Friday, December 24, 2010

Church? Why?

Church folks sometimes are thought of as believing themselves to be better than other folks. "Hypocrites", "two-faced", and (my fav) "too heavenly minded to be any earthy good" are some regularly thrown slurs.
But the people I know at church are for the most part there because we are no different from the people at work or school who never go to church. We know we are no different. We know we deal with jealousy, control issues, guilt, anger, implusiveness and on and on. We've found we tend to carry all our accomplishments AND failures around - just like everyone else.
But church folk have found that at church each week all the illusions and delusions of the week can be sloughed off. We go to be reminded we are not in control. We are reminded that the burdens we carried all week can't compare to the ones others carried. We go to bow our heads, lift our eyes and be renewed.
We don't go because we're better than other people - we go because we know we're not.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Regret Much?

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.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


How can you not be happy this time of year - look at all the lights, decorations, food, gatherings, music, and everything that December brings? Often I talk about what things I don't want to miss in order to not have any regrets at an event, a season, a holiday. Sometimes those things I don't want to miss - lights placed on the railings, the tree just so, cranberry relish, a full house, reading An Irish Country Christmas just seem to MAKE my Christmas.
But that's a fallacy, one I apparently fall in to rather easily.
The power I give a set of $2.99 lights. The importance I affix to a chocolate covered treat. The growing control I bestow on the days of December as they march to the 25th. All of that is backwards.
You see all that Christmas stuff is meant to be the RESULT not the REASON.
God touched earth - and not by accident. His heart filled with love and he reached his hand to us and gave us hope. Gave us a way to him. Gave us a way out of the darkness. The knowledge that the darkness is not my home, not my only choice makes me want to sing, light candles, and celebrate. Yes, celebrate. You know, like at Christmas.
When I look at everything as being my reaction to God's gift, it shines even more brightly. Result, not the Reason. How about you? Where have you bestowed power unwisely this year?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Where Are You in the Movie?

Contented is an normal description of me. Guilt about the past and worry about the future don't appeal to me, so I talk myself out of them before they get started good. My parents are pretty contented people, so it's not like I thought this all up myself.
But since coming home from Tennessee my contentment level is ratcheted up to a new high. The end of those five weeks of stress and uncertainty and unfamiliarity apparently pushed a reset button in me. Everything is good. No worries. Even when I try to get anxious or concerned about something, a smile creeps up and with one good sigh, I'm smiling like the Grinch with his triple-sized heart.
Christmas is less than two weeks away and I haven't done any shopping or cooking and I can't make myself get concerned about it.
Nothing is happening on the writing side of things, but I can't find the discouragement and frustration that used to pal around with me.
The angst that spurred my blog many mornings isn't showing up so I sit and smile at the computer screen and don't write one.
Lizzy and Mike were both sick last night. And while I kept the house quiet and went out to buy medicine, I did have the thought at one point that I should try to be a little less jolly.
This will, I'm sure, fade. Frustration, worry, anxiety will find it way back around. Blogs will contain deeper thoughts and smiling won't always be my favorite.
But for right now, it's where I am. Running down the snowy streets of Bedford Falls, whipping down a mountain with a sleigh full of toys and a happy dog, singing with the Peanuts gang by a little tree - you know - living at the end of a Christmas movie.
What part of the movie are you living at these days?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bad Gift Giver Here

I'm not a great gift giver. You know, the kind of gifts in boxes and bags with ribbons and such. There is this part of me that just wants to give money and let the person buy what they want. And yet I love when someone has found something that is just right for me. That burst of joy that says they know me and thought of me long enough to find this thing that will always remind me of them.
And it's not just that I can't think of what to buy, but I can't even think of what I want. At Christmas I love all the things surrounding the holiday and so many times thinking of gifts - to give or get - gets pushed way down on my list of things to think about.
Now before you say, "Oh, Kay, you are so unmaterialistic and focused on the true meaning of Christmas." ('cause I know you were going to say it). Don't. Gifts may not fill my head, but entertaining does. Opening my home whether for dinner, coffee, playing games, watching movies, talking, - really pretty much anything is my default when I think of fun or holidays. I'd so much rather have folks over than buy a gift.
But that's just me. And that's what I want to remember. Sometimes when I see someone very much into gifts I judge them as being too wrapped up (get it) in the wrong things. But I'm thinking I could be wrong. Why can't I just relax and enjoy each person without wondering why they aren't more like me? You know, right.
Merry Christmas (however you want to do it.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Practice has Consequences

It was one of my greatest gifts this past year. Lizzy, talking loudly to me from the kitchen said, "I'm turning into you."
My eyebrows did that downward thing they do when I'm trying to discern what I'm hearing. My, "What?" was quickly followed by my, "Why?"
Still with no discernable disgust in her voice she replied, "At the campsite this weekend me and the girls were in the little blow-up boat on the lake and I kept saying, 'It's just so beautiful' and every time I thought how I sounded like you."
So along with my inability to do math, apparently I passed along my ability to see beauty. (Honestly - math is soooo over-rated.) And I do believe it's an ability, a gift, an art, even a skill. And just like any ability or skill or gift, if it's not practiced it wanes.
On my extended stay up in Tennessee, where most days were partly spent in a medical facility, I noticed myself working on this gift. Seeking out floors with pretty views or cool architecture, paying extra attention on the drive to and fro, rearranging curtains at my folks house and lighting candles, purposefully driving by the lake or taking a little longer to look at the flowers in the gift shop. All in search of beauty.
Is seeing beauty something you have an aptitude for? Do you practice it? Or save it for when you have time and not so much on your mind? Do you only stumble across beauty - or do you go looking for it?
What are you practicing today? Whatever we practice, is what we become good at.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

To-do List - Who's the Boss Here?

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 29, 2010

It was an Accident, I swear.

I went and got myself a new perspective!
It was an accident, of course.
Everything rests in our perspective of a situation, an event, a person, heck - everything. And yet isn't it funny that our perspective rarely changes due to our seeking to change it? Our perspective remains our perspective because, well duh, because it's right. Other folk's perspectives maybe based on faulty information, a skewed upbringing, or downright ignorance, but my perspective is only based on the truth. Yours too, right? So why would it need to be changed or tweaked?
And yet when, by accident, it does get changed or tweaked, we see the world through new eyes.
Best example? "It's a Wonderful Life." As Clarence the Angel says:
"You've been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you."
Being gone from home for five weeks made coming home a perspective changing event. I've been given the gift of seeing my every day with fresh eyes. Normal appears magnificent. What was wearying a month and a half ago is cause for celebration. Where I searched for significance is now brimming over with possibility and joy. A coffee cup, a candle, a pillow all have been raised to icons of happiness.
Kind of like an old newel post that keeps coming off. (If you don't get this reference you haven't watched It's a Wonderful Life enough - so put it into your December plans.)
What do you think? Can our perspective be changed because we will it to be so? Or must it always be forced on us?
And an even better question - You up for a little tweaking today?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's in Your Hands

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 24, 2010

Day Before

Sing it with me - "Anticipation, anticipa-a-tion is making me wait." It's the Day Before the holiday and I love the Day Before. It doesn't feel like waiting to me, it feels exciting and intense and like Pure Possibility.
When I was growing up we went to my grandmothers every Thanksgiving. The fourteen hour trip began on Wednesday morning when we'd pile into our car with all our stuff, but without Daddy. He had to work half the day, but he'd get a ride into work so we had the car. (This was in the days when folks carpooled for the environment at home, instead of the world. See, with most families only having one car, if you carpooled then the wife had a car some days during the week and that truly enhanced the home environment.)
Anyway - with the car full and anticipation of the trip from Tennessee to the North Carolina coastal area at fever pitch we'd set off. Either that morning or the day before we would've stopped at our neighborhood store, Cherokee Market, and each of us three kids got one of those tiny little bags and got to choose a bit of candy. We never got to spend much and it had to last the whole trip, but this choosing of our own candy was huge. Our bag was carefully guarded and pawed through on the trip. We each cocooned in our space with our pillow, candy, and a few other items and Mama would drive off to Oak Ridge.
Daddy worked at the Union Carbide plants where the atomic bomb was built so we'd park outside the guard gate and sure enough, here he'd come - grinning ear to ear. He and Mama would switch places - and our trip would begin.
This was before interstate 40 was complete so the trip included driving over Saluda Mountain - which is one curvy, mountainous road - and totally exciting for us kids. We'd get to eat out on the way which was a big event for usbecause we never ate out -(and I'm talking McDonalds.)
The mountains would fall behind us and the Carolina countryside smoothed out into sandy fields which us kids would miss as we'd be sleeping, all piled against each other in the back seat - pillows and candy bags askew.
And then around two a.m. the turns and stops told us to wake up. We were off the highway and we were in Whiteville, North Carolina. Grandma's old house had a sand driveway and we'd pull into the light from the porch and windows, because Grandma and my aunt Cora Mae would be waiting for us. What a welcome to pile out of the car to in the small hours of the night. We'd stumble in and after a short visit us kids would be put to bed on the living room floor where the sounds of Grandma's cuckoo clock and the nearby trains would keep us awake - for just a bit.
So that's just one of my "Day Before" memories. See why possibility flows in my veins?
How do you feel about the "Day Before"? Full of possibility or full of angst?
It's a choice, you know.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Got Miracles?

According to Albert Einstein “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Have you noticed all the miracles masquerading as normal, ordinary 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 11, 2010

Who's Shooting at Me?

Sunset off my parents back deck today made me think I could just reach out and brush it all away. Like a chalk drawing done on black fabric. Trees, houses, hills all had blurred edges and a soft, chalky glow. It was one of those evenings when the sun takes the warmth with it behind the horizon and chill comes with the shadows. But my afternoon passed spending time with a book, a drink and letting peacefulness settle down in a peachy glow.
Except I kept thinking I was getting shot at.
I'd hear a crack from the back yard, where there are woods and such. Following the crack something would ping against the wall of their house where I was sitting. Kid with a pop gun? An angry squirrel? My admittance to the nut house? Finally after one of the sharp cracks I noticed a flurry of dried brown leaves swirling to the ground while everything else was still. The leaves fell from a huge wisteria my folks planted to shade a corner of their pool area. A couple repeats and, sure enough, something was happening in the wisteria. So I googled "wisteria popping sounds".
Did you know that when the seed pods get dry and then heated up (it was up to 73 here today) they will "explode"? Did you know they can shoot the seeds from the pod up to 70 feet away?
Yeah, me either. The deck and house is a good 30 feet from the wisteria and the seeds hit hard enough for me to hear them.
Daddy's brothers are here from North Carolina visiting with him this afternoon which is why I'm sitting on the deck being assaulted by wisteria seeds. A nurse took a picture of the three brothers and sent it to my cell phone. They sure look happy.
As I posted on my facebook status one day last week, "I am one of the most blessed people to have ever walked this planet and my biggest blessing is that I know it."
Today I've been blessed by exploding seed pods and visiting uncles. You know, blessings that go unnoticed are just sad.
Don't you agree?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"I Yam what I Yam."

"I yam what I yam." Who said it?
Popeye, that's right. That one eyed, ridiculously muscled, pipe smoking, Olive Oyl devotee. Of course he was a cartoon, but maybe just the fact that Popeye said this line quite often might point to Reoccurring Identity Frustration. And seriously, who hasn't felt that?
Who am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to do? What are my gifts? My talents?
What do I want to be when I grow up?
Mama tells me of my despair in high school when I came home reporting that one of my friends knew exactly what she was going to do with her life. She was going to be a doctor and I didn't have the first clue. Mama reminding me of that, and how things worked in both my life and my friend's, helped me with my kids conundrums of choosing a major in college. and then another one. and then another one. and then--well, you get the picture.
Being away from home these past couple weeks while my dad had brain surgery has been tiring, scary, lonely, and just plain old strange. And with defenses down doubt comes creeping around. What an amazing blessing to be able to drop everything and come stay here. But it's also disconcerting to be able to do that and realize not one thing suffered. Seriously - if I am (as I've come to believe) the center of the universe - shouldn't my absence be noted?
Whose idea was it to be a writer? Being unpublished means I have nothing to show for what I do. Nothing to miss, no deadlines to push back, nobody waiting on the next book. Write or Don't write - nobody knows. But Popeye, and God, reminded me this morning. I yam what I yam. Loving words and wanting to write wasn't my idea. I can lament the shortcomings or I can embrace the privileges.
This morning I'm choosing embracing. How are you at embracing what you are?
And heres Popeye's song - And I yam what I yam and I yam what I yam that I yam / And I gotta lotta muscle and I only gots one eye / And I never hurts nobody and I'll never tell a lie / Top to me bottom and bottom to me top / That's the way it is 'til the day that I drop, what am I / I yam what I yam

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Whistling Garbage Man

Our garbage man picked up our can this morning near my open window. His gait was loose and easy and—he was whistling. Got me to thinking.

Is peace something we attain, or is it granted? Or is there a certain state which must be attained before peace is possible? Peace in the midst of chaos? Peace in the middle of anxiety? Peace while collecting garbage? One passage in the Bible says God's peace "transcends understanding". That sounds like my garbage man.

Maybe you’ve heard the saying, "If you are able to keep your head while all others are loosing theirs . . . you must not understand the situation." Is that the secret to peace - Ignorance? Is my garbage man ignorant of the smell, his tiredness, his status in others eyes?

Does more awareness or knowledge have to bring more anxiety? I believe we often attribute weighty thinking to weighty countenances. And happy, content folks are labeled "naive" or "polly-annish." Surely my garbage man can’t truly understand his situation. Right?
Peace for me comes from knowing God is crazy about me and he has a plan. Peace for me comes from the knowledge that God is big enough to take my griping and whining. Peace for me means doing today, what I'm supposed to do today. When I try to control and manipulate yesterday and tomorrow - I'm way out of my league.

Sounds like some things my garbage man might already know.