Saturday, May 30, 2009

Good day

Well, today ended up being a little different than I had planned. I actually planned for a quiet, lazy day. Not that I haven't had plenty of those this last week, but didn't think too much would happen today.

Until this evening when I got fed up with the amount of stuff hanging out in my study. When we moved the computers in here last fall, I didn't really finish what I wanted to do. There was a metal bookshelf filled with books that have long since been unnecessary and I really wanted to bring my beautiful hickory bookshelf up to hold the few research books that I want to keep. But, wow, was this going to take an incredible amount of work!

I finally gave into the overwhelming desire to just finish the task this afternoon. I brought the boxes up that I've been saving for the task and began filling them and hauling them downstairs. As soon as the Jeep comes back into my possession, it will be loaded and driven to Goodwill. I hauled the metal bookshelf down, brought the hickory shelf up and moved all of Max's books into a bookshelf in the bedroom. He told me that I could NOT get rid of his photo portfolio books. I didn't think that was a big deal until I realized how many of those we actually own. Whoa!

Now, how does a young, broke girl build easy/quick bookshelves? Bricks, 1x8s and 1x10s and a few concrete blocks, plus a gallon of black paint. Yup ... these still exist in my house. But, now they are no longer in the form of bookshelves, they're just annoying parts hanging out where they shouldn't be hanging out. I hauled concrete blocks out the back door for a future trip to the cabin and after about 20 trips up and down the stairs, I finally have the study approaching something closer to my hope.

Poor Leica had to hide, she was concerned about all of the trips up and down the stairs, especially when it involved banging a metal bookshelf around a little bit.

When I was much younger, some of the greatest joys I had were when I rearranged furniture and made the old look fresh and new. I kind of got myself in a funk here with so much furniture and so much stuff, there was really only one way to place things. It's nice to continually rid myself of this excess stuff (I have years of ridding myself of excess ahead of me - trust me, it's been a long 15 years of accumulation). But, the process just keeps happening and little by little everything will finally go away.

I asked a long time ago - do you know anyone who wants a really nice set of Department 56 Christmas Village pieces? Really ... anyone?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fun at the Laundromat?

Alright, Max generally goes to the laundromat for us. With his extended vacation this week, I either went or ran out of clothes and since I have to be in church on Sunday, running out of clothes is really not an option. I haven't spent much time there since Max's ankle surgery in 2007. Funny. I ran into the same man that I ran into the last time I was there.

So, I unloaded my clothes into a couple of washing machines and headed back out to the car to sit with the dog and read a book on my Kindle. The machines are right in front of the window and I was able to watch their progress. This should be easy. Uh huh.

All of a sudden I saw a beater old car drive up and a man got out carrying a very small kitchen trash bag barely filled with clothes. He had another bag or two in his hands. He walked into the laundromat and wandered for a few minutes and I realized that I recognized him. This poor man actually had to run an empty cycle through the machines the last time I was there. His OCD is terrible. He wore plastic gloves to transfer the clothing into the machine and threw everything away that had come with him.

He set everything down on an empty machine next to the machine in which my clothing was being tossed and washed. And stood there. All I could think was "Oh no! I'm using this poor guy's machine and he doesn't know what to do?" Fortunately, I could tell that the cycle was nearly finished. I walked back in and he stood there staring at me.

Hmmm ... I'm not terribly comfortable with pulling out my 'necessities' with him staring, so I gave him a gentle, intimidating stare, hopefully telling him to 'Move on, there's nothing to see here.' He didn't. Alright. Fine. You wanna stare, I'll live with it. I gathered up all of the wet clothing, found a dryer, tossed it in and went back to the car.

Now remember, I can watch those machines. He used my two machines, but didn't actually run an empty load through. He did, however, bring in wipes to clean out the machines. He ran the wipes over them several times, laying them on the machine on which he had placed his 'tools' for the day. Over and over he wiped them out, and then, into one machine placed 3 shirts and 2 t-shirts and in the other machine a couple of pairs of khaki shorts and some socks. I watched as he actually ran the washing machines twice to clean those clothes. Everything that had come into the laundromat with him went into the trash. All of the wipes, his gloves, the bag he brought the clothes in ... everything. I feel so badly for him!

However, that doesn't lessen the fact that he was creeping me out. I went back in to begin pulling clothes out of the dryer and get them folded and he began hovering around me. He walked back and forth and kept ending up close to me. Mind you, I'm nowhere near his laundry. I'm clear on the other side of the laundromat. I tried to smile and I said, "hello," thinking that if he needed to engage me in conversation, I'd give it my best shot. Finally he asked how many days were in the month of May.

That one startled me. "31," I responded. He was concerned because he needed to get new plates for his car and it was going to rain on Monday. "Ok," I smiled and turned back to my dryer, hoping beyond all hope that he was going to walk away and not watch me fold all of my clothes.

I've often wondered at my compassion, yet lack of willingness to engage with someone who so desperately needs human interaction. I feel terrible that he has to face this life day in and day out and that he has no idea how to move beyond himself and into the normal world. I know that I'm not alone in this regard. People who are outside of our sense of normal generally force us to rethink things and we avoid that at all cost.

We prefer a homogenous society where everything is the same. We like to be able to walk into a Walgreen's anywhere in the country and be assured that we will find what we need or into a McDonald's and know that a Big Mac is going to taste the same in Dalton, Georgia as it does in Omaha, Nebraska.

Unique, different, odd. Words that describe how God created us, but those same words cause us to be uncomfortable with each other.

Extroverted Hermit?

I was up early this morning, feeling as if there is much I need to accomplish today. I'm not sure if any of it will be done by the end of the day, but one can only hope!

It's been an interesting week. Max left last Thursday to spend a few days with his sister and brother (and sister-in-law) at his brother's house in Michigan. He was supposed to be back yesterday, but torrential rains didn't allow him to do much photography and when I talked to him on Tuesday he was pretty disappointed with the whole thing. So, a few changes to reservations and he had the freedom to stay a little longer.

While I thoroughly enjoy the peace and quiet of the house, last weekend was difficult. It is always difficult for me to readjust to having no one around. Last weekend nearly killed me! My sister was out of town, my brother and his family were out of town, several friends were out of town. Talk about feeling alone! But, I lived through it and after a few days, readjusted to the new patterns and rediscovered how much I appreciate the peace and quietness of being alone.

I was talking to a friend about personalities and, though he is always around people, tests as an introvert. I have always tested as an extrovert, yet there is an innate desire in me to be alone. Part of that need and desire is the way that I apply my creativity. When I have too much input from the outside, I am easily distracted and focus on that over my own thought processes. It's difficult to think creatively when I am on the go and doing a million things.

But, I like to be around people ... I like hanging out with my friends and I tend to choose to do those things rather than read/research or write. This last year has been amazing as I've actually had time to rediscover the joy that comes with quiet. At the same time, though, I've found it easy to distract myself with conversations and time with friends.

Who ever heard of an extroverted hermit? Well ... I guess that's me. Go ahead, ask me to go to lunch, I'll probably say yes. At some point, I'll panic and realize that I have a lot of things to get taken care of. Then, I'll simply hole up for awhile and hide again.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

June Pour Out a Blessing Study

I posted this over on the Pour Out a Blessing blog this evening. If you are interested in joining me, please do!

May is coming to a close and so is the study on 1 & 2 Timothy that Rebecca Bauman has been pouring herself into with me. This has been fun for both of us and I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading her insights along with me. If you have enjoyed this, please let her know ... leave a note as a response or email me and I will forward it to her.

Authors of blogs sometimes feel as if we are alone in the world - tossing our words out, wondering if anyone ever reads them, much less understands them.

She is moving back to Florida in June and we are talking about doing another collaboration this fall on something new and different. I look forward to it since I really love her insight!

Next month, though, I will take us down a new path. I am going to delve into four of the minor prophets. Joel, Zephaniah, Zechariah and Malachi. These four prophets talked quite a bit about "The Day of the Lord." We'll see locusts and destruction, judgment and hope. God's Word never ceases to amaze me.

The Word of God is my passion. Teaching it is a way for me to share the passion that I have for it with others and to encourage as many people as possible to actually read their Bibles. Every day I find something incredible in a passage that I read and more often than not I am moved to tears by the power with which God reveals Himself to us through His Word.

If you know of someone who would like to spend time learning, encourage them to follow this blog. If they need a daily reminder to read, have them email me at nammynools (@) cox (.) net and I will get their name on my contact list.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Vampires and the Women Who Love Them

Ok ... you know that I don't keep too many personal secrets close to the chest. You all are going to find out about me without too much prodding. So, here's another one. I absolutely LOVE vampire smut. There is this entire genre of books that are about vampires and the women they love.

The basic plot. A long-lived vampire falls for a beautiful human woman. He is stronger than anyone can imagine, but lonely and the loneliness sometimes drives him to despair. The woman is nearly always a very strong female, but when she discovers that this incredible man desires her, she is willing to learn to live in his world. She always brings something to the relationship that draws out the humanity in the vampire and for him, her safety and happiness is paramount.

The funny thing is, the vampires are always drop-dead gorgeous, powerful men and the women generally have some type of hangup about their physical appearance, but this man in their life sees only the incredible beauty of the woman they love.

Can you see why a girl might enjoy these books?

Now, I also finally have taken the time to begin watching "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer." It was always on a church night when it began airing in the late 90s and I just never got around to starting from the beginning so I could enjoy the show. I love this show! But, one of the things that I enjoy the most is the fearless attitude and strength of will that the female characters have. They don't diminish any of the men around them and each person has their foibles and weaknesses.

This is a concept that is so alien in so many ways, yet one in which I have struggled for a long time. The patriarchal society has always been in charge, rarely do we see anything other than that setup. In my Greek textbook, I read about the society that women were treated as minors for the entire lives. They couldn't own property, had no place in public life and could only have power in their homes. Do you know that the word "Economics" comes from the word "Oikonomikos" which means 'management of the oikos - or the home.' Women weren't allowed to speak with strangers and if they ever encountered them along the road, they fled to the protection of their homes. It was a disgrace for women to stand around with young men.

We encounter this all throughout the Old and New Testaments as different societies tried to deal with women. During the time of Paul, more and more freedoms were being taken by women and sometimes they refused to take them without destroying the men around them, so conflict arose and the apostle seemed to always be dealing with that.

As cultures ebb and flow, as societies transition from one to the other, women's roles change and transform. Popular culture in the US seems to give more credence to the independence of women and the acknowledgement of their personal power. It's not like that in other parts of the world today. And in many homes even in the United States, women are stripped of their humanity and any vestige of personal empowerment. I watch this happen with family and close friends and can't believe what I see sometimes.

I like the idea of strong women ... in popular television, in books and in life. If you hang around me very much, you will find that I encourage you to be everything you want to be. If you don't hang around me? Find someone that does encourage you to reach for your dreams. Wow ... you can be amazing ... you are a treasure in God's kingdom! Never forget that.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Startling Tears

Wow. I was quietly working away on the Pour Out a Blessing blog and began reading/researching a passage in 2 Timothy when all of a sudden, I began sobbing! Whoa! This stuff just wipes me out sometimes.

If you read my other blog, you will see this passage happen on May 30, but tonight, I am touched by how God's Spirit moves through scripture.

2 Timothy 4:6 says, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure."

Paul is at the end of his life and he knows it. He has given Timothy much information and instruction on how to carry through his ministry and his final words to Timothy are beautiful. But, what I love most about this verse is the implied history that we might miss if we don't spend time going deeper.

The drink offering is found in Numbers 28:4-7. It was an offering that accompanied the sacrifice of a lamb. Everything that Paul has done, everything that he is, is because of his relationship to Jesus Christ. Jesus fills his thoughts, his prayers, his words, his actions. He suffered persecution ... both verbal and physical pain, he was chased out of churches, he saw people do heinous things to each other and yet the thing that he knows as he prepares to face the end is that he is the drink offering poured out to accompany the sacrifice of the Lamb!

John, in his gospel and the Revelation, is the one that always spoke of Jesus as the Lamb of God, yet in this verse, Paul reminds us that the sacrifice Jesus made is the final sacrifice necessary for our redemption and salvation.

He was being poured out as a drink offering which accompanies the sacrifice of the lamb.

Yup, that destroyed me this evening and I'm so thankful for the Word of God which has the power to change our lives and touch my heart.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let the Words of My Mouth

The words from Psalm 19 were used every Sunday prior to Dad's sermon as a response. He would begin with, "Let the words of my mouth," the congregation would respond with, "and the meditations of my heart," then both would say, "be acceptable in thy sight oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer."

By the time I was in high school, I was bored with that response, but it wasn't long after that I learned to love those verses. I think I moved past just saying them to really hearing them in my heart.

James tells us that "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men ... out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers this should not be." (James 3:9-10)

The psalmist in Psalm 45:2 praises the bridegroom (more than likely Solomon) for the grace with which he speaks.

I was describing to a friend the other day how I made a choice when I entered junior high to use foul language. I had just moved into a new community and no one at that school knew me. I had come from an elementary school in a very small town where the girls had ostracized me because Dad was the pastor. I was the goody-two-shoes and therefore not welcome in their clique. Well, by the time I got to Sigourney, I knew that I wanted to rid myself of that persona and create one that might fit in with the kids in my class. Little did I know that I would be stuck with that choice for the rest of my life and that it would become a horrendous habit that seems impossible to break.

But, what other types of things remove grace from our lips?

Carol moved into her new house yesterday. It's a cute little house in a wonderful neighborhood. A couple from across the street came over to welcome her and brought a cake. On top of the cake was a card with their name, address and phone number so that she could call on them for anything she might need. An act filled with grace, yet their words belied their intentions as they began giving Carol the gossip on the people in the neighborhood. Grace?

Snarky comments spoken in moments of joy and peace made simply to draw attention away from good things occurring, busy-body comments that make others uncomfortable, bossy attitudes, negative responses, arrogant lectures, all designed to reduce the listener to something manageable by the speaker.

It breaks my heart to hear someone say in response to a positive comment I've given them, "I've never had anyone say that to me before." Wow. Really? Why not? It also breaks my heart when I speak badly of someone to another person and realize that I am once again caught up in a pattern of hurtful behavior.

James wonders how praising and cursing can come from the same mouth? How can they come from the same heart? The psalmist lifts up the king who speaks with grace. We pray that our words are acceptable to the Lord.

David says in Psalm 39:1, "I said, 'I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth..."

I am pretty sure that he didn't succeed in muzzling his tongue all the time. I am absolutely certain that I will fail at that over and over. I think the only way for me to ever allow grace to be the dominant feature of my words is to pray that prayer I learned a long time ago.

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You Are Unique

When I was a child, I had a few tough years. We lived in a little tiny town. There were 23 kids in my class and I really didn't fit in with any of those girls. There was one 'clique' of girls that weren't terribly friendly with a few stragglers around the edges. There were a couple of other girls that just didn't fit in anywhere and there was me. I got along great with the boys, they didn't expect me to live by some strange 'girl' code and allowed me to just play games on the playground whenever I chose to do so. They competed with me academically without any jealousy and we had great fun together. Except ... that made the girls jealous as well. Oh, and then there was the whole 'your father is a preacher and you won't be in town that long anyway' thing going on. And by the way, your hair is curly and you don't fit in ... oh, and you're getting attention because you nearly died from a heart condition. Those were rough years for me. More often than not, I went home from school upset because they'd ganged up and made fun of me.

But, every time I encountered that garbage from those girls, I had a mother that would sit down with me and tell me how unique I was. She would remind me of the many talents that I had and that she and Dad were proud of me. She never allowed me to dumb myself down to fit in with them, but encouraged me to stay above the fray.

Her encouragement continued through the rest of her life. She always managed to tell me that I was unique, I was special, I was more than what the world thought of me.

I think many of us have either never had that person in our life or have managed to forget the words that were spoken to us like that. I know I that I managed to forget a lot of that after mom died.

The world has a tendency to beat us down, to tell us that we are nothing special, to remind us that we are common. We are constantly told that we can't do things and that information is reinforced when we make errors in judgment or make poor decisions regarding life decisions. We come to believe that we have gotten ourselves to a point in our lives where we can no longer lift our head out of the mire.

I heard from a friend this morning that, after waiting 15 years for a major breakthrough in his career, may be facing the most incredible period of his life. He'll be 59 this fall. He was done. He believed that he was just going to have to get a commonplace job so that he could afford to take his family into retirement. His unique qualifications and outlook in his field are finally going to be recognized and he has the potential to change the lives of millions of people in countries around the world. But, he was through believing all of that. He no longer heard someone tell him how special and incredibly brilliant he is. He no longer believed it.

While your talents and unique characteristics may not affect the world on such a profound basis, do you know how amazing you are? Do you have someone in your life that tells you over and over that you are special and talented, that you are unique and there is no one like you?

Or have you let the world tell you that you are common and boring, that you are destined to live a life of quiet desperation?

Throw those things off!

God did not call you to be bland, boring and lifeless. He has endowed each of us with His gifts and His life. To be anything less than His desire for our lives is to reject the gift of creation.

So, not only does God tell you every morning that you are special and unique to Him, I'm telling you ... you have a gift that you are to give this world. You are here because God needs you here. You are here because your life is incredible.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Mobile community

Last Sunday, I posted a blog "Dead in a Ditch" after I couldn't reach Max when I thought he was supposed to be home.

His cell phone was in the process of giving up the ghost and it was time for both of us to deal with an upgrade. Off I went to the online Alltel store to see what was available.

Oh ... yearn ... Blackberrys. Oh ... YEARN!

Max and I had talked a lot about upgrading to something with a data plan, but we didn't think it was necessary. And it looked to be significantly more money each month.

Here we were, though, wondering about it. Hmmm ... maybe?

Alltel's website sucks. You can't be logged in to the site and actually place an order for phones. If you try to order a phone online, you get stopped at the point that they require you to order a data plan. Well, if you already have a plan in place due to existing contracts and simply want to upgrade the plan ... that isn't an option. Which means that most web users would try to use the link to log in again, which kills the order page and you start over. The insane circle of web baloney sent me to bed Sunday night with no clear option in front of me.

Not to be undone, though, I got up early Monday and called customer service. While Alltel's website sucks, their customer service was awesome. Within 30 minutes, I had purchased two Blackberrys (to be delivered by Wednesday) and upgraded the plan. Whew!

Wednesday ... UPS drives into the alley behind the house. Before he is out of his truck, I have flown down the stairs and am standing outside the back door. They're here!

Let's just say that Max and I are having a blast! Why didn't we do this earlier? I have no idea. But, I've done it now and I never have to be disconnected from my friends online ever again! Text me, call me, message me, email me, twitter me, facebook me ... I can find you no matter where I am.

You know ... community happens in the weirdest places. When I am physically far away from people, I certainly like being able to communicate with them anyway.

A Good Influence

When I was young, my parents rarely restricted my choice of friends. They believed that I was strong enough so that I could influence my friends rather than be influenced by them. That's a lot of trust to give to a girl and I did all I could to honor it.

As I look back, I find that I stood on either side of that fence. Sometimes negative input from friends crept into my life and I became something I didn't appreciate. Other times, I exerted a positive influence so as to encourage my friends in their own growth.

Over the last few weeks, I've really been trying to put the importance of that relationship between friends and family
into words. Sometimes we are completely unaware of how our words and actions impact those around us.

My mother taught me to weigh my words carefully. It is so easy for a mis-spoken word to wound, so I do my best to choose words that will encourage listeners, sometimes to the extent that I actually don't win position in the conversation. If I lose position, though ... I generally win confidence.

My primary love language is "Words of Affirmation." If you know me at all, this seems like a 'duh' perspective. So, what does this mean for me? It means that I react fully and completely to words that are spoken to me. If I receive negative, or even worse, blase input from those who love me, I shut down. If I receive positive input, I tend to light up and become more complete. While we each have varying love languages, I suspect that we all react well to positive input. Not only do I need positive words of affirmation, but I tend to speak those to the people I associate with and there is no one I've met that doesn't react to a positive influence in their lives.

Cynics and those with negative personalities have difficulty speaking positive words to others and many times have difficulty hearing positive words that are spoken to them. They reject it as unbelievable so the speaker is perceived to be lying or maybe even just ill-informed. These people wear me out! It's hard to be around them because they drain me, both in my own self-awareness and in my effort to encourage them past their negative blocks.

So, how do you interact with your friends and family? Do you expect a lot of positive influence from them, but withhold speaking words of affirmation? Is it easy for you to honestly offer a good word, a word of encouragement?

What would you do to those around you if you actually paid attention to them instead of your own needs and made an effort to encourage the small, little things that they do. What if you became the support for everyone around you instead of a drain on their emotions. What if this world was no longer about you, but about those that are closest to you?

Yesterday, I quoted from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a as I closed a blog on Love. Those same words apply today. Sacrificing our overwhelming sense of self so that others can be lifted up is what love is all about. Think of the amount of time you would have to encourage others today if you stopped spending so much time thinking about what the world could or should be doing for you!

And just in case anyone out there thinks I am specifically speaking to them, know that these blogs are generally an introspective study in how I treat the world around me ... not how it treats me. I may be an old lady (I know - I know - I'm trying to reject that label), but I know that I am nowhere near complete in learning how to interact with the people I love.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What the World Needs Now ...

When I was a child, my Grandma Greenwood had a fairly profound impact on my life. She was the epitome of 'Grandma.' She dressed like a grandma, had her very long hair, tied into a bun on the back of her head like a grandma, baked like a grandma, loved like a grandma. She had 23 grandkids and there wasn't a one of them that she loved more than any other.

Grandma left school to take care of her invalid mother, but when Grandpa was in seminary, she learned Greek so that she could help him study. The woman was brilliant and raised her kids to believe that they could do or be anything.

But, Grandma had a few peculiarities. We loved her and ignored them. She wouldn't allow any book in her home if it had any swear words in it. Well, even in the 60s and 70s, that cut a lot of books out. I have memories of a LOT of Reader's Digest Condensed books. If any of us ever found even a 'damn' in a book, we just kept quiet about it, or the book would be gone the next time we showed up.

She was the ultimate pacifist. One day I was messing around on her organ and pulled out the hymnal. As I flipped through the hymns, playing different ones, I landed on "Onward Christian Soldiers." Grandma quietly walked out of the kitchen and told me that she didn't believe in war of any kind and could I please find another song to play. I was shocked, but I did as she asked. How could I not?

The other thing that Grandma didn't like to hear out of our mouths was, "I love this shirt!" or "I love Pepsi!" or "I love this television show." She constantly reminded us that we could only love people, we couldn't love inanimate objects.

I understood exactly what she was trying to say to me, but I've never been able to stop myself from expressing how I feel, even to the point of love, about things. My problem is that sometimes my passion gets in front of me and I have to let it out.

Grandma's point, though, was not one to be missed. Sometimes it is easier for us to love our house, our yard, our card, our stuff more than we love the people who surround us. They're tough to get along with and will nearly always drive us crazy. Because we are in close relationship, sometimes we find that we know just enough to wound each other in powerful ways.

My mom believed that her kids should know love when they were in the home. That was the one place to be safe from the pain of relationships. But, even that failed. You could hear the foulest things coming out of our mouths at each other, when just before we had been with friends expressing genuine care for them. I was always shocked at the way that our behavior turned ugly when we got into the house and shut the doors. Oh, I was as bad as the rest.

You might tell me that it was because I was safe in those relationships. My family was required to love me. Maybe it is because the house was the one place where we could let down our guard. To be honest, I don't think any of that matters. I believe our family deserves more than anyone else when it comes to respect and love. Those who know us the best deserve first right of refusal on major and minor decisions. They deserve an assumption of innocence in the midst of an argument and immediate forgiveness when trouble abounds.

I have difficulty with a lot of this sometimes. Again, my passions get out ahead of my brain and sometimes I lose control of my anger - especially with my family. In my head, I hear a lot of you giving me reasons why you are justified in anger, bad behavior toward your family and withdrawal of love, even if just for a short time. I get it. But, I also know this:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

How would your family be different if you added unconditional love into the mix?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mother's Day

I usually ignore Mother's Day. I don't hate the day ... there are a lot of moms that are my good friends and I'm happy that they get a chance to be honored. I think they should be honored. But, it's a day that no longer holds a ton of meaning for me. Mom died in 1987 and since I was never a mom, I just let the day be another Sunday in the year.

Since mom died in March, we had our first holiday right away without her. Now, we were handling things pretty well by that point. The ladies in the church had their eyes set on Dad. What a great catch he would be and there were a lot of widows and single older women that wanted a shot at a man with a solid career. It was a riot.

But, there had been a pact among them to wait at least one year after mom died before they set their sites on him. However, there was one woman who was pretty bright about the whole thing. She invited us over for dinner on Mother's Day since we wouldn't have anything to do and we might be missing mom. It was adorable. Carol and I just giggled as she puttered around her little home trying to ensure that Dad was comfortable.

By the next Mother's Day, Dad was married to Priscilla. There wasn't a single woman in that church who didn't bemoan that fact. They were a little crushed that Dad hadn't waited the year that they were giving him before they began to put the moves on him. He wasn't stupid. He knew it was coming and planned to avert it as quickly as possible.

Twenty-two years later, I still remember that first year after mom died. There was a lot of pain, a lot of grief, a lot of laughter, a lot of memories. There were changes and new lives to be started.

Mother's Day was the first realization for me of those changes to come. It's not a bad memory, it's kind of a funny memory. I still think about her a lot and miss her regularly.

Love your mothers this year. Tell them over and over how important they are to you and remember with them the wonderful things you have experienced together. If all of the things you have aren't wonderful, remember the few that are. Trust me, it's better to love and forgive if you can. Memories last a lifetime.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Dead in a Ditch

When I was growing up, these were words I often heard out of mom's mouth. "Call me when you get there so I know you aren't dead in a ditch somewhere."

It was so much easier to just let mom know where I was than to face her fury and wrath upon arriving at home after a fun night out with friends. It was weird though, I seemed to be the only one that headed for a telephone when we got to friends' houses. But, as long as she knew where I was and who I was with, I didn't really have to worry too much about unreasonable curfews.

The first time I drove into a ditch (flat ditch, NW Iowa, ice on the road), her words were the first thing that entered my mind. Fortunately a station wagon filled with husky football players pulled up and lifted my little car out of the snow and back onto the road. I wasn't dead in that ditch.

Yesterday, I lay down to take a nap after church and knew that Leica would wake me up when Max got home from church and lunch with his buddy. At 3:00 I jolted awake, panic rushed through me. Max wasn't home! I had expected him at 1:30 - 2:00 at the latest. I flew up and out of bed, trying desperately to force my head to shake off the cobwebs so that I could remember what he had told me.

I tried calling his cell phone. No response. I texted him. No response. Oh no!! What could have happened? I was still fuzzy enough I couldn't remember his friend's last name. I ensured that he actually had his cell phone with him and yes, but the work cell was still there. Whew, maybe there were phone numbers in there I could get.

I finally got through to his buddy. As soon as I identified myself, he said, "Just a sec," and handed the phone to Max. Pure relief. I decided that 'mad' wasn't necessary at that point. And Max's phone is falling apart. It's a problem we'll fix this week.

Moral of the story? No matter how old you are ... call. Then, we don't worry.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Office Supply Love

I get happy about the weirdest things. If I haven't waxed long and poetic before about office supplies, I'd be very surprised. I actually salivate when I'm looking at pens and paper.

The one thing that I miss about Insty-Prints is the immediate fulfillment of all paper needs and desires. When Max and I had to actually purchase a ream of paper the first time, neither of us quite knew what to do with ourselves!

I haven't given into the addiction in nearly a year. Yes, for nearly a year I stayed out of Office Depot. That is some kind of hellish control going on. But, I needed envelopes in a bad way. I've gotten tired of sending payments to people in invitation size envelopes. It was embarrassing.

So, off I went, with a little spring in my step and happy in my heart.

Hmmm ... I need some perforated business card stock so that I can create flashcards for Greek. Whee! Oh, and I really miss having actual card stock in the house. Yup, there's a package of that. Now, hurry back to the pens aisle because I can hardly wait!!! Ahhh ... yes, that's better. Oh look at those shiny mechanical pencils. I want that. I wonder what kind of container I can get for 3x5 cards. I love 3x5 cards. White ones, colored ones, cards in folios, any kind of 3x5 cards. And look how cool that is! I can slip cards in there and a piece of elastic wraps around and contains them. And it's pretty burgundy. Thank you very much. Now, let's look at lined paper. There is never enough lined paper in my world. Hmmm ... I wonder why mom never let me just buy composition books. We always had to have loose paper or coil bound notebooks. Oh, a composition book is making me smile! Yea!!!

Let's see, now why did I come in here? Oh, yah! Envelopes. Wow. Look at all the envelopes. I do not need 250. I really don't even need 100. Wow, would you look at the invitation sized envelopes and the ... no, stop. You just need some business envelopes. No, you don't need the peel and seal and you don't need security lining. There. 40 envelopes just for you. Good girl.

See the checkout counter? It's time to go. Hurry before you get distracted again.

Success. I love paper and pencils. Almost as much as I do anything else. I know you are smiling to yourself as you read this because you recognize the same love in your own heart for these little tools of creativity.

Friday, May 01, 2009

When they just don't get it

Today was an interesting day. I got up bright and early this morning so that I could travel to Lincoln with my friend, Alison for a day of lectures on the research a group has done regarding why people own Bibles but never read them. The company is concerned with Biblical illiteracy and offered to teach us how to transform that.

I expected and anticipated an amazing day, filled with research results and data, dreams and plans for re-engaging our culture in Biblical perspectives and passion for the Bible.

What I got was so much less and I was so disappointed. By the time I had been there for less than 1/2 hour, I knew that this was a total bust. They just didn't get it. The hall was filled with men, 80% of whom were over 65 years old. Alison and I lowered the average age in the room and were two of a handful of women outside of the staff of the company. The lectures were about how things used to be and laments for the fact that we no longer had prayer in the schools and Bibles weren't allowed into our public schools.

When the main speaker came on board (a renowned author and Biblical apologist), I again anticipated something revelatory, but what I got was a dry lecture on why the Bible is inerrant. Powerpoint slides with too much information on them and absolutely no graphics, college lecture-style delivery (and boring at that), and no passion for the topic at hand.

By the time we got to the morning break, I looked at Alison and we began plotting our escape. We'd leave at lunch and not return for the afternoon sessions. And then, we realized that things weren't going to get better, we needed to leave soon.

The third speaker got up and rambled about his involvement in the research end of things, which led to the director of this entire research who rambled for over an hour about why research is important, telling us things that were inane and old information, using powerpoint slides that made no sense, and waiting the entire hour before beginning to come to the point of his lecture, which turned into a chance for him to preach about why the Bible was important to our lives today. But, it was a very negative talk about how our sin would be alleviated if we read the Bible. There was little talk of hope, just Pharisaical belief in the Bible.

Now, that all comes out sounding a little weird, because more than anything I believe in the power of the Word of God. I am passionate about teaching people about the Bible so that they engage with God's Word on a regular basis, because I know that it has the power to transform lives.

I NEVER heard anything like that today.

But, as I looked around the room, I realized I had been foolish to expect to hear anything like that. The day was a sales pitch for the donors and cronies that had supported the expansion of this research facility, it was not a real search for change. They fully expect that people will look to their old-style attitudes and accept them, rather than searching for ways to interact with a world that is rapidly changing.

It occurs to me that if they are really concerned that people younger than the age of 60 are not reading their Bibles and are really getting information from research to show why this is happening, the next step would be to engage those same people to find out what it is that they need or desire to find their way back into the Bible.

I learned a lot today, but not what I expected. I am beginning to refine the focus of my outlook.

Wasted day? Nope. I had a wonderful time with Alison, renewing our friendship, catching up on the exciting and terrifying things in our worlds. We had a fabulous lunch (Ryan's Bistro in Omaha - oh my goodness!) and I got home early enough so that poor Leica didn't have to spend an entire day waiting for someone to let her out.

So, do you read your Bible and if not ... why not? No, I really mean it, I'd like to know!