Sunday, February 28, 2010

Creativity and Dreams

Some days it's really hard to write here because I have so many things swirling around in my mind I find it difficult to pin them down into one cohesive thought. Oh, they're all related, but if I were to simply send a stream of consciousness your way, you might feel it necessary to send the white coats after me.

I've been talking to friends and thinking about creativity, forward motion, resistance to change, independence, leaping out of the box ... all of these ideas a lot lately. It's actually quite exciting to me.

I know that some of you probably just smile and nod because Diane is off doing her thing and one of these days she'll settle down again. Or maybe you see me doing things in my life to fulfill my dreams but don't believe that is where you want to be right now, so you pat me on the head and send me on my way with good wishes. Then you settle back in your arm chair, pull a blanket up around you and turn the television on and lose yourself in someone else's fantasy.

This afternoon, I recommended the book "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron to a friend and figured I probably out to pull it back out and look through it again. Barely 15 pages in and I found myself stunned by the power of the thoughts and ideas I had.

One of those thoughts came from a quote, "It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God." (Mary Daly)

Think about that for a moment. We are made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26) Right at the point that God is filling the universe with His creativity, He makes man in His image. That doesn't mean that we necessarily look like Him or even act like Him. There are so many different facets of God that He put inside of man and one of those is the desire to create. Every one of us is born to be creative.

Julia Cameron's first principle in the book is: "Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy; pure, creative energy."

The thing is - creativity doesn't have to be about writing a book, painting on a canvas, taking beautiful photographs or sitting down to write a song. It definitely is those things, but it is also about creating a meal for your family, planning a vacation, designing a pinewood derby car, coordinating a birthday party for your kids, laying out a landscape design ... the list is infinite and is only limited by what you can allow yourself to dream.

It's too easy to shut off our creativity by busy-ness or even boredom. We don't make time in our lives to allow our minds to drift and wander or think about things outside our normal days. That just doesn't seem productive somehow. Yet, what if Brahms had never taken the time to let the music flow through him. He said, "Straightaway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God." What if all he had ever done was play someone else's music, practicing it until it was perfect, filling his days with teaching and playing - never allowing himself time to just listen for the music. We would have missed an incredible gift.

Maybe the first thing you need to do is just allow yourself the freedom to dream. In your dreams you aren't limited by lack of education, lack of money or even procrastination or resistance. They're just that - dreams. But those dreams can open up your mind to what it is that you most desire to do and to be. When you start recognizing your dreams as something you are comfortable with, maybe you'll be able to make them come true!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Plan is in the Works

I'm tired. Woke up at 4:30 this morning and never really went back to sleep. Then I didn't get any caffeine in me until after 1:30 and it wasn't nearly enough. I've learned that when I travel - even if it's driving three hours through Iowa - I dare not drink caffeine or I will stop every 30 minutes.

I plan to head out this evening with friends to hear one of my favorite bands (Thousand Houses) play, but that show doesn't start until 9 pm and I KNOW I'm going to be wiped out by the time I get home to sleep. So, I've done a minor injection of Diet Mt. Dew and hopefully will be able to stave off the old-age sleepies until I can crawl under the blankets later tonight.

When I got home today, I had a couple of boxes of books waiting for me. Even with my Kindle and my amazing Bible research software (which integrates hundreds of books into a search program), I still absolutely LOVE new books. One of the things I miss the most since I got my Kindle is the amount of time I would spend in bookstores. Oh, I know I could go in and wander around, but it just isn't the same. Part of the joy was finding an amazing book and knowing that it was going home with me. Walking out of a bookstore with a large bag of books was pure joy for me!

My six-month project has already begun. I realized that one of the other great learning projects that I had put on the back burner of my life was an in-depth study of the Twelve Disciples. I wasn't sure what it was I would do with the information I gathered on them, but I think I have a pretty good idea now. The first month (at least) will simply be culling information from the books and commentaries that are already out there. To be honest, there aren't that many available. I had 3 in the house, found 3 more for my Kindle, and was able to order 5 others. After that ... the inventory is pretty spare.

This isn't going to be another blog. Hopefully the ideas that I have tucked away in my little brain will build some type of book / publication from this. If all goes as I think it might, it will be a fairly unique look at those twelve men. Unless, of course, someone else gets the same grand idea and manages to publish something. That would make me growl and no one likes it when I growl.

I started pulling notes from the books that already existed in my library last week and I tell you what, this is my passion and my love! There's nothing better for me than digging into a text and learning all that I can.

Don't be surprised, if over the next few months, a lot of information about these twelve guys gets dropped into conversations and blog posts. They're probably going to consume me for awhile. I also know that I'm going to fall in love with each of them as I get to know them better. I've been focusing on Simon Peter this week and so far, he is just the coolest guy ever! So real, so filled with humanity and so desperate to be a better man. I like him a lot.

I'll let you know which of them intrigues me the most. But, I'm excited to have a focus and to be started already. It's going to be a fun six months!

Friday, February 26, 2010


I have always had very vivid dreams when I sleep. There were a couple of recurring nightmares that I had as a kid ... those really bugged me. In fact, they were so upsetting that I can actually still recall the details.

The first was a funeral in a deep forest for a cousin of mine. I remember walking through the trees to get to the site and there was an immense hole already prepared for the coffin. Now, there were twenty-three of us cousins and I have no idea which one had died - at that time we were all still alive and making lots of noise. But, I was filled with utter terror as I faced that empty hole, scared that I was going to fall in and never be able to come back out.

The second was of me on an icy, hilly street. I couldn't get any kind of grip under my feet to make it up the hill. Every time I would get up part way, I'd slip and slide all the way back down to the bottom of the hill.

I just prayed to wake up out of those dreams.

As I began reading, my dreams got more and more entertaining. I've chased bad guys through warehouses as a detective, flown space ships, done all sorts of wild things in my dreams. They are generally quite fun and I enjoy my REM sleep.

This morning I woke up, took the dog out and then fell back asleep when we were finished with the 5 am potty break. I had to drag myself up out of a dream that began to freak me out. I loved the way it began. Max had taken me to Insty-Prints to go help out with something and as we were standing outside, an immense cloud settled in the sky. All of a sudden there were lots and lots of planes that were heading for that cloud. I knew they were our planes. But, they had funky clouds surrounding them. Max told me (like he knew) that they were mosquitos - attack helicopters. Ok ... this is cool. I gotta watch!

I didn't get to watch, we ended up inside the building - which had changed radically since I last owned the place. There were tunnels leading to my office, there was water in the tunnels ... it was odd, I don't know what was going on.

But, I came back up because a friend and his two little girls were there and as I looked over, I saw that my friend had been required to hang a man for some hideous crime he had committed. My friend was upset, all of us were understanding - it had to be done. But, then crowds began to gather and we knew this was going to be difficult to explain, but it had to happen.

I pulled myself out of that dream and I have to admit that I have been contemplative all day long because of this. I didn't stay asleep long enough to force myself to fix the dream or even explain it. I just had to get out of it.

I remember in high school having a dream about a friend of mine who absolutely thrashed me verbally and quite publicly. When I got to school that day I could barely speak to her. I knew that it had all been a dream, but my emotions were so caught up in the experience, I couldn't release them.

Is there a purpose to this blog about dreaming?

You know ... there are two other dreams that have meant more to me than anything else. Two nights when I KNEW that my dreams were more than just my brain processing on the day. In both of those dreams, God spoke clearly to me, assuring me that He was active in my life.

He gave me those dreams when I was absolutely panicked as a young girl about what my future would hold and whether or not I would be able to walk in His will. Both times, the dreams came after I had done some serious praying about what He wanted from me. The answers He gave me were general enough that it didn't feel as if there were a neon sign hanging there with an arrow saying "Go this way," but what I needed from Him was the knowledge that He would guide me.

I might have actually preferred the neon sign, but I'm pretty certain I would have rebelled against it and gone the other way - that's who I am.

In a little bit, I'm going to let the dog out one more time and curl up under the covers with her. I'll read until my eyes droop, then I'll turn out the light and fall asleep. Whether I hear from God or just process weird information in my brain ... I always look forward to my dreams.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Learning = Happiness

I think I used up all my words today. I seem to have run out. This blog has been open for about 3 hours with absolutely nothing written in it (until now, of course).

Today was spent pretty quietly, except for the rustle of turning pages, the clicking of keys on the computer and the occasional, "Leica, do you want to go outside?" Most of the day I was either reading and trying to comprehend all of human history (ok, just the Middle Ages for today) and then get portions of it posted to my God in History blog. I like to be able to write a week's worth at a time.

I finally finished those blog entries and then went to work on the Pour Out a Blessing blog. I will finish those entries tomorrow. There is only so much that one brain can process in a day! Maybe I'm hoping that by exercising my brain like this, I'll be a little more prepared when it comes time for me to study like a crazy woman these next few years.

There was an article I read last week (I'll never be able to find it, sorry) that said people are happiest when they are learning. That doesn't necessarily mean that people are happy when they're in school. I can think of a million reasons why that isn't true, but when we learn, we gain great satisfaction. That is definitely true for me. I love to learn. Last fall, when I took two Comparative Religion courses, I was truly happy. Oh, I whined and complained about the circumstances of the learning sometimes, but actually taking in information thrilled me!

While I'm reading all of these Christian history books and searching out deeper information regarding the periods of history that I'm pushing through, I become entranced with the learning. It's a good thing I have the blog to pour that information into, because otherwise I would probably be calling everyone just to share what is happening in my mind. Learning and teaching go hand in hand for me.

I've tucked away my books for the evening, placed the pencils back in the mug, flipped the cover closed on my notepad and closed the Microsoft Word documents. I'll take the dog outside one more time (turning on all the lights so that the animals that howl out there know I'm dangerous - or something) and then close my brain down for the night.

I will sleep well. My mind has been satisfied today, filled up and then poured out. I love these days.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Peace on the Path

When I was young, my father decided I was going to be a concert pianist. He hadn't actually discussed this life plan with me, but set me on the course and paid for piano lessons, sat beside me at the piano night after night ensuring that I was practicing, and generally pushed me into any possible opportunity available for me to play.

Some days I hated it. Some days I didn't mind it so bad. But, as I got to an age where I was finally able to make some of my own decisions, I finally had to sit down with him and tell him that I simply wasn't interested in being a concert pianist.

He took it pretty well. I have to admit, I was expecting a long evening of, "I'm very disappointed in you, Diane."

Because of all of that practice and attention to detail, I'm a pretty good pianist. I have a great command of music, I can sightread well, I fully understand musical theory and there has been some amazing music come from me when my fingers were at a piano keyboard.

Over and over, though, Dad would plead with me to practice harder, play more often. "Diane, you play very well. Can you imagine what would happen if you actually practiced?"

Well, I knew that I had the potential to be great, but I just wasn't interested. Sitting in practice rooms by myself held no interest for me. Playing concerts and performing that music just scared me to the point of wanting to vomit.

I loved my music, but I didn't not want to live this music.

I didn't know what else to do, though, so when I entered college, I chose music as my field of choice and set forth figuring that would be where I would focus my energy for the rest of my life. But, you know what? I never, ever felt as though I was complete with that as the only thing I would accomplish. I didn't want to be on stage, I knew that I could work with kids and I do love teaching private lessons, but that really never worked out for me.

There was something missing.

All of my life, I was identified as a musician. I did it to myself. I figured that because that was what I had invested so much time, energy and even money in - that was what I was supposed to do with my life.

But, it wasn't. I found every possible avenue of avoidance - even rebellion against making music the main purpose of my life. I have always been involved in it and have always attempted to find ways to integrate it fully into my life, but I've always been unsuccessful.

I just finished reading Paulo Coelho's book, "The Alchemist" about a boy who searches for his Personal Legend ... the treasure that will define his life. His heart is drawn to this and as long as he allows his heart to guide him, he finds adventure, love and fulfillment along the journey. The more that he moves toward his Personal Legend and the treasures that have been promised to him, the more at peace he is with himself.

These are the dreams that each of us have. The treasures that have been set before us.

I feel like I'm finally on the right path.

Do you know that some evenings, while I'm reading Christian history or exploring scripture or learning Greek or coming to an understanding of some deep truth of God, I fall apart weeping? It's all I can do to continue because I get so overwhelmed with the power of what I'm learning. As all of that information begins to sort itself out in my mind so that I can transmit it to whomever is going to read it or hear me tell of it, I feel completely at peace.

I'm on the path to my Personal Legend ... to finding the treasures that God set before me years ago. I got detoured along the way, but I'm so thankful that God didn't allow my heart to become rigid and to forget the dreams that He placed there.

Even though others tried to design my path for me throughout different parts of my life, God had patience to wait until I was ready to face this with confidence and excitement.

What is your dream? What does your path look like? Are you walking on it now or are you trapped in a life that has been designed for you by others?

"The Alchemist" won't take very long for you to read. If you haven't read it yet, make an attempt. If you have read it - try it one more time ... this time with purpose!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Urgent or Important?

I grew up in a family where laziness was not allowed. The funny thing is that if you were to ask any of us kids about it, we knew that mom treasured being lazy. No, I'm not talking about taking time away from a busy work day to rest ... pure, unadulterated laziness. She wasn't too terribly happy about raising children, but soon discovered that if trained right, she had three excellent workers. So, she directed us while sitting on the sofa reading a book.

I'm going to start this all over again because as I look back at mom, what she hated doing was physical labor. So, poor Dad ... who was all about being busy and doing physical work ... saw her as being quite lazy. Mom's entire being, though, was about creativity. She despised housework - laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming, cooking, cleaning of any sort. But, ask her to teach and she would study and prepare amazing lessons. She painted and sculpted, wrote poetry and stories, sewed clothes for us, as well as stuffed animals and other great items. Her mind was always working on something.

When Dad would walk into a room, if he felt that any of us weren't actively doing something, he would immediately come up with something for us to do. The only thing that was acceptable 'sitting' behavior was reading a book. He could never fault us for that. He would never fault us for that. That's probably one reason that the three of us kids are such avid readers. It was the only thing we could be doing that wouldn't earn us a task if we were sitting down!

A friend commented today that she couldn't believe how much I got done in a day. She sees the amount of things that I get written, the studying that I do and then I talk about the novels that I read and the research that I complete on other projects. I have time to talk to my friends and mess around on the net.

What she doesn't see is that I despise doing housework
- laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming, cooking, cleaning of any sort. Consequently none of you are EVER going to be invited to my house. I will be glad to take you out to dinner, but I don't want to have to clean up around here so that you can get in to see how bad it can be.

For me it is about setting priorities. Seth Godin (and many others) speak about dealing with the important rather than the urgent. The important is what will change the world. The urgent only maintains the status quo. And when we are all exhausted from doing what seems urgent at the time, we are too exhausted to work on the important.

Some people love doing housework and seeing a beautifully clean home gives them great satisfaction. I probably need to hire that person - but I'm pretty certain they'd make me crazy.

I spent 25 years of my life (probably more than that, but I'm not going to bother counting - it will just depress me) running from one activity to the next. In my workday, I would tear around handling issues and putting out fires, dealing with customers and employees until my brain was trying to crawl into a quiet, dark space just for some rest. As soon as I left work, I would face evening after evening of rehearsals, meetings, multitudes of things. I would leave the house at 7 am and not return until after 10 pm. Everything was urgent and I set all thought of creativity aside, hoping that some day I would be able to sit and read for pleasure, that I would have the time to study those things that I desired to learn, that I would be able to write and teach and use my mind to be creative again.

I'm fortunate that I was able to get to that place in my life. I should have made it happen sooner, but all I could focus on was the urgent. I am who I am right now, but I can't say that I'm a better person because of the things that I chose to do.

Another friend of mine asks the question, "If you look back at the last seven years of your life and aren't happy with what you've done with those years, what are you doing today to make the next seven years different? In seven years will you be able to respond differently?"

Today I'm choosing to stay focused on what I want to do ... what is important for me to do. In seven years I want to rock whatever portion of the world I'm in.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What a day!


I've been fighting and worrying with my Jeep. You know how much it means to me. A couple of months ago having to get it towed back to Omaha was NOT my idea of fun. Well, as it turns out, I seem to have run into some other issues stemming from that little radiator problem. The head gaskets are in trouble. A couple of weeks ago, I dropped it off because the 'check engine' light came on and I knew things didn't sound right. The guys at the shop caught a quick code, but had trouble getting it to be consistent. Looking at the spark plugs, they needed to be replaced and we hoped that was it. No ... it wasn't.

I think the most entertaining point of my day was trying to explain to the owner of the garage what I was hearing when the car idled too long. Humming, sighing and whining just didn't seem like appropriate terms, but he let me do my best and then told me they would look at it.

Two hours later, the news came in - the head gaskets are a problem and it's going to take a full week to get this thing fixed. Oh and I wasn't really going to like the cost either.

Sigh. Alright. I get it.

Then, I had a brainstorm (I'm a little slow on the uptake). Ummm ... I have one of those ... you know ... those things you pay for when you buy the car ... you know, oh! an Extended Warranty. All of the paperwork is in the ummm ... you know ... that thing in the passenger side of the car ... the ... yah - the glove compartment.

I guess I was so overwhelmed by having to come up with descriptive terms to talk about the sounds my car was making, I couldn't even think of terms that I know and understand!

They called me back. Yes, the warranty was going to cover this. Oh, hallelujah, hot dog! Now it was time to rent a car. Called Avis, got one on hold and headed there this afternoon. The manager made conversation with me and asked what was wrong with my car - I told him. Then he asked what car I drove. I told him and then said, "Yah, I'm going to feel really short in this Hyundai." He offered an SUV to me and then as he was giving me the information, he saw my face fall. There was no way I wanted to pay an extra $28/day for that. "I'll tell you what, Diane. The car is pretty dirty, it just came back in. What if I give it to you for an extra $8/day."

Wow! Yes, I'm driving a 2010 Ford Explorer and I'm one happy camper. The best part- the paperwork was printing out and he had forgotten the additional cost. He told me it was just going to be a wash. All I could do was stare at him and remember to blubber 'thank you!'

Both of these guys didn't expend much energy today, they didn't expect a tip or anything extra from me, yet their customer care showed all over the place. They didn't do it for any special reason, just wanted to take care of me as they would anyone else. It made what could have been an extremely stressful day - an amazing day for me.

I keep thinking about how we spend so much time fighting for 'me' and we struggle for power within companies, families, churches, friendships. It shouldn't be so difficult to set ourselves and our needs aside to build relationships.

I've spent time reading about Peter today. What an amazing man. But, you know ... once he became a follower of Jesus, he set everything aside to care for the people that they encountered and for his fellow disciples. A bold, action-oriented, impetuous man who was so humble that he became a servant to the church. He was the leader of the Twelve, but when it came to leadership for the Jerusalem church, Peter knew that his calling was to step away from that and left the task to Jesus' brother James.

Setting ourselves aside for each other ... for Jesus. It seems like such a great idea, but so very few of us can actually put it into action.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Unimaginable God

'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.' (Isaiah 55:8-9)

This morning immediately following church, a small group was sitting around chatting and we ended up in a grand theological discussion. I generally enjoy those a lot, because ... well, I always have plenty to say! (stop giggling)

I finally pulled myself away from the discussion and headed home, but not without millions of words, thoughts, phrases, images, and other pithy ideas roiling around my brain.

I began thinking about the limits that we place on God. Oh, this is nothing new, but it is something that we tend to do without even realizing it. We limit the scriptures even with our very basic knowledge of those words.

We place God in linear time because that's how we live our lives. Yet God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He was, He is and He is to come. Every moment in time IS to God. He doesn't move from one point in time (history) through the present to the future. He actually IS in every moment that we perceive in time.

Once we begin to allow God to be bigger than what we can understand, we then recognize that we are only seeing a minuscule portion of His presence on earth.

I love the Lord's response to Job in Job 38:

"Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?" (Job 38:2)

Then He goes on to question Job as to Job's whereabouts during the creation of the world and his understanding of how things work in the world. A God that created everything that is seen and unseen and Who intimately knows the moment a mountain goat gives birth or a doe bears her fawn, Who created the animals that run and the birds that fly, Who counts the hairs on our head and names the stars in the sky. This is the God who is bigger than we can imagine.

He is the God who can wait patiently while his children come to accept Him and will love us whether or not we are paying attention to Him. This is the God who knows us intimately, yet gives us the freedom of choice in everything we do. He is big enough to know all of these things in a way that we can not fathom.

Theologians and scholars have worked for centuries to understand and explain how God works among us, yet they are no closer today to that understanding than they ever were. God is too big for that.

When I find myself limiting God to my understanding, I have to stop myself and allow Him to be bigger than anything I could ever begin to imagine. He is God. He is.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Great Friendships

I love C.S. Lewis. He was an incredibly brilliant and talented man. Most everyone knows about his "Chronicles of Narnia" and if you want a fabulous book on becoming a Christian, his "Mere Christianity" is amazing.

I was reading a Christian History magazine about him and came across this bit of information. When I read it, it was as if lightning struck. This made so much sense. Read it twice if you need to.

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out,” Lewis wrote. “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth … each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others.”
Christian History Magazine-Issue 88: C.S. Lewis: Pointing People to Reality. 2005. Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today.

I love the way that he looks at friendship! Rather than being jealous of our friends having other friends, he recognizes that each person brings out something different in the other and that by having them all together, you experience an incredible depth of personality in your friends.

When I was very young, there was only one time that we had nearly the entire Greenwood clan together. There were 7 families and 23 grandkids. I believe that everyone was there except for one family and one or two cousins that couldn't get to town that evening. Grandma and Grandpa's house was packed to the gills with people. Laughter and food, loving and hugs were everywhere. This was the only time that we came together as a unit and it was a joyous evening, no one wanted it to end. There was enough history there to bind us all together and we understood the stories and were desperate for more tales of glory from the past.

About 10 years ago, there was a group of 8-9 much younger women (yes we were younger then) that tried to meet every month for a meal and friendship. If someone was missing, we felt the loss. You could practically identify the part of the group personality that each person brought and without it, there were parts missing.

When Carol and I were living together, we used to have fun dinner parties and try to mix up our friends from various parts of our lives. It was always interesting. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, but it never stopped being entertaining and fun.

I have groups of friends in a lot of different areas of my life and each time I am with them I become something different ... something more, something greater ... because of their impact on my life.

Friendships are pretty amazing, aren't they?

Oh - and by the way, the Ronald in CS Lewis' story is JRR Tolkien.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Love each other

I think about a lot of things while I'm alone. Many times I'm trying to fix a problem I see ... and let me tell you, I do NOT have enough information to deal with potholes and icy roads, but my brain still tries to come up with a better solution. It's what I do when my mind wanders around itself.

Other times something will creep in and make me consider what I know.

This morning a verse from 1 John came into my email and I've had it floating around all day long.

"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love each other, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:11-12)

I keep saying this over and over, but I don't listen to myself and I don't think we really get it. We make this thing too difficult! This whole living as a Christian thing. We work so hard to abide by all the rules that we set in place, we forget to just love. We judge others based on our ruleset and unforgiveness and anger take root before we even know what is happening.

One thing that I constantly hear from others and I've said it myself more often than I care to admit, is that God seems far away from me or that He doesn't seem to be listening to me or that I can't feel Him close to me. Maybe I think that He's testing me or holding back from me so that I will learn something.

While I don't actually consider myself a theologian and I'm not about to fully interpret all of the different scripture passages, I wonder about these words and phrases.

You see, God is a constant. He constantly loves us. He constantly takes care of us. He constantly woos us to himself (thank you Rebecca - for more on her ideas, check out this blog post!)

One of the things that God has surrounded us with is each other. When we get upset because we can't 'see' God or feel Him, when we don't know that He is speaking to us or we feel that He is far from us, or testing us or anything else, we have forgotten that God surrounded us with people that are there to love us and remind us of God's constancy in our lives.

The best part about God is that He recognizes that we are all so human and can't be trusted, so He has ensured that we have families and friends who take up the slack when others fail us. In all of this, though, He is constant. He ensures that we are loved and we are built up and we are reminded of His grace.

Whether or not we want to hear those things is our problem, whether or not we want to recognize God's hand touching us through our friends is our responsibility.

God's love is made complete because of these relationships we have with each other. We are called to love each other since God loved us. And in these relationships, we see God. He isn't hiding, He isn't testing us, He isn't pulling away. He is waiting for us to recognize His face in the faces of those who love us.

As I was working on the God in History blog, I read about Francis of Assisi. His life was changed because He saw the face of Jesus in a leper/beggar on the side of the road. This was a relationship that Francis had never had before that pivotal day, but God grabbed a wealthy young man's heart with the face of a beggar.

We don't have to plead with God to be close to us, He really, really is. We just have to look into the faces of those we love and sometimes into the faces of those that we don't even know. God created the need for community in us because 'if we love each other, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.'

Thursday, February 18, 2010

History Hurts my Brain!

I'm pretty sure that the official panic has yet to begin, but I had a momentary glimpse of it today. I try to spend these days here at the cabin being productive and will generally knock out a week's worth of either the God in History blog or the Pour Out a Blessing blog during a day long session.

The God in History blog takes a lot of effort on my part because I don't feel that I have a good strong foundation in history. In fact, I've discovered that I base a lot of my timeline information of history on what I know regarding Biblical history.

I'm reading Steven Pressfield's book, "The Gates of Fire" about the battle of Thermopylae. The Persian king that fought 300 Spartans was King Xerxes. Well, it was his father, Darius that after subduing Nebuchadnezzar, allowed the Christians to return to Jerusalem and provided them funds to rebuild the temple. There is every probability that Xerxes was the king in Esther's story. As soon as I made that connection, I was able to place the book into a timeline I was comfortable with.

When I consider the vast amount of information that I have yet to learn regarding history, I am grateful that I have thousands of years of biblical history to work with. That remains my anchor.

But, once the Bible is finished and I have to face history without it as an anchor, I find that I must do a lot of reading and researching so that I can ensure my writing is done so within a context that I comprehend. It took me several hours of reading this morning to get a basic understanding of the time period surrounding the Crusades. And that was just a BASIC understanding.

As I sit here 5 hours later, my brain is totally fried and I feel as if I need a nap.

This is where the panic begins to set in. How in the world am I going to face down all of the work I'm going to have to do, the reading I'm going to have to absorb, the papers I'm going to have to write? It won't be just one course at a time, I will be in the middle of several courses. I do remember what college was like and my much younger, more agile brain was in a world of hurt on a regular basis as it tried to keep things together.

I'll set the panic aside. This is exactly what I'm looking forward to doing. But every once in awhile I reserve the right to throw a panic tantrum.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Drifting Snow ... bad for driving.

Well, last night was a little more exciting that I expected. When I left Omaha, I was thrilled that I got moving 15 minutes early. More sleep for me (ok, 15 minutes means a lot sometimes!). The interstate was clear and it was a beautiful night for a drive. I'll admit, it was a little cold and windy, but the road was great. You could tell the semis have been needing some nice weather through the state, they were out in full force. But, they're always easy to drive with. I just feel that much safer on the road, knowing that those guys are working through the night.

I stopped in Des Moines for gas and began to wonder about the roads north of Highway 30. I knew that they hadn't been great, but oh my goodness, it was only 2 inches and the worst of it had ended on Monday, how could it still be bad by Tuesday night, right? I will say it again, I wondered about this county road up here and how bad it might be. In fact, I actually considered just stopping in Des Moines and staying in a hotel for the night. But, I didn't have any part of my life with me - just changes of clothes ... no shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush ... nothing. I just needed to press on through.

But, no ... I'm tougher than this, I can do it. It just can't be that bad. I mean, really! It's not like they haven't had plenty of practice this winter. They know how to clear roads.

I drove north on I-35 and the roads were still clear ... until I got to the exit about 10 miles south of where I usually turn off. Patches of ice began getting in my way. I really began to worry.

I turned off my exit and began heading west. The first stretch of road from Ellsworth to Jewell was fine. A few patches of snow and ice, but this is nothing I can't handle. When I left Jewell, everything changed. A few patches of bare concrete - a lot of snow and ice. Everything would still be fine if I could just drive slowly enough. There are no curves in the road, its a straight shot.

The first batch of drifted snow concerned me. Then, the second. The drifts kept extending further and further into the lane. I was driving in the eastbound lane. Finally I came upon a drift that pretty much went across both lanes. I shook my head, stopped the car, turned it around and left.

You see, I knew full well that the location where I had gone in the ditch last month would be awful. And I knew that it wouldn't be the worst I saw. I also knew that I would have to deal with a gravel road into the cabin and I wasn't even sure what drifting would happen on the lane to the cabin. Driving through all of that at 12:30 am was not appealing.

There is a very nice hotel at the exit just before the ice began on the Interstate - about 10 miles south of my exit. I headed out and had to stop at a convenient mart for shampoo, etc. But, I tucked myself into bed, smiled and knew that I wasn't going anywhere for a long time. I'd stay until those plows got out and ate up the drifts and the sun came out and began melting the ice.

I drove in about 1 pm - still patchy ice and snow, but it's no big deal. The gravel road is in beautiful shape, the plows had destroyed the drifts, the sun is shining brightly in a clear, blue sky, the snow is glistening, the icicles are melting. It's a glorious day.

The amount of email and activity I need to catch up on from being offline for 24 hours is a bit overwhelming, but that's ok ... the delete button works pretty well on my computer. I'm looking forward to sticking my nose back into the Bible and my History books tonight. I try to write a week's worth of blogs while I'm here and everything is quiet.

My friends and family know that I will try my best to use wisdom when I attempt to travel during bad weather. I'm not so sure that it's wisdom as it is terror after putting my Jeep in the ditch once, but at least it kept me safe last night and will keep me safe for a few years, until I can put it behind me.

As for the winter snows? Can I just hear an "AMEN!" when I say that this needs to end? I'm really tired of bad weather. The snow is beautiful - in fact, it is absolutely gorgeous, but I'm ready for temps in the 30s and 40s and no more snow on the roads!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Random Thoughts: Lent, Athleticism, Fear.

I saw several tweets, blog posts, etc., this morning regarding what people will be giving up for Lent this year. Along with making New Year's Resolutions, this is another of those things that I just don't do well. It's not that I don't have things in my life that I should sacrifice during the season, I just have a terrible tendency to forget or else I get really rebellious and that's never good. So, I face Ash Wednesday with a bit of a grin and move through the season.

Lent is a strange season for me. When I was growing up, it just wasn't something that we Protestants did. All of a sudden, though, I was part of churches that had Wednesday evening services and talked about sacrificing something important. I can remember thinking it strange that I had never seen this happen before except for a few of my Catholic friends who didn't eat meat on Fridays.

No, I'm not giving something up for Lent ... but by the way, if I did, I don't believe I'd tell you about it because I'm pretty sure that it's supposed to be a covenant between me and God.


I have a little more than six months before I begin my Master's program. In that period of time I feel a mad desire to cram as much random knowledge into my brain as possible. I'm pretty certain that as soon as I begin, I will no longer have the time to be a recreational reader.

However, I also feel the need to accomplish something astounding in these next six months. So, I have until March 1 to come up with a GRAND plan for a project - probably writing. There's my goal and here's hoping that on March 1, I can tell you what I will be doing.


The other evening I was talking to a friend about athleticism (or the lack thereof in my case). I had a great boyfriend in high school/college. I must have driven him absolutely batty. Even when I was a small girl, I was never athletic. It just really never made any sense to me. The finish line would be there whether I crossed it or not - and just because I ran slower or faster than anyone else didn't change that fact.

Rick, however, was tall, athletic and loved nearly every sport. He tried so hard to be patient with me. I wasn't a klutz or anything, I just didn't understand why I should have the same passion for these things. I wanted to read or play my music, I wanted to hang out with my friends or write letters and stories. He tried to teach me how to play tennis. He was excellent. I was not. He would hit the balls to me, I would hit them off the court and he would chase them. His patience never ran out, so I tried to figure it out. I failed.

He wanted me to learn to ski. We went to a local Iowa location (yea, IA mountains?) and when my arms wore out from pulling myself up the mountain on the rope lift, he would stand behind me to ensure that I was having the best time possible. I messed up my ankles on those trips - not fun. He loved roller skating and we would head to Ottumwa to skate. When I was wobbly, he would ensure that I made it round and round the rink, only leaving my side when he just HAD to put on the speed and chase someone down.

Rick was a cross-country runner. When I got to college, I decided that to stay in shape and keep up with him, I needed to start running. Every single morning I hit the streets of Iowa City and ran. I hated every single freakin' moment of it, but it was something he loved passionately and I knew that I needed to at least try. I don't know what I thought I was going to do - I was never going to keep up with his long legs ... ever! One full semester later, I just shook my head and laughed about it.

My father was an athlete, but could never instill a love for those things in me. He tried and tried. It's a good thing that I got excellent grades and excelled in music and my studies - otherwise the poor man might have tossed me out on the street.

You know, it's really funny - the things we do and don't do in our lives.


I've been thinking a lot about fear lately. The Greek word for fear is "phobos." Yup - all of our phobias. The Spartans capitalized it - Phobos. It was a proper noun. A name for a living, breathing entity. I see fear that way sometimes. It possesses me and stops me from doing what I want to do. Fear stands in front of me and taunts me. I hear those little girls in elementary school telling me that I can't do something because I'm not good enough, so I don't even try.

Does fear bind me up so badly that I can't even think of things that might be exciting to do?

My mother was afraid of closed doors. It was a fear that she recognized, but could do very little about. She would beg other people to go with her to an unknown location so that they could open the door and she could then be freed to enter and do what she needed to do. Once she could see what was on the other side of the door, she was fine.

Fear needs to be set aside so that I can be all I've ever dreamed of being.


Maybe that's what I should give up for Lent ... fear.

Oh, oops - I told you about it. I wasn't going to do that, was I?

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's not about me?

There are always some things that I just take for granted. Things like the idea that 'it's not about me.' I hear this over and over again and sometimes I think I've got it and other times I need to hear it more often. Sometimes I pay attention to various phrases and words that come into my life to remind me of this and other times I allow them to just become absorbed into the vast amount of information that I take in during the day.

This weekend I seem to have been taking in this information more and more. I don't know if it's for me or for you.

"This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:10

I hear a lot of Christians going on and on about how much they love God and somehow that in itself is supposed to make a difference. When I read this verse in my email inbox, I was struck by how unimportant our action or inaction is. God doesn't wait for us to love Him. He doesn't change His mind about how He loves us based on what we do or don't do. He loves us because He is. That's all there is to it. We try to make everything else a huge big deal and we create rulesets for how we respond to this love. We pass judgment on ourselves and others, we spend hours trying to atone for the sins we have committed.

We make this entire relationship with God all about us! We are so focused on what we do as Christians, we forget that it's not about what we do - it's about what God has done, is doing and will always do. Love us.

The rest of that? Pretty self-centered.

Then I read this:
I have learned that what we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. - Author Unknown

That pretty much speaks for itself. I have nothing more that I could possibly add to it. It's not about us.

I've been reading an amazing novel by Steven Pressfield, "Gates of Fire." It's about the Battle of Thermopylae - the Spartans and the Persians in 480 bc. The man's writing is incredible, but I find myself caught up in the insights that I see into the training of the Spartan army. At the age of 7 they began training for battle. The boys were whipped and beaten, nearly starved and physically destroyed so that they would be fearless on the battlefield. All fear of loss of life is removed from them. What they came to understand was that their bodies didn't belong to them. Their bodies belonged to their commanders, to their country. They would willingly give their bodies up for the city, their families, their fellow Spartans.

If they lost a piece of armor or headgear, it was overlooked, but if they disrespected or lost their shield, they were punished severely. The armor or headgear was for personal protection, but the shield was part of the protection of the line and was essential for caring for their brothers on the field, some of whom they were very close to - and others whom they didn't know at all, the just knew they were fellow Spartans.

I live in a culture and a world that is extremely self-centered. We demand that everything be adjusted to adapt to our personal comfort and freedom.

As I thought about that this morning, I began to chuckle as I realized how frustrated we are (I am) with the weather. This is something that is out of our control. We can't adjust it to make things easier or better for ourselves. We have to simply wait until the season is over and we find that maddening!

Today I'm going to pay attention to the people I interact with, the things that I do. What ways do I find to make life for myself easier at the expense of another - or even simply ignoring someone else? What behaviors do I exhibit that show off my selfishness?

I don't know that I'll be able to change much, but self-examination in my case on things like this generally is good for me and causes me to pay close attention to the needs of people around me. What about you?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Love the Stories!

This evening I was at my old church, Faith-Westwood, to help the kids at their fund-raiser Valentine's Dinner. I just had to play the piano for a few songs, so it was an easy gig and a great chance for me to say hello to friends.

What I didn't know when I said 'yes' to doing this was that it would turn out to be one of the most fascinating evenings I have had in a long time.

As much as I love to tell my stories, I love to hear others tell their stories. I could sit for hours and listen to an articulate and passionate speaker tell his or her history. I didn't get enough time tonight to listen to all that I wanted to hear.

As people began to gather for dinner, I set my stuff down beside a very good friend, expecting to enjoy her company for the evening, not knowing who else would fill out the table. I moved around the room, hugging and greeting friends and then returned to the table to find that another couple had joined us. I knew these people just as acquaintances while at Faith-Westwood, never having an opportunity to discover more about them. As the evening progressed, I discovered a couple that had lived an interesting life and one that they were thrilled to have been able to live.

Vada beamed the entire time that she was telling me things that had happened in her life and her husband was in his element as he described his life in the military and then as a civilian. When I asked him where his most interesting post had been, he told me that he had spent quite a few years in Air Force intelligence during the Viet Nam war. He left the Pentagon to go to Viet Nam and upon returning ended up back at the Pentagon until he retired (not too much later, he was done with that job).

She was part of the Singing Sergeants and got to have tea with Mamie Eisenhower. She met many foreign dignitaries as they came into Washington, DC and always found her life filled with fascinating people.

They lived in Japan and Hawaii, after retiring from the military, he began teaching kids with learning disabilities in Florida. They both grew up in Nebraska and after moving back from other locations several different times in their lives have finally settled here to be close to a son and their grandkids.

I got a little choked up as I listened to them talk about their lives. Here are stories that I might never have known, but this evening I was given a chance to sit back and listen as they talked. He talked about working as a projectionist in a movie theater in Colorado when the Korean War started. He wanted to join up, but his boss wasn't thrilled with both he and his buddy leaving him in a lurch, so he coerced them to wait to sign up until they had someone trained to take their places. They looked for the oldest men available to work the projectors so that this wouldn't happen again. But, the only problem was, it took the old guys 3 months to learn the craft. He could hardly stand waiting that long to get involved!

One of the things that I realize I had lost with my Grandfather McFarlane (Mac) was his stories. He was an amazingly brilliant and creative man, but to me, he was an old man who was terribly needy. I was too busy to realize how cool his stories would have been. I missed it all and today, that just breaks my heart.

People are so much more interesting than I am. I am thankful that I have a curious mind that looks for their stories. They love telling those stories and a new listener is always welcome. I was reminded tonight that encouraging the story is so important. This is what makes life fun. I can't wait to see who I will meet next!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Giving - the best gift

I sponsor a child in Uganda through Compassion International. Since I have them take the funds electronically from my checkbook, I don't probably think about him as much as I would if I actually wrote the check each month, but then again, this way I also don't forget to ensure the funds are there.

A couple of times a year I have the opportunity to do a little something extra for him and for his family and I always do this with great joy, knowing that this helps more than what my normal funds do, which support a community of which he is a part.

Today I got a thank you letter from him and the woman who wrote down his words listed some of the things his mother was able to do with the money. After reading this, how can I not continue to support him?

With a small Christmas gift that I sent to him, his mother purchased pants, shoes, vaseline and something that I can't read. It made his day memorable. With a gift that I was able to give to the family, his mother invested some into a business for the family, tithed to the church, bought shoes, slippers and socks for the family, a church photo, a crate of soda, 5 kg rice, 20 kg posho (a maize flour), movit jelly (petroleum jelly that protects the skin), and a packet of salt.

I have to say ... these are items that additional funds coming into their home afforded them the ability to purchase. They aren't extravagances by any means which is what we come to believe Christmas gifts should be. The difference in what is important to each of us in opposite ends of the world sometimes strikes me to the core.

I've been seeing a lot of posts on Facebook about what a shame it is that we have spent so much effort caring for the people of Haiti when we have starving people, etc., here in the United States. That bothers me more than I can say. I am grateful that we open our hearts in times of extreme tragedy. And for those who complain about this, I certainly hope that they are giving like crazy to local charities and doing all they can to help. But a disaster of the scope that we see in Haiti is always something that we need to respond to. It's the human thing to do - not an American, not a Christian - a human thing to do. As the country struggles to pull itself back together and rebuild, the people of Haiti will take on the responsibility for their challenges much as anyone does after a disaster of that magnitude. Little by little the countries of the world will back away and return them to their independence. And you know what? They will then have to deal with homelessness and starving children, orphans and horrendous social issues - just like every other country in the world, including the United States.

Do you know that over 100 countries and international aid organizations offered assistance to the United States when Hurricane Katrina hit? It was the human thing to do.

Today I received a thank you note that filled my heart and reminded me why it's better to be generous than critical, giving rather than selfishly stingy. I'm going to close this and open another screen to write Asiraf a note encouraging him as he grows up in a community that supports him and his family.

You know what his last words were to me in the letter?

May the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac continue to bless you abundantly and may God multiply and enlarge your territories.

God already has ... He filled my heart with the words of a little boy in Uganda.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fulfilling Dreams

I started reading another book today that sent my spirit flying. Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art." It's not a terribly long book, it won't take too long for you to read and it will ask you to set aside preconceived notions of what the creative process really is.

Our resistance to doing what is good and right for us is what stops us from doing amazing things. Before I got too far along in the reading, he had caused 'resistance' to be a real entity residing in each of us.

What do you long to do? Why aren't you doing it? If you don't know what it is that you long to do, why not? What is stopping you from having a bigger life than you have?

Well, it's resistance - the enemy of creativity - and it shows up in many manifestations: self-deception, procrastination, self-sabotage, on and on and on.

There are a lot of books out there that are written to inspire and encourage. This book flat out challenged me to think about how I live and work on a daily basis.

Every little thing that can get in my way - does get in my way. When I sit down to begin writing, whether it's actually the writing or maybe I'm reading and researching, a million things can interrupt. If I look around the room and see things out of place, I can't settle down until I've fixed those things. If I know that there is a phone call I need to make or that one is coming in to me, I can't concentrate at a deep level until that is taken care of. If my stomach rumbles, I have to quiet it before I can think of anything else. I allow these distractions to take over and stop me from doing what I set out to do.

I rationalize that activities that I do, I procrastinate terribly. One of the things Pressfield said was that a true procrastinator never says, "I'll never be able to write that great book," but she says "I'll write that great book starting tomorrow."

Even now as I'm trying to write this blog, I find that I'm distracted by a split cuticle and found myself looking for my clippers to deal with it.

I can hardly dispute the fact that people need to talk to me and I need to talk to them. Connecting at that level is extremely important. But sometimes it's just another distraction. I've watched a lot of authors talk about how their friends and family don't actually believe them when they need to be quiet for several hours during the day, with no interruptions. Once I allow myself to be distracted, it takes a long time for me to get back into the mindset I was in prior to the interruption and send my mind soaring down the creative path again.

I'd bet that every single person reading these words has something they wish they could be doing. Making beautiful quilts, taking pictures, designing landscapes, decorating homes, building robots, feeding the poor and homeless, singing on stage. It could be one of a million things.

The reason you don't (I have to tell you that I typed those words, then answered a phone call from my husband, got up to go to the bathroom, started a loaf of bread and changed my clothes. I may never learn this concept!) ...

Anyway, the reason you don't do the things you dream of doing is because of resistance. Pressfield holds nothing back - he pretty much attacks everything that you are doing in your life that isn't fulfilling your dreams. It hit me hard and made me take a look at some of my habits. Obviously it is going to take more than just reading a book to fix me ... but, I believe that I can make these changes.

Do you believe the same for yourself?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lots of words today

Wow ... I've enjoyed writing today, but my brain began to run out of words at some point! It took a little while for me to generate new ones for this blog.

Today I spent a lot of time reading and writing for my God in History blog. While I'm here at the cabin, where it is quiet and I'm fully alone, I find it much easier to write and think, read, study, research. So, I write at least a week ahead on my other blogs. Of course, the fact that I do this makes it interesting for me to talk about what is happening in the blog. This afternoon as Max and I were discussing the God in History blog, I found myself completely confused as to what he already knows from what I've written and what is coming up. He's pretty patient and doesn't mind finding out what's next - even though the little nuggets I've found are fun to discover.

I'm up to about the tenth century and it has been really fun for me to watch how the spread of Christianity throughout Europe has occurred and has affected Western Civilization. It's also been really interesting to see how our ideas on doctrine for the church have developed - things that we take for granted were being written down by incredible scholars as they thought on the things of God. It's interesting to see the moral decay occurring within the church as it gained political power.

You know ... Jesus came to bring salvation to a world that was in the midst of hideous sin. The Israelites had moved from being God's chosen people - twelve tribes that moved together through some amazing times, but began to fragment as they got comfortable living in the world.

Christians have done the same thing. In the early days, they called on the power of God to carry them through the awful persecutions of early Roman emperors. But, after Constantine brought peace and safety to them, they grew in power and began to fragment.

Just as the prophets of the Old Testament would be sent by God to re-energize the Israelites and bring them back to the fold, events happened within Christendom that would revitalize the church and remind people that their faith was greater than anything in the world.

I have done a lot of 'out loud' complaining today because I just didn't get a good education in Western Civilization. So as I'm trying to write short synopses of these events, I have to read and research a lot so that I have a full understanding of the time surrounding the events. I know that it's good for me, but sometimes I feel like there is SO MUCH that I don't know, I become overwhelmed.

The Matrix (the movie) offered me a science fiction idea of how to manage all of that information. I often think that I'd like to be jacked into the Matrix so that I could have all of the information out there available to me at just a thought. Jack me in ... jack me in.

The other night at rehearsal, the girls in the high school choir watched as I googled several different questions that came up. Someone turned to me and asked how I ever existed without the internet. The answer to that question is, "I have no idea." I think part of the reason I married my husband is that he is a walking encyclopedia. The reason I am returning to get my Master's Degree is that I want them to forcefeed more information to me.

So, here I am, writing words about learning and writing and reading and studying and researching. Wow, this is obviously a passion of mine. Would someone please hire me to do this for them on a daily basis? (ok, I'm kidding ... well, not really)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Girly things ...

There's nothing like feeling all girly every once in awhile. I spent time with my friend, Tanya yesterday. She has a salon in her house and beautified my hair for me. I've been fighting with this mass on my head this winter - it was so dried out. Oh, and then there is the whole gray hairs poking through to be recognized thing going on. I asked Max last week if he saw any problem with me approaching 70 and still having brown hair (yes, that's far, far away ... thank you very much). He replied with the proper response. "No?" (And yes, there was a question mark after his response because he wasn't sure what to say to me.)

I told you that my mother wasn't much for doing girly things with me while I was growing up. All of her kids had curly hair and believe it or not, the stylists she found for us when we were kids knew nothing about dealing with curly hair.

THIS is what happened to me the first time mom took me to a salon. I was devastated. Sure, worse things could have happened, but it was torture and I ended up looking like I was wearing a wig! Ok ... I really like the natural look. Oh, and by the way ... I was 12. The woman gave me the hairdo of a 40 year old woman. I was miserable. She had also coerced mom into doing this - pretty much implying that mom wouldn't have to spend money ... nope, mom was given a bill.

Well, that ended that excursion into girlyness. From that point forward, mom cut my hair ... and at some point, Carol actually got really good at dealing with my hair. Then, one day while at Insty-Prints, these wonderful ladies walked in to order printing for their new salon. We had so much fun with them, how could we not try out their services.

Nearly every other Saturday, Carol or I would come up with a reason to hang out at their salon ... manicures, pedicures, makeup applications, hair color, cut, aw heck - I even let the girl perm my hair one time. Oh, and there WAS the time that she bleached out a hank of my hair in back and put a wild purple in - just for the fun of it.

I learned how much I enjoyed this girly stuff. You can't imagine how sad I was when they went out of business ... but, Carol finally told me she wasn't cutting my hair any longer ... I had to find another stylist and I began to enjoy the experience of hanging out in with women ... doing girl stuff.

After my post (Thank you!) yesterday about the exciting bridal shower, I got a note from an old friend who told me that she had grown up with four brothers and had no concept of girly things. She had no preparation for the stuff she would have to deal with as she faced life.

This morning I washed all of the product out of my hair and let it dry ... all of the colors are vibrant and rich, the gray has been hidden for another period of time, the hair feels soft and glorious and I feel amazing. All because I spent a couple of hours with a friend who treated me like a girl.

If you spend a lot of time doing girly things - good for you. I just don't, so every once in awhile it's wonderful to remember that I am a girl.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Thank you!

"We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing."(2 Thess. 1:3)

Saying thank you is another of those lessons mom stressed over and over again as we were growing up. Christmas day wasn't complete without a few minutes at the dining room table writing thank you notes for the gifts we had received from people outside the family. Birthdays, Easter, whenever a gift came into the home, someone was responsible to send a thank you note.

Grandma Greenwood saved several of them over the years and returned them to us - what fun to read the wild ramblings of a 6 year old who was required to write something ... anything down on paper in order to say thank you. Because you couldn't just say thank you for the gift, you had to fill the page.

This is such a lost art. I don't do it nearly often enough, but I still hear my mother telling me to sit down and write the note. A phone call wasn't good enough and I'm fairly certain she wouldn't find a quick email to be proper either. It's not just about the point of saying thank you, but an effort to let the gift giver know how special their gift was to you. And by doing so, how important that person is to you as well.

It's not easy to say a heartfelt thank you anymore. Carol and I had an employee at Insty-Prints that honestly didn't know how to say those words. I noticed it one Christmas when she talked about how great the gifts were, but never said the words 'thank you.' So, I began to pay attention and they simply never came out of her mouth! How in the world do you grow up without learning to say that?

For mom, teaching us to say (and write) thank you was as important as all of the other etiquette that she insisted we learn. Don't talk with your mouth full, don't stare with your mouth open (don't stare at all, but if you must - shut your mouth), put your napkin in your lap, don't shovel your food into your mouth, cut your food into small pieces, on and on and on ... she worked these tidbits of proper manners into our minds until we got it.

Ok, because I love to tell stories on myself ... and it's kind of related ...

I knew I had a short period of acceptable time after my marriage to get the thank you cards written, so I hustled. My stepmother had hosted this very strange wedding reception / party / shower for me. I wasn't invited (or even told it was happening). But, she had all of the ladies come to her house and they were asked to bring presents for me. Now, you have to know, that Dad was the pastor and he had moved to this church long after I was out of the home. I barely knew most of them and you gotta know they felt obligated to show up with a gift for me since I was their pastor's daughter. Talk about an uncomfortable situation for me when I discovered what had happened!

Anyway, she then decided I needed to open all these gifts on the day I got married ... yes, we had a million things to do, but I settled in with a pad of paper and a pile of gifts. I opened them quickly and wrote everything down.

There was one gift that I didn't fully open. After I unwrapped the box ... a very nice Dustbuster ... I set it aside and moved on. I remember thinking that it was a cool gift and would work perfectly in Max's darkroom.

Came home, began writing thank you notes, worked through the list, mailed them ... moved on with my life.

Later that summer - after all of the hoopla had died down, Max and I were reorganizing things in the basement for his darkroom. I remembered the Dustbuster and ran upstairs to get it. This was going to be perfect!

I opened the (what I thought to be factory-sealed) box and discovered ... a plaque.

I collapsed in laughter on the basement steps. I laughed so hard, I was crying. Max wasn't sure what was happening. I handed him the open box and he still wasn't sure what was happening because nothing made sense. There was no Dustbuster in the box ... just a quaint little plaque.

We still laugh about that and there's a tinge of embarrassment that surrounds the episode because I had to send another note to the family that gave me the gift apologizing for the first card and thanking them for the gift they actually gave me.

But, it didn't deter me ... I still make an effort to say thank you, I send thank you notes often. I make telephone calls, I send emails. But, mom taught me to say thank you ... out loud as often as possible!

Monday, February 08, 2010

I'm not old, spunky or sassy

Yesterday was kind of an interesting day ... some of it was amazing, other things that crossed my mind were flat out depressing.

I got a chance to see "Jesus Christ Superstar" with Ted Neeley (he starred in the movie version in the 70s) as Jesus. The music was amazing and though I haven't paid attention to it since the 70s, I remembered every word. My goodness, I spent a lot of time in that music when I was young. It is so ingrained in me that all I needed to hear was a few notes of an introduction and I sensed what was coming next.

After the show, Max and I headed to our friends' house for the Superbowl. I was really looking forward to the halftime show and a chance to see The WHO perform. Just before it started, I got a call from my pastor telling me that he thought they would be too old to perform and it was going to be disastrous. That was almost funny, since he and I had participated in a small altercation that morning regarding the fact that I was NOT old just because I clearly remembered music from the 70s.

What was so depressing? Honestly, Mark was right. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are probably too old to be singing the same music they were making 30 years ago. The show was fabulous, amazing lights ... the drummer was Ringo Starr's son ... lots of electricity in the air. Daltrey seemed to warm up as the show progressed. But, there's something about a young band desperate to entertain their audience that is quite different than a couple of old rockers brought out to remind of us of our youth.

As for Ted Neeley? I get it that a voice wears out while you're on the road. But, he is a 66 year old man asking his voice to be as flexible as it was 30+ years ago and that's just not reality. He pulled off some of the screaming high notes, but there was more screaming than note involved and I cringed through some of it. I felt awful for him. And then ... there is just something terribly wrong with a man that old playing a historical man who died at the age of 33. When the cross lifted with him hanging there in just a loin cloth, I wanted to cry at the fact that I was supposed to be emotional about the death of a Superstar, but was wholly disgusted with the fact that an old man's nearly naked body represented the vitality of Jesus Christ.

I told Max as we were leaving that I would hate to place myself in Neeley's position - where people felt sorry for him and made excuses for him rather than believe he did a fabulous job. That's all I felt - pity.

Now, all of that being said, I come to a point in my own life where I have to ask whether I'm too old to do certain things. A post came up on Twitter asking what age was too old for men to have their pictures on Facebook be of them without a shirt - age 13? age 14? I'm comfortable with the fact that there are going to be things that are inappropriate for me to do now that I'm 50. Last week, I asked Max if it was going to be awful for me to still have brown hair when I was 65? I have no intention of going fully grey (in public - I can't help what is happening under the dye).

I'm entering a really exciting period of my life and I will absolutely freak out on anyone that implies I am too old to move forward with my dreams.

So, I feel like I'm walking a fine line as I register disappointment and a little disgust with old rockers who don't care that they sound awful hitting the high notes, yet want us to accept them at their worst and then refuse to accept that age might limit me.

Here's the deal - I promise to NOT hang nearly naked (ok, say in a bikini) on a cross at the age of 66 and I promise to NOT try to sing music that I can no longer sing in my 60s. But, I simply will not promise to always act my age or stop doing things that excite me just because it is deemed inappropriate by the younger set.

And, if I make those promises, I beg you to do a few things for me. NEVER, ever, ever, call me spunky or sassy just because I still use my brain to think creative thoughts or my body moves to a great beat. I'm just Diane - doing the same things I've always done.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Have you ever gotten to a checkout clerk who simply gives you a look that says, "I'm so tired of people walking through my line who are grumpy." I watched the girl at Hy-Vee yesterday as I approached her line and the couple before me were bickering with each other and any interaction they had with her was perfunctory.

By the time I got to her, she had probably dealt with dozens of those people throughout the day. The kid bagging groceries at the end of the counter was in no better shape. Sometimes it just looks as if they're shell-shocked!

The previous couple had ignored a coupon she tried to give them, so she offered to use it on my order. I looked at her, grinned and said, "I love you!" She looked surprised. I realized what I had said and went on, "Oh, that was probably excessive for $1.50 wasn't it?" And I just laughed. All of a sudden her face lit up and she was laughing with me. The kid bagging my groceries chuckled a little and by the time I left, both of them were laughing and smiling with me.

It wasn't that difficult.

This is another of those lessons my mother taught me. The lesson was so profound, I have a distinct memory of where I was sitting (on the couch in the living room) and her standing over me. She had walked in and as I looked up, she asked me, "What's wrong with you?" I was startled because there was nothing wrong with me and I said so. Then she lit into me (soon there was something wrong with me, trust me!). But, what she said resonated through every part of my being.

"If there is nothing wrong with you, then learn to smile more often! There is absolutely no need for you to walk around with a sour expression on your face and it's time that you learn that a pleasant expression is just as easy to achieve as a bland or sour face."

I didn't get a chance to say much more. She had put it out there and I needed to comply. My rebellious nature didn't allow me to deal with it right then, but these are words I hear in my head all the time.

It's important to me that the image I offer the world is a reflection of what is truly inside my heart. I don't mean the minor annoyances and moments of fury that occur throughout a day. I mean the joy that I have all the time. That's what the world needs to see from me. That's what mom was trying to teach me.

I notice people glancing at my face when we pass on the street. What kind of response will I give them? Will I ignore them, give them my best scowl, or will I smile? It's wonderful to watch their response when I look them in the eye and smile. Faces light up, postures straighten, their walk becomes more purposeful.

A pleasant face is much more beautiful. Mom was right.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Big Dreams

This morning as I was puttering around, I thought about where my life has been and where I'm going.

I tend to drift back and forth between breathless anticipation, palpable terror and lukewarm apathy. I've learned a lot about patience, but sometimes I feel useless I wonder what it is that I can qualify in my past as having been a good (and successful) idea.

Now, I move past those negative feelings as quickly as possible, but they are still there in the back of my mind, ready to jump out and smack me whenever I give them a chance.

I can hardly wait for the next part of my life to begin. The dream of getting my Master's Degree at Asbury has been in my heart for at least 25 years.

It occurs to me as I write this that until a dream becomes a goal, it is insubstantial. Nothing will come of it and it will rattle around inside me until I go crazy! I could tell this was happening to me last year when I realized that I had the opportunity and the time to head back to school and began to process on the how. I couldn't get anything nailed down in my head, so I was creating all sorts of scenarios - none of which seemed to be solid.

God must have finally gotten weary of my blathering mouth and my pleas for discernment because it seemed like it was out of the blue when I saw an ad for Asbury in a random location and decided to try one more time, hoping they had expanded their online education. They had! My 25 year old dream could become reality. All I had to do was begin the process.

I think about the big dreamers of the world and how they have changed things for millions of people because of their dreams. They moved those big dreams into goals and began working through a process to make them come true.

If all I do is dream little dreams and let them remain as vapor in my thoughts, I will end up doing nothing. I dream big dreams, think big thoughts, have grand ideas! And I will do all I can to make them a reality.

Will you play with me along the way?

Friday, February 05, 2010

My Grandma

You know ... in my last post, I talked about making bread with my Grandma Greenwood. As I thought back over that post, I thought a little more about her.

This woman was the personification of a grandma. She was soft, smelled good - most of the time like something cooking in the oven, she played games with us, she would take the time to sit on the sofa and hold us just to let us know how much she loved us.

Grandma had 23 grandkids and loved us all unconditionally, even though some of us tested her mettle when it came to lifestyles and choices. She lived with a difficult man and raised 8 children, 7 to adulthood. She watched her families grow up and mourned the passing of several of her children.
She was born in 1900 and watched a lot of things occur in this world and my poor father had to deal with her death 6 months after my mom died.

She loved music and couldn't wait for any of us to get there and offer to play or sing for her. She would only ask if she knew we were ready, Grandma was never going to put us on the spot.

I loved going to her house. She had a sofa with a very strong nap and I remember playing on the back of that sofa, making patterns and pictures in that dark blue fabric. I played the organ in her house - the only time I ever enjoyed playing the organ. I remember playing "Onward Christian Soldiers" once and she came out from the kitchen to ask me to stop. She didn't believe in war of any sort and that song was much too militaristic for her. I stopped.

She had a few quirks and beliefs that she made clear to her family and though we may have disagreed, none of us could ever imagine doing anything to upset her. Grandma didn't use swear words and wouldn't allow literature in the house that contained them. Consequently there were a LOT of Reader's Digest Condensed books in that house.

When she cooked, she cooked for an army. She had fed a family of ten for so long, I think she couldn't imagine not having plenty of food on the table. But, it was as if her family knew when she was cooking, because before the meal was on the table, kids and grand kids would show up to share in the feast. She drove my mother crazy, due to her insistence on using every pot in the house to make a meal. Mom always knew she would be stuck in the kitchen washing dishes when everyone else had left. I was glad to be old enough to help Grandma with this so Mom could be elsewhere and not annoyed.

She made the worst green beans in the world, though. Those things went on the stove at the beginning of meal preparation and came off when everything was finished. I'd never eaten anything that tasted bad coming from Grandma's kitchen, except for those green beans. There was an amazing carrot salad that was one of her specialties. Believe it or not, I LOVED shredding the carrots in her grinder that she attached to the kitchen table. And the salad was fabulous.

At night, I would sit on the edge of her bed while she sat at her vanity and combed out her long hair. It was always pulled up in a bun during the day, but it dropped to the middle of her back. She knew that she needed to brush it one hundred times to keep it healthy, and she did. We'd talk about the day and then she would hug me and send me upstairs to bed.

Memories of Grandma include her pantry in the cellar, shelves filled with canned goods that she replenished every year, hanging clothes on the line outside nearly every day. There was always something coming out of that washing machine. We played a lot of Rook, Flinch and Milles Bornes. She didn't care who won, she just wanted to find ways to spend time with us. The cookie jar was always full and when she could no longer bake like she wanted, she made sure that it remained full, even if it was with store-bought cookies. Grandma did needlepoint and made quilts until her eyes got bad and her fingers couldn't remember their dexterity. Then, she turned to plastic canvas. She just knew that idle hands were the devil's workshop.

Jesus was the most important person in Grandma's life. One night as she lay in her bed suffering from a fever that nearly killed her, she prayed and prayed that Jesus would spare her life because she had such a large family to raise. She saw him at the foot of her bed that night, assuring her that she would be fine.

In everything she did and every word she said, she honored the relationship she had with Him.

I was impacted greatly by my mother, but my grandmother taught me about generosity, gentleness and kindness and what a life lived in humility and service to Jesus looked like.

Bread and Water

I'm pretty certain I could live on bread and water. Now, I would miss my Diet Mt. Dew and I would desperately miss M&Ms, but I could live without them if necessary. Oh my goodness, though - I would have a very difficult time giving up bread. Some of my friends can't tolerate gluten in their diet. I'm fairly certain that I would have to murder someone if that were removed from me.


I remember elementary school lunches. If there was nothing better on the menu that day, the ladies always had bread and butter sandwiches and sandwiches with mayo and lettuce at the end of the line for us. I lived in those.

I adored Wonder bread as a kid. A bologna sandwich on Wonder bread with Miracle Whip? That's all it took to make me happy. I'd nibble off the crust, leaving as much of the inside as possible and then in my first bite I would suck all of the air out of the bread, plastering the entire thing to the roof of my mouth (I still do this if presented with bologna on Wonder bread by the way). Or I would squeeze the bread down into one hard little ball of dough (after removing the crust again, of course) and play with it in my mouth until mom yelled at me.

My Grandma Greenwood made homemade bread and when I got old enough, she and I would spend time together in the kitchen while she taught me how to knead it properly and be patient with the rising process. For a lot of my early life as an adult, I made bread as often as I possibly could with this method. But, one day I ran out of time and thus, my bread making came to an end.

With the advent of the bread maker, I got started again and I can't tell you the joy that comes from making a loaf of bread! To watch 7 simple ingredients turn into a slice of heaven is exquisite! The scents that emanate from my oven during that 50 minutes of baking almost make me high.

I finally realized (yes, I'm fifty and figured this out) that it is now my bread and if I want to destroy the look of the loaf by slicing into it while it is still hot, that's ok.

Dad told the story of discovering a hot loaf of bread resting on the table. The smell was too much for him. He turned it upside down, dug a hole into the bottom and emptied the bread out, enjoying every moment of it. He did have punishment coming when his mother discovered what he had done, but he still told the story with joy, not regret.

You know - I think Jesus knew what he was saying (other than the obvious) when He called Himself the "Bread of Life." Yes, He identified Himself with this because of the necessity that bread was as a staple in people's diets. But, all of the things that surround a loaf of bread ... mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, patience while rising, smelling the bread rising, sharing the bread with friends and family all are a part of the gift that comes with a loaf of bread.

And don't forget ... the crustiness on the outside often leads to tenderness on the inside. I've known a lot of people like that.

Yup, these are the thoughts going through my mind as I smell bread baking while writing like crazy today.