Wednesday, January 31, 2007
A Resting Place
Last year I bought this book: Resting Place, a Personal Guide to Spiritual Retreats, by Jane Rubietta. The cover of it just drew me in. I spotted it in the middle of a year that felt like we were in battle. Gazing at the cover, I saw, not a park bench, but an island, one palm tree for shade, one semi-broken adirondack chair and a tall glass of something ice cold. There was an open book on the seat. This book.

When I sat down and made my list of goals, purposes for 2007, I jotted down 'take a few real retreats'. Our church attendance is around 2000. The women go on retreats. In the past ten years I've attended them, I can only think of one that felt at all like I'd 'retreated'. Most were more like going into the Battle of the Busy, complete with themes, decorations, table favors. Every 15 minutes was scheduled, we listened to a speaker, who often just read her most recent book to us. We were told what each slot of time was to hold, we were always in groups, even when we slept. A few breaks were given, for shopping in town, or group games, etc. I was never alone. Except for that one retreat, when we were given 15 minutes to take communion alone, reflect for a few minutes. It's the one part of all the retreats of the past 10 years that stands out to me.

I know there are exceptions but most organized retreats feel like grown-up slumber parties. Like their predecessors, very little sleeping happens. I wasn't crazy about them back then, I like them less now. I don't go on retreats anymore. They're tiring. I come home worn out. They're expensive, and I'd rather just buy the book and read it on my own time. I can underline instead of trying to write down everything the speaker is saying. It's just much easier to skip the retreats.

But the first few days of January, I went back to the thought of taking retreats, alone. This book had gotten buried in/on/under my nightstand, so I dug it out from under the pile.

Websters defines retreat: withdrawal in the face of opposition; withdrawal to a safe, quiet, secluded place, a period of retirement or seclusion, devoted to religious contemplation away from the pressures of ordinary life, usually as a group activity. What?! How can you be secluded and quiet in a group of 50+ women. I'm with Webster's for most of the definition. Not so much the last part.

Yesterday I met 7 of my girlfriends for coffee at The Farmhouse (also on my 2007 goals). I apologized to the coffeeshop owner as I bought my caramel macchiotta. "We may get a little obnoxiously loud. Please let us know if we are disturbing anyone." We were LOUD, we had a blast. The point of the get-together was not to retreat, but to gather, giggle, gain a little weight from caramel and biscotti.

Tomorrow is February 1. I've set aside half a day, early in each month this year, to retreat. Go away, alone. Resting Place has a chapter for each time you draw away. Portions to read, then portions to consider, pray over, journal, reflect.

The fact that we need to retreat - draw away from opposition - tells me much of the time we're in a battle. Sometimes it's a self-made one, the battle of the busy, or the unnecessarily urgent. I've never taken what I consider to be a real retreat - a time of being alone, noone else, no phone, just my Bible, my journal, and this book.

I told myself at the beginning of this year I would not use the "B" word - busy. I think it's become a badge of honor we wear, a way to say we're important. I've already realized I'm just substituting "I have a lot on my plate", or "I have a lot going on" or "my day is pretty full." Same difference. Tomorrow, for half a day, I'm scraping everything off the plate, going away with no expectations, just waiting to see what happens. If I run out of stuff to do, then I'll finish reading Blue Like Jazz from my reading list.

Scripture tells us Jesus retreated. My basic rule is - if Jesus needed it (prayer, fasting, retreat), I do too. We have several places in our town that would work for this. I'll start at the Farmhouse, and if I see a group of 7-8 women come in, I'll quietly gather my things, and head over to those rooms at the library, where you can shut the door, and be alone. I'll be back to let you know what I got out of it.

Note: Click on image to go to Amazon link where you can order the book.

  posted at 8:55 AM

Monday, January 29, 2007
The Cowardly Lion
I was in second grade. The Wizard of Oz came on, late at night. It was dark outside. My mother, likely thankful the six of us were occupied, slipped out of the house and went next door to visit a neighbor. When Dorothy landed in Munchkinland, with all the Lollipop people, bright colors, Good Witch Glenda - I was mesmerized. When the Wicked Witch rode by the window of the flying house - on her bicycle with Toto inside the basket - I was terrified. Staying inside the house with my siblings wasn't an option. I needed my mom. Leaving the house to go next door and be with her - I'd have to go outside, in the dark. I was too afraid to stay where I was, so I ventured outside.

Somewhere between our door and the neighbor's, I wet my pants. I don't remember finding my mom. I don't remember anything more about that evening. Just how afraid I was. My siblings laughed at my wet pants when I came in the door with mom. "How silly, Bev's afraid."

I am, seriously, afraid of more things than not. Some of them are probably the result of growing up surrounded by four brothers. Dragonflies in my hair, lizards down my shirt, frogs in my face, being tricked into climbing on this or that and ending up at the top of the tree, or swinging across a line of rope in the air. Any bug. Anything that moves unpredictably. Maybe just moves.

I'm not brave. Heights, the ocean, chickens, hamsters, knives, scary movies. Being on city streets late at night, crickets, big moths, anyone else's dog, going downhill on a bicycle (I ride the breaks), going fast, getting separated in malls, watching daredevil acts. The only two things I can really say don't scare me, that might bother others, are flying and being alone at home. Flying is a fast way to get there, and I love having my space.

I learned to drive in Denver. We moved to North Dakota for four years. Ten years in Illinois, then one in Virginia. We've been in Pennsylvania for almost 11. I have never driven anywhere it doesn't snow. Sleet is common. IT HAS NEVER BOTHERED ME A BIT. About four years ago, as winter was approaching I realized I was very anxious about driving in bad weather. Even the hint of it. As in snow flurries for pete's sake. When I started asking friends to pick me up, started arranging my schedule around the weather, I knew something had changed. I wouldn't commit to activities - I'd have to wait and see what the weather was. While this might be normal for someone who'd recently moved here from Arizona, it wasn't for me.

Lucky for me I was working at a counseling center at the time! They told me it was likely due to dealing with extended periods of stress, as in years. I don't know - and it doesn't really matter. I still lived in snowy Pennsylvania, on a hill, at the bottom of a steep driveway. That was the reality. Knowing 'why' wasn't going to fix it.

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you. There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.
Frederick Buechner

I've come to realize it's not that I wasn't brave as a little girl. I'm still not. I likely never will be. I'm strong, because I've had to be. Just not brave. I've come to understand the difference.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Always do what you are afraid to do." He speaks in present tense. We're in that time of year when the effects of being not too south of Lake Erie deliver a skiff of snow almost daily. It looks a little like a Christmas card when you're inside. It's more like a roller coaster ride when you're out there, in your car. That's not going to change.

As I drove home a few days ago, it was nasty outside. The main roads were relatively clear. As I approached our hill, it got dicey. I put the car in 4 wheel drive, and 2nd gear. Our driveway was snow covered as I came down it, very slowly. As I pulled into the garage, came into the house and began to peel off layers, I greeted my husband, my dog, soaked in the cozy feeling of being home safe.

Over the past few years I've learned I can't enjoy "safe" if I'm never out there, sliding around a bit. That may not just be roads. It may be relationships, health, finances, jobs, all the stuff that makes up my day. My life.

I love what Frederick said - "The grace of God is your life. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you."

Even on snowy roads, in the dark, going downhill on my bicycle, holding a chicken, touching a cricket, while someone's dog is making eye contact with me. Even then. He's with me. The icy hills are still, and maybe always will be, a little scary. That's okay - He's with me.

The Wizard of Oz has become one of my favorite movies. I laugh when I see The Wicked Witch ride by, with Toto stuffed inside the basket. Because of course it's silly it ever scared me. Maybe someday I'll look forward to those rides down my street, when we're getting a little of the Lake Erie effect. I know it's "part of the party". Being able to reach out and take it is a gift. I'm all about gifts, and I don't want to miss this one.

  posted at 8:16 AM

Friday, January 26, 2007
An Overflowing Cup
I'm taking the chicken way out and posting this little bit of information. I need to break the news to my sister, Barb. She's going to hate me for it. At the very least it will drive her crazy. If I major in O.C.D., she has a doctorate in it. (And to anyone who is inflicted, that's a compliment, to call the perfectionist kettle black.)

I switched. To the new Blogger. After 99,000 tries and being told no, that for no explainable reason, I could not switch. I just clicked on it one more time. Expecting nothing. It worked.

I'd noticed some of you out there had titles, or labels at the bottom of your posts, and the little OCD person living inside me wanted needed them. On my posts. I'm the Queen of Lists, and if I can line up my posts - well, that just makes for a Happy Little World, and if nobody else but Organizing Junkie understands, that's okay. We only need a few like us to convince ourselves that we're normal.

So - it just took off and did it, with little help from me. I'd read, in the promo for the new blogger, that it worked better, and good grief, wouldn't we all like that? Better, as in publishes faster, lets you post photos faster, or at all if we're being completely honest (it did this one, first try - no problem). And it had the cool labels.

Barb and I just discussed this yesterday, that neither of us could get it to work, and how dumb was that, that they keep asking you, and to add insult to injury you have to click on "Old Blogger", which would be funny if we were 29 or something but since both of our ages start with a '5' it's not so charming. That alone was enough reason to try to switch. I'm not ready to be Old Anything, except to my 5 year old grandson, Caiden, who's just glad at my age, I'm still around. He's adorable enough that he gets to think I'm old, and ask me funny questions along that line.

So it worked. I have no idea why. I'm tickled beyond belief over it. That in itself may indicate a deep-seated problem. I could possibly delve deeper into that for about $60 an hour. Barb, feel free to have me tarred and feathered. I may deserve it. While my sister and I have discussed something around 100 times our similarities and our differences, and she has told me she'd rather jump off a bridge than live my life, this - New Blogger - this may just make her a little envious. I've had to live for years with the fact that you truly can eat off her floors (don't you even believe her when she tells you differently. I've been there. You can.) So she doesn't want my life, but this will bug her, just a little. (As in she's going to try it every single solitary day til she gets it to work.) It's fun being sisters. Now that we can't carve up each other's baby dolls, or ruin each other's makeup and clothes, from 1500 miles away we can do this.

On top of that, it's still snowing just enough to be charming. I don't have to go anywhere or do anything today, and after two days of this blissful living, I'm quickly becoming addicted to it. Makes me wonder about those men in orange jumpsuits, spearing trash with the pointy sticks on the sides of the highways, do they get outside the prison walls, see the people driving by, on their cell phones, drinking jumbo cups of something, with the music blaring out the windows, and vow to turn over a new leaf? In my mind, I'm ripping off the orange jumpsuit... I might venture out later for another 50 lbs of rock salt for our sledding hill driveway, and if I happen to pass by a Starbucks or Panera with the fireplace going, I just may have to stop in for an hour or three. (Feel free to gag a little about now.)

To put it completely over the top, I phoned my husband and asked if he'd like me to meet him for lunch, and he suggested Applebees Bourbon Street Steak tonight, as in not only do I not have to do a single solitary thing the entire live-long day, but I also don't have to cook this evening. (And in case you're wondering, yes, in the area of TMI, I may well need to shave my legs to earn my keep. Because I am lately, after all, living shamelessly like a kept-woman.)

In the meantime, I'm wondering how I woke up to all of this, did somebody die and appoint me Queen For A Day, and instead of winning a new washer and dryer (does anyone else remember that show? I swear she wore a leopard robe and a crown. Even back then, as a little girl, I felt bad for her that all she won was something to throw dirty clothes in.) I just got my life handed back to me on an oh-so-lovely plate?

John 10:10 (in the Message) says, "I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of." My cup is overflowing right now. Sort of makes the cynic in me wonder what's lurking around the corner... Today though, I'm just sipping away. And for pete's sake - check out the's all about the label.


  posted at 10:19 AM

Thursday, January 25, 2007
"To Truly Treasure Winter..."
I'm going to give you a glimpse into my journal, something I rarely do. I've told my family, "I die, they burn." If not, then they'll have to live with the contents, since I warned them.

Back in October of 2006, I wrote this: "Thank you for glorious fall to build us up before winter softly settles in. Lord, if I could have one gift just for me this year it would be to truly treasure winter, to just settle in like the snow and cold and be in this nest, spending time with you, with family, with items on my long-sitting to do list. That's what I ask for me."

I skipped a three-hour meeting today. Last night, at 11:30 pm I realized there was no way I could do 25 pages of Bible study, and actually sleep too. So I skipped leader's meeting. They'd predicted 2 inches of snow for today in addition to what's already on the ground from the week's snow squalls. Instead of treasuring anything, I realized I was dreading leaving our house again; dreading having to bundle up, scrape the driveway, hope they'd salt our street/hill, and do the same thing coming home. Go work out with my husband, (who is a great exercise accountability partner and never lets us skip), then come home to hurried dinner and all of the sudden it's bedtime - again. Another day that's slipped by because I scurried to and fro, from morning to bedtime.

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It's hard to believe, looking at the lilac bushes in our backyard, a few months from now our house will be filled with the scent of their blossoms. Right now they're nestled in a blanket of snow. Waiting. Is that what I'm doing? Waiting? Will our house be filled with my sweet scent, because of how my time was spent this winter?

I saw the entry when I was flipping through my journal late last night. I put down the study guide, picked up a book instead. Read a bit and turned out the light. I decided to take care of this temple, get a good night's sleep.

Treasure: to value greatly.

I could have gone to the meeting, pleasing people. I like pleasing people, and a part of me longed to do just that. Instead I'm spending the day this way: I started it with feeding our birds a plate of oranges and peanut butter with seeds sprinkled about. They'll need extra energy today since everything's covered in snow. I'll enjoy seeing them visit the patio table throughout the day. They'll be here, whether I watch or not. I want to watch.

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You wouldn't believe the traffic we'll have today, because of this offering. There's something very gentle feeling about feeding God's little creatures.

I put in a CD of Instrumental Hymns, plan to play it softly all day long. All the blinds are open to watch the snow coming down, softly blanketing our little woods. I plan to do some laundry, and enjoy the smell of clothes drying. I'll throw something in the crockpot so the house smells yummy when my husband comes home. He had to go out in this today, and will be glad to get home tonight. I want good smells to greet him.

I may take a nap, maybe even soak in a hot bath with a book. I hope to make a cup of tea, maybe several, and call my daughter, brother and mom. This day is a treasure, a gift from God. It's what I prayed for back in October. Whether I open my eyes, recognize it for that, value it as such, that's up to me. I think tonight, when I settle under my big down comforter, I'll feel like I chose well. How many of his gifts go completely unnoticed? He offers them to us, it's up to us to take them, truly treasure them. It's so hard to choose the best, isn't it? The "important" rarely cries out as loudly as the "urgent". Does everyone else miss it as often as I seem to? I won't always get it right, but just for this one day, I will.


  posted at 11:09 AM

Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Speaking the Truth (about Age Spots) in Love
When my oldest daughter, Sarah, came home to visit a few years ago, I told her I had a "fun project" for her. She's very handy, resourceful, has a good eye for things. When she was very pregnant with Grayson, I talked her into painting gold stripes on my bedroom wall. She's obviously a glutton for punishment. When I suggested this "fun project" she gave me that look. The one that says, "I'm pretty sure I won't want to do this, but you're my mom, so what is it?" I told her, "please go through my entire wardrobe and throw away anything ugly."

Her eyes lit up. I could see the wheels turning, as she was wondering how on earth I'd handle being naked in public after she'd thrown out every single thing I owned.

When she was finished, the spare bedroom bed was piled high. Really high. We only 'discussed' a few items I'd just recently purchased at Christopher and Banks, (which one of my girlfriends calls 'Garanimals for Adults'). The leggings, the tube tops, the blazers with huge lapels, white belts, tacky jewelry, ugly shoes. I cringed to see some of my favorite things get tossed on the pile. Then I remembered that Ann Ortlund, my hero, encourages us to "pass it on - bless someone who has less." I piled it all into boxes and bags. Part of it went to the church office, where we had women trying to dress for success on limited budgets; the other items were taken to Goodwill. My closet was trimmed down, the choices less tacky/offensive.

Sarah gave me a lesson on future purchases and overall dressing. She told me - do NOT tuck anything in, ever. Never wear leggings again, even if they come back in style. Or tube tops (both have recently), especially while you are mowing the grass on the front lawn, for God and the whole world to see. She probably gave me a lot of other rules, but these I remember. These I've stuck to.

So when an article came out in our paper last week, I took notice. It was titled, 'Age Spots'. Written to those of us 50+, it was a primer in what not to wear. The writer suggested wearing a tight wool skirt four inches above the knee, or carrying a bulky short-handled designer handbag (think Queen Elizabeth, and who on God's earth wants to look like her?), long 'crusty-costume-y' necklaces, hair dyed jet black, anything sleeveless, white hosiery, or any hosiery with mules - these were all the kiss of death. A high-contrast belt worn tightly at the waist, or a turtleneck when you're short necked or double chinned should be avoided. Apparently it makes us look dowdy, no matter our figure. Or worse, "vintage". As in O.L.D. The worst offender? Dark, red lipstick. To be avoided at all costs.

I swear I haven't worn anything tucked in since Sarah eliminated half of my closet. Not even pajamas. Now, I find myself eyeing my girlfriends (who are all in their 50's+). Yesterday a dear friend had on this funky necklace, to match her earrings. I sat and gazed at it, wondering if it was cool or tacky? A woman passed me in church this past week, looking to be a professional. But the white hose glared at me.

Maybe we're all just cold up here in the northeast. Women here LIKE to tuck in their tops. I wonder if they are all thinking, 'that Bev, she sure looks sloppy. Good grief, why doesn't she tuck in her top?' They like to wear their turtleneck sweaters just below their multiple chins. Somehow they seem to miss that most of them look like they have a little "something in the oven" just a few inches south of their high-contrast belts, and, honest-to-pete, most of them have on dark red lipstick.

Dark red lipstick in the exact shade I was looking for at the Clinique counter a week before I read this article. I'm wondering if this means Sarah needs to make a return visit to sort and toss. I suspect I'd have a new pile to donate to Goodwill. I appreciate that my daugher lived out, Ephesians 4:15 - "instead, speaking the truth in love....". Man, did that lipstick call to me. I didn't buy it. But I came close. I obviously need close monitoring. But - anything that might be mistaken for "something in the oven" is hidden under my untucked turtleneck sweater (and my neck is more like that of a giraffe), thank you very much.


  posted at 9:02 AM

Monday, January 22, 2007
Update on Chapter 2

A few family members have asked how it's going in Chapter 2. Better. I don't have a cot tucked behind the counter anymore :-D Here are a few recent photos of "my baby". Sometimes it still feels like a two month old, with a good case of colic - screaming out of pain.

Now and then, it feels more like that adorable 4 month old stage, where they're beginning to smile, blow raspberries. We're having more fun. People are starting to enjoy just hanging out with us. Coffee, conversation, suggestions of books for specific needs. The hours in there get a bit long sometimes, but it's still a great fit for me, and the other women serving with me.

The cash register isn't so possessed anymore. At least I haven't rung up anything at $5,555.55 in awhile either.

We have 15 volunteers, two teens and 13 women, who seem to be having a good time. At least they keep showing up. Very cool. I love that.

We've only had one item get broken, and that wasn't by a kid. Only one kid came through, who, when I think of him now and then, I send up prayers for his mom. We've sold about $15,000 worth of books, gifts, music, etc. since we opened about two months ago. That's not profit, but sales. They told me not to worry about profit. So I don't. I just keep suggesting good books.

I'm pleased. The pastors, elders, powers above me seem pleased. And the stack of books on my nightstand continues to grow.

P.S. Happy Birthday #24 Dan. Be sure to do something today that makes you feel like a kid. That's what birthdays are all about. Love you, Dad and Mom.


  posted at 8:32 AM

Friday, January 19, 2007
UTI's, Depends, and Sundry Other Details
Today has been such a blast - I managed to get the third-of-my-life urinary tract infection, or to those of you blessed enough to be familiar with them, a UTI. Since Tuesday I've been wondering what the heck is going on. I'd think I had it, then, no, its better. Oh, my bad - it's back. I'd made a trip to the store, and bought cranberry juice out the wazoo. Wednesday was really fun - We were at a praise concert at our church. I got up and left, but didn't make it. I literally wet my pants, only somewhat thank the Lord!, in the middle of the lobby of our church during a concert; a fun, new experience for me. I'm just used to more than 15 seconds notice that you need to find a little girl's room... I told Don - something is W.R.O.N.G.! (When I told him why I'd left, and never returned, he gave me one of those looks that made me think I'd grown little antennas on the top of my head.) So I decided, instead of buying stock in Depends which was my other choice, to go to the doctor Thursday. Explain to him I'm not really in the habit of wetting said pants in said lobby of public buildings.

But it seemed better Thursday. I thought, well maybe my bladder just temporarily fell apart overnight. Maybe I don't have a UTI. Maybe you just go from functioning, good muscle tone bladders to not so slick ones. Maybe I can't go out in public anymore. Gee, that'll be handy. Really, this aging stuff can be scary. Maybe you just fall apart one function at a time.

Plus I couldn't stand the thought of leaving my house. I'd just come up with a new schedule for the bookstore, where I take Thursday and Friday off; this was the first Thursday. I was giddy over being home; I couldnt stand the thought of leaving to drive to the doctor. So I convinced myself it was fine. Really, I'm fine.

It was snowing when I woke up, just enough to make dealing with the streets fun. It snowed off and on the entire day, which our multi-layers-of-hair dog, Elway, loved. Me, not so much. I just have skin and a light coating of downy fuzz, so I'm not so crazy about it. I like it on Christmas cards. Not sidewalks. Not driveways. Not cars. Not streets. And not when you have to go tinkle every 5 minutes.

I'm thankful we have 99 gazillion snow plows to clear our streets, and put down that nice, salty spray. Because this morning I had to snap out of denial; my UTI is definitely a UTI - nice bright red blood confirmed my suspicions. So I called the doctor. The doctor who used to have his office near our home, but decided to move north, toward all the downtown hospitals. We'd been there twice last week for other varieties of falling apart. I didn't really miss my doctor yet. When I phoned, I told them I'd really appreciate a prescription without coming in if at all possible (assuming he didn't miss us yet either, and likely had plenty of runny-nose, hacky-cough people in his office keeping him company) and the nice bright red blood had me pretty sure what it was. Thank goodness he agreed. I bundled up, drove to the store in the fun snow and got my 6 pills for $3.50 prescription plus weight watchers pizza for dinner - which I adore - and cat litter - just the essentials.

I came home, immediately popped one of the pills into my mouth, and isn't it amazing how little it takes to fix you sometimes?A bit scary if you think about it too long. That one pill can have such an effect on you. Feeling less like I'm a wreck, I decided to deal with our finances. But you can't pay the bills til you balance the checkbook. I'd skipped a month while the kids were home since payday was two days before Christmas and it was a wee bit crazy then. (Note to self: next year, skip balancing said checkbook ANY month except December when you have more transactions in one month than in the other eleven combined.) Makes it more interesting that way. So I check off the 99 gazillion transactions, in pink highlighter, then find I'm $240 off - and the bank is saying I have it and my checkbook doesn't and when the heck does that ever happen? So I get the fun task of going through again, marking every single entry with a blue highlighter. Such fun - the checkbook looks like an invitation to a baby shower, where you don't know if it's a boy or a girl. Guess what, the bank was right and Id entered some christmas shopping twice, which is really nice, except that it took THE ENTIRE EVENING to find the three errors. Three errors. Its 9 p.m. I'm going to go cook my WW pizza, put on pjs, take another pill and call it a day. A real blast it was.

On the upside, the bleeding has stopped and I dont have to go the potty every 5 minutes anymore, which will hopefully make getting something else done besides visiting the bathroom and checking off duplicate christmas shopping entries in pastel markers, more likely tomorrow. Maybe I'll go wild and clean the catbox. Don't hate me - I just know how to have fun.

  posted at 9:00 PM

Complete Contentment

"Contentment is not the fulfillment
of what you want,
but the realization of
how much you already have."

Our golden retriever, Elway, will be 7 next week. He blew out his second ACL about a week ago, and still can barely get around. (The first one went two years ago, chasing a squirrel at break-neck speed down the back yard.)

Winter has finally arrived here in southwestern PA, and we've had snow squalls all day long. It's accumulated a bit on the deck. I've managed to stay in most of the day, avoiding the cold and mess.

Elway asked to be let outside. I watched him limp out, then work hard to lay down in the snow; there's a devotional in there somewhere I'm pretty sure. His example of contentment, even when things hurt, and life's not perfect - a good example for me. He's just going to savor what he can, and not complain about the rest of it.

I love that he tried to avoid making eye contact with me, so I wouldn't make him come back inside. He's completely content. Completely. When was the last time I felt like that? Maybe it's the two extra legs? Maybe the four-legged creatures have something on us?


  posted at 4:45 PM

Thursday, January 18, 2007
Remembering: It'll all Come Out in the End
In a comment to yesterday's post, my daughter, Sarah mentioned "Danny and the nickel he swallowed." The nurse in my mother rose up; she left a comment, "What nickel?"

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The framed nickel, autographed.

I'm a girl, safely nestled between four boys. Two older brothers, two younger brothers. My only sister, Barb, is five years older than me. Now that age difference doesn't matter. Back then, it was the difference between mudpies and dating. I resorted to playing army, or building forts, only when there was nobody to play Barbies or dance around the living room with me to "Baby Elephant Walk." I'm not exactly prissy but nobody would call me a tomboy either. You'd have to pay me A LOT to even touch a cricket, and I'd go days before I'd eat anything that didn't come from the grocery store. That would be in comparison to my brothers, who caught crawdads on string with bacon tied at the end in the ditch that ran across our front yard, when they'd bring them in, throw them in the soup pot, and this horrible-beyond-description grey foam would rise to the top. They'd stand over it and watch with anticipation as the crawdads died a slow death, then toss them down their throats with great pleasure.

I'm a girl. I thought I was prepared to raise a boy, having grown up in the middle of four hell-raising hooligans. I was not. After Sarah and Leslie had arrived, we were still so hoping for a son. Not a B.O.Y, just a son. There's a difference. God has a sense of humor. He's into character development, apparently. We got a B.O.Y. 150% rolling ball of dirt, knees torn out of every pair of pants, umpteen trips to the emergency room by the time he was 10, messy, dirty, loud, never sat still, ate with one butt-cheek hanging off the side of the chair so he could move on to the important stuff in life like jumping ramps in the street with his bike, or sitting on the railroad tracks with his buddies til the engineer had almost had a heart attack, or plowing down his 2nd grade teacher because she came between him and the basketball on the playground. THAT kind of B.O.Y.

Daniel was never quiet, or still. He had colic for 5 months, and the doctor's advice was to leave him in his crib, turn up the music, go downstairs and have a glass of wine. I was desperate enough that sometimes I did that, but my heart hurt the whole time. If I could go back, I'd just suck it up and rock him, with earplugs in place. When he stopped yelling out of stomach misery, he moved on to the garden variety of noise. For the sheer pleasure of it. He was never talkative, like his sisters. He was just Loud. And Busy. From the minute he woke up til the minute he went back to bed. We instituted "quiet time" in our house to keep our sanity. Everyone had to spend a chunk of time in their room, being quiet. I didn't care what they did, it just couldn't make noise. While his sisters curled up with books and dolls, Dan was in another world of bug shells, hornet nests, gobots, tonka trucks, playing cars on his cardboard town, or building towers to bash down. Books were reserved for bedtime reading, with his sisters. When it was his night to choose the book, he invariably picked Franklin in the Dark or Little Bear or some book on dinosaurs while his sisters sat disgusted with his choice.

When we went for our weekly trips to the library, in Carbondale, Illinois, the girls would head to their favorite sections. Leslie would go see if "her book", Pinnocchio, had been returned. Honestly, for a good two year span, she'd turn it in when we walked through the door, then right before we left, she'd go see if it had been put back on the shelf. If it had, she'd check it out again. She was convinced it was her book. I think the librarians must have thought so too; they just let us keep checking it out. Sarah just wanted to check out half the library. She was destined to be an English major.

Dan was not enthralled with the library. The only draw for him, at that age, was the plastic dinosuars he could check out from the toy cabinet. After our golden retriever, Lindy, ate the legs and tail off a couple of them and we had to replace them, we stopped checking out dinosaurs. We bought our own, and lived with the fact that none of them had legs or tails.

At the end of one particularly long visit to the library, Daniel was standing next to the checkout counter, bored. I was one floor down, looking up at him. He was safe. Trust me - the librarians knew Daniel....and NOBODY was going to take this kid. I realized he had something in his mouth, and asked him what it was. As he said the words, "Nickel" it got stuck in his little throat. Throat about the same size as a nickel. As he struggled to talk to me, I panicked and told him in a moment of insanity, "spit or swallow". Good Lord, I have no idea what I was thinking, except 'open the airway'. He, being a B.O.Y., swallowed it. The entire two floors of the library had witnessed what just happened, and we were all stunned. It was that feeling you've maybe had in a restaurant where someone starts choking and everyone just freezes. We all froze, then just hung there. He'd swallowed a nickel. Why not a dime, but thank God it wasn't a quarter. He was about 4 at the time.

After an expensive trip to see Dr. Paul Bennett (and yes, of course I remember his name, I saw the man almost weekly there for awhile), then the very familiar emergency room, we had an xray done. There it was. Metal shows up nicely. They told us we'd have to "watch" for the nickel. They suggested some sort of netting being placed over the toilet bowl, under the lid. Thankfully we ate a lot of popsicles in those days. The sticks came in handy. Oh, the digging was such fun! Another delight in raising a B.O.Y. After a week or so, with no nickel being discovered in our digs, we decided it must have passed, and we'd just missed it somehow.

Months later, as I was getting ready to swish out the toilet, there it was. Rusty in the bottom of the bowl. You bet your bottom dollar I pulled it out. I'd been hunting for that stupid nickel for months. It is proudly framed, behind glass, in a memory box. We let Danny, as he was called, autograph it.

Oh the joys of raising a boy. Just trying to keep them alive through the process....

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This is Dan today; we both survived...

Now that he's grown up, and has grown into a S.O.N., now and then I see the nickel and remember back to when he was all B.O.Y. I wouldn't want to live through it all again, but I'm proud we made it through, and thankful for the adventure of raising him. Amazingly enough, he grew up to be soft-spoken, and quiet. I don't think he's been to the emergency room in awhile either. Having lived through oh so many hair-raising episodes with him, I came to realize it'll all come out in the end.


  posted at 8:44 AM

Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Remembering: Terrell Park Library

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We rode in the compact station wagon, most of us facing forward. The rest rode looking out the back window. Because I struggled with motion sickness, I got to sit in the front seat, next to my mom. Once a week, she'd take the six of us to the Terrell Park Library. Forty years later, I can still clearly remember what the building looked like. The drop box outside. Mostly, I remember the little blue cardboard library card, with the metal bar running through it. It had my name printed on it. It was just mine. All mine. I kept it safely tucked into my little plastic wallet. That it had little or no money in it didn't matter. My library card was in there.

Free to wander the aisles of the library, I'd usually head to the biography or mystery section. The shelves seemed to go to the ceiling. Filled to the brim, they called to me. I'd walk down the aisles, with my head cocked sideways, scanning the titles. Nurse Barton, Nancy Drew, books about our presidents, their wives; Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin. It was so, so hard to pick just three - the checkout limit. I still remember walking to the checkout desk, presenting them to whoever stood behind it. I was afraid she would give me a onceover, deign me not worthy of being entrusted with such treasures.

Once home, I was completely content to stay inside and devour my books. "Oh please, don't send me outside 'to play'." My sister, Barb, and I would take turns holding the flashlight under the covers at night, to squeeze in a little more reading time. Usually we didn't get caught, or at least we didn't think so. Sometimes Dad would see the light coming under our door and holler, "Lights out!" We must have burned up a lot of those "D" batteries.

The most beautiful book I remember reading was Misty of Chincoteague, the story of wild horses crossing the bay from Chincoteague Island. This yearly event continues to this day. Gazing at the pictures in the book took me right there. It's still a goal of mine to actually visit the place, and see the horses come over. Back then, I longed for Misty to be mine. (What I would have done with her, down in the deep south, in a 3 bedroom tract home is beyond me, but I sure did dream of it.) The sappiest book, which I dearly loved, was They Loved to Laugh, and years later I ordered a copy on Ebay, just because I'd loved it so. After I reread it (it really was sappy) I put it one of our guest rooms. Some visitor may want to stay up late and cry a bit. Christy, the story of a young girl who goes to the Appalachia to teach in a one room schoolhouse, is still dear to me. I buy every single used copy of it I run across, to give away. Everyone needs to read Christy. I've read it several times, and will likely do so again. The entire Anne of Green Gables series captivated me. Because of it, I hope to visit Prince Edward Island someday. In my mind I've already been out in the orchard, picking apples with Anne. Swiss Family Robinson made me long to build my own vast tree house, Island of the Blue Dolphins - to swim in the sea, Treasure Island... Oh - the places I've been through books.

Mothers give us many gifts over our lifetimes. Spending a part of our family's tax return to buy me a piano - that stands out. Paying for the plane ticket to fly home for my brother's funeral. Taking me with her to the grocery store, when God knows she would have loved a moment of peace away from the six of us. Letting us use her clean sheets to build houses over the clotheslines. All of these are sweet memories of her giving heart.

Oh,but the trips to the library. Week after week, to take three more books home. I need books. My soul longs for them. For hours spent just mulling over the words. It amazes me sometimes that a book can sit on a shelf for months, years, untouched. Then I open it and climb into the story. Once I start it, it calls to me - I'll give up sleep, food, just about anything else for a little more time spent in its pages. I'm so thankful God knew to give me a husband who is a reader also. Often, we're content to just curl up in the family room, and read the evening away.

Just because someone drove me to the library, and let me use up flashlight batteries late into the night. What a gift my mom gave my sister and me - the love of reading. To this day, if I had to choose the contents of my wallet, I'd go with a library card and a little bit of money


  posted at 7:47 AM

Monday, January 15, 2007
No Longer Strangers & Foreigners
The weekend is over. Praise in Motion is headed back to the airport, five vehicles filled with weary adults, two toddlers, paper sacks with egg mcmuffins, and loads of luggage. Three days ago, six of the twelve in their group arrived at our home late in the evening. We shook hands. The boys were very tentative about staying with us, especially our 80 lb golden retriever, who terrified them. Don and I hoped we would remember their names - Kenci, Angenie, Emmanuelle, Keisha, Kaleb and Joshua.

Over the course of the weekend they danced 10 times, traveling up and down the roads of Pittsburgh. Our group clocked in about 15+ showers, ate their way through two pies, cobbler, a pot of chili, cinnamon swirl bread, and umpteen pots of coffee. We watched football together, shared the morning paper, talked about differences in weather, worship, traffic, where we each live. We stayed up late and got up early.

Last night I fell asleep with the covers pulled over my head, one finger in my left ear to block out the sound of Josh-U-A. He'd managed to squeeze in a power nap and was raring to go at midnight. This morning, 6 am sharp, Caleb (3) was downstairs to help me feed the fish, and grab his sack breakfast for the ride to the airport. Over the past few days, he'd grown more used to our dog, and gingerly gave him a few pats. Joshua toddled down the stairs, and I was a bit sad to know he wouldn't be here tomorrow morning, or even tonight, keeping us all awake with his toddler chattering. He won our hearts over quickly. Kenzi told us both sets of grandparents' culture (Haiti and Bahamas) disapproves of cutting a child's hair til they are two and talking. Out of respect, they've let it grow. Next week Joshua will lose his cornrows, and get a buzz like his big brother. His hair is long, but they keep it braided because he won't sit still long enough to deal with it. That it looks adorable is just an added bonus.

Our neighborhood was mostly dark as the sleepy group loaded into cars to leave. Each one gave Don and I big hugs as we said goodbye. We told them we hoped they'd come back sometime, and we'd love to have them stay with us again. I doubt we'll see each other again, this side of heaven. That's okay. Heaven-side, it'll be like greeting old friends.

Seeing little people in our kitchen, early in the morning; pie and conversation late into the night; seeing their love for the Lord as they danced; it was so great having them with us. We'll make up for lost sleep over the next few days. We think they felt blessed to be in our home this weekend. We're pretty sure we got the better end of the deal, spending time with this special group of people.

"Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and the members of the household of God." Ephesians 2:19


  posted at 9:00 AM

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Look who we're spending the weekend with! (Kaleb on the left, Joshua on the right). Our church is hosting an Internation Missions Festival for the next week and tonight is the kick-off. Praise in Motion, a dance team, flew in from Miami last night to perform at our weekend services. Our daughter, Leslie's, best friend from high school years, Reba, does their choreography. Having coffee with Reba, Travis and their new baby Zion a few weeks back, she mentioned they would all be here. When I learned some of the dancers were married, and would be traveling with small children, I suggested they send them to our place. With several empty bedrooms, and a nursery for our grandchildren, we're pretty well set up with what they might need.

The two couples, and two small children arrived around 9:30 last night. After feeding them a late supper, we finished it off with pecan pie and ice cream on the side. (I figured they'd burn it off dancing all weekend.) I was surprised to find out Emmanuelle and Keisha, natives of Haiti, had never had pecan pie. A good percentage of my body fat can be attributed to pecan pie over the years. They agreed it was worth the calories.

With all eight of us upstairs, bedtime was interesting. The boys decided they would both sleep in the little toddler bed, in the same room as their parents. I fell asleep, around midnight, to "Josh - U - A" being repeated at regular intervals, praying they would get some sleep. They have a full day, which starts early. Here's hoping bedtime tonight goes a bit more smoothly for what's sure to be weary parents.

We found out the four adults are from Haiti, and the Bahamas. Emmanuelle is a Delinquency Officer. Keisha is a nurse. They have no children yet. Kenci is a fireman. We're covered, whether we get sick, set the house on fire, or decide to go wild and break the law! Angenie stays busy with Kaleb (almost 4) and Joshua (almost 2). It looks like it's going to be a very fun weekend, albeit not completely restful.

Both the men are die-hard football fans, and were grieving that they'd miss the playoff games today. Their wives did NOT give them a pass to skip the services. We're looking forward to watching the game with them later tonight, thanks to the miracle of Tivo. I'm digging in my Rachel Ray cookbook today, hoping to find something good for late night football viewing. That's if Josh - U - A settles down a bit more easily. And I can't wait to see them do their thing tonight. No doubt - it's going to be great.


  posted at 7:30 AM

Thursday, January 11, 2007
Comment Craziness
I was asked by a few people why I have two comment buttons at the bottom of my posts; then I found out it's delurk week (don't you love the sound of that funny word?) So - here's the deal. I supposedly switched to Haloscan a good month or two or three ago. Why? I'm not sure. I think for some really important reasons like you could choose the color of your background on the comments, and also they went across the entire screen, making it easier to read them. You can also add categories to your posts, I think. I heard this but haven't had the time to check it out. The downside was Haloscan doesn't show you everyone's too-cute profile photos. So I made the switch.

Nothing happened.

I'd been warned if I switched all my Blogger comments would disappear, but I'm a move-on kind of girl. I'd already read them once so that was okay with me. When I made the switch, it said "Haloscan" on my sidebar, but not on my comments and none of the old ones disappeared. So I just got over it. Moved on. Never mind.

Then I ordered my new template. I thought that would do it for sure.

Nothing happened.

Out of the blue - for no explainable reason, all of the sudden, completely unexpected - you get the point here - it switched. Or at least turned on. And it kept all my blogger comments, which it was not supposed to do.

I have no idea why any of it happened. I also have no confidence it will last.

So if one day, out of the blue, for no explainable reason, all of the sudden, completely unexpected, all of my comments disappear, I will just tell myself you do all still love me. And move on.

Ann, over at Holy Experience of Listening, has emailed back and forth with me a bit on the whole subject of commenting, or the lack thereof. Sometimes I find myself leaning toward doing a post and not opening it for comments. Just putting it out there. There's something very quiet-feeling in that idea. I may try it now and then, as I feel drawn to it. When I'm feeling rushed and harried, I go to Ann's site and come away more peaceful. So there's that side of comments, skipping them completely. It intrigues me, sometimes I feel it calling.

By the way, I don't get lurking at all. Or de-lurking since I don't lurk. If I read something and want to comment, I can't imagine why I wouldn't. So there's no delurking to do for me. I just don't think comments should be that complicated. Read, comment. Or Read, don't. Whatever floats your boat is okay with me. Life's just too short, too long, too full, too fragile, too precious to worry about it - at all.

And the button at the top - just plain ole cracked me up. xoxoxo

  posted at 8:54 PM

Tuesday, January 09, 2007
For Janae Who Loves Snow

A bit of winter has finally arrived. Rather than complain, I'm going to curl up with something hot to drink and a good book; try to absorb the beauty of it, remembering my sweet DIL, Janae. She'd give just about anything to be here in the middle of it, rather than 1200 miles away in 60 degree weather.


  posted at 10:17 PM

Sunday, January 07, 2007
Curling up with a Good Book...

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I mentioned I'd do an update on the books we've been ordering into the bookstore at our church. Personally, I've ordered many of the ones on my 2007 reading list (my sidebar). They're sitting in a pile in my bedroom, and I gaze at them now and then. I honestly think I may need to pencil in a weekly "date" by myself, at our local coffee shop, just to curl up with what I'm currently reading. When you're at home, it's just too easy to do something else.

It's been awhile since I posted anything about the doin's in the store. Last night I was manning the sales desk. I looked up to see a little boy standing in front of me. "Have you seen my Mommy? She was just here, and now I can't find her." I asked his name. He said, "Ethan." I told Ethan if he'd just stay right there in the door of the store, I was sure she'd come back soon. In the meantime, would he like to look at some of my books? He asked, "Do you have any Veggie Tales?" I took him to two different shelves in the store. We found one book that has sounds along the front side, and also a nice boardbook. He sat down on the floor, in the doorway and played happily til his mom showed up. Oh that we had that faith! He'd never seen me. He asked, I told him if he'd just wait she'd show up. He never questioned. Just played happily til she did.

This morning we had a woman bring in her elderly mother-in-law, who has recently moved in with her. She asked me if we had Thomas Kinkaid's book: "A Grandmother Remembers..." I was able to order it for her. It was so touching to me to see my friend's gentle handling of her MIL. She'd found something she could do, to fill her time, to feel useful, to leave an imprint. Jennifer likely didn't know, but she ministered to me by being so loving.

A middle-aged man came in with a quite elderly woman, who carried her worn-out Bible in one hand, and a cane in the other. It was falling apart. I congratulated her on wearing it out. He asked if we could get it rebound. I told him we could not, but I'd find out who could, how, and how much. She smiled at me. I would never have suggested she buy a new one. One look at that Bible, I could imagine the notes in the margins. Someday it will be given to someone in her family. What a treasure to hold the Bible she held for so long. I felt like I was looking at something Holy.

We had a couple come in and they asked for good devotionals for each of them. We sold several copies of the One Year Bible. One man bought a book called, "What the Bible is All About." We sold numerous copies of "If You Want to Walk on Water." It's the book our men's group will be studying beginning next Wednesday. I loved seeing all these men line up to buy this book.

We're not a store - we're ministry. Sometimes we minister to them. Sometimes they minister to the women behind the counter, even when they don't know it. We just happen to sell stuff.

So - what are we ordering in?

#1 More copies of the One Year Bible - a great way to read through it in a calendar year.
#2 Sanctuary Bible (for me). It looks so lovely and inviting. I can't wait to get it.
#3 Journals mentioned by Dianne at Unfinished Work - out of Hawaii.
#4 To Own a Dragon - Donald Miller (his story of growing up fatherless).
#5 Men Are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti - Bill Farrell
#6 Why I jumped, Tina Zahn (true life story of woman who suffered post-partum depression)
#7 A Life That Says Welcome - Karen Ehmer (on simple hospitality)
#8 Many CS Lewis works, but I'm especially excited about "Letters to an American Lady", and also Pilgrim's Regress, his first written work after becoming a Christian, of his conversion.
#9 Simple Christmas, Guide to a Meaningful & Stress-Free Christmas, Sharon Hanby-Robie
#10 Writing for the Soul, Jerry Jenkins
#11 Lord, I Give You This Day, 366 Appts with God, Kay Arthur
#12 Having a Mary Spirit, Allowing God to Change Us Inside Out, Joanna Weaver
#13 Tendering the Storm, Jane Kirkpatrick (awesome author of fiction)
#14 Uprooting Anger, Biblical Answer to a Common Problem, Robert Jones
#15 Video - One Night With the King (I missed it at the theater) story of Esther
#16 Whispers of Winter, Tracie Peterson, Alaska series, #3
#17 Brethren, Beverly Lewis, Annie's People, #3
#18 First Light, Sue Monk Kidd (her early years as a writer, during her spiritual wakening).

Our Senior Pastor has told us, repeatedly, if you're using your gifts, serving in the right place, it should be the best part of your day. You should look forward to it. I could use a little bit less time on the cash register, but I love being in this place. I love books so much. Sometimes I find myself wishing I could just hold them to my forehead and absorb the contents. Others, I would be completely fulfilled to curl up for an entire afternoon with one of them. The books are great - but seeing people come through the door, knowing we might make a difference through our ministering to them. We might be able to point them to a book to help them with something they're struggling with, face a fear, deal with grief, strengthen their marriage, understand their teenager, straighten out their finances.

And sometimes we just babysit for a few minutes here and there.


  posted at 5:38 PM

Thursday, January 04, 2007
Missing the Big Stuff
We were running errands, about 4 days after Christmas. Out of the blue, my husband said, "Bev, I think we should return the necklace." Supposedly, most men talk 2000 words a day, to women's 7000. Don generally runs somewhere closer to 1000, saving the others for a rainy day. He doesn't talk to fill space. There is purpose to most of what he says. When he made this comment, out of the blue - I knew I should pay attention. I was clueless. The necklace, what necklace?

Families come in two varieties - the first open Christmas gifts all at once, in a blur of excitement, ripping paper, tossing bows, amid shouts of exclamation. They're done in about 15 minutes. The second go around the room, taking turns, carefully unwrapping each package as if they're going to reuse the paper, handing over the bows to be reused next year." We're the second. There were seven of us gathered on Christmas morning, all around the living room. Presents all over the place, music playing, cinnamon rolls and juice - the normal scene. When my 'turns' came around, I'd exclaimed over, and profusely offered thanks for, new slippers, a yankee candle, a very trendy black trench top, and the usual two pairs of Claire's earrings tucked in my stocking by Don.

As the morning's 'opening' ceremony wore on (that's what it is at our house - takes F.O.R.E.V.E.R. and has been known to drive a few of our add-in family members who are of the "rip them apart" habit a wee bit crazy), I'd opened a necklace. In a grey box. I assumed it was from Claires, and there was nothing on it to tell me otherwise. (I am allergic to nickel so Don buys me jewelry every year of the "sensitive" type.) It was a pretty little necklace, a contemporary gold cross with two diamonds on it. I stopped, gazed at it a bit, thanked him, showed everyone, then we moved on. I said thank you. I did. My gifts sat in a pile on the living room floor for a day or so, then I hauled them all upstairs to reside on the bedroom floor for a few more. In my defense, to let Don know I L.O.V.E.D. all my gifts, I'd worn the necklace one day. I even commented to him that I hoped it didn't break out my neck in those oh so lovely little blisters I tend to get. Thinking back, I remember him giving me a funny look at this comment, and muttering something like, "I don't think it will."

To have him suggest we take back the little Claire's necklace that I assumed cost $9.99 puzzled me. I wondered if I should have worn it more, thanked him more. When I asked him to spend a few more of his 2000 words in explanation he told me, "I just don't think you really like it very much. I wanted you to have something really special, so I took some of my allowance. The women at the jewelry counter thought it was beautiful and I thought I'd hit a home run."

Oh. Oh my. Bottom line - I blew it. I'd asked for a new shower head, a chopper attachment for my mixer, and new slippers. My middle name could be Practical. The last diamond my husband gave me was 25 years ago, because his middle name could also be Practical and we just don't do 'that sort of thing'. After we'd talked a bit, I finally got up the courage to ask him to tell me exactly how much this necklace had cost. I was stunned. (Maybe he doesn't need so much allowance?) He said he'd sat there, Christmas morning, as I spent 2 minutes looking at the necklace, then moving on, wondering how he blew it. He said I oohed and aahed more over the $5 earrings from Claires (they were really cute...). He wondered if I didn't spend much time on it to not minimize the gifts our married kids were giving each other. He gave me the benefit of the doubt, which was pretty gracious. I didn't deserve it.

We ended up exchanging the necklace because the chain was too short, and I prefer white gold. He told me he really wanted me to have one I loved. One I'd treasure. I've worn it every day since then. I want him to know, not how much I love the necklace, but how much I love him. How stunned I was by his huge expression of love for me, even if it took me a bit to get it. He needed to know I was aware of what he'd done for me. What he was saying. By asking for a shower head, chopper attachment and slippers (all of which he gave me), I hadn't given him the chance to tell me he thought I was special. That he treasured me. I'd asked for very practical things. I was completely satisifed with what I thought was a $10 necklace. He lavishly expressed his love for me, and I missed it.

Blowing it on my gift made me think of Luke 24:13-53. After Jesus is crucified, two men are walking on the road, discouraged by his death - apparent defeat. He appears to them, walks and talks with them, and they have no clue who HE is. They're even talking about him, to him, and still don't get it. All of a sudden, they realize it's him and he disappears. They run to tell the others, and in the middle of their story, he reappears, shows them his hands and feet, eats with them, he "opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Then he leads them out of town, where he is taken up into heaven while they stand and watch. Wow. If I felt like I blew it on a necklace, I can only imagine how they felt not recognizing Jesus.

I'd like to think, if I 'ran into Jesus' while out for a walk, I'd know it was him. I'm not so sure. I missed a big gesture of my husband's love for me; I automatically assumed the diamonds were fake, and the necklace an inexpensive thing to fill my stocking. They listened to Jesus lay out the scriptures, and still didn't get it. Come on - Jesus explaining the Bible? It doesn't get better than that.

While I treasure the necklace, (it's GORGEOUS!) what is more precious to me is the lesson I was given. Sometimes my husband needs to woo me, and asking for a shower head may not be the best way to allow that. Maybe I don't need to be completely practical. Lavishness might be more appropriate. Especially when I have an opportunity to pour it on someone else. Someone who isn't expecting it at all. Sometimes I'm offered a gift by someone's presence. This journey I'm on, maybe it's not always done best by speed-walking. 'Practical' gets a lot done, is easier on the checkbook, but slowing down, possibly even stopping now and then, so I stand a better chance of seeing the big stuff, that may be just the right pace for me, at least sometimes.

Sidenote: that would be a rash on my neck, brought on by two days of using Irish Spring with Aloe, instead of Aveeno bath wash - so you literally see the need for nickel-free jewelry. I have ridiculously sensitive skin.


  posted at 9:01 AM

Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Oswald, Impertinence and Making Plans
Oswald had this to say this morning: "What an impertinence worry is." Impertinence? I'd prefer he'd described it a bit differently, say - "a waste of time" or maybe "silly". Impertinence sounds like he's describing a snotty, sassy teenager. Maybe he was. Maybe he was just describing me now and then. (Here I was thinking these early morning devotions would be a boost?)

Good ole Websters put it this way: "insolence, impudence, not showing proper respect or manners, saucy, inappropriate." Ugh. It's been decades since I was a sassy teenager. Apparently I still show some traits now and then. Winter is NOT a favorite season for me. I complain about it profusely. I tend to fret over icy roads, getting up and down our driveway and the hill leading into and out of our neighborhood. It's grey, grey here for weeks on end, and there's nothing quite so charming as shoveling out a few icy spots in our backyard for our dog to 'visit'. Worrying is just easier for me January - early March. Easier as in suits my sinful nature, easier as in what tends to be my natural response.

Apparently it's actually just insolent, impudent, saucy, inappropriate. Maybe that's because Philippians 4:6 already told me: "Do NOT be anxious (worried) about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

So there's something I can do besides worry myself silly, fret needlessly. I can tell God, put it on His shoulders, at His feet. I'll know I actually did a good job of leaving it there, rather than grabbing it back and running away with it again, when I have a peace that transcends anything this world can understand. (Hmmm.... possibly a witness?) And it'll guard my heart and mind. Can't you just hear the 'lecture to a sassy teenager' tone here. The 'Because I said so' of a parent smarter than the 13 year old rolling her eyes as she flips her hair and smacks her gum....

Okay, so maybe that's the boost I was hoping for when I planned getting out of bed a bit early. A 'Plan B' for living my life these next few months. In that light, and in keeping with my 2007 Faithful, Determined Purpose, I've set out 11 projects in the areas of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual resolutions.

#1 Sort, toss and put away holiday decorations.
#2 Finish dressing up guest rooms (visitors coming 3rd week of January).
#3 Clean all 22 windows in and out (let in as much light as possible).
#4 Pull tax information for accountant; clean out files in office.
#5 Take time for at least 3 get-togethers with girlfriends - coffee, lunch or sewing.
#6 Read 2 fiction and 2 non-fiction, working at my 12 and 12 goal for year.
#7 Work out at Strive123, whittling away 5 of those 10 lbs that are not attractive.
#8 Take a one-day retreat, away from house, to spend with God.
#9 Work on stitchery I've been pecking away at for a good 7 years (yes, seriously).
#10 Clean out bookshelves in office so they don't look like they're spewing books.
#11 Repaint master bedroom and bathroom.

Resolutions are great, but until they're actually broken down, and put on my calendar they stand little chance of happening. This should take me to March 21,the beginning of Spring. (We leave on our cruise March 24.) I figure one project a week should keep me too busy to do a lot of impertinent, snotty, insolent, sassy worrying'. Much better use of my time!

  posted at 8:41 AM

Monday, January 01, 2007
Faithful, determined purpose

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January 1 is, hands down, my favorite day of the year. It starts with sleeping late, then when we roll out of bed, cinnamon rolls, juice and the entire pot of coffee while we watch the Rose Bowl Parade in pajamas. My husband is content to spend much of the day watching college football. I show up periodically with yummy snacks. What's not to love? Still, what I really love about it - what makes it dear to my heart, is it's offer of another fresh start.

As I poured my first cup of coffee, I thought about our dog, our cat and the birds at the feeder. They didn't care a whit that a new year had started. It was just more of the same ole same ole. So why do we as a nation, world - celebrate the fact that a new year has begun? Many people pooh-pooh the idea of Resolutions. I don't get it. If we don't love fresh starts, of which resolutions are a vital part, then why do we celebrate the minute the new year starts? Over one million people filled Times Square last night to ring in the New Year. What difference does a fresh start make if you don't plan to do anything differently? Hence, the NEED for Resolutions.

My first thought this morning, as I was lying in my warm, snuggly bed was that I hadn't done a single thing wrong yet this year. No wrong thoughts, no gossiping, no unhealthy eating, no skipped days of devotions, not even that occasional curse word that slips when I least expect it. I hated to have my feet hit the ground. Then I got up, poured my coffee, and went to my favorite chair to clarify my resolutions - those renewed attempts at doing it better, whatever "it" might be. They've been rattling around in my head for days. Today, I finally got them down on paper.

Resolution - "the act or process of resolving something or breaking it up into parts; decision as to future action; resolve." Resolve - "steadfast purpose" Steadfast - "faithful, determined." So - Here's my "Faithful, determined purpose", aka Resolutions, for 2007.

: respect; rest/relaxation; recreation; reduction. That would play out to mean I recognize I'm not 25 and don't take my health for granted. It's a gift, possibly a fleeting one. Being disciplined enough to get sufficient sleep, taking breaks just to relax, scheduling some play in there, and yes - the proverbial 10 lb weight loss, they all play a part. My oldest daughter, Sarah, tells me I have no excuse not to get enough rest, or take time for all the things I love to do. She's right. I'm also quick to tell my husband (who has a bit of an over-developed work ethic), now and then - "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." "Jill" is equally guilty. I don't want to be dull. I think God intended us to play a little, now and then.

rectify;regimen;read 12 & 12. Basically I'd like to rectify the parts of education I feel I'm missing. In hindsight (which is oh so wonderful), I'd choose to skip classes less, apply myself a bit more. Hindsight and a dollar will get me a Diet Coke,(which is always tempting). Today/now, I want to fill in some gaps in my education. I'm planning to do a "12 & 12" - 12 fiction and 12 non-fiction books during 2007. I tend to read mostly non-fiction and this might keep me more balanced. Putting study periods on my calendar will help ensure it actually happening. I've listed the beginning of my 2007 reading list; you can see I'm struggling with fiction titles (any suggestions?)

relationships - reinforced, revived, relished. This begins with my husband. His "love language" is quality time which is difficult when I'm always flying low. It includes my adult children, their spouses and children, my extended family and then friends. I've come to recognize friendships are at different levels, and even those ebb and flow. Relationships don't maintain themselves. They take effort. Sometimes planned effort. Penciling in a phone call to my father on my calendar every month makes it much more likely to happen. I also have to watch not tending to my friendships with girlfriends. I would get tired of putting up with a friend who is constantly taking on too much, like I often do.

recognize; retreat; renew; rejoice. Listed last, but obviously where everything begins. This is the center of my life, my being. It's so easy for me to jump out of bed, and immediately get busy with anything, rather than grabbing my coffee and Bible. My plan is to read through the Bible this year, using a printed guide. (I've done this several times, but didn't get that much out of it; possibly I need to read a bit slower this time???) I also started "The Power of a Postive Woman" by Karol Ladd - 52 Monday Morning Devotions, using "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers the rest of the week, and "The Busy Grandma's Guide to Prayer" by Lisa Whelchel and her mom. This was a Christmas gift from Sarah and Chris and I'm grateful for a practical way to pray for my family, a few minutes each day. I want to focus on recognizing what a gift my relationship with Christ is; 'retreat' to do just that now and then. I'd like to renew it, focusing on different areas rather than just presenting God with my wish list in bursts as I'm driving here and there. I'd like to spend more time rejoicing in who He is, and my position as His child. That doesn't happen without planning and purpose.

Karol Ladd, in her introduction to "Power of a Positive Woman", said, "Welcome to a faith walk. Not a sprint or a jog, but a steady journey of strengthening your faith as you follow the steppingstones of God's Word." After having double knee surgery a few years ago, I'm not a good candidate for jogging. A steady journey - that I can do.

Someone else said, "fail to plan and you plan to fail." I'm excited about a fresh start - the beginning of this year's faith walk. I can forget about past failures, missed opportunities, good starts with poor finishes from 2006. One year from today I want to look back and see imprints of my "faithful, determined purpose" for 2007. I'm confident it will bring me to a different place than I would be otherwise.

To read more 2007 Meditations, go to Laurel Wreath's site.


  posted at 6:06 PM

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