Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

I've been thinking about this blog post for a few days, because, well ... I'm not much for resolutions.  I spend a great deal of time reflecting and rearranging my life throughout the year in an attempt to be a better person; consequently, writing down a few quick resolutions which I will certainly break in the first two weeks of the year seems  like I set myself up for failure from the get-go.  However, I do like to take the time to look back over the last year and look forward into the next.  It gives me perspective.

Isn't it wonderful that on January 1, 2012 we didn't see all of the crazy things that would happen to us throughout the next year?  How many of us would have simply pulled the blankets up over our heads and begged to sleep through it?  Some of them were absolutely amazing, some were stressful; some brought sorrow, some brought joy.  I wouldn't have missed a single one of them, but if I'd known they were coming, I might have run away rather than deal with the growing up that occurred.

This next year has the potential to be a lot of fun for me and I look forward with excited anticipation. I know there will be all of those struggles and sorrows along the way, but I also know that as I face them and release them, they slide away, leaving me with good memories.

Over the last year, I've built some wonderful relationships, rediscovered and re-anchored old friendships; I've uncovered some wells of creativity which I was afraid had been lost and made decisions which will allow me to close books and open others.  It's been a pretty good year.  The next year promises to bring finality to some things and open doors of possibilities in other areas of my life.  What wonderful things to have happening!

I have learned that it is never to late to live a dream and make it real. I have learned that friends are always friends, no matter how much time you have together. I have learned that people really don't change all that much, but what changes is how you accept them and love them either in spite of or because of who they are. I have learned that life cycles. What was important in the past might not be now, but might again be in the future.

I have learned that tomorrow holds enormous potential, today is the time to fulfill that potential, while yesterday was the motivation to find that potential.

What will I learn next year?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's a Christmas Tired

The good thing about starting Christmas late in the morning is that complete exhaustion shows up later as well.

I'm tired and I had a pretty mild Christmas compared to some of my friends.  Honestly, I think 'tired' is a really good way to spend the end of Christmas Day. I'll bet Mary and Joseph were tired after the delivery of the baby, God's Son.  I suspect the shepherds were pretty tired after spending the night watching their flocks and then all the excitement that surrounded the announcement of the angels.  The baby Jesus? Of course he was tired. Every baby alternates between activity and sleep.  He spent a lot of that first day on earth sleeping.

Pastors are tired. They've been doing church for a lot of hours in the last few days. Musicians are tired. They've been playing Christmas music over and over.  Shop owners are tired from keeping their stores open so people could buy last minute gifts.  After all of the insanity, at the end of this day, we're going to be tired.

Yep, tired is a good place to be at the end of a Christmas Day. A few naps throughout the day, a good long sleep after everyone has returned to their own homes and before we know it, tomorrow has arrived.

With all the anticipation for Christmas, we are never really prepared for the day after.  For some of us, the Christmas tree and all of the decorations come down immediately. There are no more brightly wrapped gifts under the tree, the wrapping paper has been relegated to the recycling bin.  Christmas cookies and treats have been pawed through and only the worst of the best are left on the plates. Christmas carols are finished for the year, with just a few people attempting to draw out the epiphany carols and help us keep the spirit of Christmas going.  When I was growing up, that next day seemed like such a let down.

I see posts begging us to keep the Christmas spirit all year long.  We do everything possible to draw the feelings of peace and joy out beyond the twenty-fifth of December.

But, I see something very special about the 'tired' that happens after all the gifts have been opened, the meal has been eaten, the songs have been sung and day is nearly over.

We rest. We rest in the knowledge that Jesus Christ was born over two thousand years ago.  We celebrate the day of his birth, but he has not only been born, died and risen again; he lives within us so that we have that something to celebrate.

We will all sleep tonight and in the morning when we wake up, absolutely nothing has changed.  We still celebrate living our lives with the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor.  We might not talk about the nativity, the shepherds and angels or how Joseph and Mary walked to Bethlehem, but we talk about Jesus Christ, who is alive and living within our hearts.  None of that changed with the celebration of his birth.  We still have that wonderful anchor to hold on to.

So, I've quit feeling let down on December 26th, because I know that from that morning until next year on the morning of December 25th, I live with the knowledge that Jesus Christ lived and died, and rose to live again just for me. He did it for you.  He even did all of that for those who don't believe. Even if Christmas is nothing more to them than a chance to gather family together and exchange gifts, Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth for everyone.  It's the same as it has been for these last two thousand years.

For the rest of the day I will be tired and then tonight I will sleep.  Tomorrow, I will wake up and look out at the next year and see that it is filled with opportunities for me to celebrate Christ's life in my own life and to tell others what that life means to me!

Monday, December 17, 2012



This last weekend has been filled with stories of love and caring as well as hate and anger. After hearing about the terrible tragedy in a Connecticut elementary school, everyone has quite varied reactions to it. Some hug their children closer and have found it difficult to send them off to school.  Others have reacted with vitriol, hate and anger against all sorts of people.  I read an article this morning by a man who was attacked simply because Ryan Lanza (not the shooter, the brother of the shooter) was his friend on Facebook. The guy didn't know Ryan, but assumed he had requested to be friends because Ryan appreciated his art.  There were plenty of people ready to spew their hate-filled ugliness all over a random person because he was linked on social media to someone associated with an act of craziness.

There are arguments about gun control all over the internet; these come up every time there is a shooting. There are actually no good answers to that issue and as long as there are humans on earth, this issue will not be fully settled.  There is talk about how autism is the problem; but that isn't a full and complete conversation either because we understand so little of it.  We read about mental illness and though we all know that it is a problem, we don't have a good way to manage our way through it.

Schools try to erect protections for their children and install metal detectors; but those aren't going to stop someone intent on destruction.  You can't legislate your way around problems like this and build enough lines of protection between us and trouble that happens in the world.  It will just never happen.

There are no good answers, no matter how many pundits speak on news channels, legislators try to come up with rules for society to follow or people condemn the actions of those associated with great crimes.  There are no good answers because we live in a world with people.  People who are different and who think differently. People who were raised differently than we were or have different physical chemistry which may or may not disrupt what we deem to be acceptable thinking.  We will never be free of other people and we will never know what might trigger anger or rage or fury in another person.  There are no good answers.

And while it might not be the only answer to heal the pain of families who face loss, whether in a school tragedy such as the one in Connecticut, or senseless shootings in Omaha, child or spousal abuse, or any other loss that many of us have faced in our lifetimes, we must love and forgive.

Every expression of love that you offer touches someone's life.  Every time you forgive, you remove pain from both your own heart and the person who has harmed you.

We can do these things. We must do these things.  We must teach them to our children and live them out in our communities. We must share love with everyone we encounter, from the driver who cut you off at the intersection, to the harried clerk in a grocery store; from the annoying pest in our workplace to the boss who seems intent on making us miserable; from the neighbor who is much too snoopy to the woman at church who thinks she knows it all; from the person who shot up an elementary school in Newtowne, CT to the people we love the most.  We must show love and we have got to learn to constantly and consistently offer forgiveness.  It isn't fair, it doesn't seem right, it makes no sense when we're angry and in pain, but these are the only ways in which we can overcome hate and anger.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Lines On a Map

I've been looking at how towns are laid out for a project I'm working on.  In doing so, I went back to look at the layouts for some of the towns I lived in over the years.  I have lived in some great communities. Most of my early years were spent in very small towns in Iowa until I moved to the Omaha area in 1984.  

One thing that struck me as I looked at these layouts was how finite they were. There are only a few streets in these little towns.  But, they seemed infinite and immense to a little girl.  My world was pretty small in those days.  I could walk to a friend's house and all of the activity for us seemed to center around the church, which was often right next door.  It was usually only a couple of blocks to school and I could land at anyone's house between there and home and they would know who I was.

There may have only been a few streets in town, but I never felt like my world was small.  There were so many interesting people and so many things to do within the limitations set by a map.  A creek, a tree stump, the dog behind the fence, the strange old lady who stared at everyone from her porch and never spoke, the elderly woman who lived next door and invited me in to look at her immense collection of salt and pepper shakers, the banker who lived down the street and was the only person in town with color television, the woman with way too many cats, the old guy with mowers on his front lawn.

The older I got, the bigger my world became. I could walk farther or maybe even ride my bicycle. This opened up any number of possibilities to me. I could get to friends who were a little further away and I found parks and abandoned buildings; I spent more time with interesting people who lived in the community: Old Doc Hensley who raised chickens, another woman who lived in a very small home, but probably had more money than nearly anyone else in town, there was always someone saying hello to me because they knew my family, I was never alone.

There was always something going on, something to see, something to do, something to experience.  I took it all in and I grew up.

By the time I graduated from high school, I was itching to get out of the small town.  Finally, I felt the limitations of those few numbers of streets.  I was tired of everyone watching me and being able to tell my parents where I was all the time. I wanted more anonymity than that.  I wanted to be able to live in a place where there were limitless streets.  I went to college and Mom & Dad moved again. The town wasn't much bigger, but it was close enough to a small city that I didn't care. I had room to expand my horizons.  I moved out and into a community that was bigger than anything I'd ever lived in.  I didn't know anyone. I met my neighbors, but since I didn't go to school with them and they didn't attend my church, I never really knew them.  My world got bigger and smaller all at the same time.

Then, we moved to Omaha.  I had access to everything. I could go for days without running into someone I knew. There were still a million things to explore, but now those things were all found in buildings. I could go to the museum or the zoo, I could go shopping or out to eat, there was always somewhere to go and something to do or see.  I could fly out of Omaha and go to New York City or San Francisco. I could drive to Kansas City or Minneapolis.  There seemed to be no limits to what I could do.  The city streets went on for miles and miles. A person could get lost in Omaha trying to find their way from one point to another.  My life had gotten immense!

Or so I thought.

I didn't know my neighbors ... at all.  I knew the people I worked with and the people from church.  That was it. I didn't know their connections to other people in the community or who their families were or how they had grown up or why they were in the business they were in. I didn't know what made them happy or about the enormous sadness they carried because they might have lost a child.  I had no relationship with these people other than the very tenuous connections we built in limited conversations. I dug in with a few people here and there and we became close enough for me to know about their lives and I am thankful for that, but it occurs to me that as immense as my life seemed to be, it really had more limitations than ever before.

I couldn't walk to see my friends or even ride a bicycle to their homes; I had to get in a car and fly past all of the interesting things I might have seen along the way.  The woman who spends every waking moment of her day working with the plants around her home - I don't know her.  The man who walks everywhere - I don't know where he is going.  The wealthy man who lives several blocks from me - I'll never be in his home.  I will never wander through Omaha and know for sure that 3 doors down lives someone who cares for me simply because I'm alive.

Those few streets in the towns in which I grew up may look small on a map, but they are filled with treasures I can never find anywhere else.  It's taken me 30 years to recognize that my world never really got bigger when I left them.