I am visiting Meridian, Idaho.

As we were driving into town today, it seems like a life time ago that my home was Meridian, Idaho.

Paul and I moved her in 1991, with our baby Molly.  We took a leap of faith.  We were living in Montana at the time, but felt God moving us on, away from Glendive.  So we had a few options, but we went with Meridian.  When we arrived, Paul didn't have steady employment, we had no place to live, and we had a 9 month old baby and two cats.

We lived with family for a while...very generous family.  But it was hard not having a place of our own.

Soon we found an apartment (that would take both children and cats), and Paul got a job helping a relative build houses.

By fall, Paul had been hired to teach in the Meridian School District. 

My time in Meridian was one of the hardest times in my life, but I also grew up and grew in my faith by leaps and bounds during that time.

We weren't unlike many first married couples.  Our budget was tight, and we didn't have a lot, but God provided.

We navigated our way through many things during those years.  Our younger two daughters were born while living in Meridian.

I made friendships during that time that are priceless.

I worked with kids at the church in Youth Group and Sunday School that I still think about and pray for often.

Our girls had the opportunity to be surrounded by many grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousins.

Charles Dickens begins his novel "A Tale of Two Cities" like this:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

In many ways, this is how I look back on my time living in Meridian.  A dichotomy.  High times.  Low times.  But this time in my life shaped me and my family and made us what we are today.

I'm thankful for my time living in Meridian, Idaho.


Mother Teresa

I admire Mother Teresa.

I heard a story about her from a man who tried to have her come and speak at a Christian conference he was helping organize.

Apparently, Mother Teresa was a little hard to schedule.

When this man talked to the nun that was her "scheduler" this nun kept explaining to this man that Mother Teresa really doesn't live by a schedule.  Because she responds to what the Holy Spirit tells her to do, and sometimes that slows her up.

For example, if she was on her way to an appointment, but saw a homeless person on the sidewalk, and she was prompted by the Holy Spirit to go and minster to this person, she would stop and take the time to minister to this person.

I long to live this way.  I know I shouldn't let my lifestyle be a hindrance to serving God, but it  in a way.  When you have a job, you have to be places at certain times.  "Life" gets it does get in the way.  But I want the opportunity to not have life get in the way.  I want to put myself in a situation, even if it was for a week, to just respond to the Holy Spirit, and be directed every moment of the day.

Last summer when we went to Harlem, I got a little taste of this, but we still had things scheduled for us. Which was actually the part I loved.  But I would love to go back and just be led by God to help people. To me, that would be a wonderful adventure.  To be available to love those who many find unlovable.

I hope to get that opportunity sometime soon.


Red Letter Christians

About 20 years ago Paul and I attended a conference in Boise, Idaho and one of the speakers was a man named Tony Compolo.  At the time, Compolo was known for a sermon and book he gave called, "It's Friday, But Sunday's Coming", about Jesus being crucified on the cross, then rising on Sunday.

About 6 or 7 years ago, I purchased a book called "Red Letter Christians: A Citizen's Guide To Faith and Politics".  This was my first exposure to Red Letter Christians.

After I read the book, and agreed with almost 100 percent what it said, I started to explore more about Red Letter Christians.  This is what is says about them on their website:

The goal of Red Letter Christians is simple: To take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount.

Two years ago, Compolo and a man named Shane Clairborne wrote another book called: "Red Letter Revolution:  What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?"

Here is a description of what the book is about:

For all the Christians facing conflict between Jesus’ words and their own lives, for all the non-Christians who feel they rarely see Jesus’ commands reflected in the choices of his followers, Red Letter Revolution is a blueprint for a new kind of Christianity, one consciously centered on the words of Jesus, the Bible’s “red letters.”
Framed as a captivating dialogue between Shane Claiborne, a progressive young evangelical, and Tony Campolo, a seasoned pastor and professor of sociology, Red Letter Revolution is a life-altering manifesto for skeptics and Christians alike. It is a call to a lifestyle that considers first and foremost Jesus’ explicit, liberating message of sacrificial love.
Shane and Tony candidly bring the words of Jesus to bear on contemporary issues of violence, community, Islam, hell, sexuality, civil disobedience, and twenty other critical topics for people of faith and conscience today. The resulting conversations reveal the striking truth that Christians guided unequivocally by the words of Jesus will frequently reach conclusions utterly contrary to those of mainstream evangelical Christianity.
If the Jesus who speaks to you through the Gospels is at odds with the Christian culture you know, if you have ever wanted to stand up and say, “I love Jesus, but that’s not me,” Red Letter Revolution will prove that you are not alone—you may have been a Red Letter Christian all along.
This last November, Paul and I attended a "Simply Jesus" gathering in Denver and Compolo was one of the speakers.  I was again reminded why I like what he says and writes about, and how I was challenged by his books, and the "red letters" in the Bible.  
And living the words Jesus spoke are not easy.  Sometimes I ask myself, how can this be done?  But I don't do it alone.  Jesus' words in the Bible point me in the right directions, and His spirit gives me the ability to step out and live the words He spoke.  Oh, but it is hard!!  But the results of living the life Jesus spoke of is what I am suppose to be doing.
If you want to be challenged in your faith, I recommend these two books.  See what you think.  See if these books challenge you to live as a "Red Letter Christian".



I like to have a glass of wine every now and then.

And it usually tastes very good. 

Except when it doesn't.

Have you ever had a bottle of wine go bad?

It happened to me tonight.

I had received a gift of a bottle of wine for Christmas.  It was kind of a joke, because it had a dog on the label, and I was campaigning for a pug.  The wine was called "Vicious Petit Syrah".

Tonight it opened it, and when I smelled it I knew.  It had gone sour.

It was bitter.

It was kind of vinegary.


I have only had this happen a couple of times in my life. 

It is much better when the glass of wine tastes nice. 

Yes....much better when it tastes nice.



I've been experiencing some new things in my life these past two months in regards to exercise.

Here are some clues:

Deep Breath In.....Deep Breath Out.



Upward Facing Dog.

Downward Facing Dog.

Split Down Dog.

Tree Pose

Warrior One....Warrior Two....Warrior Three....Reverse Warrior.


Chair Pose.

Yes, part of the DVD series I am doing, Be Fit in 90, has a Yoga section that I really enjoy.  I can't believe in just two months how much better my balance is, how much more flexible I have become, and how I feel stronger.

My plan is to continue having Yoga as part of my exercise regime because it is so good for the body.

It is amazing to me how much Yoga makes you sweat.



The Essential Commandment

Last year my husband and I led a Bible Study in our home based called “The Essential Commandment”.  For about a year, we studied these verses:

Matthew 22: 34-40

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[b] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

When it takes almost a year to study a few lines of scriptures, you really think about this a lot, and study it from a lot of different angles.

We studied what the heart is, and how to love God with all your heart.

We studied what the soul is, and how to love God with all your soul.

We studied what it means to love God with all your mind.

And we studied about loving our neighbor as yourself. 

And we answered the questions, “Who is my neighbor?”

Most are familiar with the story of “The Good Samaritan”, even if a Bible has ever been picked up.  If you are not familiar with this story, here it is from Luke 10:

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e]and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

 If you look up neighbor in the Greek, the word is πλησίον, which is plésion.  This is the definition:

according to the teaching of Christ, any other man irrespective of race or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet (which idea is clearly brought out in the parable Luke 10:25-37).

It seems pretty clear to me that all are our neighbors, and that we are to show mercy toward our neighbors, and love them as yourself.

So, now that we have this big set up, and understand, as far as I can tell, what Jesus was referring to when He said neighbor, I want to talk about one particular neighbor that Christian’s get a bad reputation for not including in the “love the neighbor as yourself” part.  Homosexuals.

Yesterday Shane Jordan posted an article on his blog called The Great Christian and Homosexual Divide.  A lot of what he shared rang true with me.

I think, on a whole, the reputation American Christians as a collective body in this country has is that they want to distance themselves from homosexuals at any cost, and not support their lifestyle because it is a sin.
Now, I have been a part of the Christian church my whole life, and still am.  And I have had enough conversations with Christians of different denominations to realize that all Christians do not fit into this box.  And don’t want to be painted as part of this wide brush of discrimination.

But that does not change the fact that the overall reputation is still there.  Jordan writes this in his article:

I'm quite familiar with the Christian mentality, as I have spent much of my life in Christian circles. I don't agree with many of the traditional viewpoints that are often taught there, particularly when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. I do understand, however, how the typical Christian thinks, which is why I DON'T understand why so many of them shun homosexuals. Not only do they snub gays in their daily lives, but also within the confines of their church communities.

Most people, Christian and secular alike, would agree that the point of Christianity is, to a great extent, to be Christ-like. For anyone who doesn't know or who hasn't cracked open the Bible or history book for that matter, Jesus Christ was not a hater. In fact, he was by definition of character, the epitome of love. He loved the so-called "unlovely." He hung out with prostitutes, fishermen, tax collectors, thieves. He hung out with people the religious leaders wouldn't.
But that is not the case with many modern Christians. As we all know, Christians hang out in cute little cliques. Good Christians, with Bibles in hand, go to coffee shops together. Sinners go to bars. Christians go to church on Sundays. Homosexuals go to church... on Sundays... whhhhhhaaaa????? At least they used to and they'd like to, but some church-goers don't like that idea too much. Churches are for heterosexual Christians, not sinners and certainly not homosexuals. Amen?

And this is in response to the legislation popping up all over the country, including my state of Idaho, allowing business owners to refuse service to any customer they want to based on their own personal religious belief. If serving a particular customer would violate their religious beliefs, they will be allowed under the law, to refuse service.

So, as a follower of Jesus, I look at what He says about how we treat our neighbor and this doesn’t seem to add up.
And, I look at what He says about the religious leaders of the day, and they are who He got a bit ticked off at, as you can see if you read Matthew 23, where he gives seven woes to the teachers of the law, and the Pharisees.  Not the side I want to be on.

When I look back on my life, and how I responded to the discrimination of people, I hope my actions and attitudes are one of love.  Yes, I mess up.  I won’t always respond in love.  But I hope as I follow Jesus that I respond more and more as He did….sitting and eating with the people others reject…..not shunning them and removing them from my life.
Here is another link I would like to share about a boy who had to write this article anonymously because he attends a Christian Conservative college.  What he writes breaks my heart right here.
 My hope in writing this is to make you think.  If you are a Christian, I want you to think about your response to homosexuality.  If you are not a Christian, I want you to realize that all Christians are not how the media presents us. 
If we all just realize that we are all neighbors, and that our response should be love, that might make a bit of a difference in our world.


Controlling the Walls Inside

I feel like I am pretty good at controlling the walls inside.

What I mean by this, is that I show you who I want you to see. 

Which can be rather stifling at times.

My friend April shared on her blog this week about The Integration of Self.

Part of what she shared was this:

we all have our collection of masks that we carry around with us.
some we are unaware of, like when something unexpected catches us by surprise.
others we spend time perfecting, like when we put on a “brave face.”
is what’s beneath your visage a consolidated self that you recognize?
or are you a divided personality,
struggling to make sense of your surroundings and your place in them?

I feel like I control a lot of the faces people see in my life.

If I am comfortable, I have the relaxed face.  When I am relaxed, I can drop my guard a little more, and people who I feel relaxed around may see more of me than others.

When I am unsure of myself and my surrounding, that is when I really need to control the walls.  I don't want to mess up.  I don't want to take a misstep.  But, I'm probably very boring and uninteresting while in this state.  Not many people really know me when I get really controlling.

If I need to be the one in control of the situation, I try and make people feel comfortable.  I laugh, I tell jokes, and I try and see if people want to hear something funny, or a more serious tone is needed in the room at the time.

I have many masks I wear in my life.  I realize that it is hard for me at times to quit controlling the situation, and just let life happen.  But I have trained myself to control.  And this training can be detrimental. 

I want to be more spontaneous.  I want to get rid of the script at times. 

Maybe I want my life to me more of an improv show, than a carefully scripted drama.

But I've never felt like I was that good at improvisation.

But give me a well written script, and I'll put everything I've got into bringing that character to life.

I was talking to a friend today about turning 50, and how there can be negative things about this milestone in our live.

But there are also some really great positives, such as having friends you have known for over 40 years who love you and accept you for who you are, and you don't have to keep the masks on for them, or build up the walls.  You can revert back to that 10-year-old who was just starting to build the walls and wear the masks.  Having friends like this is very freeing.

Another part of turning 50 is allowing even more freedom to people I am around every day.  By this time, I have figured some things out about who I am, what I believe, and what is important to me.  So why try and hide who I am.  I don't need to please everyone.  I don't need to make everyone happy.  I have my friends who will not go away.  I don't need to try and be someone else.  That is what the stage is for.....to act out the characters.  But in real life, I need to be the real me.

Turning 50 has somehow given me permission to be my real self.

So I am ready to start tearing down the walls, even when I'm in an uncomfortable situation.

I am ready to limit the use of the masks in my life. 

Oh, the walls won't totally go away.  The masks will always be close by to grab onto if needed.

But I hope I will be less and less reliant on them as I move forward into the next 50 years of my life.




I grab a cookbook off the shelf.

I choose a recipe.

I gather the ingredients.

I choose a bowl, and in goes the flour, sugar, spices, and leavening ingredients.

Then add the liquid.

Mix, mix, mix.  Stir, stir, stir.

Pour into the pan.  Put into the hot oven.

Watch the magic. 

The ingredients combine to make something wonderful and delicious.

A baked treat.

It could be a pie.  It could be cookies.  I could be a cake.

The first cake I ever made from scratch was a pineapple upside-down cake.

Thank goodness for mothers who allow their daughters to be adventurous in the kitchen.

I often wonder who the first person was who thought, "Wow, if I combine some flour, oil, eggs, baking powder and some sugar, something really delicious is going to come of this."

And it does. 

Baked goods provide comfort.

Baked goods make the house smell good.

Baked goods send a message.

"You are special".

Baking is a really special treat.


Oh Canada!

I'm not exactly sure when my love of Canada happened, but there are many things about the Canadian culture that I love.

Some of it goes back to when my brother gave my the show "Slings and Arrows" on DVD.  This is a Canadian show based on a Shakespearean Theater, starring a Canadian Actor names Paul Gross.  There were three seasons of this show, and it is absolutely brilliant!

After enjoying Paul Gross in this show, I started looking for other shows he was in.  "Due South" was a show from the 90's that was about a Canadian Mountie, played by Paul Gross, who travels to Chicago to find the man who murdered his father.  It was also a cleverly written show.

One of my favorite sitcoms (and this is from someone who doesn't really enjoy sitcoms all that much), is a Canadian show called "Corner Gas".  Deriving its name from the roadside gas station in the fictional town of Dog River, Saskatchewan, Corner Gas is the only gas station for 60 kilometres (37 mi) in any direction. Brent Leroy is the proprietor of the station and Wanda Dollard works at the station's convenience store as a retail assistant. An adjoining, The Ruby, is owned by Lacey Burrows, who inherited it from her Aunt Ruby.  I really enjoy Canadian humor.

The Kellogg High School band has a exchange program with a band from Invermere, British Columbia.  Every other year, either Kellogg visit Invermere, or the Invermere band comes to Kellogg.  About four years ago, we hosted a group of girls from this band at our home, and we instantly hit it off.  I still am in contact with a few of them, and I always refer to them as my "favorite Canadian girls!!"

Two years ago, I chaperoned a trip to Invermere, and enjoyed the beautiful country of British Columbia.  One highlight was trying our hand at curling.  That was quite an experience!!

Last summer my brother, sister and I traveled to Nelson, British Columbia for a sibling trip.  I enjoyed the architecture of this town, and the food was really good, too.  Two years ago, my brother Bill and I did a quick one day trip into Canada, and stopped at a pub for lunch, and I had a Okanogan Hard Apple Cider to drink with lunch.  It was the best hard apple cider I have ever tasted, but could not find this particular brand, in a bottle, on our last trip to Canada.  The search still continues.

My sister and her husband traveled to Canada a few days ago, and I asked her to buy me a box of Red Rose Orange Pekoe Tea.  To me, the Canadian version of this tea tastes better than the American version.

I hope to do more traveling in Canada in the future. One place I definitely want to visit is Victoria, British Columbia.  Vancouver sounds like a nice big city to visit as well. 

If you enjoy Shakespeare, watch "Slings and Arrows".  Now, there is some language in this show that, I have to admit, turned me off when I first started watching it.  But then once I realized the language was authentic to the characters that are being portrayed, and used in context, then it didn't bother me as much.

For a funny, quirky sit com, watch "Corner Gas". 

"Due South" is another well written show that you may want to try.

Oh, and another favorite I discovered on my last trip to Canada...the Café Canadiano....a shot of espresso in a cup of brewed coffee.  Yum!

We are fortunate to have such a great country north of our border.  If you haven't had a chance, take some time to enjoy our Canadian neighbors and their culture.


Stay At Home Mom

Yesterday when I was in class with the 8th graders, one of them made a comment about how being a stay at home mom is not a career.  Mostly I think he was saying this to bother the girl next to him, but it got me thinking about my days as a stay at home mom.

I was a stay at home mom for about 10 years when the girls were growing up.  When we moved to Meridian in the spring of 1991, I made the choice to stay at home with Molly.  We made it work.  We lived mostly on Paul's income.  I did do a little daycare in my home that brought in a little extra money.  But we figured it out.

These years were the most rewarding and the most frustrating years of my life.

During that time I experienced many changes in my life.  Some of these changes were major.  I moved. I was pregnant four times.  I had two babies.  I had two miscarriages.  The first time I lost a baby I was about six weeks along.  The second time I was about three months along. My dad died during this time of my life.  I was dealing with depression, but didn't realize it.  I was trying to figure out who I was, and where I fit in. 

When I first started this new life as a stay at home mom, it was not easy as a young mother in a new place in a small apartment. I slept a lot during the day, when the baby slept. It was hard, because I didn’t know how to be a mom. I had decided to be a stay at home mom, and I didn’t know how to do that, either. And I put tremendous pressure upon myself to do it right, but I feel like I screwed up at every turn.

I was tired. I didn’t want to clean the apartment. I was lonely. I had to learn how to get along with a new group of people, many of them I had known for years, but hadn’t ever been close to over a long period of time. I was discouraged. What was my place in this new world?

When I look back on that time in my life, many things happened that made me the person I am today, and I grew a lot.  But I also screwed up a lot...made a lot of mistakes. 

But I survived.  Sometimes I thought I was at the end of my rope.  Sometimes when I had three young kids at home, and a husband who went from work, to teaching drivers ed after school, then to helping his brother coach a basketball team, I wasn't sure I would make it. But I did.

And I never regret being a stay at home mom.  I look at my three girls, and it reminds me of the song Julie Andrews sang in The Sound of Music...."I Must Have Done Something Good", because they are pretty amazing young women.

Being a young mother with young children is tough.  But you get through it.  I was fortunate to have a loving husband, supportive family and friends to get me through, even though I felt many times that I was all alone.  But I wasn't.  And I had God to give me strength at the times I needed it most. 

Love, Faith, Family, Friends.  That is what go me through....and those are the most precious things in my world.


Being Nice

Yes, I try to be nice.

But is that what I am suppose to do?

All situations don't call for us to "be nice". 

And when I really look at my motivation of being nice, I'm not sure it is really for the other person....I think it is a self motivation.  I want peace....I don't want conflict. 

But sometimes we need conflict.  Sometimes we need to call people out on things.  But we still need to do it in love.

Oh, but for me that is so hard.

I appreciated an article I read recently titled, "Jesus Didn't Call Us To Be Nice".  In this article, Eric Hoke shared a story about how Jesus responded when Lazarus died.

Yet by examining the life of Jesus, the Son of God, we see that sometimes Jesus did things that were not “nice” yet fulfilled God’s purpose, a much higher calling than people pleasing will ever be.

In the story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, we see three components of Jesus’ character that can challenge us to live as He lived: Jesus said no. Jesus is honest. Jesus shows emotions besides happiness.
In the story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, even after hearing the news of his sickness, He waited two days to go visit. His disciples urged him to stay, as a while ago, the Jews tried to stone Jesus in Judea. Yet Jesus said no, not giving into the pressure of others, but keeping pace on accomplishing what God put in His heart to accomplish.
Martha and Mary were both deeply displeased with Jesus waiting so long to arrive, insisting that if Jesus were there, surely their brother would still be alive. But His purpose was not to keep Lazarus alive but to raise Him from the dead, thus showing the power of God. Jesus did not make up a story about getting lost when confronted by Martha but spoke honestly to her that her brother would live again—His purpose for coming.
Finally, when Jesus was in the midst of the family and friends grieving the loss of Lazarus, Jesus did not give a pious or proud rebuke. He did not spiritualize their pain with the phrase “It’s God Will.” He did not put His arm around them and say “everything is going to be OK.” No, as a result of His own troubled spirit in that moment, Jesus wept with those that were weeping, demonstrating his love for Lazarus to all that were gathered.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/jesus-didnt-call-us-be-nice#DeJd7L04pwT82PIr.99

I need my motivation to be doing the godly, right thing, not the nice thing.  I need my motivation to be about others, not about me.  Here are some final remarks in Hoke's article.

Allowing Jesus to live through you will not necessarily produce “nice” but will undoubtedly produce “godly.” It will not be as pleasant, efficient or even safe, but it will be right and it will create a better follower of Jesus.



Balaam's Donkey

I have always loved this story from the Bible.  Because to me it shows how God can use anyone or anything to do His work.  Sometimes I get the impression that people think only "certain people" can be used by God.  But that is putting God in a pretty tiny place if you ask me. 

After reading this story my thoughts are, "if God can use this donkey, and even make it talk, then He can use anybody....and anything."  Sometimes we just have to be a little more aware.

The Angel and Balaam (Numbers 22:  22-35)

22 But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck her again. 26 The angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. 28 And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 Then Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.” 30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”
31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed [h]all the way to the ground. 32 The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was [i]contrary to me. 33 But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.” 34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back.” 35 But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I [j]tell you.” So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.

Here are some other things I take away from this story:

*  Don't be so quick to judge someone you know and trust.
*  Sometimes things are happening out there that we don't see...but maybe someone else or something else does, and they are trying to tell us about it.
*  Look for ways God uses unique individuals and things to do His work.  One of my favorite stories I read recently on a blog I follow is written by a man named Chris Arnade (I'm going to talk more about him in a future blog post.)  But I loved the story of how he grew up Catholic but turned away from his faith and considers himself an atheist.  But, as he has built relationships with drug addicts and prostitutes in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx, he saw in them that their faith in God was their hope....what kept them going.  He said most of them had either a cross or a crucifix as part of their possessions.  Here is what he wrote about this...

They have their faith because what they believe in doesn't judge them. Who am I to tell them that what they believe is irrational? Who am I to tell them the one thing that gives them hope and allows them to find some beauty in an awful world is inconsistent? I cannot tell them that there is nothing beyond this physical life. It would be cruel and pointless.
In these last three years, out from behind my computers, I have been reminded that life is not rational and that everyone makes mistakes. Or, in Biblical terms, we are all sinners.
We are all sinners. On the streets the addicts, with their daily battles and proximity to death, have come to understand this viscerally. Many successful people don't. Their sense of entitlement and emotional distance has  numbed their understanding of our fallibility.
Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.
I look back at my 16-year-old self and see Preacher Man and his listeners differently. I look at the fragile women praying and see a mother working a minimum wage custodial job, trying to raise three children alone. Her children's father off drunk somewhere. I look at the teenager fingering a small cross and see a young woman, abused by a father addicted to whatever, trying to find some moments of peace. I see Preacher Man himself, living in a beat up shack without electricity, desperate to stay clean, desperate to make sense of a world that has given him little.
They found hope where they could.
*  When things happen in life that seem "inconvenient", maybe there is another reason other than the situation in an inconvenience to me.  I often have to remind myself that the world does not revolve around me, and that sometimes I need to look at the bigger picture if things are not going my way.  Maybe the inconvenience I'm upset about may just save my life.
*  And, if Balaam would have just listened to God and done what he said in the first place, that angel may have never shown up to kill him in the first place.  God speaks to us in a variety of ways, and if we learn to hear His voice, and do what He says, it can stop a lot of problems. 
So, there is my take on Balaam's Donkey, and his claim to fame in the book of Numbers. 
And this cartoon below, I just thought it was funny.



As I look back over my adult life, I realize I have had morning walking partners for most of my adult life.

When I lived in Glendive, Montana, I walked with Gloria B. in the morning.

When I lived in Meridian, Idaho, I walked with DeAnn P.

And when I moved to Kellogg, Nikki R. became my morning walking partner.

There are a lot of advantages to have a morning walking partner.

They keep you accountable.  You always know there is someone there waiting for you to walk.

Sometimes they are someone to vent to, or work through a problem. 

I appreciated each of these ladies.

Starting off walking in the morning is a great way to start the day. 

And the health benefits of walking, and being active is also very beneficial.

In all the years of walking, there was one strange experience.  This may sound weird, and when I have shared this story, people said it sounded weird.  But we both experienced it, and I can't really explain what happened.

It was when I lived in Meridian and walked with DeAnn.  We were walking along our normal route in the residential area near my home, and, if I remember correctly, all of a sudden it was as if the ground moved or shifted, and we both lost our balance.  We didn't fall, just were jolted a bit.  And we both asked the other if we felt that, and we had.  Then it seemed like for a while after that, I felt a little vertigo now and then.

I haven't thought about this incident in a long time.  But I like the mystery of the occurrence.  I don't think everything that happens has to have a logical and tangible explanation.

Currently Nikki and I walk in the middle school in the winter.  Once the weather gets nice, we have a route around Kellogg where we walk.  I like walking outside more than inside.  I like watching the sky change in the mornings.  I like seeing the trees change with the seasons.  I hope we are outside soon, because I love the outside morning walks.

How grateful and blessed I have been to have these three wonderful ladies as my walking partners throughout my life.  I value each and every one of their friendships.


Money for Education

Today is a special day.

Especially for those of us who work with high school seniors who are preparing to attend college in the fall.

February 15th is the PRIORITY DEADLINE for the FAFSA.

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  It is an application students fill out hoping to receive some financial aid from the government to help them attend college.

If they apply by today, they should be able to receive all the financial aid coming to them.  Because it is on a first come, first serve basis, and if you apply later than February 15th, you may miss out on some of the financial aid you qualified for, but there is only so much money in the pot, and you missed out.

Now, you can still fill out the FAFSA after today.  You just may not get all the money coming to you.

Some colleges also use February 15th as their priority deadline.  Such as the University of Idaho.  They want you to be applied and have your FAFSA submitted by February 15 in order to be guaranteed any scholarships you would qualify for, you would receive.

The State Of Idaho has some scholarships as well that were due today.

The program I work for, Gear Up, has a scholarship that most Kellogg Senior High School students can apply for, if they were a part of Gear Up sometime between 7th and 10th grade.  Today was the deadline to apply for that scholarship.

If you have students in high school, and they plan on going to college, become knowledgeable about ways to help pay for college.  I tell the students I work with, don't ever say you can't go to college because you can't afford it.  There are ways to pay for college.  You just have to be proactive, and keep up on what you need to do in order to get the most money you can.

I also spent some time searching for scholarships today.  One great scholarship database is on the Idaho Career Information website.  There are a lot of scholarships out there to help students attend college.  But it takes time to prepare all the information about yourself to apply for a lot of the scholarships.  My daughter Cosette has written up paragraphs on her education goals, her community service, extracurricular activities, hobbies and interests, and her employment.  She has written about how she will contribute to her community after high school. 

It seems like there are two philosophies when it comes to filling out scholarships.  One is, let the students do it.  It is their responsibility.  If they want the money, they can do all the work.

Then there is the other way of looking at it....the way I look at filling out scholarships.  The parent helps keep the student organized.  I have a lot of knowledge of where to find scholarship information because of my job, so I am going to use this to help my daughter find more scholarships.  My husband and I proofread whatever she writes up about herself.  We offer suggestions.  We help her know when her deadlines are.  Partly because, it will save me us money if she receives some scholarships.

But I have seen it work both ways.  I have seen students with no parental support receive all kinds of scholarships, and I have seen students with lots of parental support receive very few scholarships. For me, the more I help with the process, the more I learn to help other students at KHS in the future as they apply for the FAFSA and scholarships.

Oh, and students, if you have a high GPA when you graduate from high school, and high ACT or SAT scores, you are almost guaranteed your college will give you some kind of merit scholarship.  So good grades and test scores can be very helpful!!!

And if you ever have any questions about any of this process....PLEASE ASK SOMEONE!!!  There are a lot of very knowledgeable people out there who can help.


Dark Chocolate

One of my favorite treats is chocolate.

I prefer dark chocolate.

Today my Valentine gave me two bars of the most delicious dark chocolate I have ever tasted.

It is LINDOR Extra Dark Chocolate Pieces.

They have a smooth melting filling.

I love the description on the back of the packaging.

Do you dream in chocolate?  Then discover LINDOR and enjoy a moment that is yours.  When you break LINDOR's delicate chocolate shell, the irresistibly smooth filling starts to melt, gently caressing all of your senses and taking you to a place where chocolate dreams come true.

It was especially good paired with Clos du Bois Merlot.

Valentine's Day for us was nice.  I fixed a green salad, and Paul broiled some Rib Eye Steaks, and sautéed some mushrooms to put on top.  He also sautéed some shrimp.  Oh, it was delicious.

And we sat relaxing on the couch, watching episodes of CIS:NY.

It was just nice, being home, and spending time relaxing together.

I love my Valentine!!!



Tonight was bittersweet.

It was the ending of my daughter Cosette's basketball career.  They lost their third game of the District Tournament in a loser out game.

For the past 10 years I have watched her play basketball each winter.  She started out in the local Youth Basketball League, then played for Kellogg Middle School, was on various AAU team, played on the JV Basketball team her freshman and sophomore year, and the was a Varsity player her junior and senior year.

I enjoyed watching my daughter play basketball.  And tonight we saw this team come out with a lot of heart and we saw the team we knew they could be.  It even made me tear up a bit during that first quarter of the game, I was so proud of them. 

Many of the seniors that were on her team this year have been her teammates for many years, so we have watched these girls grow up on the basketball court.

The parents, grandparents, siblings and friends have spent many hours in the bleachers watching these girls play and cheering them on.

Cosette was fortunate to have the same basketball coach for the last five years, Eli Bourgard. My husband Paul and Eli's dad were teammates on the basketball team when they attended Kellogg High School.  Cosette will always have a special place in her heart for Eli.

Cosette had a unique role on her basketball team the last two years.  She was "the prayer".  It started at the beginning of last season.  The team started praying before each game, and Coco was the one who prayed.  Then she started incorporating an inspirational Bible verse before each game to encourage her teammates.

This is her favorite verse:

Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet.   Ephesians 6:13

She would always get excited when she found the verse to share with her teammates, and would often get the chance to share it with her dad and I before the game.

And she always had a good attitude during the game.  She was always there to encourage her teammates and cheer them from the sidelines.  It was her voice we always heard before they came running out on the court for the first time cheering her team on to victory.

It is hard for things to come to an end.  And for the girls on this team, this has been a very long chapter in their lives that has ended.

But I wouldn't change anything about those long drives, sore butts, late night fast food trips to watch these girls play basketball. 

Sure, I'll watch the Lady Wildcats basketball in the future, but it will never be the same as it was with Coco playing on the team.

Thanks for a great year McKenna, Erin, Jessi, Kenadie, Kelsey, Coco, Sarah, Riley, Nikele, Trista,  Andee and Marley....Janet, Sarah and Hailey, and the awesome team managers Payton and Katie!!

And Coach Bourgard and Coach Finkbeiner.

Yes, it was very tough to lose tonight......but to be a part of this experience with these girls for all of these years was definitely a win for us all!!



This is Toby.

Toby Montana.

There are a few things that make Toby stand out in our home.

One, he is a boy.  He is our only male pet.

Two, he only has three legs.

I first met Toby at Kellogg Pet Medical Center.  He had been brought in while I was employed at KPMC.  Toby lived in Montana, and had been caught in a trap.  The neighbors of his owner found him, and brought him to Dr. Andy at the vet clinic to get fixed up.  By the time he arrived, Toby's leg that had been caught in the trap was very infected, so it had to be amputated.

So Toby lived at the clinic.  And I, along with many others, became very attached to Toby.  At the time we had three cats, and weren't really looking for a fourth.  But Toby couldn't be adopted by just anyone, and I came to believe that our home was the home for him.  So we decided to adopt Toby and have him join our home.  Toby was my one and only "casualty" from working at the vet clinic. (That is, I only adopted one pet from there while employed there.)

It was interesting watching Toby adapt to only having three legs.  It really didn't slow him down one bit.

We have a six foot high fence in our backyard.  He can easily jump to the top of the fence.

Come spring, we would often find dead birds in our backyard.  We were never sure which of our cats was the culprit.

Then one day, I saw Toby stalking a bird under our trampoline, and then catch it.  He was fast!!

But that wasn't the best bird catching story.  A couple summers ago I was out in the backyard, and there were some baby birds flying around by one area of the fence.  Toby was crouched down between our raised beds, and was watching the birds, and had been watching them for quite some time.  All of a sudden, it perfect rhythm, Toby leaps up to the top of the fence, grabs one of the birds with his only remaining front paw, puts it in his mouth, and jumps back into the yard, and starts to take the bird away.  I, of course, start frantically yelling at him to drop the bird, which he did.  It was as if I had my own, live, "Wild Kingdom" show being filmed in my own backyard.

Toby is fearless.  He isn't afraid of people, dogs, or other cats.  He did get into a fight with a neighbor cat a few years ago, and was pinned behind a bush in our front yard.  He was punctured on the top of the head, and really started bleeding.  Paul scooped him up and rushed him to the vet clinic.  Toby's blood loss looked much worse than it actually was.....he was fixed up in no time.

He does like having his own small dish to eat out of instead of sharing the self-feeder with the other cats.  Every morning he waits for me to fill his special dish.

Toby is one great cat, with a great personality.  I'm so glad he came and joined our family.



I realized today that my only experience with any kind of war has been through story telling.

I have never experienced any kind of war first-hand, so I have had to get my personal understanding of war through books, news articles, films, songs, plays, etc.

Today I was home because it was a snow day, which means the schools were closed in our school district.  Since I am employed by the school district, I did not have work today.

Also, I took it easy today, because I have been feeling a little off.  Not really sick, but occasional feelings of chills, and occasional feelings of too warm, but so far, I have been able to fend off anything coming my way.

Because I wasn't feeling up to par, I decided to take it easy, and watch a movie that had been sitting on my table by the front door for a while called, "The Killing Fields".

Now, when I shared with a friend today what movie I watched,  and that I wasn't feeling well, her response was, " it doesn't seem like a comforting/healing kind of movie though."

This may be true, but it is what I chose to watch.

The reason I chose this book is because of a book I recently read titled "The Rent Collector", which is set in Cambodia.  Here is a description of what the book is about.

The Rent Collector is the story of a young mother, Sang Ly, struggling to survive by picking through garbage in Cambodia's largest municipal dump. Under threat of eviction by an embittered old drunk who is charged with collecting rents from the poor of Stung Meanchey, Sang Ly embarks on a desperate journey to save her ailing son from a life of ignorance and poverty. It’s a tale of discovery and redemption in which she learns that literature, like hope, is found in the most unexpected places.
Though the book is a work of fiction, it was inspired by real people living at Stung Meanchey.

Yes, this story was inspired by a true story.  You find more about the documentary that inspired the book here.

So, to help me understand how Cambodia became the country it was in this book, I decided to watch
"The Killing Fields".  The Killing Fields is a 1984 British drama film about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which is based on the experiences of two journalists: Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg.

Two of my friends have their own personal stories about this time in history.

One story involves my friends who were medical missionaries in Thailand during the time the refugees were leaving Cambodia to relief camps across the Cambodia/Thai border.  As my friend recalled the story, she said it was rather eerie as the refugees came across the border, wearing dark clothing and making no sound.  I found out later after reading an article about the Cambodian Genocide that , "It was possible for people to be shot simply for knowing a foreign language, wearing glasses, laughing, or crying. One Khmer slogan ran 'To spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss."

Another friend had a completely different experience about this period in our history. 

Her husband was in the U.S. Air Force and fought in Vietnam.  After Vietnam they returned to the state from overseas, and he became part of the most elite squadron of fighter pilots at that time.  He flew the newest and super complicated of all supersonic jets, the F1-11A, and the families were so proud of what they did for their country.  But she said little did any of the wives, families or civlians know of the secret of the illegal war in Cambodia.  Over a two year period, her husband's squadron would be gone four to six months at a time.  He could never talk about it and loved ones know not to ask.  This was from 1973-1975.  She said she doesn't blame him, he was following orders and has paid a heavy price of his own.

One of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, wrote a book called "The Screwtape Letters".  The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle's mentorship pertains to the nephew's responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as "the Patient".

This is a portion of an article from the C.S. Lewis Institute website regarding C.S. Lewis on War and Peace.

Besides encouraging people to think about God during the war years, Lewis also offered his speculation about what the devil might think of all this. His Screwtape Letters, published in 1942, present letters of advice from a senior devil to a junior tempter, who is working for the destruction of a human soul. When the war breaks out, the novice devil, Wormwood, is enthusiastic about all the diabolical possibilities it presents. But Screwtape, his infernal mentor, tries to calm him down:
You say you are "delirious with joy" because the European humans have started another of their wars... For the first time in your career you have tasted that wine which is the reward of all our labours--the anguish and bewilderment of a human soul--and it has gone to your head. Did the patient respond to some of your terror-pictures of the future? Did you work in some self-pitying pictures of a happy past--some fine thrills in the pit of his stomach were there? You played your violin prettily, did you? Well, that's all very well, Wormwood, but remember duty comes before pleasure... Let us think therefore how to use, rather than how to enjoy this European war (Screwtape 29, 31).
After warning that wartime conditions may build up human souls as well as destroy them, Screwtape urges Wormwood to push his "patient" (as he calls the human) to one extreme or the other:
Consider whether we should make the patient an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them fast asleep. Other ages such as the present one are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them (Screwtape 40).
Screwtape goes on to apply this advice to Wormwood's assigned "patient":
Whichever side he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of the partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him into the stage at which religion becomes merely part of the "cause" and his [faith] is valued chiefly for the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war effort or of Pacifism. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades mean more to him than prayer and and sacraments and charity, he is ours--and the more "religious" on those terms the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here (Screwtape 42-43).
Wormwood tries to act on this advice, priding himself especially on how much hatred against the Germans he has engendered in the heart of his British "patient." But again, his hellish supervisor pours cold water on his enthusiasm (if one can do such a thing from where Screwtape resides), advising his junior devil not to concentrate the patient's malice on some distant target like the Nazis, but to stir up as much resentment and misunderstanding as possible with the people he actually comes into contact with every day--his family, colleagues, and neighbors.
In the end Screwtape and his operative Wormwood fail, for the patient remains a believer and is killed in an air raid while in a state of grace. So it is Wormwood who ends up facing all the torments he was hoping to inflict on his "patient." 
Some thoughts on War using story.  The only way I can relate to war.  But hearing and seeing other's war stories, helps me create a story of my own.