How to Begin

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“Begin with the end in mind.”  —Stephen R. Covey
After you begin and before you reach the end, when things become difficult or discouraging, try to remember why you started in the first place.


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Wisdom Wednesday: Making Plans


How we win. How we fight.

“We have to remember the real enemy…”

Anna Spindler Writes

This week has been heavy, friends. It started with my NPR app sending me horrifying texts in the middle of the night Sunday and grew as the death toll rose and our sense of safety was again rocked.

It continued with immediate culture wars. Fingers pointing. Angry words. Emotions preyed upon for political gains (all parties).

Guys. People have lost their lives.

I’ll never forget September 15, 1999. It was the night a crazed gun man waltzed into my friends’ church and killed 7 people, injuring 7 more. It was before we all had the internet or cell phones. I didn’t even have cable. I raced home to call my parents, “are they ok?” frantic into the phone.

“I saw Walter on tv, he’s ok.”

Even though my friends were ok, I spent the next few days walking around my Northern Iowa college campus in a haze that no…

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Pain has a way of getting our attention, doesn’t it? Whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain, it has a way of grabbing us by the whatever hurts and reminding us of something… or someone.

“You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.” —Unknown

The same can be true of a physical wound. You may not want to look at it, but that doesn’t stop it from hurting. I tried to ignore an injury yesterday. I couldn’t see it, because I had extrication gloves on. I had accidentally smooshed my hand between the hydraulic cutter and the passenger side seat during a practical fire class on vehicle extrication. It ached, but I finished what I had started. Part of me didn’t want to take my glove off and look at it, but I did, so I could assess the damages. It seemed to be simply bruised, so I iced it with some nearby snow. It’s still a little sore today, but the bruising is barely noticeable now.

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” —C.S. Lewis

While I think it’s true that God sometimes allows pain to come into our lives in order to get our attention, I have experienced times when I believe He has ‘whispered’ or ‘spoken’ in my pain to comfort and console me, especially when the pain was caused by something or someone beyond my control. I am grateful for the pain I experienced from the extrication training, because it serves as a reminder to be fully aware during rescue operations. It would cause me greater pain if I caused someone else to be injured, especially if it was avoidable.

A couple of other minor injuries have also gotten my attention recently. I’m not accident prone… usually. Earlier this week, I fell on the ice and bruised my elbow while ice skating with my granddaughter and trying to demonstrate to one of her little friends that I could, indeed, twirl like she could. We don’t realize how much we use something until we injure it or lose it, but you know what grabbed my attention more than the smooshed hand and bruised elbow? A tiny crack in my index finger! Every time I accidentally touched it, it felt like a needle being shoved inside! I know, I know, “then don’t touch it”, right?

Whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain, sometimes that’s easier said than done.


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When and How to Help a Woman

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“It shouldn’t be about societal rules, but about love,” my daughter remarked during a recent discussion. She had just spent a week overseas and was talking about how the young men treated her as compared to how some American guys have treated her and other girls especially within church and homeschool circles. In social groups that put a lot of emphasis on living according to rules, many boys and men seem to insist on taking on a task or helping a girl because it’s what they were taught about being a man or a gentleman. It’s not so much about loving or caring about the person as it is about “doing what’s right” and feeling like a man.

There’s a quote or meme going around that says, “A real woman can do it all by herself, but a real man won’t let her.”

What?! Seriously?

I was recently talking with a couple of friends who are having trouble in their marriages. Although younger than I, one man had an older generation mentality of men being in control and making all the decisions. He had been taught that having wide shoulders and handling everything was the way to love his wife. I admire him for wanting to take care of her, but I tried to help him realize that although we women do want someone who will take care of us, we also want a life partner and to be valued as a partner. There was more, but that’s for a different blog post.

After yesterday’s practical fire class on ventilation and skills training, I thought more about what my daughter had said. Because I am small at only 5’1” tall, I have quite a few limitations when it comes to being a firefighter, but there are things I must try to do as part of the class, and some of those things I have to do by myself. During those times, I am grateful for my classmates’ and instructors’ encouragement and cheering me on. I am also grateful for their help when we work together as a crew, as well as when they ask if I’ve “got it” before they rush in to help.

A real woman can do it by herself, and a real man will let her if she wants to.

So when do you help a woman?

When she asks.

When she’s in danger.

When she’s tired or not feeling well.

When she doesn’t ask, but you know her well enough to know she needs and wants help.

How should you help a woman?

That depends. That, too, is for another blog post, but the bottom line is to do it out of a heart that loves and cares, and know her well enough to know how she wants to be helped.

(Shout out to my friend and firefighter brother, Nick, who helped me with setting up and shooting the photo. I was going to try to do it alone, but I’m so glad I asked for help, because trying to execute a self-portrait using the camera’s timer was really unrealistic, and although I probably could’ve gotten the 24’ ladder off of Engine 2, it would have been really difficult and potentially dangerous. Thank you, Nick!)


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“Lo, hearkening than sacrifice is better; to give attention than fat of rams.” —1 Samuel 15:22b YLT

Blinded to See

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Ok, I know this isn’t a new concept, but a recent firefighter training exercise during one of my Fire 1&2 classes helped me realize how much I didn’t know about something I thought I knew.  I already knew, as I’m sure most of you know, that when one of our senses is taken away or limited, we rely on other senses to compensate, but what I didn’t realize was how much I rely on my sight and that I didn’t know my equipment as well as I thought I did.  Relying on or focusing on one thing more than others can cause us to miss things in so many areas of our lives, from knowing our equipment, having good leadership skills, to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

So what was the training exercise?  In a nutshell, we had to simulate replacing our air cylinder under no visibility conditions by being blindfolded with all our gear on.  Although performing that task while being blindfolded can be challenging, what made it even more challenging was having to do it wearing thick fire gloves.  Not only was our sight removed, but our sense of touch was also hindered.

As I thought about the various ways the lesson could be applied, I was reminded of a TV show I’d seen a few times years ago called Dating in the Dark.  It was a reality show in which three men and three women entered a pitch black room, sat at a table, and tried to get to know each other quickly.  After the brief group meeting, each contestant could invite another contestant to have a one-on-one date, again in a completely dark room.  What was interesting was how each person reacted when they were finally allowed to see the one they’d chosen.  Some were ecstatic to find they had chosen an extremely attractive person, while others sometimes looked like they wanted to vomit when their date’s physical form was unveiled, even if they loved that person’s personality and other characteristics such as voice, laugh, or touch.  I know physical attraction can be a huge factor in having an intimate relationship, but it was sad to watch people being rejected because of the superficial focus.  That actually goes both ways; seeing only a person’s attractiveness can cause us to miss both great and ugly character qualities, or it can cause a person to feel like mere ‘arm candy’.

Just as knowing our equipment is important, good leaders know those they lead.  When leaders focus primarily on only one or two things, they miss the big picture, and their leadership and team suffer.  Good leaders are like good incident commanders, knowing the strengths and limitations of their crew, positioning themselves at a good vantage point to get a good overall view, having good communication skills, and being able to multi-task and delegate to get the job done efficiently.  Good leaders are able to lead, because they can see who and where they are leading.  Bad leaders think they see and know everything, but they are like the blind leading the blind.  Jesus called the religious leaders of His time “blind guides”, because they focused so much on trying to be right with God by following certain rules or having certain beliefs, and trying to be respected and praised by striving to be seen and praised for their good deeds and knowledge, that they missed the most important things… humility, mercy and love.

I don’t claim to see and know everything.  I know I have blind spots, too, but I’m learning and trying to see and understand things more clearly and am grateful for lessons and training exercises that help reveal my weaknesses.

Caught By Grace and Love

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When I saw this fallen apple caught by the bough of an evergreen tree, it reminded me of how the grace and love of Jesus catch me when I fall.


No Lamb Cuddles

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This past weekend, I was able to gain firsthand experience of one of Jesus’ parables. A friend’s parents own a sheep farm, and while visiting him and his wife with another friend, he asked if I would like to see the lambs and possibly get a cuddle.

Umm, yes, please!

While giving a tour of the sheep farm, he explained that we would be going to a field where 1-year lambs were grazing with rams, rather than visiting the field where lambs were with the ewes, because the ewes can become feisty, while the rams remain chill. It reminded me of the difference between some mothers and fathers— mothers tend to be more protective and careful, while fathers tend to be more relaxed when it comes to their children.

As we drew near to the sheep, although they were mildly curious, they did not recognize our voices, so they would not come near, and some even moved further away. No matter how sweetly we spoke to the sheep and tried to convince them to come near, there were no lamb cuddles for us that day. My friend said that if his mother, their shepherdess, was with us, they would have come running as soon as they heard her.

Jesus’ parable, directed toward the Pharisees, stated that His sheep follow Him because they recognize His voice, but will never follow a stranger and will even run away, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice. The point Jesus was making to the religious leaders, who were considered by most Jews to be closest to God, was they were not recognizing Him as being from God, because they were not His sheep and even accused Him of being a demon possessed sinner. Instead of recognizing God’s voice and following Jesus as the Good Shepherd, they refused to follow Him and were even trying to kill Him and steal His sheep by trying to convince people to believe and follow them! I have come across people who are so done with religion and traditional church, myself included, but still believe in God. Could it be that we are running away, because we realize some of the voices don’t really sound like Jesus’?


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Love in the Garden

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Although I’ve never read a romance novel, the Song of Solomon in the Bible gets pretty risqué when you understand the symbolism, and I can only imagine it is kind of like a romance novel.  Who ever said God is a prude?


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Wisdom Wednesday: Dance to the Rhythm

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Have you ever really, really looked forward to something only to have things change and cause your heart to sink? Seems like I’ve been experiencing a greater share of disappointments lately. I thought I was already pretty flexible and spontaneous, but with encountering so many changes in plans, I can’t help but realize God’s hand at work, teaching me to become more adaptive and able to roll with the punches.

If the rhythm of the drum beat changes, the dance step must adapt.” —African proverb

“The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.” —Zen proverb

Sometimes we become angry when something upsets our plans. The apostle James explained that we become angry and fight because we aren’t getting what we want. (James 4:1-3)

“Flexible people don’t get bent out of shape.” —Unknown

“Satisfied desire is sweet to a person; therefore, it is hateful and exceedingly offensive to fools to give up evil [upon which they have set their hearts].” —Proverbs 13:19 TAB

Sometimes even if we don’t realize it right away, a change in plans can actually work out better in some way, or at least in the long run. One example involved two events scheduled for the same day. I had planned on attending a “Blessing of the Bikes” with a friend, and had to change plans when a zip lining birthday celebration for my mother-in-law was scheduled for the same day. Because the zip lining event was originally scheduled for early afternoon, I felt free to take on partial duty coverage for one of my firefighter brothers. I agreed to cover from the night before up to a certain hour the next morning. The night before the zip lining event, I was informed that the reservation was for one hour after my duty would end, giving me no time to shower and travel to the destination. Then it was changed to the very hour my shift would end. Fortunately, my daughter was able to take my reservation. I also thought that since I could no longer participate, I could possibly go on the “Blessing of the Bikes” ride after all! The possibility did, indeed, exist, until it was decided that they would be departing half an hour before my shift ended. At least I was able to have breakfast with them! Things worked out well in the end. My daughter was able to take my place and go zip lining and celebrate with her Nana, and I was able to do driver trainer on one of the fire apparatus for the first time.

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” —Proverbs 13:12 KJV

Another reason to be flexible, spontaneous, and able to adapt is because of love. I was talking to a former firefighter recently, and he related a time when he had come home late at night from a structure fire in -40° weather. He and his gear were frozen, and as he was thawing in the kitchen, his wife (at the time) complained that he was dripping all over the floor. Although it’s very likely as a firefighter’s wife, she had already faced many changes in plans and disappointments, to react in such a way to a frozen hero was… cold. Martin Luther said, “Faith, like light, should always be simple and unbending; while love, like warmth, should beam forth on every side, and bend to every necessity of our brethren.”

“Yielding flexibility is a virtue of an ever-expanding heart.” —Molly Friedenfeld, author


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Wisdom Wednesday: Put Your Heart Into Caring

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It has been a while since I have posted a Wisdom Wednesday, but now that my EMT classes are over, and because I have a good friend who encourages and motivates me, I decided to post one today.  Thank you, Randell!

Have you ever been caught by surprise and left wondering, “How did that just happen?!”

While looking over proverbs that I had noted months ago, Proverbs 27:23 jumped out at me— “Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds.” That’s only part of the entire proverb, but it stood out to me for a few personal reasons, and I realized how multi-faceted it is. It’s not just about flocks and herds, being a farmer, or finances; it’s about stewardship, leadership, and relationships. Good shepherds know their sheep, good leaders know their people, and good relationships are kept intact when we know and love each other in the way we each need to feel loved. If we neglect to “know the face of our flocks” or “put our heart into caring”, as the literal Hebrew implies, we may find ourselves caught by surprise when something or someone slips away.

“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” —George Lorimer

“For willful waste makes woeful want, and I may live to say, ‘Oh! How I wish I had the bread that once I threw away!’” —Unknown

“When you’re dying of thirst it’s too late to think about digging a well.” —Japanese Proverb

“He who would enjoy the fruit must not spoil the blossoms.” —Gaelic proverb

“When men say [“Oh, I’ve loaded my shotgun”], ‘cause I know when men say that, they’re trying to pretend they have taken their position of leadership. You don’t need to load your shotgun, you need to love your daughter. You need to know your daughter. You need to pray with your daughter. You need to invest in your daughter, ‘cause the main thing is not to blow his head off, but to keep her heart.” —Mark Driscoll, pastor in Honor Your Father and Mother

“Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation.” —Proverbs 27:23, 24 NLT

“Effective leaders are engaged in the lives of the people they are leading and are constantly seeking to understand how they can create an environment in which people succeed.” —Nathan Mellor, president of Strata Leadership, LLC

“He who wants to travel far takes care of his beast.” —French proverb


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