Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Resolve to....

I am nearing the end of another year - as we all are, I do realize this much - and it seems that Americans especially spend a lot of time resolving to do an awful lot the closer January 1 of any year approaches. It would be nice to observe this phenomena noting just how altruistic we live our lives but the reality is, resolutions are probably one of the more self-centered functions of the human life. For while we try to wrap up self-centeredness in different wrapping, the fact of the matter is, we spend a lot of time on ourselves. (Says the blogger who writes what's on her mind as if someone else would want to know...yeah, I know...I'm working on it...) And so, in this time of resolving, some observations and suggestions for those just insisting that resolutions be part of their week.

RATHER THAN resolving to read the Bible more, focus instead on living each day to His glory. If this is our focus, utilizing the ultimate guide book on such matters will be a natural part of our lives. Reading the Bible through in a year, while applaudable, is something that must be done with great caution lest it become like some athletic challenge rather than a true time of devotion, reflection, & application.


RATHER THAN resolving to lose weight and wrapping it in the paper of "it's for my health", focus instead on the people who love you most and, more importantly, the word of God. If we all lived truly embracing the idea that our bodies are temples, the obesity epidemic would be non-existent. And if we truly loved those who love us as completely as possible, we would also not allow ourselves to get to the point of needing to resolve this each and every year. We would maintain our health NOT to relish a smaller size...NOT to spend more time on ourselves....NOT to look like we did (or better) in high school....we would maintain our health because it's the very least we can do for those who love us.

RATHER THAN resolving to save more and spend less, simply examine the past year with the eye of your parent or grandparent or even better, your Savior. Did you spend what He gave you in a way that would make Him proud of you - your ultimate Father - your Abba, Father....was He standing next to you when you purchased the $400 pair of shoes, another pack of cigarettes, a new car, the tattoo, yet another upgrade to your child's arsenal of video game systems?

I don't believe resolutions are inherently bad. I don't believe wanting to read the Bible more, lose more weight, or buying a pair of expensive shoes is inherently bad either. I DO believe that we fallen humans don't need any help at all in focusing on ourselves. In the past year I've noticed that in my own life, the very things which perhaps I would normally resolve to eliminate or change have actually kept my feet from straying. We MUST believe that He will avert all evil or turn it to our profit. And while Paul asked to have his own thorn removed several times, the Lord knew that on Paul's earthly path having that thorn was for his own good.

Too often what we seek to eliminate is the very thing that is keeping us (insert the word).....could it be "humble".....could it be "grounded"....could it be "devout"...... Not having a lot of money may be keeping you from being tempted by the 'sights that dazzle'....having a few extra pounds may be keeping you from the sin of pride and arrogance.....the job that stinks may be your mission field.

Perhaps, then, the only real thing we as Christians need to resolve is to have our eyes open to His will, our hearts prepared to accept that will, and our courage girded up enough to live within His will minus the grumbling, complaining, and constant urge to "improve" upon what He has given (or not given).

Happy 2010....may you find yourself living even more in the hollow of His hand than you ever knew possible.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks.


The most wonderful time of the year was sung, surely, for the holiday that is Thanksgiving. While to be sure the food is of great focus....and for some football plays some role....it is difficult to ruin this holiday with externals. While my love for Christmas is based upon an incarnate Lord, my love for Thanksgiving is that just once per year there seems to be a universal spirit of thanks. And while my family will offer thanks to their Lord, there is a sense of commonality in Americans taking to just be thankful. Before I even begin to list what I am thankful for I will say that I am thankful just for the ability to be thankful....that as glum as I feel I have gotten over the past months...surely as frightful as my mood can become....as negative as some of my comments have (scarily) become....the ability to list what I am thankful for has not waxed or waned. (I will pray the glumness, frightful moods & negative comments begin to wax and wane as well.)



I am so very thankful for ~


Providence & Purpose....were it not for knowing that all things come as a package of Providence for His Good Purpose I don't believe anything else would have much meaning.


Memories....what lovely times we can recall as a family - laughter & tears - to have lives which can be lived looking forward while smiling at the past is a gift.


Stuffing....as I chopped and diced celery & onion reading Lil's recipe for basic bread stuffing I am thankful that my senses are all fully functioning and that in the act of reading, chopping, smelling, tasting even the family that has left this earth is somehow still here.


Handwriting.....in an era of computers and keyboards I am thankful for the snippets of handwriting I have which belonged to my mother. In recipe books, in boxes of decorations & linens saved. Seeing the script helps me remember the hands.


Laughter....to be able to laugh in the midst of difficult circumstances does not belittle to seriousness of the circumstance. I do believe, however, that it keeps us all a bit healthier, a bit more grounded, a bit more united in the circumstance.


Family....being together is more of a gift in some years than we realize. We may be in varying degrees of health but being together takes on even more importance when we know that togetherness is not forever while on this earth.


Friends....being an only child you'd never guess the sisters I have. I am so thankful for each one, for the sister from Brazil who may very well be my blood & for the sisters who are willing to occasionally read a book with me.



On this Thanksgiving and especially in the coming hours and days and months I am thankful. I may struggle on occasion to remember this, but in my spirit, in my heart of hearts I am truly thankful.








Transparent Language

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Of Tragedy & Writing Practice....

Most human beings have experienced some form of grief or tragedy by the time they are in the midst of their lives. The average human will lose a loved one, lose a job, or lose their gumption in some form in early adulthood. The two surest things, to be certain, are death and taxes and while taxes may be no fun, it is death that results in those left behind needing comfort.

Yet grief could easily be experienced without the loss of life. Christian parents know the grief of seemingly losing a child because of their loss of faith. People of all stations, especially in recent years, have experienced the grief that comes from job loss. Job loss can lead to further tragedy that includes ruined reputation, drastic changes in a standard of living, the loss of medical care, and even the loss of a home.

Tragedy and grief strike with no respect of persons. The experience is shared across geography, religion, and economics. Loss is loss regardless of situation. The sting is universal. The lives touched forever changed.

To speak with anyone who lived through the Great Depression in America during the 1920s and 30s is to be regaled with stories of pain and suffering. Of adult men reduced to apple selling and women thinning what was called “soup” even further while children had bellies that ached. The Depression touched lives regardless of beginning station in life – and in fact it could easily be argued that the repercussions were felt hardest in the lives of those that had most to lose. And while those Depression survivors now speak of the past experiences as “character building”, the act of looking back often creates rose-colored glasses through which the gift of years becomes a perspective which helps only in retrospect.

There is a good chance, therefore, that anyone reading this has experienced a form of grief or tragedy. There is an even better chance that right this instant someone in the vicinity is going through a particular tragedy. A neighbor, a fellow church member, a cousin, friend of a friend….someone is experiencing a form of suffering which should….which MUST result in difficult introspection involving questions along the lines of “What can I do? What do I have that can be passed along? What can I give?”

Note that all of the questions involve actions and not necessarily a form of communication. Not once will I suggest you sit and ponder which pithy saying you should use to comfort the grief-stricken. Never will you hear me suggesting that Hallmark makes a great card for those experiencing job loss. Instead it is my heart’s deepest belief that the comforter should speak only when spoken to…should offer advice only when solicited…should live a life of action and giving rather than platitude and prose.





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Friday, November 13, 2009

Hey, let's at least be thankful.....


I do so enjoy conversations with the chronically optimistic. Especially those who genuinely have no reason not to be optimistic. I have one such person in mind as I go through the catharsis that is blogging, and while I do change names to protect the innocent the mold may not have been broken when she was created. Should you see any of these comments tumbling out of your mouth like the missing sock that never quite returns from its laundry trip, immediately eat back those words with a side of crow and thank your lucky stars reading this prevented you from future thankful gaffs.


The chronically optimistic and the comments they enjoy sharing:


"At least there's bread on the table." Bread? Really? Is that the day old stuff or the really fresh premium Wonderbread from Meijer? And if there's bread on the table should one be thankful if there's no peanut butter to accompany it? I seem to recall a miracle involving loaves and fishes and while manna was not necessarily a protein source, it was probably such a superfood that we really don't have a tangible comparison in 2009. When Susie Optimist makes comments like this I truly hope she is spending time making sure the people who should be happy with the bread also have a little peanut butter to go with it.


"At least you have your health." Honestly, people don't say that to our family, but it has been shared with a good many others experiencing this economic character-building experience. These tend to be the same people who are vehemently opposed to any form of health insurance for the masses. And though I am a 'pick yourself up with your bootstraps' kind of gal, sometimes the bootstraps have long since frayed and broken. Susie Optimist has not wrapped her mind around the concept of having health being necessary because when the health is gone there's no insurance to cover the medical bills.


"This really builds character." Susie Optimist doesn't say this because she's busy baking muffins for her family in her paid for sprawling ranch in Bubbleville, but Susie's parents and grandparents say it often. Susie's relatives, however, forgot just how badly lard sandwiches taste, the sock-in-your-gut feeling when shoes had holes that could not be replaced and snow was just coming, and though they realize it took a World War to end the last big Depression, black and white newsreels, Ernie Pyle, and FDR now seem like the 'good old days'. Remember - the 'builds character' folks often truly believe they walked uphill both ways to get to school.


I have no glossy way to wrap up my Susie Optimist warnings. I have no deeper thoughts or even overtly spiritual insights. I have reality and sometimes reality just plain stinks. Sorry Susie Optimist....many of us long ago were evicted from Bubbleville.






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Saturday, October 31, 2009

....ever Reforming...


Just for a moment....consider.....


- the glut of power that occurs when one body controls far too much

- the difficulty in speaking against something one once held dear

- the power of words...spoken to be sure, but the endurance of words written
- the absolute power of Scripture....sola scriptura....


Consider how soon we disregard momentous events because they are filled with seriousness and life-changing commentary which have nothing to do with what the world chooses to celebrate.


Consider how quickly the work of martyrs is tossed aside for the work of entertainment.


Consider just the first point of 95:


"When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."










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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The decision is in the 'doing'...not the 'being'...

To do or not to do....THAT is the question.....

I can't help but "be" so I'm not sure what Bill S. (Shakespeare, not Steffen) had in mind with "to be or not to be..." but he certainly must have had a staff of people to do his 'doing', otherwise he would have realized that it's in the doing, or not doing, that we have the greatest decision making. And perhaps that in the doing, or not doing, that we have the most potential to really improve upon a life or completely mess it up....or at least mess it up for a day or week or evening.

Sometimes 'doing' decisions are made for us - our much liked piano teacher decided to stop teaching. After Ethan taking lessons for many years and Maddie following suit, the ending of this relationship was rather difficult. Or at least rather odd. When Monday rolls around it still doesn't feel quite right that we are home and not heading to lessons. And I have even been dragging my feet in finding a replacement teacher though one is really needed for our youngest musician as piano is her "thing". So we are not doing piano...though we really didn't get to make that decision.

A "not to do".

My biggest not doing as of late was not doing my high school reunion. I believe "party pooper" was used - most definitely with the greatest of Christian love - when I did not make an appearance. The fact that my lack of appearance was noted at least gave my ego a minuscule bump that day. Here's the thing.......I did NOT like high school. When I was in the midst of it of course I tolerated it, I had friends, I studied when necessary. But I did not like it. The teachers everyone adored? Well one made me dress up funny to recite a little bit of Hamlet. The other couldn't remember my name to save his life. These were the guys that lead, of all things, Young Life...the ones that were supposed to make kids feel open about their spiritual lives - give them a safe "outlet". I still shudder a bit when I envision one in particular. I don't have many memories from my high school years which I'd want to sit around and recall. Furthermore, in light of the life we have been leading the past few months in this household, attending a reunion was at the bottom of my list...especially of things to do alone.

That was a "not to do".

I have determined even more than usual to embrace the role that I have been assigned in this life. At present, that role is that of mother. (Yes - wife too - no preaching please....) My role has been summarily derided as of late by a lovely little special on NBC news conducted with great skeletal aplomb by Maria Shriver. Being 'just' a stay at home mom and keeper of a house was labelled "antiquated". I love how a society can twist anything into being "antiquated" or somehow without value based upon the wishes of a vocal group - perhaps a vocal majority at this point. Because life was SO very bad when moms were home with their children? Because the lives of children who were greeted at the door by a mom who sat and listened to their day as if the world depended on it scarred children for life? Because generations of adults brought up in a family with a mom always available become the ungreatest generation? Not so much.

This is a big "to do" right now.

Finally, as in all things, it seems even more important - and perhaps more difficult - to do the good that I know I should do....perhaps it is the plummet in finances in this home - perhaps the plummet in mood in this home - perhaps it's the general state of so much in this world. Whatever it is....perhaps it's just sin (ya think?).....the good I want to do I do not do.....though I hope to continue, at the very least, to toss aside anything that gets in the way of at least making a valiant attempt at something worth doing...something good worth doing.







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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Balance


This is a day from which is springing a quick post based upon quick observations....not always a sign of something stellar to follow, but I'll see if my thought process stands the test of time - or at least of a blog post that is not deleted very soon in the future.


In life, as many are wont to point out, "...it takes all kinds....". It takes the generous (to make up for the stingy) - it takes the humble (to make up for the proud) - it takes the quiet (to make up for the boisterous). It simply takes a lot of balance in personalities to make everything and everyone in a sin-filled world run relatively smoothly. Those of a more secular bent like to hearken to the concept of "yin and yang", that concept from Chinese thought which simply observes that opposites are necessary and unavoidable. To have 'light', one must know 'dark'. To have 'female', one must also have 'male'. When the order is disrupted....or there is attempt to disrupt it....life is thrown (even more) off balance.


I am certainly not a Taoist, but the thought here is prevalent especially in Scripture. When God created He created in perfect balance. Just enough of everything - a perfect compliment for each living thing. To the dark He brought light, to the earth He brought water and sky, to male He gave female. Balance in all things. Perfect Harmony. Of course this balance has been forever skewed by sin with His creation, with each successive generation, forgetting the importance of balance or -perhaps even more frightening - attempting to find it where there can never be balance.


All of this leading to my thoughts today. How, as a Christian woman, I am often in a state of complete unbalance. Finding that perfect middle is extremely difficult in so many arenas of life, even in the seemingly "good" things I do. Women are notorious over-volunteerers....whether it's from guilt, gratitude, or just plain 'super woman complex' the teeter-totter of volunteerism often falls far to one side. Or, honestly, to the opposite side - the women who expect their fellow sisters to pick up the slack and, therefore, never volunteer of their time at all. Balance is tough in this area.


Balance is also difficult when it comes to our personalities. We all know what little flaws we suffer from internally - the kind that bubble out from our mouths (or fingers) far too often. The advice we give that should not be given. The ego trips that lead us to correct people over matters which really don't call for correction. The sarcasm which belies impatience, ignorance, or just plain unkindness. And, just to be fair, the false meekness which simply serves to provide insulation from relationships. Balance in our personalities is difficult to achieve.


To find balance in our homes is perhaps the most difficult. As a woman my sinful nature naturally fights against the order of creation. As much as I'd love to think that my husband would refer to me as "Leah, my rib..." as Luther did of his wife, Katie, there's a pretty good chance that on many days I'd be "Leah, the pain in my side". It is difficult to walk alongside someone not because we want to, but in all honesty, because we were created to do so. It is hard to be a "help meet" when we really just want help ourselves. And at the same time it is difficult to speak up and take accountability when many of us just want to hide behind some false veil of meekness, for while the meek may inherit the earth it is the martyr who is brave enough to stand and give a full accounting of this hope that prods her on.


In the end, my prayer like Job, is "...Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity" (31:6; ESV) which, when commented upon by Matthew Henry, summarizes the life:


What we have in the world may be used with comfort, or lost with comfort, if honestly gotten. Without strict honestly and faithfulness in all our dealings, we can have no good evidence of true godliness.










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Monday, October 5, 2009

Of quality...rarely quantity


We grow up rapidly...some in both years and emotions...some more years than anything else. Yet one thing doesn't change - the gift of friendship. Oh, not in the sappy Hallmark way...I'm not sappy in the least. More that kind of friendship that has staying power. The kind formed during adversity, joy, or shared experience. Perhaps it's the kind forged in marriage, bonded by school, solidified by ill health. Even more treasured are those friendships which share not only any of the above, but also a love of one Savior as their commonality. Those friendships especially have staying power.


(At this point I was going to discuss one of the more beautiful examples of such friendship, that of David & Jonathan. Instead, as a tangent, consider doing a cursory internet search of this relationship. It seems that many of skewed it into a gay relationship. Yes. Truly. Sad.)


During the past few weeks this family has experienced the gift of trials. We are still working really hard at considering it "joy"....right now we are simply finding our comfort in knowing that nothing happens randomly. There is reason for everything and whether it's for us to learn or as a gift for our friends, we must remember that in the midst of everything there are gifts to be found. One such gift is this gift of friendship.


And so - written not as well as so many other things - this is to be a blanket endorsement for building quality friendships. The kind that endure. The kind based upon faith. The kind based upon shared Scripture. The kind that answer the 'call' even when the call isn't made audibly. It is not in years but in that intangible but certain bond that we find earthly comfort. Of those who easily lay on our couches, speak to our children, share humor when others just want to speak in serious hushed tones. Of sisters not of blood but of the heart. Of brothers not of birth. These are the quality - not quantity - which this writer wholeheartedly endorses and finds her joy within.









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Monday, September 28, 2009

YouTube to NBC to Scripture...quite a journey

God is love.

It is a simple sentence. Complete in fact with its subject and verb and proper punctuation. Short - concise - to the point. Complete. It is from here that a recent set of readings began for me and brought me from youtube to the evening news to the Bible. It was an interesting journey.

A recent youtube not-so-sensational video has been shared quite a bit both on Facebook and via many of those viral emails meant to - let's be honest - get the readers just plain upset. This video shows a group of very young school children standing together and singing. It is not the act of singing, but rather the lyrics, which have a good many people questioning just how rational the thought process is of a good many adults. These children find themselves in New Jersey - not a foreign land (though perhaps aliens have landed). The song they sing is not a politically correct version of American The Beautiful, but rather a song of praise to "Barrack Hussein Obama". I did not add his middle name for inflammatory purposes, I write it because it is what they sing. They sing of "equal pay for equal work"....I'm not sure what a 1st grader knows of this, though perhaps many came home asking for a substantial allowance increase. These children have been taught that a man by virtue of electability and "doing good" is praise worthy.

My day only got better when I turned on the evening news. Thanks to general thriftiness, this means I choose from one of three major news networks - NBC it is....that Brian Williams is the better looking option. Stories abounded that night on the good people are doing for others in the midst of the economy. Propping up how "good people" would surely not want the uninsured to die of cancer. Really lots of news about people generally described as "good" (unless they were speaking of someone not a Democrat).

In the end, my day was best when the Bible was read yet again and we found ourselves in Psalm 81 accompanied again by a little Abraham Kuyper. Our Psalm includes a lovely listing of all Jehovah did for His people..."In distress I rescued you..." and my personal favorite for its vivid word picture image, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." Yet as is often the case with stubborn Israelites and even more stubborn Americans, "...my people would not listen to me". And so the Lord gave them over to what they desired most which only lead to their enemies getting a foothold (yet again) in a very physical way.

All of this makes me marvel a great deal. To say I am not political would be a really gross piece of sarcasm. But I'm not married to a political party. In fact, in recent years I'm quite disillusioned by most anyone who ends up in Washington. A good many men and women have been ruined upon entering such service...such appears to be the nature of the beast. Yet I do remember when, at the very least, America as a whole valued leaders who (perhaps for show...but that part is not our responsibility) attended a church service and called upon the one true God as their source of inspiration. My how we have changed. We have embraced "good people" - not really caring that there is no source or basis for that good. If "God is love" how can we love apart from Him? How can anyone?

And finally, if a nation that calls upon the Lord is blessed where does this leave us? A nation full of "good people" with no source of good. A nation that praises humans who don't praise the one true God. And, how can it not be, a nation which will be given over to its enemies. If only we would "open wide our mouths" to the Lord rather than to a government.





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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Helping 101


What we often struggle with, I have become increasingly convinced, is a failure to know exactly how to offer assistance to those who may (or even may not) need a hand up. I do not know if this is something notoriously thrifty Dutch people in West Michigan especially stumble through, or perhaps it's more a result of living in the last few eras of prosperity. It could easily be a spill over from years of money easily made.


We all need to learn a number of things. First off, it is often best to just give help rather than offer the same. My dad would attest to the fact that men will not make phone calls when told to "call if you'd like a meal". In fact, most people won't make that call...Instead? Bring the meal - leave the meal in a fridge at church...to quote a marketing genius from a few years ago..."Just Do It". Action is better than the offer of action.


Especially in the times we find ourselves, even people who would normally have been able to lend a hand cannot necessarily do so....or at least not to the level they once could. If the assistance now offered is somehow lesser than before, offer the assistance but not the information as to just how "lesser". If the bread you are sharing and offering to break with someone who is suffering just happens to be day old, don't feel the need to share the 'day old' portion in the description.


Perhaps one of the more difficult assignments in "Helping 101" is to not share your own griefs in the midst of someone else's. This is not a time to compare and contrast. When a sister is going through breast cancer don't compare it to your bunions. When a family is experiencing economic woes don't equate it with your family being unable to take a Disney vacation. If someone has lost a job please don't think this is the same as you losing your keys this morning. And as much as we all experience something along the spectrum of physical suffering just plain use common sense....for example, I suffer with migraines. I would never, however, take my suffering and pretend for a minute it deserves more attention than someone's cancer, heart condition, or even a family's loss of economic means. We all need to work a little harder at forgetting our own problems and attempting to (properly) focus on those of someone else.


Most importantly, offer prayer only when you really intend to pray. Peace that passes understanding is often a gift received courtesy of saints here on earth intercessing on one's behalf. Offer the prayer most certainly....but then carry through and actually do it. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems easier to make a lasagna than to actually take some extra time to offer up a specific prayer.


Cook without asking - share without details - pray like the warrior you are.






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Monday, September 21, 2009

Kuyper in plain English...

Under the label of "favorite things":

I am re-reading a book each morning which had spoken to me before and, because of God's good and perfect timing, is speaking even more to me the second (or third) time around. And so, today, I borrow from Near Unto God by Abraham Kuyper: Daily meditations adapted for contemporary Christians by James C. Schaap.

"Imagine everything you own blown away by a tornado - everything, even family. Nothing remains. Really, that's where each of us is at death. As we face our Maker, our real fortunes lie only in our souls, and the only riches we carry belong, really, to him...

"Hell will be littered with creative, bright people, nimble in conversation - people who have sought none of the riches of God.

"To be rich with God is to own Him, to be His temple, to carry in your heart the holy and glorious one wherever you go. To be rich with God is to be refreshed continuously from the Fountain of all good inside one's very soul.

"To be near unto God means understanding that what we really own comes to us both in Him and through Him. It is a mark of our sin to recognize how difficult it is for us to know with true conviction that our fortunes lie in the Lord and not in the things of this world - and to operate on that principle.













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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Remember when....


Birthdays always make me nostalgic. Not in a morbid sort of way, but rather retrospective....I'm not sure a person can be retrospective, but that's the best term I can borrow to describe the act of realizing just how many things no longer exist. Whew. "Nostalgic" makes me feel far too old and anything else seems to promote the idea that just because I realize something is no longer present, I necessarily miss it....


Anyway - since my children think I'm old for mentioning these things, why not share my old age even further. Remember.....


- Cartoons after school in the afternoons

- Bill Knapps restaurants

- Nabisco crackers in a wide range of flavors (I miss the Swiss Cheese ones the most)

- Canvas Nike "tennis shoes"

- Barbie's dream house

- Laverne & Shirley, Mary & Rhoda, Gilligan & The Skipper

- Christmas beginning in malls right after Thanksgiving and not sooner

- Black & White TV that did not have remote controls

- Record players, 8-Track players, Cassette players

- The Lawrence Welk Show Saturday evening (maybe my parents were just older than average)


Anything more and I'll feel like I should have my reservation in for the Holland Home. Whew. No wonder I'm so tired. I'm ancient!! Though I must confess, there was something awfully exciting about having television just one day per week - Saturday morning - when every station (all THREE of them) gave over programming to children. I miss that a lot on Saturday mornings. Kind of like I miss jeans that cover my rear and the color kelly green.






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Monday, September 14, 2009

What I was going to write..


has been erased. Not by me, but rather by an act of electronic 'blip'. I'm instead going to go with by an 'act of God'. He knew that what would have been posted was probably not fit to be read...that I would want to swallow it all back later in an act of contrite embarrassment.

What IS fit to write, what was central to my thought process, where it sprung from (and then went horribly astray in a fit of good old foot stomping anger and frustration and the desire to take people by shoulders and shake them good) was something simple and yet concise:

WHAT does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

I'm disheartened that I'm seeing this more in the world than I am in the church as a body of believers. I'm feeling it more among the groups that conservatives routinely denounce and put down. There are no simple answers just as there are rarely simple problems, yet caring for people during an economic calamity should be something a church excels at....something it does with great humbleness, efficiency, and certainly without one hand knowing what the other is doing.

Now I'm stopping - before the foot starts stomping again....




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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

To Be 8



I have learned a few things over the course of this crazy parenthood thing and one of them is this: Eight is a pretty cool age to be.


Eight year olds can still wake up sleepy in the morning and look really cute and cozy. There are no new blemishes which have popped up during sleep, no odd odors radiating from their very beings, and the pajamas are really still quite cute. Being eight means 'bed head' is adorable and crawling into a parent's lap is perfectly natural.


When one is eight, the world tends to begin at point Me and venture in really curvy, curly-q lines from that point ending at point Me. It's not a direct route but it's a pretty reliable route. It's steady - because at 8 one has mastered the whole balance thing - but it's interesting. Eight can focus on eight because, really, in the end it's all about 8. And that's okay. At 8.


The fabulous thing about eight is the fact that birthdays are still exciting and meant to be counted down starting at, oh, 92 days before birthday. And everyone else should be counting right along for, apart from Christmas and any day involving no school, Eight's birthday is about the most thrilling, fantabulous, celebratory day there is. 8 still can't wait to be 9 and 8's mommy is generally okay with that because 9 is still a single digit. But 9 is no eight.


Of course there are downsides to 8 as there are with 1 through seven. Eight is no three - no longer the epitome of cuteness to the public at large. And 8 is no 1 - being held by anyone lucky enough to steal a quick cuddle. Eight involves some maintenance for no one will brush 8's teeth or bathe 8 in a kitchen sink. And sometimes Eight must do school work which seems entirely too far removed from point Me. Eight also means extra chores....though truth be told 8 can still smile or pout out of some work that 13 and Ten cannot avoid. (Eight works really well when 8 is the baby....)


And 8 can turn any situation into an adventure. A basement with water is an indoor puddle, a dog with muddy paws is fun with a garden hose, any trip becomes vacation, a funeral home is free (mint) candy, and the Dentist is a fun adult who hands out free stuff.


Oh to be 8...even just for an hour or so.












(this little thing is here because I'm testing something......)

Transparent Language

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The lost art of....guilt?

It has come to my attention over the course of several years, that the fine art of guilt has been waning to the point of (virtual) non-existence. While a cursory viewing of any episode of Law & Order will result in someone receiving a guilty verdict, the angst people used to experience over doing something - anything - wrong seems to have been summarily replaced. The observation is really in two parts: where did guilt go? and what replaced it?

I imagine humans have been shoving aside guilt - or at least displacing it - since the beginning of recorded time. Adam shoved his blame to Eve I'm sure, partly, in an attempt to assuage the guilt he felt over standing by and watching Eve do her thing. He even took that blame a step further and blamed his Creator for ever giving him "the woman". Somewhere in the midst of our dirty sin-filled story the main human characters felt enough guilt over seeing nakedness that they decided hiding from that shame would be the best route to take. It seems that where there has been sin there is often guilt. Or at least there should be.

Abraham Lincoln, father of emancipation and favorite poster child of the underdog, often bemoaned the fact that he had no good solution for slavery. End it to be sure, but what then? Generations of slave traders had removed a people from their homeland and transported them abroad where these people had gone on to have children and - in whatever fashion they could - establish a life in a new country. In fact, the guilt was so great that during an address in Peoria, IL Lincoln went so far as to suggest that the best solution, though wholly improbably, was to send the slaves back to "Liberia". In some ways Lincoln's guilt, felt on behalf of an entire country's population, lead an otherwise sensical person to suggest something that just about anyone would agree made no sense at all. And he, himself, knew the suggestion was completely implausible. Guilt makes us come up with crazy notions for covering it over or taking care of it.

Somewhere along the line, however, guilt became so covered over with grace that we neglected the guilt that got us here in the first place. I'm thinking 'grace' not only in a Biblical sense, but in that cheapened worldly use of the term. Oprah loves using the term 'grace' with the aplomb of Joel Oosteen and his prosperity preaching. Catholics once known for their "catholic guilt" rarely have much of a concept of the emotion - in my family the guilt died after my grandparents with the next generation acting without regard. In my own generation we were raised not only to follow laws and rules and commandments because they existed, but because there was that dreaded pit of the stomach guilt that came right along with swearing, drinking, smoking, premarital sex....you name it - it wasn't completely avoided but the guilt was as palpable as the second hand smoke girls tried feverishly to wash out of their hair.

Guilt it seems has been replaced by lowered expectations. What is granted as freedom is really a feeble bunch of excuses for bad behavior. There are few rules for teens because, as one parent once told me, "What can you do? You keep telling them 'no' and eventually you have no connection." Children cheat in school and instead of guilt they blame a teacher who can't teach or a 'system' that has failed them. They don't feel guilty - what else could they do but cheat? Husbands look at pornography and have affairs but there's no guilt - after all their wife let herself go, was too tired for sex, nagged him far too often. Wives sure have no guilt over not being a wife because it's really not what they signed up for. They are in the marriage for the children and their children are extremely happy so why should they feel guilty?

Guilt used to be an art.....one that drove us to grace and gratitude. What happens when we lose the art.....what drives us to true grace and a life filled to overflowing with gratitude if there is no longer anything to spur us on to that point?


“I have come to the conclusion that none of us in our generation feels as guilty about sin as we should or as our forefathers did” - Francis Schaeffer

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Two Meals - One Roaster

A favorite cheap eats meal that appears anything but is a whole roasted chicken. Sure, the easy way is to run to your local grocer and buy an already-roasted variety...and, in fact, this is not a bad option if you're crunched for time because there's still at least two meals on that one bird. I thought of it today both because I'm craving some homemade chicken noodle soup (and I have none in the freezer or on the stove) and because, quite honestly, I just watched a show on cheap meals which called a $20 meal for a family of four "cheap". Multiply that times 7 days and that's $140/week for just one meal! "Cheap" sure does have a wide range of definitions in the culinary world.

That said, assuming you've got the time, here's the easy way to roast on the truly cheap.

You'll need:

1 whole chicken
1-2T salt - I prefer coarse - your generic table variety is fine
1 T pepper - my preference is coarse and fresh ground - table style is just swell
4 whole bay leaves - you can find these in your spice section - bottled
2 T rosemary - buy it ground or buy in the more whole form and crush with a mortar/pestle
3 T oil - try using olive or canola if possible

Rinse your whole chicken thoroughly removing any 'innards' and the neck - save the neck. Rub the inside carcass with the salt, pepper, & rosemary. On the outside of the bird use a knife to separate the skin from the breast near the rear opening. Once open a pocket is created which can be filled with your bay leaves. Rub the entire carcass with the oil.

Bake in a 350 degree (F) oven generally for 1.5 hours or until done using a meat thermometer.

.................................................
Enjoy your roaster but save any leftovers - yup - the bones (provided they haven't been chewed on or licked clean), the skin, anything left....even the often avoided dark meat. Take the whole kit and caboodle and put in a tall pot covered with water...include the neck you saved above.

In the pot include what you have...things like:

2 T salt
2 cups chopped celery...be thrifty and throw in the leaves too!
1 cup chopped white onion
1 T whole pepper corns
2-3 whole bay leaves

Heat this to boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about an hour....if the water is evaporating a good deal feel free to add more.

Like garlic? Throw some into the pot while cooking.

When all is said and done poor the pot into a fresh bowl or pot by simply using a colander and dumping through that. The colander should catch any bones, chunks you don't want, and whole pepper corns and leaves.

What you have left is chicken stock/soup. To use immediately consider throwing back in any celery/onion that you have in the colander - add some chopped carrot - maybe some egg noodles - and salt/pepper to taste.

Two meals - one roaster....whether roasted at home or roasted in the grocery store, the pre-seasoned meat makes for some great soup.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Early Monday Morning Ruminations


Sometimes early hours mean more productivity....that restless energy best spent on folding laundry or wiping down counters or even cleaning up after a rogue dog or two. Sometimes it just means that my head was not meant to live in Michigan. Which is really tough since my body has been firmly placed here for all the years of my life which I can recollect.


During the 5ish a.m. hour in our home all is still dark and silent. The hum of a refrigerator working and that faint electronic noise is all that I can detect. The street out front does have its share of cars but - perhaps a sign of our economic times - the buzzing is not as frequent as it has been in the past. Even factory workers sleep a bit more...sort of like builders who once rolled out of bed at 5:30. There's no need for early rising as of late.


On Monday there does seem to hang this sense of possibility. Nothing tangible of course, but sort of a feeling of being a bookshelf just a bit too overfull. That's what Monday reminds me of. Sort of bursting at the seams - waiting to see how much can be done or moved about in this one 24 hour period. And of course there is the looming of school - something that most of the inhabitants in this house are looking forward to. Oh, they won't come out and admit it - perhaps the youngest one might - but there is the feeling that it's just time to get on with it. I know the feeling well.


So at 5ish a.m. on a Monday morning filled with potential from a head bursting with all kinds of migraine-y fun, silence is a gift, darkness a blanket, and the air is thick with potential.


.....but how I'd much prefer to be back in bed!
(Incidentally my photo of choice has nothing to do with this post....I just figured it was time for the eldest to get some photo time.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Color Me.......disappointed

Today I'm afraid that what I feel the urge to write about will be considered a complete and utter 'downer'. I'm thinking namely of one thing: disappointment. It comes in many forms and rears its downer of a head in many situations and while it can be felt as a group emotion, it does tend to be rather solitary as one situation will render two people both disappointed but for very different reasons.

From day one of parenting disappointment rears its head. It begins simply enough with drowsy disappointment over lack of sleep. And while so many well-meaning (and well versed) parents will tell us to enjoy the moment for the moment will soon be gone, it sure is difficult to find enjoyment in anything when holding up one's eyelids takes an effort of Olympic proportions. Of course losing sleep takes on an entirely different meaning as children age and, in my case, the disappointment over bad behavior, bad choices, general "badness" falls squarely on my shoulders. While we're all in possession of a sinful nature, with each childhood misstep I can't help but be disappointed in myself for not (fill in the blank)....not spanking more, not refraining from spanking, not keeping him more sheltered, not forcing her out more, not throwing every TV out of the window, not teaching discernment as of 6 months of age....the list goes on. Disappointment.

Then I have what I'm now calling 'Socialist Disappointment'. Color me green (or communist red) but I'm really disappointed in my fellow capitalists over their shock at the direction of this country. Is it not inevitable for Socialism and its counterparts to gain a foothold when even in our Judeo-Christian circles we can't refrain ourselves from spending and retrain ourselves to give to those who need a bit? Oh, to be certain, non-profit agencies often thrive in this economy as well-meaning Christians set out to prove a point (if I had a dollar for each comment similar to: "I guess we're showing the world...our missions budget is well over its yearly goal during this miserable economy."....) Yet I'd like to snatch a few new cars from a few people and disperse that money directly into the hands of the un/under employed...the un/under insured... the stressed out wives....the hard working (but failing) husbands...the Christian school tuition bills of the family of 4...YES - I'd like to get a bit Socialist on the spending of others. I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed in the lack of embarrassment - in the face of the problems of so many - that a new car/new cottage/new (big ticket item) seems prudent right now. I have Socialist Disappointment and though I feel that I should undergo a 12-step program for it I'm just not ready to commit to that quite yet.

Veggie disappointment: there's one that only comes to the surface in the homes of would be gardeners. I learned disappointment over growing vegetables from my dear old dad. Each year the garden would be tilled, each year the plants would be planted in a very OCD-manner, each year he would stew over rabbits and fungus and bugs (Oh My!) Veggie disappointment is habitual at its very core in that it can be avoided but among the would be gardener it rarely is. In February of each year a seed catalog enters a home and all prior year VD is forgotten, replaced only by visions of Eden-like tomatoes and carnivorous rabbits. VD is subtle, filled with angst, but like Groundhog Day repeated over and over and over and over..... (Have I mentioned my deer-eaten kale?)

Today I'm thinking on disappointment. I'm not yet disappointed by anything in particular but I fully expect to reach it on some level, at some time, in some place..... For as sure as the sun rises and sets, so sure is disappointment....the hope, however, is that like Veggie Disappointment each day is begun fresh - "with no mistakes in it" as Anne of Green Gable fame enjoyed saying - and devoid of disappointment for as long as possible.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book Into Movie

Brevity shall reign.


Our Mutual Friend & BBC's Our Mutual Friend....generally a good adaptation

Charlotte's Web & ancient cartoon version....quite a good adaptation

Charlotte's Web & most recent live version....oh heavens...not so much

Pride and Prejudice & BBC's Pride & Prejudice....bring on the Darcy! Nice!

The Memory Keeper's Daughter & the TV movie.....I'm glad my memory isn't so hot

Jane Eyre & most recent version....not bad

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe & BBC's version.....worth coming out of the wardrobe for

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe & the most recent adaptaion....I want to like it...enh

Les Miserables & the 1998 adaptation.....it's a long book to adapt but missing characters abound

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Way We Were

When I was young my mother used to listen to 105.7FM - at the time it was quite easy listening with the once per hour vocal number thrown in for good measure. As I made my bed the other morning I had one of those momentary flashbacks - perhaps brought on by smoothing a pillow or fixing the comforter. I recalled my mom sitting on the edge of her bed, quietly crying. To a child, a crying parent is (hopefully) an oddity and an occasion met with some vague sense of curiousity.

I sat next to her and inquired as to the source of her tears (I'm sure secretly hoping it wasn't something I did....) She was listening to a song, she stated, and it always made her cry. It was "The Way We Were" song by Barbra Streisand courtesy of the movie of the same name. She went on to explain that the words made her remember the moment she met my dad - their early courtship - fixing up their first house....all the moments that I now realize are the hallmarks of many younger couples. Now being an only child I went on to stomp my little feet wondering why those memories did not include me - how could she be sad if back then she didn't have me, her greatest joy of course.

She couldn't fully explain it to a young child. There were no words, I know now, which would have satisfied my curiousity and my lack of understanding. But I do realize now that I witnessed the hallmark of a good marriage. And while Ms. Streisand connotes other less than glorious political thoughts in me as an adult, her song still renders me teary and now I understand....

Memries,Like the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were
Scattered pictures,
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? could we?
Memries, may be beautiful and yet
Whats too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So its the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember...
The way we were...The way we were...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Scraps


I have written in the past about my love-hate relationships with scrapbooks. The pressure they have created - the marketing genius of one company in particular - and the seemingly endless ways one can now 'archive' their past is a bit mind blowing. Throw in the incredibly ironical concept of leaving one's family for a weekend or week to scrapbook the memories of the family that was left behind.... It's really a bit overwhelming.


I'm artsy. I like odd numbers. I like colorful homes. I like taking pictures. I can even appreciate interesting acid-free, lignin-free, (insert latest concern)-free paper.


I own scrapbooks. I have one of my own from my childhood, purchased with hard-earned money from the local Hallmark store (circa 1970-something). It's filled with non-archival papers that move through my life in a very realistic fashion. I wasn't into grommetting and I don't recall ever embossing anything, but I have some great little 1st grade Valentine's commenting on my "little kid teeth" as well as a report card or two written out in very ordinary Bic Roundpoint Blue.


For my own wedding I purchased the 'appropriate' book from the 'appropriate' company intending to do everything in an 'appropriate' fashion. Instead, my dear mother took it upon herself to place the wedding photos in an album along with snippets of the (quite un-acid free) invitations I had, little pearls from my hair, and a napkin from the reception. I remember shuddering at the time - imagining the looks of horror from the scrapbooking set when they saw how my once 'appropriate' book had been defiled. Five years after her death, I don't see defiled...I see her fingerprints. That's what really matters.


And so as I haul all of my stuff out to the dining table yet again. With the best of intentions yet again....I wonder just how homogeneous the scrapbooks of the late 20th and 21st centuries will appear to children in forty years. When all the very dear, very well-intentioned scrappin' mommas and aunts and sisters are gone or at least too arthritic to apply another acid-free photo corner to a priceless photograph, will the children sitting and gazing at the books see the fingerprints of those who so lovingly prepared the books? or will they instead see a history of the latest scrappin' fad devoid of any non acid-free ribbons and report cards and 1st grade Valentines?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Sabbath...my observation

It seems that in life lately, namely the life of those in the (a) church, the joy and necessity of a Sabbath has been completely disregarded. In our human effort at wisdom, grace has been cheapened and used to gradually erase even a hint of the day as it was created to be. I am reminded of this often in this age of technology as I read from that ultimate time waster: Facebook. I'm not sure I'm shocked anymore by the 'status updates' devoid of worship on a Sunday, but I'm certainly saddened.

Perhaps for those of us who were raised within the Calvinist Reformed traditions of Sabbath negatives, falling to the other side of the spectrum was akin to a drug addict suddenly being told that cocaine is a good thing. I count myself among those raised in some fairly vague but harsh rules (try not sweating on the Sabbath). While avoiding any form of sweat is rather nonsensical to this mother at this stage in her life, I still fully appreciate the idea of a Sabbath.

As Jesus walked along with his disciples and picked some grain he reminded the Pharisees - those who would have embraced the no sweat rule, among others - that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). My maturing life has made this fact all the more real as my observations of just what a week entails screams for a Sabbath. Cheapened grace keeps man always moving, always reaching, always doing...cheapened grace forgets the admonition to "Be still."

Cheapened grace becomes an excuse rather than an exaltation. Grace as excuse keeps God's people from His house on the Sabbath. Grace as exaltation makes it difficult to keep God's people from running to His house. Cheapened grace suddenly renders the Sabbath about us...about our sports, our eating preferences, our need for vacation. True grace renders the Sabbath - and all of life - about our Savior.

I need a Sabbath. My spiritual life needs one. My emotional life needs one. My daily grind life needs one. I need the reminder - I need the refocus - I need the slower pace. The Sabbath is one of the very few things in life which none of us should ever need a vacation from.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Mish Mash of Bunnies, Woe, Loneliness & Skinny Vegans

The kale has been chewed up by those cute bunnies I keep saving from the ire of the resident labradoodle. Those bunnies don't know enough to not mess with a (partially) Dutch girl's future meals...kale/potatoes/sausage has been in my food dream world for a while now. Curse those fuzzy bunnies.

......................................

Not everyone who cries "woe is me" is really at 'Woe-Level'. Have you ever found yourself disappointed, after helping someone, because you discover that they really didn't need the help? I find myself in this situation every couple of months and I know I really should not feel this way...we each answer for our own actions (or lack thereof), but the dirty sinful nature rears its ugly head. I just hate feeling like someone took advantage of me....I hate it even more so when I realize the person is so self-centered that they haven't a clue. I hate it most that I even think about such things. Get behind me....icky thoughts....
.....................................

Suffering from foot-in-mouth disease is worse than loneliness. In loneliness one is at least safe from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time (or to the wrong person). Loneliness is not an experience one longs for, but there is some safety in being alone. I loathe and abhor gossip. I try to avoid it at any cost. Yet sometimes I have opened my mouth, said something, and realized that what I said was 'news' to the listener. I hate when I share 'news' that wasn't mine to share. And I don't mean the veiled prayer request gossip type news, but just news in general. I think 'better safe than sorry' is a mantra to live by when it comes to sharing information. And so I think that loneliness, though not longed for, could certainly be treated a bit as a gift.
......................................

I just swapped online for a book (paperbackswap.com). The name should not necessarily reflect the contents. The title in this case? Skinny Bitch. Yup. And, no, it's not a diet book for female dogs. This one is touted as a relevant, current diet book for women looking to be, well, skinny (hopefully not bitchy....though when following this book one's mood could easily be classified as such). The authors list as their qualifications being "former Ford models". Really. I mean, such things really beg for me to make so many comments...it's like the ultimate joke set-up. The first chapter was sensical enough. The second chapter re-hashed Fit For Life (anyone remember this one?). By the third chapter the authors wanted us to embrace being vegans. Cough. Sputter.

Know this: I am not a huge meat eater. I DO believe that what we eat tends to determine how sick we are during a year. I DO believe that certain ailments can at least be alleviated by eating or avoiding certain foods. BUT too much of a good thing is......a bad thing. Vegans notoriously get their protein from soy-based items. Too much soy has been linked to breast cancer. I don't say this as the scientist who has done all the research, rather to show that for every good thing there is usually an example of why the good thing isn't so good. Then there's fish oil. When we don't eat it here we take it in capsule form. That's not at all vegan.

Ah - anyway - I was glad I didn't pay for the book and in spite of two "former Ford models" saying it's a good thing, I think I'll wait until they get some M.D.s behind their skinny names before I tout this book as the next best thing to sliced tofu.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

....oh, about a year ago....

About a year ago I.....

- was planning Vacation Bible School for church

This year I.....

- am planning Vacation Bible School for church

About a year ago I.....

- was nervously awaiting the results of the kids' standardized tests

This year I.....

- liberated all of us from the anxiety by skipping the tests

About a year ago I.....

- was planning a (BIG) family reunion in (MY) backyard and going (VERY) insane

This year I.....

- marked the season with the death of one of "the sisters"....one of my Aunts who just was always there along with the other two....sort of one Aunt and two bookend Aunts.....


To everything there is, indeed, a season. Some things stay the same for good purpose. Reaching children should not be a 'numbers game' involving a ratio of non-churched to expense. (But - alas - it often is.) I'm glad some things stay the same.

And some things change because we have a good mind to change them. The liberation and freedom of homeschooling easily lend itself to a year off of standardized testing. Nevermind that in traditional school settings the testing is not an annual occurrence - we homeschooling types are held to higher standards.....mostly by prying eyes and telling comments. Yet a little change does a body good.

Of course all things change not by our will, but by His good will. In fact, 'not a hair can fall from my head' apart from His good pleasure and I find that exceedingly comforting. Not confining. Not restricting. Oh-so-liberating. For if I were in control I shudder to think at the results. And so life changes drastically when family is called Home.....but Home is a most excellent place to be. The very best, in fact.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Context Is King.....when it's convenient

I had a few glimmering rays of wisdom during my time in the religion department at my alma mater. One such glimmer was a now retired professor whose favorite thing to say during freshman religion class was: "Context is king!" We used a book back in the day - one that has since been revised and I cannot speak to the revisions - it was entitled 'How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth' by Fee & Stuart. I remember the class well, perhaps in large part because I did not have to argue much during that semester. (This would not be the case for future religion and philosophy classes at the same institution.)

"Context is king!" is not a bad motto to hold for one's life in most - if not all - arenas. In fact as I type this little ditty I cannot think of a time when "context is king" would not hold itself up to the closest scrutiny. Perhaps only in comedy would context kind of throw a wet blanket on something otherwise quite humorous.

This came to mind specifically this morning when I checked in at various websites reading posts, seeing the pithy Facebook 'status updates' of various "friends", reading in the way that 2009 adults read in the a.m. I chuckled when I saw that a comment I had made on someone's status update for the night before had been deleted. It seems that this "friend" didn't like context too much as I had pointed out that a quote he probably intended to woo his loyal female followers (he's a divorcee) was written by a bisexual author/poet and probably not for the audience my "friend" was intending. It seemed context really didn't work for him and I was summarily deleted.

And as our (cough, sputter) President woos the Muslim peoples of the world into slick submission - to which I say to him "good luck with that" - it seems he has thrown context out the political window yet again (how often can one window be broken?) We have a President reaching out and wooing a group that doesn't want wooing - they want heads on silver platters. Where was this man when planes were driven into towers, as women long before that were subjected to the worst kinds of humiliation (because they had the nerve to be female), as children were raped and beaten? This is the group he wants to now befriend? Radical or no, this is no religion that is a friend to women - a friend to grace - a friend to children - a friend to anyone but brutal, power-hungry men. Context, it seems, is little more than an antiquated afterthought.

So many instances of people forgetting that "context is king". Unlike my freshman year religion class, I could be doing a lot of arguing on a rather routine basis. Yet while context may still be king - sometimes silence is golden.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Love, Love, Love....Being A Girl.... (HA)

This wasn't a red letter kind of Sunday for me....the ancient song "I LOVE Being A Girl" has me scoffing a bit. Anyone who knows of Eve really couldn't sing that song in good conscience. Anyone who knows of Adam knows that from day one Eve got the blame...."...the woman YOU gave me..." (Even the Creator got the blame there - for creating that woman.) Today has me thinking on 'being a girl' though my mom brought me up with just enough decorum to have me avoid sharing all the details currently moving about in my brain.

Not since Sarah Palin has the issue of women and competence played such a political role as in recent days. With Obama's nomination of one Justice Sonia Sotomayor we girls have the headlines yet again. The nomination had me thinking a number of things -

1) We Michigan residents would have been thrilled to 'donate' Governor Jennifer Granholm...not just to the short list, but to the up for nomination slot. Color me disappointed that she didn't get the nomination just to rid Lansing of her a bit ahead of schedule.

2) White men are really out of luck until they achieve true minority status. REALLY out of luck. Sorry Adam, what goes around and all....

2b) White women married to said white men are equally out of luck by virtue of lacking the forethought necessary to avoid marrying one.

2c) The administration's two most visible white men? Joe Biden. Enough said. And the Press Secretary - the guy who throws temper tantrums, is generally rude, and throws cell phones.

3) Had the aforementioned white man made a comment to the affect of, "My experience as a white male in America has given me more usable experience for judging cases than an Hispanic female sitting on the bench" he would have found himself on the rim of a soda pop can faster than you can say "Anita Hill".

As the mother of a very capable girl I really hope that as she ages she will be held to high standards. Period. Not "high standards for a girl" or "high standards for a white girl". But high standards. Why this is not the wish of all parents - why incredibly accomplished minorities are incapable of standing up and shouting "NO!" when they realize standards are loosened for their benefit completely mystifies me.

As the mother of two very capable (and white) boys I really hope that they will have the courage and determination and strength to be the men we are raising them to be. Men after God's own heart. Men who would never take the easy route, men who will always take the higher road, men who would never stand back and point at someone else and say "The person You placed next to me? It's really all their fault..." And I hope that opportunity will still exist in whatever arena they are called to enter, though I secretly fear such opportunity will be slim.

I don't 'Love, Love, Love Being A Girl'.....but I sure love being a wife and mother and sister....and I sure do expect to be held by the same standards one would have for anyone else...and I sure do hope that in the future America will go back to being a place where standards are standards - for everyone. Period.

Monday, May 25, 2009

In honor of (one) who served

This brought tears to his eyes last night....a very odd sight from a man who does not shed many. In honor of him and the other USAF veterans, members of the greatest generation, who endured some of the greatest atrocities known to man to protect and serve a country they felt was worthy of such protection.

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys,
Give 'er the gun! (Give 'er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame.
Hey! Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue;
Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew! (God only knew then!)
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before And bombers galore.
Hey! Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

Friday, May 22, 2009

You Can't HANDLE The Truth!

A funny thing happened on my way to my day - an email arrived in my box. I like emails when they're from real people and not simply Amazon.com telling me a new book is available or that pesky Mailer-Daemon guy telling me an email address I used is not valid. This email came from a very real person from whom I have not heard in at least a year, probably longer if my sense of time wasn't forever skewed.

The subject line was a bright indicator that this was no personal note. Yet as is often the case when it comes to messages from those we've lost touch with, I found myself oddly okay with a blanket email. I was prepared to be okay with him asking if I want to take part in a "special business opportunity" (that's Amway-speak for the non-Grand Rapids among us) or an inquiry as to whether I had ever considered switching insurance agents (also plausible since the sender is a chronic job hopper....a harder title to hold onto in this present economy).

What I received was a mix of the two tongue-in-cheek scenarios above filled with all kinds of "opportunity" but reeking a bit of partial truth. It's tough when we can't handle the truth in our own lives - perhaps tougher when we believe others around us couldn't handle our truth either. Truth is a struggle. It often divides more than it unites, and it many times has us criticizing the truth-teller rather than embracing his honesty. People who lose jobs "move on to other opportunities" or "give two week notices" rather than get fired. Couples divorce over "irreconcilable differences". No one really tells it like it is.

There is a scene in the movie A Few Good Men - a scene in a courtroom to be exact - that includes an exchange that goes as follows:

Lt. Jessep (Jack Nicholson): You want answers?
Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I want the truth!
Lt. Jessep: You can't handle the truth!

This exchange popped into my head as I finished the email message I received. Did the sender choose language he knew the recipients could handle or was the sender struggling with his own truth? Did he purposely use ambiguous language in an effort to deceive - further removing himself and the rest of us from truth - or is his own life so bogged down with a false sense of reality that he can no longer identify what is fully true? How much of this is going around! It takes but five minutes of an evening news cast to be bombarded with partial truth (which, let's be frank, has ceased to be truth if it has "partial" in front of it). And how many people have taken on a diagnosis for a loved one rather than confronting their own truth - that they are somehow complicit in leading someone they love down a path of deconstruction?

This email still has me thinking - how watered down truth has become, how so much has become "relative", how we no longer stand up and beg for the truth - even if the writer/speaker claims we can't handle the truth. I want to write back to my sender and tell him that I would much prefer a truth which took some time to digest than a watered-down version done for our mutual 'benefit'. I want to do so, but if I'm entirely truthful with myself I'm not sure what my reaction would have been to blunt honest truth. This is the sad reality of life: We only pretend to support the failed while secretly wondering what they did wrong.

In a perfect world, more people would recall and live by this quote rather than the false sense of preservation promoted by the idea that listeners can't handle the truth:

"From failure you learn; from success, not so much." - Wilbur, Meet The Robinsons

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Miscellany .... of Gardens & Pruning & Graduating

So many assorted things to get from brain to fingers to "page"...

GRADUATION - it seems forever ago - 20 years for me this year - and yet it doesn't seem long enough that I have friends with graduating children. We went to our first open house last Sunday afternoon and to look at this lovely young woman knowing I can look at her and see her younger self....ah! As I sat there with friends a teacher from my past arrived and we embraced with her reminiscing of my own elementary/junior high schooling for she was a teacher at the same school at the same time. This time of year is thrilling for so many young people and rather a mix for parents. For those of us who sit back and watch - but find ourselves edging ever closer to the moment for our own children - it's a very mish-mash kind of experience.

GARDENS - are my piece of peace and the dirt is giving me a satisfaction that no amount of shopping may do...the feel of the dirt, the idea of growing something from that dirt, the creation of compost (yes, really) from what others deem "garbage". Today brought tomato and pepper plants and transplanting raspberries and just a lot of satisfaction in getting something done.

PRUNING - in the midst of gardening there is the ever-present job of pruning, but lately I am applying this art to other, non-plant, aspects of my life. I said "no" today to something that I actually kind of wanted to say "yes" to....but I knew a "yes" would render my life and the lives of my family members manic. I'm pruning people - not cruelly, but ya know what, one-sided relationships are not relationships at all and if I'm the only one showing real interest - offering support -checking in....well sometimes lives run their course and a good pruning is really just the inevitable.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In Honor of Summer Break..Favorite "S" Words...

  • skorts - sort of to shorts what a mullet is to hair....sensible and fun all in one
  • strawberry plants - very hard to kill, very forgiving....great qualities in anyone/thing
  • swine flu - it's no laughing matter but, truly, there has been more good joke material produced because of this "pandemic" than I've heard in a very long time
  • sneakers - going through them because the weather is nice...good sign
  • silly children - silly mostly because their teacher decided break should start NOW
  • stiff drinks - for some it means splurging on regular Coke as opposed to Diet, for others it means their lemonade gets a little 'help' from Mike (of hard lemonade fame)
  • sisters - I've never had biological ones, but I've met some pretty fabulous ones along the way
  • sunshine - occasionally I've been known to relish this
  • showers - often I've been known to relish these
  • smoke - from the fire pit...apart from the smoke smell in hair & clothes, it's a wonderful way to spend an evening
  • Savannah - one of my favorite cities

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Life returned to normal

at 9:34am on Saturday when the head of our home returned home. We have been living with departures and homecomings for what feels like an eternity (in reality it has now been about 4 months). This normalcy feels a bit more permanent in the sense that he has some work to occupy his time.

"Normalcy", however, is most definitely a relative term and one that does, indeed, shift as time marches on. Just as normal once meant a couple we found ourselves in a new state of normal as each child was gifted to our household. It shifted in many ways - both extremely perceptible and seemingly small. I'm thinking this instant of how a grocery tab changes from including diapers and formula to five gallons of a milk a week and at least two jars of peanut butter per month. My how time marches on and normal re-creates itself on a continual basis.

"Normalcy" is also best appreciated by those who have lost it and quite misunderstood by those who continually live within it. We have found this to be the case both first hand amid comments and calls and emails from those who know of our recent adjustments to normalcy but who can't stand how our adjustments have made their lives so very difficult (and, perhaps, abnormal?) We have experienced this in the constant adjustments children have to make each time normal is redefined. There are tears and fears and upset stomachs.

And as I type this, forever thankful for things in our lives which have returned to the old normal:
  • blood clots have been cleared and a robust husband is returned to health
  • the rumbling of a diesel truck engine can be heard in the morning
  • a whirring lawn tractor that makes its rounds faithfully
  • the once partially empty church pew that has been refilled yet again

While normal will be new for a great many both now and in the future, and while we all will deal with others who don't or won't or can't understand, perhaps Erma Bombeck stating that "normal is just a setting on the dryer" is the best way to deal with the changes. With a great deal of tongue-in-cheek humor, a proper measure courage, and an even better portion of faith....thereby rendering even a dryer that breaks part of a new normal - embraced with some difficulty but met assured that a broken dryer simply represents a new challenge.

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything You gave me'.

~Erma Bombeck

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lazy blogger...

I'm just going to continue to steal from those far more succinct than I and today with a far more romantic bent than I...not to argue just how Calvinist the author was not, but rather just to enjoy beautiful words joined beautifully together. Who knows the author without doing a Google search - that is the real test....

"Life is divided into three terms - that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present to live better in the future. "
"The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love."
"Faith is a passionate intuition."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are we still free to combat errors?

Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
—Thomas Jefferson: Inaugural Address

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Five years & many lifetimes ago...

Five years ago today my mom was promoted to glory. It was a sunny day - a Monday. The evening before I spent in church and came home with something stirring in my being. I had grown accustomed to mom being here - she had moved in when Hospice entered our life. In the room most would call the "master suite" sat a large hospital bed and an oxygen machine. In this bed lay a frail shell of a woman - not the robust, laughing woman with the veiny hands and bumpy thumb nail.

She was exceedingly thin by Sunday - she hadn't spoken in anything but gibberish for at least a couple of weeks. The jaundice had given her the false 'tan' it shares with its victims but the yellow of her eyes gave away the fact that the 'tan' was by no means healthy. She was now rarely soiled, the catheter bag mostly empty, and the conversations I shared with her completely one-sided and now completely a mystery to all but myself.

Sunday night I had a stirring and I simply announced to Mike that I had to sit with her. I remember reading through Job that night. I remember finally, fully saying "good-bye" and I remember finally being able to truly pray that the Lord would give her what was left of her heart's desire and take her from me and unto Him.

The nurse called to providentially see about an off scheduled visit...mom had been on Hospice almost 9 months by now - inordinately long - and her nurse had grown (too) attached. Her breathing was rare and the nurse asked if I wanted to take a quick break while she changed the sheets. I had barely walked down the hall when, upon moving the sheet, my mother took her last breath. The nurse simply stated "she's gone".

And she was.

This woman who had moved from mother to best friend to grandmother with the ease one would have reserved for a woman who had experienced this transition in her own mother - though mine had not - eased into Heaven leaving skeletal remains but so many marks and finger prints on so much of my life that I still find myself waiting for her to return. Someone so large, it still feels, could not truly have taken permanent leave from my earthly life.

25For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.26And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,27whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
- Job 19 (ESV)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Blessed are those in limbo....

From a young age I can recall truly enjoying the Beatitudes in scripture. Of course when I was quite young I was aware that each Gospel contained different accounts of Jesus' walk on earth yet certain portions seemed similar enough to a young reader so as to just be a repeat performance. As an adult, however, I confess to having a greater affinity for the record in Matthew as opposed to the record of Luke. (Assuming, of course, that I really have to choose...which I do not)

Matthew's listing as a part of the Sermon on the Mount is a succinct list of "Blessed are..." and a blessing received. Luke's listing is a list of blessings upon the poor and woes upon the less than poor. In fact, a cursory internet search will render many left-leaning organizations and websites looking to Luke's listing as a rather Socialist manifesto. True.

Anyway, as I muddle through a year of limbo - limbo rather than change at this point - I find myself again drawn to the Beatitudes as a recollection of the blessedness to be found in circumstances which the world may judge to be less than advantageous. The world sees curse - the world often finds God only to blame Him - or the world uses these situations to continue their quest to disprove the Creator. Yet in a sea of Beatitudes each situation is coming from the hand of the speaker on the mount.

Whether the version is found in Luke 6:20-28 (KJV):

20And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
22Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
23Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
24But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
25Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
26Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
27But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

Or listed in the manner that the younger version of my self enjoyed from Matthew 5:2-11 (ESV):
2And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

My young Latin scholars have left me searching for Latin roots whenever possible and imagine my full circle moment when I read that 'beatus' is Latin for "blessed" or "happy". In the midst of my limbo it is comforting to receive these moments of "happy" knowing that the end result - the second part of each line in the Matthew version - is something so wonderful received from His hand. And while the ultimate reward in heaven is supreme, the bits and pieces received here on earth to get us through our own limbos are momentary snippets of these future gifts.

This week I found myself blessed in my limbo via children whose wonderful insights are often far deeper than I give them credit for; via a group of women with whom I experienced some of the best bouts of laughter; via the peace He knows I receive from working in His earth; via the gift of friendship new and old. So blessed am I....quite simply because I am His and He is mine and because of this I have the gift of seeing His hand in so many ways, in so many circumstances.