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WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?

No, I mean, really.  Every stop and think about it?  The person you would like, in your head, to plan and design and hopefully execute.  An exciting, in-demand go-getter?  A quiet, studious introvert, dedicated to plants and animals but not to people?  A famous ballplayer or scientist, or even a poet?

It came up as a movie line this afternoon.  And I jumped on it.  Thinking only of possibilities without restrictions, I started writing: 

Who do I want to be?  I want to be the gal who isn’t uptight. Who’s so relaxed about things that she draws others to her. Who thinks before she speaks……but one who can pop out in spontaneous, clever things too, who makes others laugh.

I want to sculpt. To shape clay into beautiful shapes and figures that just speak to the soul.

And I want to sculpt words so that they melt the heart and shape it into an eternally new shape with new insights into how to love other people.  And with all of that, I want to share it–to pass my words on as a gift.

I want to give gifts that stun. That make your heart catch in your throat, and tears come to your eyes. That sting, that salty taste you get because you’re choking on them? That’s the impact that I’m looking for when I try to show you how deeply I care for you, about you and where you spend eternity.

 That’s  not such a bad thing, is it?  Then why do we let the daily time-wasting routine moments get in the way and steal most of our time?  I want to skip most of that stuff, and concentrate on what is essentially the real me.  To concentrate the time I have left in accomplishing the most important things.  Now the only challenge is to just figure out how.

 

 

You Make My Heart Smile

Brittanys-Eyes_edited-1I’m learning things from an intelligent and candid young woman.  She is amazingly beautiful to look at, untarnished, unconscious of how truly stunning she is.  Yet what I continue to observe is how radiant she is—how exquisite she is on the inside.  And she’s so young!!  Not yet battered by what the world will send her way, she is already so wise and so caring.

What I have learned from her most recently is the vision she has.  The discernment.  She looks at a large, lumbering, sometimes silly young man and sees so much promise, so much capability—and truly her knight in shining armor.  He is a brilliantly independent thinker, ready with his opinions, outspoken, yet wise beyond his years—so she’s not mistaken.  Just very young to have spotted this ambitious young soul and know without a shadow of a doubt that he’s the man for her.   I’ve loved seeing how her growing love for him has completely grounded him.  What an impact—and I don’t believe she knows that her love for him is the catalyst.

Let me share with you a few comments she has made about him:

They met a couple of years ago, during high school.  And only a few months into their relationship, she listed this poem beside his photo:  “Say farewell to the dark night, I see the coming of the sun. I feel like a little child whose life has just begun, you came and breathed new life into this lonely heart of mine” (Back at One, by Brian McKnight)

Then a few months later: “When a girl is in love you can see it in her smile.  When a guy is in love you can see it in his eyes.”  If you could see the photo she posted with this comment, you would totally understand.

She has been through all sorts of escapades with him, some adventurous, some calamitous and yet she comes up with this statement that’s way beyond her years:  “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

Her continual gratitude for him and what he means to her is a gift in itself:  “You make my heart smile.”

What a sweet, sweet spirit to see him as a gift for her:  “I must have done something right, to have you in my life.”

Beside a photo of the two of them relaxed, laid back and laughing themselves silly is the wise-beyond-her-years admission:  “Thank God I’ve finally found someone I can be my completely stupid self with and we still enjoy every second of it.”

And when he was trying to help her in an awkward private moment:  “Every girl deserves a guy who looks at her everyday like it’s the first time he saw her.”

This young woman will never have to fear her man being miles away and tempted by anyone:  “It’s not every day that you find someone who can put up with your bullshit. Hold on to them with all you have.”

And ultimately a worldly wise woman who knows how to tempt, how to entice, how to endear and “keep” (for lack of a better word) a man’s interest:  “A legal kiss is never as good as a stolen one.”

I wanted to share this portrait of a shrewd and truly perceptive woman’s approach to her relationship and her future in hopes that it will inspire you to do the same.  This world has sometimes fostered a lack of integrity; it encourages lassitude and an almost anarchist attitude toward life.  Yet I’ve learned that she is living proof that somewhere out there is another person who is meant to complete you; who will improve you just by being aware that you exist.

When You Can’t Sleep

INdian poster awake in someone elses dream

Legend says, when you can’t sleep, it’s because you’re awake in someone else’s dream.

I love this idea.  I spend lots of late evening and early morning “waking” hours wondering why I’m just not sleepy.  I may be truly wide awake; or sleep deprived, or even just bone-tired.  I gave up soft drinks, so rarely do I have caffeine.  But still sleep evades me.  I repeat the Scriptures to myself, especially “thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.”  And yes, I feel I’m IN perfect peace.  Just not perfect sleep.  I’ve become an old hand (especially this year) at mentally making a little list of my worries and handing them up to Him—and letting them go.  I know He’s in charge of me and mine anyway.

So, in the end, if it’s that someone else is sleeping a peaceful sleep full of dreams where I’m being silly, or loving, or somehow memorable, then that’s okay with me.  My time on this earth is limited; I can use all the exposure I can get, to get my message out there.  If I’m doing it in others’ sub consciousness’, then that’s cool.

Think about it next time you can’t sleep.  It makes the loneliness of the wee small hours just that much easier to bear.

Till next time….always remember Whose you are.

Is It Christmas Yet?

It’s barely daylight and so quiet in the house, you can hear the snow blowing around outside.  The scent of spruce boughs lingers in the air as you tiptoe through the living room, bent on checking out those gift-wrapped presents under the tree.  Quiet, don’t wake up the snoring parents in the process.

What’s this?  There’s a huge rectangular package tucked behind the tree with no tags, no names. A plain brown wrapping paper-wrapped shape, no ribbons or bows.  Where did this come from?  It has an air mail sticker in the corner that’s marked, “North Pole.”

Whenever I think of my childhood (50’s and 60’s) and all the little special things that warm my memory, this one rises to the surface most often.  The gift turned out to be simply a suitcase, meant for me.  It was a thoughtful present, as I loved going to church camp in the summer, spring and fall retreats, and to friends’ houses to spend the night.  That wasn’t the important thing.   It was the unexpectedness, the delight and surprise of it all.

There are other memories, the doll I received that was very nice—but not the one I wanted, not the one I asked for. The year I tried so hard as an 8 year old to provide and wrap gifts for my brothers and parents on my own, and in desperation ended up selecting the very best of the cloth handkerchiefs in my father’s drawer, wrapping them beautifully for my brother’s gift.  I remember how accomplished I felt, how impressed I was with myself and how beautifully I wrapped all the presents.  Juxtaposed over that image is the look of hurt and perplexity in my brother’s eyes when he opened my elegant box of used handkerchiefs.  The anger in my father’s voice as he yelled at me for hurting my brother’s feelings.  The lame attempt to pacify my brother with a model car purchased at the all night drug store.  What a memory.

I can remember the best part of our Kentucky Christmas dinner—the homemade candies my aunt Laura made, tons and tons of different chocolates, fruit-filled drops, fudge, and mints.  The warm and spicy aroma of my grandmother’s house with the meal all ready…the bubbling lights on her sad, pathetic little Christmas trees, that she festooned with paper ribbons, German paper stars, and mercury glass ornaments.

I can still feel the sharp bite of cold against my cheeks as we leave Granny’s house after dinner and gift-exchange, heading for home and the inevitable “unexpected” early arrival of Santa, who always seemed to hit our house on Christmas Eve so Mom and Dad could sleep late next morning.  The stale odor of old cigarettes lingered on the car’s plastic seat covers against my cheek and mixed with the scent of foil-covered leftover turkey and dressing that we carried home, pressed upon us by my dear Granny as always.

So many memories rise during this season…the year my brother came home on furlough from the Army, wrecked his brother’s car and went back to base early (understandably).  The funny little borrowed doll that came with a note, explaining that Miss Darlene the Ballerina was ill and in the doll hospital, and would make her arrival a week or so after Christmas when she had recovered.

Setting the table for Christmas dinner always held its special charm:  first I would raise the leaves of our cherry drop-leaf table until the two-seater would seat 10-12.  Then what I pictured as dressing the princess in her ball gown:  I covered the table with a padded protective cover, followed by either a solid green or solid red cloth covering.  Frosting the beautiful crimson or emerald cover would be a delicate crocheted tablecloth, brought back from Germany when my Dad was in the War.

Mama’s feather-pattern glasses with the gold rims came next, and all her good china, each plate turned to just the right angle, cloth napkins in place, and the knives with their blades facing the plate, each piece nestled in its appointed role.

Leaving room for the turkey platter in the center of the table, I placed candles here and there, with fancy dishes to hold the jewel-like cranberry sauce, the antique silver footed casserole holders with their Pyrex inserts, and the butter knife beside the butter dish just so.

The singular display in its place of honor in our living room, however, was the cloud of angel hair that served as a bed for the Manger Scene.  A die-cut cardboard set, it lasted us for years and years.  And it never lost its charm.   I always pictured the baby Jesus with his glowing halo, just as the one in the figures looked.  And that’s the last thing I always fought for, to keep Baby Jesus on display after the holidays were over, all the gifts opened, the tummies fattened, the naps taken.  When the tissue and discarded bows were cleared away I wanted him to remain, the last vestige of the holiday—the real meaning of the Christmases I remember so well.

Manger Scene Set Vintage

Erma Bombeck, Move Over. Please.

Me? The new Erma?  Think again.  I’m not nearly as full of sass, not nearly as wise.  I have had the occasional funny blurbs that happen to all of us, but that’s about it.  Not a spectacular life.   Just a meaningful and well-intentioned one, doing the ordinary things that we all do.

Finish high school, go to college, get married, have kids, try to raise them without actually killing them, healthy doses of Gentile guilt, (well, we weren’t Jewish, but I had to use something) and lots of love.

I always told my kids that I would one day be the new Erma Bombeck.  Meaning, I admired and looked up to her, hoped to one day entertain through the printed word and offer my own little insights for what they’re worth.  Yet while raising the kids, attending to all the busyness that becomes our daily existence, the time for writing never seemed to be permitted.

There were always dishes or laundry or a bathroom to clean, or church work to attend to.  I enjoyed cooking for the crowds that we entertained constantly. With volunteer help, I fed 250 each Wednesday evening before prayer meeting, Sunday morning Easter Breakfast (that was my tops in attendance, we fed 555 the last Easter that I was responsible for the  meal).  I surely didn’t accomplish it alone, in fact I had tons of qualified and willing volunteers who made me look pretty good.  So where was the time that I was permitted to devote to writing?

Erma said she would get up early in the morning, before her family arose for the day, and write in her laundry room so she would have privacy.  I totally understand the concept; I just didn’t think I could DO that; my writing seemed like an addition, like having my nails done or reading a magazine—I just wasn’t able at the time to place a high priority on it. I lost hundreds of hours of sleep writing, so I guess I sandwiched mine in after bedtime.   I craved it, always felt as though it was silently, patiently waiting on me to get through with the necessities of a mother’s harried life so that I could devote to it the quantity of time it deserved in order to thrive.

That’s not the appropriate attitude for someone who was born to write, but that’s what I was stuck with.  And now, thirty plus years later, I find myself in a situation that is supremely designed to allow me to focus solely on writing.  No other priority comes before it.  I find myself jealously guarding my writing time, even avoiding simple opportunties to hang out with friends in order to pursue my private heaven of writing writing writing.

So at this point the question is, what’s the value in what I’ve written, and who is ever going to get to read it?  Good question, that.  I’m not sure I can assess a value to the writing; I only know that I feel called; I have to do it.  I find peace in writing.  Not in stream of consciousness, spill-your-guts writing, but in seriously working to convey the experience that I’ve lived so that the reader can experience the same outcome, the same emotions that I found when I lived through the events.  Tall order.  But it’s what I’m driven to do. So, move over, Erma.

Humble Pie

The qualities listed in Galatians 5:22 are called “fruits” of the Spirit, fruits as I see it being the yield or result of a plant (life) that’s growing in the right direction with the aid of being planted in the best location, constant feedings of nutritious food, sufficient waterings, necessary prunings, etc.

A bit of food for thought about virtues…I’m sure you’ve heard about the problem with humility…such an elusive virtue. Like the guy they awarded the big fancy gold pin that said Modesty Award, but then had to take it back because he actually wore it, I’m trying to determine how I know that my efforts toward becoming a better person are succeeding. I’m not talking about a superior attitude or making a show of magnanimous gestures, but solemn effort spent of my own resources.

In that regard, I spend time wondering at the virtues I strive to master; to imbue, instill, to become so much a part of me that (on a lighter note) my picture is beside that word in the dictionary. That’s not an egotistical desire; there’s certainly nothing wrong with striving to be kind, gracious, generous, giving, loving, in fact all of those are basically the things we’re instructed to pursue in Galatians: “…Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

There’s a fine line though, between striving to become that virtue and wanting to be noticed for acting that way. It sickens me to see those who (you can read it on their faces and in their attitudes) are ‘Super Christians’ who can do no wrong…they remind me of the old cliché from Bible College days, (chanted with sarcasm) “we don’t smoke or drink or chew, and we don’t go with guys that do.” That attitude surely smacks of the old Pharisee, doesn’t it? That’s not at all what I’m looking for, in fact that’s exactly the trap I’m afraid of falling into if I’m not very careful!

As far as actions, one proven way to gain a practice is to fake it till you make it. Right? The old ’21 days repetitively a new habit doth make.’ After all, a common counseling technique says when you’re working on caring more for someone than you do, simply acting as though you do will usually cause that feeling to grow…because doing kindnesses for another person leads your heart to caring for their welfare, their happiness. And also makes you feel (for lack of a better word) virtuous, that you’ve accomplished something commendable.

So a part of wanting to serve others ends up in pride and satisfaction at my own accomplishment of good works on their behalf. And that’s where I get confused.

The only time I’ve come to realize that I’ve really accomplished the change in personality that I’ve been striving seriously for is when someone would be surprised that I would bother to do whatever it was that touched them…giving to them, yielding my right to a position or advantage, etc. When they were pleased that it was second nature to me to give of my time and efforts, then I realized I’d accomplished my goal.

Oops. Here, somebody take my Modesty button. Darn it. Start over.

2013-08-08 21.41.34

Sugar Sense

SUGAR BEAR DAY ONE

A while back, I was offered the opportunity to learn.  This little Opportunity was discovered in the snow-covered parking lot of a local church, either abandoned or lost, traumatized–and nearly frozen to death.  You can see by the photo at right that most of her fur was gone; she was scratched and battered, one hip tender, and terrified of every noise, every moving object.  Her ribs testified she was nearly starved to death–who knows how long it had been since she was fed.  She wasn’t more than six to seven weeks old, the vet said.

She was rescued, delivered into the arms of a kind veterinarian who worked with her for most of what they expected was her last night of life.  The vet offered her to me, asking if I wanted to nurse her and see if she lasted more than a day or two.

I cuddled her shivering cinnamon-colored mass in a tiny quilted doll’s blanket; she quivered at my touch, those giant brown eyes staring me down, imploring me to be trustworthy.  I drove home cradling her in my arms (it wasn’t more than a mile and a half of small town neighborhood streets).

“Brought you something, Sweetheart,” I said as I opened the front door of my house.  I gently dropped her two bony pounds into my husband’s lap and watched her dive into the crook of his elbow, hiding from the world.

“What’s this?” he asked, holding her up to study those two gigantic brown pools of need and love.

“An experiment,” I said, pouring a small helping of dog food into a dish and placing it on the sofa nearby, “and if it works, your Valentine’s present.”  Lifting her from his grasp, I placed her onto the sofa, kneeling down beside her to make sure she didn’t dive off the sofa in her new environment.

She wobbled a bit, lurched overNeenees New Baby  Sugar Bear 021410 to the dish and shakily took a mouthful of crunchy little bits.  She crunched the noisy bits with an effort, and began to eat faster and faster, wolfing down every bite with relish.  I wasn’t sure if I should limit how much she got at first—but decided to let her have at it until she was full.  She ate until every bite was gone, and licked the dish thoroughly.

As the little bulging tummy with legs waddled over and crawled onto my lap, I knew.  We had a future.  And it was sugary.  “Welcome home, Sugar Bear.”

 

Peace– It Was Just Around the Corner All the Time

New Directions--We're On Our Way!

New Directions–We’re On Our Way!

We had enough.

For way too long, we went along to get along.  Ever done that?  It was so subtle we didn’t even realize we were doin’ it.  This wasn’t right, and that seemed a bit odd.  Should we complain?  Nah, don’t make waves.  You see, we’re new at being Conservators, and had no idea what was expected, or how quickly things can go wrong.

Our son was a successful student at Kings Daughters Center for Autism, and graduated with great pomp and celebration.  He learned several new skills, in fact learned to communicate with others in the public…a major feat in our eyes.

At that point he became an “adult” and was moved with the help of his State advocates to a new home, I suppose you could call it a “group”  home but he was the only resident for several months.  He was soon joined by a young roommate, and they were both supervised by a new provider of care, growing faster than was healthy for it.  For a time things were fine.  Then little details began to slip here and there.  Nothing major.  But definitely on the increase.  We were appointed Conservators…and were supposed to…what?  I knew how to care for him myself; but how to direct others?  We were located out of state; not sure how to proceed.  That Conservator responsibility was a bit beyond us…and he nearly paid dearly for our inexperience.

Before you know it, my stepson was ill.  Hospitalized.  With SEPSIS.  That’s not just sick.  That’s neglected sick, folks.  Life threatening.  And the deeper we checked, the more discrepancies we found.  When you find a few things that don’t fit, you can’t help but wonder how many have escaped your notice already.

So we had enough.  We put into motion the steps–most of them taken by others at our request, we didn’t do all the work.  Don’t get me wrong; most of this very necessary and urgent change was brought about by those who are experts in their field, and tremendously dedicated.  We insisted that the great State of Tennessee help us to help our son by moving him into a safe and secure environment, and quickly.  And more than one dozen people basically moved heaven and earth for us, to get this young man ready to transition into a different home, cared for by a different company of caregivers who are supremely trained, carefully screened, continually monitored.  They have so many checks and balances in place it’s a bit tedious…but thank goodness it’s there, and it’s working like it’s supposed to work.

We went shopping, collected furniture and furnishings, and drove to Tennessee and installed his new belongings in his new location, and Friday morning, we joyously collected him with all his clothing and incidentals and moved him into his new home with a kind young roommate that is delighted to have him, anxious to challenge and engage him, and help to elevate his quality of life.

Today I can say that I’m at peace.  I know that our son is receiving the best care that he could possibly have.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that all is perfect and nothing can go wrong.  I’m simply saying that we’re striving for excellence and accountability.  And I believe we’ve found both.  And that’s enough.

It’s Not About Me

2013-07-23 10.25.23     You feed me.  Your astounding beauty–the sunsets you paint, the wonder of a newborn, the silken softness of dew falling off a rose petal–you feed me beauty for my soul.

You conceived of the body, soul, and spirit that is ME. You chose to create me, to give me life.  Your infinitie power keeps the breath of life coursing through my body, and you’ve set in motion your plan for my life.

And yet, in the midst of my striving I long to remember–to keep uppermost in my mind that this whole thing I call “my life” is not mine.  It’s most definitely NOT about me…but about how I can take all that you’ve given to me and create a beautiful gift that I can offer up to you.

It’s All About You.

Focus, Grasshopper!

Let me know if you recognize this gadget!!

Let me know if you recognize this gadget!!

I  love gadgets. Tools with interesting settings; clamps used in gluing boards together; I loved crushing small things with my Dad’s vise.  More technical tools like his old Brownie camera—I kept messing with the open-close things on the front.  And the tension on my Mom’s sewing machine.  She just couldn’t keep it adjusted right (who, me?)  And her music box just seemed to be overwound all the time, hmmm. Don’t know how the ballerina’s tutu got peanut butter on it…

I used to snitch my Dad’s mechanical drafting set in its black velvet case and readjust all the screws, try to write with the pencil leads in their little case…yes, I’m the cause of the second generation of gray hairs on his head.  I enjoyed the way the lock opened and closed, like a mysterious secret.  Not that I knew how to USE any of these tools.  They were just fun to play with.

Just like his binoculars.  A very finely tuned instrument—at least until I got hold of it.  I would try walking around while looking through them, putting my hand out to touch things as they drew near. How many doorways have you encountered in this fashion?  After a few upsets, I tried turning them around and looking through the other end.  That was frightening.  Do NOT try this at home, you’ll walk out in front of traffic, fall off a ledge…and step in doggy doo, so say the very least.

Sometimes that’s the feeling I get when I’m trying to follow God’s leading.  I want to see things that are meant to come to me in their own time (in HIS time)—yet I want to see them right now.  And when I keep trying to put my hand out and reach them to bring them closer, I only end up running into things that were right there all along; in fact, I should be  taking care of them right now in the present. Yet other times my lack of focus (or actually, my “far-off” focus) has me walking faster to get closer–to something that’s never going to get closer as long as my focus is out of whack.

That’s the cool thing about God that I forget.  Why can’t we learn things ONCE with Him? You see, I do  know that

“ they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  —-from Isaiah 40:31

Nor shall they run into door jambs.