Riding the Waves of Life

For a year I woke up to Jack Johnson singing these lyrics into my sleeping ear:

In times like these

In times like those

What will be will be

And so it goes.

And it goes on and on and on and on . . .

On and on it goes.

It was a great way to wake up, not only because I love Jack Johnson, but because it was a great perspective on whatever the day held. Maybe it was going to be a good day, maybe a hard one, but whatever came, life would keep rolling along.

I’ve been thinking about getting that CD out and putting it back into my alarm clock recently. You see, I’ve got a few big days coming up.

In a few days I’ll be at the She Speaks conference meeting other women who blog, speak, and write about their faith. While there I will also meet with a couple of publishers to pitch the book my husband and I have written about using faith and therapy tools to manage anxiety.

I’m going to be straight up with you and admit that I’m nervous and scared about what the conference holds. For one, I am a big time introvert and the thought of meeting all those strangers sends my heart to racing (yeah, I know read the book I wrote on anxiety management and use a trick or two). But beyond interacting with all the other bloggers and writers who I worry will be smarter and better at what I am trying to do, I’m worried about the big meetings.

My husband and I have been working on this book for about a year now. We’ve written something we are proud of, we’ve taught a class where we watched it help other people, and now we would really love to be able to share this with a wider audience. But the world of publishing has gotten pretty competitive. Publishers want potential authors to already have a platform and ready made market. I blog, I speak, but so many have platforms much bigger than mine. Will anyone care what I have to say? Will they judge my words (and frankly me) to be good enough?

We have polished and prepared, but it has all been a bit nerve wracking to tell you the truth. I so want to go and have our hard work finally pay off. Everybody wants their dream to come true, right?

But as I begin the final preparations of printing proposals and packing, I channel my inner Jack Johnson.

Riding the Waves of Life

I remind myself that before Jack was a handsome crooner, he was a surfer. He gained his wisdom of the world by riding the waves day after day. The thing about serious surfers is that when they get up in the morning, they have one goal. To surf. It may be a day when the waves are kind and they feel at one with the world. Or it may be a day when they fall and the ocean proceeds to pummel them with wave after wave as they try to recover. But whether its a good day or a bad day, a surfer continues to get out there and keep riding the waves. It is just what they do.

These days I’m claiming the title of writer. There are days when words come easy, and people are glad to share them, and everyone tells me how grateful they are for my offering of words. And then there are says when delete is the key I hit most, or no one reads the post, or the publishers say “thank you, but no thank you.”

It is fifty-fifty if I’ll feel one with all that is good in the universe or if I’ll get pummeled by the sea.

But as a serious surfer gets up everyday and continues to surf, a true writer gets up and continues to share words with the world.

The waves of life will come, the good and the bad. The choice we have to make day after day is to pick up our board and take the ride. If we fall, we fall. And if we catch the wave just right, well, there’s nothing quite like that.

Soon I’m going to take my words and see if I can catch a good wave. I’m getting to the place where I’ll be at peace no matter how it goes. If it goes smooth, great. If I fall, I’ll get back up and keep trying. The right wave will come along eventually and when it does, I want to be out there ready and waiting.

And to celebrate regardless of what the conference holds, well you might have guessed it already. I am heading to the Carolina coast to see if I can learn to catch a wave on the ocean. I’ve always wanted to feel the surge of the surf underneath me. To feel connected to something so much bigger and more powerful than I. It would be a physical expression of what writing feels like. I have no idea if I’ll make it up and ride a wave or not. But I’m sure going to try.

And in times like these and times like those, sometimes that all that counts.


For those of you not acquainted with Jack Johnson, here you go.




Life’s Little Gifts: A tribute to Sheba

Have you ever had a gift drop into your life just when you needed it most?

Three years ago my Father-in-law, Bobby, passed away leaving a hole in our family’s life. This hole was most deeply felt by my dear mother-in-law who had married Bobby at age 18 and spent the next 59 years of her life by his side. Losing a loved one is never easy, but I cannot imagine the loneliness and just plain strangeness that she must have experienced as she learned to go on without him.

Needless to say we all worried about her quite a bit that first year. Grieving a long beloved spouse is a tricky business. We prayed for God to give her the grace to pull through and move on in this new way. As we all moved through the sadness, we looked for any way to help that we could. But as many weekends we spent together, trips we took, and phone calls we made, we realized we still could not be there to encourage her day after day.

As we prayed and groped for relief to the grieving, a little gift was dropped into our collective laps.

a lap dog if there ever was one

a lap dog if there ever was one



Being the dog lovers we are, we had batted around the idea of a dog for Grammy a time or three. We scanned the papers for pups and offered to visit shelters with her. Then one day, she surprised us with the news that she had taken a trip to a local shelter, was introduced to Sheba and found love at first sight.

At first we thought the dog was an unlikely choice. She was an eight year old Boston terrier/ Chihuahua mix that was still recovering from having her latest litter of puppies. She had one bulgey Boston terrier eye that seemed to work and one Chihuahua eye that was clouded and weepy.

But even though the dog required some TLC and healing time, it turned out she was the perfect choice. Her small frame and gentle demeanor allowed my mother-in-law to be able to care for her even with a bad back. She never ran off or got under Grammy’s feet. In fact, she spent most of her time cuddled next to Grammy wherever she was. She greeted her happily at the door, kept her company while she watched TV, took walks with her, checked e-mail with her. Wherever Grammy was, Sheba was sure to go.

If I’ve seen love anywhere, I witnessed it flowing from this dog toward her rescuer.

I think Sheba must have known she hit the jackpot when she got rescued by my mother-in-law. I don’t know all the details about the early years of her life, but I would bet good money she had never been pampered and cared for like she was these past few years. But the way that my mother-in-law rescued Sheba is only half the story.

For the beauty of Love is that is blesses both the giver and the receiver.

The love and devotion of this dog became a surprisingly powerful source of comfort and joy for my mother-in-law. Indeed we all delighted in her sweet presence as she became such a part of our life it was hard to imagine a time before we had her with us.

In our time of sadness and struggle this little furball came into our lives like a pint-size gift. As Isaiah writes, where there once was weeping there was now laughter. Where there was once was heartache that was now joy.

Of course a dog could never replace my father-in-law. But her sweet presence reminded us that there is still much good left in life. That there are new joys and surprises still to be had.

I am sad to say that our time with sweet Sheba has come to an end. As happened with my father-in-law three years ago, she lost her great battle with cancer. Even though we lost her physical presence with us last week, the gift of her love for us lives on.

Sweet Sheba, even as we grieve, we are forever grateful for the joy that you brought to us in a time when it was sorely needed. Though we miss you sorely, we will carry the memories of the comfort and hope that you shared.

It is ironic that once again we find ourselves in need of a gift of comfort as we grieve the one who once helped ease our grief. As my years on this earth increase, I am more and more aware of the sadness and hardship that accompanies life. At the same time, I trust that even (and especially) in the hardest of circumstances Life brings little gifts of comfort to us to help us make it through.

Have you ever received a little gift from Life just when you needed it most? What was it and how did it help you through?



Grateful on the 4th of July

Based on the circumstances of my life, you would think I would be the most patriotic person around. I was born on a national holiday (Memorial Day) in an Air Force town to two parents who were employed by the Department of Defense. One of these parents was a Vietnam vet who spent most of my childhood active in city politics. Lets just say there was a lot of God and country in my early life (in the best of ways).

Chalk it up to teenage rebellion that I was not a red, white, and blue girl. I was not convinced that ours was indeed the best county around. My restless feet decided to walk out on my patriotic town and visit as many other countries as I could. I was on a quest to find what my Americana childhood had been missing.

As I traveled around Europe, Central America, and Africa, I did in fact find that each land had its own unique beauty and wonders to discover. I will never forget how good mangoes taste straight from the tree or how delightful Norwegian cloud berries are. And there are social policies that I do wish our country enjoyed (A year off of work for new mothers anyone? You can have it in Norway!) But the irony is that it the biggest effect visiting all these other lands had on me was to make me more grateful for all the gifts my own country had to offer.

So on this 4th of July, a brief list of things I am most grateful for as a citizen of the United States of America.

grateful on the 4th of July


1) Every morning I can wake up, turn on the tap and drink a glass of clean, fresh water.

This may seem really simple, but if you have ever visited a country where this is not possible then you know how big of a deal clean running water is. Nearly a billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water. Not only is the available water dirty, but women often have to walk miles each morning just to carry jugs of unclean water home. Among those places, 80% of illness is related to dirty water and lack of proper sewage. Which brings me to the second thing I am grateful for about the old US of A.

2) Each morning I also have access to a flush toilet to properly dispose of my waste.

It only took one walk down a street bordered by gutters flowing with raw sewage to convince me of the miracle of the modern American sewage system. Even though I grew up with stories about my parents using outhouses, I had always taken for granted that our government provided a means to take dirty water safely away and to bring clean water to my fingertips. If you want to learn more about the worldwide water crises and how to help visit The Water Project.

3) My daughter can go to school without fear of being shot or kidnapped.

This is a big one for me. Even though American women complain about not getting equal pay and bearing more of the household load than men (and these are injustices that should be rectified), we have so many opportunities that are unavailable to most of the women in the world. We can wear what we choose, get an education, hold a job, and have a voice in the running of our government. It breaks my heart that our sisters in the world suffer so needlessly just because they are born female. I don’t even know how to start to make this better (although I do sign petitions regularly to this effect at Amnesty International, and you can too!) Maybe I’ll start be being grateful that I am raising my daughter in a land where she at least has a chance at living in a safe environment that allows her to reach her full potential.

4) Access to medical care

I know this is a hot topic right now. And it is still true in the USA that those with more money get better medical care than those with less. But we do have a safety net that allows most people to get some level of medical care that sustains their life. If nothing else, I am grateful that we have a health department that brings vaccinations to my children’s public schools, educates about and prevents contagious diseases, and keeps malaria from spreading by keeping check on chemical levels in our public pools.

When we brought my daughter home from China we noticed a small circular dent in her left upper arm. When we pointed it out to our pediatrician he mentioned it was nothing to worry about, just a scar from her smallpox vaccine. A vaccine we had no idea about since that disease has been eradicated in America. So today I’m grateful that my daughter will never need to rely on that vaccine during her life in America and that the mosquito net above her bed is purely decoration.

5) Religious and Political Freedom

Whether I am Republican, Democrat, or otherwise I am grateful I can speak my mind about our government without fear of having my tongue cut out. I know we all complain about the government and for good reasons, but let us always remember it could be so much worse. We have no evil tyrannical despot like so many poor countries. There are not armed forces on guard in every town keeping an oppressive peace. As much as we argue back and forth, we are not currently in an actual civil war. I lay down on my pillow at night with no fear of the government coming after me in my sleep. I know that some of you may quip back sarcastically that if I listened to news more maybe I would know I should be more afraid.  To you I would respond, spend some time in an unstable and corrupt third world country and get back to me on how bad our government truly is.

As I’ve written this list I realize I could go on and on about all that I am grateful for about our nation today. But I will stop now and enjoy some star shaped cookies and fireworks with my family.

grateful on the 4th of July

As you celebrate today, what are you most grateful for?



Releasing Control: The final post on how I got over my phobia of flying

This is the third in my trilogy of  posts on getting over my phobia of flying. Thank you all for indulging me as I calm myself at airports and on planes by writing these blogs.

Today we fly home from our great conference in Michigan. You would think that after having completed Monday’s flight with little drama that today would be an easier trip. Unfortunately, today’s flight is the one that I have stressed most over all along.

You see, sometimes the information age can be a blessing. We can find answers to questions in seconds with only a few taps of our fingers. But sometimes too much information can also be a curse. Take my constant trolling over the weather channel this week fretting over the forecasted rain and thunderstorms for lovely Grand Rapids the night that I am to fly from there to Atlanta.

Each time I checked the weather and saw the forecast for storms, I rehearsed over and over in my head what would happen if indeed the dreaded t-storms would hit when we were due to fly out (yeah, I realize this is pretty much the definition of anticipatory anxiety, thank you).

I think one of the reasons this happened was my memory of plane rides in thunderstorms past.

Almost twenty years ago my husband and I took a trip to Norway to visit family living there. We were to fly out of Richmond late one afternoon and connect with a flight from Newark to Oslo. We got to Richmond’s airport rather early, just in time to watch the summer thunderstorms roll in. As the storms built in intensity, the words delayed began to flash at our gate. Pretty soon other diverted flights began to land at our airport to escape the storms. An hour went by.  The clock was ticking for us to make our international connection. At some point our flight was cancelled.

This whole time I had been a nervous wreck. If we missed our connection at Newark we would miss a whole day of our week long trip to Norway, which already felt short for an international trip. When we heard the news of the cancelled flight, I broke down into tears. It had been a year since I’d seen my niece and nephew and my 23 years old self didn’t think I could stand waiting another day to see their sweet faces again.

Instead of rolling with the disappointment or going with the flow, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Around the time our flight was cancelled, the diverted flight decided try and finish its route to Newark (no one had intended to come to Richmond after all). I tearfully pleaded my situation with the airline rep and begged to be boarded on the plane to Newark. In a post 911 world I can hardly believe that my husband and I were allowed to hitch a ride on the second half of a flight we were never meant to be on.

But there we went up, up, and up into the midst of thunderstorms on our way to Newark. About half way there I began to question the wisdom of boarding this storm bound flight. But once you are on a plane, all you can do is ride it out. And ride it out we did. Even after we reached the airspace of Newark we circled and circled the airport for almost an hour until we were cleared to land.

Once on the ground, my husband and I raced through the airport to get to our next flight. As we reached the international terminal, we found it desolate. Our flight was long gone.

All that grasping and striving for control in a messy situation had gotten me nowhere in the end.

Well, that’s not entirely true. It got me 24 hours in the vacation hot spot  Newark, New Jersey. Needless to say after an exhausted night in an airport hotel and 8 hours the next day wandering Newark Liberty International airport, I have never desired to visit Newark again.

I was reminded of the great Newark debacle today as I stressed and stressed over this evening’s flight. When checking the weather report upon awakening, I again began to fret about the forecasted afternoon/evening rain.  I worried over it all through breakfast, then proceeded to try and switch to an earlier flight in the day, even though it would mean I would miss the end of the conference that I was so enjoying. But lo, my luck with the airline agents ran out years ago. The noon flight from Grand Rapids was all sold out.

I would have to either be delayed in flying until Friday and be stuck away from home another night, or take my chances flying through weather.

After trying to insert my grabby, controlling little mitts to handle this situation completely, I had to acknowledge that some things are just out of my hands.

Like the weather.

And the flying of airplanes.

And travel schedules when others are paying for my fare.

And so many other things that I would like to be in control of, but am just not.

So as we descend with some bumps on what has been a flight that was so much better than I thought it would be, I remember the words a friend gave to me Sunday night before I left.

Just let go. 

Relinquish that control over to someone else for a while.

For in the end we are never really as in control of our fate as we would like to believe.

In some ways life is all kind of a roll of the dice. But even still it either turns out okay or we find a way to persevere anyway.

releasing control

So I leave you with this image of skies from my flight that are much more beautiful than those stormy clouds I saw 20 years ago.  It doesn’t always turn out this nice, but when it does.

Enjoy the ride.


Dena’s 1 Flight Tip

**  For those of you who also struggle to fly, I will share that the tip from Capt Tom Bunn that helped me most was boarding early so I could talk with flight attendants and possibly even pilots about my fear of flying. In a situation where my lack of control was elevating my fear (“If I could only fly the plane, I think I would be okay), it really helped to develop some trust in those people who were actually in control of my flight. It surprised me how kind and accommodating everyone was when I shared that I was a nervous flyer (and how much their reassurances helped me). 







Practicing Asking for Help

I posted a few days ago on my fear of flying. Well, reader friends, here I sit in the Atlanta airport getting ready to board the plane to Michigan. So far a little jittery, but otherwise okay. It could be the half a Xanax that is keeping me calmer, but I also wonder if it is because this go round flying I have asked for help with my problem.

Normally when I am nervous about flying, I just try to fake that I am okay until I am not okay anymore. I can just hear Dr Phil ask me how that has worked out for me (not great). There is a certain shame that comes with not being able to handle life in a cool, calm, in control manner. It is hard for me (and maybe you?) to let go of that facade and admit that I need help.

But this time around I have taken a different approach. I blogged about my fear. I asked friends and family to pray for me. And do you know what happened as a result of admitting I had a struggle and asking for help? People offered me support and encouragement. Many people have reassured me and kept me in their prayers. A former airline pilot who now counsels fearful flyers like myself left his info in a comment on my blog. And though I did not have the time or money to complete Captain Tom’s full course, his free tips have been helpful.

I followed his advice on asking to board early with those that need special assistance so that I could inform the stewardesses that I am an anxious flyer. They were very kind and even introduced me to the co-pilot who gave me a big smile.

Getting Over My Fear to Fly

So here I sit at 10,000 feet with my little cup of water on my tray top so that I can see that turbulence is not that bad (the water barely shakes). I have done my breathing, said my breath prayers and tried to keep the tension out of my body. I did negotiate with God a little on take-off, but hey, we all need a come to Jesus meeting every now and again.

As we near the end of the flight, a couple of things occur to me.

Sometimes courage looks like admitting we are scared.

Sometimes we are strongest when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to ask for help.

So, dear reader, whatever scary things await you this week, know that it is okay to ask for help. Nice even.

For when we open up to others, we form connections that we would have never made trying to tough it out on our own.

Almost time to land now. Thanks for those who lifted up prayers and gave words of encouragement.

And if there is any way I (we) can pray for you in regards to your struggles, feel free to leave a request in the comments below.