Facing A Mountain

img_0952I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.

No offence to those who do. It just doesn’t work for me.

But each January I ask the Lord to show me what my focus should be for the year.

One year, the answer was simply, “Get on your knees and pray hard.”

Another year, my focus on one of the shortest verses in Genesis: “And Enoch walked with God.” What would that look like, lived out in my own life?

This year, as I rejoiced in the book contracts for both my suspense novels and my romance novel, I faced a mountain of edits, blurbs, bios, and promotional activities.

Coming out of neck surgery just weeks earlier, I felt so feeble. How could I possibly get done all that my publishers require of me in such a short time, as well as fulfill my ministry commitments at church?

God is faithful. as I poured out my heart to Him about the size of my burden, He reminded me of Jesus’s words from His sermon on the Mount: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:34 NIV Bible)

So my new focus for this coming year is:

“One day at a time.”

I know, it’s a cliche. Even so, it’s a great paraphrase of Jesus’s words. If I let myself focus on the whole mountain, my feet don’t want to start trekking.

One day, Dena. Just one day’s amount of steps. You can do this.

 

 

 

When All You Can Do Is Pray

It was a Christmas like no other Christmas we’ve had in at least 35 years.

Normally our house would be thrumming with preparations for the holidays: baking, decorating, Christmas cards, rehearsing music, getting the guest rooms ready.

But this year I had scheduled a surgery to fuse three of my cervical vertebrae.

Nov. 29th.

Okay, I thought, it only a little over three weeks until Christmas, but I’m sure I’ll be up and running, purring like a fine-tuned motor.

I had a stack of books, projects, and music sitting by my couch, waiting for my attention.

My plan was to, as they say, “hit the ground running,” when January arrived.

I’m strong and energetic. A personality that loves to say “yes.” A mind that loves to think and plan and analyze.

Unfortunately—or fortunately, if you have a mind that considers the sovereignty of God—I got none of these things done.

None.

My brain was both blessed and hijacked by the power of prescribed narcotics, designed to soothe even the most intense after-surgery pain.

 

 

Thank the Lord for modern pain meds. Thank the Lord!

But I’m looking forward to the day I don’t need them anymore.

I’ll bet y’all have been there, too.

The one thing I’ve been able to do for the past four or five weeks is scan Facebook and read and respond to other Facebook-ers requests for prayer.

I know many of you all have been faithful to pray for me, and I, in turn, have been faithful to pray for you.

Sometimes that’s the only ministry left to us during a period of illness.

And it’s no little thing.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Cor.1:3-4 NIV Bible)

 

Tomorrow’s the Big Day

And I’m a bit nervous. I know just enough about my neck surgery to think (and think and think) about the possible complications.”Awful-izing,” my husband calls it.

And then, of course, some good friends filled me in about their own surgeries and how terrible they felt for a couple of weeks afterward. Thanks, guys!

I would have much preferred to hear half-truths: “Piece of cake. Hardly even needed painkillers. All that stuff you hear about complications? Don’t believe it. Not gonna happen.”

I had my pre-op appointment with the surgeon  the other day. He says I’ll feel like I have strep throat and whiplash for a couple of weeks.

He keeps his face thoroughly composed even when he says, “The only thing you have to be careful about while you’re recovering is falling. Oh, and choking.

Do you ever have some big thing that you’re dreading, and as you get closer to D-day, you start this count-down thing?

Like: “in seventy-two hours, at @ 4:30 PM, this will be over.”

And the next day you think: “in 48 hours, at @ 5 PM,  I’ll be in recovery.”

And now, Monday, Nov. 28th,  at @ 2:45, I’m declaring: “in 24 hours, I’ll be right in the middle of surgery.”

And the Lord will be right there, too. Even though I won’t hear Him or feel Him.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV Bible)

If you happen to remember me at 11:30 AM Tuesday morning on Nov. 29th, pray for me!

Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Still Not Done?

I’m talking to my writer friend, Kim, the other day. About getting older, dealing with health issues. How we’re both looking forward to heaven. The completion of this part of our eternities, the end of pain.

Bible promises jump into my mind. Ones about courage, patience and hope:

“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24 NKJV)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” (Galatians 5:22 NIV)

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction.” (Romans 12:12 NIV)

We need courage, patience, and hope because we’re still not done. We still have things to accomplish on this side of eternity. And when my heavenly Father determines that the time is right, He will call me home. What a great encouragement and hope that is.

I need this kind of encouragement, too, right now, in fact.

Because I’m a writer. (Cue the descending trombone slide)

I’ve finished my manuscript, signed a contract. Shouldn’t that be the end of it?

Oh, no. Just like my life journey, walked in faith, I have a publishing journey to take before the novel leaves my hands for good.

The edits: I’ve just completed round one. I’m sure there will be many more coming around the bend. (“Be of good courage.“)

The waiting: Suspenseful days, waiting for my editor to get back to me. (“The fruit of the Spirit is…patience...”)

More edits: More preparations for the day of release. Will it ever end?! (“Be joyful in hope…”)

What I learn about courage, patience, and hope in the Christian life spills over into my life as a writer. And visa versa.

I’m still not done?

Apparently not. (I wish there was a sound emoji for a whining kid. But my granddaughter’s face below says it all.)

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Here’s a quote for writers that should be just a few notches lower than scripture:

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”

And here’s my own (that’s right, it’s not scripture) quotation:

“Be of good cheer, o writer, thy work hath a great reward if thou persevere in faith, and if thou dost not trust in thy own limited insight, but verily, doth wait on the Lord—and the editor— with patience in affliction, filled with hope.” (Dena Netherton, author and Christian)

I hope you have a great day, still not being done!

 

 

Like Little Children

When I was a small child I found the world of adults—particularly my parents— gargantuan, scary, and incomprehensible.

The things they conversed about sounded like gibberish.

They could do things that seemed god-like, such as lighting a pilot light, driving a car, or going to sleep in a dark, dark room without needing a night-lite.

Who else but a god could read a newspaper and understand it, let alone enjoy its contents?

Who else but a god knew how to drive from our house to some strange place we’d never been before?

And who but a god knew the order of our days: when to get up, what to wear, and if the events of the day were going to diverge from the ordinary?

So when my god-like parents determined that it was time to take a nap, I did not question them.

When food was placed before me, it did not occur to me to ask for menu options.

If my parent-gods were pleased with me, my world felt secure.

If one of these gods was displeased, I felt shame.

I learned to socialize.wild-basin-june-2011-072

A few years passed.

I went to school, developed relationships with my peers, and learned to do god-like things like read and write.

By ten, my parents were no longer gods. Sure, they were people to be admired, even feared at times.

But they no longer dwelt on Mt. Olympus.

I let them know by my words and body language—even though, obedient— that I no longer accepted their orders and instructions without question.

I ceased to be a little child.

This is as it should be for the growing child. He or she must begin to learn how to live independently.

But in the supernatural world of the seeker of Christ, or the disciple of Christ, to be child-like is exactly what we need to be. Dependent.

To recognize that the world surrounding us is gargantuan, often scary, and almost always incomprehensible.

And to trust that our Father knows what is best for us.

Unlike the little child living under his parents’ roof, I will never grow so mature and knowledgeable that I won’t need Him.

I need to keep reminding myself that…

He is the Alpha and Omega

and I am just a wee small babe in constant need of protection and guidance.

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“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” (Matt. 18: 1-3 NIV Bible)

We All Want Connection

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I volunteered to help teach the four and five-year-olds Sunday School the other day.

There were three of us adults in the class, which was just about perfect, considering that each of these kids has a strong personality and tremendous energy.

A little later in the hour, two other kids arrived. The boy joined right in for the lesson. But the little girl—I’ll call her Joni—proceeded straight to a table and climbed underneath.

We teachers welcomed her and invited her to join the group.

But she remained there for the duration of the lesson and song-time and nothing I said could induce her to leave her spot.

Which was a bit of a problem because she distracted the other children and some of them tried to climb underneath the table to join her.

After song-time I said, “Okay, it’s time to wash our hands and get ready for snack time.”

Immediately our little Joni jumped up and rushed to the head of the line for wash-up.

I helped her suds her hands and rinse and dry them.

She ate her graham cracker with gusto and quickly downed her dixie cup of water.

I sat down next to Joni as the craft items were place on the table.

She dove for the crayons and stickers.

Hmm, this little girl sure fooled us. She had seemed shy when she entered the room.

“Can you write your name?”

She looked at me as if I were crazy.  Without a word, she deftly wrote her name at the bottom of her sheet of paper, then glanced up at me as with a cute but pugnacious thrust of her tiny chin.

She placed her stickers amongst the words, “Jesus loves me.”

Then colored with a skillful hand.

Joni insisted that I sit nearby so I could see how well she was coloring.

After she finished the craft, I said, “Can you draw other things?”

“Of course,” she said. “Wait till you see how well I can draw a horse.”

She turned the sheet over and grabbed another crayon. “Now close your eyes and don’t look until I’m finished.”

When she was done she told me I could look. Sure enough, she’d drawn a very recognizable horse and even added a saddle and stirrups.

We spent the rest of craft time talking about My Little Ponies and I told her about my granddaughter’s collection of My Little Ponies.

After the Sunday school ended, one of the teachers remarked, “Well, it looks like all Joni needed was someone to connect with.”

Arriving late, Joni saw that we were already involved in an activity and found the area underneath the table a safer place to be.

I’ve seen this with grown people too.

Not that they hide underneath tables!

I work in women’s ministries and have seen grown women arrive at a women’s social, then turn around and go home if they do not quickly find an available table to sit at with women they already know.

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But once they’re safely situated, they talk and participate like old pros.

Just like Joni.

Folks, let’s turn our eyes outward and notice others.

It’s so easy to only think about our own schedules and our own friends.

Look around. Is some person sitting all by himself at church? Go sit with him.

Who’s that couple in the lobby at church? Go over and introduce yourself.

How about that nice family three doors down from your own house? Invite them over for lunch.

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And if you are lonely, call somebody and invite them to do something together. Don’t wait for somebody to call you. Make the first move. People will love you for it!

Everybody wants to be wanted.

Sometimes the connection is as simple as trading stories about your last trip to the zoo with a grandchild.

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“Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he had received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4: 7-10 NIV Bible)

 

Skunked!

I talk to lots of people each week. Frequently, the conversation turns to the topic of family or business relationships. We all have challenges with other people, and I hear all sorts of methods of dealing with difficult family members.

The most challenging relationships are with people who continue to say or do the same irritating things, never learning to resolve conflicts in a new or better way.

Have you ever said to yourself, “I blew it again. Why do I always say (do) the same thing? When will I ever learn?”

When we lived in Paradise, California, a skunk used our backyard as his private highway. I believe he lived under a shed in the vacant lot next to our property.

Every night, he began his routine foray by scratching and digging just outside the master bedroom window. I watched him search for bugs and grubs. Continue reading Skunked!

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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