Category Archives: Life

A Good Day

This blog is supposed to be about my life, my journey, specifically my writing journey. As most of you figured out quite early, my writing journey adds up to less than 25%. The other 75% focuses on religious philosophy and raving rants when life doesn’t go my way.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I’d like to do a pregnancy photo shoot with her and her husband. My response was probably more excited than it should have been. Any opportunity to see anyone other than my husband and son and my coworkers, though, that was something to be excited about, however “over-the-top.”

It didn’t matter to me that we saw no sun, endured a few scattered rain droplets and 48-degree temperatures. The only upside weather-wise was little wind. The point was being outside and doing something different with different people.

Admittedly I was a bit nervous. When it comes to photo shoots I have little experience. I only got paid once to take some family photos for a friend a few years ago. I once helped with a wedding and family reunion, but so many others also took pictures, mine didn’t shine when compared to everyone else’s (nor did I get paid; in both cases, I was helping out a family member).

All-in-all, the photos turned out pretty good this time around, although I still have some editing to do. I should have kept my eye on the settings, because a few turned out a bit blurry. But, that’s how we learn, right?

That wasn’t the end of my good day! That morning before I left for the photo shoot, I received a text from another friend asking if me and my son would like to do a one-shot D & D. Like I was going to say no?

I decided on a human monk as my character. As a monk, I not only had lethal punches, but I could punch as many as four times per turn. The last bad guy I punched in the face at least a dozen times total before I finally knocked him out. Even though I didn’t physically punch anyone, mentally I felt like I had. There was something cathartic about it.

Hey, women can have aggressive issues, too, ya know.

When my son and I returned home, I couldn’t park in the driveway, because two other cars had parked there. I didn’t care, because tell-tale smoke billowed out of our grill and engulfed my husband and two of his guests. That meant steak. Delicious, char-broiled steak. That I had already eaten supper at the D & D get together didn’t matter. There will always be room in my belly for steak. My son agreed, so we shared one.

We and our two guests sat in the garage to eat our steak and solved all the world’s problems in the next three hours.

Spending real, face-to-face time with so many others for such varied reasons is what made my day, and made it worth sharing with the rest of you.

Small Crises

I experienced a bit of a crisis earlier today that nearly drove me to literal tears. My pastor sent a church update that said in part:

Q: When will we meet face-to-face again?

A: No one knows. Montana just announced a three-phase opening. In phase one, churches can gather with no more than 10 people present. Phase two allows churches to gather with 50 or less people. Phase three has no restrictions. My sense is that it will be months before we can gather for worship face-to-face again, with a strong possibility of more seasons of isolation to come (emphasis mine).

I honestly wanted to scream after reading that. Not weeks to go back to fellowship, but months and more isolation to come?

It was then I realized not only how much I miss going to church, but how much I appreciate and need the fellowship that goes along with it.

Yes, my church posts online sermons on Sundays, and will start offering online classes. But it’s not the same. I “attended” a live online Easter service with my son, but while a good service overall, it made me sad. I doubt I can watch more. The online courses are the same way for me, so why do something that only makes me angry or sad? A part of me wonders if I should quit entirely. After all, what’s the point of attending or supporting a church that’s no longer a church except via computer screen? It’s cold and disconnected, and that’s not real worship or fellowship to me.

I was thinking on my way home today that once my church finally returns to normal, and I decide to continue to go, I will still be angry for a long time afterward. None of you need to guess as to why; I’ve made my position clear on all of this.

One could sat that God is aware of the limits we’ve been put under, so in no way do those limits limit him.

All true, and I can’t argue against it.

One could also say I’m being petulant, and I can’t argue against that, either. Yet I must also acknowledge my feelings—whether or not they’re rational or justified—before I can move past them.

Now that I’ve splattered my emotional brain vomit all over your screen, I will admit to something that happened a few minutes ago. While writing this entry, I researched the online classes available so I could mention them here. Turns out none have started yet. Instead, the link led me to a signup page with a poll asking what type of class I’d be interested in—along with a request to facilitate one.

Guess what God whispered in my ear when I saw the request to facilitate?

During trying times like this, God often asks us to be part of the solution, and I am not exempt from appointment no matter how much I mope (or maybe it’s because I mope?).

Dang it.

Motivational Asides

Some like to create controversy. It boosts their readership–clickbait if you will. While I like to see as many readers and comments as anyone else, since I don’t receive any funds from the number of clicks/reads I get, I can’t really claim clickbait status.

When people click on my Twitter profile, this is the first tweet they see:

“I use Twitter to comment on politics, culture, and religion. I’m opinionated, but I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I like hearing differing points of view on varied subjects because I want to learn.

“I always appreciate civil discourse even if we disagree in the end.”

I also like to give my point of view on subjects with the hope it’s different enough that people will stop and think about it, maybe even do their own research to discover whether I’m right or full of [censored] (believe it or not, it’s been known to happen. Occasionally).

Do I hope to change minds? Absolutely! Do I expect it? Nope–as frustrating as that can be at times.

In talking to a friend recently, I mentioned how I may have lost a few friends online due to all my bloviating of late. I don’t know for sure, because I don’t keep track, and there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.

That was a lesson hard learned, honestly. We all want to be loved, respected and heard. When I was a wee youngin’, friends were difficult to come by. While I have some guesses as to why, only when I reached my twenties did I figure out that love, respect and a listening ear can’t (or should) be forced. I have to freedom to choose whom I will love, respect and listen to, so how could I ever believe everyone else didn’t have that same freedom?

So while I like to share my opinions–however controversial–and be heard, I also want to give as many people as possible the same opportunity–even if I disagree.

Part of being heard is to listen, so if you’ve waded through all my rants of late relatively unscathed (or scathed, but waded through anyway), you have my undying love and respect. And, if you walk away from this entry with anything, I want you to know that you have also been heard.

Obey… Without Question?

I’ve seen some use scripture (such as Romans 13:1-7) to justify doing everything our leaders tell us to do without complaint. Some even go as far as telling others they’re not being “good Christians” if they don’t also obey.

On the surface, yes we need to obey the law. One reason is what good are we to God if we’re all in prison?

How then can I justify rebelling instead obeying the laws (or orders) signed by some governors and mayors at this time?

The simple answer is: they’re illegal orders.

During declared emergencies (which is what happened here), no one–not even the President or Congress–has the right to suspend our constitutional rights (except in the case of martial law, but it has not yet been declared). Plus, the US is not run by rulers, as such. Our Constitution is based on the premise that everyone in authority are our servants, not the other way around. The People have the power, not our elected (or appointed) officials. No member of our government has a legal right to violate our constitutional rights, so to rebel against orders that violate the Constitution is actually obeying the law, not the other way around.

To change directions a tad, in a comment on my last entry I touched on why all these orders about staying home, avoiding all social gatherings including church, etc. goes against God’s law.

Leviticus describes in detail what a person must do when/if they get infected with a contagious disease. First, it must be verified by a priest, and if confirmed, they must quarantine themselves in seven-day increments until the symptoms completely disappear and stay gone for another seven days. In every case (including leprosy), the person infected is responsible for making sure no one else gets infected (see Leviticus 13:45).

One thing I’ve noticed about Leviticus is not only what’s said, but what isn’t said. When it comes to preventing the spread of disease, the onus is always on the infected to prevent the disease’s spread. Under no circumstances were the healthy forced to quarantine themselves, act like they themselves are infected regardless, stop working and shut all economic and community activities down. Also, not once (that I know of) did God tell his people to not gather for fellowship, worship, and praise.

Those who stress passages about obeying authority also tell us that any violation of God’s law is exempt from obeying said authority (although there may be a cost for disobeying). For instance, God would never obligate us to commit a crime such as murder simply because the governing authority tells us we must.

The same goes for government officials taking away our God-given and constitutionally protected rights. It’s our legal duty to put a stop to it either by protest, petition, voting and/or through the courts. Anything less is actually violating what God said about obeying authority, because all those avenues I just mentioned are legal, and our right to exercise.

One question to think about when considering God’s character through all of this: when given a choice, would God want us to willingly choose oppression to the point we fear everything and everyone around us, we can’t work to feed our family, gather together in fellowship, and openly praise and worship him?

Counting on Death

A friend posted on Facebook about wanting to hear the number of deaths by all causes, not only COVID deaths, and how we would be shocked by the amount of death surrounding us. Yet because we’re ignoring all this death, we’re almost comfortable with it.

I responded thusly:

“Not to be too contrarian or to sound unfeeling, but while every life indeed has value, and all death is [tragic], we simply can’t expect every person to care about 9(?) billion people at one time. For one, we can’t control when/where/how everyone dies. Not even our own.

“Sure we can take certain measures to live healthy, and encourage/help friends and family do the same (but only to an extent. They still have the freedom to make their own choices). Life is hard/stressful enough to worry about everyone else on this planet.

“In other words, we should concern ourselves with what we have the power to influence or control (which ultimately is ourselves and little else), not with what we can’t. Eliminating death is a power we simply don’t have.

“And to add one more thing, I submit that to concentrate so much on country/worldwide deaths—by whatever means—is unhealthy. ‘Tis better to concentrate on living.”

To change directions a bit, I’ve been trying to write other entries, but I can’t seem to finish any of them. It’s part of why after that little burst last week, I’ve been largely silent. No words I’ve written seem to be good enough. When that happens, it’s usually because I’m avoiding the one subject I need to write about.

Part of it is what I wrote above, but also how we’re treating each other now. Yes, we like to say, “stay safe,” and “we’re all in this together,” yada, yada. We might even mean it. They’re lovely-sounding little platitudes that may make us feel good for a moment, but are ultimately useless. They don’t help those who can’t work and feed their family, or a person who’s in forced isolation, lost all hope and is contemplating suicide.

One of my concerns (and I have many in case you haven’t noticed) with all of this is how we’re now assuming every person we see–and not even come into contact with–is carrying the virus, and that to get even remotely close to them, we will automatically catch it and therefore die (or at least get deathly ill and spread it to others who will therefore die). We also assume that maybe, just maybe, because my coworker’s cousin’s best friend’s brother had it, we are now infected, too.

It’s the new leprosy where we all must hide ourselves away, and if someone comes close we must assume they (and we) are infected, back away and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!”

We’ve all become paranoid germaphobes, and worse, we are more than happy to isolate ourselves and others, and gleefully give up every freedom we’ve enjoyed (and taken for granted) for an unknown possibility of being infected with a virus that has nearly a 99% overall survival rate.

When Jesus described us as sheep, he couldn’t have been more accurate.

Okay. I feel better now. Next time I plan on my entry being a bit more hopeful and encouraging. I thank you for reading.

The Heartbreak of Asking for Help

I consider myself far more lucky and blessed than most, especially now. I still have a job (even if my hours can be shortened depending on how much work I have to do), and we have a good nest egg that’ll last us a while even if I didn’t have any work. And no debt.

A church member asked for help and told me how humbling it was. How she worded it, I could tell how much effort it took to do so. She was forced to set her pride aside, and even admit to herself and others she couldn’t take care of herself or her children as well as she needed to.

I wanted to cry after I read that. Not because I know exactly how she feels, but how difficult it would be for me to do the same.

Many consider self-reliance a virtue, and asking for help is a weakness.

While I think self-reliance is a virtue, asking for help when faced with no alternative is also a virtue. None of us is perfect or can do all things at all times. We, after all, don’t balk at hiring a plumber when a pipe breaks, or taking our car to a mechanic for an oil change.

Someone on Twitter created a poll on what pastors considered the greatest chapter in the Bible. Suggestions included Romans 8, I Corinthians 15, Psalm 23, and Isaiah 53. I didn’t know the answer, but I added what I thought was the most important chapter in the Bible–at least during these current tumultuous times: Ecclesiastes, specifically chapter 3, verses 1-8 (ESV):

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

There is also a time when we need help, and a time to help others.

Whatever time this is, we should also remember one of my favorite verses, Ecclesiastes 7:13 (NLT): Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked?

We may not like the season we’re in, but God doesn’t ask (or expect) us to like it. We must accept it eventually, however (we have no choice, after all), yet also with the knowledge that it won’t last. Seasons never do.

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.”