Word of Mouth

March 31, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Why does God teach me the most valuable lessons at the center of my rawest moment? Whether I’m humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed or aching—those are the times He reveals the deepest truths.

For the fourth year in a row, I attended the annual North Texas Christian Writer’s conference held in mid-September. As usual, the workshops offered impressive teachers and valuable information, but what I took away from the weekend had nothing to do with writing tips. God had a bigger revelation for me—that words, often spoken without thought, can construct and create or damage and destroy.

I wish I could tell you I gleaned this pearl of wisdom from dancing out of the conference on a high. However, God rarely teaches me during a happy moment—maybe because I don’t always listen when I’m confident, secure, and delighted with myself.

Instead, He used a disappointing critique with one of the faculty to illustrate how flippant words do more harm than no words at all. Despite how desperate I am to hit the “rewind” button on the little breakdown I had Saturday morning at the conference—a meltdown large enough to prompt a dash out to my car where I could hide until my mascara stopped running down my face—God moved my heart in a major way. Using humility. I hate that word, almost as much as I hate the word patience. I try not to ask Him for either of those lessons. But He always knows what I need.

Being an artist, any kind of artist, makes for an emotional rollercoaster ride. What we write and paint illustrates the essence of who we are, and when other people don’t love our art, it feels as though they don’t love us.

I’m pretty certain I’m not alone on this rollercoaster. We all hold something close to our heart—our job, hobby, skill, talent, our children, marriage, or friendships. I know that as a mom who strives to build my kids’ character nothing pops my balloon faster than a well-placed dart targeted toward my deficiencies as a parent.

Yes, I want to stretch and grow as a person and a writer. In order to do that, my heart must be teachable. Yet, no matter how willing I am to learn, I still ache when someone criticizes my work or dismisses my effort—constructively or otherwise.

Hard work and perseverance will move me toward my goals. Poorly placed criticism can still be useful. There’s always a small truth that I can take away, but I work so much better with encouragement. None of us was made to walk alone. I Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (NIV). We need each other. Having someone push you up the mountain, in the midst of crippling criticism or personal crisis, makes the difference between falling down and re-energizing for the climb.

I choose to take what I learned at the bottom of the rollercoaster and use it as momentum to scale the rise and take another ride. And when I get to the top? I will remember that meltdown in the parking lot and remind myself that anyone can criticize, but it takes a special person to encourage, and that’s the person I want to be.

I challenge you to carefully consider the words of your mouth. Be an encourager, not a destroyer. Open your mouth and spread the love!

Fatal Attraction

February 21, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Last month I took a trip up north. From Texas, I flew to Wisconsin, picked up my mom, and drove her to our family reunion in Ohio.

Before our road trip began, we met my in-laws for breakfast at an old-fashioned diner in Sun Prairie. We enjoyed a great visit swapping stories and photos with my mother-in-law, Diane, and her new husband, Bob.

After the meal and four cups of coffee, I excused myself to run to the little girl’s room before we got on the road.

I took a quick glance in the mirror after I washed my hands. Not finding any food in my teeth or toilet paper hanging out of the back of my pants, I reapplied a layer of barely beige lipstick and fluffed my hair. The mirror approved and I sailed out the door ready for pictures and hugs.

Outside the diner, the four of us played rotating photographer. My camera held photos of me and mom, me and Bob, me and Diane, Diane and Bob—you get the idea. After final hugs, I turned to unlock the car and caught a glimpse of a large white square stuck to the back of my upper thigh.

A lone piece of toilet paper lay plastered to my black yoga pants.

Yoga pants are perfect for travel. The stretchy waistband and soft fabric assure a certain comfort factor during a long ride in the car; however, I did not realize yoga pants were also a toilet paper magnet.

I glanced around the parking lot, which stood empty except for my mom waiting by the passenger-side door. With a nonchalance I’d learned over the years of suffering from such disasters, I reached back, dislodged the paper, and nudged it under the back tire.

How did I miss that big white blob on my dark black pants when I performed my cursory check in the mirror? How many people watched me walk out the door of the diner with toilet paper plastered to my leg?

Just like toilet paper, sin is sticky.

It hangs on me in places I can’t see—even if I’ve looked for it. I need help to see what I’ve missed.

Lord, I cry out to you like David. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (NIV Psalms 139:23, 24).

And help me remember when I wear those black yoga pants again to check them twice after a visit to the little girl’s room.

A Mentor’s Worth

January 5, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

In the state of Indiana, automated toll machines stand in place of live operators. Makes sense. More profit. No need for on-site restrooms.

During a recent road trip with my mom, I experienced this marvel of technology. Entering the toll way worked out fine—even though the wind tried to call dibs on my ticket as it spit out of the machine.

Exiting proved more difficult. Desperate for a restroom break, I took the off-ramp and waited behind a red pick-up. Never having used an automated machine, I rolled down my window and read the instructions.

Insert ticket according to picture.

Not too hard. I leaned out the window and popped in my ticket according to the diagram. The slot spit the ticket out. I studied the picture and tried again. This time the breeze caught it before I did.

I threw the shifter in park and rushed out to grab the ticket from underneath my front tire. By now, twelve cars waited behind me. Reinserting the ticket ten additional times did nothing for my emotional distress, the disposition of the other drivers, or my chances for finding a restroom anytime soon.

Decoding diagrams and maps isn’t my thing. What happened to throwing change into a basket? My hands shook and a trickle of sweat ran down my back as I slid in the car and looked at my mom. Even though I am a mom, letting someone else be the mom for a moment can sometimes take the pressure off. “Any ideas?” I asked her.

“Let’s just go through it and pay later.”

I nodded and put the car in drive. Her mom wisdom would have been great, had a long wooden arm not blocked our way. I took a deep breath and begged my bladder to hang on.

My wise mom pointed to the machine. “There’s a help button.”

Help. That’s exactly what I needed.

After I pushed the button, a scratchy voice prompted, “What’s your problem?”

I yelled over the honking behind me. “You mean besides the fifteen cars of aggravated people behind me?”

“Where did you get on the toll road, Ma’am?”

I gave my entrance point and seconds later, the correct exit fee popped up on the Pay This Amount screen. Ever helpful, my mom passed me a cupful of change. The woman in the Hummer inches from my bumper got out of her car. “It’s good,” I held up the change. “Be out of here in just a sec.”

She raised her eyebrows, punctuated her irritation with a sigh, and slid back into her car.

With shaky hands, I force fed the machine. It spit out every other coin. $3.25 and many coin feeds later, the arm raised. I escaped before it fell back down.

Whose idea was it to get rid of the live operators—the people who knew what to do and acted before one stuck traveler multiplied into many?

Not too long after my harrowing ticket booth debacle my oldest son, Kyle, returned from youth camp pumped-up on a vital message—Get a mentor. Be a mentor. People need people.

The message stuck. My tollbooth fiasco would have been a non-event had an attendant been there to help me. I need a mentor to steer me in the right direction when I’m stuck. I need to be a mentor and share the wisdom I’ve learned from others who have taken time to guide me.

“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (I Thessalonians 5:12-14 NIV).

Broken Inn

November 28, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Through the tiny glass oval, I watched ant-size cars enlarge as my plane descended into Milwaukee. My morning coffee puddled in my stomach. Shoulders tight, I pulled my purse from under the seat and waited to deplane.

I questioned my decision to fly to Wisconsin to drive my mom to our family reunion in Ohio. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go—but locking two polar opposites in a Toyota Corolla for a day couldn’t end well. Could Laissez-faire Lori and Calendar Kay make it a day, let alone ten, without killing each other?

My mom picked me up and we switched seats. As we entered the ramp for 90/94, my phone rang.

She reached for it. “Talking and driving kills people.”

Miles later, she glanced at the speedometer. “Are you going eighty-five?”

I peeked at the gauge and lifted my foot. “No, I’m only going seventy-six.”

Halfway to Indiana, a theater sign jutted from the road. I changed lanes. “Want to take a break and see a movie?”

She frowned. “That’s not on our schedule.”

With a sigh, I shot past the exit. “How about a spontaneous latte?”

“Great.” She smiled. “I’ll buy.”

By the time we pulled into the motel parking lot to pick up the room key, my neck ached.

A stack of stained mattresses sat piled next to our room. I grimaced, having already paid online at a site where the hotel remains a mystery until you enter your credit card. Hoping the inside proved better than the outside, we swiped the key and went in.

I yanked off the blue floral comforters. My mom rested on the edge of her bed and held up the corner of the blanket.

Think camel hair. With burn holes.

She chuckled. “Did I tell you the news story about the bed bugs?”

I ripped off my blanket and scoured the white sheet for movement. “Can you see them?”

“Of course not. Otherwise people wouldn’t sleep on them.”

While I continued my sheet inspection, she went to the sink to wash her face. The faucet handle fell off.

I dialed the front desk. A monotone voice informed me we could switch rooms to one double bed or stay here with a broken sink. I thanked her for being so helpful and hung up.

I groaned. “What else is wrong with this room?”

Turned out a lot. The TV outlet protruded from a duct-taped hole in the wall. The towel rack had ripped out of the shower. And the corners of the bathroom floor contained various unknown debris. Each time we found a new disaster, my mom laughed louder.

I stared at the carpet with a frown, pulled on socks and sent my friend Tracy pictures of our motel debacle. She texted me back this song.

My faucet broke and my towel bars missin’
The A/C’s on and the grates are hissin’
Lord, bring me back to Texas! 

My mom grabbed the coffee pot off the counter. “I’m making some decaf. Want some?”

“There’s no water.”

“Sure there is.”

Watching her make coffee using faucet water from the tub sent me over the edge and I giggled so hard I fell off the bed. “I’m so not drinking that.”

As laughter escalated to tears rolling down our faces, the tension and stress of the day disappeared. This Broken Inn bonded us, tempered our differences, and pasted a memory into the scrapbook of our lives.

Sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine. “He will fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy” (NIV Job 8:21).

Why Bother?

October 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Some days I wonder why I bother to do anything for myself. Whether it’s reading a good book, which I’ve relegated to the quiet hours of late night. Taking a nap, which happened once last year. Or making good on my promise to write a little bit every day, which I’m attempting to do now.

I began the edit of this article at 9:30 a.m. and it’s now 11:17 a.m.

600 words. One page. Plus a barrage of questions from the three children who occupy my house. One by one, they rotate in to stand at the foot of my bed. I tiptoed into the bedroom earlier, when I thought they were not looking.

My fingers pause, suspended over the keyboard, as I grasp to freeze my train of thought for later.

The exchange goes something like this—
“Can I call Dad? I lost my tiny fairy book. The dog threw up on the stairs. Can I watch Martha Speaks? Do we have legal-size paper for my project—it’s due in an hour? Can I take a bath? Who ate all the Cookie Crisp?”

To which I reply, in order—
“Is your room clean? Did you look in your backpack? Go clean it up, it’s your dog. Is your room clean? Why didn’t you ask me this sooner? Is your room clean? Dad ate the cereal.”

Maybe a recording of my top ten answers would buy me some personal time? Or maybe I should surrender and realize I do not own my time. I may never own my time—as long as small people live in my house.

Lord, I need a revelation. A communiqué. An email. A text message. A tweet. Can nothing ever be about me?

You’re asking the wrong question.

Well, Lord, I often ask the wrong question.

Are you looking through My eyes? Do you want what I want?

Lord, I need more than Your eyes. I’m desperate for Your heart. Help me want to want Your desires. Make them mine. I whisper the verse I’ve hidden in my heart:

“Trust in the LORD…Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart…” (Psalm 37:3-5 NIV).

Next Page »