God of Every Story

Listen to Laura Story’s song “God of Every Story.”

You might find it unremarkable unless you understand it for what it is: her story. A newly wed girl whose husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. A surgery that left him in good health, but not quite whole. A lifetime with a man who is not able to remember that he married her. That would be tough.

But God was not done writing their story and he held their family together. In 2012, they welcomed a baby girl into their family. And in 2014, their family expanded with twin boys. It is little wonder why she is not writing a lot of new music these days. Their house probably hums to the tune “the wheels on the bus…”

Their story is still not all told, but even the part we know now is amazing. Especially when Laura tells it in worship.

God of every story. The timing of this gentle reminder was not a coincidence. Just a few minutes before hearing that song, I had been on my way to work, minding my own business, when I had been suddenly struck with eminency of my own fears. The radio was tuned to a conservative talk station where I had been listening to Dave Ramsey rant the night before. Mind you, my commute is only about three minutes long. And in that three minutes, I expected to hear about Benghazi, Obamacare, or Common Core. But instead, the topic of discussion had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the reality of my deepest fears. There. I heard it. I couldn’t unhear it.

I won’t tell you what it was because it isn’t the point—but you might be able to guess. It may seem silly to you. That’s okay. It isn’t your fear; it’s mine. It might mean nothing to you; you might be able to explain it away; tell me I’m foolish; or tell me you’re sorry for me. But you can’t make it go away. Only God can do that. And so far, He hasn’t.

God of every story.

When my faith is tested, I often let my fears rule my heart. I often take my gaze off my Savior and my feet begin to sink. But this time, I resolved I wouldn’t do that—I wouldn’t get caught in the storm of my doubts but instead focus on the proof of His love.

I looked around at the stories I’m seeing God write. In fact, scrolling through Facebook was like paging through God’s brag book. Budding romances…blooming families…the glory of God’s creation…good gifts in small packages! I saw my adorable nephew swinging on a swing; a friend of mine named Jaime loving her new baby—a story God is writing that I can’t wait to hear more of.

My eyes locked on a photo of pink ballet slippers, “It’s a Girl!” it boasted and I was moved to tears.

My cousin was told as a young teen that she would never be able to have kids. For the last 15 years or so, she’s believed that she would never be a mom. For a girl, that’s a big deal. And I suspect that even to guys who might have otherwise been a big part of her life—that was a big deal. But from what I know about Joelle, she was faithful. She loved the Lord even though she didn’t love the facts as she knew them.

A wedding was long in coming for her. Then about a year and a half ago or so, she got married to a man who had cancer. He had fought it in the past and he was getting ready to go through treatments again. They got married knowing that they didn’t know what the future would look like. Which says a lot about the kind of girl Joelle is.

And the doctors said because of his numerous cancer treatments, he also was not able to have kids.

And that’s why this post is such a beautiful thing. Because now there are three in their family. Three miracles: A wedding. A sustaining. And a birth. Because God is the God of their story and He saw fit to trust them with one of His most precious gifts. Regardless of what the doctors had to say.

Then there is me. What is my story? I don’t know exactly.

Perhaps I’m up too close to even see it. When people even ask me “what’s new?” I don’t know what to say. No miracles.

But I guess I could say what’s new is what God is doing in me. What’s new is letting go of fears. Peace in the storm. Love instead of jealousy. Kinder words. A cleaner heart. A life less driven by fear and more driven by faith.

It doesn’t sound exciting and it’s not, really. Not a thriller or a romance. There are no ballet slippers with that. A work in progress isn’t “new” I guess, but it just that—a work. A story still being written.

But when God finishes, I’ll write a song about it. And I suppose I’ll have to work hard to come up with a title since “God of Every Story” is already taken.

On Being Overly Sensitive

I’m cringing as I post this. I’m cringing because I know, sure as getting spaghetti on a white sweater, that as soon as this posts, someone is going to do something to hurt my feelings. It’s the nature of the beast.   Blogging is like waiving a flag at trouble and saying, “I think I’m the expert on this, come find out!”

And to heighten the odds, I’m a girl.

But, regardless, while I have other ideas for blogs, the rest of them seem to need a little more runway. So here I go.

I’ve heard sensitivity called a virtue. And maybe it is. Maybe it is the one virtue that needs to go find all the lost virtues and trade places with them. Or maybe it just needs some major dilution–like one part sensitivity to twenty parts real life.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was this: Be very hard to offend.

Unfortunately, I was well into my twenties before I understood the wisdom of that simple sentence. I cried a lot of worthless tears. For myself.

There are a few things in this world worth crying over. Worth fighting over. Worth agonizing over. Christmas cards are not among them. Birthday parties are not among them. Who says “Hi!” to you on the way in and out of church is not among them. Facebook is not among them.

If there are two ways to interpret something and one is highly offensive and the other is a reasonable explanation, choose to believe the reasonable explanation. Practice it on the little stuff.

Without trying to be demeaning–the good folks of Ferguson would have saved themselves a lot of precious hours of sleep if they had just followed that simple principle. Mind you, I’m not saying that racial prejudice isn’t real and tragic, just that behavior like what we saw contributed nothing to the cause of justice. Frankly, most white people like most black people. And those that don’t aren’t the least bit swayed by looting and protesting.

While I’m on the subject of race, Condoleezza Rice came to mind. She grew up in segregated Birmingham–the south of the south. Her family knew what prejudice was. They knew they had to work harder to gain respect and so they did. They did work hard and they did gain respect.

In her book, she recounts a time (after moving to Colorado) when a potential landlord turned her family down citing the noise from her grand piano that would disturb the neighborhood. The Rice family was convinced it was actually because they were black. And they were furious.

But it worked both ways. Not every black girl gets the opportunities Condoleezza got–internships, fellowships, professorships.  But I have to believe from her story that she got more attention than she would have if she had been white. People were eager to have a bright, hardworking person on their team but being a black woman made her stand out in a crowd of bright, hardworking people.

And as it turned out, she changed her major from piano performance to foreign policy.

As life went on, Condoleezza must have developed some thicker skin. Because she took some hits. She took some hits as Provost of Stanford–even from the black students. She took even more hits as Secretary of State. Because who doesn’t hit on an attractive, single Secretary of State? Eligible bachelors. That’s about it.

The point here is that you can spend your life being overly sensitive–worrying about who likes you and who doesn’t and why. You can pull away from people and places and activities because there are people who don’t like you, don’t appreciate you, or don’t see eye to eye with you. And you can be miserable. That’s up to you.

But if you prefer to avoid the misery, I would encourage you to ask two questions: 1 is there another, reasonable explanation for what happened? And 2. Is this a hill worth dying on? (Or at least, worth crying on?)  If the answers are yes, and no, then in the words of a famous princess, Let it go! Let it GO!

It’s up to you–you can spend your life fighting with a landlord over a piano, and lose. Or fighting with the Soviet Union over freedom, and win.

Condoleezza recounts a time when she looked over at President Bush, then out the window of Air Force One and said: “I’m awfully glad I changed my major.”

And, for whatever reason, one landlord had missed out on responsible, history-making tenants.  Her loss.  It’s was time to forgive the piano incident.

I Decided to go without Sugar for a Week and Here’s what Happened

So…I saw an article in my Facebook feed several times called “My Family Decided to go without Sugar for a Year and Here’s What Happened.”  Or something like that.  I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention.  I tried not to pay a whole lot of attention.

I didn’t read the article.  I didn’t even click on the article.  I didn’t even hoover over the article.  I was afraid it would come to life like a horror movie trailer.

Because, essentially, I know three things about sugar: 1. It is in basically every food and food-like substance.  2.  It is horrible for you.  And, 3. I like it.

I really don’t want to know just how wonderful my life would be without sugar.  I just don’t.  Especially since sugar is pretty much a necessary ingredient in anything chocolate.  And if I didn’t have chocolate, I probably wouldn’t die.  But I probably would want to.  Badly.

Anyway, so with that introduction, I have to explain why I would decide to go a week without sugar:

I made it through Christmas okay, but as I returned to work, I found my resolve toward moderation failing me.  People were bringing in leftovers, gifts, and leftover gifts–most of which involved chocolate.  And lots of sugar.

I found myself consuming a steady stream of chocolate, chocolate cake, chocolate candy, chocolate covered Oreo balls, and chocolate chunks.  I’m sure I said no to something, somewhere, but I definitely didn’t make a habit of it.

Mind you, I was working out pretty steadily, so it didn’t catch up with me right away. But whether or not it was affecting my waste line, I knew it was going to have to stop.  And I decided to go without sugar for a week.

So, the first thing that happened is that I learned that deciding to go without sugar for a week is not the same thing as actually going without sugar for a week.

Yeah…about that…basically, I had a couple of false starts.  Thanks to that stubborn chocolate cake sitting in the break room.

But Saturday came around and I had no more excuses.  I existed on spinach, plain Greek yogurt, flax seed, and turkey.  I felt like such a good girl.

Then came Sunday.  I drowned out my strong desire to eat sugar with a big, fat fried chicken sandwich.  A much better choice for my health I’m sure than say, a chocolate kiss.

After the fried chicken sandwich, I had to drive to Florida and it was one of those afternoons that a nap sounded just delightful and a long drive sounded much less so.  I was drowsy, had a dull headache and a low gas tank, so I had to stop. I really did.

But I was good.  And instead of spending a few sugary calories on Zipfizz or other caffeinated drink, I resumed my drive and crunched on four hours worth of pretzels.

Monday dawned and I had another dull headache.  Maybe it was because of the long drive.  Maybe it was because I was sugar deprived.  Maybe it was because of the four hours worth of pretzels I had in my system.  Whatever the truth was, I felt yuk.

I have to confess to eating a few gingersnaps on Monday.  It was social eating and there was no chocolate involved, so it really shouldn’t count.

Tuesday…involved another fried chicken sandwich.

Wednesday…someone brought doughnuts to the office.  Two boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Cruelty, I tell you.  I had to walk by those doughnuts all morning.  But I did not eat one.  At first, I mean.

In fact, I walked by a lot of times without eating one.  Two boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts.  Hours went by before I even opened the box.  That should count for something.  Then came thirty seconds of heaven that earned me two long miles on the treadmill.

Thursday…I was good all day.  It helped that the leftover doughnut parts and pieces were looking less like people food and more like chicken food.

Friday…I did have some Baklava and honestly, it was worth the cheat.

But I didn’t eat any chocolate.

In fact, you haven’t heard me say the world chocolate for a long time.  So, I was still being good even if I did blow it a little bit.

Nevertheless, it was a loooooong week.  I think I’ve found the secret to slowing down the clock.  Decide not to eat sugar…or even just chocolate.  Time may fly when you are having fun but when you are trying to stay away from sugar, it flies DELTA (Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport).  Feel like you’re aging too fast?  Decide not to eat sugar until your next birthday.  It will probably never come.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I know–especially at the beginning of the year–there are a bunch of people out there who are also trying to eat better and/or work out harder.  And I know that it is not easy.  On Day 10, some people may have already given up.

So…I want to encourage you not to give up.  Even if it isn’t going perfectly.  Even if that doughnut box is calling your name.  Keep it up because we all know that a little discipline with our bodies is not only good for us physically but also good for us spiritually.

There are an unlimited number of tips, tricks, and products to try to make it easier, but at the end of the day, I figured you probably didn’t want advice from someone who blew their plan over gingersnaps.  So I’ll settle for being an encourager: Keep disciplining your body. I didn’t do it perfectly; I didn’t see extreme results; but I did accomplish my goal of getting back to moderation.

And if you discipline yourself, As a little added bonus, you’ll be able to stretch time.  And, if you choose, you can fill those long days with a whole lot of fun.  Like square dancing.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 
I Corinthians 10:31

Let’s Go Blue!

Law Enforcement Supporter (2)At the Bostic Law Firm, we are all about our clients.

We make friends for our clients. We make enemies for our clients. That’s what they pay us to do. And when we fight, we fight to win.  That’s why they hire us–because they think we will.

And frankly, most of the time, we do.  We try to out work the other side (Curtis), out smart the other side (Peter), or occasionally, just out spend the other side (me).

But while we’ll ask stupid questions for our clients, lose sleep for our clients, and miss family events for our clients; one thing we generally don’t do for our clients is take bullets. Our hourly rates just don’t cover the workers comp involved with that kind of lead poisoning.

And at the end of the day, if we find ourselves in a fight we don’t want to be in, representing people we can’t whole heartedly represent, or just without the resources or the facts to “bring it”–we look for a way out.

By contrast, between 100 and 200 law enforcement officers die in the line of duty every year.  If that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, start counting your family members. You can stop when you get to 200.

50,000 more will get assaulted and 14,000 will get wounded in the line of duty.

I have a friend whose husband was part of that last statistic.  In a matter of seconds, he became a quadriplegic.  The next chapter of his life was full of doctors, hospitals, home care nurses, medicines, infections, and eventually amputation and depression.  He died a few years later, but not before he and his family had been down a long, hard road.

I can give more examples–but the point isn’t so much the anecdotes as the general principal.  In a time when law enforcement has taken a beating, I think it’s time for us as citizens to show our gratitude.

There are 780,000 men and women in the USA who don a uniform every day.  We call them law enforcement because that is what they swear to do–uphold the law. They don’t get to pick their clients.  They don’t get to pick their fights.  They don’t even get to pick which laws.  And this world is just plain not Mayberry.

Perhaps to you, a job is just a job.  A client is just a client.  But to law enforcement families, generally, their job is a way of life.  It involves service, sacrifice, and danger.

So take a few minutes today to say “thanks!”  Start with the ones you know–a friend, a brother-in-law, a cousin.  And if you get a chance, reach out to a few you don’t know.  Pay for their coffee or stop them at the gym.  Say thanks.

Maybe we can make this county a little more like Mayberry after all.

My First Dance

It was my mistake. My bad.

I was visiting at Penney Farms—my favorite vacation destination—where 20% of the population is over the age of 90. Old people live in Florida; their parents live in Penney Farms.

My grandma has been laid up with wounds on her leg that have caused pretty severe pain, and my grandfather, now wheelchair bound, is pretty limited in how he can help her out.

So that’s how I made my mistake. I saw signs posted up all over campus advertising a square dance that evening. I thought I would be funny and suggest that we all go. It wasn’t that I needed something to do—If there’s one thing I didn’t need, it was something else to do.

Unfortunately, what I thought would be a funny idea was taken by my grandparents to be a great idea. For me. I said I wouldn’t go without them—thinking that would be the end of it, but it was not. I may be the only one of our little triumvirate with two good legs, but I do not wear the pants.

Grandpa was better than a secretary, reminding me several times including 15 minutes before and 5 minutes before. He was not about to let me out of this one. In fact, he instructed that I go inside and he would stay outside and watch from a distance through the glass doors.

So here I was, headed to my first dance. With my grandpa as a chaperone.

I don’t dance. I don’t know how.

My plan was to hide in the back as much as possible, watch a bit, and then sneak out and get some other things done that evening.

“We have a guest.” The caller boomed into the microphone after being prompted by one of the residents. The microphone was necessary—despite the rather small crowd—because, remember, these are folks in their golden years and hearing is no longer an asset.

“Her name is Danielle. This is her first time. We’re going to teach her to square dance.”

He proceeded to teach me to square dance via the microphone and my name—“Okay, Danielle…” and everyone would get to stand by and wait while he taught me the next step.

Most of the ladies had on skirts—some were “poofy” sticking almost straight out; some were matching with their partners. One lady was even complete with braids and a cowboy hat.   Everyone there was north of 50 and most were north of 75. But they were there to have a good time and have a good time they did.

As the caller called the various steps, he often sang along with the words and many of the dancers joined in. I found myself being promenaded by a half-skipping gentleman singing “Zippidee-doo-dah” with a big grin. What choice did I have but to have fun too?

At the end of every dance, everyone would look around and say, “Did anyone get hurt?”   And at the end of every two dances, they would stop the music and have a sit down break. During some of the breaks, one of the residents would get up and tell a joke or a story. This, one of them informed me, was the hot time in the old town that night.

And I had no doubt they were telling the truth.

Men were in high demand—there weren’t really enough of them to go around—so I felt a little bad that I got a steady stream of partners. This was no high school prom, though, and the other women were gracious—even sweet. I tried to sit a few out to make sure I wasn’t wearing out my welcome and one of the men sat out with me. We had just met for the first time.

Actually, this is at least the fourth time we have met for the first time—he has dementia. He asked a steady stream of questions while we waited and at one point asked me what I did. “I work in a law firm.” I said generically.

“You want to be a lawyer?” He asked, and then without waiting for a reply, he announced loudly to the group, “Danielle wants to be a lawyer!” I felt like an 8-year-old on career day. Apparently, he thought it was the best joke of the night.

The dance was just getting ready to start again when he asked, “where do you want to go to school?” but thankfully, the caller saved me from a long explanation by calling a Grand Square. I walked my four steps away, and left him hanging. We will have to start over next time anyway.

If you are ever hard up for compliments, I recommend hanging out with a group of people 50 years or so your senior. I was told how well I was doing and how quickly I caught on numerous times. The caller put it all in perspective though—“there are seven levels in square dancing.” He said. “This is level one.”

Earlier that day, I had been bemoaning the fact that I had forgotten the most critical part of my workout get up—shoes. It’s a little hard to run in boots and that’s all I had with me. God had just provided the perfect exercise for a woman in boots. Unfortunately, Caller burst that bubble too: “This is great exercise.” He said. “In two hours you’ll walk about three miles!”

Hmmm…Some people run a mile in four minutes. I would be walking a mile in forty. 1.5 MPH. That must be some kind of a record.

But forget the three miles…the two hours part! Shoot, this fun group of seniors was going to have me out way past my bedtime. But there was no escape. Pretty much every move I made was being boomed into the microphone.

But all good things must come to an end.   This one ended with “Love Me Tender” which Caller—who is also an Elvis impersonator—sang convincingly (as did my partner with dementia). Then we asked, “Did anyone get hurt?” and we had a round of applause to celebrate that we had a full two hours of fun and no one got hurt.

So as it turns out… if suggesting a square dance is the biggest mistake I make this trip, I should at least be able return to Charleston unhurt.   And, if nothing else, I’ve finally found some things I can look forward to about getting old and crazy: A chance to wear a poufy skirt to a party, singing Zippidee- doo-dah, and dancing with some of the nicest people on earth.

“Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.”
Proverbs 31:25

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned from Traveling

It’s that time when I add up mileage from the previous year. Here are a few thoughts from a weary traveler…

– Salad is meant to be eaten at a table.

– You can never have too many cell phone chargers.  (They are cheapest at Big Lots and will probably last till you lose them).

– There are two kinds of gas stations; neither have nice restrooms.

– There is nothing like endless miles in a car that brings out the side of me that eats gummy bears and sour patch kids alternately.

– There is a Golden Corral in Johnson City.  The Sunday afternoon staff knows us by name.

– Hotel work out rooms are never what they look like in the photos.

– If you are going to pack your curling iron while it’s still hot, you have to live with the consequences.

– Always pack your unmentionables first.  It is really a bummer to get where you were going without them.

– Rented books on CD from Cracker Barrel are a great way to pass the time.  And losing one CD from each book is a great way to waste money.

– You don’t get to keep the rental car.  That’s okay.  You probably won’t want to.  You know…by the time you wreck it and all…

Are there any happy people out there?

Yes, it has been three months since I’ve blogged.  I pretty much gave up blogging.

But recently, some friends encouraged me to continue.  The type of friends that I’m honored even take the time to read my writing–much less miss it when it isn’t there.

One kind soul even took the time to ask if I was “okay.”  So here is the short story:

October and November were difficult months.  I’m not gonna lie.

December was peaceful, pleasant, and even fun.  But with the peace came sort of a spiritual “dryness” that left me really with nothing to say and definitely, nothing to shout above the din of viral videos, cute cartoons, pithy comments, family photos, Christmas music, personal notes, and far, far better blogs than I’ll ever write.

My theory is, when I have nothing to say, I should be quiet.

Then there is a competing theory that there is never a perfect time to write.  Life will always be messy in some respect or another.  Sometimes, I just have to do it. Even when it is easier to just be quiet.

Anyway, so in December, I was kind of a cautious happy, not a confident happy.  I tried to blog a few times, but I wasn’t quite able to pull it off. And this week, my spirits seemed to be in a steady decline and by Tuesday afternoon,  I would listen to anyone who would tell me a tale of woe.  And when anyone else would listen, I would tell my own tale of woe.  Pretty soon, I felt like one unhappy person surrounded by a world of unhappy people.  6 billion unhappy people is a lot of unhappy people.

And we would all say, “Oh, and Happy New Year!”  at the end of the tale.

Like suddenly, the clock would strike midnight and we would all reset to happy.

Seriously, though, I found myself asking, “Are there any happy people out there?”  The poor aren’t happy.  The rich aren’t happy.  Students aren’t happy.  Working people aren’t happy.  Retired people aren’t happy.  Parents aren’t happy.  Kids aren’t even happy.  How messed up does a world have to be for kids not be happy? 

I’m willing to wager that if I had been at Disneyworld on Christmas Day, I could have found for you boatloads of people singing the blues to “It’s a Small World After All.” If the happiest place on earth is devoid of people living happily ever after, what hope is there for the rest of us?

I read somewhere that the key to happiness in a relationship is the constant belief that the other person is better than you deserve.  The more I thought about that, the more I have realized there is a lot of wisdom in that simple statement.  Perhaps because, whether they realized it or not, the author’s conclusion was essentially the biblical principles of humility and gratefulness…with a touch of contentment.

I’m convinced that the same truth applies to happiness in life.  Choose to believe that your life is better that you deserve.  And that is the truth—whether you believe it or not.

I don’t intend to be trite—I know that some of us were created to think constantly, feel deeply, and care passionately (not only about our own hurts, but about others’ as well). It can seem cold and even irreverent to cast aside feelings of hurt for feelings of hope.

But, nevertheless, it is never wrong to embrace the joy that humility and gratefulness bring. So, I started to do something new this New Years.  Not a resolution, but maybe a new tradition.  I decided to write down one hundred things I was grateful for—one hundred.

Some came quickly…and in no particular order: New Kitchen cabinets. Working heat.  Ministries I get to be a part of.  Grandparents.  My Sunday School class.  The Bible.  A working car.  Dish soap.  My phone.  Salvation.  Julie Anne.  Photos.

Some brought to mind a negative counterpart…my health (but not migraines).  My paycheck (but not taxes).  But I put a lid on that: no list of things I’m not thankful for.

My resolve was tested before I even hit 20.  My day included poorly timed reminders that all was not well in life—or at least not the way I want it.  But when you keep in mind that what you deserve is hell, that kind of puts a different perspective on things.  Life is good when it is better than you deserve.

I got to 50 without too much trouble. Then I started again:   Roses. Indoor plumbing. Nieces and nephews. A hope of heaven. The USA. Our troops. Sundays.

I named people God has brought into my life; current and past. The Lanes—who let me stay at their house and drive their car for free for 8 weeks while I studied for the bar exam. My sisters and brother – who let me buy annoying toys for their kids. Candi Grinder – my high school yearbook advisor who told me I was good at graphic design. The Kinzers – Clients who have come to be special people in my life.

That brought to mind a story that I just have to share…I was in Kentucky by myself and the weather was an ungodly 1 degree. I needed to leave and I couldn’t get the car to start. It was bitterly cold—my brain was frozen and I couldn’t really think of what to do next.

Jerry Kinzer—one of the wealthiest men I know—happened to call and asked about something. I confessed that it wasn’t the best morning in the world and that I couldn’t get the car to start. Jerry could have done nothing at all. He could have said he was sorry. He could have given me the phone number of a tow company. He could have sent one of the 100 or so men that work for him to come and give me a jump.

But a few minutes later, he showed up in the 1 degree weather, hooked up the cables he brought with his ungloved hands and jumped the jeep so I could get on the road.

There are a lot of stories like that in my life. There are a lot of people like that in my life. And before I even got to 100—I was wholly convinced that my life is much better than I deserve.

Are there any happy people out there?

I don’t know. But there is at least one happy person.

In here.