Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Unexpected . . . Faith

I've been reading Ann Voskamp's blog for a while. Her beautiful writing compels me to. And after reading her post today, I couldn't stop thinking about the question her husband posed back to her in response to some of her questions: "So. Are we doing anything at all in our lives that requires real faith in God?"

Does that wash over you the way it did me? Did you look at your day to see if there was anything in it that required faith?

I did, and here's the mental list I initially thought of:

Going to work.
Taking care of Annie.
Having a relaxing evening at home.

Nothing out of my comfort zone, so not much faith required to get through my day. But as I pondered this, something not so obvious came to light. I had to take another look at that list and the unspoken part about it.

Going to work.
Taking care of Annie.
Having a relaxing evening at home (by myself).

Similar to Ann's son's wait for the egg to hatch, I wait. I wait on the Lord to see if He will choose to fulfill my desire to be married. And though that may seem like something I should fix on my own, I choose not to. I choose instead to wait for His provision, if that's His will for me. He made me, He sees me, and He knows me, and I believe He knows what's best for me. That's why I wait.

It's not always easy. It's not always fun. And it's not always obvious.

Kind of like faith.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Unexpected . . . the Retreat

The sign read, "Do you want God's help or God?" Count me convicted. Clearly, God intended for my retreat to start before I even arrived at the camp because that sign appeared early in the drive to Glen Rose. A simple reminder of the retreat's "Unexpected" theme.

Once I arrived, the simple reminders of God's presence were everywhere. From the beautiful, bold decorations that welcomed us to the conference room; to incredible, thought-provoking skits; to sweet worship led by Katharine Sasser; to getting to hear Jeanne Damoff's story live and be a student of her teaching; to fun games and times to connect with both new friends and old. It's a beautiful thing to see a body of believers come together and use their talents to bless one another and to put on an event that no one person could have done alone. And, that's what happened this weekend.

But, above all, it was a time to be refreshed and renewed by God Himself.

I fail to recognize how much I desperately need that until I'm actually at a retreat. I tend to file things in the "deal with this later" file in my brain, and once I get to a retreat, I finally realize that I've almost exceeded the file's limit and need to get busy processing, sorting, and turning things over. Thankfully, our retreat planners incorporate time for that kind of processing to take place at the retreat.

So that's what I did right here:

I sat down and dumped out "my ish" (a/k/a issues). And this is what came out in the process:

Thoughts of worldly things fill my head.
Thoughts I long to fill with You instead.

To let go of the things I'm holding.
To be the woman You've been molding.

Living right within Your will.
Allowing You alone to fill.

Instead of trying to make things happen.
Trying instead to be more open.

Open with my time, my gifts, my love.
Open to use what came from above.

You, O Lord, are all that I need.
Help me when I don't believe.

Give me Your wisdom and take my hand.
Lead me to acceptance of Your plan.

This life is meant to glorify You,
and I want to do that through and through.

Alyssa - 4/25/09

Thursday, April 16, 2009


It's hard for me to sum up my Colorado trip. My default mode is always chronological order, detail by detail. But just because it's easy for me to recall things that way doesn't mean that's the best way to read about it.

So I tried to think of a theme that would encapsulate the trip, and "unexpected" came to mind. Maybe this word was on my mind because it is the theme for our church's women's retreat that is coming up a week from now. Or maybe that's just a temporary theme for spring, but it fits this trip perfectly.

Unexpected Beauty
As found in the chapel at the Air Force Academy,

the Garden of the gods,

and the grounds at The Broadmoor.

Unexpected Fun
As demonstrated by the Family Improv Night at the hotel and the Safari Adventure presented at the hotel where a skunk, a porcupine, and a boa constrictor were all on display.

Unexpected Reward
After driving northward toward Denver through blowing snow, we made it to clearer weather and were able to explore Castle Rock and parts of the Mile High City.

Unexpected Costumes
During afternoon tea at The Brown Palace Hotel, these ladies caught a lot of attention, including ours. When asked what group they were with, they responded, "This is just our family."

Unexpected Snow
The weather forecasters predicted rain, but two hours after we woke up on Easter morning, the weather chose to deviate from the forecast.

Unexpected Music
From the incredible worship at Fellowship of the Rockies (which included a very talented worship leader and soprano saxophonist) to the pianist at Easter brunch to the harpist during the tea, we were entertained with wonderful music throughout the trip.

Unexpected Rest
Even amidst our sightseeing, we managed to find time to rest.

Unexpected Refreshment
The tea at The Brown Palace Hotel and the Easter brunch at The Broadmoor gave little glimpses of what banquets in Heaven must be like.

Unexpected Understanding

The best part about being with my family is being understood and being extended grace. Laughter abounded as I proclaimed one too many times about how I was going to have to tuck my pajama pants into my socks because I was so cold.

Unexpected Sacrifices
My friends went above and beyond to make my trip so smooth. From taking me to the bus station at 4:30 a.m., to providing me with muffins for the trip, to giving me a recommendation for a restaurant near the Amarillo bus station, and for picking me up at 2:15 a.m., I'm deeply indebted to my great group of friends.

May wonderful unexpected blessings come your way!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Greyhound Goes to Colorado

Being a survivor of the twenty-nine-hour bus ride to Walt Disney World as a teenager, I decided it was high time for another bus adventure. This time, a mere fifteen-hour trip to Colorado Springs for Easter would have to do.

During the first leg of the trip from Cowtown to Amarillo, I sat next to a guy who was heading to Amarillo to pick up a semi, so he slept most of the way. That gave me plenty of opportunities to watch the bus driver chew a wooden coffee stirrer. Seriously, he chewed the thing for close to six hours. The only other things competing for my attention were the various coughs from half of the passengers and the numerous smells--burning trash, a skunk that had sprayed, someone's overuse of Vick's VapoRub and hand sanitizer, and cigarette smoke lingering on passengers as they reboarded the bus at each stop. The passengers seemed very tame in comparison to those I had ridden with to Florida.

But then there was the return trip.

For whatever reason, the Amarillo bus station seems to be quite the melting pot. So during my hour layover, I watched as people lived out their stories around me.

The woman who talked to herself.

The young woman who sang and danced as if no one was watching. She wasn't afraid to tell everyone that she had been a ward of the State of Oregon when she was younger and that her brain didn't make serotonin.

But the one that seemed to capture everyone's attention was the eighteen-year-old boy who looked like he was about twelve and who made it known that he talked a lot because he was bipolar. He said his parents were deceased and that he was tired of dealing with people in New Mexico. He wanted to come to Texas to see "some shootings." Due to his apparent inability to filter the words that were coming out of his mouth, I was concerned that he was going to say some things that might draw some fire--as in gunfire--from some other people who were riding the bus.

But thankfully, a middle-aged gentleman with a Bible in one hand and a jacket in the other boarded the bus with the boy. The boy said that the gentleman went to his church and had helped him a lot. That gentleman sat next to the boy on the bus and allowed him to talk incessantly. And when the gentleman got off in Wichita Falls, he didn't get in the waiting taxi until he had given the boy some money and a hug.

Sights like that paint a picture of earthly angels. And yet, my drama-free bus trip makes me think maybe there were other such earthly angels on board who were less obvious.

Getting my luggage in Colorado (a/k/a proof that I took the bus)

So for those who were looking for a highly dramatic story, I'm thankful that I don't have one to tell. Just a simple trip filled with good times. And some unexpected surprises along the way . . .

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Before I recap the bus trip I took during my time off, I feel it's necessary to set the stage. So here's a piece I wrote a while back for my writer's group: Greyhound Goes to Disney World.

All teenagers go through phases, and during the summer of 1988, I happened to be going through my no-flying phase; I refused to fly on airplanes because of a bad flight I had endured on a previous vacation.

Unfortunately, the timing of this phase could not have come at a worse time. That summer, my family decided to take a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida; it was to be our first “real” vacation involving a stay at a hotel.

After leaving me behind on several other family vacations that involved flying, my family decided that summer that they would do whatever it took to get me to Disney World. My mom has a bit of a driving phobia, so driving to Florida was not an option. We researched taking the train and quickly concluded that was not an option because it took over three days to travel each way. The only other option was taking the bus. And so we did, not knowing how adventurous the trip would be.

My mom, sister, and I boarded the bus in our small town for our first big stop in Houston. We quickly saw that a different class of passengers awaited us. We tried to avoid the prison and mental hospital escapees who seemed to abound at the Houston bus station. They were easy to spot because they were still wearing their jumpsuits or gowns and wristbands. But, as much as we tried to avoid the weird people, I ended up sitting next to some pretty scary people. And the ones I didn’t sit next to still made their presence known.

In the middle of the night, we were awakened in Mobile, Alabama, during a driver change. The first replacement driver who stepped on the bus received an update from the outgoing driver--something about a guy who was high on drugs who had locked himself in the bathroom and would not come out during the ticket check. The replacement driver quickly disappeared. We then waited for hours for another replacement driver and for the police to arrive and drag the armed man out of the bathroom and off the bus, while we all sat in our seats. I don’t think that we slept the rest of the night because of how scared we had been.

On the way back from Disney World, the “clientele” seemed to improve, but we still did not sleep. We had an evangelist sitting behind us who preached all night to a non-English-speaking Vietnamese man. And the air conditioning vents leaked a mysterious red, sticky substance that was later determined to be Kool-Aid.

Somehow, despite all of this, the bus adventure of 1988 did not usher me out of my non-flying phase. Instead, that phase raged on for many years and outlasted my family’s desire to accommodate it. With the bus adventure of 1988 firmly imprinted in my mother’s and my sister’s memories, they couldn’t quite bring themselves to risk their lives on another vacation by bus just for me.
And here's a glimpse of what's to come:

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Time To Reflect

This evening, as I sat down to write what I wanted to write, I sensed a nudge urging me to take a break from blogging and to focus some time reflecting on the events of holy week. So have a wonderful Easter, and I'll see you back in the blogosphere next week.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Blog Tour - Sticks and Stones

A box labeled "Cards Worth Saving" sits on my shelf. A folder of emails entitled "Worth Keeping" overwhelms my email storage space. Why? Because good words are worth reading again and again.

Ace Collins knows this well. He's the author of the new book Sticks and Stones: Using Your Words as a Positive Force.

I greatly appreciated the practical examples in the book of what to say when you don't feel like you have the words, such as in a tragic situation involving a friend or a relative. The book also emphasizes the importance of writing down experiences in journals and labeling photographs because neither of these two forms of memories will require future generations to acquire an antiquated electronic device in order to review them. And throughout the book, you will find entertaining and motivating stories of how words have encouraged others over the years.

This little book provides help beyond its size with all forms of communication, so I know I'll be referring back to it often. Check it out for yourself.

To read more about Ace Collins, please check out his website. And to find out what others have to say about this helpful book, click here to see a list of bloggers participating in the tour.

[Disclosure: I received this book for free as part of the blog tour.]