Thursday, August 20, 2009

RainSongs and Birthdays

I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of rain.
Nothing new about that this summer.
I don't remember a season with so many quiet, gentle rains, though.
Most of the time we get storms blowing through with driving rain, rain that tap-dances all over the roof and into the ground: noisy, harsh, rhythmic. We had that kind of rain yesterday afternoon, and the creek came up in minutes.
But this spring and summer we've had a lot of quiet showers, gentle rain that simply taps against the roof shyly, as if not sure it's welcome.
I sleep with the bedroom window open, so when it began to rain I heard it first as a whispering in the leaves, then a little tapping in the mulch on the path. It woke me up just enough to listen for a few minutes, and I was struck by the layering of sound, the musicality of it. Locusts droned over the rain, thunder grumbled now and then, and an occasional car went by on the street, adding its sound to the whole. Every now and then the rain would come a little more intensely, then diminish again.
It was like a lullaby, just for me, and like anyone listening to a lovely lullaby, I went back to sleep.


Today would have been my mother-in-law's birthday.
When I first knew her, it seemed to be a non-event. She didn't make a fuss about it, and neither did anyone else. She got cards and good wishes, but as far as I know, not much else by way of celebration.
Maybe that's why I remember the year we surprised her with a birthday cake. She had a hard time believing it, and I think she was both pleased and a little embarrassed. After that, I think we celebrated her birthdays regularly, and her response each year was a little less embarrassment and a little more pleasure at being remembered.
All of which is to say, celebrations are fun, and worthwhile. Even if what we celebrate is not a particularly big deal, it's good to fold joy into each day, and a celebration of one kind or another is a fine way to do that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weddings and Flowers and Joy

We've been working on wedding flowers for DD#4. Planning flowers and music are two of the loveliest parts of imagining a wedding, and this one is no exception. Whatever else they are, weddings are fundamentally an opportunity to express our deepest longings for beauty and stability, for warmth and love. While our expressions of those things may differ, I am convinced those longings are the same for every family that plans a wedding.

While I can't go into much detail yet about what kinds of flowers and music DD#4 will have at her wedding, thinking about her flower choices made me think about flowers I love. This afternoon I was thinking about roses nestled into evergreen sprays. I've used rose and evergreen arrangements often during holiday seasons, but I also like rose and boxwood in the summer. There's something about dressing the roses in a collar of greenery that enhances the color, texture, and fragrance of both elements.

We had blue asters at our wedding, and I still remember their delicate color with joy. My sister and I mixed up our bouquets -- she tried to tell me I was carrying her maid-of-honor bouquet -- but I loved the colors in it, and insisted it was mine. She was right, though, and ended up carrying the bridal bouquet. Fortunately I still got the groom despite the bouquet mix-up.
What are your favorite flowers? and how do you arrange them?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Keeping On . . .

Summer offers so many pleasures. Ball games in the front yard, picnics in the back. But summer won't last indefinitely. Days are shorter now, just a bit, and here and there a leaf or two has turned. Summer is still clearly in charge, but it isn't hard to imagine the cooler days that are coming soon.
This has been a summer of housework and homework for me. Among other things, we're cleaning out the garage -- who knew cleaning out a garage could become a career choice? And I've been in school, stitching together all the educational pieces I've collected over the years. By next May I'll have a degree to show for it. Stir in a family wedding, new babies, and assorted other changes, and it's been a busy time.
There is a lot of satisfaction in finishing things, putting some kind of order where before there wasn't much. We don't always get to do a lot of that. Much of my life I've been a mom, and that is not a job where you see too many immediate results.
But this summer has been a good reminder that most finishings represent a lot of little steps, a lot of little things, faithfully done. I think they represent the endurance Paul writes about in Romans, when he talks about what difficulties accomplish in us. Sometimes our difficulties seem small or insignificant, and we don't want to make too much of them, but still they have a way of tripping us up. And yet, if we hold onto hope, if we persevere, our character is formed by the things that seem, at least for a season, difficult.
We just have to keep on keeping on, doing what we are supposed to do, doing what we are called to do, doing the next right thing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

How To Be Really Rich

Tonight there's a tiny slice of moon, and locusts droning, and a cool breeze. Lightning bugs, the fragrance of someone's newly mown grass, phone calls and visits from people I love.
Babies and toddlers exploring the world. Five-year olds, excited about starting school, and high-schoolers excited about finishing up yet one more stage of their education. Eight-year olds excited about ball games and swimming; and eleven-year olds poised at the edge of childhood. Grandmothers excited about seeing the newest baby in the family, and a brother who's just become a grandfather for the first time. Weddings and other adventures. Love everywhere I look.
Fresh tomatoes, fresh melons, fresh sweetcorn.
All kinds of good music: Beach Boys. Vivaldi. Brooks and Dunne. Corelli. Thelonius Monk. Trisha Yearwood. Ella, Tony, and Frank. Bach.
Tiny, lacy ferns embroider the shady corners of our garden, and yellow self-seeded snapdragons bring a hint of sunshine to the front of the flower border. The hostas are starting to bloom, purple and white stalks of delicate flowers.
Good books: My Life in France, by Julia Child. Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. The Good Book itself.
And tomorrow's Sunday, with worship, and good singing, friends and fellowship.
It really doesn't take all that much to be rich, and yet, we are rich beyond measure in these simple things.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Controversial Issue . . .

Some issues are like the tar-baby Bre'r Rabbit got tangled up with, and I think nationalizing health care is one of them.
On one hand, it's clear that a lot of people are in trouble when it comes to paying for medical care. I heard one commentator reflecting that we already ration health care based on what people can pay. I think there is some truth in that.
On the other hand, I am opposed to our government becoming involved in health care. They can't help but drive the federal budget deficit higher, which will encourage the move toward health care rationing -- and whose care will be rationed? According to the President's speeches and comments, instead of being able to decide for ourselves what to do when extreme or unusual or expensive care is needed, a board or other appointed group will be responsible for deciding if we are worth treating. For those who are elderly, or have chronic illnesses or unusual conditions, this is not good news! Additionally it is an invasion of privacy to invite the government to evaluate health care records for any reason.
These possibilities are a huge loss of freedom and liberty, and cannot be tolerated by a free people.
Health care rationing seems to be a reality in other places where nationalized health care is in place. It may not apply to every individual who seeks health care, but for those with chronic illnesses, or health issues that are difficult to manage, how do you make decisions about who gets expensive resources? Who makes those decisions, and what are the criteria?
For an interesting discussion about this issue, check out this website. Gunner Hawkins is a baby boy with cystic fibrosis. Because his illness was discovered early and managed aggressively, he is doing well right now. Sadly, though, his life expectancy is only about 37 years, but only because he lives in the United States, where his parents have private health insurance and are able to find doctors who will treat his illness aggressively. They have investigated, though, and found out that in countries where nationalized health care is the norm, the life expectancy of people with CF is ten years less due to less aggressive treatment and scarcer resources.
It is true that even in this country, a lack of insurance or good care might cause someone with CF to have a shorter life expectancy, but the opportunity for better care is here for people with the energy and resourcefulness to find it.
Liberty and freedom come with an obligation to take responsibility for one's own self, and in some circumstances, for one's neighbor as well. If we do that on an individual basis, it is less likely that we need to invite government into the situation. Government does many many things well, but would managing everyone's health care be one of them? Or would we find ourselves being lectured to as if we were children? Would we find that a bureaucrat is making decisions about our health care based on charts, records, and whim? Or worse yet, his departmental budget constraints?
It is true that health care is expensive and currently can be hard for some people to obtain. Let's find private-sector and/or charitable answers to this problem, and not enact an intrusive, expensive government solution that will cost us far more than money.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Fun, with Rain . . .

It's been such a rainy summer I've been watching out the corner of my eye for arks.
Still, there's been plenty of sunshine for some summer fun: cook-outs, gardening, and Shakespeare-under-the-stars. And rainy days are good for cleaning out basements, closets, or going through family photograph albums -- or in my cases, boxes full of loose photographs.
So who's complaining?

I'm Tired Just Thinking About It . . .

Even though summer is supposed to be a more relaxed season, for moms some things in her job description are constant.
Job description, you ask? Yes -- check out all the things a mom needs to know and be here, in my column Help Wanted: The Job Interview for Moms on the Hearts at Home website.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Let's Play . . .

Do you like to play?
We expect our kids to play in the summer, but what about us grown-ups?
If you're a mom, feeling a little overwhelmed at having the kids home for summer, maybe you need to let yourself play a little more.
Read more about it in this column I wrote for Hearts at Home back in 2001.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Fun

It's All About Relationships . . .

I've been reading the book of I Thessalonians the past few weeks. Actually I Thessalonians is a letter Paul wrote. That distinction brings up a question for me: how is a book different from a letter?
The first thing that comes to mind is that a letter is usually much more personal than a book. You can see that in the very first verse, when Paul identifies his companions as well as the people to whom he is writing. Paul is with Silvanus and Timothy, and he is writing to the church of the Thessalonians. The church at Thessalonica, according to William Barclay, sat at a crossroads between east and west. In his Daily Bible Study series, Barclay writes, “Its main street was part of the very road which linked Rome with the East. East and West converged on Thessalonica; it was said to be 'in the lap of the Roman Empire.'”
Barclay goes on to observe that “It is impossible to overstress the importance of the arrival of Christianity in Thessalonica. If Christianity was settled there, it was bound to spread East along the Egnatian Road until all Asia was conquered and West until it stormed even the city of Rome.”
The strategic importance of the church of Thessalonica was surely not lost on Paul, but he doesn't lecture the Thessalonians about it, with a list of all he expects from them. Instead he describes his feelings for the members of the congregation.
“We give thanks to God always for you all,” Paul writes, “constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul seems much more interested in relationship than he does in utility.
His attitude is a good reminder that relationship is the starting point for God's work in our lives, beginning with our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our relationships with one another matter, too. Paul is taking care of relationships here, reminding the Thessalonians that he is grateful to God for their friendship and faith.
What a great way to begin!

Getting an Education

I like learning new things.
Last fall I joined a program through Greenville College to put together all the pieces I've accumulated over the years, and finish up a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership. My education is kind of like a quilt -- it's on the frame now, and I'm getting it all stitched up.
I'm spending even more time than before on my computer, but sometimes I have to admit I'm ready for something less intense than homework, like computer games.
This worries my BH. He remembers the first computer game I played, the one that worked on our old Atari. It was better than a vacation, and I'd escape into it until someone (usually someone who was hungry) made me stop.
Recently I found a website that combines education with fun, and throws in a really good cause as well: Free Rice. There are several different games here, including foreign language vocabulary, math, geography, and famous paintings. For each answer you get right, a grain of rice is donated to feed someone who is hungry. At first I thought one grain of rice doesn't sound like much, but then, I'm not usually all that hungry. And these games are fun, so usually the amount of rice adds up quickly. The other night I got all the way to 5,000 grains of rice. Then I had to get back to my real homework.
If you feel like challenging yourself and helping someone else at the same time, I encourage you to check it out!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Sap Is Running . . .

It's all because of the sap.
At least, that's what BH says.
It's the sap running that caused the branch to break, which caused BH to borrow the tree-trimmer and get out the ladder.

That's him, leaning precariously (“Of course I'm being careful!”) out to saw off the sappy branch that got too heavy to hang on.
Does all this make sense?
That's what I thought, too . . .

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Retreat, Refresh, Re-engage . . .

Getting away, even for a day or two, is a treat.
Last week, BH and I got away to St. Louis, but on our way we stopped in Lebanon, Illinois to have lunch at Dr. Jazz. If you've never been there, Lebanon is a charming small town (home of McKendree University) about 20 minutes from St. Louis. Dr. Jazz is a restaurant/ice cream parlor with wonderful food, small town atmosphere, and a real sense of fun. While we were there, we got to see a young man (probably around 14 years old) finish off a Dr. Jazz specialty, The Ice Cream Overdose: 12 scoops of ice cream with hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, a variety of nuts, and a cherry. The menu offers it free if you finish it yourself in 30 minutes -- and he did, to the applause of everyone in the restaurant.
Dr. Jazz is a not-to-miss treat.


Once we got to St. Louis, we visited the Missouri History Museum to see the Gee's Bend quilts, and happened on two other interesting exhibits, one about Charles Lindbergh and the other about the St. Louis World's Fair. This museum is lovely, with an imposing statue of Thomas Jefferson to welcome you. The Gee's Bend quilts were striking, alive with color and texture. I think almost all of the quilts on exhibit were interpretations on the Housetop and Log Cabin patterns, and the variety, ingenuity, and creativity involved in their design was dazzling. The exhibit offers a free audio tour as well as an excellent video about Gee's Bend and its quilters.
The museum website offers a glimpse of all they have to offer. The website -- and, of course, the museum itself -- are well worth a visit.


We spent a morning walking through Mr. Shaw's garden, also known as the Missouri Botanical Garden. It's hard to tell what is most wonderful -- the fragrances of a variety of blooming things, or the colors of spring, or the birds flitting through the trees chirping and chattering, or the cool breeze on your cheek as you sit on a bench in the Japanese Garden, or the feel of any number of plants or trees you can't help but touch as you walk by.

We've been visiting this garden off and on since 1977, and it's one of my favorite places. We've watched the Japanese Garden mature, and the Victorian Garden develop from a few paths into a delightfully developed place to wander.

On this trip, Mr. Shaw's home, Tower Grove, was open to visitors so we went inside to see how he lived. We learned more about his life than we'd heard before, and were impressed with his courage, business savvy, and determination.

We found a new area for children, incorporating Missouri history, small pocket child-friendly gardens, and play areas for kids.

Throughout the garden we found stunning glass installations by Dale Chihuly -- herons in the Climatron, glass ornaments in the reflecting pool, and smaller pieces tucked away in surprising places.

We made time for a delicious (and reasonable) lunch in the Sassafras Cafe, then visited the St. Louis Herb Society's herb sale held near the Gift Shop. Like the Missouri History Museum, the Missouri Botanical Garden has an excellent website, where you can find everything you might want to know if you're planning a visit -- and I encourage you to plan a visit. Soon.
You won't be sorry!

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Think She Is . . .

My daughter Amy shared these two posts from her Facebook page with me, and I was so impressed with what she'd written that I asked if I could share it with you, just in case you're not one of her facebook friends. Amy says she's not a writer.
I'll let you be the judge:

Cool Mom/ Mean Mom

I always knew I would be a cool mom. It just seemed to reason that because my own parents were SO incredibly lame, I couldn't miss. Growing up in a house with 8 kids (and very religious parents) I sensed it didn't all have to boring and tedious and of course, sinful. I had visions of late night chats with my teenage daughter talking about her true feelings. I would be understanding and patient, and always have advice she would cling to. I would be cool about drinking, and sex. Never judgmental or nagging. I would have the perfect answer every time; and I would never embarrass my children by dressing frumpy or out of style.

Then I actually had kids.

As it turns out, I am the farthest thing from a cool mom you can get. We do not (gasp) have the internet. My children do not have cell phones, or TV's in their rooms, in fact they are only aloud 1/2 hour of TV on most days. I don't sign my kids up for every activity that passes from the school folder to the table; in fact, they hardly get to do/ have anything they want. I am a "mean mom". Never in my life did I think that I would be, but I am. I really like it that way; and I think my kids are better of because of it.

The reason for my rant today is that I keep seeing things on TV that make me crazy. Two examples: Oprah's guest last week who was advocating vibrators for your teenage daughters. Now, while I agree with talking to your kids about sex in age appropriate ways; the logic of telling your daughter she can take care of herself and then a) she won't need a partner or b) she will be safe from emotional/physical pain. Where do I even start with that? Don't they understand girls get in trouble most times not because they can't do it themselves (most do); it's because our girls feel it's o.k. to give themselves away for free. They are doing it to gain acceptance and love from a mainstream world.

The second is the concept of "sexting". If you have children who are old enough to use a cell phone, just expect them to use in ways you would never have imagined. The media is in an uproar over charging these teens with child porn laws. Why should we not? Surely we all know that the teenage brain is not fully formed. The connective synapses these kids are forming link inappropriate sex usage with normalcy. What makes us think this is going to go away after they mature fully? I am scared for the men my daughters will marry. I am scared my daughters will be lost and confused when it comes to all this. So, I am going to begin writing down some of the things we can do to combat these things. If you don't want to read them, don't.

I will warn you, I am a mean mom and I'm proud of it.

-- Amy Croasdale


Pray, pray, pray...and then pray some more

My mom used to pray with us every morning before we went to school. All eight of us. It didn't matter if we were running late; we did it every morning. even after some us were busy teenagers and didn't stick around in the morning; my mom still prayed. If not with us, then for us, every morning. Sometimes when I was small, I felt comfort in this ritual. But as a teenager, I downright hated it. I felt if I wanted God in my life- I would talk to him myself.

What I have been realizing over the last couple years, is that my parents for many years, have been covering us kids with an umbrella of prayer. I believe it has protected us; sheltered us from some of life's hardships. I'm not saying we haven't had trouble, because we have. I'm just saying that God has been with us through all of it. I want to provide that for my kids.

For me, it began with my own relationship with God. It took me a long time to need it, to want it. But once I started, there was no turning back. After that I started praying for my husband. It was not easy. We were going through quite a rough patch and frankly, I didn't feel like it. Well I can tell you it's very hard to be cantankerous and bitter towards a man you are praying for. If you have not tried this, I suggest you find a copy of Stormie Omartian's book "The Power of a Praying Wife". Simple chapters and easy to follow prayers changed my attitude towards my marriage and indeed changed my marriage. It is nearly impossible to parent your children if you and your spouse are not on the same page; or at least in the same book! Next, the kids. I don't pray with my kids every morning. (I am REALLY not a morning person.) But we do pray together a lot. From "help me find my bear" to "please be with Uncle Scott at the hospital". Actually, when I went to pray with my kids for my brother-in-law, my 7 year old plainly told me "We already did that mom." We pray our way through life. I pray for my kids at school, "...please surround them with your love, comfort and peace." I feel like it creates a little bubble around them. Of course sometimes my kids will roll their eyes. I certainly understand that. But someday I hope they know that we are covering them.

(As a postscript: Sometimes we pray for our kids with no visible results. This is especially hard with teenagers. I'm certain while I was in high school/college my parents prayed for me with no visible result. But in time there was a result. I was redeemed!)

-- Amy Croasdale


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Off the Cuff

If you're looking for something fresh and new for your summer wardrobe, check out this jewelry from Zanne Avenue. Witty and fun, these cuffs, necklaces, and rings are definitely to show off!

Monday, April 13, 2009


A friend sent BH the link to this video, “Stethoscope.” If you haven't seen it, click here.

I think you'll enjoy it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday musing . . .

Today is, of course, Good Friday. The music running through my head includes songs like “O Sacred Head, now wounded . . . “ Last night at St. Peter's Maunday Thursday service, BH preached briefly about all the losses Jesus suffered -- family, friends, freedom, health, dignity -- and how He endured those losses for us. It was a short, simple, profound meditation, and I've been reflecting on it all morning. As I think about everything Jesus lost -- willingly -- tears come to my eyes.
It's raining outside this morning, a chilly rain. The grey morning matches my mood, and yet, to borrow a phrase, “It's Friday now, but Sunday's coming!”
A few years ago, my dad died rather unexpectedly. His birthday that year -- his 70th -- would have been the day before Easter. I wrote a column for Hearts at Home that ran in the Pantagraph about how Jesus's resurrection changed the way we remembered and celebrated my dad's life.
How has Jesus's resurrection changed things for you?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Photographs

April morning

The New Colors of Spring: Green . . . and White

Snow, Blooming Among the Daffodils

Friday, April 3, 2009

I, I, I . . .

Illinois's ex-governor Rod Blagojevich is, of course, Innocent.
Or so he says.
He has been Impeached.
Now he has been Indicted.
And if he is found guilty, he will be Incarcerated.
His problem is it's all about “I.”

How did this man ever get elected governor -- twice?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste . . .

I don't want to sound too paranoid, but I think I've uncovered a plot.
Sunday afternoon, I noticed my daughter was wearing a snowman sweater, and what had it been doing?
Right. Snowing.
I've been wondering if there was an explanation for all the snow this year, and especially this early spring snow. Spring is supposed to be the season of flowers, little green buds on trees, and warm weather. Not snow.
I hated to blame Sunday's snow on my daughter.
Imagine my surprise -- dismay, really -- when I found this little guy hanging around on my study door:

Here's my theory: all those decorative winter snowmen are responsible for the snow. I'm practically sure of it.
So, I've banished snowmen to a dark closet in the basement. I'll let them out again sometime early next winter, when snow sounds like a good idea again, but for now they have been retired.
Please join me in preventing them from causing any more snow showers.


The Hours Are Long . . .

A friend told me once that “the hours are long, but the days are short.”
As the days go by, I am convinced she was so right about that!
Here it is, March 31 already, and this year is one-quarter over. The snow squall of this past week-end notwithstanding, it seems as if we were celebrating the new year just last week, and here it is, spring.

We had another reminder of how quickly time passes this past week-end. A friend of our family was married last Saturday, and almost all of our kids (and some of their kids) were home for the celebration. Once again the driveway was filled with cars, the kitchen was busy, and there was laughter, conversation and sometimes commotion all through the house.
Everyone was dressed up in wedding finery, and I couldn't help remembering mornings when it was a scramble to convince them that really, socks should match and hair looks much better when it's combed neatly.
None of them need those reminders any more, and they do their own scrambling.
They've all grown up, and so quickly!
The hours sometimes seemed to go on forever, with the need to be consistent, to discipline, to help and oversee and manage -- but the days?
The days are short.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Making Something

The Lenten services at our church are amazing.
The music, accompanied by violin, is lovely and haunting. We've used a liturgical setting by Marty Haugen for the past 9 years, and the congregation sings it with a depth of skill, feeling, and meaning that comes from knowing it well.
I think sometimes we underestimate the grace of congregational singing. There is something about singing well together that brings a sense of being whole and healthy. Each of us sings our own part, and each part of the whole makes the whole lovely and strong. Together we are making something -- a song -- offering it in worship to God.
That must be pleasing to Him!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lullaby, and Good Night . . .

Do you remember someone singing you a lullaby?
Last night I went to sleep to the sweet sound of quiet rain whispering on the roof and in the trees outside my bedroom window. It was as pretty and soothing as the lullabies I remember my mom and dad and my grandmas singing to me when I was a little girl.
Both my grandmas were lullaby singers. Grandma CvT was somewhat businesslike about it, lacking confidence in her singing ability, while Grandma McK was more playful. She sang an Irish lullaby most often, as part of a bedtime ritual that included a warm bath, talcum powder, and hair-brushing. Then, once settled into bed, she'd read a story (she was especially fond of Peter Rabbit and his adventures), sing a lullaby, hear prayers, then tiptoe out of the room, closing the door softly behind her.
My mom sang just because she liked to sing, while my dad sang because he believed it would help us go to sleep quicker (his nightly goal!). I thought my mom had the most beautiful voice in the world.
One of the things we lose as we gain adulthood is the pleasure of being sung to sleep.
Unless it's a quiet, rainy night.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Is . . .

It's not news that spring is a season of extremes.
The weather can be frizzly, with frigid temperatures and mixed precipitation, or it can be sunny, bright and warm -- or something in between.
Huge trees put on green almost overnight, and in the yard tiny flowers pop up in the grass -- delicate snowdrops, tiny anemones, pastel pushinka.

Colors vary from shades of gray to bright, pulsing swathes of sky blue, new green, or daffodil yellow.
Tiny birds trill and geese honk; dogs bark and kids yell; quiet misty rain brings up the smell of good black dirt while warming sun is a reminder to turn the compost pile.
If winter is like old age, then spring is like childhood or early adolescence.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday's Challenge . . .

I came home this afternoon to find a large limb from one of the locust trees in the flower bed, crushing the bright, brave yellow crocus.

No problem, I thought. I'll just go move it off the flower bed.
Dug into the dirt, smack up against both a basement window, nudging the front stoop, that limb wasn't in a hurry to move.
I'm tougher than this, I thought.
Oh, eventually I did manage to maneuver the large limb off the crocus and out of the flower bed.
Then I decided it looks like a lovely lawn ornament, and came inside.
To rest.
Tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Mornings . . .

I was thinking today about how Sunday mornings have changed throughout my life, how as a child I loved to walk to our church a few blocks away for Sunday School, then stay for church. I loved the stories, the music, and the kind people who made coming to church fun.
As a teen-ager I sang in our church choir, and loved the music we sang. Then as a young adult I turned away from God for awhile, but when finally I came back to church I discovered how much I'd missed Him. Those were the Sunday mornings of diapers and disasters -- you know the kind: the spilled milk, the lost socks, the tangled hair and tears, the hurrying out the door while trying not to yell and completely undermine the purpose of going to worship.
That's when I learned the real value of a Saturday night well spent: baths, laying out clothes for Sunday morning, getting something ready for breakfast ahead of time. Usually BH made pancakes for our appreciative gang of kids while I helped the littlest ones eat and dress. We even occasionally made it out the door on time!
A local radio station, not usually our favorite, (the home of easy-listening music) had a Sunday morning program called Sounds of Faith, a nice mix of traditional hymns, contemporary Christian music, and gospel quartets. The host made small talk throughout the two hours. That program encouraged me while I was working, and helped me get ready for worship!


As our kids got older (and wanted to sleep later!) we began attending a contemporary service later in the morning. We weren't as rushed, and the radio station had pulled the plug on Sounds of Faith, but our CD collection filled that gap. Sitting in the service with our sometimes-surly teens and pre-teens was a lesson in focusing, and hoping that somehow, they would “get it.”
I never minded going to church, and during most of these seasons it's been the thing that gets me through the week. Sometimes a sermon or a song or an encounter makes me squirm; I've had a lot of changing and growing up into Christ to do, and I have a feeling the job isn't finished! but I was -- am -- hungry for the Word, for the fellowship, for the opportunity to worship. I've come to realize that those things are more dependent on my attitude than they are on whatever is happening in the service -- if I come ready to receive, I always find God there, ready to give!


We didn't offer our kids a choice. They were coming with us to church, period. As they got older we explained that we considered this part of their training, and part of our responsibility as their parents. What we did give them was an out when they graduated from high school. At that point, we told them, they would have to make a decision about their own faith. We'd be glad -- thrilled, even -- if they continued to come with us as a freely made choice, but we wouldn't press them if they decided not to come along.
When BH accepted a pastoral call, we lost the pleasure of sitting together in church. We only had one child still at home with us full-time. That child came to church with me -- not always too happily -- but the day came when he graduated high school and left home for sailing ships, service, and adventure. For the first time since I was a young girl, I sat in church alone, but God brought a most precious gift: one of our daughters and her family moved, and began coming to church with us.
As time has gone by, all our kids live out a measure of faith. They've seen the worst of church life -- the bickering, the pettiness, and the faithlessness that sometimes afflict God's people; but they've also seen the best of it: the times when we live out and live in God's presence among us in Christ. They've experienced love, compassion, and caring; they've seen tremendous examples of spiritual maturity and strength. They sometimes struggle with faith, they sometimes question it, they try to live it out honestly, and wrestle with all that that means. I am confident that whatever they need, God has, and is, and will supply.
Most Sunday mornings now are more leisurely, more quiet. I sit expectantly in church, grateful for the privilege of being there. I look around, amazed at God's work, His willingness to meet us as we are. I'm touched by the music, by the Word, by the preaching. I think about sitting in church with my parents, my grandparents, my brothers and sisters, my husband and our family, friends I've come to love.


The time will come when some Sunday morning will be the last Sunday morning I go to worship. Perhaps I'll be aware of it; more likely I won't. Death can come suddenly, and things we think might go on forever just stop. Or infirmity might keep me home, or confined to a hospital or nursing home where I'll be dependent on whatever church group is kind enough to bring a service to us.
But what a rich gift it is right now, to be able to go to church, to worship freely and openly, to hear the Word preached, to sing together in worship, to love and be loved. What a privilege to be nourished, encouraged, and sent out into the everyday world to live out the faith we've just celebrated -- what a rich gift it is to be part of God's family in faith.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Little of This, A Little of That . . .

I know St. Patrick's Day is over, but I noticed this morning that the grass is greening up so nicely that today feels like a celebration of “the wearing of the green.”
Speaking of St. Patrick, my friend Megan posted about St. Patrick's Day -- you can read it here. It's a funny thing about corned beef and cabbage -- my friend Jane and her husband made it for one of our church Lenten soup suppers last year, but she wasn't happy with how it turned out; the rest of us thought it was delicious! I like what Megan writes about why St. Patrick deserves our attention, though.


There was an interesting juxtaposition on The Today Show this morning.
One story concerned the new First Family and the emphasis they put on manners for their daughters. Evidently the Obama family works at teaching their girls to be well-mannered. They believe those standards are important, because good manners make life more pleasant and ease social situations as well as family life.
The other story was a brief news clip about the Pope's trip to Africa and his comments about condoms. It was reported that his statements about how condoms make the AIDS problem worse would render the Church even more irrelevant.
I thought his comments about condoms simply pointed toward how the standards of the Church -- abstinence outside of marriage; fidelity within marriage -- might help make the AIDS epidemic less virulent. Those standards are helpful in minimizing the effects of sexually transmitted diseases as well as the transmission of the AIDS virus.
Both of these are worthwhile and helpful goals, so why is one set of standards -- good manners -- to be applauded and adopted, while the other set of standards -- responsible, faithful sexual behavior -- are counted as “irrelevant” and foolish?


BH is excited about grilling out this evening. That means a trip to the store for the season's first charcoal and something for the grill. And that means less cooking in the kitchen for me.
Which reminds me of the commercial I saw yesterday on television. A young couple has discovered a whole meal that can be “steamed” in the microwave in its own bag. There aren't even any pans to clean up, and they can enjoy a “home-cooked” meal!
Whatever happened to actually cooking? It's usually cheaper, more nutritious, good stewardship of resources, and even fun.
I like quick and easy, and if you check out our freezer you'll find a few Lean Cuisine and Bertolli dinners we can make in a pinch.
But it seems as if we lose something when we always go for quick and easy. There is a lot of pleasure to be had in making a meal the old-fashioned way, by starting from scratch and enjoying the textures, smells, and tastes of food. When we are cooking or baking, our kitchens become a welcome-home station for our families, a place of service that speaks our love for them.
It's nice to have the choice, of course; I just don't want to pass up the opportunity to spend more of myself actually cooking instead of just opening up one more plastic-bag supper.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring . . . Cleaning

Another sunny day, although a bit cooler than yesterday. I have a sniffly almost-three year old to keep me company this morning while I take care of a few chores. Somehow the spring sunshine and warmer temperatures make me want to shine up the house.
Is that part of what sent our grandmothers into spring-cleaning mode? I remember my grandmother, whose house was always immaculate, getting excited about spring cleaning. I couldn't understand what there was to clean or why she would want to clean it, and I certainly didn't want to be anywhere close enough to help, although I didn't mind the results!
Not only did she keep her home clean and orderly, she ironed her sheets. This only sounds crazy if you've never slept under ironed sheets -- they're heavenly soft and cozy! Every time I stayed at Grandma's those smooth sheets were a treat.
When I became a wife and mom I struggled with simple home maintenance, much less cleaning, but the good example my mom and grandma set encouraged me to keep trying, and what I soon realized is that cleaning is about much more than cleaning!It's about making a home, a place where my family could be comfortable and healthy.
Slowly I began to acquire the skills I needed to accomplish that goal, and to appreciate what a blessing it is to maintain an orderly, clean home. Not perfectly, not yet -- but certainly better than when I began!
And now, with all this sunshine and warmer weather, I'm doubly inspired to sort out, recycle, and clean!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Now, Spring

What a gorgeous day -- sunny and warm. This is the day we were waiting for every time ice piled up on backyard branches and slickened up the streets.
What is it about a day like this that makes me forget my to-do list and just head outside? Suddenly I'm thinking of things like breakfast at the picnic table, coffee on the swing, long walks in the evening -- the small pleasures of spring and summer.
Our forsythia bush looks as if it is ready to burst into bloom, and the daffodils along the back fence seem to get taller even while I watch. I know the weather report promises cooler temperatures later in the week, but today -- today it's spring!

Lenten Musing . . .

Who is Christ to you?
I've been thinking about that question this Lenten season.
For some of us Christ is irrelevant. We've figured out life, the world and our place in it, and what we've figured out makes sense to us, so why would we need to clutter it up with some kind of deity?
To some of us, Christ is easily dismissed: a myth, the refuge of the superstitious, or perhaps just a pretty story.
To some of us, perhaps, Christ is an idea, an intellectual exercise. We figure there must be a plan or some kind of organization that makes sense of the world we live in, and we like the idea of that plan having his face. Or Christ is a vehicle for music, for art, for good works that make us feel better about ourselves.
For some of us Christ is a convenience, someone we can pray to when we want or need something. Maybe he'll answer our prayer, or not; we just have to figure out how to ask so he'll say yes.
For some of us Christ is a savior, a friend, our Lord. That makes obedience relevant to our lives. George MacDonald talks about the importance of obedience as the only way we can be one with him. The idea of obeying what Christ asks of us is not one we talk about often.
It implies He has a claim of some kind on us, that we owe Him something.
What do you think -- who is Christ to you? Does He have some kind of claim on your life?
Does obedience to Christ matter? And if so, why?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spring Cleaning, Winter's Return, and Preparing for Fun

It's cold this morning, with the kind of brisk chill that reminds me winter is still a viable alternative to the lovely spring weather we've had the last few days.
All that warm weather put me in the mood to clean. Spring cleaning is a hopeful thing, as in “I hope if I get the house cleaned up, the cobwebs down, and find a place for all the things we don't need or want anymore, the rest of the year will be as fresh and light as these first days of spring seem to be.”
Spring cleaning is a way of preparing our house for all the fun things the rest of the year has to offer -- family dinners and picnics, drop-in company, breakfast at the picnic table, quiet cozy evenings.
It's the idea of preparing a place where all those family activities can happen that entices me to sort and stow, dust and vacuum, wash and mop.
Speaking of preparation, there are other things to prepare for, too. Check out my post on Inspired Bliss for more.
And even though the weather has temporarily turned cold again, don't forget it's time to get ready for spring!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bits and Pieces . . .

Delicate, tiny snowdrops are blooming in the yard, and despite the forecast for colder weather this week, it feels as if spring is actually almost here. We've had our first tornado warnings, too, so it must be official.


I'm not liking this early “spring forward” schedule for daylight savings time. It means early morning's first light comes later, and that makes it feel more like winter. Very early in the spring, birds begin to twitter and chirp and even sing at first light -- if hope is a melody, they are singing it. But with this month-too-early daylight savings time, they are singing later. It makes me feel like a curmudgeonette.


Speaking of birds singing, this morning BH and I were enjoying a quiet breakfast when suddenly we heard a cardinal trilling. We listened as he warmed up and showed off for almost a minute, and I continued to hear him singing throughout the morning. What a blessing!


I just started reading 3 Cups of Tea, the story of Greg Mortenson and the schools he builds in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and already I think I'm in love with this book. The writing is gorgeous, the story compelling, and I know almost everyone else in the world has already read it. It's hard to put down but with everything else going on around here, I'm doing well to get a chapter a day in.


Speaking of everything else, it's been a busy couple of weeks. If you'd like to know some of what's been going on, you can read about it here, here, here, and here. Add in a heavy homework load, a few other real-life obligations, and the usual stresses of modern life, and you'll understand why a. I haven't blogged much lately, and b. I'm tired!


How about you -- what's been going on with you?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Conversations in Stone

I was listening to a feature about the composer Thomas Tallis on an older Mars Hill CD this morning. During an interview with Paul Walker, host Ken Myers made a comment about Tallis's music that made me stop and think about something only indirectly related: the two men were talking about Tallis's fondness for writing music that made the most of his instruments and singers in the sense of writing for the highest sopranos, the deepest basses, and so on.
One of the men -- I don't quite remember now which of them -- noted that such music was necessary to fill up the great churches and cathedrals of the time, then observed we wouldn't need such music now, as often, all we have to fill up is a Morton building.
We -- the Church -- have become quite used to modest church buildings. We've had to close up some of our most beautiful churches because the areas around them have changed and there aren't enough parishioners anymore to care for and support them. We don't build great cathedrals because they are too expensive. We don't need such extravagance, we tell ourselves; we could find God on the golf course if necessary.
And that's true. God, being omnipotent and omnipresent, can certainly be found on the golf course, but that's not really the point.
The great cathedrals and many less-impressive-but-nevertheless-beautiful churches were built with a commitment to excellence and loveliness out of a deep desire to honor God, to reflect in an architectural way the abiding truths of Scripture and the Gospel about who God is, and how He is, and what He is.
I'm blessed right now to attend church in a church building that is traditionally beautiful, in familiar ways -- stained glass windows, a carved altarpiece, glowing woods and soaring ceilings, with a bell tower that, while difficult to maintain, stands out over the countryside like a sentinel. On Sunday mornings the bell is rung to call us to worship, a hush falls over the sanctuary, and my heart rests in the peace of it.
There are many other ways to incorporate beauty and majesty into a church building, some of them traditional, some quite simple and lovely, some more modern. My argument isn't with them.
The churches I worry over are the ones that sacrifice that translation of who and how and what God is -- that conversation in stone -- into the place where they meet. They miss an important opportunity to speak in brick and mortar, or wood, or stone; they substitute sensible thrift for extravagant sacrifice, and are all the poorer for it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

25 Things . . .

* Letters, notes, cards, phone calls and visits from people I like and love
* Handel, Bach, Corelli, JanieS, Thelonius Monk, the Wesley brothers, Allison Krause, Anonymous 4, Brooks and Dunn, Trisha Yearwood, the Beach Boys, Bart Millard, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and other music makers -- so many I don't have room to list them all, but how they enrich life!
* Books -- and short stories and poems and magazines, oh my!
* Clean sheets, especially if they've spent time in the linen closet with some fresh lavender
* Birds who sing, especially the little song wren who comes to our little corner bird house each spring and spends her summers with us, and the birds' nests I find in the yard after a storm
* Fresh snow
* Hot coffee
* Cold lemonade and frosty watermelon
* Babies, especially the ones I get to hold and rock
* Toddlers, especially when they are making jokes
* School science fairs, and the kids who put them on, and the teachers who help them
* People who care more about loving someone than judging them
* Teen-agers who are genuinely polite
* Art galleries! and art fairs and museums
* Walking along the beach, the smell of it and the music of the wind and water
* Going to sleep with the sound of waves, or a thunderstorm rumbling far off, or with the moon shining in the window
* Waking up with birds singing, or a quiet rain, or sun shining in the window
*Speaking of windows: washing them til they shine
* Healthy house plants, and flowers in the garden and in vases all around the house, and trees standing tall in the yard
* The smell of something good cooking in the kitchen or out on the back patio
* Photographs of people I love
* Vintage handwork -- whitework, embroidery, crochet, tatting, quilting
* Valentines
* Grade school kids on the playground
* The Bible cover my daughter made for me when she was just a grade-school girl, and all the notes and pictures my kids and grandkids and other family members have given me over the years

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Perfect Start for February

One of my daughters posted a perfect February post to her blog today. You can read her “Things I'm Thankful For” and then -- write your own list of “Things I'm Thankful For.” Then, please share it with me.
I'm working on mine!

Signs of Spring

The sun is getting stronger, and the light has a glow, as if all of creation knows a secret and is smiling about it.
Often now when I go outside I hear at least one bird singing, and sometimes more than one. The snow is melting around the edges, and streets are clear of snow (but full of left-over salt.)
Our amaryllis has bloomed, and the pink carnations on the dining room table remind me that soon it will be time to cut some forsythia branches for forcing. Valentines are replacing the snowmen who've served as winter decor (do you suppose if we put away all the decorative snowmen it will stop snowing?)
We'll be celebrating Presidents Lincoln and Washington's birthdays this month, and then -- it will be March, and spring won't be just a promise.
It will be almost here, in all its mud-luscious glory.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Comfort Lunch -- JELLO

I had Jello for lunch.
Big deal, you say?
Specifically, orange Jello with shredded carrot, made by a Mrs. Smith of Downs, Illinois. One of my daughters brought it home as a special treat from a local meat shop that sells deli salads and meats on the side.
Why a big deal, you ask?
First, of course, because my daughter brought it as a gift, and second, because I belong to The Jello Generation.
The Jello Generation transcends artificial divisions like The Greatest Generation or Baby Boomers. Those of us who grew up with mothers enchanted with Jello know what I'm talking about -- rainbow Jello salad. Strawberry Jello with bananas. Lime Jello with cottage cheese and pineapple.
Or orange Jello with mandarin oranges and whipped orange sherbet.
Jello for salad. Jello for dessert. Jello for fun (remember Jello cubes?) Even Jello with meat -- shrimp, or shredded pork, or chopped hot dogs . . .
Oh, sure, my son-in-law was laughing, but I didn't care.
I had Mrs. Smith's orange Jello with shredded carrot to comfort me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Preparing . . .

Being prepared, as Tim Russert noted in his book Big Russ and Me, is important.
I'm not necessarily thinking of the good old Scout motto, but of something more far-reaching. I'm thinking of being prepared for what God has next for us.
The problem is, how do we ever know what that is?
Some of “being prepared” in that sense is having the courage to try; some of it is making the time to watch and listen to what God is doing in your life. And some of it is being willing to do the hard work of getting ready.
When you read Russert's book, you realize he was thoroughly prepared for the interviews he conducted. He worked hard to get a good education, and brought that education and training to bear on the work he did. He researched, he thought and reflected, he honed the questions he asked. He paid attention to what was going on around him, asking questions and seeking to understand.
We might not know exactly what we are preparing for, but some things seem constant: educating ourselves to think and discern. Being willing to think about what is going on around us, honing our skills and paying attention -- those things help us to be prepared for whatever is next.
And who knows what that might be?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On Making Progress

I've been cleaning bookshelves. It's like calling on old friends.
The temptation is to stop, to flip through pages, re-reading something here and there, examining illustrations and photographs, lingering over some portion of text that touched me, or challenged me, or made me think of something differently.
That's not a good way to make progress, at least not the cleaning kind of progress.
But then, maybe that's the trouble with progress. So often it means charging ahead, ignoring what's right around us, ignoring old friends, ignoring the pleasures of here-and-now.
I like progress, and I especially like bookshelves with a certain amount of neat-and-tidy, where I can find what I'm looking for, although I'll admit to a fondness for overflowing bookshelves -- they are like an adventure waiting to happen.
But progress is a means to an end, and it's important to remember that the end result of progress, of neat-and-tidy, is nothing more or less than the ability to visit with those old friends, whenever I feel the need for company.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Winter Lessons

The news is full of dire reports and warnings about almost everything.
At the very same time the sun comes up a bit earlier each day, and sets a few minutes later. In between our golden lab flushes tiny birds out of the boxwood, there is an icy sheen on the creek, and the thermometer hovers in single digits. Winter goes on as winter does, steady in the midst of change.
Some things change -- from day to day snow falls or melts. Clouds come or go. Temperatures fall or rise.
Some things don't change -- under the snow, under the cold the tulips and crocus and daffodils are waiting for their time to bloom. No one can see them right now but they are there, and when the weather warms just a bit, and the days get longer, they'll show themselves.
Winter seems dire but spring is coming.
Is there a lesson there for us?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Snow. Again.

The grass -- such as it is -- has disappeared under a new blanket of snow. Tree limbs are wrapped in white, and the back yard has become a map of the movements of small animals -- squirrels, rabbits, perhaps a dog or possum.
You can tell it's the middle of January because after the initial quiet, people bundle up and get on with life. Even though local schools are closed today and many events have been cancelled, looking out the window I see cars moving slowly down the street, a few walkers, a few kids testing to see if the snow will pack.
It's too cold to be outside too long, so no one lingers, but snow and cold no longer shock us into immobility. We indulge in brisk walks and quick outdoor chores.
It's a good day for buttermilk cake and hot soup, a warm throw and a good book -- enduring pleasures for cold days.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Heavens Are Telling . . .

Light can be hard to come by this time of year.
Occasionally we have a bright sunny day, but more often the light is subtle under a grey sky.
A few nights ago the moon shone as if it thought it might compete with the sun, and it was lovely -- but still the birch in the backyard cast its long shadow through the night, and the sycamore was merely a silhouette in the half-light.
It is the darkness that makes the light stand out.
Scripture says the heavens are telling the glory of God, and it's easy to take that at face value, remembering all the times when the heavens and all creation are beautiful, breath-taking, reminding us of God's majesty and loveliness.
But I think the natural world is constantly calling us to remember God, to recognize Him at work in the world around us.
Light and darkness and shadow, for instance.
In the darkness, light stands out. As Henri Nouwen points out, God's divine love, in Jesus, is a light in the darkness.
The heavens are telling . . .

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

January Travel

Ice and snow; snow and ice.
Sunshine has become January's punctuation, a brief mark between winter's verbs and nouns: freezing rain. Icy drizzle. Blowing snow. Black ice.
I heard someone say she had to chisel her windshield, and I knew just what she meant. I'll have to remember that next spring when it's time to clean out the garage!
Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, I'm spending January in England.
Last year, I spent January not feeling well, and reading the Miss Read books by Dora Saint about village life in England, including the entertaining Mrs. Pringle of Fairacre. Nothing much seems to happen in Miss Read's books, but when you finish one you realize it was life unfolding one day at a time. You can really only see what was happening when you look back on it.
Miss Read's books made me feel as if I'd been to England on a slow, gentle trip, and it was a perfectly delightful (and restful) way to spend January.
This year, my daughter Julie gave me Patrick Taylor's book An Irish Country Christmas. I'd been looking at it in the bookstores for several months, and managed not to buy it (promising myself I'd get it from the library after Christmas.) What a lovely surprise to receive it as a gift!
It didn't disappoint, and once again I found myself “traveling” in County Antrim and North Down, Ireland, meeting such interesting people as Dr. Barry Laverty, Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, and Arthur Guinness, “a vast black Labrador” so named because “he's Irish, black, and has a great head on him . . . just like the stout.”
I've enjoyed it so much I found the two books that preceded it, An Irish Country Doctor and An Irish Country Village, and I'm enjoying them one or two chapters at a time -- I'm in no hurry to finish. These are books to savor and take one's time with, not because they are so deep, but because they are so rich in the details of everyday life in a time and place that have changed a great deal.
Snow and ice may limit where I'm able to go in my neighborhood, but these good books have taken me on a lovely winter vacation.

Two other books I've been enjoying are Founding Faith by Steven Waldman, and Tell It Slant, by Eugene Peterson.
If you're interested in politics but tired of tawdriness, Founding Faith may just remind you that politics has always been a curious mix of the practical and the ideal, the best and the worst of us.
I first heard of this book in an interview on National Public Radio, and was intrigued. Waldman, the founder of BeliefNet, starts at the very beginning, looking at the religious underpinnings of the first explorers and settlers in the New World. There are surprising details, insight, and interesting connections I'd not been aware of before. Footnotes offer documentation and even more detail. How all this comes together in the discussions we still have about the role of religion in our public policy and decision making is fascinating.
This book has been a bit controversial -- Waldman doesn't quite toe the traditional evangelical line -- but like anything controversial, it's best to take a look at it for yourself and decide what you think.
Eugene Peterson continues his series on spiritual theology with Tell It Slant, a book focusing on how Jesus used language and story. I've just started this one, but it promises to be both filling and nourishing!
Even if you're not familiar with Eugene Peterson, you may have read some of his work if you've read anything from The Message, Peterson's popular, accessible paraphrase of Scripture. In fact, The Message is so popular that Bono uses it and has quoted it while on tour with U2.
Whatever the weather, it's a good time to read!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

When New Isn't, Any More

The thing about beginnings is that they move so quickly into something else.
New cars depreciate the moment you drive them off the car dealer's lot.
Honeymoons last a few days or months. Babies quickly grow up into toddlerhood. “New” just doesn't last all that long.
It's usually easy -- fun, even, to make a good beginning. It's not always so easy to make a good middle, or a strong finish.
We've had enough time now, this new year, for a bit of the new to smudge off, for one or two of our resolutions to have cracked a bit, to see the difficulties embedded in our opportunities.
We can see the middle; maybe it looks tedious, even disappointing.
No matter how excited we are to begin something new, eventually we get to a place where the “new” has rubbed off, and all we are left with is the work required to make the promise reality.
How do we keep on in the face of difficulty, disappointment, boredom?
If we've committed our plans and hopes to our heavenly Father, He is committed to working good out of whatever situation we find ourselves in -- whether it is difficult, tedious, or not quite what we'd hoped for or expected.
Our job, then, is to trust Him. We do that by doing the next right thing (whether or not we feel like it) and the next one, and the next one, until we have worked our way through the middle, all the way to the end of whatever we are working on.
By choosing whatever is right, whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, we demonstrate our trust in the One who works to bring good in and around us.
It's not easy.
It is worthwhile.
And eventually, He makes all things new.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Clocks and Calendars

A few years ago the clock on the clock radio in our bedroom quit on Christmas evening.
The clock had been a gift from my husband the first year we were married.
It replaced a turquoise clock radio I'd had as a teen-ager at home. The turquoise clock worked fine, except for the lever you used to set the time or turn on the radio. It had broken somehow, and if you wanted to turn the radio on or change anything, you had to use a pair of pliers.
My new husband wanted me to have something that worked properly, so he gave me the clock radio that sat on our bedside table for almost 35 years.
That radio was sleek, with digital numbers that glowed red in the dark, instead of a round clock face. We kept track of all kinds of time with that clock -- time to go to bed, time to get up, labor contractions, time to take medicine.
What is it about time and keeping track of it that fascinates us so?
We measure time, not just with clocks but with calendars. By the calendar, today is the second day of a new year, a new year still shiny with possibility. Our fascination with time extends itself to a great interest in first things: a first tooth, a first date, a first house; we remember those events as milestones in our lives.
In the Old Testament we read, “In the beginning, God . . . “
The story starts by setting the time, noting that it is “the beginning,” and then introducing us to the main character.
In the beginning, God . . .
For each of us, there is a point of beginning with God, a first time when we become aware of His work in our life. There is a time when we turn toward Him, or when we turn away from Him.
This New Year, which will it be for you?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Resolutions, and Three Opportunities

It's a new year -- whatever shall we do with it?
Traditionally this is a day to resolve to do better -- to exercise more and eat less, to learn something new, to treat someone more kindly.
This year I'm trying something different.
I want to identify new opportunities, and make the most of them.
This year I have the opportunity to love more. I want to grow in my willingness to love others -- my family, my friends, but also those who are harder to love: people who disagree with me. People who don't act the way I want them to, or the way I think they should. People who do things I don't like.
This year I have the opportunity to learn new things. I want to practice old skills and learn new ones, and then I want to put those things I've learned to good use.
This year I have the opportunity to be present for the good stuff: I want to keep my eyes and ears and mind and heart open to whatever is lovely and pure and true and honorable. I want to be there when good things happen; I want to look for God in the bad things that happen.
This year, I don't want to waste all the opportunities I have to live, and to live well.
Join me?