Saturday, November 10, 2018

Find A Book Club!

I just got home from my book club. Do you belong to one? I am part of an online book club and a wonderful real life book club started by the women of the Methodist church where I work and attend. 

But the women in my book club are not what you might expect from a church based club. If mentioning that it is "church based" causes you to picture a bunch of quiet, dowdy, mild mannered ladies, you would be wrong. Nopety nope! 

They are almost as crazy and sassy as the women in the Movie "Book Club" pictured at the top of this blog post. As a matter of fact, we all watched that movie together at someone's home a few weeks ago and it was hilarious! The movie is about a group of friends in a book club who decided to read and discuss the book "Fifty Shades of Grey", you can imagine where it went from there. 

We did decide not to add that book series to our list. 

Here is what is very cool about belonging to a book club. You get to experience the book more than once. Book reading is a solitary activity. But sometimes a book will touch you in a way that makes you long to talk about it. This is where the dilemma arises. 

Have you ever had a friend go into detail about a book they are reading that you have not read? It can be tedious to listen and act interested, right? A spouse will often have entirely different taste in reading and you can see the glaze over their eyes as you describe your latest delightful story. 

A book club allows you to enjoy the book again as you get together and talk it over. Why did this character do that? What worldview motivated the main character? What did you feel when so and so did such and such? How did this story resonate with you? 

As I am reading a book for the club, it affects my attention to detail. Today some of the books came into the cozy living room with little tabs marking certain sections to discuss. I love that! I've written myself reminders of favorite parts or questions that I had. 

Today we numbered 12 and it was a discussion full of laughter, sober thoughts and deep questions about life, relationships and trust. We read "Educated" by Tara Westover, an intense and gripping true story that I will not ruin for you here. Look it up. Amazing. 

I was hesitant to join this club because I do love to read, but did not like the idea of being told what to read. What if they wanted to read something I know I won't like? Last month we read a book I would not have normally read and I enjoyed it. Did not love it, but did not hate it either. It is good to get bumped out of our comfort zone once in a while. If you do not like a book, that just adds more flavor to the discussion. So it's a win-win.

I guess I should not have worried about the good taste of this particular book club. After all, I met them when they invited me to join them after reading MY book! 


Monday, September 3, 2018

The Fork In My Road

Have you ever looked back at your life and suddenly noticed a subtle fork in the road that you didn't even recognize at the time? A small part of me has been wondering what it might have looked like if I has chosen a different prong of the "fork". 

Tomorrow is another First Day of School for many of us. My preschool classroom is all set up for a new group of 4 year olds to arrive. My teaching partner and I are so ready! The texts have been pinging back and forth all summer and we are anxious to see if all of our fun ideas will work with this new crew. 

Tomorrow morning will be my third year back to teaching preschool since leaving it to raise my kids and join my husband in 30 years of full-time ministry life. 

I kept my hand in early education by working as a substitute teacher for three preschools in our city for a few years. But babysitting plans became too complicated and stressful, so I sadly took my name off the sub lists. 

Working with little ones has always been important to me, even in ministry life. Children's church, midweek Kids Clubs and teaching Sunday School began long before I was married and continued far into our ministry.  

And now here I am, back in a colorful classroom and wishing I had never left. My mind wonders what it could have looked like if I had stuck with it. 

There were other reasons for leaving. I suffered from severe headaches in those days and we all know that head pain and little kids are not a great combination. But still I wonder.

Could I have taught preschool while my boys were in school? Instead of being the pastor's wife who obsessed over Women's Ministry Committees, Bible Studies and making sure the Nursery Helpers were arriving on time? 

There was an optional prong to the fork that I did not even consider at the time. Could I have been the pastoral wife with another job? It actually sounds pretty nice from this end of the fork. 

I loved working with college age students for the last 10 years of our ministry and I would not trade that for anything. But even those years could have been shared with a preschool job a few days a week. 

Maybe all of these wonderings about this prong or that prong are simply a sign that the current prong is just right for right now. 

I love this preschool job so much! I am finding a great deal of fulfillment, challenge and just the right amount of tension to keep life very interesting! I get to be creative and silly and my co-workers and Director have become great and true friends. 

We are The Owl Class!

I was a caterpillar who became a butterfly and now I am an owl. Owls are known for their wisdom that comes with age, so there you go. I'm wise enough to know that looking back with regret is a lose-lose situation, so I will not do that. 

If you are a young mom who feels stuck or you find yourself wondering if putting your career aside was a mistake, I want to tell you that the fork you are balancing on right now is not permanent. 

Surprises are ahead of you. Even if you are a crazy detailed planner like me. I had no clue I would ever come back to early education as a job. For years I moved an extremely awkward file box of preschool supplies, songs and crafts from one home to the next, never wanting to let go of all that work. Finally I put it in the garbage tote one night while doing an extreme purge-cleaning. I thought that part of my life experience was over.

Surprise! Now my laptop is overflowing with all the info I need, no problem. :) 

I would not change the path I chose. The fork in my road took me to some wonderful places and I met amazing people who still mean a great deal to me. Of all the cutlery in the world, I love mine and I have no regrets. 

aka Ms Susie

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Where I Talk About My Book and The Three Amigos Movie

Most of my writerly friends have gone on to publish many books, so I sometimes feel a little left behind with my one and only little creation. 

I worry that my family and friends will get tired of seeing this same orange book cover showing up repeatedly in their newsfeeds on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

But I might be a "one and done" writer. I just don't know right now. I put my whole heart into this one message and I am very proud of the book that carries such a huge and powerful piece of good news. 

The news that God loves me is still a big deal to me. It is a simple message. It is also a very complicated truth. 

When I hear that God loves me, (tell me if you do this) my mind immediately goes to my most negative traits and habits and the argument begins. 

How could the Creator of the Universe even KNOW me, much less LOVE me? And if He really KNOWS all my stuff, then why in the world would He love me? 

Is He in denial? Does He have a blind spot? Maybe He is a "glass half full" kind of being and only sees what He wants to see in me. 

But that would not be an honest view, would it? That would mean that God is pretending to know me and therefore pretending to love me. 

I don't want pretend love. And He is not a pretender. I believe that God knows all the little hidden bits about me and He loves me still. He is not loving the potential me, the possible me, the future got-it-all-together me. 

God loves the today me.

The good news that God loves me and God loves you is complicated, isn't it? It is also very simple. 

He loves you. Period. Full stop. 

It took a long time for me to believe this good news. God went out of His way to convince me that this was the truth. He set me up over and over again in situations and relationships that would highlight this truth. 

My book, Walking Butterfly is a collection of these moments, when God caught my attention long enough to say, "Hey, I love you Susie." 

As I wrote that last sentence I could not help but remember a favorite scene in one of my favorite movies, "The Three Amigos". Lucky Day is trying desperately but secretly to get the attention of Dusty Bottoms and Ned Nederlander. 

Lucky begins with simple and subtle bird calls, but his friends do not notice him calling. He changes the bird calls to a weird "LookUpHere, LookUpHere!" sound and finally he just yells, "HEY, YOU GUYS!"

God was sending me love notes all the time, but He finally had to just yell, "Daughter! Look up here, I love you!" 

God is constantly sending us messages of His love. But some are too subtle for us to hear. Our world is a noisy, clamoring place. It is difficult to hear Him sometimes. Often the quiet, subtle love notes from Him are unrecognized because we have a false view of how God speaks. 

He's GOD! Doesn't that mean His voice is loud and bold and GODLY? A crack of lightning-clouds parting kind of voice makes sense, right? 

Only in the movies, apparently. In real life I have found God's voice frustratingly similar to mine. "Was that me? Am I just imagining this?" 

I have the choice in a fraction of a second to ignore and disregard the thought (voice) in my head. It comes as a thought, a question, sometimes a declaration. I have been known to actually stop and ask God if that thought was from Him or not. 

Then I picture Him going, "Duh, been doing bird calls at you for at least an hour now!"

All of this to say that my book is now available in another format for your convenience. Yay! Many have asked me to get my book into digital access so they can have it with them all the time and I am excited to finally get Walking Butterfly on Kindle now! 

I hope this enables the good news of God's love to reach beyond what a little paperback can do. This simple and complicated message needs to be spread far and wide in today's world. Don't you agree? 

Blessings, Susie

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Holy Club

The "Holy Club", "Bible Moths" and "Enthusiasts". These were all slightly derogatory nicknames given to the Wesley brothers, John and Charles in 1728 as they tried to walk out their faith in every day ways. College groups formed as the young men got together with friends to discover methods of living a holy life that would please God. The name that finally stuck and that they embraced was the "Methodists."  

In recent months I have been "kind of" attending the Methodist church near my home where I work in their preschool. I am still a little skittish about committing myself to a church, but I am gently falling in love with the people in this church. 

A few Sundays ago I found myself nervously standing in line in the middle aisle of the sanctuary waiting for my turn to take communion. I kept peeking up ahead to see what to expect because it was looking very different from what I am used to. I considered turning the opposite direction and heading out the door and to the safety of my little yellow truck, but only for a split second. My curiosity and a sense of God's presence made me inch along in the line until I reached the front of the church.

This would be my third or fourth time taking communion with this group and I'd only been attending sporadically for a couple months! Every time was different so far. I would later learn through some research that celebrating communion almost every week was one of the "methods" the Wesley brothers established in the Holy Club. 

When I reached the front of the line I was met by the pastor holding a big loaf of bread and with a beaming smile she broke a piece off for me and spoke the words, "This is His body broken for you.." I took the bread and then was faced with another person holding a beautiful chalice filled with grape juice for me to dip my bread into. Following what those before me had done, I dipped it, ate it and walked back to my seat. 

Another Sunday I was in line again, but this time five of us at a time were led to kneel at the prayer rail in front of the church and we were given communion by smiling helpers and allowed to kneel a few minutes then move back to our seats. 

Being the newbie in a church is a very foreign experience for me. I am comfortable on the other side of the story. I am used to setting up the sanctuary (and the communion) long before the first member even arrives. This is all new territory for me and it is both challenging and rewarding. 

The worship "style" of this little church is the polar opposite of my background. And yet, and possibly because it is different, the tears have fallen and even surprised me. 

Many years ago I wrote that I do not believe that God is worried about all the different denominations. I don't think that any one kind of church is right and all others are wrong. I remember feeling very radical to admit that I actually think that maybe God even LIKES all the different flavors. That it may be possible that He designed them so that He could reach all different personalities and all kinds of people around the world!

The other side of the forest behind our home as seen
from my truck in the church parking lot.

I have seen God in this little church near my home. Back when I was part of a Bible school staff, I remember describing the school as simply a framework for God to inhabit. That all God wants is to see some people gathered to meet Him and He will be there. Simple as that. Gather, look up in invitation and He says, "Here I am." 

He loves a party. Small or large, if He is invited He will come. I have been part of tiny home groups, medium size church congregations and on staff in a huge church. God loves them all. Because they are all people who want to meet Him, who desire to know Him better. God cannot resist His people. 

I may still be nervous about commiting to a church, but God does not hold back from anyone who wants to meet Him and know Him better. I trust Him completely and I look forward to getting to know some more of His "Holy Club" around the block from my house. 


Friday, June 22, 2018

My Book On A Beach!

Sent to me by a reader...on the beach!
I grew up about 20 minutes from the beach. My West Coast beach was usually cold, windy and rocky, but I still loved staring out at the waves as they crashed ashore, again and again and again. 

The photo above was sent to me this week by a new friend who was reading my book on a beach while vacationing in Florida. The message that accompanied this picture means the world to me. It is more than I hoped for while writing my book, Walking Butterfly.

She wrote....

"I am enjoying your book right now...on a beach...with constant repetition of waves coming toward me, reminding me of God's love.

I am by myself on a beach and I was thanking God for my blessings right before I picked up your book to read a couple more chapters.

Tears came to my eyes as I read your words about the waves! You are an angel to me."

She also sent me a video of the waves crashing to the shore so I could see and hear it for myself. The relentless waves have always reminded me of God's love. 

Would you like a peek at Chapter 11 where my friend was reading? It is titled "God's Song For Me."

"The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17"

God sings over us? Have you ever thought about that possibility? My daughter-in-law has written a beautiful multi verse song that she sings over our first grandchild. I heard her sing it to him one night when she did not know I could hear her from a different room.

It was beautiful and encouraging and full of valuable declarations about who this little person was and how important he would be to the world. God is a creator and His people are full of creativity too.

Special songs can sooth us and significantly alter our mood in minutes, can't they? Even the robotic and socially awkward Sheldon Cooper on "The Big Bang Theory" admits to needing the comfort of a song in times of illness. He often asks his friends to sing the song from his childhood...Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty.

As silly as that little song is, it was easier to believe than the whispering song I heard during a desperate time of struggle in my life several years ago. I am not musical, so I cannot translate the tune that accompanied this song, but it is in my head and heart forever. I sometimes hear myself humming it and I know that God is singing it over me. 

You are loved, you are loved,
I am loving you.

You are loved, you are loved,
I am loving you.

I am loved, I am loved,
He is loving me.

I am loved, I am loved,
He is loving me.

Sometimes He adds my name to make sure I get His message. God is romancing me; He wants me close. He is wooing me and drawing me to Himself. The little song says the same thing over and over, like waves, because He so desperately desires that I believe the words.

I often picture a beach scene and the constant repetition of the waves coming toward me again and again, reminding me of how God's love for me is completely relentless. He knows about my doubts and He is trying to convince me. Like a fairytale lover beneath a window, God is calling, enticing and promising me His complete love. 

When this little song slips into my mind and heart, it makes me smile, but the intensity is also a little bit scary. I ask myself if I am enough for Him. I wonder how I can possibly be worthy of this attention. His desire is for my complete surrender to Him. Can I do that?

God knows my heart. He knows that there are areas that are not all His. But this knowledge does not stop His desire or His deep pleasure in me. He sees, knows and wants more. So He is wooing me to give Him more because He loves all of me. Not just the sweet and pure parts, but all of me.

Everything in me wants to just drop into those eyes that are full of so much love. And it is easier to do than most of us think. All it takes is a small nod of the head and the whisper of a "yes."

And He has us.

We are His.

He is loving you. 

At the end of each chapter I closed with a section called "Your Turn"....

You are His.

He is calling you to move even closer.

God wants you to know that His love for you is complete and true and pure.

As you read these words, I believe Father God is leaning forward in anticipation of you and your response. He knows you, warts and all, and He desires you still.

God is singing over you. Feel free to borrow my simple little song, but I am convinced that He has a special song just for you. Ask Him to sing it over you. Why not? It may feel silly, but whatever tune and words that come to mind just may be from Him. Can't hurt to ask, can it? Go for it.

My little song from God came to me way back in 2007, but it is still as clear as ever while I sit here typing this message for you. My eyes are brimming and my heart is excited to know that you may be hearing your very own God song right now. I pray you will hear it and believe that the Ruler of the Universe, the King above all Kings, is singing over you because He adores you and wants all of you for His own. 

My prayer...Dear God, I ask You to share Your song with this reader. Would you open her or his eyes and ears to the magnitude of Your love for them? Whisper, shout, sing, or write a message that cuts through all the doubt and wondering and makes the message of Your love unmistakable and impossible to ignore. Thank You Father, amen.

I do not live near a beach anymore, but water still seems to be my happy place in so many ways! I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Walking Butterfly. 

Waves of love still move me. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Swimming With Dragons...Well Dragonflies, Technically

Book Credit: Christopher O'Toole - Firefly Encyclopedia 

Last night I swam with dragonflies. I was literally surrounded and circled by 4 or 5 gorgeous dragonflies! I giggled and smiled and held out my hand hoping one would land. 

These colorful little helicopters have intrigued me for the last 4 summers since we've been here at this house. They seem so curious about us. They come as close as possible and just stare out of those huge eyes, fly off and immediately return for another peek. 

Every time I experience our little "meetings", I tell myself and whoever else is nearby that I really must do some research on dragonflies because they are so pretty and fascinating to me. 

But I have avoided following through on the research and I know exactly what has held me back from learning more. It is kind of silly but I've been afraid of learning stuff I do not want to know. 

I do not want to discover that they only live one day or that they eat one another, or that when they are hovering near me they are merely looking for a place to poop. 

Yesterday and today I finally did a bit of research about dragonflies and WHEW, none of that is the case! Yay! 

I am so relieved, because if they only live one day then the deep blue one with yellow around the collar whom I've been talking to for the last few weeks would not really be my special friend. I found that dragonflies can actually live for several months if not eaten by enemies. And they are not looking for a place to poop.

But they do seem very interested in us. Last night I floated on my back in the pool and opened my eyes to one hovering just inches from my face. I was thrilled! I read somewhere that it is considered good luck if one lands on your head. 

I didn't want to scare it away so I remained as still as one can when floating on water, until it zipped away and circled back a little farther away. 

An ugly wasp decided to come close for a visit too and my dragonfly friend promptly chased it away with its stinger between its legs. (My imagination may have added some drama to this event but still, I felt very protected!) 

My dragonfly friends are mostly blue rather than red.

I don't know if God is talking to me through these cute little creatures like He did with butterflies in the past. But I am watching and listening just in case. In the meantime, I see them as a sweet kiss from Him and reminder that all of nature was created by God and loved by Him.  

When I look around, it is impossible to believe that God does not enjoy what He created too. Don't you think He smiles at the color choices He has made and the whimsical shapes and sizes that make up our world of creatures? 

He did not HAVE to use such vast variety did He? Flowers, vegetation, insects and jungle life; it all stands as evidence that our Creator loves color, spice and imagination. 

Watching dragonflies, swimming with dragonflies, hearing the quick beat of their gossamer wings; these are love notes from God to me. To us. 

I do not see a dragonfly tattoo in my near future. But I have also learned that it is wise to never say never. 

Similar to "my" dragonflies.

Love you,

Sunday, May 20, 2018

I Did Not Expect This...

I grabbed my phone so I could capture some pictures of the sweet little prayer chapel I saw while on a Women's Retreat this last weekend. I knew it would be cute, but at the same time I also dislike contrived, man-made "spiritual" setups, so to speak.
With that in mind. I was unprepared for what happened when I stepped inside and closed the door behind me. Thankfully it was absent of music. It was silent other than the loud hum of an air conditioner on this hot Texas day.

The door closed and as I turned to look around the tiny building my heart filled and my prayer language simply began to flow without hesitation. 

Then tears came because it has been a while. I smiled, relaxed and quietly walked around and around inside the prayer chapel praying in a spiritual language. Yes, I am one of those "tongue talkers". 

My shoulders fell, my breathing slowed and I knew that Holy Spirit and I were having an important conversation. Or maybe we were both sharing my heart with Father God. 

When the words are not mine, I can trust them. When the words are His, I know that I am not inserting my own agenda into the conversation. My spirit is communing with His Spirit. What could be more valuable and worthy? 

It was a beautiful few minutes. I walked back up the hill to my room in a better place than when I walked down that path. Time in God's presence, short or long will change a person. Now my heart and mind were open and a little less guarded with this new group of people I was just getting to know. 

I was pretty nervous about this retreat in a new church that I barely attend. The first evening was hard. But this little group of ladies welcomed me and I loved the silly camaraderie that I was seeing and hearing. The inside jokes of longtime friends reveal a history of ups and downs experienced together. 

My husband says I am brave. It did take a bit of courage to go to a 3 day retreat with a new church, but I knew I was supposed to do it. I made myself commit to it several months ago by making small payments to save my spot. 

And I am glad I did. No, it did not change my whole life. (Maybe it did!) But it was a sweet reminder that God loves. He loves me, you, and the people next door. 

He loves. It's what He does, what He is and all He knows. Loving you is His favorite thing! 

Bless you.