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.


July 19, 2010

When Do We Hand Over Our Desires to God? (Reprised)

This is one more post from last year to give me time to focus on returning to work after a couple of weeks off. This first posted on July 16, 2009. While the death of the older mom is no longer breaking news, the story of watching time on the biological clock tick away is told over and over again, by women of all ages, both married and single.

This morning we learned that the woman who gave birth a week shy of her 67th birthday, sparking a debate about how old is too old to give birth, died over the weekend. Her twin boys are not quite 3-years-old. Her mother had lived to be 101, but even as Maria del Carmen Bousada was undergoing the fertility treatments that allowed her to give birth, God knew that Maria would not experience her mother's longevity, and she would not live to raise her two sons.

I can't begin to pretend that I know what Maria went through that drove her to lie about her age and go through fertility treatments at a time when most women her age would be planning retirement. It would be presumptuous of me to say that God could not have been behind that intense desire. I only know that for me, there came a time to let go of the dream of children and hand that desire over to God.

I used to think I would have 3 or 4 kids. By my early 30s, while I began to suspect God had a different plan, I still had an intense desire for children. I finally prayed, if it wasn't going to happen, that God would remove the desire for children from my heart. Not knowing that was my prayer, a few years later a friend told me she would never pray that prayer because it seemed selfish to her. She thought it just seemed too easy. I was able to assure her there was nothing easy about it.

God designed us to have hopes and dreams. He also designed us to grieve over loss. We grieve when we lose people we love. We grieve when we lose pets. We grieve when we lose jobs. And we grieve when we lose dreams.

So when I asked God to remove the desire for children if they were not to be a part of my life, He led me though the grief process for my lost dream. And because grief takes time, it was a long process, at least 2 or 3 years. It was every bit as painful as the death of a close family member. I knew I had come through it when one day a friend from high school asked if I would be OK with never having kids, I responded "yes" without hesitation, and without pain.

It was during this time that I began to understand the meaning of Psalm 37:4 - "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." I realized that verse was never meant to be a blueprint for manipulating God and that it doesn't mean that if we spend enough time with God then He will reward us with whatever we desire. It means that if we spend enough time with God, our desires will be replaced with His desires. And I learned to trust His desires for me and my life. And I learned to love Him that much more.

July 12, 2010

The Advantages of a Motorcycle

As my vacation withdrawal from blogging continues, I'm offering another early post that you probably haven't seen before. I think I only had a couple of followers the first time around. ;-)

Years ago, I had a single friend who had come up with an analogy for singleness. She said that being single was like riding a motorcycle - you're exposed to the elements without any protection. Meanwhile, being married was like riding in a car. You have heat and A/C, plus protection from wind and rain, and more than that, some added protection in the event of an accident.

She went on to add that being married to the wrong person was like being trapped in a car with a wild animal.

Over the many years since then, I've often thought about that analogy, particularly when I was feeling sorry for myself. Recently though, I've started looking at it differently.

Sometimes when you're on a motorcycle - something I'm hardly an expert on - you can go around trouble spots rather than being held hostage in a line of traffic. It can be a faster and easier way to get around. And even though you're exposed to the elements, you can often pull under a bridge or a covering somewhere along the way - allowing God to provide.

On the other hand, riding in a car can have its negative issues, too. There's sheer terror when you tap on the brakes and realize they're not working.  There are annoyances when the air conditioning goes out on the hottest of days and rolling the windows down just doesn't help at all. And we all know the frustration of a car that won't start. Some marriages are broken too, and riding in that car isn't remotely pleasant or comforting.

When we're riding a motorcycle on life's journey, we often learn to trust God in a way that I don't know comes easily to married couples. It's so easy to put your trust in another person and never learn what it means to lean on God for everything. The relationship with God that singleness brings is an amazing gift.


Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 20:7 (NIV)

July 8, 2010

Andy Taylor, Redux

I am in vacation mode for the next week or so. I thought this would be a good time to revisit my very first post at Single and Sane. I wish I hadn't wasted it on that first post, because it's one of my favorites but I think only about 5 people read it the first time around. It features a clip from an episode of The Andy Griffith Show that aired nearly 50 years ago. To put it in historical context, the President of the United States at the time was John F. Kennedy. (Wow. When did that start feeling like a really long time ago?)

Just to prove that some things are timeless, the clip below is from the 3rd season of The Andy Griffith Show, and originally aired in 1963. The episode is entitled A Wife for Andy. Barney decides it's time for Andy to settle down and get married again. About 3 minutes into this clip, Andy and Barney get into a discussion about Andy's marital status, ending with an irritated Andy telling Barney how he feels about being single. If you've reached a certain age, you have no doubt had this same discussion yourself. (As it turns out, this is also the episode where Andy and Helen have their first date. They didn't marry until the first episode of Mayberry RFD in 1968. Evidently the writers thought Andy was more interesting single than he would be married.)

(Apparently a show that's near 50 years old is not automatically public domain - the YouTube link won't work, so here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBurIl10Jmg)

Here's some trivia from the show. Nearly all of the characters on The Andy Griffith Show were single, and not young singles either. Andy was in his mid-thirties to early-forties during the run of the show and Aunt Bee was 58 when the show began. (Be honest. You thought she was older than that, didn't ya?)

Who was the only married character to regularly appear during the first 5 years of the show?

Otis, the Town Drunk.

Pretty funny, huh? ;-)

I'll be back in a few days!


July 6, 2010

Oh, My! I Wasn't Expecting Company!

Yikes! I didn't realize my guest post would be published at The Lady Bloggers today! I would have cleaned up around here if I had realized company might stop by.

Instead, I spent the weekend with family, shopped with my mom, got to see my nephew who decided to come for a visit at the last minute, went to a cookout, and cleaned house. I went into work for a couple of hours on the 4th to get some things done because I'll start my vacation later this week. I even took advantage of the long weekend to waste time work on my new house in Yoville. I did almost everything I had planned to do this weekend except straighten up my blog. Wouldn't you know it?

Oh, well. Please feel free to look around, and make yourself comfortable.

And in a couple of weeks, after my vacation, I'm going to fix the masthead (which was sized for another template)...and add pages...and do all the blog-related things I thought I might get to this weekend. Sigh.

Enjoy your visit, and thanks for stopping by!


July 5, 2010

Prayers of Confession

Several years ago, my church had a week-long study that involved different facets of discipleship each night. The night we focused on prayer, we were divided up into groups and sent into rooms all over the church. I was in a room with probably 15 or so other people, led by a woman no one seemed to know. Her name was Yetta.

Yetta led us through the following acrostic:


Adoration was a breeze. We all went around the room, each of us offering a praise to God.

Confession, not surprisingly, was something we all chose to pass on. We're Baptist, for crying out loud. We don't generally confess in public.

So we moved on to the letter "T", and went around the room again, each of use sharing something for which we were thankful.

Then we shifted gears to supplication, and each of us shared a prayer concern. That was easy because we were just completing an interim that had lasted a year. Our pastor of 35 years had retired the previous spring, and although it had not been planned this way, the week-long study fell right before a prospective pastor was coming in view of a call. (Southern Baptist churches are autonomous, and we choose our own pastors, unlike denominations where pastors are assigned to churches.) Naturally, many of us had prayer requests related to the selection of our new pastor.

I assume everyone else thought the same thing I thought at that point - that we were pretty much done.

Yetta had something else in mind though. She was determined to go back to the "C" in the ACTS acrostic...confession.

I remember thinking, "Surely she doesn't expect anyone in this group to confess to some sin in front of everyone else."

It soon became apparent that, yes, Yetta did expect at least one of us to confess to something. (I still wonder if she didn't think that once someone got the ball rolling, she could get all of us to start confessing.)

I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "You weren't raised Baptist, were ya?" I didn't have to bite it that hard, though, because I didn't want to do anything to draw attention to myself. I was already thinking of the worst sins I had ever committed, and I was fairly certain I did not have any desire to share them with the group.

Yetta asked, for what seemed like the 50th time, "Doesn't anyone have something they'd like to confess?" I've never been in a room with so many people staring uncomfortably at the floor. (Actually, I feel led to confess that's a lie, but it's also a topic for an entirely different post.)

I was torn between looking at the floor and casting furtive glances at other people in the room, hoping someone would come up with a way to end what was starting to feel like a hostage situation. I was sitting next to one of our staff members, and as he shifted in his chair, I thought, "Thank God, he's about to rescue us. He always knows exactly the right thing to say."

But, no, he remained silent. Uncharacteristically so, now that I think about it.

Again, Yetta suggested that surely someone had something they could confess.

By this point, I was starting to silently pray that God would hurry up and release us from Yetta's reign of terror. As I heard other people talking in the hall - people who had not been held captive - I began to consider confessing what I was thinking about Yetta at that point, but decided that probably wouldn't be the most tactful way out of the room.

Finally, one of the men spoke up, and said that sometimes, in the business world, he might have crossed the line into some gray areas. I'm pretty sure everyone in the room offered a silent prayer of thanksgiving as he spoke.

It wasn't exactly earth shattering, but it was good enough for Yetta, who led a prayer for the young man and his confession, as well as all of our unspoken confessions. Then we all breathed a collective sigh of relief and made a run for the door.

But now I'm going to confess something to you. I don't like confessing to God any more than I liked the idea of confessing to Yetta and the rest of the group. It doesn't make sense since God is omniscient, and omnipresent. He knows every move I make - the things I do right, and the things that I don't. The reality is that I have the same problem that I accuse others of having. Deep down, I'm afraid that I think that God grades on a curve - and that I set the curve. I see sin in the lives of other people, but in my own life, I convince myself that it's not sin. "We all have issues," I tell myself. "No one's perfect."

I don't think I'm alone.We live in a nation full of Christians who appear to judge non-Christians more harshly than we judge ourselves. We think words like "wicked" are too harsh for the sins we commit, but plenty good for everyone else's sins. And we're sadly mistaken.

As followers of Christ, we are called by His name. We are held to a higher standard - the example that Christ set for us. Instead of judging the world, we should be looking in the mirror, examining ourselves. We should be asking God to show us the ways that we fail, and to lead us in the right ways. We should be seeking God with all of our hearts. We should be on our knees, confessing our sins to God. Like Yetta, He's patiently waiting for us to 'fess up.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14