<![CDATA[Literary Mom - Reflections]]>Wed, 02 Sep 2015 20:07:33 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Into the Light - Part 7 (sweet ending)]]>Sun, 23 Aug 2015 03:05:32 GMThttp://www.literarymom.com/reflections/into-the-light-part-7-sweet-ending
It was our last morning and we had big plans for the day, so we checked out of our hotel, waved goodbye to Carmel (and the classic car concours that was just getting underway) and drove to Pavel's Bakerei in Pacific Grove to get their delicious cheese bread (sourdough loaf) and an assortment of donuts to bring home the kids, the grandparents, and us. While we were waiting for them to get our order all put together, we ended up talking to a woman (with three kids in tow) whose friend had just moved to Mill Valley. Toward the end of the conversation, I mentioned that we sometimes came to Monterey for their free homeschool days (just in case they might be homeschoolers, to), but that didn't evoke any response. They walked out and I overheard an older woman tell the younger woman with her, "She must be a homeschooling mom. She has that look." The younger woman replied, "What? Calm?" The older woman started to reply in what sounded like a less than flattering way, something about the appearance of having it all together, and I interjected smilingly, "Actually that woman isn't a homeschooling mom, but I am."

You can believe she changed her tone after that!  Especially because the younger woman, who turned out to be her daughter (or daughter in-law), wanted to know all about homeschooling, so that got me started on what has become one of my favorite topics, and while my husband was pouring our coffee, I answered their questions. The young woman's father (or father in-law) was also there, and it turned out that they were from Georgia visiting, because the family had just relocated to the Monterey area since the husband is in the Marines, and they have very young children, so she is starting to look at the possibility of homeschooling. 

We were on on a bit of time budget to get to a final, fun destination on the way home (Filoli Gardens), so we walked out and were going to go a thrift store down the street before taking off, but my husband remembered something for his coffee he needed, so he went back inside the bakery. He came out and told me that the young woman wanted my contact info, so I gave it to her and we chatted some more....well, long story short, they all turned to be Christians!  Again, we related to each other and encouraged one another. What a sweet ending - in more ways that one - to our 48 hour 14th anniversary adventure! 
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<![CDATA[Into the Light - Part Five & Part Six]]>Wed, 19 Aug 2015 22:26:24 GMThttp://www.literarymom.com/reflections/into-the-light-part-five-part-six
After our glorious and somewhat rigorous morning at Point Lobos, we were ready to rest and refuel. I had bookmarked a lot of dining options on Yelp before the trip, but I changed course completely the previous night when it suddenly occurred to me to search for ramen, one of my husband's favorite meals. The nearest noodle house turned out to be Carmel Coffee & Cocoa Bar which happens to be in the same plaza as The Cheese Shop, our next destination!  I knew that must be our lunch spot, and what unfolded over the next couple hours totally confirmed that...

After we enjoyed our kimchee and won ton ramen bowls, we waddled...er, walked over to The Cheese Shop, where we met Brooke, who became one of my favorite people over the next half hour, as she let us sample a gazillion different cheeses. To me, Brooke was an angel because cheese is right up there with books, so tasting so many kinds of it was pure heaven. It brought me back to the best job (with boss) that I ever had - I was in eleventh grade and Trader Joe's opened its first Northern California store, right across the street from my high school. I was hired as a "cheese girl" - I cut, wrapped, priced, and gave out samples of cheese, and did unglamorous tasks like mopping and hauling cheese in an out of the freezing refrigerator, but the perks outweighed the drudgery...and so did I...just kidding - that was back when I had the word's fastest metabolism - it was the perfect season in my life to be surrounded by cheese from 3-10pm several nights a week and on Saturdays. 

We left paradise, I mean The Cheese Shop, with an assortment of slivers (all we could afford) of our favorites - cotswold (chive & onion double gloucester), double cream gouda, triple cream brie, havarti, and Jeff's Select, as well as a tub of castelvetrano olives. We were planning to leave and go to a thrift store I had staked out in Pacific Grove, but first we needed to go to the bathroom, so we rode the elevator up to the third floor of the plaza. After we did our business, I was curious to see what stores were on this level, which felt like a bit of a ghost town compared with all the activity below. 

While my husband was messing around on his phone (probably checking fishing conditions or texting his angler friends about their latest catch), I wandered down the lane, nothing catching my eye until I saw an art gallery with brightly colored paintings that looked interesting. I am pretty picky about art, so I pass up a lot of galleries, but my husband walked up and I told him I wanted to go in and check it out. He's an artistic soul, too, so he was game. We were taken in by the first set of paintings, a series on cosmology - a unique blending of art and science - and I was even more intrigued when I noticed a title on one of them - The Grand Design. I was beginning to have an inkling that there might be more to this impromptu visit than looking at pretty pictures. 

As we continued along, I was impressed with the variety of subjects, colors, and techniques (not that I know much about art other than what my tastes are), which appeared to all be the work on one artist. Then my husband found a small picture toward the back which had Christian symbols and Aramaic words. He's an extravert, so he had no problem walking right up to the gallery owner (he had been on the phone when we first came in) and asking him if he was a Christian. He answered in the affirmative enthusiastically. His name was William Eatmon and he was both a scientist and artist, a modern day Davinci. Now that he had retired from his engineering job at Boeing, he could devote more time to his painting. We talked about our faith, about the world, about our families, encouraging each other not to lose heart, nor to become weary in doing good. My husband asked if we could pray for him, so we all held hands and closed with that. We practically bounced all the way back to the car after that, so filled with hope and joy!  

***

That wasn't to be the last of our divine appointments on this whirlwind adventure. After we went thrift shopping and found a few treasures (I'll just mention here that it was the Second Chance Thrift Store and they were playing Christian music), we returned to our hotel with just enough time to change clothes, grab some cookies for later, and head out to dinner. 

We had a reservation at Yafa in downtown Carmel. When we arrived, the people next to us were engaged in conversation with people at the table on the other side of them, so we kept to ourselves and focused on the menu...and the beautiful painting on the wall next to us, which transported me back to the Mediterranean, but to the Greek part, which I never made it to on my stay in southern France (another story for another time).  I loved how God was continuing the art theme. 

We ordered their most popular starter - grilled octopus in a "special sauce" (it really was) of olive oil, garlic, lemon, and oregano. It truly hit the spot. After we mopped up the sauce with bread, they whisked it away, and two lively middle-aged couples were seated next to us. We overheard that it was one of the wives' birthday and that they were in the area for Car Week - the kick off being the classic car concourse in Carmel (say that ten times fast!) the next day, at which point we would be leaving town, just in time to avoid the crowds.

I bet you can guess what happened between our starter and our main course. That's right we heard them speaking our language. Again, we waited a while, so as not to be intrusive or to assume anything, but as in previous times, there came an opening, which was when they were discussing what to order, pondering the octopus, so we had to butt in and rave about that delicious dish. Well, one thing lead to another, and soon we were engaged in deep conversation about following Jesus, marriage (each of them had been married over 30 years), parenting, etc...and when I wondered initially whether the husbands were Christians (we had just been talking to the wives because they were right next to us), it was funny because one of the men, looked over at my husband and said, "are you a believer, too?" It sounded more like a command (lovingly) than a question!  

Once again we related our concerns over the state of the world in this post-Christian era of moral relativism, while encouraging one another to trust God. We were also able to share with them all of the divine appointments we had had in the last 24 hours, and so to build up their faith, and possibly send some more Christians over to William's gallery. When their food came, just as we were waiting on dessert, we held hands and prayed together, rejoicing in our fellowship.

When the Eggplant Delight, Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola, the Pistachio Rosewater Pudding, and Moroccan Tea were but a memory, despite the load in our stomachs, it was like we were floating on air as we walked back to the car. On the drive to the inn, we marveled at how God had orchestrated our every step of this trip. It was funny, too, because I'm such a planner, and yet I had barely planned anything this time - just a rough, last minute sketch of what we might do. 

The night was young, so my husband gathered up his fishing gear and we walked down to the beach. Carmel beach allows bonfires except on weekends, so I had been looking forward to seeing that. As the sun went down, my husband cast his line into the sea (he caught one!), while I traversed the sand, listening to the water lapping peacefully just inches from my feet and gazing at the the glow of the flames dotting the beach. The beauty and peace overwhelmed my soul with praise to my Creator who had revealed himself to me, and to us, in such personal ways through people, art, and the natural wonders all around us. I could not imagine the morning holding more, but I was about to be surprised once again...
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<![CDATA[Into the Light - Part Four]]>Sun, 16 Aug 2015 22:28:11 GMThttp://www.literarymom.com/reflections/into-the-light-part-four
We rolled out of bed and into the breakfast room (well, not really, but at the rate I'm telling this story, I figured I better speed things up) where we enjoyed two kinds of quiche - ham & cheese and vegetarian - also, fresh berries, which my husband had mixed with granola and yogurt. I normally don't eat until lunch, but I can't resist free food (well, included with our stay) and I needed to fuel up for our hike at Point Lobos, "the crown jewel" of the California State Parks, "the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world", just south of Carmel and north of Big Sur. 

As we were driving along the coast, my husband (eagle eye), from behind the wheel, spotted a whale!  He pulled over and we raced out on the rocks to see it. Sure enough, there was a sightseeing boat (definitely getting an eyeful) not far from where we could see the spouting blowhole and then a quick glimpse of it breaching. In all our years of coming to this area, we had never seen a whale, so this was quite a treat, even though (as usual) we had forgotten to bring binoculars. 

A little farther on (keep in mind, the total distance from the hotel to our destination was only a few miles), he spotted the whale again! So once again, we pulled over, and ran to the beach (sandy this time, thankfully). It was Carmel River Beach and there were others there, but farther south, and none seemed to notice, despite us jumping up and down and pointing...so it felt like a special whale showing just for us. Thinking back on it, I am reminded of how it's like following Jesus. He shows up unexpectedly, but the more we seek him, the more He reveals himself to us. Meanwhile, we're beside ourselves trying to get others to discover and enjoy this wonderful treasure with us, but they are caught up in the cares of this world, and our enthusiasm comes across as lunacy to them. 

A few minutes later, we entered Point Lobos (I almost said the wardrobe), parked at the farthest lot, and began our adventure on foot. As if the crystal blue water at China Cove wasn't enough beauty, we were treated the sight of harbor seals mothers and pups sunbathing and frolicking. We lingered there, gazing over the cliffs into the sheltered cove and out into the endless ocean. Continuing our hike, we found a set of stairs and climbed down to a gorgeous white beach, watching the waves and admiring the seascape. 
Up at the top and out on the trail again, a man and his wife pointed out a sea otter to us and let us use their binoculars for a closer view. That brought back memories to an earlier anniversary, our first time at Point Lobos, when I had been pining to see a sea otter (my favorite ocean animal), and sure enough, God brought us several to enjoy (and again, my husband was the one to spot them first).  As we walked on, we encountered a family from the Bay Area - it turned out that the man had just got a job in our county (in San Rafael, where I grew up, one town south of our town)  and was about to start work. We encouraged them about the possibility of moving to Marin (from the east Bay) and all that it could offer their family. 

We made our way back to the car (saying goodbye to the seals one last time) and tried to drive out to Cypress point, but there was no room in the lot, so we drove to Whaler's Cove (where we had seen the sea otters that other time), and hiked out there. We found seals again, but the dads this time - we could tell because each of the big lugs was on his own rock...except when one would go for a swim and another would steal his "recliner." 

I had told my husband about reading 1 Peter, so we had decided to read it aloud to each other, which we did in a private little spot we found overlooking a secluded cove. We only got through the first chapter, but it was just right. Then my husband convinced me to steal away under the roped off area and climb down to look into the beautiful water in the cove, which we did for a few minutes, but I couldn't full enjoy it since I felt like an outlaw! 

As we hiked back, we saw a group of Japanese tourists pointing out to sea - a whale sighting! We kept vigil, me with my camera/phone ready, but of course it didn't resurface, so we walked on, and then there it was again, with no one else to see it but us. This was the clearest view yet and I even got some semi-decent pictures, albeit from a distance. My husband was convinced it was the same whale all three times. I wasn't so sure, but either way, it was an amazing blessing for the first full morning of our trip to be graced with glimpses of such a magnificent creature, and that just we two would be privy to that unique beauty of God's creation. 

That was our second divine appointment and in less than 12 hours. There would be two more to come that afternoon and evening, and another the following morning, which I hope I can relate in the fifth and (Lord willing) final post...but it might take sixth or seventh installment...
Picture
That's our whale!
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<![CDATA[Into the Light - Part Three]]>Sat, 15 Aug 2015 22:32:33 GMThttp://www.literarymom.com/reflections/into-the-light-part-threePicture
Continuing on with our 48 hour 14th anniversary adventure...we left off in dreamland on Sunday night, but let me back up a little bit. I wanted to read God's Word before going to sleep, so because we were on vacation, it felt right to play "Bible Roulette," you know where you randomly open the good book and see what you find. That can be pretty hit or miss, but with the way things were going, I wasn't surprised when I hit the jackpot. I turned to 1 Peter and read the whole book, because it's short (a mere five chapters) and amazing and I had already underlined a bunch of stuff in my little travel Bible, such as:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense for anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if it should be God's will, than for doing evil.  ~1 Pe 3:13-17

That passage was especially reassuring because the week leading up to our trip, I had (and still have) a Christian hating atheist trolling my Facebook page. He hasn't liked my page or commented, and he uses his page rather than his profile, so banning him is not an option. What he does is to "like" all of my posts (many of which he disagrees with) using his vile, blasphemous profanity-laden Facebook page name. From his page, I know that he was part of the Mormon church and that his son is homosexual and just got "married." Reading those verses reminded me that instead of being angry with this man for bullying me, I need to pray for him (which, in fact, I had asked my readers to do) and receive his insults as confirmation that I am doing good, and so to continue to fight the good fight by speaking the truth in love.

The book of first Peter also says two times to be "sober minded." That seemed appropriate also, what with this being our first alcohol- free anniversary getaway.

That night I actually heard a verse in my dream and I woke up with it in my head (the only good thing about having to pee in the wee hours): "Be at peace with everyone as far as it depends on you." (Romans 12:18) That seemed to apply to all things - the troll, friends (and strangers) whose values are postmodern rather than Biblical, and more importantly, my family, especially my husband. After the dark night of the soul, I had researched marriage books (despite the fact that we have a whole shelf of them, mostly unread) and ordered one called The Couple's Survival Workbook. I chose it because it's not a book that you use with your spouse. It's something you do on your own to help bring change in your own character and communication, the theory being that if you approach your marriage differently, it will change, even if your spouse doesn't. I have been crawling through the book, but it's really good stuff, and if I had to encapsulate what I've been learning into one sentence, it would be that verse from my dream.

I was really hoping I'd get this story wrapped up in three parts, but as I write, more things are coming to me, so at this rate, it may be a five parter...or more (eek!)...but I'd prefer that God lead my pen (so to speak) in His good time than to tell it my way and miss something He wants me to say. Continue to part four...

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<![CDATA[Into the Light - Part Two]]>Fri, 14 Aug 2015 22:31:11 GMThttp://www.literarymom.com/reflections/into-the-light-part-2
Yesterday I blogged the preface to our 48 hour 14th anniversary adventure. One thing I left out was that in addition to our marital struggles, I had angst over the culture's recent careening off the slippery slope of moral relativism into destructive definitions of sexuality, family, and even humanity itself. 

I wasn't thinking about any of that when we got in the car on Sunday after church (we have learned that it's better to start our adventures away with worship) and drove to the food trucks to pick up lunch for the 2.5 hour drive south. Overwhelmed by long lines, too many choices, the desire to get on the road, and a craving for a deli sandwich, we snuck into the nearby Togo's and shared a turkey and avocado sandwich as we headed toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

We arrived at The Sandpiper at 3:30 pm with just enough time to settle into our room and then go for a walk before the tea and cookie hour, at which the innkeeper explained, there would also be sherry. Or maybe that should be Sherry, the temptress. We made it the block to the beach before my husband immediately found a fishing spot on the rocks where I joined him briefly before meandering back along the seaside to admire the lovely cottages. 

Soon tea and cookies were calling my name. Sherry beckoned me, too, her amber body glistening in the crystal decanter, so I grabbed her, pulled off the stopper, and took a good, long...whiff. I set her back down, poured a cup of tea, and ate all of the cookies. Not really, although I did get one of each kind, so I could taste them all, and then I gave the plate to my husband when he came in. We took the leftover cookies back to our room and got ready for dinner.  

Years back, on another anniversary, we had dined at Casanova - "Carmel's Most Romantic Restaurant." We remembered its charming patio and delicious food, so decided to return. This was to be the start of a series of divine appointments that continued throughout our adventure. There is really no other way to explain it...unless we were in the Bible Belt, but in fact, it was just the opposite kind of place, as those of us who live on the California coastland know all too well. 

We ordered two mocktails and several small plates (the entrees were priced out of this world, and as with the cookies, we like to get in as many flavors as possible). Before the food came, we said a prayer, holding hands like we always do - I was wearing the mother of pearl cross my daughter gave me, and which I wore throughout the trip. After that, the man in the couple seated closest to us, but sort of across the aisle, glanced back and smiled. He and his wife were talking animatedly, and as we were sipping our soup (tomato, my favorite, even though the waiter had said it would be spring onion!), we heard a familiar name - Francis Chan. We didn't want to interrupt because it was clear that the husband was telling his wife a story, so we continued on with our delightful, albeit meager meal, savoring spinach gnocchi gorgonzola au gratin - light pillows pasta with a rich, succulent, brown crusted sauce. 

When our waiter brought the carpaccio (husband's favorite) and a cheese plate with artisan bread, we struck up a conversation with the neighboring couple. We had that thrill that believers get with the unexpected discovering of kindred spirits. Yes, they were Christians, and they, too, were celebrating their anniversary - five years farther along than us - also with three children, and they lived in the east bay. We talked about our faith and about the culture and we had a beautiful time of mutual encouragement. They said goodbye and our dessert came - a raspberry flourless chocolate mousse cake. It was good, but bland in comparison to the sweet fellowship we had just enjoyed.  

We capped off the evening with comic relief - lured in by the nostalgia of the trailer, we went to see Pixels, a movie made for our generation. You know you're getting old when your childhood becomes "classic." Seeing the film was like a memory from growing up in the 80s - like riding bikes to 7-11 with friends, getting a cherry coke slurpee, and chewing Now and Laters on the way back. It feels fun at the time, but you're ready for a nap afterwards (well, at least now as an adult, you would be). Which was perfect, since it was time to go back to our hotel and rest up for the remaining adventure and at least four more divine appointments to come. Go on to part three...
 
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<![CDATA[Into the Light - Part One]]>Thu, 13 Aug 2015 10:02:24 GMThttp://www.literarymom.com/reflections/into-the-light-part-one
Yesterday my husband and I celebrated 14 years of marriage. We actually started the party two days before that. Every year we get one or two nights away to be by ourselves, something very foreign to us, what with children ages 13, 10, and 8. Usually I start planning about four or five months before 8/11. This year, though, was different. We had come through the dark night of the soul, culminating in the worst Mother's Day on record (if I kept records, that is). We were bruised and battered, our marriage tattered, but not shattered. We were still totally capable of rhyming, though. That goes back to our first date, when he took me to the children's section of a bookstore and read me "Oh, the Places You'll Go." I really had no chance after that. A man who fed me Chinese food and serenaded me with Dr. Seuss was clearly a keeper. 

There was another hitch with this romantic getaway I had to plan. No alcohol. We had not had a drop since that no good terrible very bad night, and the plan (at least in my mind) was to never have it again. Or at least not for years and years. It wasn't that either of us was an alcoholic - it was just that it had become a problem (his tendency to overindulge and my hypersensitivity toward that because of an alcoholic stepdad). It complicated and escalated arguments. It brought our marriage to a state of crisis. And it had become a crutch for our relaxing "couch dates," which meant both that we weren't fully relying on God and that it was masking trouble between us. In other words, alcohol had become a wedge and an idol. It was very subtle, and we had gone through periods of no drinking (sort of recalibration), but always with the intention to return to moderation (i.e. sticking to the rules we had agreed on in terms of quantity, frequency, and type of beverages). And yet, I could look back at all our most memorable fights and point to one thing - alcohol. It was either the cause of conflict or it had turned a disagreement into something much more ugly. 

We had spent the last four anniversaries in the wine country. Clearly that was not meant to be for this first ever sober celebration. My initial thinking was to isolate. As an introvert, that thought comes pretty naturally to me. My husband, on the other hand, is an extravert, so I did have him to consider. But really, he would be happy anywhere there were two things - me and fish ("have rod, will cast anywhere"). I very nearly booked us a cabin on the lost coast where I figured I could hole up reading and writing while he fished, with walks and meals together in between. My motherly self vetoed that, because there was no cell service and wifi was spotty. I cannot relax, let alone retreat, if I am not assured of communication with my kids - not just for emergencies but for their good night check-in and chat. Perhaps when they are all teenagers, I'll get over that. 

I thought back to our earlier anniversaries when we had enjoyed going to the Monterey peninsula. We had stayed in Pacific Grove, but in recent times, we had gone to that area with the children (homeschool days at the Monterey Bay Aquarium), so now it was hard for me to think of going there without them. There was one place that I didn't associate with our kids, but it had always seemed too ritzy: Carmel-by-the-Sea. Also known as Carmel. But not caramel, though that's good, too. If there is one thing I enjoy as much as (and sometimes more) than a vacation, it's researching a vacation. So I got to work and found a bed and breakfast right by the beach, in our price range, without a wine and cheese hour (cookies & tea instead) - am I good or what?  No, I can't take credit. God led us to The Sandpiper. The proof of that will be in the next post...
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<![CDATA[Dark Night of the Soul]]>Mon, 15 Jun 2015 06:09:33 GMThttp://www.literarymom.com/reflections/dark-night-of-the-soul
Death begins at birth. From the moment of conception, we are on a journey to the grave. None of us knows the span of of our lives - some don't make it past the womb; others experience well over a century of history in the making. We are all dying, but do we say it would be better never to have existed? Few believe that (though sometimes others make that "choice" for them) and fewer still intentionally end their own lives. Why do we cling to life when know death will eventually overtake us? Why do we embrace life all the more as we deteriorate? 

The cycle of birth, life, and death in our natural bodies parallels with our spiritual existence. When we are born again, what follows? Death, death to sin and death to self. And yet unlike our new birth, which happens instantaneously, death to self is a process. A series of deaths, if you will. On our way to eternal life, we die a thousand spiritual deaths. Though our sins are forgiven, our sinful nature continues to tempt us to live for ourselves rather than dying to ourselves and being conformed to the image of Christ, in whom we were created and have been redeemed.

These thousand deaths to self are usually little deaths. They are uncomfortable but bearable. Sometimes, though, after following Jesus for a long time, we slip into complacency, and we quench the Spirit rather than put to death certain persistent sins. And then it happens. The Dark Night of the Soul. When God, in his love and mercy, disciplines us so severely that we may even wish we were dead. He shows us the destructiveness of our sin and how it is killing His spirit in us. We have to die an excruciating death to self or else be enslaved by it and lose our lives.

Sometimes it is not our own sin. When we are married, we are one with our spouse, and when God is dealing with their sin, it feels like we are dying as well. It could literally be a dark night, the darkest we've ever experienced, brought on by the worst fight we've ever had with our spouse, in which the sin was being killed, but it went out kicking and screaming. The battle was not with flesh and blood, but in the spiritual realm. It felt like the end of everything had come and there was no hope, but actually it was just the opposite - it was a new beginning. 

You rose from the ashes, scarred and weary, humbly clinging to the One you felt - for that dark night - had abandoned you. You were badly shaken, fearful, and desperate. Then you became empty and numb. The damage seemed irreparable, your house utterly ruined, your garden desolate...but something caught your eye - a tiny, green shoot that sprung up overnight. You had a glimmer of hope. That God had extinguished the old life, so that you could start a new and better life together. It would take lots of time and more struggle to heal from the fatal wounds, but this body, this one flesh made of husband and wife bound together in Christ, would eventually be stronger than the previous union, and the new house God was building would far surpass the old. 

Your Dark Night of the Soul would give way to a bright and glorious morning. But you would need to be patient. And keep dying. Dying to self. Weeding out sin. Basking in the light of the Father. Drinking in the water of life of the Holy Spirit. Abiding in the vine that is the Son. Growing (with all the pain that entails) in the body of Christ, beginning with your own family.

The Dark Night of the Soul had another purpose, too. It brought you back to your first love. It woke you up to the truth that God is the only one who will not let you down. You may have felt abandoned, but He was with you. He wants you to depend on Him alone. To put all your hope in Him, not another human being. Only His love is perfect and His love is all you need. This is also why you must forgive.

We are unworthy, selfish recipients of His grace. He gives it unconditionally and so we must freely extend His grace. Receiving and giving grace is the most direct path to healing. This is assuming repentance and change are underway (be it ourselves or our spouse or both). That the death really happened on the Dark Night of the Soul and the new life together began - whether it be a literal night in which it all culminated or a more gradual coming into the light over time. If morning has broken, then the work of rebuilding trust must begin right now. 

It may feel like there is a void where the sin used to be. You have to discover who you are as a couple without that thing. So it's not just the person "with the problem" (really, just that particular problem) who will feel loss and pain. It was enmeshed in your marriage and now there's a hole where it used to be. It feels kind of drafty and weird. We may thirst and hunger like we never have before. It won't always be this way - over time, love will fill it - but for now it is a way of keeping the death real (when we are tempted to forget or minimize it) and a vivid reminder to turn to Jesus to fill us. His love poured into each of us will trickle into the hole, eventually transforming it into a well, deepening our marriage as our souls are rejuvenated. Where sin once poisoned us, life giving water will flow. 
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<![CDATA[Who We Really Are]]>Sat, 13 Jun 2015 00:13:28 GMThttp://www.literarymom.com/reflections/who-we-really-are

As society careens down the slippery slope (moral relativism) and off the cliff (absolute truth), it is ever more clear...

Posted by Literary Mom on Friday, June 12, 2015
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<![CDATA[Reeking Beauty]]>Sat, 18 Apr 2015 20:40:16 GMThttp://www.literarymom.com/reflections/reeking-beauty
When I let the cat out on the patio, I was allured by the aroma of the roses budding and blooming, so I walked over to smell them. That's when it happened. A putrid odor mingled with the beautiful fragrance, overpowering and defiling it. It was an all too familiar experience, so immediately I turned on the source of this treachery - the cat. "How can a creature so beautiful be so foul?"  He had used our garden as his bathroom, despite my husband's masterful attempts at preventing that (chicken wire around and on all the plants, elaborate placements of planters, etc.). 

As I searched for the source of the nauseating fumes, I contemplated the paradox of all that my senses were taking in - the beauty of the blossoms and of Romeo, our Snowshoe Siamese; the perfume of the roses and the noxious odor of Romeo's waste. God's creation, both of these, yet one had marred the other. It reminded me of how we are made in God's image - full of his beauty, truth, and goodness - but when we let our sinful nature lead us, instead of God's spirit, it pollutes us and those around us. Sin doesn't fertilize the garden - it stinks it up and eventually destroys it.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   (1 John 1:8-9)
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<![CDATA[Facebook and Friendship...with God ]]>Mon, 06 Apr 2015 23:53:27 GMThttp://www.literarymom.com/reflections/facebook-and-friendshipwith-god
While brushing my teeth, I was reflecting on the way I use Facebook and how it is actually a spiritual metaphor:

With people I don't know well who are my Facebook friends, I see Facebook as a way for us to get to know each other better - reading posts, viewing pics, liking, commenting, etc.

With people I do know well, but with whom there is a barrier to spending time together (either life or geography getting in the way), I see it as a way to maintain the friendship and let it continue to flourish, in the same way as I described above (reading, viewing, liking, commenting). 

In both cases, Facebook is a way of spending time with people, but with the ultimate motivation (where possible) of being together face to face. Not because we feel obligated, but because we are actually drawn to each other, both by what we experience through our online interactions and by our history of being with each other (even if it's been short, brief, etc.). We want to get together and we make plans to that effect, even if it's months (or sometimes more) between visits.

These interactions take place throughout the day or week in short, but relatively consistent bursts. 

And now...drum roll, please...the spiritual analogy: 

When we intersperse our day with Scripture, prayers, praises, thanksgiving, worship music, and keep a constant (albeit constantly interrupted) awareness of God, it helps us maintain and grow our relationship with Him. It also makes us desire Him more. It motivates us to set aside time alone with Him, which should be what we most look forward to. We may not make it happen every day (Lord knows I don't, though I wish I did), but by "practicing the presence of God" (see book by the same name), we are nourishing our spirits and the longing we have to be intimate with our Creator, Savior, and Lord.

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