Bulking Up My Faith Muscles

I recently told you about my resolution to do more than talk a good game about my faith. I remember a minister who taught a Bible study I once attended. He said that you have to be careful when you pray for faith. Sometimes, God will just give you more faith. Sometimes, however, he may put you in a situation which requires you to exercise your faith, thus growing that faith. And, sometimes, if you are really blessed, God will test you in a way that demonstrates to you just how much faith you already have. These are some scary possibilities but I am beginning to realize that to grow faith, one must actually step out in faith. Talking is not enough. Action and practice are necessary. To bulk up one’s faith, one must exercise the faith muscles.

A few months ago, I led an Alpha course at my church. This was the fourth Alpha course I have helped lead. Alpha is a program made up of eleven weekly evening sessions, plus a day retreat. The original purpose of the course was to provide a place for people who would not identify themselves as churchgoers or Christians to grapple with the big questions of life, faith, purpose, and God. However, we find that the course has dramatic benefits for people at any point on their spiritual travels. Each evening begins with a dinner, followed by a video presentation on some aspect of Christianity. Then, the guests break into small discussion groups to talk about their perspectives, experiences, questions, doubts, fears, observations, and anything else they wish to say. Coordinating the program is a rewarding, enriching, and soul-feeding experience for me. In the past, it has also been exhausting and stressful for me.

At the beginning of this Alpha course, my life coach challenged me. He advised that I prepare no more than half as much as I would have in the past. He encouraged me to trust the Holy Spirit, trust my own competence, and trust the qualities that God created in me. Faith in God and faith in myself was a radically different strategy than my previous modus operandi of trying to anticipate and guard against any possible (or, for that matter, impossible!) uncomfortable eventuality. I always said that we only opened the door and turned on the lights during the Alpha course. God was the one who did all the work. Despite what I said and despite my intellectual understanding that it was true, I could not seem to refrain from doing, doing, doing in any spare moment between sessions to try to cover all my bases. I felt terrified at the very notion of dialing back on preparation… but also strangely liberated. I decided to try it. Why not? I convinced myself that it wasn’t brain surgery, and no one was going to die if something uncomfortable happened. In fact, someone might grow.

Someone did grow. Me.

I had FUN during this Alpha course. I not only said I was going to let the Holy Spirit take the reins. I actually did it. The burden was much lighter. In the past, I had to beg and plead to get people to provide meals. I usually ended up providing several myself. This time, I had a surplus of people agreeing to help with the food. One of my precious sisters by selection who attended the course in the past and enjoyed it volunteered to be my production partner. This reduced the work, the worry, and the responsibility of the program by way more than half. I didn’t worry about things going wrong. Nothing really went wrong. When something went a little bit off center, I relied on help from the team and even the guests to get us back on track. I also relied on my own personality and sense of humor to offset any awkwardness. I figured out that every offering, no matter how imperfect, is a priceless gift to God. We had the largest number of guests we have ever had on an Alpha course and our guests had the highest level of consistent attendance. The guest feedback was stellar.

God has been working on me, clearly. Let me tell you a story. When I first agreed to help with Alpha (without ever having attended a course, by the way), I did so because I did a lot of group facilitation work in my career. I was not necessarily thinking about roles that involved cooking, serving meals, and providing a cozy, hospitable environment. I had never even hosted a party in my life. I grew up in a family that did not entertain. I eat like a four-year-old, so my cooking repertoire is extremely limited. I am as introverted as one can get on the Myers-Briggs scale. Somehow, I wandered into the path of a runaway volunteer recruiter and ended up being the Alpha hospitality princess. I stepped out in faith. I, who had never thrown a party in her life, was holding dinner parties for fifty every week. And nothing tragic happened.

During that first Alpha program, one of the guests brought up the subject of Lent. We were talking about how to use the Lenten season as a time of spiritual growth. I told the small group that I wanted to learn to pray better during the time leading up to Easter. One of the participants in the course was the chaplain for our church ladies’ group. She made it her business to nominate me to succeed her, telling me it would be an excellent way for me to develop my prayer skills. I stepped out in faith. It was a jarring jolt to my system, but my nominator was absolutely right. In acting as the chaplain, I became more intentional about prayer. I excavated and rebuilt the foundation of my own prayer life. I experimented with leading the monthly meeting devotionals with different types of prayer. I looked for ways to engage and involve our membership in creating active, powerful prayer. I presented a workshop about prayer, which culminated in a time of focused, peaceful, silent prayer. Our ladies told me they felt as if they truly felt the spirit of God in the room with us. I allowed myself to be more vulnerable in sharing my own writing and prayers. There is no question that I developed my prayer skills during the two years I served as chaplain. And I loved doing it.

Over the past few years, I have expanded the scope of my “stepping out in faith” activities beyond Alpha. I have been involved in leadership in my church. The issues under discussion are more sensitive and controversial- sometimes even divisive. I have never been a fighter. All my life, I have avoided conflict and confrontation. My idea of peace-making and negotiating is appeasement. I give up instead of standing up. I have always convinced myself that whatever the issue in question was, it wasn’t a big deal, and I just did not care enough to fight. Although I hid from it, I did always understand that there are some things that are big deals and that I do care. Lately, God has been leading me to step out in faith in trickier situations. I believe He has put it in my heart to stand up and be counted on some issues- maybe even be a warrior.

It has not been easy. I struggle with myself and with others as I take this step out in faith. It is hard for me to trust my own thoughts and perspectives, especially when others resist. Some relationships have been strained. I try to do everything, even disagree with people, with love. I am aware, however, that my heart sometimes gets heated. I wonder if I am truly doing what God wants of me, especially since fighting is so counter to my nature. I wonder if I am simply pridefully pursuing my own perspective Selecting me to do spiritual battle seems a funny choice for God to make. On the other hand- precisely because this behavior is so unlike anything I would choose for myself- perhaps it must be God.

I guess I always thought that by the time I reached the advance age of sixty-four, God would be finished with me. I figured that He would have already equipped me with whatever attributes or talents He needed me to have to do the work He wanted me to do. It never occurred to me that He would want me to take on something completely out of character once I hit chapter three in my own personal book of life. I have to confess that I am still not sure that is what is happening because it is so darn difficult. The robe of authentic righteous indignation fits me poorly. There have been many times when I have tugged on the hem or pushed up the sleeves. More than once, I have had it half over my head to remove it. This experience requires me to surf wilder waves in my faith than ever in my life. I said a couple of weeks ago that I feel like I’ve struggled with my faith, but I know that “grown” is a better word that “struggled.” I sometimes think about what it has meant to stand up for one’s faith. The early Christian martyrs died for Christianity. There are still places in the world where people are jailed and murdered for their faith. Even in Western countries, there are people who are ridiculed and isolated from family and friends because they choose to become Christians. I have never experienced anything like those kinds of spiritual trials. Maybe the reason God is choosing me to stand up in this small way now is to show me that I can do it. God doesn’t need me to protect Him, but He wants me to trust that He will protect me.

What experiences have you had that has stretched your faith? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a muscle bound day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Thinking About Thanking

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States. People all over the country will be counting their blessings. I like to think I count my blessings every day. Gratitude is a big deal to me. Every Thursday, I post five of the things for which I am most thankful from the preceding week. I have been celebrating “Thankful Thursday” in this way for about 15 years. It is a rare week when my “thankfuls” do not fall trippingly off my fingertips along the keyboard. There are sooooo many things that I receive with great gratitude every single week. It is hard to know what to do as an encore for Thanksgiving Thursday!

That is not going to keep me from trying, however.

Here is a whole passel of thankfuls that have come my way in 2023:

  1. I am thankful for Max, who loves me and grows with me all the time.
  2. I am thankful for Todd Payne.
  3. I am thankful that I was finally able to release the huge burden of pain related to my marriage that I carried for over 40 years.
  4. I am thankful for learning to draw boundaries.
  5. I am thankful for the beautiful, precious, amazing family of friends that inhabit my life.
  6. I am thankful for the congregation at St. James Episcopal Church.
  7. I am thankful for Tom and Kathleen Trees.
  8. I am thankful for a beautiful, joyful, rewarding Alpha course experience, after a three-year hiatus.
  9. I am thankful for the oceans and beaches.
  10. I am thankful for beautiful and fragrant flowers.
  11. I am thankful for tall trees that dapple the paths beneath them with sunlight and shadow.
  12. I am thankful for mountains and streams.
  13. I am thankful for the leaves changing color.
  14. I am thankful for Cathy and Jim Gocella who supported me through the difficult time when my much-loved cousin Ann passed from this life to the next.
  15. I am thankful that good homes were found for Ann’s cats.
  16. I am thankful for my pretty, sweet, cozy house.
  17. I am thankful for soft, snuggly blankets.
  18. I am thankful for air conditioning.
  19. I am thankful that no hurricanes hit my neighborhood this summer.
  20. I am thankful for our vacations this year that were not only fun and beautiful, but also enriched me in terms of confidence, peace, and connection.
  21. I am thankful for the return of gingerbread at Starbucks.
  22. I am thankful even for the struggles and challenges of this past year because I can see how God has grown me through them.
  23. I am thankful that God did not leave me alone and orphaned during the struggles and challenges- because without God, there would have been only destruction instead of growth.

I am stopping at 23 because there is something satisfying and orderly about having 23 thankfuls for 2023. Also, it is Wednesday, and I am already late posting my blog for this week. Please know, however, that there are many more reasons for my gratitude this Thanksgiving week. If you are reading this today, YOU are one of those reasons!

Have a thankful day!


What are your “thankfuls” this Thanksgiving week? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

The Scriptures According To Terri

After writing The Scriptures According To Tinker Bell, I started thinking about my own relationship with the Bible. Once again, I am hoping that no one will take this blog post as blasphemous or disrespectful. I am in no way comparing myself to the godly Hall of Famers that God chose to transcribe His Holy words. I just think that, for the scriptures to live, we all need to integrate them into our own experience. In doing so, we open the door for God to create very specific, personal guidance in each of our hearts.

Over this past year, I have been bumping along on my way down a rougher, less developed expanse of my spiritual road than I am used to navigating. My initial impulse is to say that I have “struggled” with faith. Upon reflection, I realized that perspective is blatantly inaccurate. I would use the word “grown” instead of the word “struggled.” Growth spurts are usually uncomfortable. They have the capacity to make us feel less capable, less grounded, and less confident. That is what the last year has been like for me. On the other hand, growth spurts also have the capacity to make us stronger, more powerful, and more steadfast.

Recently, my church presented a “spiritual gifts inventory” as part of our annual parish stewardship dinner. As I scored my inventory, I found some predictable conclusions. There were a few surprises, however. I scored rather low in the “faith” category of spiritual gifts. This gave me pause because most of the people in my life think of me as a faithful person- not just in the sense of being loyal in my relationships, but in the sense of having spiritual trust and maturity. I rarely perceive in myself the godly faithfulness others say they see in me.  I have always prioritized faith development in my life and tried to grow in my relationship with God. I guess I’ve always felt that, if I intentionally tried to grow spiritually, my efforts would result in a stronger, deeper, more secure faith.

It seems that faith development takes more than just being intentional.

The reason for my lower “faith score” is likely my habitual inclination towards worry. All of my life, I have struggled with self-doubt and incessant, unreasonable worrying. It is hard to reconcile my irrational fears, overthinking, and over-the-top preparing with my professed faith in an all-powerful, all-loving God.  Someone once said that faith is the opposite of fear. The Bible tells us repeatedly not to be afraid, but to trust in the providence of God. I want to integrate all of these admonitions into my very soul but worry still wins out a good percentage of the time.

In grappling with this problem of mine, I’ve tried many different strategies. Undoing a lifetime of hard-wired anxiety is not easy. I remember composing a memo from God that I posted on my office tack board. It said:

To: All humankind

From: The Sovereign God and Creator of the Universe

Subject: Worrying

Effective immediately, you are to stop worrying. Additionally, you are to stop trying to control the world. That’s my job.



It was good to have a visual reminder. I think it helped. I doubt anyone who ever worked with me would agree that it helped at all. I am a very talented worrier. Worrying was my brand. Again, not really congruent with my profession that I am a Christian believer who places her faith in God.

I am beginning to realize that to grow faith, one must actually step out in faith. Talking is not enough. Intellectualizing is not enough. Action and practice are necessary.

Over the past year or so, I have been trying to take that step out in faith by acting rather than just mouthing platitudes. It has not been easy, and I have encountered resistance. I decided I wanted another visual reminder to encourage me. Psalm 46:10 tells us, “Be still and know that I am God.”  This, I thought, is the perfect verse for me. I decided to search Etsy to see if there were any rock-painting artists who offered small rocks with customized designs. Writing the whole verse on a rock seemed like too much to fit, but  I thought I could get one with  Psalm 46:10  written on it. I found someone who did this work, and I promptly ordered my rock right there on my cell phone.

My rock appeared a few days later. I was so pleased. It had a little picture of a flower on one side and the Scripture citation on the other.  I slipped it into my change purse and made a habit of looking at it whenever I pulled out some cash.

One day, I was writing an email and wanted to quote my comforting Scripture verse. Because I have never been very good at memorizing Bible verses, I could not recall the citation. My purse was handy, so I pulled out my rock. As I began typing the Scripture reference, something just felt wrong. I decided to check the verse on my phone. Apparently, because of my haste when I ordered the rock and because of my clumsy fat fingers, I erred when I typed in the particulars for my order on Etsy. Instead of “Psalm 46:10,” I inadvertently ordered “Psalm 46:19.” 

Psalm 46:19 does not exist.

At first, I felt deflated and inadequate. How could I mess up like that? How could I be so disrespectful of God’s holy word? I did not even want to order another rock with the correct citation on it. I actually felt ashamed and embarrassed.

Then, I realized something. I made a mistake, but I had only good intentions. God could use that mistake for good (Romans 8:28.) I started thinking about what God might want me to know. Maybe Psalm 46:19, although not in anyone else’s Bible, is a verse God is trying to inscribe on my heart. What would God say to me, if He was going to offer a new Scripture verse just for me and for my struggle with worrying and self-doubt?

After some prayerful reflection, I came up with this:

I am a precious child of God and I bring joy to the world. I can trust that He has created me elegantly and equipped me perfectly to live the life He sets before me.

Psalm 46:19

God does not make mistakes and He uses even our mistakes to work for the benefit of those who love Him. Maybe everyone could use a mistake as an opportunity to consider what God’s private Scripture for each of us might be.

If God wrote a Scripture verse just for you, what would it say? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a faithful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut; Sometimes You Don’t- part 2

Thank you for returning to read the denouement! As promised, here is the final chapter of our New England saga…

Directions were an adventure all their own for the entire trip. My confidence in GPS turned out to be somewhat unfounded in the White Mountains and the Green Mountains. Google Maps floated in and out of commission on my phone. This made me tense. Luckily, Max’s phone did a better job of picking up the GPS signal, so we did not end up in Canada. It was all a little stressful, never knowing exactly where I was headed when I put the car in gear.

We stopped at Queegee Gorge on our way to our next stop- Killington, Vermont. I was feeling pretty chuffed that I had found my way back to Vermont, so I suggested we take the hike down into the gorge. I fully expected Max to politely- or not so politely- decline. When I asked if he felt up for the hike, he said “sure.” He must have been feeling pretty chuffed, too. It turned out to be a wonderful, beautiful, uplifting experience. In fact, that hike stands out to me as a top favorite moment in a week of almost nothing but favorite moments. The hike was exhilarating enough to feel challenging and rewarding but was not so difficult to leave me feeling defeated. The greens and golds and browns of the trees filtered the sunlight, weaving webs of shadows under the canopy of branches. I went to New England to see the fall colors. The fall colors were mind-blowing, no question. I also have to say that the green-gold tapestry in the forest surrounding the Queegee Gorge trail was magical also. 

Since we were in the area, we also stopped at the Simon Pearce showroom. For those of you who have never heard of Simon Pearce (which included me until a month or so ago), the company makes hand-blown glassware that is clear and pure beyond anything I could ever have imagined before I saw it. We were able to watch the artisans making some of the products while we were there. The showroom is a every s huge open space. Every surface is covered with crystal confections catching rays of light, faceting those rays of light into thousands of tiny bits, and throwing confetti of light back into the atmosphere. It is a starry night, without stars and without night. I wanted my own piece of star, but the prices at Simon Pearce are not for the faint-hearted. I hemmed and hawed and debated until I finally walked away without purchasing. I would like to say I felt good about myself for demonstrating excellent impulse control, but that would be a lie. I did not feel good about myself.  I have yet to recover from leaving Simon Pearce empty-handed.

We spent the next day in Woodstock, enjoying the shops and autumn decorations. The day began auspiciously when I found a magnificent parking spot- quite a feat in a village without parking structures- Predictably, my GPS abandoned me, and  I got lost when I tried to get to Billings Farm after our Woodstock visit. It turned out that I was going in the wrong direction, which we found out when the GPS finally roused itself. We were going in the wrong direction… right past Simon Pearce. You would have thought I would have taken this as a sign from God, but I did not. I once more passed up the opportunity to acquire very expensive glass table décor.

We did eventually find our way to Billings Farm and had a delightful time. My favorite part was loving on the newborn baby cows. One of these enchanting critters named Fig was especially enamored with me. She nuzzled me, slipped her head under my hand for pets, licked my hands and forearms, and gnawed on my fingers and hands. It didn’t hurt. In fact, it felt kind of pleasant at the time. About half an hour later, I grabbed a railing to steady myself as I walked down a flight of stairs. As soon as my hand made contact with the rail, I realized my hand hurt. I looked at my hand and saw a light bruise in the perfect shape of a calf’s upper palate. Note to self for the future: beware of champing bovines.

On our final full day in Vermont, we headed back to Burlington. I heard about this incredible, over-the-top Christmas store in Shelbourne, right outside of Burlington. I was sure it had my name written all over it. As we approached Shelbourne, I noticed a sign on the side of the road pointing the direction to the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. I made a wild, spontaneous, and madcap decision that we should stop there. Actually, it was not so much a “decision” as it was a “primal calling.” Max and I have a thing about bears. Being in the proximity of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company was complete serendipity. I did take this as a sign from God. After exploring the whole facility, taking a tour,  and learning all about how the good people in Vermont build a teddy bear, I plunked down my credit card to pay $100 for a limited edition fall foliage teddy bear. Her name is Maple Sugar. After taking the tour, I at least knew WHY a teddy bear should cost $100. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

After the teddy bear nirvana, we stopped at the Christmas store which was indeed a sight to behold. I circumnavigated the shop at least four times and kept seeing new items every time. It was like somebody took all the fancy decorations in all the fancy holiday windows in Manhattan, along with all the leftover Christmas merchandise, and stuffed it all together in a 2000 square foot barn… and then let the public wander through the Christmas explosion for free.

When we reached the hotel in Burlington, we encountered another complication. The hotel had no record of our reservation, despite the fact that I had an email confirmation. I made the reservation through a third-party website and, it appeared, that somehow the reservation information never made it to the hotel. After several unsatisfactory phone calls and online help chats, I got ahold of someone who promised to check and call me back. The hotel had only one more room left. Since I prepaid with my reservation, I was not too excited about renting the one remaining room and paying twice. Still, both Max and I were getting nervous about waiting on the customer service person to get back to me because we feared the room would sell before we resolved the problem. Another gentleman, who had been staying in the hotel for business for the past several weeks, overheard our conversation. He told us that it was Parents Weekend at the nearby University of Vermont and, also, Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. He helpfully advised us that it was unlikely that we would find lodging anywhere in the vicinity that night. We took the one remaining room, and I figured I could try to mop up the issue with the third-party website when we got home.

All of this took some time, and I was getting hungry. We did have a dinner reservation at five, so we headed out to the restaurant. On the way, we got lost again. Surprise, not surprise. As we made a U-turn to right ourselves, I noticed a very attractive, tony kind of Vermont gift store strategically placed across the main highway from the restaurant. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed glassware  in the window. Simon Pearce? I resolved to check it out after ingesting some nourishment. We enjoyed a delicious dinner in a great environment with excellent service. It was a great “cherry on top” end to our trip. While we were at dinner, I checked the gift store’s website. Indeed, they did feature Simon Pearce glass. However, they closed at 5:00pm. Final opportunity to acquire expensive glassware thwarted!

The next day, we traveled home. Aside from a  layover (originally 3 hours, extended to 6 hours) in JFK airport, all was well. We got back to our house around 11:00pm, tired and relieved to be home.

Over the past weeks since we have been back, I’ve reflected on the trip often. When we left, I really felt like I wanted and needed a vacation. I was looking forward to rest, relaxation, refreshment, pampering, and a generous helping of TLC. This trip was not that. It was not a vacation. It was an adventure. It was thrilling and exhilarating and confidence-building. It was organic and real and vibrant. I suppose most people would not have considered our adventure “edgy,” but it was for us. Sometimes it is good when God shakes you past your comfortable frontier and into the expanded unknown. Sometimes, you want a vacation, but you need an adventure.

Sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t. And sometimes you don’t feel like a nut, but find you enjoy it once you bite into one!

on our hike into Queegee Gorge
Fig, the woman eating calf
Me with Maple Sugar Bear
Despite everything, I was still sad to leave New England

Have you ever taken a trip that did not play out the way you expected, but was still an amazing experience? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have an adventurous day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut; Sometimes You Don’t- Part One

As you have probably intuited if you are a regular reader of my blog, 2023 has been a pivotal year for me, although stressful. I’ve confronted and battled with some big demons from my past. My last living relative on my mother’s side became critically ill and died, which meant two unplanned trips to Pennsylvania for me. This illness also meant saying good-bye to a much-loved cousin, waiting with her as she finished life in this world, resolving emotionally fraught end-of-life issues, and overseeing her estate. There has also been a rather unsettling shift and expansion of my spiritual life. During the course of this year, I have been working to put the self-discoveries into practice in real life. Change is difficult for most people. For me, it is an uphill slog over a mountain of mud while wearing cement boots. I felt like a vacation was definitely in order.

Recently, Max and I took off on a trip to Vermont and New Hampshire. We took a bus tour of New England about five years ago. That trip was a comedy of errors- so many things went wrong- but I loved, loved, loved New England. I decided that I wanted to go back, without the restrictions of a tour group or the need to constantly bop from one hotel to another. We decided to limit the number of destinations on this trip and to wander in the wind without planning every possible moment. I

In the past, I would have been too scared and nervous to attempt such a bold move. In the past, my anxiety insisted on tidy, carefully planned and scheduled, professionally orchestrated bus tours. I worried I would not be able to find my way around if we went on our own. I worried about directions and driving conditions. I worried that we would miss something critical if I served as the tour guide. I worried that we would “waste time” if I could not articulate a moment-by-moment agenda for the trip before we ever left home. I  worried that selecting hotels or vacation rentals on my own would result in lodging us on Skid Row or similarly sketchy neighborhoods.

I was much more confident of my abilities this year. In the past couple of years, I have driven to Georgia, and South Carolina. I drove all over the state of Pennsylvania and much of Maryland during my trips related to my cousin’s death. I have stayed in a few vacation rentals in the past and all of them have been fine.

I was kind of amazed that I was not more nervous as we embarked on the trip. I was actually feeling pretty sassy. I told myself that all that “putting the self-discoveries into practice in real life” was paying off big time. Take that, crappy self-esteem! Still, I was looking forward to a week of relaxing, irresponsible, reinvigorating vacation.

What happened was not that.

Incidentally, my birthday was the day before we left on the trip. It was fairly low key because we were preparing for the trip and wrapping our heads around the notion of leaving for the airport to fly to Vermont at 0 dark yesterday. I had scheduled an Uber a few days before and I thought we were set to leave at 3:30am. Uber confirmed my reservation so I thought we were good. Luckily, a nagging notion in the back of my mind prepared me when 3:30am proved to be too early for the Uber driver. I drove us to the airport. It was not only too early for the Uber driver, but it was also too early for valet parking at the airport. I left Max at the terminal with the luggage and ventured off to find a parking spot. I left the car and headed back to the terminal, breathing a silent prayer that I would be able to locate the vehicle when we returned in six days.

Our flight to Vermont was uneventful. “Eventful” happened for the first time when we went to pick up the rental car in Burlington. I handed over my credit card and driver’s license, like a good girl. The guy at the counter pointed out that my driver’s license was expired… because my birthday was the day before. I had no idea. We solved that problem by having Max rent the car with his unexpired license. The next step to my “solution” was for me to drive the rental car around all week as an unauthorized driver on the vehicle. When we went to get some lunch, I quickly renewed my driver’s license online, but that still did not address the unauthorized driver problem. Luckily, I was not arrested at any time while I was in New England.

We spent the night in Burlington and had an enjoyable time wandering the shops at the Church Street Marketplace. The vrbo rental, although a little worn around the edges on the outside, was charming and comfortable on the inside. The next day, we drove to Stowe, VT to visit the Trapp Family Lodge. I wanted to break into song the moment we turned the corner into the parking lot. The hills certainly were alive with the sounds of music and the sights of a million leaves turning into God’s autumn oil painting. The scenery was spectacular, and the resort was uncrowded.

I decided I wanted to hike to the chapel Werner Von Trapp built behind the lodge. Max was not a fan of that idea because it involved walking down a trail some ways from the main path. He was, predictably, concerned that monsters would get me. I think he meant humanoid monsters that might be hiding beside the trail to attack me. I decided to pursue the trail anyway. After I walked about ten minutes, I saw the trail offshoot to the chapel. Mountain goats would have had trouble navigating it. I am not a mountain goat. I have the coordination of a seasick sloth. As I turned to make my way back to the trailhead, I found Max hiking up behind me, to make sure I was okay.

After a lovely morning at the Trapp Family Lodge, we made our way to New Hampshire. We had tickets for a trip to the summit of Mount Washington on the COG railway the next day. Finding our way to our vacation rental proved to be quite difficult. We found the condo development with little trouble but were stymied by the numbering system. There were other renters who eyed us suspiciously as we circled around the complex looking for numbers that did not exist. I don’t blame them for being suspicious. We could have been casing the joint. I finally stopped to ask for help from some of the suspicious strangers, not so much because I thought they could really help, but because I wanted to make sure they didn’t call the cops… especially with that expired license thing. After consulting with the suspicious strangers, calling the condo owner twice, and Max getting out of the car and inspecting the doors of about five different condos (which, of course, all looked alike), we had our eureka moment. We found the right condo. We breathed a sigh of relief as we hauled our suitcases up the flight of stairs leading to the unit. Well, maybe it was a sigh of relief. Maybe we were just winded. The flight of stairs was pretty steep.

For dinner, we googled restaurants in the area. There were only a couple of choices within thirty miles, and they had odd hours of operation. We found a place that was actually connected to a nearby campground. It wasn’t great, but it was certainly acceptable. We should have taken the hint that our vision of “vacation dining” was not going to pan out well at this location. I guess we got taken in because we went to the stunning and elegant Mount Washington Hotel the next morning for a delicious, bountiful breakfast. That meal gave us the false hope that food in Bretton Woods was plentiful and accessible.

We enjoyed beautiful weather for our ride to the summit of Mount Washington. It was 78 degrees at the bottom of the mountain. It was 47 degrees at the top of the mountain, with  40 mile per hour wind gusts. The guide assured us it was a mild day. A few days later, the temperature at the top was -7 degrees and the wind gusts were 75 miles per hour. We learned a lot of interesting information from our tour guide on the railroad trip.

The most important thing I learned is that people from New Hampshire are crazy. When they were building the railway, workers used to fashion makeshift toboggans- dubbed “devil’s shingles”- to descend the mountain. Skiers wield velocity down mountainsides that are more perpendicular than my living room walls are to the floor . I have no clue what keeps them attached to the snow. Daredevils engage in government-sanctioned car races on the automobile trail up the mountain. You notice I don’t call it a “road.” This trail was not even fully paved until last year. It is a narrow path with no guard rails. As these drivers varoom up the mountain, they look out their windows to see fairly alarming scenery- an 8,000 foot drop off into oblivion. If you ask me, all of this is just wrong. I know New Hampshire’s motto is “live free or die,” but I do have to wonder how many of them have ended up dying somewhere on Mount Washington.

When we returned from the summit, we checked out the little “restaurant” at the visitor base of the mountain. You know those hot dogs that whirl around a heat lamp in movie theaters? The cuisine was similar at the “restaurant.” Max and I decided to pass. When we went looking for another Google restaurant. The directions took us into a campground and seemed determined to lead us through a tunnel into the woods. Max’s spirit of adventure did not extend to  traveling in a car down a path to nowhere that looked better suited to foot traffic. He asked (well, “asked” might be an understatement) me to give up this folly and get back on the main road. I wasn’t sure how to grant his request, since there was no place really conducive to turning around, I tried, but Max seemed to think I was going to back us off the path into a ravine. Finally, with his direction, I ended up driving the quarter mile or so back to the main road in reverse. At that point, my own sense of adventure was feeling a bit peaked. I was up for driving the 30 miles or so to the next town with a population large enough to warrant a real restaurant that might actually be open at… you know… dinner time. Max, however, was done. He identified a gas station convenience store, and we bought some suspicious looking shrink-wrapped food to stave off cannibalism. I was feeling a bit testy.

Me, without makeup, in front of a tree all dressed up for autumn on the Trapp property
My pictures don’t really do the trees justice
cog railroad

Please tune in next week for the final installment of Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut; Sometimes You Don’t.

Have a nutty day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

The Scriptures According To Tinker Bell

Please don’t take offense at this title. As I shared a couple of weeks ago, I recently told an adapted Tinker Bell story at our church women’s organization annual coffee. In working through the ins and outs of the performance, it occurred to me that the story did, in fact, demonstrate numerous Scriptural principles. Some of you probably pooh-poohed such an idea. I thought I’d share a little pixie dust and help you understand what I mean. This is the handout that I gave the ladies to help make the connection between Tinker Bell and our Christian walk as Episcopal Church Women.

Scriptural Principles Demonstrated in The Secret Of The Wings

Because we are Christians and know that our “magic” comes from God and not some mythical pixie dust tree, here are some Scripture verses that apply to our Pixie Hollow tale!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 

Two are better than one, because they have a good return on their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Psalm 133:1

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.

John 13:35

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.

John 15:12-13

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

1 Peter 4:8-10

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in various forms. 

I hope this helps illuminate the pixie dust tree for you!

Have you ever had an experience when an exceptionally secular reference resonated with you on a spiritual level?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have an enlightened day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Stringing You All Along

I am away this week and did not bring my computer with me. I intended to publish my post about the Biblical principles Tinker Bell demonstrated in my recent pixie performance. I meant to post that puppy before I left, to be published this morning. Alas and alack, that did not happen. I lost my mind some time in mid-August and have yet to find it. If anyone out there happens to find it, please return it to me. I’ve heard you can fix nearly anything with a roll of duct tape, but I don’t think my brain fits into the “nearly anything” category.

At any rate, I’m sorry that you must wait another week for the Scriptural secrets of the wings.

Since I am on a Tinker-tear, though, I figured I’d just insert an extra chapter in the saga before concluding with Biblical principles next week. I’m sure many of you have been trying to form a mental picture of just how ridiculous I looked. I could almost hear some of you last week moaning, “pictures or it didn’t happen!”

Here you go…..

So what do you think? Wonderfully wackadoodle or just plain garden-variety wackadoodle? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a magical day!

Well, Thanks A Lot, Mom

Normally, I blame my father’s genetic makeup for the most deficient parts of me. I do not remember a time when my father did not have gray hair; I started going gray at age sixteen. My father’s diabetes raised my risk of contracting the disease by over 50%. I figured that diabetes would probably catch up with me at menopause, since a change in one hormonal system seems to trigger change to other hormonal systems. I was an overachiever and ended up being diagnosed around age forty. I inherited my father’s introversion and social awkwardness.  Recently, I behaved in a very  bizarre way that I can explain only by the fact that I am my mother’s daughter.

As I have mentioned before, my mother had a talent for love and happiness. Sometimes, this talent manifested itself in extreme levels of silliness. I do not claim to have the same talent, but I certainly inherited the manifestations of silliness.

Several months ago, a friend of mine was elected president of our church women’s group. Since our community is a snowbird community, our  “parish year” tends to start in September and rollick through until May. The summer months, when a percentage of our parish family heads to points north, can be a bit slow. When our women’s group “season” starts up in September, it is usually a big, festive party. We begin with a “welcome back” coffee that is part social gathering, part reconnecting, and part business meeting.  It is always a bit of a challenge to get the right balance. It is an informal gathering, designed to feel welcoming and enticing to new members, as well as reinvigorating returning members. In the past couple of years, we have had some sort of special showcase to give the attendees something unique on which to focus. For instance, one year, there was a  sort of “talent fair” set up, with different tables to highlight different members’ talents. For this fall coffee, my newly-presidented friend decided she wanted to feature a “storyteller.” Most of us listened politely when she brought up this idea and nodded obligingly, but most of us also had no idea what she meant. When she asked me to be the storyteller, the whole idea became much more real. Figuring out what she meant suddenly demanded much more priority.

We had several conversations about what my friend envisioned and what she wanted to accomplish with this storytelling activity. I did some internet research to see what I could see about storytelling as an art form. I found out there are international organizations with prestige and infrastructure that sponsor storytelling conferences and training events. They also preserve and laud the “science” of storytelling- history, cultural significance, and structure. It was fascinating reading, but I still felt like I was bumbling around in the dark. During my period of storytelling reconnaissance, I found out that another friend of mine in the organization had actually participated in some of these storyteller organizations. I suggested that she might be a better choice to fulfill my presidential friend’s vision. My presidential friend did not take the bait and I was still on the hook.

I came up with an idea that I thought would suit and started working on how I would tell the story. When my presidential friend asked for an update, I could see I was not hitting her mark. In fact, she told me that she intended it to be funny. I had not received that message before… and my story was decidedly unfunny. She told me, in the nicest possible way, that my approach was not working for her. We batted around several other ideas, but I could see that nothing was resonating with her. For several subsequent days, I played shotgun with ideas, but I never got the sense that my friend embraced any of them. Maybe I was looking for more validation than she wanted to give. Eventually, despite her hesitations, she told me to go with my latest idea and just do my own thing. She told me she did not want to limit my creativity and expression. At this point, I was so dubious of any creativity and expression I might have, I was unsure how to proceed.

I am nothing if not dutiful. If I commit to doing something, you can absolutely count on me to do it. Every time. No matter what. So, despite my feelings of inadequacy, I got to work on producing a storytelling event based on the Disney movie, Tinker Bell and the Secret of the Wings.  This is a 75-minute movie. I was trying to distill it down to about 10 or 15 minutes. Obviously, I did a lot of editing and simplifying.  The point of the story, at least in my bastardized effort, was that teamwork and the power of sisterhood can result in seemingly impossible successes. As I worked on this story, I had lots of doubts and lots of fears about it. I figured most of the ladies would be dumbfounded and puzzled as to the purpose of the whole storytelling activity, much less the emphasis on Disney fairies. I felt confident about nothing- except that there would be some people making fun of me and dismissing the whole thing. I don’t mind people laughing with me, but I didn’t think I needed to do anything to increase the number of people in this world who already laugh AT me. I felt a little bit like a lamb being led to slaughter… except I was fully aware that I was going to be the one slaughtered.

Then it hit me. If I was going to be silly, I could not be abashedly silly.  I could not be half-assed silly. I had to go all in. I had to be silly enough so that everyone in the room would be fully aware that I was being intentionally silly. I stopped restricting my silliness intake. I stopped editing myself for fear of being ridiculous. I decided to embrace full throttle silliness. I decided to dress up in the outfit I wore when I went to be Tink-ified at the Bippity Boppity Boutique for grown-ups. I wore a short green skater skirt, a green Tinker Bell t-shirt with silver wings printed on the back, a floral circlet on my head, and green slippers with pompons. Next, I decided to have some minor lighting effects at a crucial moment when Tink’s wings are healed. Then, I decided to have someone flit through the room with my light up Tink wand while someone else flipped the lights in the room on and off. A new friend of mine heard about the intended spectacle and was all about playing the flittering “power of sisterhood” energy. This friend is a Lutheran, so we were going to have an ecumenical Tinker Bell tale.

I told my pastor and his wife about the plan a few days before the meeting. They seemed kind of delighted by the novelty of the whole thing but did ask about a spiritual connection. It was a really good point. I have never minded being silly in the pursuit of learning or teaching, but I have always maintained that it was important not to just be silly for silly’s sake. I am always adamant about making meaning out of the silliness. I had a clear idea of the message, but I could do a much better job making the connection. I went home and prepared a list of Scripture references that I thought the story demonstrated. And for those of you who think there is no way to find Biblical references to support a Tinker Bell story, I encourage you to read next week’s blog!

As the big day approached, I started getting nervous. When I arrived at the meeting, my pastor’s wife expressed her disappointment with my attire. She was very relieved when I told her I had not changed into my costume yet. She was worried she was not going to see full on ridiculous mode, I guess. When it was time, my Lutheran pixie power pal and I went over to another building on our church grounds and fairy-fied ourselves. She wore a tule skirt, glittery jewelry, and strung herself with battery-operated lights. I tutored her on how to operate the wand. I donned my symphony in green and hoped my flower circlet, which was intended to be worn by a four-year-old, would stay put for the duration of the performance. We waited outside the parish hall where the meeting was being held. Since it was September in central Florida, it was hot and sticky while we waited for our cue. 

At last, my presidential friend opened the back door to the hall for us to enter. There was quite a stir, understandably. I took a deep breath, tried to forget my fears, and jumped right into the story. Jumped is probably a good word because I was flitting around the front of the room almost like a real pixie. I threw caution to the wind and immersed myself in my role. I do not believe I have ever done anything so ridiculous, and I do not believe I ever could have been so comfortable being so ridiculous. I enjoyed myself. My audience seemed entranced. Or shocked into submission. I am not sure which. Everything went great. My Lutheran power pixie really did bounce across the room with the wand, to the delight of everyone who saw her. The lights going on and off was an added  surprise for the audience. The timing and the pace of the story went well. I feel like I hit the right note between whimsical and condescending. Afterwards, people told me it was wonderful. Some, of course, were puzzled as to why I was telling the story to a room full of adults. They seemed a little patronizing, but still complimentary and polite. Nobody made fun of me… at least not where I could hear them. All in all, I’d say it was a win for ECW. But, even more, it was a win for me. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone with such force and feeling good about it is certainly worth celebrating.

So, I wonder what my mother would have made of this whole situation. I am sure she was sitting up in Heaven looking down on me and laughing maniacally… or smiling proudly.

What is the silliest thing you’ve ever done? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a sparkly day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Have You Missed Me Yet?

I know it has been a few weeks since I posted new content. I thought I’d better check in to let you know I still have a pulse and I am still breathing in and out. Whether or not I still have brainwaves is a matter up for debate.

I always said that I’d continue with the blog as long as I had something to say. My recent silence does NOT mean I have nothing left to say. In some ways, the problem is actually just the opposite. I have at least three blog pieces in various stages of development. I have a lot of amorphous ideas percolating but am having trouble forming those ideas into sturdy, coherent essays suitable for publication.

It does not help that my life has been Walmart Black Friday level busy since the middle of August. There are many blessings associated with a full, engaging life. One of those blessings is that a full and engaging life provides me with rich fodder for blog-building. Aye, but there is a rub! Living that full, engaging life that provides the blog fodder also limits the amount of time I have to sow and reap the actual blog crops.

Please have patience with me as I rotate my crops and start to bear fruit again. After this week, my schedule will slow down a little and I’ll bring you back along in the journey with me. Thanks for sticking with me!

So Now I’m An Infomercial Star

This post is going to be a little bit scary to write. I debated whether or not to write it and how much I am comfortable saying. But I am an enneagram type 6. My life coach, Todd Payne, tells me that the gift of the type 6 is courage. What that all means is that I live with basically the same anxiety level as a whack-a-mole on a bad acid trip…  who continues popping up to face real and imagined giants wielding heavy mallets. Despite my fear of emotional concussion, I always keep on keeping on. I am functional and productive. I kick butt and take names. Part of my work with Todd has been about minimizing the anxiety, believing in my well-honed ability to dodge said mallets, and using my natural courage to thrive.

Speaking of my life coach, he is the impetus for this post. Last April, Todd asked me if I would be willing to record an interview that he could use as a video testimonial on his website. The idea was frightening, but I wanted to give him this gift. He has done so much for me, and I have grown so much. Most of me was excited to do something that would help him and would show off the new person I am becoming, but it was a big thing to ask of myself. Todd and I talked about it a lot, in terms of how much I would share and what I would not share. We talked about the kind of questions and the level of control I would have. We talked about the appearance and body image demons I fight all the time. The mere mention of appearing on videotape for the world to see triggered the emotional switchblades to begin slashing at my flimsy self-image. During these discussions, I realized I wanted to make the video for Todd, but I also wanted to make it for me.

The interview seemed to go well, from my perspective. Todd also expressed that he was pleased with the results. He told me that it exceeded any expectation he had. The next step was for him to send the video to his editor and then, to show the finished product to me. With my agreement, he would then post it.

The timing was a bit wonky. The editor finished it right before Todd and his family made a major move. The video ended up in the digital equivalent of one of those bulging cardboard boxes you pile high in the spare bedroom after moving… with the full intention of unpacking them “when you get to it.” I was not too concerned. I asked about it once but did not pursue the matter because I figured that, if it never showed up, it was probably meant to be. The interview was a gift from me to Todd and, as the recipient, it was his to do with as he wished- even if what he wished was nothing.

The other day, I received an email from Todd, sharing the completed video with me. He seemed a little chagrined about it taking four months, but I was more worried about what the whole world was going to be seeing.  I immediately opened the file.

Now for the spoiler alert… I was…pleased.

I did not hate the way I looked. A couple of years ago, I am sure the video evidence of my appearance would have sent me running to lock myself away from the world for several days. I was convinced I was the least attractive looking person on the face of the planet. Really. That is not an exaggeration. In the video, I thought I looked… almost pretty. If not pretty, at least not distractingly ugly.

Listening to myself, I thought I was warm and engaging. I was articulate. I made all the points I wanted to make but also sounded genuine and spontaneous. It all felt very natural when I was doing it and it looked very natural on screen. Todd did a fantastic job briefing me ahead of time on what sort of structure and development he wanted. He also asked great questions to cue up my most authentic responses.

All in all, I thought that, if I was just some stranger watching this random interview on Todd’s website, I would think to myself that I really liked that girl and would like to be as healthy as she seemed to be.

Of course, growth is not a one-and-done kind of thing. Since April, I have been through four months of life with some special challenges. I AM much healthier than I have ever been, but I am going through another growth spurt right now. Again, I am dealing with some issues that I should have processed many years ago. I am doing very well. These issues are not nearly as gut-crushing as those I tackled earlier this year during my Lenten miracle ( A Lenten Miracle – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement) but they are still uncomfortable to face. This video reminded me what it is like when I feel strong and valuable.  The “delay” in sharing the video with me was not a delay at all. The timing was absolutely, exquisitely perfect. I think Todd might have done it on purpose. He’s smart like that.

So, anyway, here is the scariest part. I’ve been trying to decide whether to post the link to the video. I was not sure I wanted to draw attention to it. I think, though, that, if I want to maximize this gift to Todd and myself, it is best if I do post it. Of course, that would give the most exposure for Todd’s practice. It would also be good for me to own this moment and be proud of it.   So… here it is:

Todd Payne – Enneagram Coaching | True Self

So that is the story of my brush with infomercial stardom. Don’t worry. I’m not promoting a multi-level marketing scheme. I am not selling ginzu knives on late night tv. I am not shouting, “but wait, there’s more!”  I am simply sharing an amazing experience that has made a huge impact on me. I am sharing this experience because, first of all, this is my blog and that is what I do- analyze the wriggling mass of minutiae in my soul. Secondly, maybe someone out there will recognize themselves in this video and will reach out for help.  Not hurting all the time is really great.

Have a mentally healthy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

What do you think of my video interview? Please be tactful, if not kind. Remember, I have that flimsy self-image. Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com