Famous Last Words?

When you die, and you’re hovering nearby in the space between the roses surrounding your casket and the ceiling of the church, (assuming you’re into that kind of thing–humor me) will you be happy to see who attends your service? Will you like the music they select as a tribute to your life?  Will you blanch at the silly stories friends relate that show your zest for life and your unselfish tendency to poke fun at yourself?

We attended a class once as a young married when the teacher passed out paper tombstones and had each of us complete what we would like for our own tombstones to say once we had  passed on.  There were the requisite silly ones like “Told you I was sick” and “Here lies Eleanor. She lies…no more.”  But then there were a few who took the assignment seriously and recorded what they really hoped to see.  The lesson was a Bible study with the thoughtful intent to have each of us consider how we were to live so that our descendants would be able to say positive things about our outcome.

I thought at length back then about what I would like to see as the outcome of my life.  Now that I’m in my sixties, I think that my goal, my wish at that early date still stands today.  I had written on my paper tombstone, “She prayed. And her children know the Lord.”

I think that’s enough.

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.

 

 

Turning Pages

Last time I was here, it was New Years’.  Life has been moving fast.

Now it happens that I’m ready to turn another page this week, and begin a brand new career.  I’m excited, and anxious to begin.  I won’t belabor the “God thing” (as people describe it) that brought me and this opportunity together.  I’ll just say that each time I bowed to what I believed God wanted for me in spite of what I wanted, another ‘miraculous’ happening occurred.  And now I find myself bent for the world of medical billing again, with the freedom to research and dig and pursue every facet of the work that I love–and that I’ve proven to be pretty adept at.

I was blessed beyond measure back in January to be selected to work for the local bank.  I learned a few of the multiple steps involved in clearing deposits, validating checks, and verifying and identifying documents related to new accounts, forged checks, wire transfers. etc..  While the work was originally totally foreign to me, I learned quickly and enjoyed the process.  I found the rest of the team I came to know were kind, and most of them helpful and welcoming.  As the process became routine, our personalities were revealed, the typical insecurities and posturing rising to the surface, but all in all it was an experience that I enjoyed and will carry its finer points with me into my new endeavors.

One memory that I will treasure in a special way:  the laugh of Joy, my supervisor.  She mentors, encourages and teaches.  She measures and delegates, carefully shaping and pointing her employees to a higher goal, excellence in action.  But her laugh.  She laughs at the slightest provocation, an unfettered, bubbling laughter that ripples over onto her staff.  I remember working like a fury during daily closing, trying to hustle and endure to the end when I would hear the pure peals of her joy-filled laughter lifting my spirits and making the work–sorry to repeat myself–a pure joy.

I remember that back on January 1 I asked, “What’s Next, Father?”  I still ask that question every day, and wait patiently now for His answers.  They’re sure to come.  Not early but certainly not late.  He has always been and will continue to answer me  “just in the nick of time.”

What’s next, Father?

Jenni on the highwayMidnight’s approaching.  I wish for something special.

Something unique to mark this year’s end.

Such a huge promise awaits just on the other side of the clock.

So exciting, that the approach has to be marked in a special way.

Special?  How about those stars shining down on me from thousands of years ago?

How about the soft, cold winds blowing across my face, that blew across the sands of the Orient  not long ago?

How could you ask for a more brilliant marker, a fancier benchmark than the glistening moon shining down on the face of the one that you love?

Ok.   That’s good enough for me.  Tonight has been recorded in a significant way.

Now, I’m ready for tomorrow and whatever He has in store.

Thank you, Lord.

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