaking the Call. Winner will be chosen on December 15, so the book can be mailed out in time for Christmas.

I look forward to hearing from you!