December 24, 2010

The Dinner Conversation

You know that parlor game, the one where you name the people you would most like to have dinner with? They can be living or dead, so it's often overwhelming to think of all the people who could make your list, and consequently they tend to be from the last couple of hundred years. Oh, sure, lots of people throw Jesus into the mix, but other than that, you'll often hear names like Lincoln, Churchill, and JFK.

Recently I have found myself thinking it would be fascinating to have a dinner conversation with Mary. Yes, THAT Mary. The Mary who doesn't often generate much in the way of curiosity among Southern Baptists, such as myself. We cover that angelic visitation thing with Gabriel and Mary's subsequent visit to her older cousin Elizabeth, who also found herself in the midst of a miraculous pregnancy, but then there's that whole stable scene where the angels and the shepherds seem to dominate as the baby in the manger takes center stage.

After that, Mary is relegated to a supporting player role with a few cameo scenes and her primary purpose seems to be to move the storyline along. Lately, I have found myself wondering, "What was she thinking?" At various points in the life of Jesus I am curious about how much she knew.

If I could talk to her, I would start with that visit from Gabriel.

"Mary, when he said, 'Do not be afraid,' were you really able to not be afraid?"

"And when he told you the purpose of his visit, did you think you were imagining things? Were you able to so calmly respond with, 'May it be to me as you have said,' because you thought it was a dream?"

"When did it become real to you? Was it when you saw Elizabeth in her sixth month? Was it when you began to feel the baby moving in your own womb? Was it in Bethlehem when you realized you weren't even going to have the dignity of a room at the inn in which to give birth to your first child? Did you long for the presence of your mother or any another woman to hold your hand and give you moral support?"

"Were you afraid then? Did God at least spare you the pain of childbirth, or was yours the most painful of all? Did you feel the full power of this cosmic mystery as you gave birth?"

"What was Jesus like growing up? Was he like any other child up to a point, or was he always different? Was it when he stayed behind in Jerusalem to talk to the teachers that you first saw the signs that he was not like other children or were there signs before that?"

"Were you surprised that he took up carpentry, like Joseph, or did you always expect that? Did you spend your life waiting for the other shoe/sandal to drop, wondering at what point God would take him from your home to use him for greater things?"

"Did you know that once his ministry began, he would no longer belong to you? Or had you always felt that he didn't belong to you? Were you surprised by the stories of healings, or had you seen evidence of his power before? Did he ever whip up dinner when there was nothing in the pantry?"

"Did it break your heart to hear the derogatory things that some people said about him, or had you been prepared for that? Did you know where this was headed? Did you expect him to sit on an earthly throne or did you always know how it would end? Was it a rolling revelation, or did the reality of his calling come to you for the first time on that awful Friday afternoon when the sun went dark?"

"Did he spend time with you and your family after the resurrection? What did he say to you? Did you understand it then, or was it years later that it began to make sense? Or did it ever fully make sense to you in this life?"

As Christmas Eve comes, it never ceases to amaze me to think of all the preparation it took in order for the pieces to come together in Bethlehem that night so long ago, or of the willing hearts that had to be open enough to say, "May it be to me as you have said."

May you feel the power of the risen Christ in your life on this day, and every day.

Until next time,

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” ~ Luke 1:30-33

December 21, 2010

The Spirit of Thankfulness Continues

I'm baaaaack! After eight days of coping with a stupid, stupid cold during the busiest month of the year, I'm back on track with much to catch up on in the way of thankfulness leading up to Christmas. From the trivial to the meaningful, here we go:

  • I am thankful for over-the-counter cold medicine. It might not provide a cure, but at least it helps get some relief and the sleep you need until you can feel better. (And I'm thankful to finally be feeling better.)
  • I am thankful for the sleep timer on my TV. 
  • I am thankful for my two cats who think it's their job to keep me warm while I sleep. Or maybe they think it's my job to keep them warm. Whichever it is, it works...although sometimes too well.
  • I am thankful for the countless hours that others put into preparing for Christmas programs so the rest of us can enjoy them..
  • I am thankful for coworkers who make my job such a joy.
  • I am thankful for friends and family who mean more and more with each passing year.
  • I am thankful that my sister and nephews will be here to spend Christmas with our family.
  • I am thankful my family decided to draw names this year so we can spend more time focusing on our time together.
  • I am thankful for my niece and her family who moved back home this year. It's wonderful to see her do such a great job of being a mom.
  • I am thankful for our first Christmas with my grandniece, who at 9-1/2 months should be a lot of fun to watch Christmas day. Heck, she's a lot of fun to watch any day.
  • I am thankful for this time of year when we stop to remember the greatest gift of all, the gift of a Savior.

I don't say it often enough, but I am thankful for each one of you. You encourage me, you challenge me, and you enrich my life. Thanks for being a part of Single and Sane.

Until next time,

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

December 11, 2010

Spirit of Thanksgiving, Post #4 - Elizabeth's Shining Light

Now I know why smart bloggers did the sensible thing and wrote their posts about gratitude leading up to Thanksgiving instead of after the turkey was history. It's not that it's hard to continue the attitude of Thanksgiving throughout the Christmas season, it's just that December is a ridiculously crazy month. So while I'm only on post #4, rest assured that I'm not facing a shortage of things for which to be grateful.

Today, as her family says their final goodbye - inasmuch as any of us can ever say a final goodbye to someone we love - I am thankful for the life of Elizabeth Edwards. Like many who never met her, I still felt as though I knew her, and I found her inspiring. What can be said about this woman that hasn't been said? She was articulate, she was passionate about the people and the things she believed in, she was determined, she was a force of nature, she was a devoted mother, and clearly from what we have heard from her friends, she was also a devoted friend. But all of that has been said.

Source: Google Images

I admired all of those things about her, but most of all, I admired how she lived out her faith in a public way, not by shouting about her beliefs, but by quietly showing us what is is to live as a follower of Christ when your world is crumbling around you.

December 2, 2010

Spirit of Thanksgiving, Post #3 (The Smallest Tree)

As I strive to continue the Spirit of Thanksgiving throughout the holiday season, today I am thankful for small Christmas trees. This is also my shameless attempt to win an itty bitty candy cane, courtesy of Lea at My Letters to Emily. Her contest was inspired by A Haven for Vee's 3-foot tree, which I believe totally defies its small stature.

It's not all about my competitive nature though. I really am thankful for small trees, since they grace my home with a festive spirit during the Christmas seasons that I choose not to put up a tree, or when time gets away from me before that deed can be accomplished.

There are the trees I made for my mantel. The picture is not great, because I cropped it from last year's pictures, but you get the idea. These trees are still in the closet, waiting to grace my living room, once again...

I think the lopsidedness is part of their charm. ;-)  The ceramic tree (just to the left of the tree on the far right) rotates as it plays Angels We Have Heard on High.

There is the whimsical tree that sits on my coffee table. Again, an unfortunate cropping job from last year...

There is the retro pink tinsel tree that I love for the fun bit of kitsch that it brings to my life each December...

And then there is the tiniest tree, the only one that is actually out so far...

There is a bit of an optical illusion in the picture below - it's about 4-3/4" high, but it looks even shorter next to the yardstick, thanks to the angle...

Someday, it will go to my grandniece (along with the dollhouse I originally purchased it for) when she is old enough for such an itsy bitsy treasure. For now, it's my tiniest tree.

Until next time,

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. ~ I Timothy 4:12

November 28, 2010

Spirit of Thanksgiving, Day 2

Today, as I continue my Thanksgiving posts leading up to Christmas, I am thankful for the long Thanksgiving weekend, which began on Wednesday. The extra time off provided me the time to do things I rarely have the opportunity to do around the house - things like pulling the sofas out to vacuum underneath. It provided me time to visit with family not only on Thanksgiving, but on Friday, as well. It provided me 3 out of 5 days when I did not have to set my alarm. 
It provided me time to visit stores and go online to search for the gift my brother, sister, and I will give to our mother for Christmas. It provided me with a quiet Sunday afternoon to stop by the office and prepare for the upcoming week, which is always a particularly hectic one, as it follows such a short work week. It provided the time to organize the project I actually began for my niece 35 years ago, and hope to finish for her daughter before Christmas. 
Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. ;-)

Until next time,

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18

November 27, 2010

The Spirit of Thanksgiving

All week, I intended to write a Thanksgiving post based on a post written by Matt at The Church of No People last Monday. It's taken until Saturday, but I'm finally getting around to it.

In his post, Matt talked about how we spend Thursday focused on being thankful for all we have, only to hit the stores at the crack of long before dawn on Friday because we want more. People are only too anxious to leave Thanksgiving in the dust as they camp out in parking lots waiting for Black Friday sales to begin. The irony is that as Thanksgiving ends and we turn our attention towards Christmas, we celebrate the gift of Christ by becoming so consumer-minded that, too often, we lose our gratitude for the greatest gift ever.

Source: Background Fairy
My comment on Matt's post was about how so many bloggers had used the first 25 days in November to write daily posts about things that fill them with gratitude. Those posts were all wonderful to read, and humbling as they reminded me of so many things I have for which to be grateful. I suggested that to keep that spirit of gratitude through the Christmas season, maybe the posts should begin with Thanksgiving and lead up to Christmas.

So that's what I plan to do for the next few weeks. I'm not promising a daily post, because keeping a tight blogging schedule is not one of my gifts. But we'll see.

Today I am grateful for the time spent with family on Thanksgiving. Thursday was spent with cousins we only see once or twice a year. Their grandmother and my grandmother were twin sisters, and growing up, our families often spent Thanksgiving together. As the twins got older and each lost their husbands, the custom fell by the wayside. My cousins recently decided to revive the tradition, and I'm grateful for that. Of the twins' children, only my mother and one son on their side of the family (and his wife) are left. It's wonderful to see them together on Thanksgiving, as they were on so many other Thanksgivings, long before the rest of us came along.

What about you? What were you grateful for this Thanksgiving? How do you maintain that spirit of gratitude through the holidays?

Until next time,

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. ~ Psalm 100:4-5

November 16, 2010

Royal Wedding!

Source: Google Images
I'm a sucker for a royal wedding. I was in the 9th grade when I got up in the middle of the night to watch Princess Anne's wedding to Capt. Mark Phillips. (Goodness, I had to think awhile before I could pull that name out of the deep recesses of my mind.) It was a beautful wedding, but the marriage didn't turn out so well.

Eight years later, I got up in the middle of the night to watch Lady Diana Spencer marry Prince Charles. The wedding didn't disappoint. Diana's dress was truly fit for a princess, and the scale of the event was beyond any fairytale that I ever read. But as everyone knows, that marriage didn't turn out so well, either.

Source: Google Images

Five years after that, I got up in the middle of the night to watch the wedding of Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew. Yeah, well...

Prince Edward is still married, isnt' he? I feel sure that I got in the middle of the night for that wedding, too, but I really don't remember for sure. You see, by the time Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones, I didn't have much hope for royal marriages...certainly not for the marriages of Queen Elizabeth's children.

I have much more hope for William and Kate. They're mature enough to know themselves, and they've certainly dated long enough to know one another. I was initially a little creeped out by William's choice of a ring - the same sapphire ring that we first saw on Diana's finger nearly 30 years ago, but I love his sentimental reason for choosing it. "It was my way of making sure my mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement, and the fact that we're going to spend the rest of our lives together." William says that their relationship began as a friendship, providing a strong foundation for them.

We were already rooting for them just from the pictures we had seen, but they were terribly endearing in their engagement interview. Their excitement is obvious, as is their love for one another. While Diana was clearly infatuated with Charles, I'm not sure she ever loved him, and he certainly didn't seem to love her. Remember Charles' comment in their engagement interview? As I recall, when asked if they loved one another, Charles' response was something like, "Whatever love is." Ouch.

NBC News
Despite the mean tone of the nickname given to Kate by the press, Waity Katie, perhaps she was willing to wait so long because she learned something from her future father-in-law's life. Charles, too, had a difficult time committing to a young woman he dated, and she eventually tired of waiting and married someone else. While Charles and Camilla married many years later - after a failed first marriage for each - I can't help but wonder how much heartache could have been avoided if Camilla had shown Kate's patience when she was younger. But then if Camilla had been a patient woman, there wouldn't have been a William for Kate to marry, would there?

I hope that despite the ups and downs that Kate and William will undoubtedly face in their life together, that their marriage will survive, and they will look back and feel as though they each received the fairy-tale ending that so eluded all those other royal couples...

Until next time,

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~ I Corinthians 13:4-7

November 12, 2010

More Than We Can Imagine

To tell you the truth, up until this week, fall around here was looking like a dud. It has been fairly warm and terribly dry, with less than half our normal rainfall since the first of September. Leaves were falling in my yard without any fanfare - just brown leaves making a mess. To say that I was disappointed in our fall foliage would be an understatement and I found having to rake the dull leaves just added insult to injury.

But over the last week, our dreary fall was rescued. Much like fireworks when you start to ask, "Is that all there is?" the trees that still bore their leaves turned glorious shades of yellow, red, and orange, and every tree seemed to be trying to outdo its neighbor.

I took pictures along my drive to work this morning. See how beautiful they are?

What a wonderful reminder that God isn't finished with us, even during those times that we think he is, and that he who started the work will be faithful to complete it in you...and in me.

Until next time,

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.~ Ephesians 3:20-21

November 11, 2010

Thankfully Alone (Redux)

Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away so I'm reprising a post from last year. If you're going to be alone on Thanksgiving, now's the time to start planning how you will spend your day so you can make the most of it...

You can ask anyone. I'm not a people person. I'm task-oriented, and to be honest, I thrive on alone-time. Those of you who are not task-oriented seem to think that's a character flaw. That's okay, because like everyone else who is task-oriented, I know you would be lost without people like me. We're the ones who can focus long enough to figure out the things that seem to overwhelm you. (I suddenly have an awful feeling I stole that line from The Big Bang Theory.)

If you're task-oriented and single, it's a saving grace. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I'm running across blogs about how awful it is to be alone on Thanksgiving. I get that, I know being alone on a holiday is hard for a lot of people. But the task-oriented side of me wants to scream, "FIND SOMETHING TO DO AND YOU'LL GET OVER IT!!!"

I have been alone on Thanksgiving, and while the first time was dreadful -- largely because of the full-fledged pity party I threw myself -- I had a plan in place the next year. I accepted that a whole day with no place to be and nothing I had to do a month before Christmas is nothing less than a gift from God.

You see, I love for my house to be decorated for Christmas, but it doesn't always happen because the time to get it done is so hard to come by. So I decided to use that day alone to my advantage and I began a tradition of putting my Christmas tree up on Thanksgiving Day. Granted, this only works if you have an artificial tree, because burning the house down would be grounds for more self-pity, but since I have cats (there's that whole Borderline Crazy Cat Lady thing), I find an artificial tree is the only way to go. You can also leave an artificial tree up as long as you want, which is clearly another advantage. (One year I woke up on January 8th to discover an unexpected snowstorm had hit overnight. Obviously even God was embarrassed that my tree was still up and he gave me another gift - a surprise snow day to take the thing down!)

Over the years, my Thanksgiving Day plan changed a little. One year I had single friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. A couple of years I baked my grandmother's pumpkin chiffon pie to take to another friend's house. But as soon as I could, I'd get my tree out and start decorating. That allowed me to relax and enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas, smiling to myself each time I opened my front door.

In recent years, my family has been in town for Thanksgiving, and we have begun spending the day with the cousins we used to spend Thanksgiving with when we were kids. It's a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving that makes me want to sing "Over the River and through the Woods..." as it brings back memories of grandparents and parents who are no longer with us. I love these Thanksgivings, but I know that should I find myself alone again on Thanksgiving Day, it will be okay because I have a plan.

Maybe your plan is different. Maybe you want to stay in your pajamas all day and watch Christmas movies or sit down with that book that you've been wanting to read. If you're a people-person, you can sign up to serve food at a shelter, or if you love to cook, you can have other singles or empty-nest couples over to your house for dinner. (Don't assume you're the only one in the world who is alone for Thanksgiving. Ask around and you'll find others who will be by themselves, and while some are perfectly happy to spend the day alone, others are hoping for an invitation.) If you don't like to cook, make the meal potluck. If you like to organize people, get a group together to cook and take food to the home-bound in your neighborhood or your church. The point is to find something that suits your personality, keeps you busy, and fills you with a spirit of matter how you choose to spend the day.

Until next time,

"...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - I Thessalonians 5:18

November 8, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance Day

I've decided to start a new tradition at Single and Sane: Cognitive Dissonance Day. I'm not sure how often I'll do it, but once in awhile, I'm going to pay tribute to that uncomfortable feeling caused by mixing conflicting ideas.

My first entry: Sleeveless dresses with boots.

Source: Google Images

I don't know about you, but boots make my feet miserably hot, and a sleeveless dress in boot season would make my arms miserably cold. I really don't see the point of dressing to mimic menopause when diminishing hormones achieve the same effect more than adequately.

How about you? Could you wear boots with a sleeveless dress?

November 4, 2010

Healthy Things Grow...

In my last post I focused on those of us who have been around our own churches for a long time, and the memories we have of those who have played a role in our lives through the church. I told you how I have often missed the things newer members see - things like bad lighting and peeling paint - because I see beyond the walls of the church. I see the people who have played a role in my walk with Christ.

But I don't want to leave you with the wrong impression. I believe that understanding where a church has been is important. It shows you where God has been at work within that body and that knowledge serves as inspiration, much as the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. But it's not everything.

November 1, 2010

I See Dead People

A number of years ago, I was talking to a newer member of my church and he brought up the shabby appearance of our buildings. Up until that conversation, I hadn't noticed the peeling paint or the poorly lit rooms that he pointed out. He wasn't alone. Others who didn't have a history in our church had issues that seemed trivial to me, things such as the carpet in the sanctuary. While I was fully aware of the blue carpet's dated and worn appearance - carpet that was never attractive - it didn't bother me the way it seemed to bother those who didn't yet have relationships within the church..

That was when I first realized that just as new members see things that I can't see, those of us who have been around for years see things that they can't see. The difference is that - in addition to the people who we see in the flesh - we can see people who are long gone, people from our past who have impacted our lives, people who played a role in building our faith.

October 26, 2010

The Mommy Card

I don't think I have ever come out and said this on my blog, but if you have read my blog for any length of time, you may have figured out that I live in Oklahoma. You know, the place where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, where football reigns supreme, and where we think of ourselves as America's heartland.

Source: Google Images
This coming Tuesday, we will join the ranks of states who have elected women governors since, for the first time in Oklahoma history, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor are women.

It's wonderful that we have reached a point where a woman will lead our state, however many of us are less than thrilled with our choices. Like many Oklahomans, I voted for someone other than the nominee in my party's primary. It's not that either woman is totally unqualified for the position. Both have served as lieutenant governor, and I have voted for each woman (at least once) prior to this election. It just seems that there were others in both parties who were better qualified.

Having said that, in the interest of full disclosure, I have leaned towards one candidate over the other over a moral issue in the other candidate's life. It's an issue that came up after I voted for her a number of years ago - one which I feel has never been honestly addressed by this candidate. Had she ever come clean publicly it would no longer be an issue But instead of admitting her own failing, she has repeatedly chosen to shift the blame, and I believe that speaks volumes about her character.

But I have not been excited about this vote.

Suddenly over the last week our gubernatorial race has received national attention, and I feel my choice has been validated. Perhaps you've heard about it. Last Tuesday during a debate, the candidate I was leaning against - who is the mother of two and the (very recent) stepmother of four - was asked what set her apart from her opponent. This was her answer:

October 20, 2010

Book Review: A Perfect Fit

In June, I wrote my list of 30 things I hoped to accomplish over the summer. One of the items was reading more reading. Sadly, that didn't happen.

I was actually so optimistic that I signed up with a publisher to do book reviews. While I was waiting for the first book to arrive - which took about 5 weeks - I was given the opportunity to review a book by Julie Ferwerda. It's a newly revised edition of a book that was originally published in 2004, The Perfect Fit, Piecing Together True Love.

October 15, 2010

Bearing One Another's Burdens

The other day someone made a comment to me about prayer requests that got me thinking. It was something like "It's nice to know people's prayer needs, but gee, sometimes they make you feel so heavy."

I replied, "I guess that's why it's called 'bearing each other's burdens.'"  I have heard the verse from Galatians 6 for as long as I can remember.

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

I have always thought of the verse as figurative, and not literal. The conversation actually took place in the ladies' room, and as I stood in front of the mirror, watching the water run over my hands, I wondered if that weight that we feel when we pray is a literal weight that has been lifted from those for whom we are praying. Is it really possible to help ease the deepest kind of pain through our prayers? Even the kind of pain that people must walk through in order to find healing on the other side?

I hope it is. Today I will attend a memorial service for a high school senior who took his life earlier this week. I cannot begin to comprehend the pain his family is enduring, a pain that will never entirely go away. His school has suffered a series of tragedies over the last few years, and his classmates are deeply hurting over this loss, too. There are countless others who are grieving over his loss. We'll never know how many lives this young man touched in his short life, or the positive impact those people will have on others they meet, just because they knew him.

I know his parents. If this could happen to them, it could happen to any family. They are two of the sunniest, most positive people I have ever known. They love the Lord. They are devoted to their children. They're on top of things with their kids, but they couldn't know what was going on in their son's head. They could not know the hurts that he was hiding inside. And yet, for the rest of their lives, there will be moments when they question those truths.

Their prayer is that God will be glorified through their loss, and that what satan intended for evil, God will use for good. I'm asking you to join me today in helping to lift the burden they are carrying through your prayers. I'm asking you to pray that God will, indeed, be glorified. Whether you are reading this post the day of his memorial service or long after it's over, I'm asking you to say a prayer for this family, for the young man's friends and classmates, asking God to heal their wounds, remove all doubt, and that they will feel God's healing arms wrapped around them, holding them close.

I know our prayers won't make the pain disappear instantly. Just as God designed our bodies to heal from physical injury, God designed our spirits to heal from emotional pain. Grief is a necessary part of that and it takes time. But I believe that our prayers can help ease the grief of others, and that those prayers can bring a peace that surpasses understanding to those for whom we are praying.

Will you pray with me?

To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. ~ Jude, verse 25

Comments are closed for this post. 

October 14, 2010

The Four Seasons

I've noticed a trend this week, as bloggers have begun to write about the change of seasons, both literally and figuratively. I am fortunate to live in a climate that truly has four seasons. I can honestly say that I don't have a favorite - there are things that I love about each one.

For years, my sister lived just a couple hundred miles to the south, but that was far enough to miss fall. Where she lived, the autumn months did not bring significantly cooler temperatures, so  the leaves just turned brown and fell off the trees. Where I live, the trees reward us by turning brilliant shades of yellow, scarlet, and fiery orange, as though they are summer's final curtain call. The humidity that plagues us from spring throughout the summer months disappears almost overnight, replaced by cooler days and wonderfully cool nights when the temperature generally dips into the forties or fifties. You can hear the leaves crunching under your feet, and enjoy the luxury of wearing a sweater, after months of often sweltering heat.

Before we know it, winter will be here, bringing the holidays and treasured time with family. There will be bright, sunny days and the evenings will bring the aroma of smoke from hearth-warming fires. With any luck, we'll have a couple of "snow days," those wonderful surprise days when we get to sleep late in the middle of the week and spend the whole day in pajamas, if that's what we want to do. I sleep best in the winter, the only time of the year that I can endure the weight of the covers over me. It's also when my cats most like to snuggle up against me at night.

By March, we're basking in some warm days mixed in with the cold, breaking out those transitional clothes that announce the change of seasons. Rain is a welcome change from winter's frozen precipitation. The redbud and Bradford pear trees are as beautiful as the oak and maple trees of fall. Neighborhoods are dotted with color as irises, tulips, and wisteria make their annual appearance.

As the days grow longer, summer brings outdoor concerts, evening walks in the park or along the river, and the opportunity to gaze at the stars. Early summer continues the thunderstorms of spring, bringing the rain that we know will be far less common by August. As it gets warmer, the emerald green trees against the blue sky are not only a delight to look at, but they also provide delightful shade.

None of the seasons is perfect. Fall and spring bring ragweed and pollen, winter often brings treacherous weather that is not necessarily accompanied by a snow day, spring brings a greater likelihood of tornadoes, and summer can bring horrendous heat. By the time each season ends, I'm ready for the next one. I'm always grateful, though, for the season that has passed, and the blessings that it brought.

Until next time,

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

October 9, 2010

Warning Light

This is not a deeply spiritual post, but it is about trusting God with the seemingly small stuff. It's also a practical tip that might come in handy.

Nobody likes to have car trouble, but when you're single, it's a huge hassle to have to take your car in for repairs. You have to figure out when it's going to be convenient to be without your if there's ever a good time. You have to find someone to take you to drop the car off, and then to pick it up. If it's a repair that requires more than a day, then you have to find a way to get to work and home again....and then back to work again the next day And then there's the issue of the expense.

So there's not much that causes my heart to sink faster than this:

October 4, 2010

First Monday in October

I love to watch history in the making. Today is one of those days as the Supreme Court begins a new session, and for the first time ever, one-third of the Court will be made up of women.

I had mixed feelings when President Reagan appointed the first woman to the Court, Sandra Day O'Connor. It was exciting, yet I had an uneasy feeling that she was selected first and foremost because of her gender. I thought that was as wrong as ruling a woman out (no pun intended) based solely on sex. Thirty years later, we still haven't reached a point where I think we can fairly say that gender doesn't enter into the nominating process, but as more women join the Court, we're getting closer.

Regardless of President Reagan's motivations for selecting Sandra Day O'Connor, she became my favorite Justice. I loved that she was unpredictable, sometimes voting with the conservative wing of the Court; and other times with the liberal wing. I respected her for that, because it seems to me that the law should not be ideological.

I know that Justice Kennedy isn't predictable either, but somehow it made more of an impression on me when Justice O'Connor "crossed sides" on an issue. It would be nice to see someone else pick up her mantle and join Justice Kennedy in the middle of the Court. Here's hoping...

Until next time,

"In the last days," God says, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." ~ Acts 2:17

September 28, 2010

A Futile Quest for Perfection

In Natchez, Mississippi, you will find a house that is frozen in time. It's official name is Longwood, but it is also known as Nutt's Folly. The owner was Dr. Haller Nutt, a man who was not blessed with good timing.

 Source: Wikipedia

At six stories and 30,000 square feet, it is the largest octagonal house in the United States. Work began on the house in 1860, but in 1861, when word came that the Civil War had begun, workers stopped what they were doing and walked out, dropping their saws and hammers on the floor and leaving paint brushes in open cans. Only the exterior of the house had been completed. Thirty-two rooms were planned, but Dr. Nutt was only able to finish nine rooms on the first floor, apparently mostly with slave labor.

In 1862, Dr. Nutt and his wife, Julia moved into the finished first floor, along with their eight children. Dr. Nutt died before the war ended and Julia continued to live in the house until her death in 1897. Many of the family's furnishings remain there for tourists to see. I remember seeing the house as a child, during Natchez's Spring Pilgrimage. As we went up to the second floor we saw the workers' tools strewn about, clearly showing the passage of time. I wondered what it would be like to live on the first floor, with those eerie unfinished floors above, serving as reminders of what would never be.

There is a house in my city that is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Oh, it's a another grand house, and it was built to fulfill someone's dream, but while it was completed long ago, only the caretaker's apartment has ever been inhabited.

September 25, 2010

I Love My Job!

I have had my nose to the grindstone more than usual this week. I've told you before that I work at a private high school. September is normally a hectic month, and this year we decided to add something else to a month that is already full...we're changing our website to a new host company. Friday was the deadline to get it done. Did I mention that the group of us who were transferring all the information from the old site to the new have limited expertise in these matters?

We also had two evening events this week - along with the extra work that each brought. As a result, everything that needed to be done on the website had to be squeezed in at all hours. I had two pages left to set up Friday night, and in the midst of a reception - the final evening event for the week - I spied a computer and logged on and finished those pages. There are still finishing touches to be done, pictures to add, and undoubtedly links to fix, but the basic information is there.

Despite all the stress, it has been a fun week. My coworkers and I have laughed together as we have dealt with HTML quandaries. We have pitched in to help each other meet deadlines. Tuesday night, I crawled under desks to swipe phones for an evening phonathon. The parents who helped with that phonathon were a blast. There were cookies in the faculty lounge two mornings this week, always a bonus. Our daily faculty/staff trivia game started this week. Hallways were filled with smiling students. When I went to the cafeteria for lunch one afternoon, I coud hear the drum corps practicing. And when I left the reception Friday night after a 13-hour day, I could hear the crowd cheering in the football stadium as I felt the cool evening breeze.

You don't get those things in every job.

And what was the purpose of Friday night's reception? It was to honor two graduates and a former coach for their achievements, not just while they were at our school, but throughout their lives. As I listened to the speeches that preceded the reception, I was reminded again why we do what we's all about preparing kids for life.

And oh yeah. This post fulfills prompt #5 from Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop...10 Reasons why you love your job.

Until next time,

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men..." Colossians 3:23

September 21, 2010

Good News About Those Few Extra Pounds

I can't cite the source, but when I was a teenager, my mother said she had read a quote from Ingrid Bergman where she said that there comes a time in every woman's life where she has to chose between her face and her body. I remember what brought it up. We had just seen Murder on the Orient Express and Mom was commenting on how great Bergman looked at nearly 60. Ingrid had chosen her face over her body, and didn't mind carrying a few extra pounds as she got older. Sure, she was a little heavier than she had been at the peak of her career, but she was still beautiful.

Source: Google Images
I have always thought that made sense, but I nearly did cartwheels when The Wall Street Journal presented evidence in support of Ingrid's theory last spring, in Why Carrying an Extra 10 Pounds Might Not Hurt.  The  article was based on a study published in February in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study included about 9,000 men and women.

The article explains that a little extra weight does more than fill in the lines:

A little extra fat may also act as a natural face-lift. Last year, the Archives of Dermatology published a study that said, as women grow older, those who are overweight appeared younger than those who were normal or underweight. That is because a little fat provides more structure for the skin which can combat the sagging that comes with age.

What's more, it can help with osteoporosis, which I've long suspected. It just seemed to me that carrying a few extra pounds would be the equivalent of walking with weights. Apparently doctors are coming around to my way of thinking, that one way to strengthen your skeleton is to avoid looking like a skeleton.

It's not a free pass to let ourselves go. Too much belly fat is still bad. A healthy diet and exercise will always be important, but we don't have to take it to the level of an obsession. We don't have to stress over 5 or 10 extra pounds. Hallelujah!

Click here to read the full article.

Until next time,

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~ Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

September 17, 2010

Back to Life

Here's a happy story for the weekend. It's not often that we see evidence of real-life miracles while we're eating our Cheerios, but such a miracle was featured on the Today show Friday morning. 

The parents of a 2-year-old boy named Gore shared the story of their son, who shows no signs of brain damage after his heart stopped for about an hour as the result of a near-drowning earlier this summer. When he was found in an irrigation ditch, his heart had stopped. His grandfather, a retired orthopaedic surgeon and the first to try to resuscitate Gore, said he had the color of someone who had died - which he had.

Once his heart started beating again, his temperature was kept low for a couple of days before slowing bringing it back to normal. Even then, there wasn't much hope that he would be unaffected by the experience until after an MRI showed normal brain activity.

It's an amazing story.

Until next time,

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. ~ John 12:17

September 16, 2010

The Art of Conversation

It's already Thursday, which means it's time for another writing assignment from Mama Kat. This time I chose prompt #5, "Describe an awkward conversation you had with someone recently." The timing was perfect, as I had an awkward conversation just this past weekend.

First a little background. I live in the same town where I have spent most of my life. We moved here when I was 2, and except for a 2-1/2 year period from the fourth grade until the sixth, I have lived here ever since. It was when we moved back in the middle of my sixth grade year that I learned "you can't go home again."

September 13, 2010

Are We Intolerant?

Matt, at The Church of No People*, asked a simple question on Friday, "Do Americans have a lot more work to do when it comes to being tolerant?" 

Okay, maybe it wasn't all that simple. Regardless of how much more tolerant we are - generally speaking - than a number of other nations that come to mind, I can see where we might come across as intolerant. One guy even came up with a visual way to make fun of our appearance of intolerance:

Photo Source: A wide variety of Internet sites

For the record, I don't know that God cares much about most signs, but I do think he hates "hate" signs.

Today's post is my answer to Matt's question about whether or not I think we're intolerant, with a just couple of minor changes in an effort to tweak it.

September 9, 2010

Mom Friends

Holy cow. It's already time for another writing assignment from Mama Kat! Perhaps it was the long holiday weekend, but the week has flown by. Or maybe it's just that Mama Kat gives out too much homework because I swear I just turned one of these in and it cannot possibly have been a week.

This time I chose prompt #2: "A list of things you no longer have in common with your married/child bearing friends…and why you love them anyways."

First of all, I hate to complain, but I just can't use the word anyways in a sentence. I want to make it clear that I don't blame Mama Kat. Who was the first person to decide a perfectly good word like anyway needed an 's' tacked onto the end? I'm sure it's a regional thing. I can say "y'all" 'til the cows come home, but anyways isn't a word that has ever come out of my mouth and its very presence made it difficult for me to choose this prompt.

September 6, 2010

The News Spread Like Wildfire

My city experienced a tragic loss early Friday afternoon. A coworker received a breaking news text and within minutes it was all over Facebook. I left work to get my hair cut and, as I drove, it was all they were talking about on the radio. When I arrived at the salon, the stylists were stunned by the news. One was absolutely heartbroken  as she stared at the picture on her phone. The shock caused drivers to pull off the highway, and the 10:00 p.m. news reported that people were still stopping by to pay their respects.

What happened?

We lost a local icon.

The screens at the drive-in movie theatre caught on fire.


September 2, 2010

Dear Alec

It's time for another assignment from Mama Kat. This time I chose the prompt, "write an open letter to a celebrity." My letter is to my secret celebrity crush. But, shhhhh, don't tell anybody who it is.

Dear Alec,

I realize this is probably not your wildest fantasy, to have a Christian woman who is about your age and who lives in a red state tell you she has a secret celebrity crush on you. Would it help if I told you I'm a purple voter who lives in a red state? Really, it's more of a periwinkle. (That's the closest I could find to periwinkle in Blogger's limited color palette.) And I have never voted for the guy who refuses to even entertain the possibility of climate change. Oh wait, there was that one time, but it was only once. Surely you can understand a person making a bad decision in a weak moment.

I wish I could tell you when I realized I had a crush on you. It wasn't when you were young. You were plenty attractive when you were young, but to tell you the truth, I thought you were kind of shallow. And cocky. Really cocky.

But life has a way of taking that know-it-all attitude out of all of us. Life, and the mistakes we make. And of course, you made a whopper. Isn't it funny how Mel Gibson can make a mistake that's just as appalling and we say, "there but for the grace of God"?  (Believe me, we're super miffed, but it's awfully hard to let Mel have it after that Jesus movie.)

August 28, 2010

My Childhood Neighborhood

This has been another busy week at work, and the one night I didn't work late, I was busy enjoying the final night of a favorite summertime activity - a weekly outdoor concert. It was the only one I made it to this summer, primarily due to the excessively hot weather we experienced. So while I can't say the dog ate my homework, I still think I have a decent excuse for being late with my writing assignment from Mama Kat.

The topic was one I had to write on. My family moved quite a bit, but there was one house that we all think of as home. We lived there a little over 6 years, from shortly before my 3rd birthday, until shortly after my 9th. It was the last house we lived in as a family, as my brother was 18 when we left that house to move out-of-state.

It was in a wonderful neighborhood, filled with cottage-type brick homes, most of which were painted, keeping them from looking alike. There were big trees to climb, and to provide lots of shade. The only flaw was that, in the entire time we lived there, there were never any families with kids my age in the neighborhood. But there were plenty of kids the same ages as my older brother and sister, so it wasn't often that I noticed.

With my sister and brother in front of the last
house where we all lived together.

August 20, 2010

Na Na Na Na Boo Boo

A group of friends from high school gathered recently, and the topic soon turned to a classmate who had died unexpectedly a few months ago. He was the kind of guy who everybody liked, even if we didn't know him well. He had a kind, gentle spirit, and was always thoughtful and polite.

Someone brought up the fact that the name we had known him by in high school was not the name he had always had. He had actually changed both his first and last names - as well as his school - when we were still in grade school. I had first known him at the first school, when he went by the original name.

The person telling this story said he had hated that name because kids in our class had come up with a rhyme to make fun of him. While I don't remember that, it didn't surprise me. I clearly remember the day in 7th grade when I realized he was the same guy I had once known by another name. We were in our French class, and I guess the teacher had left the room for a couple of minutes because one of the girls yelled at him across the room, asking why he had changed his name. At first, he looked kind of stunned, then I realized the expression was one of pain. The girl who was questioning him was relentless, but he did not respond in anger or even defensiveness. He tried to avoid answering her at first, but when it soon became evident that she would not let it go, he graciously gave her an explanation that satisfied her. I don't remember the subject ever coming up again.

August 17, 2010

I Did Not Want to Write About This...

Let me tell you, I tried to avoid this topic. When I saw other bloggers writing about it, I quietly backed away, not wanting to get sucked into the debate. It's not an easy subject, and while on the surface it seems to be one over which many disagree, that is not really the case at all. The majority of Americans are in agreement.

And that troubles me, greatly.

We have become a country of kneejerk reactions. We get caught up in emotion, and we don't want to be influenced by anything that contradicts the emotion. Once in a blue moon, as in this case, an overwhelming majority of Americans agree on a topic. We begin to think if the majority agrees, then it must be right.

August 13, 2010

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

It's still dangerously hot, of course. In the month since my Minnesota vacation filled with pleasant warm days and cool nights, the weather at home has been stifling around the clock. We have had excessive heat warnings for all but 4 or 5 days in the past month, and it doesn't cool below the low 80's at night. If the high hasn't actually been above 100 degrees, then the heat index  - what the temperature actually feels like - has well exceeded the century mark, usually in the neighborhood of 110-115.

School started this week, and it just doesn't feel right to still be this hot. But there might be a light at the end of this suffocating tunnel. All week long, there have been promises of a cool front by the weekend. Imagine my disappointment when I looked online yesterday afternoon and saw this:

August 6, 2010

He Said, She Said

Or maybe it should be, "She said, he said."

I know I just posted yesterday about being too busy to blog right now, but there is an aspect to this story that is so irritating, I just had to stay up and write about it.

Tuesday morning, the Today show featured an interview with Lynn France, who says she discovered pictures from her husband's wedding on Facebook....while she was still married to him. Lynn and John France were married in 2005 in an extravagant destination wedding which took place in Italy. By 2008, she was beginning to suspect that John was having an affair. She tracked John down and discovered him with Amanda, who told Lynn that she and John planned to be married. John left Lynn soon after that. According to Lynn, John took the couples' two young sons without her knowledge from their home in Ohio to Florida, where he now lives with his new wife, Amanda. John claims that his marriage to Lynn was not valid due to a clerical error, and he has filed in Florida courts for custody of the children. Although Lynn discovered hundreds of pictures of John's wedding to Amanda at Disney World - apparently Amanda was dressed as Sleeping Beauty and John was dressed as Prince Charming - she told Meredith Vieira that the most painful part was finding pictures of her children on Amanda's Facebook page, leading her to feel taunted by Amanda.

August 5, 2010

Blogging Distractions

Ever since I took a couple of weeks off in July, my blogging has slowed to a crawl. Once I got back from vacation, work went into high gear. I'm part of the support staff at a private high school and our freshmen will come for orientation beginning today, then school starts next Thursday. (Sure, it' over 100 degrees, but by golly, we'll get finals in before Christmas!) With the start of school so near, I've been putting in extra time at work and even bringing some work home so I haven't had as much time...or energy...or inspiration for blogging at the end of the day. I'm still trying to keep up up with your blogs, but I'm not commenting much to keep my time online down to a minimum. The blogging drought will likely continue for another week or two, but hopefully I'll soon be back to a regular schedule.

Beyond the start of school, another distraction this week has been the arrival of my niece and her family. My niece and her husband met halfway across the country, and soon discovered that they're both from the same hometown. They had no intention of moving back here, but once they had a baby girl, they began to see the advantages of raising her in a city where she would be surrounded by extended family.

July 29, 2010

On the Banks of Plum Creek

My family was fortunate enough to live near my grandmother's aunt when I was growing up. Aunt Lucia was an avid reader, and she introduced the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder to my sister, who in turn, introduced them to me. So it was an unexpected treat to visit the site of On the Banks of Plum Creek with my sister and our mom a couple of weeks ago.

This was the book that featured the Ingalls family's sod house, which was built along the creek. The spot is a couple of miles from Walnut Grove, which you may remember from the TV show. Walnut Grove is where you will find a Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, one of several scattered across the Northern Plains and the Midwest, in towns featured in the Little House books.

July 24, 2010

The Great Plains

My sister lives 700 miles from my home. It's a journey from the southern to the northern plains, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that everyone seemed to assume such a trip would involve air travel. My mom and I made the trip together and flying never crossed our minds. I don't mind the actual flying part of flying, but the restrictions, the security checks, the delays (both planned and unplanned) and the general hassle make the idea most unappealing to me.

Besides the frustrations related to flying, you miss out on a lot. All of my life, my mother has told stories about the 5 years her family spent in Omaha leading up to World War II. So after driving through eastern Kansas, which is much prettier than I had pictured, I finally got to see Omaha and discovered it's not the city I've pictured. It's beautiful, with hills and trees, and reminds me of my hometown. Mom always told us how hard it was to have to take her driving test in downtown Omaha, which had steep hills. And it turns out she didn't exaggerate too much, as there are some pretty steep hills downtown, but it's not exactly San Francisco, either.

We drove by the houses where Mom and her family lived, including the house where they heard Franklin Roosevelt speak in December of 1941 about the "day that would live in infamy." I could picture my grandparents and Mom and her younger brother gathered around a radio in the living room of that house, as the US entered the war.

Mom has often told stories about the Catholic school that she and another Protestant friend attended in the 9th grade. When one of her classmates announced that she was leaving to attended a public school, a Nun told her to go right ahead and lose her soul. (Most of Mom's stories revolved around fits of giggles during Latin Mass, as Mom and her friend were totally clueless about Catholic traditions.) I finally saw the parish that housed my Mother's brief foray into Catholic education and discovered something I never knew before - her school was on the campus of Creighton University and it's absolutely beautiful. (She insists that it wasn't that pretty then, and she seems to remember snow pretty much year-round in Omaha.) By the way, you can't tell it here, but the church sits on one of those Omaha hills.

As we drove, we saw fields of corn, soy beans, and sugar beets as far as the eye could see. I know that doesn't sound very exciting, but those fields were a sight to behold.

We drove through small towns with their wonderful architecture.


As we neared my sister's small town, we passed a wind farm, which was an unexpected delight.

It was a long drive, a good 13 or 14 hours, but it was a relaxing drive as we soaked up all that we saw along the way and had the opportunity to spend time together that is hard to find when we're back in the regular routine of our lives.

And it was much better than flying.

This is my Father's world,
and to my listening ears all nature sings,
and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.