Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Cactus Bloomed in the Desert Today

Not that my friend, Lori, is prickly, but in the desert valley she has lifted her arms toward heaven and stands as a beacon calling all in our state to prayer.

And today, she bloomed. Officially, she was ordained to do what God has been calling her to do—what God designed her to do.

Lori and I go back a long way. We’ve seen each other through the good and the bad. We’ve celebrated together and grieved together. She is my sister, my friend. And now she is officially my pastor (though she was that, too, before it became official).

At her service, our senior pastor, Steve Chiles, made a couple statements that hit home to me. He was explaining this call to ministry had some special facets, among them the call to fellowship and the call to discipleship. And then he said, “God does not call us because of who we are. He calls us in spite of who we are. If God doesn’t show up for our ministry, we are dead in the water.”

The weighty truth of those words still resonates now that I’m back home. God has designed each one of us for a ministry. It is about Him and His plan. He provides the equipment and if He isn’t in it, there is no ministry. Why? Because it’s all about Him.

And that’s something Lori has run with since the moment she first heard God whisper in her ear. Step by step He has called a music teacher, meek and reluctant to pray aloud let alone before a group of people, to become a strong, courageous woman of prayer. A warrioress. An intercessor who, as one speaker pointed out, no longer takes no for answer—that is, from man. From God, she might not like it, but she accepts it. She knows Who makes the rules.

So, Lori, I am honored to call you friend. I am thankful to know you and have you in my life. And I count you as one of my very special abundant blessings from our loving Abba.

Congratulations, LB! You rock!

Love ya!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Class of ’74 is Turning 50

Okay, so some mornings I feel twice my age. The truth is, I never thought I’d even reach fifty. But I have and can look back with wonder at how in the world it has happened. Definitely a God thing.

Believe it or not, I can even remember not having a radio in the family car. My parents would sing when we went anywhere. (And that explains my infatuation with Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook collection.) When I began school, little girls had to wear dresses to class. Even in the winter. Snowsuits, or, when older, corduroys under the skirts, had to suffice since no self-respecting young lady would be caught dead in slacks at school. Sometime about eighth grade, dress slacks were allowed and finally by high school, I learned about living in jeans.

I’ll bet you’ve read the e-mails about the good old days and all that has changed over the years. So have I. And I can remember my parents and their friends discussing how much life had altered over the years.

But then, I think of my grandmother. When my mom complained how her kids were getting old, GrammaDear (as she’s called) knew just the answer. “Your kids? What about my kids!” GrammaDear will be celebrating her hundredth birthday this summer.

So what does one do now that one is f-f-f-fifty? It’s just a number, I know, but sometimes it's just hard to get out. I find myself relating to the Roman god, Janus—whose two faces looked both forward and backward.

And I don’t like it.

For the most part, it has been a lovely ride but I’m not at my journey’s end—not yet. I could be very close or just halfway there like GrammaDear. Only God knows. So, I’m taking St. Paul’s advice. Looking forward and leaving the past behind me, I press on. Richly blessed already, I can’t wait to see what’s around the bend—and I’m betting there’s chocolate involved somewhere. My Abba is good like that.

The picture above is of the three members of the class of '74 at our school. Jackie Lowery and Patti Vail, you are the best! And for the record, we don't look fifty. Forty-five maybe, but not fifty.

Abundant lifelong blessings to all!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Life Should Be Dipped In Chocolate

Glendale glitters.

Not all the time, but at least at this time of year. Last night, my husband and I went to downtown Glendale to see the final night of lights and glitz. The great finale included glowing hot air balloons, imported snow for the kidletts and horse and buggy rides for the romantic.

Walking past one of the vendors, Phil noted how they had about everything under the sun dipped in chocolate. And my quip back? “Life should be dipped in chocolate.”

Now let’s review. In case you are a newcomer to this blog, I am a chocoholic—not a recovering one either. No, I here and now admit, my name is Jenny and I am an active and current chocoholic.

So, my husband wasn’t the least bit surprised at my remark. However, I was. When I say something and have no idea where the thought came from, I must analyze.

And I realized from the start, the whole evening was a chocolate covered presentation. What began years ago as a small town event in the midst of one of the biggest metropolises (is that a word?) in the country, had to have some sweet coating. The original idea was to bring community together and build on a safe family environment. Yet, when you scratch the coating away it is revealing.

Parking has become such a chore cars circle the area for near to thirty minutes hunting for a space within a mile of the festivities. And sadly, the older structures where the latecomers leave their cars aren’t exactly what the historic preservation society had in mind for Old Town. Only blocks from the fun, some of the poorest of our state try to find shelter.

And, of course, what would chocolate be without nuts? The revelers may be families but small town America is learning new definitions of the word.

However, I don’t think so much has really changed. We’ve always put the white wash (white chocolate?) over what we don’t want to acknowledge. We have chocolate covered elephants in the room, I mean park. Is this bad? Well, when it comes to a matter of faith, I don’t want to bite into a candy only to find some filling I would rather trash than eat. But, there are times when a spoonful of sugar—or chocolate—makes the rough days easier to get through.

I’ll bet you can tell where I’m going with this. Yep, back to that blessing thing again. The unexpected hug from a kidlett you wanted to give to the coyotes that melts your heart, or the email that makes you laugh after a day you wanted to cry through, or just knowing your Abba is walking down this sometimes glitzy and sometimes spooky road with you are certainly ways of coating your day in a chocolate hug.

And when we accept that person who looks a little different or help that family struggling just to stay together, we help pour a chocolate sweetness on what otherwise may be a hurtful day or existence. You may be the only delicious thing they will experience. But it may be just what they need to point them to the Source of all goodness.

I thought of saving this for Valentine’s Day but when it’s on my heart, it is time. Besides, the Chocolate Festival will be hitting Glendale in a few weeks. I can do a reprise then.

So, until next time, I wish you abundant blessings and chocolate covered days.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Round Robin Story part 9 - Hey we still need a title!

So maybe I'm starting to like writing suspense. Just don't tell, okay? I've added in another one of the requirements--you'll see it as you read. And, of course, if you haven't read the previous posts, go to Jen Tiszai's blog (the link is at the side--Sonoran Saga)and she has all the links for all the other posts on her part 8. (She's gone to bed and isn't available to help me with html--a language I've yet to conquer.)

So, here's part nine. Enjoy! Oh, and abundant blessings!

So, here she was, dangling like a worm on a hook. Sarah shuddered. What had she been thinking?

“The map we found under Chas, he had apparently grabbed from his sister Emily. Of course the dog had gotten to it before we did. But after we cleaned it up, we got a map of the meeting places. It looked like Emily was listing them for Chas.” Kyle’s voice was a little stactic-y in her earpiece. Not comforting in the least.

“If we don’t get a nibble, we’ll try another spot. There are several on the map. By the way, we think she saw him attacked and that Emily is the target. Chas probably got in the way.”

Way to go, Kyle. You sure know what to say to make a girl feel safe.

Knowing she was wearing a wire and had police all over the place watching her did little to help her nerves.

She crossed her ankles and tried to get comfortable on the park bench. The desert, only a couple hours from the beach, was hot enough to fry an egg. If it weren’t for the fact she was sure she’d have to do a lot of walking, she’d have stuck with her flip-flops.

Though her sleazy romance novel remained open, it was more to hide her talking back to Kyle. He must have contacts all over the place.

Crackle. “Someone is coming up along the bike trail.”

“Thanks for the warning, Kyle.”

The biker went on past.

Pretty soon a mom pushing a baby stroller wandered along. “Mind if I sit a moment?”

What could she say? “Sure, no problem.” Sarah scooted over.

“Keep your eyes peeled, Sarah.” Kyle’s voice made her jump.

“It sure is a hot one. I try to get out and walk with the baby every day to get rid of the last few pounds.”

Sarah nodded politely. She wouldn’t be much good as bait if she sat there talking with this new mother.

“Oh, I love your nail polish. What do you call that color?”

The blood drained from Sarah’s face. This couldn’t be the contact!

“Remain calm, Sarah. The color is” static “Cherry.”

What did he say? Crap! Why did she go to sleep when Lynne was putting it on her? Think!

“Ah, I think it is, ah, Chick Flick Cherry, or something like that.”

The smile vanished from the mother’s face. A gun appeared from inside the stroller. “That’s what I thought. So, if you’ll just hand over the goods, I’ll be on my way.”

What goods? “I’m sorry I don’t know what you are talking about and you’re scaring me with that gun.” All too true.

“Don’t play coy. You’ve got the color and the signature flower. Just give me the stuff and I’ll be going.”

“Tell her you have” static “car. Get her to” static “with you and” static “there.”

What did he say? “Ah, I didn’t know it was you. The stuff’s in the car.”

The gun motioned toward the parking lot. “I don’t know what game you’re playing but get moving.”

Sarah stood. God please help me! She could feel the cold steel nudge at her. “I'm not playing games. Just being cautious.”

The barrel pressed into the small of her back. "Walk"

"What about the baby?"

The only answer was another nudge from the gun. Mommy dearest left the stroller.

Kyle, where are you. Get me out of this.

Her car stood on one side of the lot by itself. Where were the cops hiding?

“Where is it?”

“Over there. I need to get out my keys.”

“One hand, slowly.”

Sarah reached into her pocket and pulled out the ring with the clicker, holding it up so the woman could see. She pressed the button.

A guy popped up from her trunk.

Sarah gasped.

An arm went around her neck and the barrel of the gun pressed a bruise behind her ear.

“You set me up!" The arm dragged her backward. "Back off or she gets it!”

“Right now you haven’t hurt anyone. Drop the gun and it will go easier.” Kyle’s voice came from behind.

“I’m taking her with me." Sarah was flung from one direction to the other. "Once I’m away I’ll leave her on the side of the road.”

Sarah couldn’t get enough breath. The arm about her neck pulled too tight.

“You know I can’t let you do that. Just put down the gun.”

The arm pulled tighter. Her earpiece dropped on the ground.

“Of course, you were wired.”

“Just put the gun down.” Kyle’s voice was fading.

Sarah felt the wooziness from lack of air. The cop in front of her became three. Her knees buckled but she never felt the ground.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Round Robin Story Part 7

Well, good intentions and all, I thought I would post last weekend. But the time got away and then school started again. Didn't realize just how much I missed my little kinderlets. That being said, my teaching career really cuts into my writing career time. I was the one who was supposed to post part four. So, thanks Jen Tiszai, Sabrina Fox, Mike Synder, and Malia Spencer for keeping things going until I could post.

Please bear in mind, I write Women's Fiction--Historical Women's Fiction. Where Jen and Mike and Malia can all intro their own characters into this little drama, mine are long dead and buried--about a couple three centuries ago. But I'll give suspense a try--and not shed quite so many tears if one of their characters bites the dust.

So now, without further ado, part seven.
Abundant blessings!

“Sarah, please to take seat. I will serve you soon.”

Thankfully Sarah was a few minutes early for her appointment. “No problem, Lynne. I’ve brought reading material.” She waved the newspaper and sat.

“What you read about?”

“I stumbled on to something yesterday and I thought I’d see if there’s any news.” Though if Kyle weren’t so by the book, he could fill her in and she wouldn’t have to read between the lines in this rag. There’s the story, page three. Just a tiny little blurb. Well, that certainly helps—not.

When the other customer left, Lynne motioned to Sarah. “I serve you now. Do you want pedicure, too?”

That’s a no-brainer. “Yeah, please. The sand at he beach is doing a number on my feet.” Sarah climbed into the massage chair.

“What color you want?”

Reaching over, Sarah turned the spinner, a familiar shade catching her eye. Chick Flick Cherry. No, that would give her more nightmares.

“I see you like new color. I just get. Only one person try that. She like very much. I think like, too.”

Could it be Chas’s sister? No, no way. That would be much too much of a coincidence. “No, I think I’ve seen too much red lately. Try Violet Hush. That is wild enough for me.”

Leaning back, Sarah closed her eyes. Sleep had been nonexistent last night. Every time she closed her eyes, Russell Fink would take her by the hand and lead her into a nightmare. Her heart got a great workout considering how many times she frightened herself awake.

But the chair massage felt almost as good as Lynne’s skilled hands on her feet.

Sarah’s eyes flew open, gulping in air as if she hadn’t had a breath in ages.

“You okay, Sarah?” Lynne capped the bottle of Chick Flick Cherry and set it on the tray.

Another nightmare. And in the middle of the day, too. Sarah looked at her toes. “I thought we decided on Violet Hush?”

“This better. You look like model. You will like. I make flower for you on big toes.”

Sarah wanted to tell the tech to remove the color. She wanted to, but acquiesced instead. Why bother. The nightmares came anyway. “Whatever. I’m too tired to argue.”

Lynne finished by adding a rhinestone to the center of each flower.

Something about the shiny dot made Sarah’s blood chill. But she had been wearing the silly things for some time. Her nerves were so fried.

When Lynne started her fingers, Sarah noticed a newspaper. “Oh, if that’s mine, just tuck it there in my bag.” She nodded toward it.

Instead of answering, Lynne shoved it under her stand.

No big deal. All she had to do was ask.

Though not in a hurry when Sarah arrived, now he tech raced through the fill.

The bell over the door rang and a tall woman entered. Dressed to impress, Sarah knew she was looking at money.

“Please to take seat. I will serve you soon.”

That explains the hurry. Lynne booked too tight.

Sarah finished, paid and booked her next appointment.

“See you in two, Lynne.”

The girl merely nodded, not even looking up.

Well, now I know how I rate.

Halfway to her car Sarah realized the stone from her grandmother’s ring was gone. “Blast it!” She turned around and trudged back to the shop, hoping Lynne found it. Not that it was that valuable but to Sarah it was priceless.

She pushed in the door while the bell tinkled above. “Lynne, I lost my…”

Lynne lay in a pool of blood.

The moneyed lady stood over her, crow bar brandished.