Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Look Back at 2009

I just took my 2009 calendar down. A look through it reminded me of shopping for Lizzy's prom dress, her immunizations for college, orientation at West Ga, shopping for her dorm room - all those senior year things. Special events are marked down - parties, weddings, graduation, a Braves game, a writer's conference. There in black and white I can see the winding down of things in our lives - high school happenings, our old church, kids at-home schedule. And new beginnings - engagements, BBQ with new Sunday School class, an empty-nest vacation, calls with my agent.
As I looked at each little block, the items listed there jumped to life. With amazing clarity that event, those people, the places came back to me. Freshness of a Spring evening in Atlanta for our anniversary, the heat of Savannah in the Summer, crispness of a Autumn picnic. And the people - funny - but in those memories what comes to me is people laughing. How odd is that? Even in some situations and times that were tense, what I remember is the smiles and laughter. The joy of being together.
Maybe it's just me (I am fairly delusional when it comes to being happy), but it's actually soothed my heart this morning to realize this about my remembering. To know that what has stuck in my mind and soul is the laughter and smiles - the joy. So, try it. Look back through 2009 and see what pictures comes with those markings on your calendar.
Happy New Year to all of you - and here's to filling our 2010 calendars with good stuff!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where were YOU for Y2K?

Eleven years ago we were getting ready to move from Northern Illinois to our current home in Marietta, Georgia. We'd made the decision to relocated with Mike's company in July, but told Robert if he made the Jr. High basketball team we would wait until the end of the season to move. Our move date was Jan. 22 - Lizzy's 8th birthday. So July to January - it was a verrrry long goodbye.
Our house in Illinois was an old farm house, and had at one time been a stage coach stop. It was a small two story farm house on a couple acres. Nothing fancy - the kind of farm house with no upstairs bathroom and lots of years and owners to mess things up.
We lived on a gravel road and were across the street from the elementary school, which had 152 kids in grades K-6. On the other corner was our little church, Wilton Center Federated Church. The Methodist and American Baptist church had joined to survive 75 years earlier. It was a real lesson on differentiating tradition and sacred practices. Amazing how quickly we substitute them for each other, but that's another blog. We lived in our little township of Wilton Center for ten years.
Now for a blast from the past - eleven years ago when we put our farmhouse on the market it was advertised as a "Y2K house". Remember that? Y2K - the fear, the new jobs (both my brothers made lots of money doing freelance computer work for the banks and one still works for a bank), the excitement of living in the 2000's, partying like it was 1999. And now it is all a decade old.
Ten years is a big chunk of life, and it flew by for me. However, when I think of all the people and places and memories it's hard to imagine they all fit in only ten calendars.
A new decade starts this week. Who and what will fill it? I can't hardly wait to see!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Time for Everything

Last night we watched the Georgia game - Go Dawgs! - and had buffalo dip, a mexican layered dip, and tortilla roll ups. To me - the food just wasn't that good. Nothing wrong with the ingredients or preparation. Mike and Ryan and Lizzy loved it, but I'm about rich fooded out.
Beginning with Thanksgiving the food party starts it's march. Parties, baking days, football games, restaurant stops while traveling, and movie nights. There are fun drink recipes popping up on my computer, desserts gracing the cover of every magazine, breakfast casseroles that make mornings with all the crowd easier, and then all that sharing of peanut brittle and peanut butter balls every time the doorbell rings.
Just writing all this makes me a little queasy.
And so the world keeps turning, and I know what's coming next. My growing lack of interest in all the rich food of December is the first indicator. The next sign will be grumpiness with the disruption to my TV and radio schedule. When my shows all take that break for the holidays, at first I don't even notice it because I'm too busy. But then when there's not been a new Office in a while and my favorite commentators are still on vacation - I get a little testy. A sign that things need to really move along is when the little twinkly white lights stop being magical are just down right garish. Yep - time for January.
Time for a cleaned off mantle and an ungilded dining room. Time for basic soups and salads. Time for routine. Time for quiet and stillness and contemplation and reading.
As it's written in Ecclesiastes 3:1 - There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
(Here's the rest of that passage in case you haven't read, or heard, it in a while.)
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Yep, according to Kay's clock, it's just about time for a change.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Party's Over, kinda

I officially love Christmas on Friday. Going straight into the weekend made the holiday stretch out, so much so that I'm having difficulty letting it go now. The weekend was relaxing and fun, but now it's time to move from Christmas and on to New Years.
Mike is at work and my to do list today is mainly to undecorate the tree. I hate to see it and all the multi-colored lights go, but it is time. The limbs are no longer supple and are beginning to droop. Plus, on New Year's day we always have an open house which starts with the first bowl game (11 am) and ends when the last bowl game ends (around 11 pm). So we need additional seating in the living room where the tree is. (BTW - open house means you're invited! Come on by for chili, nachos, and football!)
This month has flown, but I think it is ending without regrets. Special times with special people all happened. Quiet moments with the lit tree, a fire, and a book happened. Games were played, walks taken, dinners served, carols sang, candles lit, and Wow - does my house show it!
Today, as I remove ornaments from prickly limbs, climb to the top cupboards to put away the special dishes and glasses, make dinner out of left-overs (again) I want my work to remind me of our just past holiday - not turn me into a Grinch.
Sad, isn't it, how a few hours work can dampen a month full of joy. That's a truth I'll keep close at hand today - because I KNOW I'm going to need it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Getting up Early to stuff that Turkey

This was one of my most popular blogs. It was written Thanksgiving morning so here it is for Christmas because I've got a turkey to stuff!
Merry Christmas!

Here's to all the coffee brewers, onion chopping, turkey stuffing, cool whip thawers out there. You are the Stage Setters.
Things are quiet at my parents home this morning. Everyone is asleep - but me. I slept later than normal, but I knew I wanted to get this blog written and I just wanted to get up and get the day started. The early quite of a holiday morning belongs to moms and grandmoms, in my experience. The ones who went over the next day's menu right before going to bed and the ones who woke up with thoughts of what needed to be done when, so the next thing can be done. The turkey has to be stuffed before it can go in the oven and before the stuffing can be stuffed - cornbread has to be cooked, onions and celery chopped and sauteed, giblets boiled and chopped, eggs boiled and chopped. You can see where the mind racing upon waking comes in.
But in my life, those setting these scenes when I was to young to understand, did so lovingly and joyfully. Grandma and my aunt Cora Mae bustling in the kitchen as I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag on their living room floor. Smells from Mama's kitchen waking me up and saying that this was a special day. Even the cooking of cornbread at midnight on Christmas eve so it would be ready the next morning. Hot cornbread at midnight? - some people just KNOW how to set a scene.
The day is set in the hands of the Scene Setters and it is ours to embrace and do prayerfully - or ours to treat as work and do grudgingly.
Once again - a choice. A choice on what I will do to make this day a gift for my family.
Got to go, I have onions and celery to chop!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

O World, I cannot hold thee close enough!

It's Christmas Eve - just put a pecan pie in the oven and need to get a chocolate one made. And since the only thing that would end up here if I tried writing this morning would be the menu for tonight, here's a blog from my first week of blogging.
"Knee-buckling Gratitude" - and it fits exactly how I feel today! Enjoy!

Early morning sunshine through the trees
Kids - mine especially
left-over chicken wings
Jesus life story written in Mark's action packed way
Hydrangeas in vases given by a friend
Southern Living Magazine
Smell of exhaust
Light reflected on water
There's a line from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Milay, which since jr. high has met my need for words on days like today. "O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!" When my very soul so expands that to hold all this beauty in proves more than I can do, that one line is my mantra. My prayer of all-consuming praise for being alive and being me. And I know God is grinning like crazy when we take a minute or two and actually see, really see our world. Wow - he must really like us!
"O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!"
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chore OR Celebration

There's a scene in the Muppet's Christmas Carol when Scrooge (Michael Caine) leaves the office on Christmas Eve, bound for his home and his ghostly encounters. Left behind is his clerk, Bob Cratchett - Kermit, and the other clerks - rats. And the narrator says, "And with their employer gone they began that most pleasant of activities - the celebration of Christmas." They then proceed to put things in order - book on the shelves, closing the blinds, and sweeping. All while singing the song about "One more sleep 'til Christmas."
I'm re-reading a book I love this time of year, "An Irish Country Christmas" by Alice Taylor. It is charming in her relaying of getting ready for Christmas many years ago in a small Irish village. One chapter is about the Christmas goose. How they care for the mama and papa geese all year and the little goslings are raised and fattened for Christmas. She goes into great detail of the seven geese they needed for Christmas, as gifts and special meals. The butchering by her mother and then each child having to pluck all the feathers from the, still warm, geese. How she manages to make this interesting and not disgusting is unfathomable, but she does. And it's all in preparation for Christmas.
Today my list is long and I have a choice - to see these chores and errands as necessary work, OR they can be the beginning of that most pleasant of activities - the celebration of Christmas. When we make a separation in our lives, and our childrens' lives, that says work is not part of the celebration we make a mistake. Don't let your children's Christmas work only be writing out their list for Santa. Let them in on the secret - the preparation is part of the celebration. We are short-changing our children, and ourselves, when we loose that knowledge.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lessons from Forrest

We watched "Forrest Gump" last night and I got to wondering what is it that makes Forrest so different, so appealing? A few things came to me.
One is he always says, "Okay" when someone asks him if he wants to do something. Go into shrimping, play ping pong, whatever. The original "Yes" man.
He lives in the present. Past and future don't seem to hold much appeal to him. He dives off the boat and goes when he needs to go. Where the boat will go isn't a concern for him.
But last night the thing that I kept noticing is he always does the right thing. Without thoughts of his benefit or his cost, he just does the right thing. He doesn't carry around baggage in his head and heart which muddies up right and wrong.
I know Forrest is mentally challenged and fictional, but that always doing right - without a lot of thinking - sounds really appealing to me right now.
What I'm stuck on is the forgiving and forgetting thing. I want to forgive because it's the right thing AND because I don't like having bad feelings toward anyone. But I don't want to forget, because, well, I don't want to forget and let the person think they got away with it. But that kind of forgetting is not only not forgetting, that's not forgiving. Bummer.
So my choice is to forgive AND forget or neither. Maybe you've found a way to be at peace not forgetting, but I seem to lack that ability. So, me and God have got some talking to do this morning because this baggage has got to go.
Seriously - I've got Christmas cookies to bake and baggage messes that up!

So either I let it all go, which is going to require supernatural help, or I keep feeling yucky about it all. Supernatural - you know that means outside our natural world - and that's what God is. Good thing for me, because my nature is to hold on to this and feel hurt.
Wait, maybe that's what is so appealing about Forrest - his mental problems didn't allow him to develop past the nature of a child.

Monday, December 21, 2009

And there was dancing and singing . . .

My eyes just keep wanting to close. One, because I could sleep for a week. Two, because I want to close my eyes and remember all the beautiful moments from this weekend.
Robert and Carrie are married.
W'ere still in Athens with some moving of furniture, gifts and general wedding details - such as taking their cat to it's new home, getting the groom's tux, and clearing out of the hotel rooms.
The wedding was happy, sweet and so beautiful. The night sky peering in three stories of windows, surrounded by old mellow wood and stone out in the middle of the woods, it was magical. And then the reception in the atrium with tropical plants, citrus trees bearing ripened fruit and hundreds of tiny white lights set a fairytale stage for laughter and tears and lots and lots of dancing.
What a wonderful feeling to see the culmination of so much planning and thought and concern. I think that's what is so fun about the dancing at the reception - the celebration that it all really, really happened. Just like we dreamed and hoped.
Today is Dec. 21 and in three days we'll celebrate the evening God watched his plan unfold and develop in that stable in Bethlehem. Sure, he's God and he can do all things - but he chooses to use humans and we are notoriously problematic when it comes to heavenly plans.
So last night on that dance floor when we all clapped and danced and laughed we probably reminded God of the celebration in the heavens on that night long ago. When angels clapped and danced and laughed and shouted, "Glory to God!"
God loves a good celebration!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Morning has Broken

Wedding weekend is finally here! Rehearsal has to be today, two days before the wedding, so we get to stretch out the fun.
I feel all tingly and excited and my mind is racing so this blog just doesn't seem to want to come together. Next time I write this blog - I'll be a mother-in-law! How cool is that? Everything seems too big, too wonderful to wrap my mind around. There's a song that swells up in me when I feel this way. So these words are my gift to you on this day.

Morning Has Broken
(A Traditional Song, Lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon)

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

Blessings on you all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Winter Palettes

Southern winters have a softness I find appealing. Dove gray and rusty brown make up the biggest part of the color palette. Leaves gather where they fell, in drifts of warm brown. Tree bark and limbs remain supple and small twigs make a full silhouette against mother of pearl skies. Punctuations of green are dark, thick, and pungent - pines appear as if placed there just yesterday to fill an empty spot. Magnolias tower in emerald and bronze - leaves speaking of their superiority to that creamy, but showy, flower which lacks staying power. Like women of old money, a few Bradford pear trees wear modest adornments of ruby or gold. While male cardinals dash around like Rhett Butler, astonishing in their good looks - and completely aware of it.
Soft, gray, brown, and green wreathed in the scent of wood smoke. Like an afternoon nap in front of a football game.
How different a Northern winter palette. Colors never bleeding on to one another or fading into softness. White, snow white, binds all elements of the landscape and brown hides for lack of ability to compete. White in the sky, the sun focuses on getting through, but the brilliant blue air holds any warmth captive. Twigs did not make it through winter's arrival. Sturdy, strong black limbs are hardened and ready. And then sunset. As the stunning blue is pushed off stage, the sun steals the show. Magenta, orange, and red floods the sky and covers the white ground. Intense light fills the colors and even the black bark glows as if on fire. On the verge of waking everything up - the sun slips behind the dark hill and color is asleep - again.
Ebony and crystals with a curtain call of astonishing. Like a night on the town with a dangerous, but beautiful, man.
Whatever your winter day looks like - enjoy it and see it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dwelling in Possibility

You know that cartoon bit where someone starts rolling down a snowy hill and as the ball picks up speed it also picks up everything in it's path? People, dogs, trees all get swept into it and then legs, arms and branches stick out of the rolling ball. Then at the bottom the ball breaks apart and everyone jumps up and says, "Ta Da!"
That's what keeps coming to mind as we near this weekend and our son's wedding. We're on the downhill side now and things are moving fast toward the beginning of the fun. Maps have been sent, everything ordered, trips planned, clothes arranged, shoes practiced in and we're almost there. The arrivals and meetings of so many folks whose lives will be henceforth entwined. Sharing memories and laughter around rehearsal dinner tables, at hotel breakfasts, on errands, doing make up--everywhere and anytime. The past and the future, all in one weekend.
I'm so looking forward to celebrating Robert and Carrie this weekend.
And then less than a week later, the celebration of Christmas. More anticipation building and building as the advent season arrives at it's goal.
Anticipation for me is almost as much fun as the actual event sometimes. To set the stage for wonderful things to happen. To dwell in the possibilities of it all.
One of my favorite authors Emily Dickinson wrote this poem called:

I Dwell in Possibility

I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Superior--for Doors--

Of Chambers as the Cedars--
Impregnable of Eye--
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky--

Of Visitors--the fairest--
For Occupation--This--
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise--

May today find you not only dwelling in possibility - but downright wallowing!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just Shine

My favorite part of the Christmas season is, I believe, the lights. (Lights are very noticeable here right now because this is our fourth day in a row of drizzle and fog in Georgia.) Our Christmas tree is covered in tiny multi-colored and white lights. Across the buffet, entertainment center, fireplace mantle, front door and stair railing, five strings of white lights are entwined in evergreen swags. (Here's where I admit I wanted to not do all the lights this year, but Mike convinced me to - he is SO right some times.)
Like the proverbial "candle in the window", Christmas lights call me to hope. Think about it, most of the lights we decorate with, (leaving off the over-achievers, like Clark Griswold) don't really provide illumination, direction, instruction, or safety like most of the lights in our lives.
They just are.
Once in place, Christmas lights may twinkle, but there isn't great movement. They have one purpose - Shine. We may imbue them with additional purposes - provide joy for the kids, impress our neighbors, put up a brave front, hide confusion and sadness, express our delight and faith. But they really only do one thing - shine.
Sometimes I want to be so many things, to so many people. But maybe what I need to do most of all is just shine. Provide hope, not because of anything I do or am, but because of whose light I carry.
Just shine.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gift Giving is . . .

Saw a recent letter in a newspaper advice column from a woman whose family was mad at her. They were mad because she wouldn't provide them a list of gift ideas for herself. She said that folks just going and buying things you write down on a list, isn't what gift giving is about. And if they couldn't think of her and find some little something they thought she might like, then they didn't know her well enough to be buying a gift for her anyway.
That rings true to me. But it takes time and effort and a winnowing of the list to only include people we want to buy things for.
A few years ago my sibling and parents all realized we were just exchanging restaurant gift cards. Examined, that practice seemed silly. So we stopped. The kids still got a gift of money or a gift card, but for the adults, spending time together seemed better.
As our kids get older, the experience of being together is more the gift to me than the ones wrapped under the tree. A dinner out. An outing. Our one son and his fiancee don't exchange gifts, they come up with something they both want to do and then that is their gift to each other. This year they spent a day at Stone Mountain Christmas.
There are so many ways we can express our feelings for each other, but it's powerful to buy into the suggestions set before us by others. I want to be honest to myself and buy gifts because that's how I want to show love to someone. To be intentional, not just do what I've always done, or feel I should do.
Life, and the Christmas season, is too short to not pay attention.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I LOVE Christmas Letters (and I'll fight you over it!)

Today is the day. As soon as I'm done with this, I'm writing my Christmas Letter. Seriously, was there any doubt in your mind that I'm one of those? That's why working at the newspaper worked so well for me - I want to know everything and then I want everyone I know to know. It's a gift.
And for all the complaints out there - I love getting Christmas letters. This morning I got a card from a friend in Illinois who always does a letter. I got out my glasses, turned on the lamp, and opened her card in great anticipation of hearing about their lives - and there was no letter. I'm still reeling in disappointment. Now that family falls in to the category of people who have the same names as last year (that's all the info I got) and want to just say "Hi". I love those people, but I want to know how things are going. I really do - when I ask, "How are you?" it's honestly a question looking for an answer.
I tried one year to not do a letter, but I found myself writing long messages in EVERY card. Do you know how long that takes? (and how hard it is to write in long-hand anymore?)
We've never lived near family and we've made wonderful friends everywhere we lived. Some of the folks on our list, we've not seen in over twenty years. Much of the staying connected has happened through Christmas letters.
Making connections is work, maintaining them is even more work - and not always appreciated. I wonder if I pay enough attention to the folks in my life that work to keep connections going? Wonder if they feel like giving up because no one notices? Maybe today I'll remember to notice and say, "Thanks".
After I get my letter written.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Scrooge and Denial (not the river)

"You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

Can you imagine how Dickens chuckled when he wrote that line? You don't have to be a writer to know the feeling of having plucked the exactly perfect thing from the universe. I can just see Dickens reading the line over and over to himself. Maybe then reciting it to his wife or one of his children. I know I love repeating the line, "More of gravy than of grave about you," and I didn't write it.
Old Ebenezer Scrooge explains his seeing the ghost of his partner, Jacob Marley, as a bit of indigestion. Scrooge is so set in this world and so lacking in imagination that something wrong in his stomach is the only possible explanation. "More of gravy than of grave about you." I love that (say it out loud and see if it doesn't come out with an English accent and in a lower octave than you regularly speak.)
We are in the season of Wonder, but most times we're not nearly as creative in explaining away the unexplainable as Mr. Dickens. "I'm just so tired." "We've done that so many times." "It's too much trouble." "Do you know how awful the traffic will be?" "I hate crowds." "I'm just so tired." "It's too cold." "No spare change, today."
As an author, Mr. Dickens, had a place to take his readers and so he couldn't allow Scrooge to persuade the ghosts to leave him alone. But I've often wondered why Jacob Marley didn't get visited and told to change his ways before he died?
But maybe he did.
Maybe we all do. Maybe we're all given chances to reach across our indigestion, tiredness, boredom, cynicism and hold Wonder in our hands. But we dismiss it and struggle on.
We struggle on, wondering all the time why God doesn't answer our prayers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Something to put on your Refrigerator

The writing below has hung on my fridge for many, many years. It changed my life and I found myself needing it this morning. I know my carpet is old (threadbare in places) and the furniture is very used and cat scratched and there is so often the temptation to let those things keep me from inviting people over. To worry about what people will think. That is why this list has changed my life - I've worked to not have these same regrets. And see, what people don't realize is it is WORK. It doesn't happen naturally, at least not for me. So, here's an early Christmas gift. Print it and put it on your refrigerator - see if it doesn't change your life, or at least this Christmas season.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have talked less and listened more.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.
I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have sat on the lawn and not worried about grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.
I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner." There would have been more "I love you's." More "I'm sorry's."
But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it, live it and never give it back. Stop sweating the small stuff.
Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what.
Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

To-do List versus Memory List

So many things swirling around in my head, hard to settle into one to blog about. So, welcome to my brain this morning:
Wedding is less than two weeks away. Which Christmas concert at church do we want to go to? Love chatting on twitter with new friends from the agency. Want to get downstairs and start writing (I left off right before a good scene yesterday). How cool and fun the mall was yesterday. Being backstage for my friend Stephanie's performance on live TV was really interesting. The poem recited before another woman sang was haunting and moving - and she's Irish so there was the whole accent thing. Kids are getting big things you can't wrap, like going to Passion, so is there going to be anything under the tree? Dinner. Laundry. Garland for the front steps. Lizzy's housing at new school. Going to the movie Blind Side Sunday. Rehearsal dinner. Cake for Rehearsal dinner. New Years Day Open House. Christmas card letter. A frame. Pay bills.
It's not so much that I'm stressed - it's just that whirling around of everything in my head. Must be like a kid with ADD. So many distractions - most of them fun and fulfilling. Really two kinds of lists - a To-Do list and a Memory list. Too often my memory list gets pushed aside for my To-Do list.
When Lizzy was little, around kindergarten age, she sometimes had a hard time going to sleep. So I'd sit beside her, scratch her back and recite for her her day. Laughter, running, playing, friends, family. Soon you could see her face relax and see a smile pop up with a funny memory or grow soft with a calming moment from her day. And then she'd be asleep.
Remembering to spend as much time on my Memory list as my To-Do list sounds like a good thing to do today. Sweet dreams tonight, all.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Solid Rock beneath my Feet

This writing journey I'm on changed drastically in the past week. Those of you who know me will be a tad scared to hear that my confidence has grown by leaps and bounds. But before, my confidence came from inside myself and that small, still voice. Now, I know that seemed to most of you like more confidence than a normal person should be allowed. But it grew and developed at a very slow pace. I found a journal from 10 years ago when I ruminate and agonize on calling myself a "writer." This was even after I'd spent years writing and editing for a newspaper. The word held so much meaning for me, to apply it to myself seemed irresponsible and foolish. But after stuttering to get it out for a long time, it finally began to trip off my tongue.
When things still stalled and rejections abounded, my ability to pretend took over. Keep writing, have business cards made up that say I'm an author, talk about writing like it's not a weird thing to spend my life doing, cry alone, complain to my husband, whine on my blog and finally ask God, if it's time to give it up.
This fall, every song on the radio seemed to talk about dreams failing, hopes vanishing and holding my head up anyway. Walking into the library or a bookstore found me swallowing deeply to keep tears from falling in public. I'd exhausted everything I could think of and even had a many published mentor say that to me. That was validation, but it also meant he couldn't think of a next step either.
And then the email from Cari, my agent. Driving was difficult because I felt I was drunk. My mind hasn't worked correctly due to this daze. Knee-buckling gratitude, mixed with delirious exhilaration and more than a tad of disbelief has driven me to distraction.
However, it's also put my feet on stone instead of mud.
Remember the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where in his quest for the Holy Grail he has to take a leap of faith? He has to leap into the abyss and only then will a bridge appear.
I feel as if I've been walking on air for all these years and suddenly solid rock is beneath my feet.
For each of us, it's our own personal journey and if you're still waiting for the solid rock to walk on, know that you only get there if you keep walking.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Gift of Validation

One reason I thought I was supposed to write was because of the things I notice in nature. Like today - the leaves on the bushes in my back yard are such a dark green, they are almost black. So different from the yellowy-green of spring, deep mature green of summer, or the tired, dusty green when fall is just around the corner. Now, those of you up north are wondering why we still have green leaves - well, down here some of the bushes, not just the pine or fir, have green leaves year-round.
Through the years, as I would share my observations about the world around us, I could see people were seeing them for the first time. If that wasn't something for me to share, and of course the outlet I thought of was writing, then why did I notice these things?
So, into the books these descriptions went.
This week, working with someone on my manuscript, Next Stop, Chancey, she said she thought my descriptions of outside settings was wonderful. She actually named some published authors and said mine were better than theirs.
Wow - isn't it amazing what validation will do for you? My confidence in my gift soared. To know the passages that were some of my favorite are thought good by someone with real knowledge of the craft was probably the best gift I'll get this Christmas (except for a daughter-in-law).
Like while walking in mud, to suddenly find solid rock beneath my feet.
I hope I don't pass up the opportunities given me to sincerely validate those around me. Not empty flattery, but true awareness of a gift being used, and made the most of.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Publix Intimidates Me

Publix grocery stores intimidate me. I feel like an employee in their green apron is going to step away from the eggs cartons they're stacking and give me a pop quiz. Or when I ask the guy at the seafood counter for a pound of shrimp, he's going to point at them and ask me to name the body of water they came from. Or how I'm going to cook them, to see if it's acceptable. Even the kids bagging groceries make me feel insecure.
Yet, I've known many folks who work there and they are all nice. And I've never, never been treated badly at Publix. I admit that it's all in my head.
I usually shop at Kroger where I feel at home. Where I think I probably know as much as the folks working there. Again, the Kroger employees have always been knowledgeable and professional - it's all in my head. And, yet, I one time had a friend admit to the same feelings, so I'm not completely alone.
Most people who have preferences around here prefer Publix, because, as their advertising jingle says, "It's where shopping is a pleasure." Good ad, because when I do go into Publix, I feel like it's more fun, than serious.
Now, I can go into the fanciest department store or exclusive food shoppe and be comfortable as can be. So, it's not that kind of intimidation. No, it's something I felt the first times I went grocery shopping after moving here. But I bet the marketers of the two store chains know all about this and do what they do on purpose.
We're not all looking for the same thing or same experience. There are reasons we shop where we shop, eat what we eat, dress how we dress and many times - I don't think we know why. It's just something we feel comfortable with. I need to remember that - I'm too quick to think if someone doesn't do things the way I do them, they are deficient. I'm too quick to think - and judge. Too quick, entirely.
And if you've ever been given a pop quiz at Publix, please let me know. I'm just sure they do that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Turn, Turn

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.

I found myself singing this song when I woke up. So why this song? A couple things come to mind.
Lizzy has been accepted at Georgia College and State for the next semester. She worked hard to make West Ga fit for her. Her brother, Ryan, has loved his four years there. My respect for her grew as I watched her turn, turn to discover who she was out there, away from us. What she wanted became clear to her only with the winnowing of external stuff.
As Ryan and Casey make wedding plans they are discovering having it all, comes with strings - and price tags. You have to widen your vision by turning, turning to see the whole picture. And, then, simplify the picture by identifying what's most important to you.
So why do we resist this turning, turning?
Sometimes, I think, it's just so hard to believe there really is a place where we will "come round right". We stop turning because we find a way to accept where we are. And, yet, that's not a bad thing, to be content.
But contentment and settling are two different things. I believe God in us knows where and when we should "come round right" and keeps pushing us to turn, turn until we're there.
"Lord, let me never forget to listen for your voice saying it's time to turn, turn so as to find myself in the place just right."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wrestling that To-Do List to the Ground

How's that To-Do list looking? Tis the season, right? Being stressed and hurried jumps to a new level in December for a lot of us. Especially those with little kids and big expectations.
I realized years ago that the thing that stressed me out the most were those little things I wanted to do, but couldn't seem to make fit in before Dec. 25. Bake a special cookie, decorate the mail box, put up garlands on the front handrails, make a certain craft, and on and on. Those little things which add that finishing touch to the enjoyment of the season. However, until they were done they lurked there on the bottom of my To-Do list. Always there. And those years I didn't get around to them - I lamented that fact on Christmas Day, because then it was too late.
Now, I know I'm the only one who has ever done this - but just in case you're still reading - I fixed this problem.
I set earlier deadlines for those things. The things I just want to do. For example, if the railings don't have garlands by Dec. 15 - then they aren't being done. If that special cookie hasn't been made before the Sunday School party - then they aren't being made. Maybe it's just a way to spread out my stress, but it works for me. Because seriously - I do not want to even be thinking about these little things in the days leading up to Christmas.
Too often I let minor things steal my joy. They aren't unimportant - but they aren't worth as much as I make them out to be sometimes.
So today I'm spending a few moments with my To-Do list and putting it into perspective. After all, who's the boss here anyway?

Monday, November 30, 2009

What's YOUR Brand?

We watched a Hallmark movie last night. "A Dog Named Christmas" was sweet and just perfect for the first Christmas movie of the season. (A friend agented the book and movie - so congrats Jonathan!) Several friends commented on facebook that they too watched it. Lauren said, " Good movie but even more touching are the dog-gone commercials." Ignoring the pun, I know exactly what she means. Mike and I were dvr-ing the movie and could've sped through the commercials, but who can resist Hallmark Christmas commercials? I cried more during those than the movie, probably. Hallmark commercials do what they do very well. They don't disappoint.
In writing circles there is much talk of "branding." What's your brand as a writer? OR What do people expect when they pick up a book you wrote? Think of a couple authors and what their brand is - Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Lewis Grizzard, Dr. Phil . . . All have a brand.
So, are we all branded? I have a nurse friend I call for medical information and computer friends who help with computer problems. I have some questions about recipes in my novel and there's a friend to call on that. My son Ryan's friends have said the country song, Find Out Who Your Friends Are, remind them of him because you can call him anytime you need help. I know some folks with that brand, too. So I guess the answer is "Yes" we all are branded. Try it, think of a few friends and the brand they wear.
So what's my brand? And do I live up to, or maybe down, to it? How wonderful to know a person's brand and not be disappointed in it. Like the Hallmark commercials - could you imagine if one all of sudden had half dressed women, hard music, and loads of cynicism? Nope, can't imagine it. Why? Because Hallmark has stayed true to it's brand for 100 years.
Identifying my branding and then staying true to it. Sounds like a plan.
Honestly - sounds like high-falutin' words for something my Grandma said. And Shakespeare. And the Bible.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Once upon a Christmas

So now it begins.
The warring of living the lessons the past year has taught us about overspending versus living on the edge with new, more, shinier, way better stuff. Watching the commercials for heart-tugging messages and pretty scenes but closing off my "I want that" trigger when the new car, furniture, computer, jewelry, clothing shows up.
When I was eight months pregnant with Lizzy, it was mid-December and I sold Avon. With a two year old and a four year old (and did I mention being eight months pregnant?), our house wasn't ready for the holidays. I wasn't ready for the holidays. Making deliveries of Avon to my friends was depressing. The houses were decorated, smelled like pine and cinnamon. Lights twinkled, cookies baked, garlands swagged and I sulked. Exhaustion and guilt pulled at me.
Of course, I didn't cancel everything in a snit and the boys had a wonderful Christmas. When you're four and two, it's easy to be happy with little. But I still remember that jealously which threatened to engulf me and ruin the season.
Later, when I told my friends of my jealousy of them, they pointed out to me - they all had older kids who helped decorate, bake and clean. And I saw it. I saw how I viewed everyone and everything through my circumstances. Instead of enjoying two little boys and the imminent arrival of a sweet baby, I wanted what I couldn't possibly have. Not only did I want it - I felt guilty and angry for not having it. Now how silly does that sound?
To remember to look at what I have and where I am at this point in life. To not judge all through my eyes and circumstances. To realize others are probably wishing they had what I have. All these are things I've reminded myself of for the past 18 years - because there was a Christmas when I let silliness steal my joy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

To all those Scene Setters out there

Here's to all the coffee brewers, onion chopping, turkey stuffing, cool whip thawers out there. You are the Stage Setters.
Things are quiet at my parents home this morning. Everyone is asleep - but me. I slept later than normal, but I knew I wanted to get this blog written and I just wanted to get up and get the day started. The early quite of a holiday morning belongs to moms and grandmoms, in my experience. The ones who went over the next day's menu right before going to bed and the ones who woke up with thoughts of what needed to be done when, so the next thing can be done. The turkey has to be stuffed before it can go in the oven and before the stuffing can be stuffed - cornbread has to be cooked, onions and celery chopped and sauteed, giblets boiled and chopped, eggs boiled and chopped. You can see where the mind racing upon waking comes in.
But in my life, those setting these scenes when I was to young to understand, did so lovingly and joyfully. Grandma and my aunt Cora Mae bustling in the kitchen as I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag on their living room floor. Smells from Mama's kitchen waking me up and saying that this was a special day. Even the cooking of cornbread at midnight on Christmas eve so it would be ready the next morning. Hot cornbread at midnight? - some people just KNOW how to set a scene.
The day is set in the hands of the Scene Setters and it is ours to embrace and do prayerfully - or ours to treat as work and do grudgingly.
Once again - a choice. A choice on what I will do to make this day a gift for my family.
Got to go, I have onions and celery to chop!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Are You Ready to be Thankful?

Seems like there's more talk about Thanksgiving plans this year. Maybe it's just me, but from the check out lady at Wal-mart, to folks on Twitter and Facebook, to my friends - the talk centers around the plans for this week. It's like we're really ready for this holiday, this time, this day on the calendar.
I'm thinking we're ready because we're just tired of bad news, of the economy and living with fear everyday. I heard from a friend of new layoffs yesterday in his company, where there haven't been layoffs before. Not a good sign. We want to believe the good economic promises, but it's hard without any evidence in front of us.
And suddenly we're remembering to be thankful for things we've kind of taken for granted lately. A ho hum job becomes a "good" job. Our small, old house becomes a thing of pride - no foreclosure or upside-down mortgage here. Things that felt tight or common, have taken on a new gleam. Shiny, New, Bigger, Better don't give the same feelings they gave a few years ago.
And we're a people ready for Thanksgiving.
Is this what Advent is supposed to do for Christmas Day? Prepare us? Make us see things as they really are, instead of what the world says or our delusional selves say?
Being prepared and ready to be thankful is a good thing. As hard as times might have been, we need to realize what the hard times teach us - and be thankful for the lessons.
And we're a people ready for Thanksgiving.
Humbled, weary, and searching. We're ready.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Over the River and through the woods . . .

We got out of school early on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Not the whole school, just us. Back in the day, that was a full school day and vacation was only Turkey Day and Friday. There is nothing more delicious than to leave a full classroom of your friends and head off on holiday! We only grew up knowing one grandparent. The other three died before we were born, or when we were babies. So, Grandma was it. We went to see her for a week each summer (helped that she lived an hour from the beach so we got to spend a day there) and then we went there every Thanksgiving.
So after waving sadly, yeah right, to our friends we'd pile into the loaded car. Mama would be driving, because we'd pick Daddy up at work. Sometimes we'd get to go to Cherokee Market and get some penny candy for the trip. Remember those little brown paper grocery bags, just big enough to hold one can of Campbell's soup? Well, we'd each - me, Linney and David - have our own bag. Now that bag had to last the eleven hour trip, both ways. But how special it was! We each would have our bag of stuff to keep us busy, books, coloring books, games, etc. We each had our pillow and we took turns getting to sit by the windows in our piled high back seat.
Daddy worked at the government plants in Oak Ridge, TN and workers had security clearance. So I remember having to park outside the big fence and guard shack and wait for Daddy to come out. How happy he would look and how happy we were to finally be on our way. There were three of us sharing the back seat and we had our share of "don't touch me" and "get off my pillow." But we also had our share of game playing, singing songs and watching the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina pass by. And we got to eat out! Big happening in our family. Spartanburg, SC had a McDonalds and that was where we stopped.
Around midnight we'd pull into my grandma's driveway. She and my Aunt Cora Mae would be waiting up to corral us sleepy kids into the house.
When I think of Thanksgiving, my memories include the food and the people, of course. But it seems to always begin with that journey. And I realize now that all the things I'm so thankful for now, can't be separated from the journey that led to them.
So today - I'm thankful for the journey.

Monday, November 23, 2009

In the Flow

You know those places or scenes you walk into and can feel the tension, the anxiety, the worry, the fear? A hospital emergency room, a funeral home when the death has been too soon, a confrontation with an angry teenager, a party when spouses start sparring, a business with layoffs around the corner. I know there is positive and negative energy - I had a very good fifth grade science teacher. I also believe that positive and negative energy is more than pluses and minuses on a piece of paper. I have a writer friend who studies this and leads seminars in some of the largest corporations and organizations on this energy. One example he gives (when he has permission to bring up the Bible) of this energy is the story in the New Testament of the woman who was bleeding and only touched the hem of Jesus' robe. She was instantly healed and Jesus knew it. He turned and asked who had touched him. Luke 8:46, But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me."
Postive, life-affirming energy was flowing here yesterday. We had a bridal shower for our son's fiance, Carrie. As the room filled with people, the energy swelled and embraced each person here. For those relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere, you could see shoulders relax, facial lines vanish and smiles deepen. Yep, we all got prettier!
We love to have people over and I believe it's a calling. To open our doors and invite people in where the energy is positive and filled with joy. A place God walks freely and mingles with the guests.
Thanksgiving is this week and that is what I pray for each of us. A place to give thanks where God walks freely and mingles with the guests.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Walking Miracles

So what about the people that are miracles? Yesterday my mind was filled with those miracles of nature like rainbows and V's of geese. But do I see the miracles in the people walking around like normal people?
Young men and women who sign up for military service. They train and plan to put themselves in harms way because they believe their country should continue to thrive.
A man who left his career to follow God into ministry in his fifties. His wife who works by his side, through moves and pay cuts.
Friends that put their heartaches away to cheer good news from a friend. And even ask for more details.
Parents who move heaven and earth to support their children, only to be turned away in anger. And yet the parents never, never give up.
Couples falling in love and striking out without a clue where they're going or where they'll end up.
A wife who carries her husbands heartache and struggle because it's too much for him alone.
Grandparents who hold Christmas a month early, because the grandkids are in town now.
Nurses who chat and visit and calm more nerves than medication.
Moms who cradle their children's concerns as if they were their own. Dads who go about their day, never letting on that their minds and hearts are miles away with their child.
Look around you today. Who are the miracles you live your life with. I'm knee-buckled, breath-taken away, tears running in awe at the miracles walking the days of my life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tuesdays with Kay: "Cue the Deer"

Tuesdays with Kay: "Cue the Deer"

"Cue the Deer"

Ever seen "Funny Farm" with Chevy Chase? Great movie, LOL movie. A couple moves to their dream home in a small New England town. Surprise, surprise - it's not all they thought it would be. Desperate to sell, they enlist the townspeople to help when potential buyers arrive. It's Christmas time and so costumed carolers show up at the door, the horrible mail delivery man brings the mail to the door with a loaf of fresh baked bread, and even the wildlife gets involved.
With the words, "Cue the deer" a spry fawn is released from a hidden pen and bounds across the winter landscape right in front of the enthralled buyers.
This morning I'm wondering who is lining up things for me. I sat down with coffee looking out the front window and almost immediately a large V of Canadian Geese flew directly overhead. Against a bright blue sky, they were so close I could see all their markings. Then two bluebirds popped up in my willow tree. They hopped between the lower tree branches and the ground while I finished my coffee.
Yesterday, overlooking Brasstown Valley in Northernmost Georgia from our room, I watched a rainbow fill the sky. It stayed bright and clear for at least fifteen minutes. Mike even took several pictures of it.
Once in a spiritual gifts survey at church I tested to have the gift of "Miracles". Don't get too excited - apparently it doesn't mean I can perform miracles. It means I have the deameanor and faith to see miracles. C.S. Lewis' book "Miracles" is a fabulous, but hard, read for anyone interested in miracles. He points out that miracles are all around us, it's just a matter of knowing what we're looking for.
Like the folks in Funny Farm, I believe God is "cueing" the deer, the birds, the rain, the sun to delight, amaze and comfort us. To say - "Aren't you glad you're here and you're you?"
But most of all to me, miracles are God saying, "Aren't you glad I'm me?"

Tuesdays with Kay: Your Stretcher Awaits

Tuesdays with Kay: Your Stretcher Awaits

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Your Stretcher Awaits

The Golden Rule, can you say it? Probably most of us can, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." It's from Matthew 7:12 and apparently a version of it is found in most religions. And why not? It makes sense and if practiced, promises a better world to live in.
Daddy fell last week in North Carolina and hurt his knee. They got home and he had surgery on it yesterday. I'm only three hours away, but Mike and I had a trip to a conference at Brasstown Valley scheduled and Mama and Daddy said they had everything handled. Their neighbors were available to help and friends were going to the hospital.
So things are covered - as well they should be. Because, you know, that whole Golden Rule thing. Mama and Daddy didn't live it so when their turn to be helped came, they'd be offered help. They lived it because it's what you do if you're living right. But there is a payback feel of it, isn't there?
So taking a look at the Golden Rule from the backside: What am I doing today for someone that I want someone to do for me in the future? Could be as simple as returning an e-mail or phone call. I want people to do that for me. The comments on my facebook status about Daddy's impending surgery, honestly made me feel better. Do I comment on folks concerns? On the other end of the spectrum. Can I expect friends to drop everything when I have an emergency, if I'm reticent about coming to their aid immediately?
We all spend time on the stretcher, either physically, spiritually, or emotionally at some time. Do you know who you'd ask to lift your stretcher? No? Might be something to think about today.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Astonished, Amazed, and Awed

Late last night there were several statuses on facebook about the meteor shower. So, before going to bed I stepped out on the back deck. And the stars startled me. Blackness blanketed a luxiorious sky where handfuls of diamonds had been thrown. And it took my breath away, like I was seeing stars for the first time.
I've been preoccupied lately with many things. So having my head buried in life stuff, is that why the sky full of stars surprised me? Have there been so many cloudy nights that I forgot about crystal clear nights? I crept off to bed, astonished that this night sky of black velvet and diamonds is what I sleep under every night.
Some friends are adopting two girls from Ethopia. We've talked about the many "firsts" for the girls and how overwhelming it will be. The last time we were talking was at the height of the fall colors. These girls will never have seen leaves, whole trees, turn colors. Can you imagine getting off a plane and seeing these bursts of colors? You'd think that's what they look like all the time. And then the leaves fall off?!? We lived in Tampa, and the trees are never bare there.
Each of us will hear or see something or someone new today. There will be "firsts". I don't want the firsts to pass me by. But I also don't want to forget the astonishing things which have become old and common.
Today I'll try to imagine what it would be like to see for the first time leaves falling, a lake full of sunlight, a mountain sunset, the ocean, my children's faces. To hear church bells, kids laughing, horns honking, or a saxophone for the very first time.
Astonished, Amazed, and Awed - my goal for the day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bored kids? Bored adults?

We drove past the house at the end of our street several times this weekend. The two boys of the house were raking leaves pretty much every time we passed. Wait, several times they were actually just holding rakes and looking at the leaves. Mike and I got quite a few chuckles at their expense.
Even now you can ask my kids what happens when you say, "I'm bored." They'll tell you it means "pick up sticks." When they complained about being bored, they were sent to pick up sticks. Three kids and a wagon in the yard, may not mean many sticks get picked up, but soon they were busy. Kids learn to entertain themselves, but usually only when forced to do so.
Another thing the kids may remember is "No Screens". I'd set a time limit, usually a few hours, in which they could do anything - but no screens could be involved. No computer screen, tv screen, gameboy screen, etc. . . Again, an attempt to force them to entertain themselves, and not be aided by the brightest minds at Nintendo or Nickelodeon.
Now me? I never have to be forced to leave behind the TV or the computer. I never have to be forced outside to "play". Wait, Mike might read this. Hmmm . . . Okay, okay. So I don't exactly practice what I preached. But what if I did?
What if I'd spent as much time in the yard this weekend as those kids on the corner? Even if I didn't have bags and bags of leaves to show for my efforts, could I have gained something else? Part of wanting the kids to be on their own when they were growing up was to give them a chance to look around, hear themselves think, and learn who they were.
Naw, nevermind. I have the whole 2005 season of Ghost Whisperer dvr'd.

Friday, November 13, 2009

When SHOULD Christmas Start?

Christmas has a great PR agent.
My friends on facebook cover the whole range. One has three of her families five Christmas trees up. Some are itching to start the season, but being held back by others who are pleading for them to wait. The local Christian Radio station was giving away concert tickets in October, but to win you had to send in a picture of you standing beside your nativity scene already on your lawn. I thought that was clever. In the mall, Christmas music was playing a week ago. We're waiting until after Thanksgiving to put our tree up, but just barely.
Some "bah humbug" the whole commercialization of Christmas. I don't. I honestly think God could teach marketing at a university.
As a culture we race to celebrate the birth of God's son. The arrival of the Savior. We long for it. We can't wait. We push the starting date earlier and earlier. And this dishonors God how? Some say many people don't celebrate the "real" reason for the holiday. I don't believe God thinks like that. He knows we're flawed, selfish people. He knows what lurks in our deepest parts - you honestly think he's surprised when we turn Christmas into something all about us? Naw, I think he knows why we long for Christmas, expand it, and wallow in it.
God is an infamous rule breaker - when we are the ones making the rules. I think God and the angels probably scour the earth to see the first sign of Christmas each year and then they have a party.
For as long as we desire Christmas, we desire to touch God - whether we know it or not.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

If Mama ain't happy . . .

The sunshine is back. It's streaming in the kitchen door behind me and flooding the room. Colors left on the trees glow this morning. The birds are happier. I just saw two big black crows chasing each other like a couple of fun-loving finches. Bright illumination of the house makes me want, want, to clean.
Strikes me that I would allow something so completely out of my control to dictate my mood. That doesn't sound very smart. But I do. As a mother another thing that has power over my days is whats going on in my kids lives. It's easier now that I don't live with them to pretend they live in constant sunshine and daisies. And then there is that rubbing off of Mike's feelings onto my feelings.
Yet these people all have different dispositions than mine. Some are sunny, some are not. Why would I take on their discord and wear it? I know they take on mine - sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. I once had a coffee cup that said, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
One of my life quotes is "I won't let you steal my joy." When I hand my happiness, my joy off to someone else to manage - a spouse, a child, a boss, coworkers, an agent, family, friends - I'm asking for trouble. These folks all have different agenda's and problems and my happiness is just not always as high on their priority list as I think it should be.
But then, seriously - am I really taking that great of care of the happiness of the people around me? Who did I let down that I never even realized?
Hmmm, I guess God is the only one I should let my happiness, my joy depend on.
Can I get a big, duh?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Filling in the Boxes

My kids got those cool, wire-bound agendas in school. I coveted them. I love calendars and agendas and sheets with little timed blocks for filling in important meetings and deadlines. Problem is - when I have stuff to put in those boxes, I'm too busy to do it and the rest of the time I'm inventing things to fill them. You know, like making the laundry a four step process and writing each step in a box. Yes, I know how lame that sounds and I accept all pity.
I admit I want to be busy, needed, and important. Yet, I also want to be what and where God wants me to be. I know, so very well know, every minute of every day could be filled with worthwhile activities. One call to any church or school office can make that happen in a flash! But I want to listen and follow, not blindly jump.
A library book gave me a new perspective this week. Writing in the Sand by Thomas Moore led me to these thoughts:
Jesus wouldn't have carried an agenda. He lived his life and did his ministry where he was and with whomever he was with. He spent quite a bit of time out enjoying nature and just spending time with God. Some of his most important teaching was done with only a few of his best friends. He often left the crowd. He spent a lot of time eating and visiting with people.
I guess if Jesus carried an agenda with all the little timed blocks filled - most of the things we still read about couldn't have happened. Hmmm.
God came to earth and appears to have enjoyed himself. He took time to really see people around him and love and enjoy them.
Maybe he's looking for some folks to follow his example.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chicken Little needs a Reality Check

We're in Panama City and we survived Hurricane Ida. No - Tropical Storm Ida. Honestly? – Rainstorm Ida. We lived in Florida for five years back in the 80's and the worse thing was the hurricanes. Not the actual hurricanes – but the over-the-top, panic reporting about hurricanes. Since Katrina and 24-hour news and weather, the rest of the nation has joined the panic.
Should hurricanes be taken seriously? Yes. Should we count on someone, anyone, having common sense? Apparently not.
We just passed Halloween on our calendars and I love the idea of being scared, jumping at shadows and spooky movies – but this panic mode we now live in is ridiculous. Common sense seems to have taken a vacation so we either ignore all risks, which is stupid. Or turn every risk into a certainty, which is stupid.
One parenting tip I practiced was this: Say "no" only when you need to. Don't water it down with constant use. Make your "no" stand out. I even started answering my kids with, "Yes?" when they called out to me. If they swim in a sea of "yes" then a "no" will stand out. In youth ministry I saw this often. Think about it – Parents make the length of their son's hair or the color of their daughter's fingernails a huge battle. Their kid, not being stupid, sees that these things really don't matter. So, the parent's position is weakened. And the next battle may be one on which the parent needs to be heard – like drinking and driving.
Folks have jobs to do – and sometimes those jobs give them narrow views, which is good. I want the Center of Disease Control to be focused like a laser beam on disease. I want the military to stand guard with a passion. I want news folks to give me every bit of news they have. I want government officials and opinion talkers to push their agenda, after all, their agenda IS what gets them votes and ratings. However, if I try to take on all their views??? Just call me "Chicken Little" because I'll be in a constant state of running around screaming about the sky falling.
We've got to take our common sense out of the hole we've buried it in. This either/or choice of living in fear or living with our heads in the sand isn't funny.

Monday, November 9, 2009

We found the Road Less Traveled!

Headed south on Saturday we left the main highway in Columbus, Ga. First, we visited Providence Canyon State Park. Then the two lane road then ended at the water and Florence Marina State Park. There we started driving south on Hwy. 39, a crooked black line on our state map.
Hwy. 39 is bordered by miles and miles of cotton fields, all white and ready for picking. Mike pointed out the water was to our right, through the trees. "If we watch we might see a road so we can jog over and look." He saw a battered sign for a Corps of Engineering site – Rood Landing. He turned sharply and almost immediately we left pavement and hit a dirt road. Red clay, one lane road in the middle of nowhere. After a little while, when we thought about turning around, we realized we couldn't as there were no side roads or wide spots. So we kept going forward. After a couple miles we hit pavement and signs saying we were at Rood Landing.
About a dozen trucks with empty boat trailers filled the boat ramp parking lot. The line of camping spots right next to the river only held a couple tents. A slight turn to the right and we saw picnic tables along the lazy river waiting for us. Spanish moss hung heavy and fall colors reflected in the dark, still water. We were the only people in that area.
There's all that talk about "the road less traveled" and it sounds good, but I learned a couple things about it Saturday.
-You have to intentionally leave the road more traveled. It might happen by accident, but then you're too panicked to explore.
-You have to be willing to look. It will not jump up in your lap and beg to go home with you.
-You have to know your surroundings and be ready to react. Mike knew where the water was and went that direction when given a chance..
-You can't let the no turnaround thing freak you out.
In all reality, we took a couple hours detour off the main highway. South of the lake we got back on the main road with everyone else headed to Panama City. Even in the midst of all those cotton fields, we were on good paved road, the dirt road had been recently graded, and the park was taken care of (even had toilet paper in the pit toilets.) So our adventure was minor on the scale of adventures.
But sitting on the riverbank watching the fish jump and butterflies dance, all framed by curtains of moss, Mike and I felt like we'd found a treasure. And that's good enough for me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

100% Guaranteed Way to have a Better Life

If you want your life to be better I know how you can do it - cheap, without much thinking, no commitments needed, no pharmacy bill, casual clothes preferred, no age restrictions or ability qualifiers and no special equipment needed. And I guarantee this recommendation 100% - - -
Go on more picnics.
I'm serious. Eat food outside. That's it. You can make it difficult, but then you're missing the point. I believe in picnics and support this belief with regular practice. Mike and I picnicked when dating (there was the time I put my own fortunes in store-bought fortune cookies but that's another blog.) And when the kids were little we went on supper picnics where we'd give Mike time to change from work clothes into picnic clothes and we'd head out for an hour at the local park - with food. We have pictures of one of the supper picnics when Lizzy was an infant. The boys were 4 and 2 - and we sure do all look happy.
We did Snow Picnics in Illinois. A playground is a whole new world when it's covered with four inches of snow. We'd eat out of the back of the van and lots of laughter helped keep us warm.
My folks passed down the Picnic philosophy - I grew up eating food outside. It may be up to you to start this tradition in your family - but if not you, then who?
Mike and I are on our way to a railroad conference tomorrow and on the way we're stopping in South Georgia for a picnic - lunch meat, sodas, chips and oreos beside a lake. We're both more excited about our picnic than the time at a resort!
So, grab some food this weekend and eat it outside. That's my prescription for a fantastic weekend and a better life.
Seriously - Oreos beside a lake - Wouldn't you be excited, too?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What I learned from Dumplings

My Christmas present to everyone several years ago was a family cookbook. Along with the recipes we enjoyed in my family, I included stories about the great Banana Pudding chase, the time David took on a bear for our picnic lunch, Daddy's wreck with a plate of Deviled Eggs sitting on the front seat and other gems of family lore. I put tips with the recipes like why the cut-out cookie dough is my favorite (doesn't require lots of refrigeration time and doesn't get tough when handled a lot) or why Unbaked Cookies are best made in the fall (low humidity) and how with Dumplings you just have to keep trying.
Dumplings are my kids favorite. In the cook book I point out "Luckily, even when they don't turn out just right, they're extremely edible." Then I added, "Just keep making them and after a couple dozen times you'll realize you couldn't make a bad batch of dumplings if you tried."
That keep trying thing works for more than just dumplings. One thing you learn when you move around is feeling at home doesn't happen fast. There is no secret way to fit in or be comfortable. Just time and showing up. The good news? It eventually happens.
Last night at church I came out of a door and actually knew what was down the hall in both directions! This is a very large church, so it was a definite milestone.
I got back to writing on my next book yesterday. Due to a lot of doubt and fear and other icky stuff, I haven't written much lately. I know now to get back in the groove is going to take doing it cold. However, the flow will come back. It will feel natural again. Eventually.
Whether it's dumplings, a new place, or an activity, I've learned that the comfort and familiarity I want is available, if I'm willing to walk through the uncomfortable and unfamiliar long enough.
"God, make me willing to keep walking today. We'll worry about tomorrow - tomorrow."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nose prints on the Window

Our granddog-to-be, Bea, left nose prints on our living room window this weekend. Bea is Carrie's german shepherd and she's a sweetie. The nose prints remind me of something my mom talked about when Robert, Ryan and Lizzy were little.
Mama said after we'd visit there would be little hand prints all over their sliding glass doors. Those doors look from the dining/living room out over the deck, backyard and pool. Lizzy said her first word standing at that door, banging on it with tiny hands. Her first word was, "Guys." That's what I called the two boys all the time - "Guys, get in the car." "Guys, get out of the car." Mama realized what Lizzy was saying as she pressed up against the doors and yelled at her brothers in the back yard. (If you know Lizzy, not hard to believe that was her first word, is it?)
Mama said she'd intentionally leave the hand prints from all three kids on the door for weeks after we left to remind her of our visit.
Wonder what kind of prints I'm leaving around me? Do people want to remember I was there, or wipe away the evidence as soon as possible? There are conversations I participate in that I wish, almost immediately upon their conclusion, I'd never left my mark on. But it's too late.
Today I want to try, really try, to only leave reminders of how good the time with me was. Whether it's with Mike, or just the clerk at Kroger.
And, no, I haven't washed Bea's nose prints off, but I will soon - probably.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lost in a Bog?

NaNoWriMo - seen that conglomeration of letters recently? If you have writer friends, or wannabe writers, you may have seen it pop up on facebook or twitter. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Last year 120,000 folks signed on to NaNoWriMo to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Yep, in one month - and November is that month.
It's about quanity over quality. The idea is you won't be editing or rephrasing or outlining. You will write. And write. And write. Then between Nov. 25-30 you submit your 50,000 word novel to the website and you get a certificate back saying you are a Novelist! Of course, the piece of paper isn't the goal. The goal is getting words on paper.
Many writers get bogged down in the craft - not a bad thing at all. We can all name books we wish had a little more craft in them. Often, however, the bog wins and those words and ideas are lost in the muck. And lost in the muck is a frustrating, awful place to be.
Writers are not the only ones that get lost in muck. Messy houses are mucky. Jobs can be full of muck. Bogs of muck can be found in families and even at church. This whole NaNoWriMo thing has got me thinking of how it might work for some of these other mucky messes.
To set my sights above the details and problems and worries for a set amount of time. To push ahead and not be slowed or stopped by the minutiae of muck. Hmmm . . .
I don't have any cute answers or anything - just thinking.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Anyone seen my Motivation?

Seems to be a lot to do around here today.
Robert & Carrie and Ryan & Casey were here this weekend so there was lots of cooking and eating and football watching and talking and hot tubbing and flower playing and Great Pumpkin watching. Then Mike left for an out of town trip late yesterday afternoon. Cleaning up wasn't part of the weekend, because that's what you do on Monday morning when you don't have to go to work.
So - seems to be a lot to do around here today.
Not having an outside job means I'm my own boss. Some days, though, having someone to tell me what to do and when to do it would at least get me started. Working alone at home works for me. Usually. And then there are days like today when I just don't want to mess with any of it. I don't even want to make a decision about where to begin.
However, being alone means no one else will do it if I don't. However, also means there's no one to see if I don't do it. See my conundrum?
But . . . this is a day I don't want to waste. My desire to not have regrets when the sun goes down is powerful. "I want to sign your name to the end of this day," is a line from Lifesong by Casting Crowns. Thinking of giving each day to God and asking him to sign his name on that day of my life spurs me to be present - awake and aware.
This day, November 2, 2009, is ticking away, moment by moment, and will never come again.
How exciting - Seems to be a lot to do around here today!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Something old, Something New

My cousin's daughter is getting married next week. Mom of the Bride has mentioned several times lately how excited she is about the new family forming. That was a concept I'd never really thought about. Needless to say, (but I'm going to say it anyway - you know me) with the two recent engagements and a wedding in a month and a half, I've been thinking about the whole thing bunches.
Neither of the boys have lived here in years. They became adult men and fashioned their own worlds and homes. So the separation isn't anything new. However, this separation to form a whole new family is different. It's a creation of something new and alive. Something that has form and meaning and legal standing, a future and a past.
When my friend from Indiana was here, we talked about marriage a lot. She and her husband have a marriage ministry ( and she talked about one person arguing when she said God invented marriage. Eventually he had to agree with her. Interesting, isn't it?
I find myself looking around at the families that started out this very same way - kids taking vows, getting jobs, moving around the country, having children, buying homes. Adding on to that new creation, that family, day by day. Now, like my cousin's wife, I find myself mesmerized as I watch Robert and Carrie, and Ryan and Casey. A brand new creation being formed right in front of my eyes.
That God - he's pretty smart.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Overheard at T.J. Maxx

In line at T.J. Maxx a while back, I heard something strange. Two boys, around middle school age, were with their mom. As she finished paying for the purchases one boy said, "Thanks." The other quickly added his "thanks." I spoke up (I know you're shocked) and told the boys how impressed I was and how much it always meant to me when my kids said "thanks". I told them they were a tribute to their mom. The mom was appreciative and the boys looked embarrassed. But kudos from strangers stay with us, embarrassed or not.
My kids said "thank you" a lot. They still do. And it's still just as appreciated. One time when they were younger a friend overheard one of them thanking me at the end of a meal and she commented on it, saying her kids had never said "Thank you" to her. That got me thinking.
What I realized was that Mike always - always - tells me how much he appreciates meals. "Thanks, that was good." And so the kids thought that was what was right.
Last night at the church's Fall Festival I was in charge of the ring toss. Almost every child was prompted by parents to say "Thank You" when I handed them their toy or candy. The older ones who were by themselves were pretty good at remembering, too. But I found myself wondering if they knew to say thank you for things at home. Things like clean bathrooms, folded clothes, going to work, fixing dinner?
This morning Mike thanked me for his coffee. He said, "I'm the luckiest man to come down and have my cup of coffee sitting here waiting on me." Now how could I have a bad day after that?
Saying "Thank You" for special things is nice, but I think I like to be thanked even more for the things I've done hundreds of times.
What mundane thing needs to be appreciated in your life today?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vampire Teeth and Reindeer Antlers

I love this time of year! Colorful trees, woodsmoke, pumpkins, costumes, spooky things, football, foggy mornings, chilly nights, flannel sheets, and those are just a few reasons to be excited. On facebook I'm so enjoying getting to share this excitement with other holiday folks. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" was on TV last night and so many folks talked about watching it. And becoming a facebook fan of the movie, "Elf" means lots of inside info on elf etiquette - and how can that be a bad thing? More syrup, please.
Dressing up, decorating the yard, watching sappy holiday movies - again and again, loving how even traffic lights are Christmassy (red and green) make me happy. I'm thrilled to find so many other folks like me because sometimes being silly and exuberate gets you those looks. You know, those looks that say you're juvenile and not that smart.
When I did the children's sermons each week in Illinois, I did an experiement the week before school started. Before church I gave each child a scrap of paper and told them to right "yes" if they like school and were ready for it to start and "no" if they didn't like school. No names were on the papers. I collected the scraps of paper and then during the children's sermon talked about peer pressure to do what others think we should. I then asked those who like school and were ready for it to start to hold up their hands -only one child raised his hand. However, I then revealed that on the scraps of paper, when they were anonymous, every child had written "Yes" they liked school.
Not like I needed a lot of encouragement to act out my silliness, but this gave a huge boost to my belief that everyone wants to act as crazy as I do, but they're worried about what people will think.
So - here's to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas - plastic vampire teeth, turkey decorations and reindeer antlers in public. Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Legacy in Yarn

Mama taught me to crochet when I was in elementary school. I made doll clothes and doll blankets and then when I was sixteen I crocheted my first big project - a bed spread for my double bed. I still have it, although it's really huge and the colors are a little optimistic and sugary (even for me). Mama even crocheted bathing suits for my dolls.
Mama learning to sew is one of my earliest memories. Daddy read the instructions and then helped Mama figure out what to do at our dining room table. Neither of them knew how to sew, but they didn't see a problem with learning as adults. Fifteen or so years later, I canceled the wedding dress I'd just ordered when I drew what I really wanted on a paper bag at work and Mama said she thought we could make it. And we did - exactly what I wanted.
My brothers even sewed sleeping bags for their G.I. Joe's.
Mama ran "The Yarn Barn" from our house. She and her partner would buy yarn in 16 pound hanks down in Dalton, Ga and then sell it in the room Daddy built next to our garage. Daddy invented a machine to wind 4 oz balls of yarn from the 16 lb. hanks. (We got paid to sit and wind the balls.) The 16 lb. hanks would fit around a large, outside sized garbage can turned upside down. The business flourished, until the supply of yarn dried up.
Daddy macrame'd an elaborate hanging bird feeder one time. He rigged it to hang above his easy chair so he could sit there, macrame and watch TV.
And we didn't think any of this was unusual.
Watching my parents taught me if you want to do something - figure it out and do it.
Now that's a legacy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kick-start for a Monday

God loves my children more than I do. My friend visiting from Indiana this week reminded me of this and it got me to thinking.
First, God loves our children more than we do because he's capable of perfect love. No matter how much we try, our love is always tainted by icky human stuff: selfishness, pride, ambition, vanity, and on and on. One of our pastors pointed out that he believes one reason there won't be marriages in heaven (as Jesus said in Matthew 22:30) is we'll be able to love perfectly and so won't love one person more than another. Interesting, isn't it?
So here's where I got to thinking - What other important things in my life is God more involved with than I've imagined? What else does he love and care about more than I do?
Does God love my marriage more than I do? Obviously, because I've not treated my marriage at all times as I should. So God loves my marriage and cares for it on a more consistent and deeper level than me. Cool. Little intimidating.
My home, My job, My friends - the things and people God has put in my life, things which he loves perfectly and I treat - well - not so good all the time.
My writing? Authors say their books are their babies and I know that feeling. So, wait a minute, God isn't ignoring my book or indifferent about it - he loves it more than I do? He wants the best for my writing? Wait, and he even actually knows what is best.
God loves my life more than I do AND he wants the best for it AND he knows what the best actually looks like. Well, now that makes for a good Monday!

Friday, October 23, 2009

I have a Theory

I have a theory on giving. (Those of you that know me best are probably saying under your breath - "Well, of course you do. You have a theory on everything!")
One type of giving: We no longer have a need for that item. Like the kids coats we took to church last Sunday. Funny, you could tell we'd lived in the frozen North as the coat were big and thick (and one had Chicago Bears logos all over it.)
Another type of giving: We have an abundance. I've never had one of my kids ask for canned food to take to school for a donation drive when I haven't been able to go to the cupboard and fill a bag.
Another is giving off the top , or in church circles - tithing: Several places in the Bible we're told to give to God first and of our best, not from what's leftover. It's a spiritual principle we often seem to miss in stewardship campaigns.
But none of these quite cover my theory.
My theory on giving is that the very act of giving tells me that I have more than enough. Tells me I have an abundance. My heart and mind then begin believing I dwell in a place of abundance. So, I have more to give away and the more I give away - joyfully - the more I must have, so . . .
What do you want more of in your life? Understanding? Joy? Encouragement? Friendship? Time? Peace? Try my theory and start giving that away like you are full to the brim with it. And see what happens.
Live today as if your heart is over flowing through your open hands stretched toward those around you.
Or don't. After all, it is a choice.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Mama on Reality TV

Top Chef is a reality show pitting chefs against each other in weekly challenges. I've watched it for several seasons and really enjoy it. Of the seven chefs left this year, two are brothers. They are easily two of the better chefs and seem like nice guys - however their rivalry with each other is just plain ol' sad.
Mama and Daddy raised three of us - I'm the oldest and I have two brothers. We're two years apart in age from each other. Mama was home with us every day and she just didn't allow us to treat each other badly. She'd say, "Why would I allow you to treat each other worse than I'd let a stranger treat you?" We weren't allowed to call each other names, just like we weren't allowed to call our friends (or even strangers) names.
Of course for those rules to work, Mama and Daddy had to do more than just give 'em lip service. They had to live them - after all - we weren't stupid. We were watching them to see if the rules were just talk or if they were good enough for Mama and Daddys' lives. And they were. They didn't call each other names or treat each other shabbily. They didn't call folks in traffic, or at work, or even on TV, names. They treated the people they lived with as good as the folks out in the world. What a concept.
Sure made for a happy, peaceful place to grow up. Mama was sometimes asked how she kept my brothers from fighting and her response was, "If there's going to be any fighting, I'm going to be in the middle of it and I'm going to win." That may not sound that peaceful, but if you're going to set down rules they better be backed up by more than wishes and good intentions. You better be ready to live them - and ready to enforce them.
Wouldn't you like to see my Mama make a visit to the Top Chef kitchen? Now that would be some good reality TV!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When versus If

When people ask me if I'm always happy my standard answer is, "I tried sad once and didn't like it."
Well, now I've tried being an "if" person and that's not working out for me either. A week ago I blogged - "However, in endeavors we spend so much time saying, "When I get the scholarship. When I get drafted. When I get an agent. When I get the job. When I get discovered. When we get the bid. When When When - Never the dreaded word "IF." Never. In the world of keeping on-keeping on, saying "IF" shows lack of belief, faith, determination."
I have nothing more to base a "when" on than I did last week, but I'm a happier person and way more functional dealing in belief. Sure, it may be delusional, but maybe it's like my feelings about fairies from a blog in August (
"I'd rather believe fairies exist, than deal with a world where they don't."
For the past eight days I've lived in a world with limited possibilities for publication of my book. Last night I realized that's not who I'm called to be. I'm called to be the fairy-believing, hope always, laugh when you mess up, look for signs everywhere, know God has a plan and is CRAZY about me, person.
I do want to say thanks to those of you who know me well and have kept me in your prayers this week. Your cards and emails meant a lot to me. Sorry you have a friend who would drag you along for such a dreary ride! Here's one of my favorite quotes from the Anom. guy.
"Until further notice - Celebrate Everything!"
That Anom. sure sounds like a "when" person to me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Against My Will

I read a book this weekend I didn't want to read. This book would never have made it into my home and never been opened if it had been up to me. It looked sad. It's a memoir, about a boy in a foreign land in horrible situations. Nothing about it appealed to me.
However . . . the book club I joined this summer had picked it out to discuss for our meeting tonight. It finally came in the mail Friday so I resolved to at least start reading it Saturday during the boring parts of football games.
Well, it was so good I couldn't put it down and I forgot to keep track of the games.
Kien Nguyen was eight years old when Saigon fell in 1975. His mother was Vietnamese. His father, an American soldier, left when Kien was three months old. Racism and Communism are terms I've heard all my life, but in reading this book, written in 2001, I learned them anew. So many memoirs are about times before I was born. How could this have been happening on this planet when I was in high school in Kingston, Tennessee?
Books like this, The Unwanted, are why I'm in book clubs. I will not of my own accord choose hard or unhappy things. And yet I say I want to grow and expand my horizons. Again I've learned something - against my will.
Thank goodness I don't always get my way.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pizza is as Pizza does

Such a delicious day! There are already sunbeams coming through the trees. The sky is a nice, hopeful peachy-blue and my coffee is fabulous. Falcons won last night, Tennessee didn't play so Saturday was relaxing, and I got to drive Lizzy back to Carrollton Friday and spend time talking with my daughter. My book for Tuesday's book club finally came in the mail on Friday and it is so good I almost finished it. (The Unwanted by Kien Nguyen) We got to share a meal with good friends and heard an unbelievably great sermon by a lay person on Sunday. Then last night we did something very familiar, but completely new - we helped serve youth dinner at our new church.
Since Robert hit sixth grade we've prepared many, many meals for the church youth group. And the pizza I've ordered - wow! I even had the nearest Pizza Hut and Domino's on my speed dial. One friend who left youth ministry to become a senior minister said he planned to never eat cheap pizza again.
Last night we didn't know the kids, but some of the adults were familiar as the volunteers were all from our Sunday School class. Still, it had that deja vu' feeling and isn't that cool? To think of all the kids and adults doing the same thing on Sunday nights across the country. To walk in and feel at home, because it's not about the building or the people. It's about belonging to a calling. Belonging to a calling of shepherding young people toward God. So cool.
Oh, and guess what the kitchen had cooked for us to serve - - - Pizza!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pruning is the Best!

A friend posted on her facebook status this morning my favorite Bible passage. It's from John 15.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
There's more that makes it my favorite, but this second verse is what I like best. Jesus is saying his branches (his followers) are pruned if they don't bear fruit. Since I'm one of his followers, I'm subject to pruning. I love that!
Most of you have probably figured out I'm not shy and retiring. I don't mind taking chances and I think life should be lived, really lived. Knowing that God will prune me says to me that I can move ahead confidently and boisterously because God will let me know when it's too much. He'll let me know when I need to slow down or be cautious or change direction. It's not a guessing game.
It's the freedom of a toddler in a backyard. Free to run, fall down and get back up. Freedom granted because there is a fence behind all those flowers and bushes.
And yet, we've all seen what happens when that toddler (or teenager) finds their fence. There's the choice. Do I kick and yell at the fence? Grow resentful at everything being kept from me, which must obviously be SO much better than this lame yard? Do I allow the fence to diminish what was moments ago beautiful, exciting and fulfilling?
The promise to prune, is one wonderful way I know God is involved in what I do and where I go. Time to stop staring at the fence. Life is too short to not enjoy today!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wanted: One Magic Wand

Yesterday's blog ended with me equating God to the parent who sits next to their child when they don't make the team, don't get the part, or receive the college rejection letter. As a parent, we hate that pain, but know we wouldn't have stopped our child from dreaming, even if those dreams never happen.
But, since God can make our dreams come true, maybe he should only let us have dreams that he plans on fulfilling?
However, when I think of the dreams I've watched go unfulfilled, I have to believe God has a purpose in the dreaming.
A friend in Louisiana started a ministry, Sarah's Laughter, for those struggling with infertility and child loss. A vibrant, alive ministry built on broken dreams. And adopted children fulfill dreams in ways rarely anticipated.
We walked with a friend through the dissolution of her marriage for reasons she had no control over. That dream shattered into a million pieces around her, but her three children are blessings not even imagined when the original dream blossomed.
Alfred Lord Tennyson said, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." -
When I look around I see evidence that God's position is "'Tis better to have dreamed and lost than never to have dreamed at all."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What Dreams May Come - or Go

Doing some Google searching this morning.
Of the 100,000 high school seniors playing football, 9000 will play in college and 215 will make it to the NFL. That's about 0.2% of the seniors playing this Friday night.
Of those playing high school hoops, less than 1% will play in the NBA.
And I couldn't find any statistics on coming from high school baseball to playing in the Major League. However, of those playing baseball in college, less than 1% are signed in the Major Leauges. And even of those making it to the Minor Leagues - only 10% of them make it to "The Show".
That's a lot of dreams left on the field of play.
Wonder how many musicians never get recording contracts, or how many actors or models get enough work to be considered successful?
Yesterday I had the thought, "what if I never publish a book? What if it just doesn't happen?"
I'm not in a negative, woe is me place like a couple weeks ago when I was singing the Hee Haw song ( Thank Goodness.
However, in endeavors we spend so much time saying, "When I get the scholarship. When I get drafted. When I get an agent. When I get the job. When I get discovered. When we get the bid. When When When - Never the dreaded word "IF." Never. In the world of keeping on-keeping on, saying "IF" shows lack of belief, faith, determination.
"You don't want it bad enough" is said by some, if giving up is considered. Really? Or are there times when dreams end? How many years in the minor leagues is enough? How many walk-ons do you attempt? When do you stop trying to get into "that" college, or "that" field, or "that" company and decide to lower your sights? When do you decide the investment of time and effort isn't making sense and find better ways to spend your time?
One of the hardest things as a parent is sitting with your child, for whom the sky's been the limit, on the day they don't make the team, don't get the part, or receive the college rejection letter.
I believe God is the giver of dreams. I believe when they end, he's right there to hold our hand and cry with us. Just like the good parent he is.