Tuesday, June 27, 2006
This Little Light of Mine
About a year ago I started taking our dog out for the last time at night. We take a minute and look up at the stars. I like to show him the big dipper. I often tell him, “It’s a good night for camping.” We can hear the creek below, the usual crickets – the sounds of night. I can usually see a firefly here and there.

Last night, as I got ready for bed in the camper, I looked out the screened window. We are deep in the woods here. After 10 pm the only lights you see are from campfires, a sort of hazy cloud above the tops of the trees. At almost midnight I saw what seemed to be thousands of little green neon lights, dancing across the woods. They darted to and fro, showing up then disappearing, to reappear somewhere else. There were so many of them I didn’t know what they were. I was surprised when my husband told me they were fireflies. I watched them for a long time, captivated by the light show these little bugs were putting on. I wondered how many other campers were lying in beds all around me, showing their kids. How many were completely unaware what they were missing.

It struck me - we surely have as many fireflies in our own wooded backyard at home. They simply don’t show up. They are surrounded by the lights of a typical neighborhood. I realized my own light is often lost in the midst of the everyday, comfortable life I’m surrounded by. A life of bills, and obligations, appointments, trading the important for the urgent, my comfort zone. I don’t step out into the dark often.

We’ve been told we are to be the ‘light of the world’. Matthew 5:16 tells us to "let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds, and praise your Father." If I want the light I have inside me to be seen, I may need to step out past my own backyard, and venture into the dark a bit more. Maybe that means spending time at a homeless shelter; maybe stepping out in friendship to an unsaved neighbor. Or relative. A mission trip instead of a vacation. Falling asleep to the light of fireflies felt an awful lot like bedtime devotions, sans Bible, journal or pen. Just thousands and thousands of little lights, shining in the dark.

  posted at 11:28 PM

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
The Second Half
I turned 51 last week. With modern technology I'll likely live to be 100, so I figure last week was the beginning of my second half of life. I was pretty busy and didn't have time or energy to fuss over what the number was. The alternative to getting older isn't good so I'll take aging.

It did make me take notice though. If I've lived half of my life (or more if I get hit by a bus next week), what am I doing with it? What plans do I have for the rest of it? Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm a bit analytical. Our pastor preached recently on Searching for Significance. He said when we're young we plan what we'd like to be. When we grow up we work on what we want to do. Then as we get older we consider what we will leave. Starting the second half seems an appropriate time to start looking somewhere between the do and the leave.

Both of my daughters have recently done posts on their childhood memories; how it's shaped them into young women and mothers. Sarah has looked back on habits forced upon her that are a blessing today. She's also written about sweet memories she has of our days together when she was a little girl, and reliving them through her children. Leslie, who is expecting her first son in late August, spent some time reminiscing about a discipline (The Hate Jar) we used in our home. So I can see that I've already left some things behind, through my daughters. That feels good.

At 51 I'm taking stock, if you will. Where am I majoring in the minors? And minoring in the majors? Anne Ortlund, my modern-day hero, suggests making a list now and then, of what we're doing too much of and also of what we're not spending enough time on. I still have the list I made over 15 years ago. When I look at it today, I see things I still struggle with. Too much time on the phone, volunteering too much, not handling paperwork once; not enough time for devotions, exercise, good friends, and routine care of our home. And my husband. And our dog.

I'm working on changes - some big, some small. I've mentored young women, telling them our lives are not 33 gallon plastic trash bags that can be overstuffed. Rather, they are those rigid-sided metal trash cans. When too much is pushed in, things are shoved out, even if we can't see them. Often the 'shoved-out' is the major, truly important, passing-this-way-but-once stuff.

On a bit of a same, or different note - I also realized as my birthday was approaching I'd neglected some things. My husband has a saying - 'use it or lose it'. He swears that if we stop doing certain things we will forget how or at least lose the yearning for them. As my birthday approached, for some reason I cannot completely explain, I became somewhat obsessed with checking to see if I could still do this one thing that used to come so naturally. I started my birthday with coffee with my three dearest friends at the best coffee spot in town. I told them what I had planned. They are used to me so they just laughed, shook their heads, and told me I was a little bit crazy. I asked each one - how long has it been since you've done this? Five years was the most recent, and the other two were well over 10 years ago.

Driving in my car to the nearest ball field made me feel like I had a big secret, was on a mission. Made me feel silly. When I found the right spot I parked, got out and walked across the ball diamond. My only witness was a wild rabbit, muching away. He eyed me and kept eating. As I stood there thinking about what I was contemplating, I wondered - 'what if I break something? What if I can't do it anymore? What if somebody sees me and truly thinks I've lost it?' Before I could contemplate it so long I would chicken out, I just did it. I flung my arms over my head, with my legs following up in the air. A cartwheel! It felt so darned good I did another one and then another. Considering I was sick with a horrible chest cold and was starting to break into a choking frenzy I decided to stop. But man, the satisfaction of getting back in my car, driving away. I did it. I DID it. Fun, fun.

A few weeks earlier I had shared with my husband my fear that I'd lost my cartwheel ability. That evening when he came home, I told him, "I have to show you something." We went out into the back yard, with neighbors home on both sides. I did another one, and another and another. The amusement on his face was my reward. He said, 'I never doubted you still could.'

So here I am - starting the second half; making some changes, and doing cartwheels to celebrate them.

  posted at 3:12 AM

Monday, June 12, 2006
No Grumbling or Complaining!
Our pastor is taking us through the book of Philippians over the summer. This book, written by Paul while he was in prison, is considered the book of "Joy". I spent enough years growing up in a little Southern Baptist church to learn John 3:16 early on. I've never questioned whether I'd make it to heaven on my own. John 3:16 has always been an easy learner for me.

While there are certainly plenty of verses that trip me up, we hit one of my hardest yesterday. Philippians 2:14 says: "Do all things without grumbling or complaining (disputing)(arguing)..". The Message puts it even better "readily and cheerfully - no bickering, no second guessing allowed!" My immediate reaction to this - arguing. I come up with reasons why I have the right to complain about whatever happens to be irritating, inconveniencing me right now. "God, you'd complain too if ....."

Paul wrote Philippians while in prison. Chained to guards 24/7. And he wasn't complaining. It made me think about the things that typically cause me to complain, dispute, argue, grumble. Here's my list of real trials - Sitting in my air conditioned car, satellite radio playing, diet coke nearby, with gas I could afford and waiting on someone who has the audacity to go a bit slower than I'd like to go. Or maybe a line too long at the grocery store where I can buy anything my heart desires for supper tonight. I'll likely throw out part of it when I've cooked too much. Being too hot. Being too cold. Being too busy when it's mostly self-inflicted, or due to my lack of discipline. Tolerating habits in friends that are seen at least as often in my own life. Caring for all the stuff in my home when I made the decision to purchase it and drag it here. When I didn't need it. I continually trip up over reaching someone in customer service who speaks English as their second language, but not their native one. Waiting in line for over 5 minutes to buy fast food and the audacity of having someone mess up 'no mayo or onion'.

When I take a hard look, there's been little in my life worthy of complaint. I've always found it comforting knowing nothing happened to Job that God didn't allow. Whatever touched him passed through God's hand first. Sovereign circumstances if you will. When Job, who by my estimate had plenty to complain over, had a little something to say to God, He came back at him. Reading Job 38:1 "The Lord answered Job out of the storm. I can just hear his booming voice... He said: "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? ...Who shut up the sea.....Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place?....Have you entered the storehouses of the snow? Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?" Job 38 - 41 is a truly awesome snapshot of who God is and who I am not.

Job's response, in chapter 42 - "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know...My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." verse 12 says "the Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first."

Back at the book of Joy, Philippians 2:15 tells me why there's no whining allowed: "go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air...provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the life-giving Message into the night. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing."

Thank you Paul, Pastor Moore, Job and God for the reminder I sorely needed. I have no idea when mountain goats give birth. I'll be keeping my mouth shut, thank you very much.

  posted at 8:17 AM

Tuesday, June 06, 2006
What We Really Want to Do
Sarah and I talked a lot this last week about how we spend our time. She is covered up right now with three little people who need her, on a moment-by-moment basis. To be fed, stay clean, not ingest horrible things, or escape out the front door and be halfway down the street before you can say lickedy-split. She has to work at finding brief moments in her day for the fun stuff. The stuff that keeps you sane and feeling like a girl.

I, on the other hand, should be at the point where I have less demands on me. However, I've come to realize I'm stupid. Seriously Stupid. The nest is empty except for one husband and two four-legged creatures. The four-leggeds don't count and the husband kept it together for the 11 days I was gone. He even filled my bird feeders and watered the flowers. Somehow I seriously never seem to have time for the things I really want to do. Sarah told me, "Mom, we do the things we really want to do. " As we drove to the airport for my flight she told me if she could have today, my first day back home, this is how she'd spend it:

#1 Stay in bed - however long it takes - til I wake up rested.
#2 Make a good breakfast.
#3 Load my new iPod with some music and head for the beautiful trail we have here that I rarely walk.
#4 Come home and shower, exfoliate, etc. etc.
#5 Do devotions.
#6 Make a good lunch, preferable a turkey sandwich with sprouts and avocado.
#7 Clean a little - emphasis on little.
#8 Figure out something for dinner.
#9 Spend the evening with my sweet husband. We haven't had a real conversation since May 4.
#10 Go back to bed and sleep in again.

She told me that would be, in her book, The Perfect Day, and she can't do it for another 20 years. I'd already made my list several days ago as I prepared to fly home. I'm a professional list maker. I give talks on making lists. My list included these things - call re haircut appt; go through bills, mail, etc.; make menus and grocery list; clean out fridge of anything scary; do the laundry; go in and schedule loan payment that is due 6/10; print out forms for household management;call re prescription; return book to library that is 2 weeks overdue; pay kid who cared for pets. That was my list - not a single, solitary fun, soul-restoring thing on it. As I said, my name is Bev, and I'm S.T.U.P.I.D.

Sometimes we learn from those we taught, or thought we did. I wish my daughter could spend her day this way. I'm confident when her time comes she won't need encouragement to do so. So I traded lists and I'm on #4. I'll be back here in a day or two, after my soul is restored. Then I'll clear anything scary out of the fridge.

  posted at 12:28 PM

Monday, June 05, 2006
Heading Home
I fly out later today. Back to Pennsylvania after 11 days of being here in Dallas with my kids. I'm ready to go home. I need to go home. So why on earth are mothers plagued with this never-ending "hate to say goodbye syndrome"? When my husband and I went to Cancun 8 years ago, I was truly ready to go home after 5 days. After awhile I just miss my coffee cup, my robe, my cat, my dog, my husband - not in that order. I told my son and his wife goodbye two days ago, as they headed off to Florida for vacation. I H.A.T.E. to tell him goodbye - I seem to see him the least and it always kills me to hug him that last time. Maybe it's that he's bigger than me. Maybe because he's a boy and quiet. I don't know why it's hard - just that it is.

My middle daughter and her husband came over tonight and we had pizza. We spent the evening together talking - nice. This "boy" I wasn't so sure about 8 years ago has grown into a fine young man, and a good husband. Hugging them goodbye was easier. They're headed to PA, with dogs onboard, in July. Tomorrow I have to hug Sarah, Chris and the kids goodbye. Caiden and I are "buddies" and we're always sad to wave that last wave. That might be because he thinks I'm old enough to die off any ole day...

So today, instead of being sad, I'm going to celebrate the highlights of my time here.

#1 Watching my new granddaughter lose some wrinkles - she's gaining weight and filling out. Seeing her first smiles. Getting to be one of the few privileged who has held and rocked her to sleep. I got to be her first official babysitter while Sarah and Chris snuck out for a date.

#2 Quality time with Sarah's husband - we usually don't get to see him much on visits. It was really great. I'm thankful my son-in-laws love me.

#3 Watching Sarah and Chris regain control of the house after bringing another baby home. They're rolling along again, after some hefty bumps in the road.

#4 Realizing you never forget how to change diapers if you've got enough of them under your belt.

#5 Getting to read somebody a bedtime story again, play in the sandbox again, and push a stroller again.

#6 Marble slab - enough said.

#7 Making homemade pancakes with two little boys, twice.

#8 Triple pedicures - just us girls. Thank you Sarah.

#9 Having snacks and playing Memory under the trampoline with Caiden, then playing "crack the egg" on the trampoline. When I asked if he'd still do this with me when he's 14, he said yes. I believe him.

#10 Bathing Grayson, washing his hair with baby shampoo, then drying him off and putting on little pjs. The smell and feel of a freshly bathed child is so wonderful.

#11 I got to see all three of my children, with their spouses, in marriages that are growing and flourishing, through all life brings their way. What a blessing!

#12 Talking to my sweet husband every night and knowing he wished I was home. When we talked tonight and I said, "See you tomorrow" I could hear the relief in his voice. We miss each other.

So I'm going home, with fresh reminders that I'm Blessed Beyond Measure.

  posted at 4:30 AM

Saturday, June 03, 2006
Purple Shoe Money
Last week our Bible study did a lesson called "Where Do I Go to Sign Up For a New Body?" The point being - how we see ourselves directly relates to our ability to be intimate with our husbands. That we all see ourselves lacking. That our husbands, when they see us, just think "Wowzers" as my son-in-law Jeremy would say.

I gave them two assignments for the week. One - receive any compliments given. (Sorry this is a bit redundant with the Thursday 13 thing.) Don't negate them, say something like - "this ole thing, I paid $3 for it." And never, ever say "I'm fat." Husbands don't care, as long as you're available. The second was to think of women, not related to them, whose footsteps they aspired to follow in as they got older. I said, "Who do you want to be when you grow up?"

I've met women I admired. I've watched a few, thinking they might be a good mentor for me, only to be disappointed as I saw their bitterness, self-absorption, lack of service to others, etc. Heros don't come a dime-a-dozen.

I have one who has held up to hero-status over the long haul. She was my husband's boss's wife. She was little, but sassy enough to handle her three boys who towered over her. You didn't mess with her. She was raised Baptist, and cursed just enough that when she did you knew she was M.A.D. When I first met her I was expecting our second child. I knew nothing (sounds like Colonel Klink). Really - nothing. I couldn't cook, didn't know how to do a budget, decorate, deal with my husband's work schedule. I'd never had "play dates" with other mommies. Sarah, being my oldest - it's a wonder she survived, seriously.

I still remember going to Tris' house to play pinochle. I was nervous just to be there. Spouses shouldn’t be partners in card games so I was my husband's boss's partner. He ever-so-slightly growled at me and she called him a name, right in front of us, that stunned me. But he didn't growl again. She was sticking up for me.

She taught me how to take plain drapes and make them look custom. How to arrange furniture. Gave me stew and cookie recipes. I put the kids in daycare for the day and we spent it hanging wallpaper. I remember her showing me how to fix a tear in the paper. She said "there will be tears." Even then I knew it was a life lesson. There have been tears. They can be fixed.

I've seen her stay home while her husband moved states away on a temporary job assignment. She's lived through the losses her children have suffered; she's lost parents. Been brave enough to sell it all and start over - across the country. She came to our kids brownie ceremonies. She was my mentor whether she knew it or not. Most of what she taught me was never spoken.

Now I have a newborn granddaughter with some risks. It reminds me of being at a ballgame with Tris and her husband, Hubert. She was worried. I asked what about. She told me they had a grandson who had some medical tests that week, and she was concerned. I remember thinking then, as a young mother - it never ends. You worry over your children, then their children. Here I am, where she was then.

Our church hooks up older women with younger women for mentoring; alas I've become the older woman. Every woman I've mentored, no matter her age or stage of life, needed one lesson that Tris taught me. "Purple shoe money." She told me, no matter what the budget looks like, set aside some money that is just yours, to spend on purple shoes. She explained nobody needs purple shoes, but life isn't just about needs. We all should have something for whatever satisfies our soul. Husbands will never understand buying purple shoes. If they did they wouldn't be husbands, they'd be "partners". Over the years, even when the budget was tight I tucked away a little bit just for me. I'd save it up, plan what to buy. Our budget now is such that I can go buy whatever I want, within reason. I'm a cheap date. But there's a simple pleasure in knowing I can buy something and not justify it to anyone. I've spent my allowance on a chiminea my husband didn't think we needed. I've spent it on quilting fabric when it went beyond the reasonable. This past week I spent some on an IPOD on Ebay. My husband gets "purple shoe money" too. That sounds sissy so I tell him it's money "just for being so cute." He spends it on rubber worms, new bait casters, a once-a-year fishing trip to New York, and mostly on his wife and kids when we travel. But I know he likes having it - tucked up there in his underwear drawer. I've taught my daughters and daughter-in-law the purple shoe rule. I hope my son and son-in-laws get "just for being cute" cash. It's a good rule, I think.

Thank you Tris, for being my mentor, whether you knew it or not. For teaching me what you would have taught a daughter, had you had one. You’re still hero-worthy twenty-five years down the road.

I'm tagging anybody who reads this- who is your hero? Remember - no relatives!


  posted at 11:41 AM

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    Girl Raised in the South

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