Friday, December 31, 2010

Remembered Inflections

   Every Christmas my grandfather would leave us a beautiful gift by reading us the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke. The sound of his inflections, the way his voice carries over the wood floor and through the room stilling all of the conversations is something that lasts with me. “And it came to pass, in those days…” The words are so familiar and warmed me every year, the memory still does.

   I didn’t make it home this year to hear my grandfather read the words. Instead, I heard my pastor reading them during a beautiful Christmas Eve service. The inflections were completely different, the accents were regions apart, but the words struck me again. Memories flooded back of the years of celebrations.
   Those familiar words are a comfort, then when I need them they come back again.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Provisional Nudge

   God amazes me. I mean really knocks my socks off amazes me. I think that without even intending to, I shrink God down to the size I can handle, which is pretty small. Then, when He does something to provide I stand back just amazed.

   I was seventeen when I graduated from high school. A typical teenager in many ways, especially as hormones went up and down and so did all the emotions that went with it. I remember walking the halls of my high school feeling so alone, out of place, and not fitting in at all. I buried myself in my books and music, and I knew how to put on a good face. What I didn’t know at seventeen was that some of the people I was meeting then would be the moment of provision fourteen years later!
   Sometimes, you need the right word of encouragement and of wisdom to share. But, it’s like the words that get stuck on the tip of your tongue. You try and try to figure out what the word is, but it remains stubbornly on that tongue tip and refuses to come out. Does it start with a C? Maybe an R? End with ly or ing? The words of wisdom are sometimes like those stuck words, and I wrack my brain trying to come up with the right thing. I feel like some weird vocabulary cheerleader – come on words, you can do it! Rah, rah, sis, boom word! Then, I felt a nudge. Go ask that person you know.
   “Lord, are you sure? I don’t want to be a bother? Will she think I’m nuts?”
   But, let me tell you, I obeyed the nudge and God provided again. I watched the words stuck on my own tongue come flowing from her so beautifully. My heart leaped with joy as I had the opportunity to see God provide again! Seventeen years old, I never would have thought it. But, here we are and I’m thanking him for crossing the paths of us then, and now.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow Quiet

One of my favorite things about snow is the quiet.  It just hushes everything.  So, instead of writing, I thought I'd just share a few of my photos instead.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The New Years Mirror

   There seem to be a great many sayings about looking backward, hind sight, and all of that. As New Years approaches, that seems to be the direction that receives a lot of attention. New Years Resolutions, ideas for what can be in the coming year becomes the focus. So, with all of that discussion, I started wondering if there were any direction of looking forward or back through life. I stumbled on a couple of verses in 2 Peter and thought that they were kind of interesting.
   2 Peter 3:2 says “I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.” To recall, to look back. It’s like looking into the year’s rear view mirror. Recall the words, think about the commands that were given. There seems to be a time and place to look back. Then I noticed that in looking back, it wasn’t just a random direction. It was a specific place to look back to, not being lost in memory but with purpose. When I look back, I can look with regrets of might have been or could have been. Or, I can look back at was set in motion for a purpose, and a good one at that.
   Now, I can’t always be looking backwards. If I do, I’m going to run into something. It would be like trying to drive forward by looking through the rearview mirror – not much help! So, we drop down to 2 Peter 3:13 and “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” Looking forward to something wonderful and new is the direction. Think of the excitement and anticipation that is built as you look forward to something wonderful! And by looking forward, you are moving towards it.
   So, I guess I get to look backwards and forwards – with purpose and anticipation.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Empty Mall

   Our shopping mall isn’t really quite the hot spot of mercantile activity that others are, but still, there are a few stores and a movie theater. The day before Christmas is known as a major shopping day. There are the last minute gifts to buy, the just so perfect outfit for that party, and the last bit of décor for the dinner. So, I thought that this mall would be at least a hot spot of the last little bit of festive planning. A Santa picture place was staged, a few trees were set up here and there for decoration. Carols played over the loud speakers. But, the halls were fairly empty minus the people who actually worked there and had to be there. A few shoppers were there, but they looked rather humdrum at best. It was an empty, depressing sight.

   Standing at the window of the mall, doing a bit of people watching, it struck me that for too many of us, our hearts are much like that mall. If we could see inside, it would look empty of joy and with only the required actions taking place, just enough to function. How sad it is to have an empty heart, to have a sense of life that is withered not with age but with emptiness and coldness. It struck me over after hearing a conversation take place not soon after about how Christmas was just another Saturday. Sitting on a mall bench, talking on the cell phone – this individual apparently didn’t have anyone that they had been invited to spend Christmas with. That is quiet sad in and of itself; but to remain so insular when there are so many people who have such needs that could be reached out to and to remain isolated anyway.
   I encourage you to reach out, make the decision to contact others and open up those heart doors.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Heard his Voice

   Christmas morning and all is quiet. My grandparents are in the kitchen cooking up sausage gravy, eggs, and biscuits. My mom is finding Christmas music for the celebration to come and distracting me with plans of impromptu caroling. The dogs are all quiet, stretched out for their morning naps. The door to the kitchen is closed, keeping them from being underfoot (as they are such happy helpers). Then suddenly, they heard my dad’s voice and each got up with tails a-wagging, happy faces in joyful anticipation of seeing him. The door is still closed, but there they stand. They recognized the voice and moved in anticipation of seeing him.

   It struck me in that moment how we have a door, a “glass, darkly”, that is a barrier between us and viewing God in His fully glory. But, when our master approaches from the other side, how wonderful it is to hear his voice. Knowing that “now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” On this morning on celebration, amidst the music and foods and packages, my ear turns to hear the voice of Jesus.

(1 Corinthians 13)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Impact – Christmas Eve

   Today is Christmas Eve, the last day prior to the actual Christmas day. I’ve been reading an advent prayer every day as a way to focus my thoughts on Jesus and his birth. As the list of things to get done, go do, and go see are crossed off, I find my minding becomes less focused on the things and more focused on the day and event in itself.

   That really hit my heart yesterday, with the words of familiar Christmas carols playing over the radio in my car. Silent night and the angels sang, Gloria, Shepherds watch their flocks, Away in the Manger… I felt like I could just have been knocked over by a feather as the amazing facts of the birth of Christ came hitting fresh. Gratitude flooded my heart as I thought of the preparation Jesus must have made to leave His heavenly home, knowing the humble circumstances he would have on this earth.
   I hope that you have a pleasant Christmas Eve and a wonderful Christmas that is full of the joy and gratitude of Christ’s sacrifice.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Impact of Community

   The story of the birth of Christ tends to find it’s center around Mary and Joseph and that wee baby. But, there were others there in the pages. Zechariah, Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna – the names I’m sure that are just a sampling of those who formed a community around the new parents. The people who surrounded Mary and Joseph provided a support for them. Perhaps there was advice offered, wisdom, how to’s, and questions answered about babies.

   Community can have a great impact, to strengthen a person or people. When a community is strong, the individual is stronger because of it. We learn to rely on each other, to use our strengths and the strengths of others. I think back to part of my own community –there are five of us. Five women who have worked together, laughed and cried together, grown together, and searched together. A community which has brought me great joy and times of great prayer shared. Together we are stronger, more able to handle the worlds difficulties. The strength of the tender heart is balanced with the practical, the worrier is balanced with the one gifted with faith assurances. We are not a perfect community and I do not seem them nearly as often as I would like – but we are a community nonetheless.
   Who is in your community? Is it a healthy community? Perhaps you need to move to a different “part of town” so to speak. Is it a wonderful community that you can rely on and be relied on in return? If so – that is a wonderful thing. Enjoy and be blessed by it. In the meanwhile, remember this:
  Luke 2: 15-20
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Impact of Strength

“Be strong and courageous” “Be strong and very courageous” “Don’t be afraid” “Take courage”

   The phrases are found in many places over the Word of God. What could possibly have caused such fright that people needed this constant bolstering of their courage? There were invasions, famines, enemy rulers, and idol worship to content with. However one of the largest seems to be the courage to do what God has asked or commanded His people to do.
   He asked his own son to give up his heavenly home, a perfect place, to come here as an infant – powerless to the care of human parents. That must have taken quite the goodly amount of courage. The actions seem to take as much courage as the other factors affecting people in the Bible.
  Today is not that different. We are asked as Christ followers to act according to God’s purpose. It takes courage to do this. It is the courage to stand firm, to speak up, to know the difference between kindness and wishy washy’ness. It leaves us on the outside of many things, on the odd side or minority side of many choices. But we put off the things of this world and bear up with courage that God supplies knowing that in the end, it is worth it.
   It was an impact of strength those many years ago. Mary, Joseph – they were given a choice and chose to be of courage. We have the same choice today. Take heart, be strong and very courageous – go and see the impact of God’s strength.
   (Deuteronomy 31:6; Judges 1:7; Matthew 14:27; Acts 23:11)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

   I seem to be putting off wrapping this year, mainly because I just haven’t gotten to it yet. But, as the days trickle down to the actual day, my fingers are starting to worry that they haven’t felt the tug of scotch tape and the sound of paper being cut. So, with that in mind, the paper will be hauled out soon – if I can convince all of my doggy helpers to go to bed and not “help”.

   In the meanwhile, I’m thinking back over the last few days and a moment that really struck me. Before heading out for dinner with friends, my car needed some fuel. So, a quick stop at the gas station took care of that problem. It is cold outside, the ground is wet and slippery, it was evening and dark outside. Standing beside the car as gas was being pumped into the tank, I looked around at the other people who were also caught there in the cold. One woman’s eyes caught mine and we found each other shivering and smiling in mutual understanding of our chilly noses and the feel of the wind tugging at our coats. It lasted just a moment, a simple nod and smile. But, in that moment we had a clear understanding of the feel of the temperature that each were experiencing.
   Isn’t it interesting that there are moments where mutual understanding exists?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Impact of Friends

   I’m trying to think about how I can impact the people around me. Today I kept waiting for a way to do that. Though the grand gesture was very appealing, it was a combination of conversation and laughter with friends of dinner. It wasn’t anything in particular, just a listening ear and a caring heart amongst friends that really do listen and care.

   Listening and caring may not seem like an impactful thing, but I believe they can be. We can be so busy and have so many different sounds that our caring and listening gets muddled. It took time for one of our friends to plan this, to help us clear a time and set it aside for this dinner. She made an impact. It took focus to listen to each other, especially in a busy room. It is an impact.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Impact Today

   A child born thousands of years ago had an eternal impact on our history. He lived, grew, died, and lived again – lives still. My impact on history, I have no doubt, is going to be smaller than that. In fact it will be considerably smaller than that. But, I can have an impact none the less.

   So the difficulty I’m having is how? I’m a busy girl. Places to go, people to see, presents to wrap, puppies to chase… There is work, activities, church, family, friends, some time for growth, study, me, time for creativity, time for prayer, time for studies. Where does that make an impact get slotted in?
   There are only a few days left until Christmas and as my to do list seems to grow rather than shrink, I stand between feeling as if I am making progress and just treading water. Make an impact, that vague statement gets moved down my list to a lower and lower number just because it’s difficult to act on something that is vague and unscheduled.
   So, between now and then, I’m challenging myself to make an impact each day and I’ll tell you about my successes (or failures). I’ll toss out the challenge to you as well. Maybe together, we can truly a large impact on our communities.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Impact

   I’ve been blogging about the concept behind the community that was impacted by their involvement in eternal history. A baby is born and it ripples the history of the world for a family, generations even perhaps. But, after so many many years, the current significance wanes and it becomes historical impact instead. Then, there was a child born that changed the precedent and made such an impact that it forever changed history and our current lives.

   You are most likely familiar with parts of the Christmas story. Maybe it’s the touch of the mother Mary holding her new baby. Or perhaps it’s through the beautiful and ear catching tunes of the season. But, there are many details that we are not privy too. And thinking about the impact of that life, the birth of God’s son, I cannot imagine the community being impacted in anything less than dramatic and impactful. We are not told the story of the how the shepherds retold the story of that night filled with angels for years to come. We do not know what the actual sight of the birth was like, who heard the cry of a woman giving birth, who heard the sound of a brand new baby. Who held him and watched him blow bubbles as all babies do or roll over for the first time? Did Joseph pace or sit near Mary, encouraging her. Perhaps he was squeamish and removed himself from the birthing area. Were there others there to help her? Zechariah was part of Mary’s life and no longer silent after his son John was born. How did he share that story, with whom?
   In my own community, there are many who are preparing to celebrate. My own hands are feeling the tired strain of writing Christmas cards, knowing that my a’s and e’s and starting to blur together in cursive writing. Trees are decorated, presents are purchased (though not yet wrapped), there are parties and programs, choir concerts, friends and dinners. Such a hubbub of the next few weeks. Obviously, that birth still impacts us in a tangible way now. But, what about our hearts, does it impact our hearts? The birth was a miraculous thing. It entailed the sovereign Son of God relinquishing his total control, total power to a mother and father who did not have a manual in how to raise him. There was no magic wand that could be simply waved over his head and wah-lah – it’s all done and good. It took work and care. Today, the relationship with Jesus still takes work and care. And the effort that is plied into this will be reimbursed many times over, in an eternally impactful way.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Artist

   First of all – let me just say, that is just my musing. Please go back to the Bible to read the true and complete account of the birth of Christ.

   I find images in stone and wood, hidden in the mediums in front of me. My tools are extension of my hands, on a good day. On a not so good day, well – let’s just say that stone can take an unfortunate chip or crack. But, today is a good day and I have just heard that one of the governor’s servants is arranging to commission a carving. He wants the statue of a woman to grace the entry of a new bath that is being constructed. It will of course be in the Roman style, as he will prefer. I spend hours on my art, planning and studying the stone. Of course I want people to admire it, enjoy it. But, mostly I carve out the pieces because I can see them and they call to me from within the stone.
   I heard something the other day that caught my imagination for a new piece, an angel. There is this fellow I grew up with, Joseph. We have been close friends for years. Well, he came in here the other day to visit before he left with his betrothed, Mary, for Bethlehem. What a story he had to tell! An angel came to Joseph and told him about Mary’s rather delicate situation. I suppose I sound like the town scold, but I’m rather relieved that I’m not in my buddy’s shoes right now. Anyway, he told me the story – about the angel and Mary being pregnant. I admit it’s just too much for my mind to take in. But, the description of that angel ; now that stuck with me. I have a piece of marble I’ve been saving for something special. I think that this will be just the thing. An angel, who would have believed?

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Wonder

   When I come home from work at lunch time, there is a postman making his rounds. The regular collections of cars are parked at the school. I wave to my neighbors. I know the face of the people at the check-out at the store, the pharmacist, the UPS driver, and the lady who makes the great sandwiches at the Avenue Subs. I have a general idea of the different positions and jobs within the community, and know some of who make them up. In a smaller community, I can imagine that this network would be even tighter. So, this is really where my curiosity is presenting itself.

   We have the telling of how Christ was born into our world, His world, as a baby. But, as a community is born and lives, it is multi-faceted creature where connections have various levels of density and relations of linkage. Understanding though that things can happen in a community which creates a ripple effect, moving the links in waves of news and information, serves to fuel my curiosity. What did that community think, not only in the days of the actual birth of Christ, but in the months leading to it?
  What was the reaction to the silence of one man, the compassion of another, the obedience of a woman, the awe of another? What did the neighbors think; the shop keeper, the priest, the family, the people who moved through the lives of Mary and Joseph?
   I’ll kick off again trying to explore that concept and will continue to explore that in the days to come, but I just wanted to pause and think about how information moves through my own community. In many ways it is vastly different than the community of these parents, but in other ways very similar. We share news and ideas, we hear a broadcast of something that has happened and share the information. I wonder what our reaction would be, what the ripple effects would be.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Foot Soldier

   First of all – let me just say, that is just my musing. Please go back to the Bible to read the true and complete account of the birth of Christ.

   I’m stationed in Bethlehem. It’s my first real assignment away from my own home in Oppius. We took a ship from Rome to the port here in Judea. I admit, it’s been a tough transition. I can’t keep the different people groups apart; from Pharisee to Sadducee and everything between. The laws that these people have are strict and completely foreign. I wouldn’t admit it to my own peers, but I do admire how stubbornly the Judeans are clinging to their own beliefs and cultures.
   Caesar has called for a census. It seems that he wishes to know exactly how many people there are within his kingdom. Of course there are other purposes, taxes and government. But, I do wonder how much of it is ego. Not that I would share that either.
   In the meanwhile, this was thought to be some grand adventure. Now that I’m here I’m not so sure. There is the unfamiliarity, but there is something else. There seems to be something going on, an undercurrent running through the street. There is an excitement, a sense of something building, but I’m not sure what.
   This little town is packed full of people. I even heard of some sleeping in the stalls at an inn’s stable. I suppose that you get shelter where you can. But, whoever heard of people making such reverent trips to see someone in a stable? Do all of these people act this way around a new baby or is this something special. And really, who defines this as special if born amongst hay and pack animals. Still, there is something going on…

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Elizabeth’s Neighbor

   First of all – let me just say, that is just my musing. Please go back to the Bible to read the true and complete account of the birth of Christ.

   You know, I always thought they were a bit strange. I mean perfectly respectful and well liked in the community, but a bit odd. Elizabeth and Zechariah, standards in the neighborhood, the local children love them. Elizabeth is always so quick to help out though, right there at the neighborhood garage sale and making cookies for the bake sale. And, Zechariah – he’s a very devout man. He seems to have a special relationship with the Sovereign Lord.
   Of course, the strangeness has only intensified the last several months. Zechariah went to the temple for the yearly sacrifice. He prepared as normal, and truthfully, I didn’t think much about it. I mean we had a ton of things goings on. The house was being remodeled, the kids were just getting over terrible colds, and my husband was having some problems at work. So, with all of that, you can understand why the news of Zechariah preparing for the time at the temple was not really a surprise, but just not something high on my pay attention list. Well, that all changed when he came back, struck completely dumb! I mean it, the man couldn’t utter a single sound. Then we find out, Elizabeth is pregnant. I’m very excited for her. She has wanted a child for so long, but at her age? To top it all off, Elizabeth’s family member Mary, she arrived pregnant and unwed. And what a story that child has, something about an angel?
   Odd I tell you...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Joseph’s Mom

   First of all – let me just say, that is just my musing. Please go back to the Bible to read the true and complete account of the birth of Christ.

   Her memory of Joseph, starting with his birth, was filled with many sweet memories of growing up and watching him become a man. The first day that Joseph toddled into his father’s carpentry shop, he tumbled right into a pile of wood shavings and came out filthy and smelling of fragrant wood. But, that was years ago. Now, her boy, her baby, was grown and making his own choices. She thought that that Mary girl was going to be a good wife. But now, with the baby coming, she just didn’t know.
   Joseph had sat them both down, she and her husband, to tell them the news. She remembers her heart leaping into her throat, what? An angel said what? God’s son coming in this way? How does one go about being a grandparent to God’s son? She felt her hopes and dreams of being a grandma of her son’s children, watching them grow and learn, crash. But, God’s son was going to be her grandson… Well, that would show that infernal neighbor woman down the street who was always bragging about her children!
   She chuckled to herself as she thought back over the torrents of thoughts that had streamed into her mind and the moment of realization that had struck. Her son, her baby was being asked to raise God’s son. The realization struck like a knife and pierced through all of the thoughts. Her breath was taken away. How could this be? What would this mean?
   She didn’t know and waited instead with baited breath to hear of the labor of Mary, to hear about the birth of this much thought of baby.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Innkeeper

   First of all – let me just say, that is just my musing. Please go back to the Bible to read the true and complete account of the birth of Christ.

   A census was called, and the innkeeper started looking around the family business to see that all the supplies and materials were in place. Soon people would be flooding into the town of Bethlehem. The days passed and the crowds converged. The innkeeper could feel his stomach tightening up again, every time he saw the Roman soldiers appear in the street, the fears and frustrations of an occupied nation. But looking on the bright side, business would be good. The customers would be grumbling though, this census would probably be used by Caesar Augustus for the tax registration list.
   The innkeeper continued to check supplies, mentally trying to figure what would be needed and what could be kept in stock. As people trailed into the city, dusty and smelling of their travels, he wandered out and over to the stable. The food trough was set up with adequate supplies for the time being. Moving back to the inn, the gentlemen greeted his guests. They kept coming, returning to their family home. Soon, the entire place was full. People, dust, animals, baggage, the place filled up. The inn was full of people and the innkeeper was now in a place where he had to turn people away. He hated to do that, they looked tired and would wander off looking for someplace else to go.
   A young man came to the door and knocked, looking for a room. The innkeeper felt his heart sink as he looked past the man to the young and very pregnant woman behind him. There were no places let, what could he do. The innkeeper finally offered up the only suggestion he had, the stable.
   The innkeeper walked them out to the manger. He heard about the journey that the couple had made. It wasn’t going to be very comfortable, but the innkeeper tried to do what he could. He made a mental note to send his wife later to check on the young mother to be.
   Later that evening, exhausted from the hustle of the day, the innkeeper finally prepared for rest. Following his last minute evening rituals, he lay his head down and felt sleep drift over. He lay much this way until the middle of the night when a cry pierced the night. That young woman, she must be about ready to deliver the child. The innkeeper woke his wife and she returned to the stable to help as she could. Several hours later, the child was born and a tired, but happy woman returned to tell her husband the good news.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas – Nativity, Round the World Style

I heard something on the radio today that sounded like a neat idea.  A family wanted their children to learn about the birth of Christ, something more than the traditional TV specials and night time reading messages.  To do that, they each explained the story from the perspective of someone inside the story.  I love that concept!  There is such a different understanding inside of a thought than from the outside.  So, with that thought – I think I want to try that as well.  So in the next few days, barring any major puppy stories, that is what I’m going to try and accomplish.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It’s a Good Thing He’s Cute

   It’s been such an adventure the last few days managing a puppy with one person shy what is normal. Yesterday, after having a lunch break in which Buddy had the opportunity to get out of his crate, run around like a little mad man, and eventually had to go back into his pen; he decided that he would share his displeasure. First it was normal puppy rowdiness. Puppies are rowdy, especially labs. They are sweet and cute, but they can be quite mischievous when given the chance. Well, this was mischievousness inspired. The evening went something like this….

   Buddy piddled in the floor three times before we managed to get him out the door. He did more outside (I don’t know where he stores all that liquid). Coming back in, he did the same thing! After a thorough scolding, he sat down and practiced his best pouty put out sorry face. The problem was that he was so darn cute that it took everything I had not to laugh, let alone be upset with him. In the meanwhile, the paper towels were flying, the Woollite doing it’s best imitation of a short squirting fountain. When the flood passes, I find the pup doing an army belly crawl across the chairs at the dining room table. Retrieving the squirmy furry boy, he was placed amidst his toys. He peed on one of these as well. Oh my goodness!!! Out come the paper towels, cleaner, and we head outside again. More scolding heading out, more praise as Buddy does business outside. I take the opportunity while he is paused in a moment of concentration to remind him that it’s a good thing he’s cute. Upon entering the house, Buddy curls up on the couch. Finally, a sweet moment for cuddles and loving on a puppy. But wait, my pants are wet where I have sat. My pants are wet? Buddy!!!!
   There are sometimes that you have to laugh. I know that this is his way of saying, I don’t appreciate being put into my kennel while you are at work. I don’t much care that you have to go to work, you should be at home playing with me! I mean, come on – look how cute I am! So, I laughed, headed to the bathtub as quickly as possible, and reminded the little furry terror once again, “it’s a good thing you’re cute!”

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas – Rich in Memory

   I had planned on tackling Christmas decorations this weekend, trying to get as much done as possible; and must say, overall I am pleased with the result. The house looks quite festive, and is gradually becoming the Christmas looking place that we want it to be. My determination to get as much done as possible started flagging about 6 o’clock Sunday evening. I was becoming overwhelmed with memories, like a rich dessert it was something that a small taste of was plenty.

   A white angel is hung on a branch that came from my great grandmother. Little white clay snowmen, made by a cousin, are hung on another set of branches. A cloisonné bell rings a beautiful little tune and sits next to a porcelain nativity and a crocheted angel. So many ornaments as they were pulled from a container as my hand would touch it, the memory would touch me. A family gathering, a gift, someone who is no longer here, music, meals, gifts, trips; memories are rich with sound, color and texture.
   As I hang the ornaments, I find myself thinking about those who are no longer here to celebrate with. I wonder what their Christmas memories were. Were there favorite foods, a special song, or a tradition? I wonder about Mary, what her memories were from that first Christmas, the birthday of her son – of God’s son. Her memories would have been different, those of a mother.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas – Discovery

There is a smattering of snow on the ground. Not enough to cover the longer blades of grass, but a sufficient amount to create a powder sugar dusting effect over the lawn and driveway. This is the first snow for the puppy and it was an eagerly anticipated moment to see what the reaction would be. Sleepy indifference led to focused investigation as the puppy discovered everything he could about the snow. I cautioned him to stay away from any snow that isn’t white, but other than that – let him jump from snowy paw to snowy paw.

A puppy’s first snow is a time of great discovery. They plow through little drifts that reach the tips of paws and poke their curious noses into the white wet and attempt to determine why all the smells have changed. This was no exception. I had to laugh when Buddy found out that if he pushed the snow across the driveway, his mound would grow to a towering height of about three inches. At that point, he could attack it with his pink tongue and great puppy vigor. Sticks were even more fun as they were discovered laying in snow, thus serving a duel purpose of toy and a wonderful way to help with teething gums. I look forward to many days ahead of discovery for Buddy as he discovers his first winter and Christmas. The enthusiasm and excitement he finds for each of these new things is such fun to watch.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas – Choir

   Here in town, an annual event is held every December, the Holiday Stroll. The downtown main street is shut off from all boot foot traffic, and the town comes out to kick-off the holidays. Music, hot chocolate, window displays, and many people come out to meet, greet, and enjoy the festivities. As a kick off to the event, local choir kids sing from the second story of a local bank down into the lobby. Microphones set to project voices, they sing carefully practiced choir pieces of jazz, traditional carols, and some beautiful arrangements of acapella music.

   Listening to that music, watching with others as our faces turn up to the young people standing and singing, I was reminded of how the faces of shepherds must have been turned up on that far ago night. An angel appeared to shepherd and brought them the news that a Savior had been born. Imagine that as the sky filled with a host of angels singing and praising God, how the faces of the shepherds were tilted up. Jaws dropping down, eyes reflecting the light around them, shocked sighs escaping their mouths. Just imagine the excitement on the part of the angel choir. Perhaps they had practiced long for this moment, with joy and exhilaration they stared down at the shepherds. This was the moment they had waited for, the performance of an eternal lifetime.
   As we hear various school programs, listen to the concerts and carolers, may our music reflect the joy of that concert, heralded in a shepherd's field.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas – Blanket

   A soft red blanket waits for me on the bed or the back of a chair. It was a Christmas gift, soft and fuzzy, and perfect size to toss over my shoulders. On these cold wintry mornings when I am reluctant to leave my warm and comfortable bed to get up and face the day, that blanket becomes the last warmth that I take with me to take the dogs out or to pull myself together for the day. This is the same blanket that is the perfect temperature when I am sick or need one more layer.
   The Psalmist wrote Psalm 147, including how the “earth is covered with snow like a blanket of wool,” just in obedience to God’s word. As the snow flurries fly, that blanket of warmth is an extra comfort and source of heat. If you have ever been chilled, you know that it is a condition that causes your muscles to tighten and restrict the movement. But when you become warm, your eyes may grow heavy with the tiredness that hits. Your body relaxes and you find yourself at rest. The Peanuts character Linus was always a great demonstration of this. Linus carries around his blue blanket out and on for the ball game, during school, activities etc…
   If the snow is snowed in obedience, then how much more can I show to the maker of the snow itself? A blanket is provided for the earth while it prepares itself for a new year. We have the option of doing the same thing. We can be growing, preparing, sending our roots deep and seeking out nutrients, even while there is a blanket of snow. But, when we are covered in the blanket of faith in Christ, we can relax again and find that the security is true and real.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas – Light and Dark

Every year I look forward to the winter solstice, as the day that marks when the light will be returning for longer periods, stretching the sun spilled day longer and longer. As someone who enjoys snow and moon, it is also the perfect blend of blue skied sunny days with all of that light reflecting off a thick Midwest snow. When that occurs, I head out with my camera, tripod, and thick winter coat, to see what images I can find as the light changes from brilliant to soft and subdued. The trees cast shadows as if they were giant fiddle players, bending and creaking in the breeze. Light spills from decorations, windows, and lamps, adding more layer and dimension to the landscape. The crunch of my boots in the snow leaves foot prints, now micro catchers of light and shadow on a new scale.

   Light and dark, shine and shadow: these powerful things which change the perception of the very world around us and how it is shaped. From the subtle and subdued shades of moonlight, starlight, and snow to the blinding brilliance of sun on snow, light is an incredible creation. We are also called to be light. That seems that it should be easier this time of year, with many different opportunities to share caring with others. And yet, it is often quite difficult. Yesterday alone, I felt off and on all day that I was behind. How could that be? It’s December 1, I’ve got nearly all my shopping done, Christmas cards are started, and two of the trees are built. How could I be behind already? The feeling is persistent though, as I wonder when in schedules I will fit this and that and the other activity into the next few weeks. With such a packed calendar, I become worried that my light is rather covered with wrapping paper, calendars, and Christmas decorations.
    “‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’”Matthew 5:14-16. This reminds me that I must clarify the reason for the activities, prioritize (a lot), and constantly look to be a light. Otherwise, I will be stuck in shadows.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas – Towns

   O Little Town in Iowa, how still I see thee lie… Yes, I know that that is not how the song goes. Coming out of work tonight, in the dark, the snow was flitting down, and swirling around the curbs. The light posts have been wrapped in evergreen swags, bright red bows, and white lights. Store displays are starting to show the Christmas cheer with wreaths, poinsettias, glass bulbs, and brightly colored tinsel. Nativities are out in display, the big plastic light up kinds that go in yards. I love the decorations, the mood that everyone seems to be in, as the streets are a bit brighter and so carefully prepared.

   I wonder what Bethlehem looked like on that far ago night, when Joseph and Mary were getting settled in a busy town for the birth of a baby. Most certainly there were not electric lights, and I doubt that there were shops with such displays. And a space filled with the animals of travelers doesn’t seem the most festive or hygienic place for a baby to be born. I wonder if they tried to decorate it, or at least make it feel more comfortable.
   As you trim your tree, light up some vanilla or pine scented candles, and pull goodies from the oven, this is a good time to remember why we decorate. As well as the humbleness of that first town, I’m sure it was not tinsel draped.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas – Stars

   I’m not sure when the bug hit, but it has been part of me as long as I can remember. I would stare up at the stars in the sky with wonder and awe and enjoyment. As Christmas approached, my dad, being the tallest person in the house, would place the star on top of the tree. It was made of a foil material, shiny and metallic. When the lights around the room were turned out, the Christmas tree lights turned on, and it was dark outside, the room would suddenly become a reflective tapestry of light patterns. Little lines, made delicate against the walls with the white lights, would entertain me for hours. I remember lying in the floor with my family, just watching the lights.

   When I go out at night, my eyes still wander up. My jaw still drops when I see a floating trail of light stream across the sky. I smile when I see planets lighting up the sky like brilliant and perceptually tiny globes of fire. Little pin pricks of light form constellations. Stories combine together the light points to make up patterns, reasons and direction.
   The shepherds must have had quite a few that year in the hillsides around Bethlehem. There they were, watching their flocks, and perhaps gazing up at the sky. Not a sky blazoned with city fluorescent lights, but a dark sky that would have shown a milky way to take your breath away. They saw other things that night as well, angels came to the shepherds. Perhaps for years after, they looked up at the sky and remembered the bright lights, the beauty of the sky that night.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas – Music

   As Christmas approaches the CD’s containing Christmas music are being pulled out, and found all over again. Some of the songs are old friends to my ears, tunes I have grown up singing. Songs such as “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” have been sung every year for as long as I can remember. Music has been part of the family Christmas tradition for years. We sing traditional hymns, carols, and then Tom T. Hall’s Sneaky Snake. I’m not quite sure how that last one got in there, but the kids (old and young) like it.

   Now, in the kitchen, there is a CD player with music sitting nearby in a basket. As Christmas music is pulled out and played, I find the kitchen turning into a combination of my private concert hall and worship service. With one of my favorite songs, Joy to the World, I sing loudly as pots and pans clank and bang. Always on the look-out for what will be a new favorite, I scour stores looking for Christmas songs I have never heard. But, even with all of that, it is the ones which contain the sweetest memories and the truest words ring out which are held precious.
   Come on over, we will have pie, coffee, and listen to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Or mix up some sugar cookies to Country Christmas Favorites. Sitting by the fire, we can have instrumental guitar music playing such favorites as O Holy Night, Away in a Manger, and Silent Night. Decorating and wrapping are best done with the jolly favorites like Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer and some familiar Bing Crosby crooning. Whatever the musical mix you prefer, sing along this Christmas and celebrate the day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas – The Ornaments

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is decorating the trees.  Every year, I find a blend of familiar and new.  New arrangements of old ornaments are carefully planned and placed on the tree.  Ribbon is wound around the branches in sweeping swags of color, picking up the light and adding their own new color scheme.  But, it is more than the color, it is the memories.  The memories when I pick up flour based cookies, that are more like fired clay, that were painted by a great-grandmother who passed away several years ago.  The memories are good and strong.  Another ornament is of the Nutcracker, as the dancers are posed in porcelain, forever echoing the grace of that movement.  It reminds me of Florida winters and the Saenger Theater.  An ivory colored porcelain ornament with doors that swing open on tiny hinges reveal a nativity and bring back other memories.  As this Christmas approaches, I am looking forward to pulling out the ornaments and renewing the memories. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday Kindness

It seems that every year there is a collection of people who get up super early and head to the various stores in search of a great deal.  And with that, there is also a division into camps as to should or should not the early morning shopping occur or are they just a bunch of crazies.  I headed out yesterday to the throng, after a late start due to sleeping in just a bit.  I checked on other friends who had been shopping and now were returning home, only to read how they had met crowds of unfriendly and rude people.  Apparently, there were grouchy people galore.  However, when I ventured out I found just the opposite.  Shoppers were helping each other.  Drivers were waving people to cross in front of them with a smile.  A lost little girl was returned to her mommy.  I heard laughter, pleasant conversation, and of course sleepy yawns.  All in all, a good way to kick off (and nearly finish) the Christmas shopping.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Summing Up the Complaint Monitoring Week

   This week I have been attempting to monitor and curtail any complaints that might be coming from me. So, today being Friday, I’m going to stop and attempt to sum up the good and bad of what was, wasn’t and what was learned.

  Firstly, let me say that it was not a perfectly accomplished week. I had my moments of the moan and groan syndrome. However, I do think it was somewhat curtailed with intent to try and not complain. But that is really only the tip of the results. Instead it has been a week to remind me of the implications of the choice to or not to complain. I have been both reminded and learned anew the domino effect that complaining can have. As one word piles on to the next and then the next and next, soon a whole tidal wave is occurring which is eating time, energy, and not solving anything. However, the opposite is true as well, and the positive words can rebuild and create an atmosphere of cooperation and effectiveness. There are also differences between complaining and acknowledging less than perfect or ideal situations. This is not an excuse to hide, nor to just skim over the not so pleasant stuff. You may find yourself needing to wade right in. Go ahead, this is when perspective comes into play, and understanding another’s point of view is very important. When we start not to complain, we also may find our self seeking out the other to understand them better.
   Boiling this down, it comes to having an attitude of gratitude, of being appreciative and maintaining the perspective to be both aware of and seeking for the gratitude which may or may not come easily. And to remember that this holiday which has just passed is an excellent reminder of the action of giving thanks even in the midst of war.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Am Blessed

   “I am blessed, I am blessed, every day I live I am blessed.” The familiar words are from just one of the songs that reflect the attitude of Thanksgiving where we recognize blessings regardless of the day’s situations. The Thanksgiving holiday is one that we celebrate with memories of Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, and Wampanoag Indians. However, it was not something that happened once and then just simply was repeated as an annual festival since. Instead, the colonists declared a time of giving thanks in 1620. They invited Indians that had helped them survive the first winter without their complete population being lost to disease and starvation. It was not repeated until a drought broke in 1623 following a prayer service asking for a long rain. In the late spring of 1676 another thanksgiving was declared. With such separation between them, we can hardly call this a regular occurrence. Instead, it was more of a special declaration to mark something that really impacted everyone.

   President George Washington proclaimed a day of giving thanks, but not everyone supported this. It still did not stick as the national day we are familiar with now. Instead, it was Sarah Josepha Hale that wrote editorials and letters focused on gaining the attention of this date and succeeding with President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. Sarah Hale thought that in midst of a brutal Civil War, in the aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation bringing a new struggle to the freedom issues within the war, the fighting at Vicksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, and then riots following a draft proclamation; the entire county was much like a powder keg dangerously close to being blown to bits in the midst of the sparks. Sarah Hale wrote in the Northwood publication, “Thanksgiving like the Fourth of July should be considered a national festival and observed by all our people. There is a deep moral influence in these periodical seasons of rejoicing, in which communities participate. They bring out… the best sympathies in our natures.” In the midst of a brutal war, a politically charged climate which presented dangers to the union which were very real, and with many families mourning the loss of husbands, brothers, sons, uncles, cousins, nephews, friends, neighbors, wives, daughters, aunts, nieces, communities, leaders, health, ways of life, homes, crops, jobs, traditions, and stability. In the midst of this, there was someone proclaiming the need to give thanks.
   It was in this very dark time that this woman persuaded enough people to throw their support behind this holiday, that President Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation. The President issued a proclamation which identified how we are “prone to forget the source of the bounties of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” He did not leave out the war, but instead, “In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nation’s, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict… No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gift of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sings, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.” The proclamation turns into a prayer asking for the “wound of the nation to be healed, restoration consistent with the Divine purposes, and the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”
   That was many years ago and in 1941; Congress finally sanctioned this as a legal holiday. Our nation has seen wars, famines, and losses since the early intrepid pilgrims gave thanks for their survival of a winter and since the terrible battles and ramifications of the Civil War. However, in the darkest of these days, we had leaders who stopped to give thanks. I would urge you to stop today as well, no matter your situation, and give thanks.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Complaint Perspective

   Perspective can mean a lot of different things. To an artist, it could change the angles, the way that the eye moves across the picture. Perspective could be the focus for the author, writing in first or second or third person. Perspective is that view which can move the brush stroke, camera click, or curl of the pen’s ink to move ideas and attitudes from one area to another.

   With that, I found out today that with trying no complaining it also depends on perspective of heart, mind, mouth, and spirit. I mean that I have to maintain the right perspective throughout the day. I found out a couple things today. One is that it’s not easy to maintain. The proverbial apple cart doesn’t have to be upset and dumped, it can just be tipped a bit more than is comfortable. At that point, I would like to stop and remind life (and anyone within hearing distance) that I am not a teeter-totter. Yet, that doesn’t work so well. So, today I tried to maintain a calm attitude. I practiced giving things to God as they came and found that the teeter tottered back to where it was supposed to be. With that, I found that the way I responded made an enormous difference. If the perspective is a negative one, it is much easier to find myself complaining rather than dealing with someone or something in a positive manner. My mind, heart, mouth, and spirit need to stay where God wants them to. Easy? No, of course not. But, worthwhile? Absolutely!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just Cover my Mouth with Duct Tape

   Well, day two of not complaining has come and gone. What I noticed today is that not complaining is much more difficult when others are around who are complaining. Why is that? It’s almost like the common cold. We take flu shots, drink orange juice, and still the common cold floats through populations.

   So, if complaining is contagious, it is also possible that the reverse could be true. Perhaps by not complaining in the midst of complaining will produce a positive result. But, with what purpose; why not just go ahead complain? Think about the difference. One thing goes wrong in the day, you stop to complain to someone else. They are just a bit more deflated after the conversation. Then, when something else doesn’t go right, it becomes even more wrong. You complain more, perhaps with some additional volume, and it deflates others a bit more. Not to mention, that midst all of this that a considerable amount of time that could have been taken to deal with and possibly solve the problem. With that in mind, I’m hoping that that is effect I see.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Truth or Complaint

   I’ve presented myself a challenge to really monitor and curtail any complaining I might be doing for this week. I’m hoping that I find at the end of the week a new focus on the words I use and the attitude they are shared with.

   So, the first day came and went and as I look back, I think that one area that must be buttoned up is the difference between truth and complaint. If someone sidles up and asks, “How are you?” If we are honest, we may have to say something other than the standard answer of fine. Instead, we may need to answer that we are really having a rough day, perhaps feel poorly, or are just so-so. There is a difference between acknowledging truth, even unpleasant truth, and complaining.
   It is the next breath that the complaint can come. Complaints are the whining and nagging that can come after. For a Sunday, it wasn’t too hard overall, but there were a few moments when I caught myself afterward. Was that a bit of sarcasm and carping that just came out of my mouth? Where is the duct tape when I need it? Again, I stress that it is not the same thing as discussing or simply stating facts, but it is when the criticism comes in. So, it was hard, but I did find my focus was a little different as I tried to be more fact based and less fault finding.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cancerous Complaint

   Nobody wants to ever hear the word cancer involved in a medical report for themselves or a loved one. In fact, even the hint of a possibility of a shadow is too close for comfort. Yet, probably the vast majority of us have the cancerous creep of complaining that creeps into our lives and spreads through joints and nodes.

   Yeah, well, but… The excuses come in quickly. What is complaining and what is simply stating something that is needing change or to be addressed? Is there a difference between venting, seeking, advice, and gossip?
   As Thanksgiving approaches and as so many take it upon themselves to think of something they are thankful for, I’m going to conduct a little not so scientific experiment. I’m going to try to go this week without complaining. I want to know both how hard that is, and what the results are.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


   If I could live anywhere, regardless of how far it is from everyone of my friends and family… it’s a nice dreamy thought. Someplace with mountains and a lake, pine trees, and quiet woods. Or perhaps it would be a warm breezed bluff over a beach, with palm trees and the sound of the water lapping on the shore below. A windy plain with high grasses blowing back and forth, and enjoying the subtle colors of grasses and flowered blooms, this might be nice as well. Of course, these are just ifs.

   Thanksgiving is coming in a few days, not really an if. But, for some it will be an if just because it will be if they have something for that meal, if they have something to help mark a special day, if it is a special day. Today we have the chance to help some people remove the if. A mobile food bank is setting up and delivering food to the community as it needs it. I can only imagine the change of discussion from if dinner is had, if even a full meal will be had, to an excitement of how the materials can be dispersed and planned. The if changes to when, the excitement builds, and a hope is rekindled.
  The power to overcome the if, that is a power indeed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Of All the Things to be Thankful For

   Stand back, you will probably think I have lost my mind – until I explain, but I am thankful I can throw up. I promise not to be graphic here, but this something I am really thankful for. Why? Well, I know someone who cannot throw up. Due to some different health problems, there is just no physical way for that to occur. In other words, this way of the body removing something it deems as unwanted must be dealt with differently. So, after recently getting over a stomach bug, I am reminded once again that I am thankful that I can throw up. My body can remove that material and I can find myself on the mend once again.

   I’m thankful that I can pay my bills. It’s not that I particularly enjoy having bills, but I am thankful I can pay them. Whenever I write a check or look at the budget, watching funds flow in and out, I am thankful that I can pay the bills.
   I’m thankful for my work. I enjoy the challenges, new tasks, and those moments when a concept is really understood – those are really stellar. Hard work, perseverance, teamwork, and some really wonderful people comprise to put a spring in my step many days. The work demands continuous learning and a willingness to care about why someone does or does not complete a task. I’m thankful for the chance to serve.
   I’m thankful for many things, some of which might even seem a bit odd. But, I will continue to give thanks for the odd things.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Puppy Rhythms

   A new puppy in our lives has created a flurry of activity, a dramatic decline in our paper towel and carpet cleaner inventory, and a change in the rhythm of our lives. Puppies, high spirited and energetic, are fun little fur balls. They are charmingly cute in the way they instigate trouble and investigate the world surrounding them. At the same time, you know that much like toddlers, if you hear silence, it generally means that they are into something they shouldn’t be.

   Buddy has been here almost two weeks, and already our lives have shifted. More than just items being placed higher and shushing each other when he is taking his nap, Buddy has been the source of a great deal of laughter, enjoyment at watching his antics, and just the simple pleasure of snuggling with a warm and squirmy puppy.
   Much like a baby, puppies follow patterns. They go out, they come in, eat and drink, play, go out, sleep, over and over… When he is asleep, is time to do tasks quickly and get items that require more concentration done. Then, when he is awake, it is hard not to just leave everything where it’s at to go and play with him.
   Buddy is growing, gaining several pounds already. He will continue to grow, to become a large dog and lose his puppy features. But, he has already made a permanent imprint on our minds, hearts, and lives.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Celebrate Each Day

   The brain child of a crack media team, the product of a marketing configuration, leads to a series of banners around the parks at Disney with the wonderful slogan, Celebrate Today. I really do love that idea, and yesterday had a reminder of how this is a choice.

   My beautiful chocolate lab, as she is approaching her tenth birthday, is having breathing problems. There is an obstruction in her nose. Currently, we don’t know what it is – whether polyp or cancer, But, whatever it is, it is leaving my independent girl as someone who wants held and touched. My heart is sad, and I’m concerned about her. Driving home, it struck me that this is the time of my choice. I can choose to celebrate today. It’s not that I’m ignoring what might be coming in the next days and months, but those days are not here yet. So, I’m choosing to celebrate today with Megan. I will enjoy her personality and her character. I choose to not ignore, but to celebrate regardless.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hanging up the Memories

   Some people hang up stockings, some people hang up memories. For me, the holiday season is rich with memories. Family dinners with my cousins and I running around my grandmother’s house, crowded with people who loved us; memories rich with love, laughter, music, and joy. Cookie baking, ornament making, and of course putting up the nativity were favorite activities.

   My mother had and has a special penchant for the nativity, and I remember quite vividly how she moved the nativity pieces through the house for months. She wanted me to understand that the celebration we have on these days is not just a quick thing, but it was a process over time.
   Last night, I put up one of the nativities which will adorn the house. I know some will say it’s too early, but I disagree. What more beautiful Thanksgiving decoration could I possibly have than a crèche with a new family represented inside? And not only a new family, but a baby that was to grow into the man that died and was brought back, the man who still lives today. This nativity is not the fanciest one, not the prettiest one. It’s chipped and the painted plastic has worn off on many places. The little plastic sheep and cows look worn. The angel has lost the glue which held her high against the wood, and now must be tucked in. It is something I played with as a child, learning from these symbols the story of the holidays.
   I look forward to these new holidays, as a chance to hang up the memories once again and make some new ones.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Season

   The holiday season is fast approaching, with jingle bells, nativities, Thanksgiving turkeys, school programs, and red nosed reindeer. It is hard to believe that these days of carols and cheer are nearly upon us once again. I don’t have Thanksgiving preparation started let alone Christmas. But, that is about to change. Decorating is officially beginning.

   I love this time of year. I love the smell of the fresh cut Christmas trees outside of the grocery store. The sound of Christmas songs that we only listen to once a year. Holiday movies come on, and I can hear a Hallmark movie playing in the background. Soon, the house will have people in it sitting down to a meal of turkey, stuffing, and all sorts of wonderful other tasty things. I do look forward to the fuss and care each item receives, as it comes out bearing memories of holidays past.
   But, beyond all of this, I love this time of year when people seem a little bit nicer, a little readier to spread “good will towards all men”. I love the time with family, with friends, to stop and smell the Christmas cactus. Take a moment to light a candle, to remember those you love, and start celebrating now. Let’s go hang up the wreaths.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Swimming Lessons

   If you ever happen to be able to see the Finding Nemo show – go see it. The show is great, the singers wonderful, and the puppets are truly personifications of the characters. Enter the theater, sit in the chair and as the lights dim, prepare yourself for a swimming lesson. I won’t give you particulars on the show; it’s a wonderful treat to be surprised and delighted like I was. But, I will say to pay attention to Dory. She has a rather precarious grasp of memory, but has a firm stance on an attitude which can be helpful. “Just keep swimming” is a line that you hear scattered throughout the musical, often coming from this fishy character.

   Just keep (fill in the blank). Perseverance is a difficult attitude to maintain at times. Whether it is a resolution made on the cusp of a new year or any type of choice or change, it can be much easier to maintain the status quo and not move forward. But, if you keep swimming, moving, running, thinking, exploring, the very words imply movement and action. It is when things become difficult that it is even more important, it is when we stick out the rough times and do not just hide away from life.
   There are times when I want to hide away, say that things are too much and too rough. Stop this, I’ve been sucked into a whirlpool and want out of the ocean! I may need a break after being tossed and turned in currents. But, then I must keep swimming.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Just a Little Bit of Pixie Dust

   Disney sells the experience extremely well, the details are carefully planned out and put into play with precision and effort. Subtle touches guide the visitor without even making them aware of what is going on. Instead, it is just a bit of Disney magic, a bit of pixie dust.

   What would it be like to sprinkle a bit of pixie dust across this town I live in, from the sunny state with Disney? We could do it by air, in a crop duster, but instead of spraying a chemical for crops, it could be pixie dust. What that is exactly supposed to do, I’m not entirely sure, but it sounds like it would do something good.
   Let’s see, what would pixie dust do? Maybe we could fly a bit or it cures the problems and fixes the broken things. Maybe it would make the plants grow taller and bloom brighter. Street lights would take on a sheen of gold that spilled out to the concrete. The food would be tastier, the chocolate a bit sweeter. After having a cold this week, I am feeling like I don’t really need pixie dust for that, even though it would be nice. Instead, as my sense of smell returns, so does taste. As I can start tasting again, flavors are richer and deeper than they were before. As my ears unplug, I start hearing little sounds again of birds singing, the sound of the dog walking across the driveway, the wood crackling in the fire. Pixie dust would be fun, but my cold lifting might have the same effect.

Friday, November 12, 2010


   Veterans Day was yesterday, a day set aside to remember our veterans, those who have served in both peace and war time. So, let me start by a saying a big thank you to all of those who have served. Not only those in uniform, but the support in the offices, the support in the homes, and the support of the families; thank you for your sacrifice, your work, your effort.

   She always smelled like White Linen, walked miles nearly everyday, and had both candy and wisdom for each visitor. A conversation sparked a memory of Granny, the name that everyone used for my great-grandmother. With her pearly white hair, quick wit, and deep family love, the combination of many years of life lessons, sorrows, and triumphs made her into a source of strength within the family.

   What made her from just another wonderfully loved grandmother into Granny, the matriarch with guidance and wisdom for her family? What changed her from the woman who liked to walk in the woods and watch football while taking little naps to the woman who survived when she wanted to give up?
   I think part of it was a decision to continue on during a difficult time. There were some extremely difficult situations, times when I’m sure she just wanted to give up. But, she didn’t and that I think is where the crucible was turning the raw materials into something tempered and extremely strong. Persisting in life, in times when it would have been much easier to pull the blankets over her head and refuse to move, she got out of bed and continued on. Instead, she did even more than just survive, she flourished and became a vital and well loved woman of wisdom, lively personality, and a community that loved her.
   I miss Granny, I miss the smell of white linen and her laugh. But, I thank her for the lessons she left.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Air Fern

   These little plants attach themselves to power lines, trees, fences, and pretty much any other stationary objects. Air ferns are not really ferns, but these tenacious plants attach themselves and gather nutrients and moisture from their surrounding environment. It was kind of amazing driving down the road and seeing plants wrapped in little garlands around different things.

   There are times when I think I need to be like these bromeliads and hang on tight to the world around me, finding nourishment in the environment. It is at the times when I am in the most unlikely of places and still need to grow. So, I plant my roots and collect nourishment from the sun and rain around me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


   I have never been one gifted with small talk, I prefer to jump into meatier subjects and put away the lighter fare for silliness and games. Sometimes this is a struggle, because small talk can be nice at the occasional function and in elevators. But, in general I find that most people really want a moment when the small talk can go away and instead will be really honest. So, on the trip, I met someone that needed that moment where small talk was passed over for something more understanding.

   It was in a wonderful Mexican restaurant at an open air mall in Florida that our waitress came, and did a beautiful job with the service. I will call her E. E started out just providing service, taking orders and filling refills. But, the lighter fare turned into something more meaningful as we found out that E was a mom who was working on getting her life back after recovering from a drug addiction. A mother of two girls and a mommy to be of a new baby, this woman was searching for something more than a discussion of the freshness of the food or good service. It was a pleasure meeting her, and learning about her determination to regain her girls and her life.
   Maybe you are like E and need someone to talk to. Maybe you are listening to E. Either way, sometimes we need to ditch the small talk and reach for something more important. It may be with the server at the restaurant, a neighbor, co-worker, or friend. Just be open to considering it, listen for the opportunity and when it comes, be ready to take it. You might be the only encouragement of the day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Lesson from STS 133

I had planned and dreamed for months of watching, feeling, and hearing a shuttle launch. The Discovery was scheduled to launch November 1, 2010 as mission STS 133. Well, Robert Burns was right as he told the mouse that fore planning can run amuck.
    “But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
     In proving foresight may be vain;
     The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
     Gang aft agley,
     An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
     For promis'd joy!”
    Well, it was not “grief an’pain” but disappointment as the Discovery launch was pushed back one day after another until now it is rescheduled for November 30. But, even though the best laid plans did not go as planned, I did get to see this assembly of parts together on the launch pad. It continues to amaze me that the many thousands of parts assembled to create enough thrust to safely launch this bird into the atmosphere.
   So, the Discovery didn’t launch as planned, and here is the lesson – keep trying and persevere. Persevere when things do not go as planned; persevere when there are technical difficulties and weather delays. Persevere when others do not understand the dream. Persevere through and keep working, because though the plans can “agley,” without a plan and perseverance there is no discovery.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Celebrate Today

   What a whirlwind week! Iowa to Orlando and back led to many different people and places to see, food to eat, and miles to walk; a wonderful not as planned trip. I have had so many different blog ideas from the trip, but I wanted to start with one that struck me as we went to some Disney parks. The theme Celebrate Today is on the banners as you approach. I love that phrase – Celebrate Today. In two simple words, this sums up a very complex idea.

   Celebrate, take the saved for important and special occasions eat on the good china mentality, and apply it. It is an appreciation of the small and big things, a mentality that seeks out the good. When we look for the good, it is often that which we see. If I celebrate something, I am often looking forward to it. I anticipate the enjoyment of the moment, the sharing of a time or purpose with others.
   Today, notice the immediacy of that – really stop and take notice. Today, not tomorrow where we are looking forward to something which has not arrived. Today, not yesterday when we are looking back on what was and cannot be changed. Today, the immediate moment, the time we have and can change.
   Celebrate today. I am going to challenge myself to keep that Disney mentality moving forward. I hope you do to.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Today is an early early early day - I would say that leaving on the jet plane at 6:20, airport arrival by 4:30, means getting up by around 3 AM - wow that is definitely worthy of three earlies!

With that in mind - I'm going to get a little more shut eye....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

taerT ro kcirT

   What a great night for taerT ro kcirT. Never heard of it? Well, we were just having too much fun away from the house on the night when all of the cute little beggars come out for candy. So, when we returned, there was no candy to give. The general discussion as the house was being approached was, “make a dash for the door”, “get everything you need now,” “don’t make eye contact and Hurry!” It was a mad dash with giggles all the way. There were a few persistent door ringers and knockers even though the lights were turned out. So, the concept was born, a backwards trick or treat – rather a taerT ro kcirT! The trick-or-treater approaches the door. But, when they are about to knock, we knock from inside and start yelling trick or treat. Then, we open the door and they give us candy. Sounds like a great plan to me! Candy, candy coming to me, I don’t even have to put on my shoes to go out! Okay, so obviously the kids aren’t going to go for it. But, you can’t blame a girl for trying.
   I started wondering what else we do that for in life, where do we have it backwards. What else do we approach, only to have someone inside the door take instead of give? Perhaps you have been in a taerT ro kcirT relationship with someone, be it a professional or friend or family relationship. It is essential to have not only good boundaries, but to also be ready to give instead of take. You see, we can be on both sides of the door any given day. We can be the one who is intending to receive the gift, and end up being the giver instead. Boundaries are essential to know your role, otherwise we can become confused and just start approaching random houses with our candy – having it taken away from us, rather than being shared with. No matter where relationships occur, they are quite difficult. They are messy, confusing, and at times just frustrating. They can also be rewarding, gratifying, and encouraging. But, think of successful relationships that you have witnessed. The roles are understood, and both give and both receive.
   I don’t think we will be seeing a taerT ro kcirT trend starting anytime soon, at least with candy. But, I hope that we do become more aware of how we may indeed be stealing someone else’s candy from the wrong side of the door.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Vacation is a wonderful thing, but I find my eyes growing heavy.  So I leave you with these words... go vote!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Visiting the Body

   Yesterday, we visited the Lord’s body in Lakeland, Florida. I love visiting other churches. You get fresh ideas from seeing how they do things. I also love the feel of the fresh perspective of being able to worship with others, hear them sing and pray. But, I think my favorite part is experiencing being part of the active body of Christ, a different part than I usually see.

   It is easy to forget amidst the routine of the weekly worship that there are others throughout the world engaged in something similar. It might look a little different. The music styles, languages, or location may be different. We may all dress differently and have a different style for a service. But even while there are those differences, there are so many similarities that we must not forget to recognize.
   I had the opportunity to worship with fellow brothers and sisters in the Church yesterday and was so warmly welcomed. So many smiles, handshakes, and conversations occurred that it was a wonderful reminder of how wonderful heaven will be. You see, we share a common purpose. And with that we are already part of something much bigger than we as individuals are part of. It reminded me of how sweet it will be to see these people again someday. Probably, it won’t be in Lakeland, Florida. But in heaven, we could finally have a chance to sit down and talk. We can sing together, worship together, and pray together again.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Airport Elevator Waiting Rooms

    It strikes me every time I fly that airports are kind of like a cross between giant waiting rooms and elevators. I don’t mean the waiting room as in waiting at the gate, but more of the mentality. We shuffle through all of the check points and then arrive at our gate. Then, we sit and wait – like I’m doing right now – in those semi-comfortable chairs. But, if you take a look around it kind of resembles the feel of and mentality of a cross between an elevator and waiting room. There are of course a few exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, we don’t really talk to the people we don’t know. We try not to sit right next to someone if we can help it. I have to admit that I find it kind of funny.

    I really enjoy flying; I think I always have, particularly in small planes. My first flight was when I was a little girl. I don’t remember it, but I have heard the stories. Apparently I watched the ground fall away from a Cessna taking flight, and my comment was that I had to go to the bathroom. Promptly falling asleep soon after, that problem resolved itself; but, a love of flight was born that day. Since then I have flown with family and friends, by myself, and for learning about science experiments. It really is a remarkable feat, taking a metallic cylinder with engines, a tail, and wings, and pushing it hard enough against the forces of the air and atmosphere to create thrust and lift. How magical it must have seemed to the first flyers. I think of Orville and Wilbur in their spruce and canvas bird, how amazed they might be now to see the trans-Atlantic birds.
    Part of it is the mystery of how it works, I mean we know how the engine works and how the principles of science work – but there is still so much that we simply do not know. It’s a beautiful, magical mystery and one that I hope I continue to enjoy my entire life. The other part is the view that flight offers us. Certainly there are conveniences which are unique to truly being to travel much closer to “as the crow flies.” But, the view of looking down through those port hole windows is a truly unique perspective. We can gain a glimpse of it on a bluff or even more so a mountain. But, at thousands of feet above earth, the ground itself becomes a work of art. Tapestries of fields, webs of roads – they stretch out over the land. Rivers glint like poured silver, a filigree of delicate and immense proportion to decorate the world. Oceans are not mono-colored, but have many different shades of blues, grays, and greens. The sky itself takes on a different look, as the location we are in within the atmosphere is different; we see the top of the clouds.
    We sit in the airplane, in the giant waiting rooms, and ignore this common experience. But, in truth we are sitting through something extraordinary together. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should break the mentality and really start to talk to our fellow passengers; after all we are waiting together.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Burlap Bag

   A bag sat on the sidewalk today; it just caught my eye as I drove past. It was a grayish white color, looked like a weather burlap material. Slouched down over the mouth of the bag, it seemed to be fairly full and was smashed down as if caught in a downpour. I wondered what was inside. The humble material could hide something really wonderful, or perhaps really surprising.

   Isn’t it interesting how the unlikely bag can be the holder of something really wonderful? And the most unlikely of people can turn out to be really wonderful. Think of the people around you. Perhaps there is someone like that bag. Their outward appearance may belie what is inside.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Seasons and Roadmaps II

   The fall wind has been blustery these past few days. The leaves are being blown off the most stalwart of fall leaved trees and creating a staccato dance across the driveway. The windows have creaked and the door shifted in its frame as the air has moved so powerfully. As the temperatures fall below freezing, it is quite evident that fall is in full swing and winter will be arriving soon. There are many here who do not care for the snow and the cold winds of winter, many who would prefer warmer and balmier temperatures.

   But, just consider for a moment a different view, that of a macro-economist. That view would say that the snow and cold temperatures are valuable because it kills of germs in the soil. We have more productive growing seasons than those around the equator because of that cold.
   So, with that in mind, we have seasons in life as well. There are days when things are balmy and warm. The sun just feels perfect and a light breeze is keeping the temperature nice. These are the days when everything is going well, life is a smile. We have summer.
   There are times when the world changes color, we feel a little dryer, a bit shriveled inside and watch as the color we normally don’t present to the world becomes first and foremost. We find ourselves losing our leaves, bare before the world. We have fall.
   There are times when the snow falls, and though it is beautiful, it is also bitter cold and austere. The silence is loud, and our ears hear everything move. We long for the warmth of a friendly comfort, a soft blanket, a roaring fire, or a comfortable sweater. We have winter.
   There are times when everything seems to be growing and moving. We may be experiencing growing pains, but we are seeing results. It takes work and time, effort and sweat equity, but the reward is visible and wonderful to see. We have spring.
   We have all of these seasons in our lives, many times over. But, the beauty is that there is more than one, and we will move through them to provide growth. Remember the economist, the soil is better for the freeze of the winter, the heat of the summer, the cool rains of fall, and the warming sunshine of spring. We are also often better for the hardships, the trials, and the rests of warmth.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seasons and Roadmaps

   Each changing season seems to lead me to want to travel someplace different. The blustery weather that we awoke to yesterday here in our corner of the state had me dreaming of getting in the car and heading off down the road, but to where?

   The fall winds blow, the leaves start making their showy appearance and I start dreaming of South Dakota. The last warmth to find the plains before the beginning of the wintry snow that will sweep through the grasses. I so would love to find myself winding the way through the pine trees as the snow starts, and then watching the buffalo walk through the whiteness, creating a path with their amazingly deft mass.
   Or the cool wetness of a spring day, whisking me off to Alaska in July; the feel of the water into the air, the vapor of the sea moist and salty to the touch. Blooms are fragrant and the leaves are deep shades of green.
  As I prepare to travel now, I think of other places I have been fortunate enough to see. There is such a beautiful world out there, so many roads to travel. I’m excited to be off and exploring.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vacation – Preparation

I’m getting ready to go on a vacation! Today, I noticed that I was counting down the days and hours – and I’m still several days away. Vacations are important, a chance to get away and relax. The daily hustle and bustle of life takes on routines which are good. But, it is nice to get away from the normal routine to a different one. The routine is disrupted, the dust that settles on the normalcy of life is shaken off and we step into something new!

I can’t wait!

Monday, October 25, 2010


   We are excited to welcome a new puppy into our lives in a few weeks. A little black male lab, he is just adorable, velvety soft, and has puppy breath. Puppies are such a joy. Yes, a lot of work – but they bring a great deal of laughter as well. Each one is unique, each with their own personality and preferences.

   There are nine in this litter, all beautiful little black labs. Meeting them for the first time yesterday, it was a reminder of what charm a litter of healthy and well cared for puppies has. The mother greeted us, still looking silky and shiny even as she cared for her babies. A mass of wiggly fur balls surrounded the food bowls. When they looked up, their little noses were smeared with puppy chow.
   Soon, all were off to explore their yard. Apparently, one had recently found a small inset pond and had fallen in. None repeated the swimming venture when we were there, but they did think it was a lovely water bowl. Puppies ran around our legs, grabbed at fingers and cuddled into our embraces. Two little girls in the litter held their ground and kept their brothers on the alert! Pounce, growl, smush, and there the boys were being sat on by their sisters.
   Puppies are a lot of work. They require care, attention, and a home that is puppy-proofed to keep it free from things which they could either hurt themselves or destroy with those teeth. They need patience as they learn what is and what is not accepted. Quick reminders and corrections, followed by a great deal of praise, and of course a stock of carpet cleaner and paper towels is needed. But, when you get past this, you find that there is a little creature full of love, just waiting to share with you.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Football Etiquette

   I attended a local high school football game last week, had a great time. The kids played really hard, working together as a team. However, I found that some of the folks in the stands might benefit from a little football etiquette.

1. When a player is injured, be quiet. Stop and say a prayer for that person, the parents that have just gone  into full blown adrenaline rush, and their friends that have become worried. I applaud the players who took a knee on the field and the woman who shushed someone near her who was continuing to talk. And as far as the referee who called over the people to measure where the ball was while a player was still down – well, really?

2. There is a pseudo adult section and a student section. The adult section is really full of high school students floating in and out, and younger children who are sitting with their families. So, with that in mind, adults let’s leave the playground language at home. Come and be enthusiastic, emphatic, and have fun! Come and cheer, yell, or clap and stomp. But, check the language at the gate. If you don’t want your children to hear it, chances are that someone else will not want their children to hear it as well.

3. When the band is playing, give them some attention and respect. This is not the free for all run around time. These kids have worked hard, spent hours in practice and learning their parts. The comments about “band kids” are not needed (especially from adults).

4. When you have trash, put it in the trash can. Yes, someone else will clean it up, but it won’t hurt you to do your part.

5. Enjoy the game! Cheer the team on! Clap, stomp, yell, encourage. Enjoy the smell, and perhaps the taste of a hot chocolate and a pretzel with cheese or some nachos.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where Is It

   I have found that West Wing is no longer on in the morning, so instead I find myself on the news. I’m not opposed to watching the news. In fact, I think it’s important to be informed. But, the more I watch, the more I wonder – where is it?

   Where is the calm candor of discussion of different viewpoints? Where is the righteous indignation at the skew of perspective, the injustices and the plain bad behavior? Where is the burning hope and drive to change our communities? And I must admit, that I wonder where it is in me sometimes as well. What else could I be doing, where is my ire at the child like behavior of far too many adults?
   It is an annoyance, but when I see the father yelling at his children to get in the van before they are late for school, I cringe. I cringe that I can hear him all the way down the block and he sounds so angry. But, what do I say?
   When I see a parent that is actively engaged with their child in the store, involving them and talking to them, I smile. How do I encourage them?
  When someone has no gloves on a cold day, do I stop and offer mine? Where is our love? Go and love and encourage, find some way to reach out.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Window Dress

   There is a window of a two story home that sits just off the sidewalk. The two story home that is surrounded by a colorful blue privacy fence, with a beautiful rose bush tucked just inside the gate. I often see someone sitting inside on a plastic lawn chair, just inside the gate. The sidewalk needs swept, the house needs repair. But, up on the second floor, there is a window holding a plaintive and rather poignant view. There is a large piece of pressed fiberglass insulation leaned up against the window, as if it has taken the role of a curtain. But, draped over it is a strapless white dress. With the top tucked gingerly over the top of the fiberglass rectangle, the skirt is draped down below.

   I wonder what the story is of that dress, that house, that window. Is it something that someone is using as a temporary hanger, or something someone thought would be a pretty substitute curtain? Is it a fairytale dress for some little girl? Is it a dream dress for some adult woman? I walk by and I wonder about the dress in the window.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

At the Bus Stop

   There is a bus stop across from the driveway, where students gather to go to the high school. They congregate in little groups on a frosty morning, two or three that are standing close together and still manage to look as if they are standing in part of the larger group. One girl stands twenty feet away, watching. As I drove past, I wondered what she was thinking. It could be a lonely spot, where she is not included in the morning conversation. It could be high school ostracizing, which we seem to learn naturally as people at a young age. It could be simply someone standing back to take it all in, to view the group as a whole. Maybe she didn’t feel like talking to anyone yet, still sleepy in the early hours. While I would like to think that she was pondering or thinking some wonderfully creative thoughts, she looked alone.

   I’m not meaning to head down some sob story depressing path, but how many times have you seen a group or been part of a group and catch the one person out of the corner of your eye that is standing there looking slightly apart? How many times have you walked past without even an acknowledgement? We learn very early to pay attention to our friends and family. That is a good thing. But, somehow along the way, we also learn to separate out others and remove them from our group which is not such a good thing.
   If you were take on a challenge to love your neighbor, be it the girl at the bus stop or the co-worker in the next cubicle or the neighbor who actually lives next door, what would it look like? A wave, good morning, sharing a tray of cookies, a sidewalk sweep, a hug, a conversation, the opportunities are limitless.