Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lessons Learned

This is another old post from my blog in August 2007. As 2009 comes to an end I have been thinking about lessons learned and Ebenezers built so I thought I would share this one again.

In the time of Moses when a nation went into battle they sent a banner bearer ahead of them. The banner was announcing the nation coming to war. I imagine it was often intimidating to the nation being attacked to see who was coming. The banner said these warriors come in the name of the king.

In Exodus 17:15 the Lord is described as Jehovah-Nissi which means the Lord is my Banner. For a long time I wasn’t sure of the significance of this description. However, once I understood the purpose of the banner my eyes were opened. God is telling us He is our banner; He goes before us in battle. No matter what happens in our lives, God has already been there.

In 1 Samuel 7:12 we see Samuel setting up a memorial stone. The Israelites had just been delivered from the hands of the Philistines by God. So, Samuel set up the stone as a way of remembering that thus far God had helped them. He called the stone Ebenezer.

I have always loved these two passages of scripture.

Today as I was cleaning carpets at my house I was contemplating all that has happened in my life in the last year. I have walked every step of the road from there to here, but I was totally astounded when I looked back and reflected on it.

Last year this time I was in a sweet situation. I had lost a little bit of weight. My employer had just closed the local office and set me up with a home office. I had also just avoided being laid off for what seemed like the hundredth time, although I think it was closer to four times. With my notebook computer and cell phone I could work from my house or my parent’s house, or the local Starbucks for that matter. This was a great setup for me as it allowed me freedom to help my parents while continuing to work.

In January 2007 all that changed. Just days after the holidays I found out I was being laid off. As traumatic as being laid off can be I was thrilled to have an opportunity to take some time, regroup and decide where to go from there.

Early in February 2007 I came down with a common cold. I was miserable, but figured in a few days I would be good as new. Well, in a few days I was in excruciating pain, my eyes were throbbing, and my neck was so stiff I could barely move. I decided it was time to be seen by my doctor. Hours later, after having a spinal tap done, I was in isolation at the local hospital with a life threatening illness. I had bacterial meningitis and sepsis. I spent the next six days in a hospital bed. My insurance had just run out at the end of the previous month. I was hoping I had COBRA coverage, but wasn’t quite sure how I would pay the mounting bills.

Because of my illness I missed a writers conference I was scheduled to go to. The registration fee was non-refundable. Despite an effort to convince the organization that it wasn’t by choice that I backed out at the last minute, they would not refund the money.

During my time off I spent much time with my parents. My Mom’s illness has slowly robbed her of the ability to do much at all. She needs constant care and Dad willingly, patiently, and lovingly provides that care. I was able to help lighten his load by being there.

As June came to an end, Dad went for a routine stress test which led to a heart catheterization. It was during the cath that they found massive blockage in five arteries. He was not allowed to leave the hospital and had open heart surgery two days later. The recovery time has been extensive and I have been ever present to help in the last two months.

Today, I am physically half the person I was this time last year. Having struggled with my weight all my life I decided last fall I needed to get healthy and make changes to help prevent heart disease. In the aftermath of Dad’s surgery I am acutely aware of how important those changes are to my well being. The benefit of making these changes has been a slow, steady, safe weight loss.

Nine months later I am still looking for the right employment situation. It has been a sometimes frustrating experience. Often I have trouble finding opportunities suitable to my education and experience to apply for to meet my unemployment requirement. There have been interviews where I knew I wasn’t the right person for the job. And there have been interviews where I hoped to get the job and didn’t.

Looking back at the path of the last year I see strewn along the way the Ebenezers. I see how my illness coming in the COBRA election period allowed me to have insurance coverage for my hospital stay. I see how my being off work and spending so much time with my parents made the time Dad was in the hospital easier for Mom, she was used to having me around. I see how God protected my father. Dad could have had a massive heart attack at any time. Thankfully, we found the problem before that happened. I see how being inspired to get healthy has changed my life. And I see how God’s timing and planning has allowed me to be free from employer obligations during this time of my life. So, I have built my Ebenezers to remember how much God has done for me.

Today, because of my Ebenezers, I proudly wave the banner of Jehovah-Nissi. He has been there in every situation this past year. Without His presence and protection the situations of the last year would have overwhelmed and defeated me. Loving God hasn’t meant I don’t have problems in my life. Loving God has meant I do not face those problems alone. I envision Him riding before me along my life path with His banner proclaiming, “She is mine. You can try her, but you can’t beat her. I stand with her today and always.”

My year end wish for you, dear reader, is that you have Ebenezers in your life to look back on and that you ride confidently into 2010 knowing that God has gone before you. Happy New Year!

Photo copyright 2009 Thomas H. Fickas, Jr

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ending One Year and Moving into the New Year

Photo copyright 2009 Beverly Seng

The sun is setting on 2009. As 2010 looms many people are thinking about what they hope and dream will come in the new year. New year’s resolutions are made and goals are verbalized.

I have recently read a couple of blog posts that laid out clearly and concisely what the posters want to achieve this year. Their readers know exactly what these folks are working towards this coming year.

I am still in the process of finalizing my goals. A few years ago I made a goal to try something new every month. You can read more about my adventures by reading any of my Year of Living Adventurously posts. This year I have toyed with making 12 goals in 12 months. I am still waffling on what exactly I want to do.

However, I do have one firm goal in mind. Every year the Christian Writer’s Guild hosts Operation First Novel. This contest is open to any unpublished author. The grand prize is $20,000 and a contract with Tyndale House to publish their novel. I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with 2008 and 2009 winners Jennifer Erin Valent and CJ Darlington. I have experienced how this contest has changed their life.

So, this year one goal I have already set for myself is to have my novel ready to submit to the contest. The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2010. This gives me 288 days to work on finishing the manuscript and then editing, revising, and polishing. It’s a big project. 288 days sounds like a lot of time, but the only way I will succeed in finishing is if I break my goal into smaller chunks and set deadlines for myself. The other thing I have learned about goals is to tell them to my friends and family so that there will be accountability. Now that I have published it for the entire world (theoretically) to read I have more to lose if I drop the ball as I have in years past.

My hope is that this time next year the sun will be setting on a year of hard work and success at this goal.

Friday, December 25, 2009

For Unto Us a Child is Born

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold,  an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. ~Luke 2:8-20

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7

Two days and counting. In my world today the landscape is covered in a fresh blanket of snow and I can feel the peace of Christmas surrounding me. As Liz Curtis Higgs said on Facebook this week, "The world holds it's breath in anticipation."

May the same peace fill your life today.

Monday, December 21, 2009

How big is your God?

Ironically, all last week I was pondering a post on time management. There has been so much going on lately with work and the holiday season and all I just can’t seem to keep everything together. Well, my time management skills couldn’t even get it together enough to get a post done on Friday. I just was too overwhelmed last week to keep up with my own deadlines. As a writer missing deadlines is not a good thing anymore than it is in any other job field. So, as I have thought and thought about this post I came to realize I don’t have any words of wisdom, just questions about how to make it work in my life. But, I came upon this post I wrote for another blog I used to post on and decided that its advice was timely. Anyway, here you go….

Life snuck up on me all at once this week. It was really just little things, but so many of them that I began to feel overwhelmed with them. I have been waiting the outcome of an important decision this week and it didn’t come. For the first time ever I had to pay taxes at the end of the year and then found out that my electronic debit couldn’t go through and so I am late on my payment; now I owe interest and penalties. The same day I found that out I learned by debit card number had potentially been compromised. And then I came home to find the homeowner’s association had decided to paint the woodwork on my house green. Mind you, I do like green; I just don’t think it looks great or goes with the style of my house. All these things by themselves wouldn’t have been too bad, but they came all together and by the end of the week I just wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.

Do you ever have weeks like that? They are frustrating for sure. This morning I was reminded of the verse in Romans 8:31 - “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Such truth in that little verse. The things in this world often threaten to overwhelm us. Still, God is in control. I reminded myself that God knew what the answer to the decision would be even before I realized a decision needed to be made. He knew about all of the things that would hit me this week.

The trick to this verse is that knowledge of it isn’t enough. I can say all I want that if God be for us, who can be against us? Until I make that verse a part of me they are just words. Until I believe and accept that God controls all the words just lie there in my mind. I have to take those words to heart, believe, and trust. When I do that the power begins to infiltrate my life. Romans 8:35-37 goes on to remind us:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

"For Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Shall tribulation, distress, delayed decisions, late IRS payments, stolen bank card numbers, or crazy house paint separate us from the Lord? No, they cause bumps in our road, but they really don’t change the journey. We are still conquerors and God is still in control.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Book

Today I opened my mailbox and found my copy of Thicker Than Blood. It was almost as exciting as if it had been my first book. CJ Darlington is the winner of the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild Operation First Novel contest.

I haven't met CJ in person, but I have become acquainted with her through the Christian Writer's Guild. I admire her determination in making her dream come true. This book has been 15 years in the making and is finally here.

In January I will be participating in a blog tour with a review of the book. More information will be coming in the next few weeks. If you can't wait to read my review, Thicker Than Blood is now available for sale at and other bookstores.

Monday, December 14, 2009


So, here it is Monday and I am sadly, forlornly postless. What can I say? Remember about a month ago when I was stressing out every reader out with my count down to Christmas? Sigh, it is now 10 days to Christmas and in my world there are no cards, no cookies, no wrapped presents. Come to think of it, there is a rudely lacking pile of presents. And, yes, pile is an understatement. How did I get so far behind!?!

Life, that is is how. It happens and sometimes with a venegence. I thought on and off all weekend about what tantalizing bits of intelligence I should post today for you, my dear reader. But, here it is 10:40 pm on Monday night and there is no post. I am brain dead after a busy day and a marathon 2 hour mind numbing meeting followed by a commute that included almost getting rear ended because of some yahoo towing a truck with another truck but not very safely. And then there was the whole man walking ON the very dark highway in dark clothes that almost got run over and very nearly caused this girl to have a heart attack. That was followed by a solid hour of trying to figure out how to create a list of the haves vs the have nots for  my very sweet coworker who needs the info but doesn't realize it's not been stored in any format that makes for easy retrieval and analysis.

There you have it, I am postless tonight, but apparently not whineless. I am very sorry; I will go to bed now and come up with something juicy and intriguing for Wednesday's post. Please say you'll forgive me and come back soon....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ransomed and Called

But now, O Israel, the LORD who created you says: "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine." ~Isaiah 43:1

This week has been one where a lot of things had to get done. It was a busy week and that was complicated by the cold temps and snow that hit our region. The sub zero temps did a number on my battery and at a time when I should have been focusing on work and getting things on my To Do List done I was trying the get the car jump started and get a new battery installed. At the end of the week I felt buried under everything. Honestly, I was feeling overwhelmed by life.

Then Thursday night I read this verse. It’s not new to me; I have heard it many times before. This time though the words resonated through my soul. They have been echoing through my life the last couple of days. Since they encouraged me I wanted to share them with you, my reader, in hopes that they encourage you also.

I have a friend who says that even in worship we Christians are self centered. Worship is about God, but we make it about us. Think of songs that say things like, “I could sing of your love forever.” I agree with her, but in this case I have to say that changing the verse to a me focus really made it personal. Try it.

“I am not afraid, for I am ransomed (some versions use the word redeemed). I am called by name, and I am His!”

In the grand scheme of things like dead batteries and contracts needing to be sent out the door at work this is what is most important. I have been redeemed and called by name. This wasn’t a mass operation. God called me by name and He redeemed me. And today I am resting in the fact that whatever happens in this world, I AM HIS!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I haven't forgotten

My post today will be late. I wasn't able to get it done yesterday as it is still percolating. Please come back later to find my words of wisdom ;-)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baby Its Cold Outside!

The wind is howling around the house. The front glass door is covered in beautiful frosty snowflake designs that look like I have decorated for Christmas. For days now the temperatures have dipped down into single digits and then into negative digits. There is much talk on Facebook about how cold it is and can minus 2 actually be a temperature? Apparently it can because tonight the weatherman very seriously said, “It’s going to be 9 below, but I think these models are running a little warm so it will actually be colder than that.” To which I responded to no one in particular, “How can you use the word warm in the same sentence as 9 below?” Neither the cat nor the weatherman answered me.

With the frigid temperatures and snow the roads have been virtual skating rinks and I have been stranded in my house. Working hard, but stranded nonetheless. You’ve heard of cabin fever? I am pretty sure that if you Google it right now you will see a picture of me.

When I got done working earlier this evening I decided to begin work on a project I am making for a Christmas present. All the TV shows are reruns. I paid some bills. I ran the trash out to the dumpster and checked the mail all the while wearing flip flops…not a smart move since it is still the night the weatherman said 9 below was little warm. It’s okay though, I have feeling in my piggies again.

It’s not like I don’t have anything to do, but again, I have the cabin fever. So I was playing on the Internet tonight and decided to search for interesting words. I love words. I especially like words that tickle my tongue as I say them or sound cool when I throw them into conversations. Words like my co-worker’s favorite word – ironical. It just sounds good coming out of the mouth and causes a feeling of satisfaction. How about conqueror? This is one of those words that sounds like it means business. I love conquering things and being a conqueror.

So, courtesy of here are some other words to use to describe the current weather state. Frigid, gelid, frozen, freezing. Gelid – very cold, icy. Also arctic, glacial, polar. Baby its cold outside!!

In my search I came upon a web site called World Wide Words  and found some great words. Ones we have all heard like bodacious, discombobulate (another fabulous sounding word), and cheapskate. Here’s a few more to whet your curiosity:

Humicubation – lying on the ground, especially in penitence or humiliation. I laughed when I came to this one because the description that goes along with it started “Once again we are in the realm of inconsequential words whose tenuous hold on existence is maintained by people who create lists of obscure words for our enjoyment and edification.” So you see, I am not the only one!

Kerfuffle – commotion or fuss. When out on the lawn there arose such a kerfuffle I sprung from my bed to see…

Lippitude – which sounds to me like something a sassy teenager with an attitude giving his mom a hard time. “I am not pleased with your lippitude, young man.” But alas, it actually means soreness of the eyes. I had lippitude earlier today when I had my new bifocal contacts in for a few hours.

Macaronic – of verse consisting of a mixture of languages. I love the way this one sounds although I can’t think of time when I would ever use it.

Yep, cabin fever is running rampant right now. But now that I am done with my stultiloquy (foolish babble) I will sign off.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Amazing Forgiveness

Have you watched the show The Amazing Race? It is a reality show where teams of two race around the world in an attempt to win a million dollars. The teams are pushed to their limits and tested in ways most people never have to experience. Each week they race to be the first team to reach the mat and to not hear the words, “I’m sorry you have been eliminated.”

This year during the race one team was a newly dating couple. As such they were still getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. What they liked and didn’t like. During the first legs of the rate they worked well together and met multiple challenges with teamwork and grace. Then they came to the leg of the race where they had to slide down a large water slide. By this time Canaan knew that Mika was deathly afraid of water and heights.

For many minutes Canaan tried to encourage Mika that she could do this, but her fear overwhelmed her. She tried and couldn’t do it. She got up from the slide. Canaan tried to reason with her. He understood her fear, but he also knew that if they didn’t do this part of the race it was all over for them. She tried multiple times. She prayed. She cried. He tried his best to convince her. Then, he lost his temper.

Another team came up so Mika and Canaan had to step aside and let them go. Canaan told her he would see her at the bottom and then went on down the slide. She knew that not participating meant losing the race and potentially losing the relationship. All she could see, though, was her fear and in the end she walked away in tears.

She found Canaan sitting at the bottom of the slide. They went on to the pit stop for this leg of the race and were told by Phil that they had been eliminated from the race. Mika was devastated. As they stood there on the mat, though, Canaan showed his true colors as a Christian.

There in front of thousands and possibly millions of viewers he forgave Mika. He knew what it was like to face his fears and have the fears win. He said to Phil, “I am forgiven and so I can forgive Mika.” What powerful words. He could have been angry. She cost him the chance to win a million dollars. He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t willing to walk away from the relationship. He offered to Mika the same grace and forgiveness that he has been offered by his savior.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Life in the Balance

Life in the Balance is an intensely emotional and beautiful book written by Thomas Grayboys with Peter Zheutlin. Thomas Grayboys, MD was a cardiologist in the prime of his life and career when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Insult was added to injury recently when he was also diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease.

Through his own experience he relates how these diseases have affected him, his family, his friends and his colleagues. He speaks candidly about the changes not only to himself, but also to his relationships.

At times emotionally wrenching, his book beautifully describes the journey he and his family are on. This is not a journey any wish to take. Dr. Grayboys bravely allows the reader into his and his family's life.Allowing such intimate access is his way of fighting back. This book brings light to Parkinson's and Lewy Body Disease. It is a valiant battle in the war against dementia.

Despite the tough emotional nature of this book I highly recommend it. It depicts how dementia invades a person's life and ravages them. It answered many questions for me about my own mother's journey through Lewyland since she never talked much about it.

I was especially touched by the following passage found on page 177 of the book. "Parkinson's and Lewy body disease have taken much of the density, richness, and texture from my life, and moved much that was once within my grasp to a place beyond my control. However, between the limbo of illness and the anger and despair it often spawns, there is a better place - a life beyond illness still to be lived."

Dementia steals much from everyone involved. It can't steal our hope if we fight against it.

This post was originally posted on May 1, 2008. Since I have moved my blog here to Blogger and I have new readers I thought I would post it again.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Time to Get Your Merry On!

23 days until Christmas!! Today in honor of the holiday season I am posting a little blurb I wrote for the local newspaper in 2006. The picture isn't the greatest, but since it is what the story is all about I decided to go ahead and post it.

I always thought the ornaments were old fashioned and wondered why we kept them on our tree year after year. If it were my tree, I would buy more fashionable ornaments. I was young and didn’t see the value in those old ornaments. Today there are only two ornaments remaining from the set. They now appear priceless in my opinion. Every year I look for those ornaments on the tree. They tell a story of family and love and many wonderful Christmas memories.

Christmas 1960 my parents were young and newlywed. Having just embarked on their journey, they had none of the traditional Christmas items. They walked five blocks with the snow lightly falling to the store to purchase ornaments for their first tree. I can imagine my parents holding hands and enjoying the snow. In my imagination they are planning Christmases to come. They have no idea what the future holds but they face it together.

Every year for the last forty-six these ornaments have graced our tree. They have traveled to six states and two foreign countries. They have seen hard years and years of plenty. There they hung as four children were born and raised. They have seen a daughter-in-law, two sons-in-law and six grandchildren join the family. If these ornaments could talk, they would tell many stories. The most amazing story would be the love of two people tying their family together for generations to come. Truly, the value of these ornaments has increased over the years. Someday they will break but the bond of the family will last forever.