Sunday, March 31, 2013

Broken - Five Minute Friday

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is "Broken." I wasn't ready for it Friday. Not on Good Friday, the day of all the year when I am most swept away by the spiritual. Not on the day when my attention is continually drawn to events that changed the world a couple of thousand years ago, events we commemorate during this season. I wasn't ready Saturday, the day when it feels as if the world held its breath: the Son of God was dead and buried; what could possibly happen next? I wasn't ready until after Sunday's sunrise service, when we celebrated the empty tomb, when the outrush of breath and inrush of incredulous joy reminded me yet again of the miracle of Easter, of life after death, of eternity mine. Then, after letting the rejoicing ring in my heart until the last lingering note faded, after  spending time in community and family (and celebrating my coincidental birthday a bit), THEN I was ready. Now, here it is - my writing on the topic, "Broken."

* * *

We are told that we live in a broken world. Preachers, politicians, and activists tell us so, and they all have ways for us to fix it. But what does it mean to say our world is broken?

For me, it means I live in two states of being at all times. I was created to be in fellowship with a loving Creator. He loves me as I am and He sees me as lovable, whole, and beautiful. However, not everyone in my world sees me as He does, and I often don't, either. It's as if my lenses are broken, fracturing my vision.

If I focus on Him, pay attention to what I understand about His love for this world and everyone in it, then I see things as hopeful and alive. But if I move my eyes just a little, even just a blink, I might all at once looking through a crack in my broken lenses, distorting and making everything seem impossible and ugly. One little eyeblink, and I move from feeling whole to feeling broken.

It's like standing with a foot on either side of a stream. If I were on one side, it would look a certain way, but from the other side, the light would be different, so the water and the bank and the trees would all look different. But I'm not on either side, I'm on both, and the bridge, the way from one side to the other, is broken. I don't have strength to push myself away from either bank to commit to the other. I'm stuck, looking through broken lenses, and I feel as if I might break.

I guess that's where Jesus comes in. He lived a human life, too, in a fallen world. Surely He felt the tug of war that brokenness engenders. But since He lived a perfect life in spite of the brokenness, wholeness won. He offers to be the bridge that connects the broken parts of my life, condemned and forgiven, body and spirit, fear and faith. He places Himself between my two states of being and lets me be the one He made me to be.

Loved, whole, beautiful. I am, you are, the world is. If only we can remember to look through the right part of the lenses, we'll see things aren't broken after all.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Am A Woman

Today is an I Am A Woman sort of day. I guess I realized it when my daughter (9) and a girlfriend (15) started planning to get together for a visit. The friend lives an hour away so at least two parents (40-something and 50-something) are now involved in this adventure. I was all fine and ready to go for it until they decided on a location:

A. Mall.

Now, if You Are A Woman, there’s a chance you might think this would be a fun outing. You’d be figuring out whatever women like you figure out when you’re getting ready for such an expedition. Me, I Am A (different sort of) Woman.

I hate to shop. I told my sons, back when sons were all I had (no daughter), that I’d rather have strep throat than go shopping, and I jolly well meant it. I’d had strep throat fairly recently before that remark was made, and I knew what kind of pain I was talking about. WAAAAY better than shopping.

So today when things headed south, so to speak, I was desolate. I tried to think of things, terrible things, that might be worse than shopping. Cleaning out a sewer. Nope. Mucking out a stall. Nope. Picking up trash on the roadside. Nope. My son (13) tried a few suggestions having to do with personal injury or danger. Nope. I really couldn’t think of anything I could do voluntarily that I would like less than shopping.

And my daughter wants to go meet a friend at A. Mall.

Of course I had to get inside my head and fix it. What could I do at this mall that would be worthwhile? I’m usually more into being than doing, but at a mall I need a purpose. Well, there’s the wedding to shop for. I still need shoes. I checked the mall directory. Yeah, they have shoe stores. Great. I mean, Oh, yes! They have shoe stores! Fantastic! And they have some reasonably priced dress stores so we can look at dresses for my daughter as well! This is going to work after all.

The greatest help, though, came from someone else Who Is A Woman, and a fabulous one – the bride at the pending wedding, my future daughter-in-law. I told her I was having an emotional crisis. She knows about me and shopping. She got me talking about the dress for my daughter and gave me some confidence that I actually, truly could find and purchase a reasonable dress for a reasonable price at A. Mall. She’s great at talking me off ledges – but that’s not all.

Not only did she calm me down, but an hour later she was shopping and she called me. She’d found a dress that might work for my daughter for the wedding or rehearsal. Could she buy it, at least on trial? I want to mention here that this young woman has been with me when I’ve purchased several important dresses, and she always finds the best prices and the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever worn. Yes, if you must know, she even found the dress I’m wearing in the wedding – otherwise I’d be looking for shoes and a dress for me at A. Mall.

I got through that crisis, then, and a short time later I went to an awards banquet for my middle school son (the 13). I enjoyed putting on clothes that made me feel pretty. I liked how I looked in the mirror. I was confident and poised when I went out of the house and I still had it together when I went into the meeting. I Am A Woman, I thought, and a darn good one, and I like being here with other people.

I haven’t always felt this way, you know. Until two years ago, I was rarely confident,  poised, or pretty. I hid my talents, my body, my personality. I was shy and embarrassed and afraid of exposure. Thanks to divine intervention in a big way, all that has changed, and today was a day when I could celebrate being Me, upper case.

Then I saw me, lower case.  She was a middle school Girl Almost Woman. She had gorgeous, long, thick, curly hair; gracefully curved eyebrows; a full, feminine figure. And she was up in front to receive her award and her eyes didn’t know where to look and her face was placid but far from calm. She looked ready to dart from her place as soon as someone would open the cage of public attention and show her a back way out. But she stayed, lovely and graceful in her printed dress and wedge sandals. She stayed and she waited it out and she lasted without a single wayward oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-believe-I-did-that. She was serene in her victory – at least I considered her so.

I Am A Woman, I thought, and so is she. A young one she is, but a darn good one, and I want to be sure she knows so. I went out of my way as I left so I could lean over, give her a hug, and tell her how beautiful and elegant she looked this evening. She smiled and thanked me.

I hope she hears words like mine often.  If she doesn’t, I hope my words will take root in her heart and give her strength and confidence as she faces a world that may or may not appreciate her, may or may not understand her, may or may not call her beautiful.

It’s a funny thing about women. We need to know we’re beautiful to be strong. We need to spend time with friends who like being with us. We need to shop for shoes and special clothes at A. Mall. We need to hear encouragement from friends. We need to know someone believes in us. We’re beautiful, all of us, because God made us so, but we forget that truth much too easily.

Just now, in this moment, I am strong. I am beautiful. I Am A Woman, and I am glad.

* * * * *

This was fun! I wrote today for a new weekly challenge: Just Write - The Extraordinary Ordinary. As the title indicates, this one encourages folks to write - just write - and share. I don't know if I'll be able to do this one weekly, but I'm glad to have done it once.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Remember - Five Minute Friday

It's Friday again, time to get my prompt from Lisa Jo Baker and her Five Minute Friday challenge. She posts a word just after midnight Eastern time and a whole bunch of us write in response for five minutes.  We're supposed to write freely, without editing, backtracking, or overthinking. This week's prompt was "Remember," so I did!

Sometimes I have a moment that I know I must remember.

Two years ago, I sat on a front porch step in the middle of the night, looking at the moon. I saw a cloud pass in front of the moon, but the moon was still visible, still shining, and the ambient light barely changed.


I needed to remember that I could choose to look at the cloud or choose to look at the moon. I could choose to focus on darkness or on on light.

I needed to remember that darkness cannot overcome light, but light can overcome darkness. I'm not talking about just spiritual stuff here. This is physics. Light is. It goes and goes. It can't be erased or stopped. It can be bent and redirected and focused and diverted, but it is not overcome. You can't stuff it into a too-small box and deprive it of air        and expect it to stop being what it is.

I needed to remember that there would be clouds in my life, but I could choose to see beyond them.

I needed to remember that full moon making a black world silver-white and remember to look for joy to light my nights and days.

So it's two years later now, and sure enough, clouds have come and gone and come again, in different ways at different times. Weather changes, clouds move, life goes on. Just now, right at this moment, it's feeling pretty overcast here. But I won't give up.

I remember.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rest - Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday. Go.

I've been so busy today I haven't stopped even to think about writing about rest.


Usually I think while I'm being busy. What happened?

It seems that when I feel too busy I stop thinking about rest because instead I'm thinking about what else I need to be busy doing. My thoughts are agitated - just like clothes in the washer, turning and churning, going nowhere - but my thoughts don't improve during this cycle. They don't get cleaner or brighter or more colorful. Instead they tend to spin me dry. Sometimes it feels more like they're being washed by hand, my head banging against a rock or bumping along a washboard. Still, they don't look any better after the full treatment, and neither do I. And the rest I need, basking in the light and warmth of God's peace, is no nearer when my thoughts are twisted around one another, wrung out and piled up, waiting for whatever comes next.

Lord, help me to rest. It's after midnight! Why do I keep pressing when I've been exhausted three times already today, barely able to keep moving? Will You please take these messy thoughts, my mental dirty laundry? Will You spot treat or soak or whatever they need so that when You hang them to dry I'll see order and light again? Oh, Father, how many times You have done my laundry when I haven't asked. Thank you for making me aware today that I need to ask, and thank you for letting me rest while You do the work I cannot do.


Unwind, unwind, unwind. I'm going to take it on faith that my prayer will be answered, and that will be rest indeed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Can We Ever Sacrifice?

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
-       Jim Elliot

I’m thinking about sacrifice today along with Ann Voscamp and others in her community over on her page.

I am thinking about sacrifice, and this sentence comes to mind.“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” It was written, of course, by a man whose very life was taken as he served others in selfless love.

And I’m thinking about what sacrifice really means.

You see, if I lay down everything for love,

I gain


I give up what has value to me, but in return I gain what has true and lasting value beyond my dreams.

Is it sacrifice for a mother to stay home with her children, give up career and haircuts and new clothes and shiny cars and dinners out, so that she can see new human beings grow and become faithful followers of Christ?

Is it sacrifice to stay in a marriage that is difficult, give up the storybook ideals and fairy tale expectations and wait for joy through gritted teeth, if the result is learning how to love more perfectly?

Is it sacrifice to risk judgment by opening my heart and baring my soul if by so doing I find a community with shared need and shared blessing?

Everything we can possibly give up is less than we owe, and for every single thing we give up in this physical realm He blesses us in the spiritual, here and now and also eternally.

As a follower of Christ,

is it possible to sacrifice?

I don’t have an answer. I’m still working on this. I know He sacrificed for us, because He gave up heaven and perfect communion to suffer at our hands and endure a tortured death that He did not have to die. In so doing, though, He gained a body for Himself, an eternal communion with the faithful who would accept the gift of His life.

So what is sacrifice?

I guess


it’s giving up what comes easily

or doing something we don’t have to do

and acting that way

for others.

* * *

I need to rest here a while. I’d love to hear your insights on this. Please comment or send me a note at

Be blessed.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I just found out I have an article published on! It's titled "How to Get Your Kid Into a Service Academy." (I had a different title, but it's their website.) is a support website for active and retired military personnel and their families. My article is in a section for spouses, and it's about parenting a service academy hopeful. You can go over to their site and see it all fancy, edited a bit, with pictures and everything, or you can read my original here - or you can do both. I've been saving it so they could publish first. So here it is!


You Want to Go Where? Tips on Parenting a Future Service Academy Candidate

He was eleven when he decided. He saw the place once and said, "Mom, this is where I want to go to college."

I smiled. This was my firstborn, and I was sure that eleven-year-old boys had no idea where they wanted to go to college. I was used to his intentions to be a superhero, or, more reasonably, a professional baseball player and NASCAR driver. Sure, he wanted to be in the Army, but West Point? I smiled sagely and said, "All right." I held my tongue while my brain rolled out questions and doubts and projections. I made no comment about the facts that he didn't like school and this was one of the hardest schools in the country and he'd have to impress a Congressman and a whole panel of generals to get in. Just, "All right." That was enough for an eleven-year-old boy's dreams to grow on.

Have you heard similar comments from out of the blue? With no prior experience, have you been assigned the position of Parent of a Military Academy Candidate? I'm here to tell you it's possible to complete that mission. Here are some tips for getting started.

First of all, never tell a child he can't aim for a dream. Yes, the service academies have high standards for academics, athletics, and leadership. Students who get turned down there get scooped up gleefully by other schools who are thrilled to have such over-qualified applicants. So even if your candidate doesn't get in at one of the federally sponsored academies, his preparation to get there will put him in good stead for pursuing the next dream at a senior military college, through ROTC, or even (gasp!) in a civilian career.

Second, remember that this is not your dream; it's his. You aren't the one who gets up in the morning, looks in the mirror, then puts on his shoes (or boots) and marches through his day. I know your heart follows all those things, but it is not your face in his mirror. You aren't the one lying awake at night planning, resolving and assessing; you aren't the one running the miles (and miles), doing the pushups, leading the teams, passing the tests, etc., etc., etc. There's a lot to do as a candidate for a military academy, and you don't do any of it. You may support, encourage, and advise, but you are not the one being trained to lead troops into war or to negotiate peace. You can not do this for your child. Breathe, pray, wait, and watch him grow.

Third, let's talk about those high standards - and not worry about them. Every service academy hopeful is evaluated on the basis of academic performance (grades and test scores), physical fitness (sports, medical checkups and a fitness test), and leadership. Leadership is a broad category. Scouts, church, volunteering, employment, sports - all of these provide opportunities to develop leadership skills and all of these can be brought to the attention of the admission board to fill out a candidate's resume. The point is that academies are looking for well-rounded individuals. There's no need to stress about performance in one specific area. If your child doesn't have a 4.0 and didn't take Honors Everything and didn't ace the SAT, that does NOT destroy the chances of getting in to an academy. Do NOT pressure her with, "If you want to get into the Academy, you'd better . . . ." Instead, encourage her with positive affirmation when she's working hard; celebrate with her when she achieves her intermediate goals; remind her that you're proud of her and her hard work all along the way.

That's worth saying again in closing: Tell that kid you are proud of him. Some parents have trouble with this. When the big goal is a service academy appointment it is tempting to think we need to coach, remind, prod, push, nag him to keep him on track. Stop it. You are not going to be in the barracks to coach, remind, prod, etc., so you may as well not form that habit now. Let yourself off the hook on that one; it's a nasty hook anyway. Instead, be sure you tell that young person who's doing everything in his power 24/7/365 to reach for the stars that even if he pulls down a fist full of stardust and has to start over from scratch YOU ARE AND WILL BE PROUD OF HIM.

I guess that's enough to digest for today. Watching your child grow up is not easy, and imagining your child as a military academy cadet may make it harder. Letting him dream, letting her strive, and letting yourself off the hook are critical to completing the mission with minimal collateral damage.


Debbie Roszel is the co-author with Lisa Joiner of The Mom's Guide to Surviving West Point ( She's the mother of a soon-to-be 2LT as well as four other amazing children. She blogs about the joys of life in and out of the military at

Friday, March 8, 2013

Home - Five Minute Friday

Home is the place
where there is no space
between where I am
and where I want to be.

Home is the source
of strength in the course
of days without air -
it’s where I can breathe free.

Home is the light
that keeps me alive,
a lamp for my feet
as I travel to me.

Home is a friend
who loves with no end,
a safe place to grow,
to wonder, and to see.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ordinary - Five Minute Friday

Ordinary. Brushing teeth, taking a shower, making lunch. Everyday things.

I cherish ordinary moments. My life is made of moments - I realized that long ago - and I don't wish to waste any of them. So to the best of my ability I pay attention to them. I pay attention now, not later, looking back wishing the moments had been different. I pay attention to the beauty in the ordinary things of life, pay attention to the joy of being, pay attention to my companions on this incredible once-in-a-lifetime journey.

I'm not a picture-taker, though. Pictures of ordinary aren't really that much to look at. Living the ordinary, though? That's an adventure. Talking about conflicting theologies while making Greek salad. Watching a child figure out how to tie shoelaces. Seeing how many birds can sit on the feeder. Listening to a loved one's breathing at rest.


I, for one, would be lost without it.