Archive for September, 2011
Tomorrow is a special day ’round these here parts. Once again, we get to enjoy the great booming voice of Big Tex as he thunders across Fair Park with his stiffly cheerful, “How-dy, Folks!” Once again, the Cotton Bowl becomes a prized destination as crowds, loyally dressed and decorated, flood its seating bowl to watch epic pigskin battles. Once again, the Texas Star spins slowly across the east Dallas skyline.
And once again, the smell of fried anything wafts through the air.
Now there are certain things that are required eatin’ for fairgoers. Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, for one. Never mind the long lines or the huge stack of tickets required to enjoy a glorified hot-dog-on-a-stick. You have not been to the fair until you’ve indulged in at least one. With mustard. Only. Trust me on this. Another must-have is a funnel cake. I realize these are a dime-a-dozen at most carnivals. But somehow, they just taste better here. Add a healthy dose of powdered sugar and you’re in fried-dough heaven.
Or you could be more adventurous and sample some of the winning fare from the Big Tex choice awards. This year’s finalists included Fried Sauerkraut, Deep Fried Pineapple Upside Down Cake, and Fried Autumn Pie. Because down here in the south, it’s a firm rule: EVERYTHING tastes better when it’s fried.
Thirsty? Try some Fried Coke or a Deep Fried Latte or even Fried BEER.
Need something the kids will eat? How’s about some Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese, or a Fried PB & J Sandwich?
Prefer the spicy side of life? Get yourself some Fried Salsa, or Fernie’s Fried Chili Frito Burrito, or even Buffalo Chicken in a Flapjack – which, despite the absence of the word is, indeed fried.
Don’t want to mess with the classics, man? Then you ought to try some Fried Sweet Potato Pie or Fried Praline Perfection or Deep Fried Biscuits ‘n’ Gravy or Chicken Fried Bacon. There’s even some good ol’ Deep Fried Southern Hospitality which has your collard greens, pulled pork, and cornbread: it’s one-stop eatin’!
Need something a little more healthful? Then step right up for some Fried Canteloupe or El Bananarito (which, in case you hadn’t figured it out, is deep-fried banana).
Got a sweet tooth? Then you definitely need to get yourself a Heavenly Deep Fried Brownie, Fried Cheesecake or Fried Caramel Pecan Candy.
And when you’re all done, you can cleanse your palate walking around the Fair chewing on some Fried Bubblegum.
Acts 23:11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
I love the words here: “The Lord stood by him.” God “stood by” Paul both literally and figuratively. Paul was in the midst of being imprisoned, beaten, and shuffled from one court of law to another while the Jews tried to figure out what to do with him. I imagine that many of his Pharisee “friends” had abandoned him, either for fear of finding themselves in the same position, or feeling like they were powerless against the higher-ups. I imagine that many of his church friends were distanced from him, whether by geography or lack of communication, or physically held back by the guards. His missionary friends were themselves either killed or off doing God’s work in the places He had called them to. So Paul was truly alone.
And his troubles had only begun. God tells him, “Hey, you’re going to be facing some tough stuff coming up…you’re going to need to be strong because I’m taking you to the next level on your faith journey.” Paul knows what this means. Ramped-up beatings. Increasing threats. Longer and more difficult imprisonments. Trial after trial after trial before one important leader after another. Stress. Physical hardship. Testing.
But “the Lord stood by him.” As He uttered those words to Paul, He was standing “by him.” As He was breaking the bad news, He was standing “by him.” As Paul’s heart no doubt sank and he may have physically shuddered at the thought of what was coming to him, the Lord was standing “by him.” And when Paul had no one else by his side, the Lord was standing “by him.”
Paul is no different from you or me. Our tasks may be different – you and I may not be called to stand before the tribune or the Roman elite, we may not be flogged or have our lives threatened for our faith – but they’re no less difficult, daunting, and stressful. But we can rest assured that as “the Lord stood by” Paul, He will do the same for us.
I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.
Those words, made famous by Scottish runner Eric Liddell in the movie “Chariots of Fire” don’t begin to describe me. While I do believe that God made me for a purpose, I can’t say that He made me fast. In fact, he made me more like a Clydesdale than a thoroughbred. And most of the time, I certainly *don’t* feel His pleasure – or any other pleasure – when I run. In actuality, the pleasure comes after the run, as in “I’m SO happy I’m done running!” or “Yay! I can take a shower now!”
Yet it’s been 18 months now since I first set foot on a treadmill – on a whim – to see if I could, in fact, run one complete mile. Now I’m up to over 6 miles, running an hour straight and have completed several 5K’s and one 10K and am actually contemplating training for a half-marathon.
Yikes. Who am I and what have I done with myself?
Today marked an anniversary of sorts. It was one year ago this weekend that I ran my very first 5K. My good friend Jacqueline agreed to go with me and run at *my* pace, which was significantly slower than hers. We honored the memory of another friends’ precious little baby by running that 5K, a beautiful little girl who lost her battle to leukemia just days before she would have been 9 months old. For both of us, it was our first 5K, an emotional time to remember and honor Allie but also complete a significant personal accomplishment.
I couldn’t wait to do it again this year.
But this year, I would have to go it alone, since my running buddy came down with some nasty flu bug. My goal was to complete the run in 32 minutes or less, beating last year’s time. This would mean running at a 10′ mile pace…or even faster. According to my Dailymile posts, my pace has only been 10′/mi. or faster when I’ve been on the treadmill in the early stages of Couch to 5K, or when I’ve run short distances, like to my weekly Moms in Touch meetings where I have an hour of recovery between the intervals.
Lining up before the race, I was really nervous. For one thing, I was feeling very much alone. Trey was at a youth group retreat and Matt had opted to stay home with Crisana, so I had no cheering section. My running buddy was sick and I didn’t know anyone else there. And then there was my not-so-brilliant plan of having run both Thursday and Friday. Though Friday’s run was short and fairly easy, it was extra mileage on my gimpy ankle. To top it all off, I’d had a somewhat indulgent day of eating on Friday…between a donut at breakfast and gelato in the afternoon and french fries at dinner. I wasn’t sure if my tank was full, and the reserves were well fueled, and how that might affect my pace.
But once the gun went off and the crowd surged forward, I felt all that apprehension fall away. I had nothing to prove to anyone but myself. If I needed to walk for a minute or two, so be it. If my ankle started to hurt too badly, there would be volunteers on the course that could help me get back to my car. And if I can run that miserable hill known as Meandering Way, I can certainly conquer this relatively easy, flat, smooth course on well-paved, 3-lanes-wide city streets.
Out of the gate, I was in the middle of the pack, and with the crowds I was more focused on not running into people or tripping over their feet than I was with my pace. But as I neared Mile 1, what I saw on the timer shocked me. That first digit was a 9! I passed the timer just as the digits rolled from 9:59 to 10:00. But there was no time for celebration, because I knew I had to keep that pace going for 2 more miles.
Mile 2 was a little tougher, with navigating the water station, turnaround, and a long slow incline. At 15′ I hadn’t yet reached the turnaround, and I was concerned that I had fallen well off my pace. But as I began that slow, steady climb I could see the timer at the mile marker and those numbers were still in the teens. While I didn’t quite make it at 20′, I passed that timer at 20:10…not too bad, and still close to my pace.
Now came the hard part. That final mile and the push to the finish line. Thankfully, I found a good pacer in front of me that I could focus on and follow. But I was beginning to feel tired. I wanted to go downhill for a bit. And doggone it if my mp3 player didn’t decide to go all wonky on me. I tried to fix it while still running but the bright sunshine made it hard to see if what I was doing was working so I had to pull off to the side and actually take the darn thing off. By then, my pacer was farther ahead, but I could still keep her in my sights, even if I had no hope of catching up to her.
I made the final turn just before Mile 3 to a sight that disappointed me. The timer, though hard to read, was somewhere in minute 31. I knew it would be hard to get to the finish line in less than 2 minutes…and I had done so well up to that point. But as I turned the final corner, God gave me a burst of energy. Something literally pushed me forward to the finish line. I couldn’t see the timer well – someone’s head was blocking it – but I knew it was still in minute 32. And literally seconds before I crossed it, I saw the number “33:00″ pop up. darn. But I crossed strong, and felt proud to have finished, knowing I gave all I could have given.
The official results say I finished in 33:05 (according to chip time), which is a 45-second improvement over last year’s chip time. My official pace was 10:36, placing me 273 out of a total 763. If I did the math right, which is always a sketchy proposition, that means I ranked 64%, almost in the top third.
The end of a race is always an emotional moment for me as I realize just how grateful I am to have a body that can *do* this. I may not do it as well as some, and I may not look as good as others, but that’s okay. I’m not interested in being the best, but in doing my best…and in bringing pleasure to the One who created me, for His purpose.
Smee: I’ve just had an apostrophe.
Captain Hook: I think you mean an epiphany.
Smee: [gestures his fingers to his head] Lightning has just struck my brain.
Captain Hook: Well, that must hurt.
Deut. 6:4 ”Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
She asked us why God would have had the Israelites write these words on the doorposts. That same day a question was posed on the Christ Fellowship page about the correlations between Passover and N.T. communion. My mind got to thinking…and suddenly BANG!! POP!!! CRACK!! Lightning had struck. An
apostrophe! epiphany! A thunderous roll echoed between my ears as the smoke cleared…and this is what God revealed.
Okay. So, apparently God has a “thing” about doorposts. First He has the Hebrews prepare for their inaugural Passover by painting the doorposts of their houses with a lamb’s blood. And then, when they are out of Egypt and ready to enter the Promised Land He has them write these words of the law on the doorposts of their homes. What is it with the doorposts??
The doorposts represent the way. The way in and the way out. They represent the way in to our “homes” – our inner sanctum, our most private place, our heart – as well as our way out into the world, our places of business, our community. Our days are filled with going through doorposts – whether it be from one room to another, or from one location to another. Writing the Shema on the doorposts provides a constant reminder of how I am to conduct myself, whether at home with my family, or out in the world conducting business. As I pass through the door, I am reminded to make sure that my actions INSIDE my home match my actions OUTSIDE my home…that I am displaying in front of my children and husband the same integrity of character and love for God that I show to the world…or vice versa. It’s also a reminder to those coming into my home of just exactly Who is in charge. Who I serve. And Who they should be expecting to see.
And it’s because of what the Passover doorposts signify that makes the Shema so important. You see, when the Hebrews painted the lamb’s blood on the doorpost, God told them specifically to paint the top and the sides. Unlike paint, blood is a very thin liquid, so when you paint the top, some is going to drip onto the ground. And when you connect the blood-splattered dots – from top to bottom, from side to side – what shape emerges?? Yes. A cross. You see, the Israelites were literally painting the sign of the cross with the blood of the lamb to protect them from death, rescue them from slavery, and set them free. As they walked through their doors that dreadful morning, they walked through the blood of the lamb. It was that blood that protected their family. It was that blood that allowed them to walk out of Egypt forever, as free men, free women, and free children. It was that blood that provided a new life in a beautifully abundant land prepared just for them. But they had to walk through it.
Years later, the Lamb of God stretched his bloodied hands out to the side…His bloodied head rested at the top of the cross, while the blood from the nails in his feet dripped onto the ground beneath. The blood of God’s precious Lamb stretched side to side, top to bottom, just like the doorposts at Passover, because HE is my way. He delivered me from the angel of death…freed me from my bonds of slavery and sin…and will one day end my sojourning and bring me to a beautifully abundant land prepared just for me…if only I will walk through the blood.
I get goosebumps just thinking about the awesomeness of our God. I love Him so much.
You make lemonade, of course.
But if you’re a true entrepeneur, capitalist, or overachiever, you then sell that sweet-tangy nectar at your very own lemonade stand!
This summer, as part of our Brownie program for Girl Scouts, our troop was supposed to choose a project to make our community a better place. Note the use of the singular adjective: A project. One. Majority rules.
Our troop, however, could not decide on a project. No, all seven of our girls each voted for a different project. So we ended up with no majority. And you know what that means to an overachiever like me. Yep, we’re doing all seven. One per month for the entire school year. Because that’s how we roll.
So each girl now gets to take the lead role in organizing and carrying out her chosen service project. Crisana’s was to help the Samaritan Inn, Collin County’s only homeless shelter. We drove by the Samaritan Inn regularly on our way to swim lessons this summer, and we could see the number of people waiting, even in the midst of the brutal heat, to get inside. We heard about the overcrowding, the large numbers of children who were living there, and the way the Inn’s meager resources were being taxed trying to meet the needs of the most desperate in our community. Crisana decided she wanted to help. She contacted the Inn and spoke with one of the coordinators there to determine how our group of third-grade girls could make an impact.
Toilet paper and paper towels was the answer.
But I wanted this to be more than just having the girls ask their parents for money to buy toilet paper and paper towels. I wanted the girls to have some sort of investment, to make some sort of sacrifice or effort to participate. I wanted this to mean something to them. I wanted them to give, not just physically but emotionally as well.
And so was born Crisana’s lemonade stand.
She sent out an email to the neighborhood advertising her stand this past Saturday and Sunday. She spread the word through my facebook account and even sent an email to the principal at McGowen asking for permission to collect donations there. She decided to sell lemonade and cookies, and to use the profits to purchase the needed supplies for the Samaritan Inn. She set to work, making her sign, putting a tub out on our doorstep for donations, and squeezing lots and lots of lemons. With a little help from mom and a few friends, she made 10 dozen chocolate chip cookies, 8 dozen sugar cookies (4 of which she frosted and decorated with a single candy corn), and 8 dozen oatmeal raisin cookies. She bagged them in individual baggies and made nearly 6 gallons of fresh-squeezed lemonade.
And then we dragged it all down to the corner and set up shop.
One of her Brownie troop-mates joined us for the sale on Saturday, as well as a neighbor friend who is a Girl Scout Junior. Thanks to a neighbor, we enjoyed shade from the brutal sun both days. Thanks to other neighborhood children, we also enjoyed a nearly constant stream of customers and activity throughout the two-day event.
When it was all said and done, the pitchers were washed and the trash was bagged up and the cookies were eaten and the money was counted…we learned that she had earned a whopping $195.50. That’ll buy a lot of toilet paper.
All because a little girl had a dream…had a passion…had a heart…and a lot of help.
I think we’ve already succeeded in making our community a better place.
Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They shall spring up among the grass
like willows by flowing streams.
What a refreshing promise for us during this time of drought! God will – in a very literal sense – end this dryness. He controls the weather patterns, the earth’s cycles, even global warming! He understands creation’s “groanings” for His healing and restoration. Just imagine how much more beautiful our landscape will look after seeing so much brown and yellow, how much we will appreciate the lush greens and vivid colors after seeing the dry, brittle grass and trees, and how refreshing it will be to see ponds filled with water rather than prairie grasses.
And in a spiritual sense, He will do the same for us. In those seasons of spiritual dryness, He will – in His time – pour out His spirit of blessing and refreshing. He will saturate our cracked and dry heart-soil. He will saturate our parched and thirsty souls. He will fill our empty reservoirs of joy, peace, and purpose. And our vine will be lush and beautiful, bearing fruit for Him once again.
I have to share with you a funny story that happened to me today while I was out for my run.
I have a small shuffle player that I listen to while exercising – maybe not as cool as an iPod or iPhone, but it works for me. The only downside is that I can’t create playlists on it, but I’m not much of a playlist kind of girl. In fact, I enjoy being surprised by the often-eclectic mix I hear. I like to think that some days God takes advantage of having a captive audience, when He has something He really wants to say to me.
Well, today was apparently one of “those” days. I had planned to go for one of my 10K training runs: 5 minutes of brisk walking to warm up, followed by 3 18-minute run intervals, with 1 minute walking recovery in between. The course I use when I do these long runs is scenic and beautiful, with large acreage lots and horses and longhorns and two-lane country roads. It’s also very hilly and challenging and pushes me to go beyond what I think I’m capable of doing. Today, I was really struggling. I had run out of gas after the first two run intervals and my hamstrings were unusually sore, so I decided to walk the majority of the last interval. I used that time to pray and talk to God and seek His encouragement. This song came on, and even though it’s one that I’ve heard probably hundreds of times, the words just really spoke to me:
For some reason, this song was just speaking to me in a powerful way. I was crying out to God, “YES!! That’s what I want!! I want to shine like the stars! I want to be YOUR light!” It was a precious time of worship, even in the midst of a failed training run. I just sensed God’s nearness and love and even His pleasure as my heart expressed my deepest desire to Him.
The song ended. My soul was soaring. My heart was overflowing. My spirit was burning. I could hardly wait to hear the next song.
And what should that next song be? “La Bamba.”
Worship. was. over.
The mountaintop experience was gone. Just like that. I had to laugh. I’m pretty sure God was laughing, too. He has a sense of humor, ya know.
Isaiah 43:16 And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.
One of the benefits of reading the entire Bible is that I discover verses I never knew existed. Here all this time I thought Isaiah was just book of boring and confusing prophecy. Imagine my surprise when I discover there’s poetry and wisdom…and encouragement! Take this verse for example. It just jumped off the page and right into my heart. I love God’s matter of fact tone: This is what I do for you, because I am God. Currently our church is engaged in a study of Exodus, and I’m struck by how beautifully this dovetails with that study…how Moses sought this exact reassurance from God before he acted.
But this verse speaks to me for another reason. This weekend, we had two significant instances of God’s leading and guidance, further proof that God’s word is truth.
- On Saturday, Matt attended the annual NARI Home and Garden Show at Market Hall. He intended to use this as both an educational experience – keeping up-to-date on the latest trends, needs, and materials for potential clients – as well as a marketing opportunity. I had told him I wanted to pray over him before he went, but in the midst of Saturday morning busy-ness, I forgot. While I was driving around, at about 11:15, God suddenly prompted me to pray, so I just started praying out loud in the car: for Matt to make the right contacts, for the vendors to be receptive to him, for God to bring clients out of this experience. All of a sudden, I just spontaneously started praying for God to ease Matt’s stress over his insurance situation. It’s a long and complicated situation, but the clock is ticking and our options are severely limited. When Matt arrived home that afternoon, he began telling me about his day: who he had talked to, how the conversations went, possible leads…and then he just said, “Oh, and here’s a random thing: I even talked to this one person who does insurance for small businesses, and I told them about my situation and they seem to think they’ll be able to help me!” I asked him if he remembered about what time he talked to that person, and he said, “Probably around 11:15 or so. Why?” That’s when I told him how God prompted me to pray. God “led the blind (me) in a way that they (I) did not know”, and could not possibly have anticipated: to pray for my husband and his insurance needs…at the exact moment he was speaking to someone at a home and garden show about small business insurance…because that is what God does!
- One of the songs that is particularly meaningful to Matt is Chris Tomlin’s “Our God.” He really relates to the line “Our God is healer, awesome in power” as well as the bridge: “And if our God is for us, then who can ever stop us, and if our God is with us, then what can stand against?” For his birthday celebration on Saturday evening, Crisana gave him that Chris Tomlin CD. I heard them listening to it and singing it together in his study afterward. Yesterday, we had our first sermon in the Exodus series at church, a dynamic and powerful message about who God is (YHWH, the I Am). The closing song was none other than “Our God.” I could tell God was really speaking to Matt all day yesterday. I could sense the energy and electricity in his spirit. The message hit him powerfully, and God had his full attention. After life group, I heard Matt up in the study listening to that song again on his computer. I didn’t think much of it, just that he was enjoying his birthday present. Suddenly, he comes down the stairs with a piece of paper in his hand. He had printed his business logo 4 times diagonally down it, and above each logo he had written:
“If God is for…”(HMS Architecture)
“then who can stop…”(HMS Architecture)
“And if our God is with…”(HMS Architecture)
“Then what could stand against…”(HMS Architecture)
He held it out to me and said, “This is HMS Architecture’s belief statement. What do you think?”
What did I think? AT that moment, what thoughts could I pull out of the swirling mix of emotion?
And finally, thank You. Thank you, God, for speaking so powerfully to my husband. Thank You for moving in his life and heart in such a dramatic and powerful way. Thank You for “turning his darkness into light and the rough places into level ground.” Thank You for being God – YHWH, the Almighty, the Everlasting, the I AM. Thank you for doing “the things (You) do.”
Thank you for “not forsaking them.” Or us.
Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Yesterday I had the privilege of attending chapel at Dallas Theological Seminary. It’s a once a year opportunity for me, a privilege I enjoy because of my father’s legacy. As hard as this day can be emotionally, I always find myself renewed and refreshed spiritually by the message the speaker brings.
The message yesterday was based on Psalm 119 about God’s law. I read Psalm 119 for the first time in its entirety this spring (all in one sitting – aloud. Try that sometime. Just make sure you have a big glass of water on hand.) and was struck by the overwhelming love the psalmist had for God’s word. The speaker yesterday reminded us that at the time the psalm was written the only words of God they had accessible and available to them was Torah, the Law. He also pointed out that the word “Torah” is the image of God’s finger pointing a straight path, a clear direction, almost as if He’s drawing a line in the sand for us to follow. That’s why the psalmist loved it so much. It was the clear direction, the “straight highway” for our lives.
This morning I read this passage in Isaiah and was struck with the parallel wording. That as we follow God’s law, we are an extension of His finger, pointing the way for others to follow. We are the “signposts” that show the correct path, the one true Way, to a world lost and wandering aimlessly.
Today, I too am thankful for God’s law. His words. His complete revealed truth, shared with us in the marvelous book we call the Bible. May my life be a clear, blazing beacon of full-on pursuit of Truth, pointing others to the way of hope and life.
I was reading in Isaiah 37-38 today and two events really struck me:
Isaiah 37:14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord…
Isaiah 38:1 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.”t2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,3 and said, “Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
What struck me in both of these passages was Hezekiah’s response to these dire situations. In the first one, he had received news of the Assyrians attacking the neighboring cities, towns, regions, and had basically been told “Don’t expect your God to save you. The gods of all these other countries weren’t able to save their people, so why should yours be any different? The Assyrians are just too strong, too powerful. Be prepared to die at their hands.” Rather than allowing fear to paralyze him into inactivity, or taking matters into his own hands and gathering a large army to confront the Assyrians, Hezekiah goes to his knees. I love the image of him spreading his letter before the Lord. I can almost picture him saying, “See THIS, Lord?? THIS is what I’m up against!”
In the second passage, God has told Hezekiah directly that his illness is fatal. “You shall die, you shall not recover.” But what does Hezekiah do? Well, what he DOESN’T do is wallow in self-pity. He doesn’t take matters into his own hands and seek out healers and remedies. He doesn’t lax into apathy or depression. He “turns his face to the wall” and prays. I’m convinced the only reason he didn’t get down on his knees was because he physically couldn’t! And he gets bold right there on his sickbed and basically tells God, “Look, I have done everything You asked me to do. I have followed You wholeheartedly and obeyed Your words. Doesn’t that count for SOMETHING??” And God’s response is, “Okay, Hezekiah, you got it. I’m not only going to heal you, I’m going to give you another 15 YEARS to follow Me.” Wow. In those days, 15 years was half a lifetime.
These verses have challenged me to:
- bring my requests to God FIRST. Action can come later, once I know what God wants me to do…if anything.
- be specific in my requests, recognizing that my help comes only from Him.
- not be afraid to ask in boldness, knowing that God yearns to unleash His power and blessing over my life if only I will have the courage and audacity to ask.