Category Archives: Life

Not A Model Prisoner

Many years ago, my husband, Dave, and I went on a road trip. We stopped in a small town to get gas and use the restrooms.

The door to the woman’s bathroom didn’t shut all the way, so I slammed it shut (didn’t want someone to walk in on me). Afterward, I tried to leave, but the door was stuck. No amount of pushing made it budge.

I called out for help and a few minutes later the gas station attendant said, “Slip five dollars under the door and I’ll let you out.”

I was already furious for being locked in a bathroom, but that comment set me off. I don’t remember what I said, but it for sure wasn’t kind. Dave told the attendant to let me out or he would tear the door off its hinges. The attendant tried, but to no avail. Dave took a screwdriver out of our car and managed to pry it open. I exploded out of that room so fast, both Dave and the attendant had to scramble backward or risk being punched or run over. I think my glare at the attendant was severe enough for him to feel Death blow its cold breath on his neck. At least that’s what his shocked and suddenly pale face told me.

We were going to stop to eat in that small town, but I was so pissed that I didn’t want even to eat there. I told Dave to drive as fast as he could to get me as far away as soon as possible.

I learned an interesting fact about myself that day: I don’t like being forced to stay somewhere, however temporary.

That sensation appeared again after my son, Tom was born. Since I had a C-section, the hospital required I that stay for three days. We had a lovely, large room with a comfortable bed, but after less than a day, I begged every doctor and nurse that entered my room to let me go home. After another 24 hours, they finally let me go. I think they got tired of me asking.

I would never make a good prisoner. Sure, I sometimes don’t leave my house for days and it’s not an issue. That’s because I choose to stay. Tell me I can’t leave, and I get a bit cranky (to put it mildly).

That’s why enduring all these new rules (even if they are temporary) is so difficult for me. I’m still being imprisoned against my will.

One thing’s for sure. No one has to worry about me committing a crime that may result in jail or prison. I wouldn’t survive long in either.

Who Are You?

In good times, it’s easy to put on a mask, and present ourselves as someone we think people prefer to see. We want to look like we’re all together, happy and content. Part of it is not wanting to burden others–to be a “wet blanket” to use a cliche. The biggest reason, however, is pride. We want to show the world we’re better than we are; no one likes to admit their shortfalls, mistakes, and weaknesses.

That “perfect” mask we’ve created we also keep on for ourselves. I’ve said countless times that we humans are experts at deceiving ourselves.

When troubled times hit, however, that mask falls away, and we can no longer hide from the real face in the mirror.

I saw a meme a few days ago that said, “I guess God got so mad about all of our fighting down here that he sent us all to our rooms.”

Funny, but true in a way as well. When parents send children to their room for misbehaving, it’s in the hope they’ll take that time to contemplate what they did wrong, and how they can do better next time.

I, for one, got a glimpse of who I am with regard to facing troubles not of my making, and one with which I have no immediate solution. Like so many others, I am at the mercy of my own government telling me what I can and cannot do, where I can and cannot go, and with whom I am allowed and not allowed to spend my time.

The rebel in me had a two-week long temper tantrum (as everyone who’s been reading these posts as well as my Twitter and/or Facebook feeds can attest).

With my mask now shattered at my feet, I must face the awful truth in that I’ve yet to take my own advice.

When stripped of all pretense and deception, who I am is a spoiled, angry hypocrite.

Nor am I unique. I keep thinking of the Israelites when God rescued them out of Egypt in Exodus. Talk about complainers! It seemed that no matter how well God took care of their needs, it was never enough. One of my favorite passages was when the Israelites reached the Red Sea, and they saw the Egyptians marching after them. They screamed at Moses that they were better off as slaves in Egypt, because at least there they wouldn’t be massacred.

I don’t think they feared the Egyptians so much as the unknown. At least as slaves, they knew what their future held. Heading toward an unknown wilderness–even freely–can be a terrifying idea.

We are in a similar (if figurative) unknown wilderness now. We can’t help but ask, “When will this end? Will I have a job when it’s all said and done, and even if I do, how do I feed my family and pay all my bills in the meantime?”

Many have said we need not fear, and that we should trust God, and pray unceasingly. Moses said as much in Exodus 14:13-14 (ESV): “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

I love God’s response (vs 15): ”Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.” He then went on to part the Red Sea and deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians.

We should absolutely continue to pray and trust God without qualification, yet at the same time we need to listen. He might also be asking us to “go forward.”

Regardless of what our government is doing (whether rightly or wrongly is a different discussion), we are not completely helpless or without means or resources. We may have to drop our masks in front of others and ask for help, while at the same time look for ways we can help those with even fewer resources.

Listen

Anyone who’s read my posts here and on Facebook over the last few days knows I’ve been going back and forth between sarcasm and humor, frustration and sadness. Some might have been a little irritated with all that back and forth, and for that I apologize.

The main reason is I lost a bit of hope. Everything seems to have fallen apart all at once. Businesses have closed and canceled events. People are unwilling to meet even the smallest of gatherings. My own company is effectively shut down because of state mandates, fear of infection, and lack of work. I have the option to take vacation and/or sick pay, but I told my boss I won’t take any. It doesn’t seem right to get paid when the company isn’t receiving any income to cover it. I’m still technically employed (I come in only when there’s work to do, and as of now I have maybe four hour’s worth on Monday), but for how long? Even though my husband and I have a decent nest egg that will keep us afloat for at least three months, I hate the idea of not working.

All in all, it’s the uncertainty of it all I can’t tolerate.

Worse, God has been silent.

Does that mean I believe he’s abandoned me?

No. Although it’s taken about two weeks, I now understand the reason for his silence.

My mom once told me a story of when she was a child. They went to a store and my mom saw a bag of beads. She begged Grandma to buy them for her, but she said no. My mom threw herself to the floor and proceeded to cry, kick, and scream. Instead of giving in, Grandma gently placed her foot on my mom’s chest, crossed her arms and waited for my mom to calm down.

I am that child. My life has been great, wanting for nothing. Now that I may lose my livelihood and can no longer do the things I enjoy (even if it’s not permanent), I spiritually threw myself on the floor kicking and screaming. What else could God do but gently put his foot on my chest and wait for me to calm down?

He knew I wasn’t yet ready to listen.

Perusing Facebook this morning, people have commented that they prayed for me. It must have worked, because I’m feeling much better. I’m more calm and can hear God whispering a bit louder now.

What’s he telling me? The same things I’ve been trying to say to others: to not worry, and to keep on doing good. Because nowhere does any of the scripture I’ve shared include any caveats. We do good and refrain from worry by believing in and trusting God, no matter what. Our circumstances are irrelevant to all of that.

Now some might be thinking, “At least you have something to fall back on. What about those who don’t? Do you really have cause to complain?”

Yes, and no. My complaints are not intended to minimize or shove aside those who have it harder, but to show that no matter where a person is in life (financially or otherwise), we all have stresses, concerns and insecurities. We also have an innate and undeniable sense of survival. People now are in survival mode (although it is lessening, hallelujah!), and that makes thinking of others before or at the same time as ourselves is near impossible. No one is immune to that, no matter their tax bracket.

Because I am doing better than most, and will likely have a lot of free time on my hands over the next few weeks, if you local folks need anything at all such as running errands, picking up supplies, or merely a shoulder to lean on, comment here or email me (Andra @ almarquardt.com). For those not as close, comment or email me anyway with your needs and concerns. I still might be able to make something happen for you.

Give Me a Reason

I don’t like to post scripture unless I start it with a real-world situation with which it applies (how’s that for an example of perfect sentence structure?). Part of why is because that’s what I want to see when others post scripture. Why did they think that particular passage was so important to share? How is it applicable to their life, and perhaps in turn mine, too?

Another reason is many of my readers aren’t Christians. I imagine they would roll their eyes and scroll on by without a second thought (no, that’s not a complaint; it’s an observation. I do the same when I see certain political posts).

A few days ago, I wrote a long entry about how, as a whole, people are anxious to the point of extreme stress, and that holding onto those feelings (as well as acting on them) is doing more harm than good. Two days later, and it appears I wasted my time. People are more anxious and more stressed than before. I fear no amount of scripture or real-world examples will make any difference–even amongst Christians.

I often point out that the only thing in this world I can control is me. This is true for everyone. People will do what they will do, and this world will do what it will do. I am but one person out of eight billion, so how could I even dare to believe my words will make a difference? In other words, me posting on social media has as much positive effect as Grandpa Simpson yelling at the clouds.

Yet I try, and yet I hope, because that’s who I am–optimistic to the point of idiocy.

And if you thought I would refrain from posting an applicable biblical passage or two at the end of this, boy were you wrong.

2 Chronicles 15:7 (ESV): “But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”

Galatians 6:9 (ESV, emphasis mine): “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Breathe

The headache started early yesterday afternoon. No big deal. I get them occasionally due to hormonal imbalances. Usually it’s a dull throb behind my eyes that doesn’t require medication.

Sometimes it worsens as the day goes on, and this was one of those days. Still not enough to make me get out of my chair to take some Excedrin, though. Then I watched our governor give a press conference closing all K-12 schools state-wide (public and private) for a week.

My son being twelve and my hubby self-employed, I don’t have to take time off from work to take care of him, or scramble to find either daycare or a babysitter. My heart does go out to those who do, though.

Still, my headache figuratively exploded and traveled up my skull and all the way down my neck. Even after taking two Excedrin, it refused to let go. My hormone-induced headache morphed into a tension headache. Oh, yippee.

I slept little, worrying over not so much what would happen to me or my family–or even my state as a whole other than more runs on grocery stores. I had hoped that this weekend would give people two days to calm down, reflect, and act a bit more rationally. Instead, I think people will continue to panic even more by stockpiling, cleaning out bank accounts, and pulling more money out of the stock market.

I may be wrong, and I sincerely hope I am, but never underestimate the irresistibly of survival instinct. The larger community matters little to the scared individual during those moments.

Which is why this morning I stood outside my house in one inch of snow and below-freezing temperatures to watch the sunrise (one of the benefits to hot flashes; I didn’t even shiver). Thick clouds covered the sky, but not enough to prevent all of the sun’s light from breaking through. Small birds chirped to announce the dawn, and while initially calm, a cold breeze soon wafted through, making the as yet bare trees wave at me. That I didn’t see the sun’s orange glow or the blue sky, the filtered gray light was still a reminder that regardless of what other people do, we can still count on the earth’s rotation, and the sun’s light and heat (yes, even in the winter however scant it may be) among many other constants we take for granted. For instance, we’re still in control of how to act or react to any given situation, no matter how trying.

Today (and possibly for the rest of the week), I resolve to not watch or listen to a single bit of news. I will avoid the incessant pessimism of both the news and social media in that we’re all doomed. Because we’re not. Historically we’ve weathered by far worse. We’ll get through this one, too, and hopefully we’ll march through to the other side a little bit wiser.

Some have said that it’s better to overreact to a situation than under-react. In the simplest terms, sure. The logic is still flawed, however, because those aren’t the only two options available. Maybe instead of knee-jerk overreacting, or pretending there’s no problem at all, we should stop and take time to study the facts through legitimate, scientific, and non-biased sources (which eliminates almost all news media). From there, we can rationally figure out the best course of action that doesn’t harm ourselves, others, and both the short and long term future.

While none of us can predict the future with certainty, we all have a hand in how it unfolds. As we pause, we must consider the consequences of our actions and how they will affect ourselves, our family, community, and our nation. Once we’ve formulated and pursue a logical plan of action, maybe then we can breathe a little easier. No more anxiety or fear, but with confidence and hope.

“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?… So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:27 & 34 (NLT)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 1 Timothy 1:7 (NLT, emphasis mine)

A Little Numbers Game

I wrote this back in 2006, so some of this will be a bit dated. I share it again, because I think it’s important to remember.

10,005 – 1 does not equal -10,006.

That’s an obvious statement above, but it’s something I think we all tend to forget.

I’m not talking about numbers, but negative critiques, rejections, or harsh comments.

My pastor last Sunday did a sermon on The DaVinci Code. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know exactly what happened, but this is the gist of what I heard:

After he gave his sermon, someone approached and commented at how it wasn’t appropriate to do a sermon on a fictional book.

Whether the person meant it harshly, I don’t know. But my pastor’s reaction is important. He took the comment so hard, inbetween the 8am service and the 9:30am service he kneeled before the altar and wept.

I know he had to be thinking he made a terrible mistake by preaching on that subject. I’m sure he completely forgot any positive comments people gave him. Top that off with having to do the same sermon two more times. I doubt I could have pulled it off like he did.

Why is it so easy to wrap our entire beings around one negative comment and ignore all the other 10,005 positive comments as if they never happened?

I wish I had an answer to that, because I do it all the time. It’s a grueling mental wrestling match to convince me otherwise.

So I use this entry to encourage you to ignore the comments that hurt, and embrace the ones that uplift (as well as consider the source; not everyone has your best interests at heart). I bet the positives outnumber the negatives in almost every case.

Apathy

Either I’m not getting enough Sun, my hormones are completely whacked out, or it’s a combination of both, but I’m suffering from a severe case of apathy.

I’m not sad or depressed, but I can’t seem to find a reason to care about much of anything more than what I’m required to do for work and family. I’m either in automatic or neutral, and don’t care enough to change gears even when I know I should.

I keep thinking I should be concerned, but I’m not. Mostly. Actually, I am concerned, but not enough to do anything about it.

Part of why I’m writing it down is so that maybe, just maybe doing so will push me out of this odd mood I’m in. Sometimes seeing what I’m thinking and feeling on the screen helps me to find a solution to whatever is bugging me.

Change o’ subject (sort of):

I’m thinking of changing the name of my blog again. This time to “Dear God. I Have Questions.”

Two reasons for this.

Once again, I volunteered to write several devotions for my church’s yearly Lenten devotional. Eight, actually, which is the most I’ve volunteered to write so far. In one of them I admitted I don’t love or trust God as much as I know I should. I take much of my faith for granted, and worse, when it starts to matter, I hide it away, afraid.

Many non-religious accuse religious people, Christians especially, as following blindly, never asking challenging questions. For some, that’s probably true. I’ve heard enough stories where church leaders have punished people in a variety of ways for daring to challenge their beliefs or orthodoxy.

Yet that’s far from biblical. In both the Old and New Testaments, God and Jesus encouraged questions and seemed to enjoy being challenged (as long as the questioner was genuine in wanting to learn). For example, in the Old Testament, Jacob literally wrestled with God–and would have won if God hadn’t cheated. In the New Testament, never once did Jesus condemn anyone for asking questions. Sure, he was tough on the Pharisees, but he also knew their motives; their questions were meant to trap him, not to learn.

I want to focus my blog on studying God’s word to strengthen my relationship with him, and hopefully show others that to be a Christian actually means to ask a lot of questions, to challenge our current religious thinking, and yes question what the Bible says about certain subjects we find objectionable or problematic (while at the same time knowing that my understanding of said scripture is what’s flawed, not the scripture itself).

I also hope that by increasing my time of study, it’ll kick me out of this apathetic funk.

Not Big Enough

When Dave, my husband, and I first married, he spent some time with my parents, but not enough to know their thoughts on certain issues. Keep this in mind as I share this story:

Back in the early 90s, we attended Trinidad State Junior College in Trinidad, Colorado. He majored in gunsmithing while I majored in Drafting and Civil Engineering Technology.

We had to take jobs in the summer to help pay for–everything. He repaired roofs in Denver with a friend, while I worked at the Rio Grande National Forest as a land surveyor.

We visited our parents a few weeks before our prospective jobs started. I told my mom about my new job, and she said, “Do you have a firearm?”

I said, “My Ruger .22 revolver.”

She glared at my new husband and said, “You let my daughter carry a .22?!”

I stifled a grin knowing exactly where this was headed; I also knew that Dave didn’t know my parents well enough yet to know why my mom seemed so upset. He told me later that he thought, “Great. My mother-in-law is anti-gun.”

She asked the question again, but tish louder. I’m trying not to laugh at this point. All Dave could do was stare at her (she was a tiny thing, but could be quite intimidating when she wanted to be).

Finally she jumped to her feet and said, “That’s not big enough!”

I don’t remember for certain, but I may have finally burst out laughing here.

She stomped to her bedroom, came out a few minutes later and shoved a stainless steel, Smith and Wesson Lady Smith snubbed-nose .38 revolver at me. “Now that’s big enough for my daughter!” She also told me that if I decided not to keep it, she had first dibs to buy it back.

I still have it, and although she passed away almost eight years ago now, I have no plans on selling it. It’ll always remind me of her and how quickly (and uncomfortably) my husband learned that they had more than me in common.

The Seventh Deadly Sin

In today’s society (especially this month), it’s all about pride. Pride in your skin color, your heritage, and culture. Pride in your sex, your gender (for those who consider them separate), and who you’re attracted to.

The seven deadly sins are: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride.

Why is pride on that list, especially since society expects us to celebrate every kind of pride imaginable–believing it to be a virtue?

Humans are a rebellious lot, and rebellion against God is our favorite. The first and easiest way is through hubris: in believing we know better than God. “He’s too far away to understand. He doesn’t care. Look at all the evil in the world that he does nothing about. He doesn’t exist anyway, so everything is up to us to create or destroy however we see fit.” Etc., etc.

The first sin in the Bible began with the temptation of pride: “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat [the fruit], and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5, NLT, emphasis mine)

Almost every evil deed (including our own) can be traced through a seed of pride.

Taking the spiritual out of it, there are other, worldly consequences of pride.

When people embrace pride, they lose all humility. As such, they believe they are perfect, and have nothing left to learn. They become haughty, and few people like to spend time with a “know-it-all” (I am certainly guilty of this).

They also start to see others as less than them. Less smart, less beautiful. In extreme examples, less human. Anyone who has a modicum of historical knowledge knows the consequences of dehumanizing a certain group of people.

Prideful people often see others unlike them as the enemy that must be destroyed. At the very least ignored or silenced, because how dare anyone question their beliefs or opinions?

How often have people harmed themselves or others accidentally, because they believed they could do something without taking a step back first and asking, “Can I really do this? Should I do this?”

Humility, on the other hand is acknowledging that no one is perfect, including themselves. Humble people tend to self-reflect (without being self-absorbed). They are more inclined to seek out new knowledge, new people, are less judgmental of others, and are willing to test their assumptions. Above all, they are willing to change their view and apologize for being wrong if enough facts to the contrary come to light.

Imagine what society would be like if people embraced humility instead of pride.

“Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” ~ Proverbs 11:2 (NLT)

“Do not love the world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” ~ 1 John 2:15-17 (NLT)

It’s All About The Journey

I haven’t written much lately. I could claim being too busy, but if I added up all the hours I waste on the computer or binge-watching Psych, you’d be shocked.

I also felt out of ideas, and with editing stories for Havok magazine (gohavok.com), I didn’t want to edit any of my own stories.

That’s not to say I’ve been completely unproductive. I did manage to write another short story for gohavok, but only because some days were short on submissions. There’s no guarantee it’ll be published, but if not, that’s okay. At least I wrote something.

I’ve also been bouncing a germ of a story around in my head for the last few months, and I finally started writing it today. It’s about a woman who’s imprisoned for murdering her family, and her struggle with how to prove her innocence from a prison cell, accepting that she may never get out short of death, and holding on to her sanity through it all.

Being a “pantser” writer (one who writes with no outline or character sketches, and simply wings it from start to finish), I have no idea how long this story will be. No matter. It’s the journey that excites me, not the destination.