Monday, December 20, 2010

Vulnerability

I don't know how many of you listen to TED talks.  I've listened to quite a few, and I find many of them fascinating.

A friend sent me this one last week that featured Brene Brown.  This is absolutely worth watching.  It briefly gives the essence of the ability to connect with other people, and what keeps us from being able to do that.



If you enjoy this one, go ahead and watch this next one, which is the same speaker, talking about what happens to us and to our world when we refuse to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.



Vulnerability has been the theme of the last month for us, because things have become rough in our relationship with our son.  One event led to another and it eventually seemed best for him to live somewhere else.  Asking other families to parent your child involves a great deal of vulnerability.  You are open to judgment and gossip, and so is your child.   On top of that external vulnerability is the internal.  Self doubt and second guessing can keep you awake at night when you aren't already awake worrying about what ifs.  What if we can't find a place we are happy with?  What if he hates us forever?  What if we are making it impossible for him to grow into a healthy happy adult?

So, I didn't get much sleep for about a month and a half.  Neither did our son, I'm sure.  It had to be extremely difficult to not know where he was going to live and whether he would like it or not. 

There are a few things I've learned from this.  I'm sure there will be more as we go along, but for now I can already identify these things.
  • There is very little that can't be redeemed.  I think we are doing the best we can with the information we have, but even our best guesses will not be perfect.  God can take those things and use them, if we offer them.
    • There is pressure to make the right decision, whatever that means.  I cannot allow myself to believe that there is a specific right decision, and that it is my responsibility to find it or else terrible things will happen.  My responsibility is firstly, to find a place that is safe and nurturing.  
    • There is no perfect place, and no matter where he stays, there will be things to work through.  As we work through those things, if I can hang on to my ability to be vulnerable (my ability to live with risk and my ability to be truthful about my own strengths and weaknesses, and my ability to see and affirm strength in others) there is opportunity for healing in my relationship with our son---even if he never lives at home again.
  • Including others in the process in an honest and vulnerable way is invaluable.  There were points in the process where the doubts and the second guessing were beyond rational.  During those times it was hard to be a couple.  When one of us would feel strongly about working toward a certain course of action, the other would almost certainly lean in an opposite direction.  We experience our parenting differently.  We have different personalities.  The consequences of being wrong seemed too great, so the disagreements seemed oppressive.  It was a huge mercy to realize early in the process that this issue was too big for us.  We gathered four other trusted friends, prayed together, laid out our lives for them as honestly as we could, and made our major decisions together in that group.  The decisions made there could not be changed without going back to the group. 
  • Don't panic.  This one is hard, but important.  Chuck is pretty good at recognizing panic and could be the voice of reason.  Whenever we would begin to think, "this HAS to work because it is our ONLY option," Chuck could pull out of that and affirm that there is always another option.  Panic only increases the stress.  It isn't based on truth.  It makes it more likely that you will make a stupid decision.  Breathe in, breathe out, repeat.
  • Ground yourself in prayer.  I will temper that a little bit.  Prayer is usually a great comfort to me, but in this last month and a half I had a trouble making the time for it.  When I did make the time, sometimes it was good, but sometimes I could not let go of the stress.  In retrospect, I'm realizing that during that time, being grounded in prayer meant letting others pray for me and trusting in their prayers.
  • This is related to the last one.  Trust the process.  Trust that God can use the process.  A couple of times during the month we thought we had found a perfect place that our son would love.  Then things would change and what seemed certain was no longer an option.  As this happened, it was hard, but we had to stay open to this being part of the process.  
    • I don't have a fully formed theology of whether God causes/allows/controls all the details of our lives.  I do believe that God can use and redeem whatever we offer.  I don't believe that God chooses for anyone to hurt other people, but I do believe that God can and does redeem whatever we humbly offer him.  I don't know why it took so long to find a place.  I don't know if people said no when they should have said yes.  I do know that God is building things in us that are good throughout this process.  I have to trust that God can use the waiting and the disappointment in our lives just as surely as he can offer us a quick and easy solution.  That trust enabled me to honestly tell people that I did not want them to say 'yes' to us if it wasn't a good decision for them.  It made it possible for me to accept each 'no' answer without desperation.
  • Expect bad days.  No matter how much faith I have, this amount of stress is going to affect me.  There will be days I get absolutely nothing done.  There will be nights I don't sleep.  There will be times when I have no hope.  I had to accept those things as temporary and not give in to believing I would always feel that way.
  • Find ways to take breaks.  We ate out more.  We watched more movies.  We let people help us more.  If I can't stop thinking about it, I need something absorbing to take my mind off it.  Movies are OK, but when the house needs to be quiet, nothing beats a novel you can't put down.  I made it through four of the Harry Potter books in about two weeks when I wasn't sleeping at night.  Lying in bed obsessing over things I can't control is crazy-making.  Harry Potter is better.
  • Remember gratitude.  It is important.  My life isn't defined by my dilemmas.  Even this month there were sunsets, and geese flying across those colors completely oblivious to my struggles.  Many good people love me.  J. K. Rowling wrote seven books about Harry Potter.  I have enough to eat. There are many many reasons to be grateful.
  • Pray for someone else.  Anyone else.  Getting out of my own skin enough to pray for someone else brought perspective back.  It didn't have anything to do with whether they had worse problems than me---it wasn't about comparison.  It was about reality.  I need prayer, just like everyone else.  I can pray for them. 
With all that said, we have found a family that seems good to us and to our son.  Actually, that family found us, because after a month of looking, we had given up on finding a family placement.  We were beginning to look at other options.  Then this family called us.  Our son moved in with them last week. 

After the decision was made, Chuck and I took a couple of days to go to a favorite bed-and-breakfast.  We just relaxed.  Now it's time to get ready for Christmas!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tangible Grace






I've had a love/hate relationship with my garden this year.  There was excitement and anticipation in the spring when it was time to plant, and we had many salads from the leaves of the prolific beets.  But the spinach left much to be desired, the cabbage didn't do anything, the romaine lettuce piddled around.  There was good broccoli, and the season stayed cool long enough that it kept bearing even after the cabbage worms gave up on it.  The chard was OK.  The corn was pretty good, but not as good as I'd hoped after planting soy beans to add nitrogen to the soil, and adding extra compost as well.


But the tomatoes, well, they grew high and green and began to bear and then died up from the ground.  We ate quite a few fresh but put none in jars.   I got discouraged.  Life was busier than I thought it would be.  I was having a lot of fun with more people working for us this summer and providing food and snacks and conversation, but I wasn't getting into the garden like I thought I would.  Truthfully, I wasn't as motivated as usual either.  I lost my garden drive, I guess.
The dead depressing tomato plants.


I still planted the sweet potatoes, but they were quite late.  I put in very late squash and cantaloupe and winter squash as well.  Fall beans went in late, and came up spotty and I replanted the empty spots.  Then I turned my back on my garden.  I couldn't look at the tomatoes anymore, and the schedule took a definitive turn for the worse with vacation and camp outs, and school starting, and other unnamed stressors.

Fall is the season of grace.

Today when Luke was over he wanted to play outside, so I decided to pick beans.  I've picked reasonable amounts a few times in the last couple of weeks so I thought I'd be able to fit the rest that still needed picking into an ice cream bucket.  But we filled a dishpan instead!
Luke showing the beans we picked.









When I was a kid, I heard that the definition of grace was 'undeserved favor'.  I certainly did not earn those beans.  It reminded me of the verse that talks about the farmer planting the seed, but not knowing why or how it produces a crop.  There was no explanation for those beans that had anything to do with effort that I'd provided.

Other things have decided to produce a crop as well.  The chard is as beautiful and tasty as I've ever had.  I steamed a pot of it for supper last night, using boiling salted water.  After it was drained I added just a smidge of butter, and it was heavenly.  I was so glad the boys didn't want much.
Luke posed so willingly today, and with him there it is easy to see how massive the chard is.
I have a bit of a dilemma with the next evidence of grace.  I planted hot peppers in anticipation of a tomato crop.  I have a pepper crop and nothing to use them for.  Contact me if you want some.  There are two varieties, one is hotter than the other, but I don't remember if the small round ones or the long tapered ones are the hottest.
long tapered peppers
small rounded peppers
So a garden has yet appeared where none should have been.  What fun.  But of course the best fun of all was sharing the day with Luke.  While we were taking the pictures he wanted to take some too, so we were turning the camera back and forth and taking turns using the shutter.  I was lucky to get this shot of Luke.



 There are plenty of times when I forget how much is given to me that I have not earned.  I find it easy to expect things to go badly because I believe I haven't worked hard enough to deserve better.  What a treat to be reminded that it isn't all about me.  Sometimes good just happens.  Sometimes bad just happens too, but today I'm noticing the good.  And I'm thankful.





Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It must feel weird to be a woman...

That's what Chuck said this morning when I described what it is like to have a night sweat.  I very much enjoy being a woman, but there are plenty of things that do feel weird.

Monday, September 27, 2010

College visit

I got back yesterday from taking Tim on a college visit.  We were gone from Thursday very early in the morning until late afternoon yesterday.

My impressions of the college are favorable, although not overwhelmingly better than the local college.  There are things I like about both, but it isn't my decision.  Money will be a factor as well.

Impressions from the trip:

Goshen MCC sale had an elephant ride.  The group of prospective students I was with had several who were very excited about riding an elephant and paid $7 to go in a tight circle twice, while being photographed by friends, and while squealing and laughing.

The MCC sale served very little ethnic German/Russian food, but did serve Mexican, Kenyan, Indian, and BBQ, as well as things like chocolate covered fruit kabobs, apple fritters and fruit smoothies.  I ate Kenyan meat pies and a kind of bread flavored with cardamom, also from Kenya.  Both were deep fried, which does go along with my at home feeling of an MCC sale.  I also had a diet Pepsi.  It was not from Kenya.

Airtran only serves Coke products, which meant no diet Pepsi or Dr. Pepper.  I had to be content with Fresca, which tastes good but has no caffeine.  When you haven't slept much, caffeine would be nice.  The Atlanta airport had Starbucks, so I got some there.

By 10:30pm the day after only getting an hour of sleep the night before, your brain not only thinks slowly, it actually feels different.  There is this sense that it's moving, accompanied by an inability to focus your eyes.  That is the point where it is good to end the conversation, no matter how stimulating it is, and go to bed, and don't check email or facebook on the way.

When people offer themselves wholly to God, amazing things happen.  They don't become perfect.  They don't get all the answers, or even very many of the answers.  But their willingness to share humbly both the ways they have stumbled and the questions they are asking inspires me.  And inspires others.  One woman shared in detail with me how as she prepared to be a speaker at a Women's conference, God told her to tell about a behavior she had struggled with that she was ashamed of.  She had already overcome this behavior by becoming accountable to other Christians, but was not interested in sharing it widely to a large group of women she'd never met.  She decided to follow that leading, even though it meant not sleeping or being able to eat because she was so afraid of what they would think of her.  That step of becoming vulnerable to those women freed them to be able to confess the behaviors that they struggled with.  They were able to stop hiding and to resolve to be accountable.  Family members of those women contacted her in the following weeks thanking her for whatever it was she had said in that meeting because it had changed lives.

I haven't spent a lot of time hanging out with Tim when he is with his peer group.  This weekend was probably the most time I've ever spent around Tim while he is with people his own age.  I tried to give him space even though we were often in the same place or at the same events.  There were times when I thought I might be crowding him, but mostly I was impressed at how often he included me in conversations.  It felt good. 

The kids sometimes would be sitting around tables waiting for the next activity.  One would absentmindedly start tapping a pencil, and then another would tap a counter rhythm until most of them were focused, smiling, and tapping or stomping or slapping their legs or clapping.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pedaling uphill and against wind

I think I've always believed that if I was open to learning as much as I could throughout my life, and put it into practice as well as I could, that there would come a point where I could coast.  I would be wise, and not make any more mistakes, and know how to handle anything that could come up.

God's having a good laugh about that.  If my birthday is a prelude of things to come, I still have quite a few lessons to learn and "how to coast" isn't one of them.

The biggest lesson that is obvious today is how to maintain my own emotional equilibrium regardless of the state of those around me.

The next biggest lesson is how to accept myself when I can't do that, and learn to live gracefully with anxiety until it subsides.

Another big one is to see people who strongly and disrespectfully disagree with me as still carrying God's image.  I can do that fine when it is theoretical, but when it is at my dining room table, well...

And this lesson:  people who are behaving badly are often really hurting.  Actually, I knew that before too, but it's also easier when you are talking about people in another country rather than people you spend time with.

I did have some small successes by the end of the day with making space for conversation without ultimatums or accusations.  It was only 10 minutes.  But it happened.

Other lessons I had today:
  • I am deeply loved by many very good people.
  • Lunch out with trusted friends in the midst of a rotten day can make the sun shine brighter and put laughter back into the moment.
  • Facebook is great for getting lots of birthday greetings.
  • My kids know how to make me feel loved (actually this is from yesterday).
  • Sometimes you get the most amazing notes at exactly the right time (thanks again, Annette).
  • Being given a Dove chocolate at midnight for the first moment of my birthday is a great way to start the day.
  • Peach cobbler with ice cream can cover a multitude of sins, especially when everyone is tired of fighting and looking for a good reason to be friends again.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Spelling

It's come to my attention (thanks, Dave) that my web address is misspelled.  How embarrassing.  I'd like to change it but I don't know what that would do to those who come to my blog. 

So this is what I'm thinking.  I'm going to change it to the correct spelling next tomorrow.  From now on, my site address will be as follows: 
http://vintage-navelgazer.blogspot.com/

The difference is in the name, vintage-navelgazer.  I used to spell the navel with two 'a's, but that indicates something that has to do with a navy.  I want the navel (with an e in the second syllable) that indicates a belly button.  So tomorrow my site will change from
http://vintage-navalgazer.blogspot.com/
to
http://vintage-navelgazer.blogspot.com/

Hopefully this won't mess up the few readers I have.  It will certainly save me a daily mortification that I'm publicly misspelling my identity.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Things I Did Today

  • Had a good visit with Dave and Cookie
  • Wrote an email
  • Had a good visit with Laura
  • Read two "Francis" books to Luke
  • Made a giant potato salad
  • Played catch with a big blue pillow on the front porch with Luke
  • Payed the credit card bills
  • Sang silly songs with Luke
  • Watched "Curious George" with Luke
  • Listened to an old "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me"
  • Played chase with Luke around the dining room and hallway
  • Updated the calendar
  • Walked up and down the driveway with Luke for a half hour drawing lines in the sand with a golf club and a whiffle ball bat
  • Cleaned a car seat
  • Drew trains with Luke
  • Read Timbrel
  • Sat outside on the driveway with Luke until it was so cold outside that he only wanted to sit snuggled in my lap to keep warm, and still he didn't want to go in for quite a while
  • Read part of the new Newsweek
  • Ate Peenie Buddy Sammie's with Luke
  • Got Luke through the bath tub just in time for a snuggle with Papa when he came inside between the two fields he was working this evening
  • Played ball with Luke

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tidbits

Picked peaches today, and made muesli, and had peaches with homemade yogurt and muesli for a late supper. Mmmmmm...

Windows open 24/7 since Monday.

No chiggers????? I walked in grass for the last two days without protection and so far so good. They came earlier than usual this year but they left much earlier than usual.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Keeping a Journal

I wrote this to share during church a couple of Sundays ago when my brother-in-law was sharing about how spiritual disciplines put you in a position where it is likely to encounter God. One thing he was emphasizing was that a spiritual discipline is part of the journey, but it is also sometimes the destination.

I began to journal when I was in Jr. High, and have kept one pretty much continuously since then. My journal is one of the places where my relationship with God happens. It is a record, in the sense that I can go back and see how God has related with me in the past. But when I go to my journal it isn't to record things. It is to be in that relationship with God.

So, in that sense, it is both journey and destination.

A journal is a place of honesty. It is between me and God only, so I can and do write anything, because God already sees it. I come to my journal with my intense emotions, with my joys, with everything. That is where it is a journey. I come. I write. I hope that the writing will make sense of my life.

In my journey with God, both in my journal and otherwise, reaching a destination is up to God. My journal is one way I open myself to that happening.

The destinations of keeping a journal are varied. Sometimes as I write, truth becomes clear. Sometimes, even though I think I'm being honest with God, as I write, God will reveal ways I'm not being honest, even with myself. Although that can be a painful destination, it is a holy and necessary one if I want to grow in faith.

Other times, as I have my devotions, God will use the scriptures and the writings to shed clear light on specific situations I'm dealing with, and I have to write it down immediately so that I can understand it as fully as possible. My journals are full of passages from the Bible sand from devotional writers, followed by writing out what God was showing me from those particular words. They are full of destinations where God met me in my specific need.

There are other times, sometimes long periods of time, when God has seemed far away. During those times I've continued to write. Maybe I write even more during those times because my journal is part of my desire to meet with God. I write out my loneliness for God, my anger that God doesn't seem to be showing up, my struggle for a sense of God's presence, my demands that God answer my prayers. These are times of journey without an obvious destination.

I have a practice of reading through the last year's entries at around the time of my birthday each year. I've found that to be a faith-building exercise. Even those long periods of spiritual dryness end up being marked by something God was teaching me. Those lessons are no less important than the fun ones where God just shows up and overwhelms me with a sense of presence and love. In that yearly review I get another chance to see the journey as well as the destinations.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

We wanted to enjoy the driving parts of our vacation as well as the destination parts, so we left time at the end of one day's driving to go to a movie. We could not find a listing for what was playing at the 7 theatres across the street from our motel, so we just went over to pick one.

The selection wasn't as easy to choose from as I'd hoped. We narrowed the choices down to "Despicable Me" and "Eat, Pray, Love". No one seemed to have an opinion so I chose "Eat, Pray, Love". I'd heard great stuff about the book, and I've enjoyed many of Julia Robert's movies. I figured if I just got to hear her wonderful laugh, that would almost be worth the tickets.

It was fun to see the smirk on the teenage boy ticket taker's face as he watched us drag our two teenage boys into a definite chick flick.

We should have chosen "Despicable Me". I don't think there was one good belly laugh in the whole movie. There were montages with music, where you could see, but not hear, her laughing. But it is hearing her laughing that is the good part.

And since the rest of the movie was a disappointment, the lack of loud Julia Roberts guffaws was significant.

I'm sure it is hard to do a movie about someone's inner journey. How do you show in pictures what is happening inside the soul of a person? Still, I think they could have done better.

I haven't read the book but I've heard about it from friends who have. It seems to me that the movie left out the essence of the book and all that was left was the framework. It wasn't enough. We see Julia Robers eating, praying, and falling in love, but we don't really get why it is important or how she is changed by this experience.

Read the book. Skip the movie.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Vacation - Testosterone 2

Visiting a National Park allows you to hike in close proximity to many people. On our way to Hidden Falls, Tim and I walked within hearing distance of a couple of young women. They were talking about the father of one of them.

The discussion began as we passed a young woman in rock climbing gear teaching a class of excited and nervous rock climbers with their ropes and helmets and special packs.

The daughter of the man in question said that she had tried rock climbing with her dad. She decided that the ground was a good place to be. She had no desire to try it again.

Her friend asked her if her dad still climbs. He does. A lot.

He also jumps out of airplanes. He also jumps off of mountains, using a hang glider.

"How many bones has he broken?"

"All of them, just about.....twice!"

Tim and I laughed.

Later I referred back to this overheard conversation. I told Tim I knew he had done the rock climbing at Rocky Mtn. Mennonite Camp. I asked how many of the other things he would do? Was there anything he'd be scared to do.

He said the only thing he was really scared of was heights. However, he would like to jump out of an airplane someday. And jumping off a mountain using a hang glider sounded pretty good to him, too. And did I remember the guys wearing wing suits that he and Ben had watched on You Tube?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vacation - Testosterone

The next couple of campsites next to us held a group of families camping together. There were a lot of small children.

One morning I was cleaning up after breakfast and watching the kids from next door. There was a group of two and three year old boys, all with buzz cuts and still in their pajamas cruising their campsites and the surrounding areas together.

One in particular stood out. He was one of the smaller ones, definitely still two. He wore bright orange flannel pajamas with blue, red, yellow, and green dinosaurs printed randomly on the fabric. He carried a plastic machine gun, which he used to regularly and calmly mow down his two and three year old friends.

I mentioned to Chuck the jarring picture of flannel dinosaur pajamas juxtaposed with a plastic machine gun. He reminded me that we really don't know any little boys who haven't gone through that stage, whether they owned a plastic machine gun or not. A stick will do fine, as well as a plastic drill from a Fisher Price tool set, or even just holding a hand in the classic gun position.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vacation - The Campground Bathroom

Every night at camp the last thing I did was go to the bathroom one more time. It got pretty cool at night so I didn't want to leave my warm hard bed unless I needed to.

The first night at our second campground, I entered and glanced across the stalls to see one door closed and two doors open. As I chose my stall and began doing the things I had to do, the silence from the other stall was conspicuous. There was no sound of urinating, no flatulence, no unrolling of TP, no rustle of clothing, nothing. Finishing my own activity, exiting the stall and washing my hands, I was aware of the continued silence from the closed stall. The woman had not shifted her position, not even moved her feet from where they rested when I first entered the bathroom.

The next night I again used the bathroom late at night. The scene of the night before repeated, the only difference being which stall the quiet woman occupied. As I left, a possible explanation occurred to me.

Our area of the campground had many young families.

Camping with small children is fun. They love playing in the campground and digging in the dirt. You re-experience nature through their eyes. Setting aside the daily routine of home, you spend more time in intimate contact with these little human beings and you can watch them and experience the drama of their lives in a new way.

Camping with small children is draining. Cooking, cleaning up, sheltering, diapering, etc. all take more work than they do at home. Added to that is the drama of being a child. Joy is unlimited. So is sorrow. Anger has no socially controlled quiet intensity---it is loud and it lasts exactly as long as it needs to until it is spent regardless of who is watching or what hour of the night it might be or how close the next campsite is.

After a long day of playing, cooking, cleaning, storing everything in a place safe from bears, laughing with the happy, consoling the sad, and wating out the angry, there is a sense of desperation. The strength of that desperation is perfectly expressed by a woman who locks herself into the women's bathroom after the children are asleep and everything is put away. Here is the one place no one will need or demand her attention.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

My first string bag


This one was a steep learning curve, nearly entirely made of stitches I'd never done before. Still, I changed the pattern to make it bigger and made two handles instead of just one, changed the color for the handles, and instead of seaming the handles the way the instructions directed, learned a way to weave the handle to the bag so that you can't see the join. (Of course I made the handles another color because I chose to make the bag bigger which caused me to run out of yarn before I got to the handles, and so I had to do something...)

I finished it while watching "Blind Side" with Tim. Enjoyed Sandra Bullock. Enjoy the complexity of a real life story that raises questions. Is it racist? Does it matter whether it's racist if good things result? What would have happened if a nice middle class family took in Michael, instead of a rich family who had access to so many privileges and knew so many powerful people?

Still, I love the story. I love stories about someone willing to follow their heart and do what they think is right no matter what. People who do that generally get some things wrong. Sometimes they get big things wrong. But still, it makes a difference somehow, to go out on a limb and make things happen.

Monday, August 02, 2010

You Can Run...

AND you can hide...I mean, hike.

This is the shameless commerce post. It is also the shameless borrowing of phrases post.

I bought shoes last week. I heard an article on NPR about how our bodies are designed to be barefoot, and about running barefoot. From there I decided to look around for shoes that protected your feet while giving you the same barefoot experience. There are all kinds of expensive shoes out there. There are even shoes that look like blue feet, with a spot for every toe. Most of the shoes made for running barefoot are too expensive to buy when you aren't sure yet how much you might be running, barefoot or not. But there was one shoe that seemed to make sense, was fun, and was affordable. I ordered it.

It is a very thin piece of rubber sole material, rough on one side and smooth on the other. You make a pattern using your own foot.. You punch holes for string measuring the location for the holes with your own foot. And then you can watch 5-6 videos of different ways to string a cord through the shoe and around your foot to give you a shoe that doesn't rub, but also doesn't take away the benefits of going barefoot.

Here is the version of tying I chose:


I wanted something I could slip on and off rather than retie each time I wore it. Then there was a lot of string leftover, which I could have cut off, but instead I used another video to learn how to make the decorative knot that is on the top of my foot. Now all I have to do is start running in them. In the meantime, they are quite comfortable for walking too.

We are going on vacation soon. We will be doing some hiking in the mountains and I don't have a pair of shoes that really grips the rocks in the mountains. Fortunately Land's End was having an Overstock sale. $40 trekker shoes marked down to $15 if I'm willing to wear pink. I guess I am.


Of course, like most places, shipping is free if you buy at least $50 worth of merchandise, but no worries. I need summer tops and there were a bunch of them for only $5 each. I also needed a hoodie, which was also cheap. Now I need to quit buying stuff.

We are in our one week at home in between major events. The boys got home from camp in time to sleep a few hours before our Kansas Regier family camp out, which went great. But Tim came home from camp with swimmer's ear, so he has to have drops twice a day. This means sitting at a table with his head tilted sideways for five minutes to let them soak in. I know this isn't really that interesting, but when I got out the camera to take a picture of my shoes, he was waiting out his five minutes. He asked if I was going to take a picture of him, and I thought that might be a good idea. Here he is, soaking in antibiotic ear drops.


That's enough drivel for one post.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cookie

It is hard to know what to post right now, but it seems important.

Most people who know Cookie also already know the details of what is happening to her. In the last week the doctors have determined that the mysterious ailment bothering Cookie for the last few months is ovarian and endometrial cancer. This morning in India they did surgery to cut out as much of the cancer as possible so that chemotherapy could attack whatever was left. The surgery began with laproscopy, and that is how it ended as well. There was too much cancer to try to cut it out. The next step will be chemotherapy to try to shrink the cancer so that it can be cut out later.

Yesterday evening our Sunday School class and a few other friends of Cookie got together to pray for her and her family. We recorded the prayers so that they could be sent across the internet to her and to Dave and they could hear the cries of our hearts. Then we went home to pray on our own.

Chuck and I went to sleep in our tent. (We are trying out a new tent that we bought for our coming vacation.) At close to 4 am I woke up hearing three musical notes played in succession on an instruments I don't recognize. It seemed like brass instruments, possibly like trumpets, but more mellow and fuller, and not a jarring way to wake like a trumpet might be. Maybe it was like a brass ensemble playing far away...maybe not. Enough trying to describe the indescribable. Anyway, I immediately had the sense that Dave and Cookie needed prayer and I began to pray. Soon I got up and realized Chuck was also awake. I asked if he had heard the music but he hadn't. I checked the email, thinking there might be word from Dave, but then remembered that even if he had written, I would not receive it until it went through our email prayer chain from Sunday School.

I went back to bed and continued to pray whenever I woke.

At 8:30 in the morning we received two emails that were forwarded from Dave. The first had been sent soon after midnight to let us know the surgery had begun. The second was sent at 4:05 am to let us know that the cancer was too widespread to do the surgery.

It is hard to know that Cookie's life is in the balance. It is good to know that God cares enough about it to wake someone on the other side of the world to remind them to pray.

We don't know what will happen now. Cookie has written that for her, it is OK to die. She has always lived her life fully. The fact that the end might be closer than she had expected doesn't mean that it has been cut short, but rather that she didn't know how long it would be. She hasn't waited to do the things that were important to her. She has done them, even if it meant significant financial loss and insecurity.

Maybe this will heal. Maybe it won't. If it doesn't, there will be all the usual feelings of anger and denial and bargaining and grief. Knowing God is present is good, and I depend on it, but feelings are still feelings. We will have to go through them.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Answers to Prayer

In Sunday School yesterday we had a guest teacher, Gladys Graber, who had served in Congo during the country's fight for independence. She told moving stories of the danger they had been in, how they were captured and detained by the rebels. They had given up on getting out alive. They knew other missionaries who had been killed. The stories emphasized again to me that we don't truly understand the value of our faith if we are unwilling to take risks for it. Gladys understood that following Jesus was more valuable than life.

I can't retell her story, but I want to include another story that she emailed to me this morning. Dr. Helen Roseveare was also a missionary in Congo at about the same time. She has written books about her experience, including "He Gave Us A Valley" which I have on my shelf. This is a story she writes about her own experience. It speaks for itself.

When I had been in Africa for four years, I was called one night to work in the maternity part of our hospital to help a mother have her baby. Sadly enough, despite everything I did, the mother died. I was left with a tiny, premature baby. I knew that the problem to keep the baby alive was to keep it warm. We had no incubators and no electricity. We were in the jungle. A nurse went to get a box to put the baby in, cotton blankets, and a hot-water bottle. She came back into the room and said, “I'm very sorry, Doctor. I was filling our last hot-water bottle and it burst.” I told her to keep the baby as close to the fire as possible and to sleep between the baby and the door to protect it from drafts.

The next day I went over to the orphanage to have mid-day prayers with the children. I told them some things to pray for, and mentioned the baby and the fact that if it got cold it would die. I also told them about the burst hot-water bottle. And I told them about the little two-year-old sister who was crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, a ten-year-old girl named Ruth prayed:


“Please, God, send us a hot-water bottle now, God. It will be no good tomorrow. The baby will be dead by then. Please send it this afternoon. And while You are about it, God, would You send a dolly for the little girl so that she will know that Jesus really loves her.”


I did not believe God could do it. The only way that a hot-water bottle could come was in a parcel from home. I'd been in Africa four years and never had received anything from home. And anyway, if anyone from back home sent a parcel, who would put a hot-water bottle in it? I lived on the equator!


That afternoon someone came for me. A large 22-pound parcel was setting on the veranda. I glanced at the postmark----London, England. I felt that I couldn't open it alone, so I called for the orphanage children. We opened it together. We pulled out brightly knit jerseys, knitted bandages for leprosy patients, and a big bar of soap. The children looked a bit bored. A box of dried fruit made the children's eyes sparkle because they knew I would make cookies.


Then, as I pushed my hand down into the parcel, I pulled out a hot-water bottle. I cried. Ruth rushed forward from the front line of the children. “If God sent the hot-water bottle,” she said, “He must have sent the dolly.” She dived into the parcel and from the bottom pulled out the dolly. She never doubted. She looked up with bright eyes and said, “Please, Mummie, can I go over with you and give the little girl the dolly so she will know that Jesus really loves her?”


That parcel had been on its way for five whole months, and previous to that a girls' Bible class had been knitting for a solid year. When the Bible class leader put the parcel together, God told her to put in a hot-water bottle. She had probably said, “God, a hot-wlater bottle for the equator?” It came that afternoon because a ten-year-old prayed believing. God had started that parcel to be made before ever the baby was conceived. Such is the enormous love of our eternal God for one tiny baby in an unknown hospital in the jungles of Africa.


Recounted by Dr Helen Roseveare who served with the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade at Nyan-kunde, Congo

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stuff I Saw This Morning

There is a story about animals getting out of the rain. One at a time, they crowd under a mushroom, which expands with the humidity until it is even big enough to shelter a rabbit. I think I found some of those mushrooms in my back yard.




Chuck often brings me wildflowers when he comes back from checking fields or from a run or a bike ride. Today he brought me a couple of these pink sensitivity flowers. Hot pink pom pom tipped in tiny golden specks, its a party on a stem.



I love the really dark colored daylilies, which are blooming right now. Some day I will find time to divide these and spread them around the rest of the yard.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gratitude - 31

This is the 31st gratitude post and I have to decide whether to continue.

For now, I'm grateful for:
  • energy and motivation to bake four batches of bread and pizza today
  • a cool day so the house didn't get unbearable after baking
  • Graceland, by Paul Simon, in the car cd player during errands
  • a great dinner out at Hu Hot Mongolian Grill with Ivan and Darla
  • Chuck playing guitar and humming along while I write my gratitude list

Gratitude 29 and following...

It was a busy weekend, and I have been grateful for many things but have not had much time to write them down.

Sunday---
  • Lunch with Ben and Andrea
  • time to visit with another mom when registering Tim at music camp
  • very pleasant supper with Wes before dropping him off for the week at Upward Bound
  • hanging out with my parents in the evening and getting to also talk with Randy and Annette on the phone while I was there
  • a definite sense that God was involved in the timing of the events of the last week
Monday---
  • phone call from James who ships out to Africa today with the National Guard
  • a day off, spent resting and reading and journaling
  • unexpected deal on Italian meatballs
  • time to get to know Christian when Tim isn't here
  • quiet evening with Chuck
_______________________________________

I'm reading the book, "An Altar In the World" by Barbara Brown Taylor. The focus of the book is on seeing the holy in the things you do all the time. Each chapter is phrased as a practice, like a spiritual discipline. Yesterday I read the chapter, 'The Practice of Saying No', subtitled 'Sabbath'.

Taylor comments that of all the commandments, the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy and to use it for rest is the easiest to disregard. It used to be easier to keep the Sabbath because the stores and restaurants weren't open, and other than church, many things were not scheduled for Sundays. Now, with the busyness of our culture, Sunday is filled. Most families must work two jobs, leaving much of the regular work of home for the weekend. Added to this is the cultural norm of making every opportunity available to our children. Most of those opportunities (music, sports, clubs, jobs, etc.) come with high expectations for commitments. Our evenings and weekends become crowded with games, concerts, meetings, laundry, yard work, and trying to still find ways to connect as a family. It is more exhausting than restful.

It is such a dilemma. We have all heard stories of children who dreaded Sundays because it was such a day of longing to do things that were forbidden. We don't want to repeat that. So how do we keep Sabbath in a way that is healing and restful for the whole family?

According to Genesis, as God created the world he surveyed each thing that was created in turn, and declared each 'very good'. Then on the seventh day God rested. Because God was finished with the work of creation, and rested on the seventh day, God used different words about the seventh day. God declared that day holy. The work was very good. The resting was holy.

This isn't an instruction to reverse the ratio of 6/1. Working 6 days is still very good and resting 1 day is still holy.

In Deuteronomy, the commandment to keep the Sabbath is related to the fact that God brought the people out of slavery. They no longer have to work every day. They need the day of rest to remind them that they are no longer slaves. They need it to remind them of what God has done for them. It is a day of equality. Bosses rest. Workers rest. Animals rest. Strangers who live among us rest. No one is allowed to require work from anyone or anything else.

The question is tough though. How do we keep the Sabbath holy without ruining that holiness with legalism and arbitrary rules?

Taylor suggests choosing one day out of every seven to be your own Sabbath. For herself, she chooses not to drive, not to do anything that would cause someone else to have to work, not to use tools, such as computer or garden tools or washer/dryer, etc. She bases her choices on the instructions in Exodus 20, that we should stop working and that we should allow our servants and our animals also to stop working.

It was a bit serendipitous that later in the evening Chuck picked up an older issue of "The Mennonite" magazine and opened it to an article on keeping the Sabbath. The writer of that article has a Sabbath accountability partner to keep her motivated in her effort to keep a Sabbath. Her guidelines for herself are different. She can garden because it is restful and enjoyable for her. She can go places.

I don't know how to decide those things. There are people who love their work. Is it OK for them to work on their Sabbath if they love it? Gardening is something I do because I love it, but it is also part of my work. I would feel OK about wandering out there to get enough veggies to eat fresh for lunch, but I probably wouldn't feel so good about choosing to pull weeds for an hour, even if I was enjoying myself. Why is that?

I'd like to figure out a better way to recognize Sabbath myself. It would probably involve a different day than Sunday because most of the activity on Sundays comes from commitments to the kids and to the church. The last two Sundays have involved enough afternoon and evening commitments that a nap was not even possible. By Monday I was tired.

Yet it feels bad to be able to choose a day in the middle of the week to celebrate Sabbath. Most people don't have the freedom to do that. It's something I need to process with other people. An accountability seems like a good thing in order to be faithful to the spirit of the commandment without getting swept away by rules.

________________________________________

Here is another picture of the colors on the house. There is a tiny bit of the blue/green in the small triangles at the bottom of the roof line and along the top edge of the window molding. The aluminum rectangles of the storm windows will also be that color. It's hard to see on a cloudy day, but that is what we have been having---cloudy days.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bentley's dedication/Wes to K-State

We went to Bentley's dedication last weekend. I was so grateful to be there. The service was meaningful, and it was good to be included. Here are a few pics of Bentley with Courtney, Wes, and Chuck.





Wes moved in at K-State for five weeks of college prep. Here is a pic of him showing of his KU license plate and his neatly folded clothing placed inside his dresser.



And this is the one he allowed me to take of us together, because he couldn't say no in front of his roommate and his roommate's mom and grandma.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gratitude - 28

Today I'm grateful for:
  1. Saying 'yes' to Bible School, even though it didn't make sense with the amount of work and the schedule. Things worked out better than expected with the schedule. There will always be work. I had five great days with a class of boys and Stef and Jerry.
  2. Enjoying spending time with Tim and Christian at lunch and with them and Wes at supper today.
  3. An abundance of stuff in the garden.
  4. The way it feels to take a cool bath after a long sticky afternoon.
  5. Chuck put the first accent color on the east side of the house this evening!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gratitude - 27

Today I'm grateful for:
  1. My mom, whose birthday is today.
  2. Waking up early enough to get a few things cleaned up and the tea made before leaving for Bible School.
  3. Lunch with Dad, Mom and Andrea.
  4. Phone conversation with Becca.
  5. Fun making silly putty with the boys at Bible School.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Gratitude - 26

Today I am grateful for:
  1. Seven energetic boys closing their eyes to imagine what it would be like to be with Jesus on a mountain top, and their faces change to peaceful, their bodies relax and get still, and they sit in silence for nearly a full minute before I end the moment with a spoken prayer.
  2. The goodness of sleep.
  3. Burritos made by Casa Betania.
  4. Small tired boy resting in my arms.
  5. Small excited boy laughing and playing and saying new things.
  6. Tim's senior pic photo shoot.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Gratitude 25

Today I'm grateful for:
  1. Another very good day at Bible School---these boys are great! Such good questions/such insightful answers. I'm learning as much as I'm teaching. Today the story of the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal with God showing amazing power.
  2. This one is shallow, but I bought a new phone I like.
  3. A nice meal at Olive Garden with Chuck. It was a sort of post/pre-crazy schedule season date.
  4. The more the guys paint, the more I like the color, even though they say it is the color of poop.
  5. Coffee with vanilla, coconut, hazelnut, plenty of milk and a little stevia...mmmmm.
One of these days I'll try to find time to put up a couple of pics of Bentley from his dedication. It might have to wait until Bible School is over.

Gratitude - 23 and 24

I'm a bit behind because of long full days, and because the blogging site was down one evening. Here are two days worth of gratitude.

On Sunday I was grateful for:
  1. Being invited to Bentley's dedication. It was good to be there for many reasons, but most importantly because of what God has done and is doing in Courtney's and Bentley's lives.
  2. The drive to and from Salina. On the way there I was able to enjoy some needed time with Wes talking about the things that are important to him. On the way back I cranked up Pierce Pettis and enjoyed singing along loudly, and thinking my own thoughts without interruption.
  3. MDS house dedication. Jamboree sounded good. I'm excited about the project. I didn't have to figure out what to have for supper.
  4. Time to work on my classroom for Monday Bible School.
  5. Deciding to gut it out and finish the dishes late at night even though I was tired. Now they are done.
On Monday I was grateful for:
  1. An exhilarating day of Bible School teaching 8 boys from grades 3-5.
  2. The joy of hearing children ask honest questions and having the whole class engaged fully in discussing together what the answers might be.
  3. Being well enough prepared that I felt ready to lead.
  4. Other gifted people to lead the things I'm not good at---active games, crafts, music, creative snacks.
  5. Feeling no guilt about taking a break from the intensity of work at home to catch up on some sleep and to do some advance prep for Bible school.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Gratitude - 22

Today I am grateful for:
  1. My family - we ate together at Andrea and Ben's house tonight and it was a pleasant evening.
  2. Enough time to do what is important.
  3. Terere' on the front porch with the guys this morning.
  4. Anticipation of Bentley's infant dedication service tomorrow.
  5. Sleep.

Gratitude - 21

Today I am grateful for:
  1. Two dogs who will walk next to me four miles happily without pulling on the leash or in any other way make me wish I had left them at home.
  2. Day lilies. Each blossom has only one day to be beautiful, and yet does it with such abandon. (see below)
  3. Hard physical labor that produces a sweat and good physical tiredness.
  4. People who ask hard questions of themselves and of me.
  5. People who do hard things because those things are right.
I've finally had a day where I realized I was feeling grateful quite a bit of the time. There were still times when I felt overwhelmed or lost sight of my gratitude. But there were more times when I would be enjoying how good something was, and then remember that this was something I could add tonight. I had way more than five things to be grateful for tonight, but it is nearly 1:00 a.m. and I had some picture to add.

The day lilies are just beginning now. They are so beautiful. The shortness of the bloom is made up for by the brilliance of the color. It is in your face amazing.


The variety of flowers also is such fun to think about. The tiny petals of the wildflowers in my flowerbed---is it fleabane? I can't remember. They are so delicate and seem so fragile. Yet, if they go to seed in the flower bed, next year they will take over. I have to pull most of them out just before they shed their seed so that I will have some, but not too many.


The larkspur has a flower that is a little bit more substantial, but its leaves are lacy and different from any other flower I know of. It reminds me of dill as it sprouts before the buds appear.


Hollyhocks have neither delicate flowers or fragile leaves. I planted them by the back door and they make me smile. I read once that people used to know where they outhouse was because in summer it was screened by hollyhocks. Every time I walk past the back door I think about that.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Painting the house, gratitude - 20

We have hired Tim and his friend, Christian, to paint the house this summer. The local paint store had a May special, which was a free consultation on color if we bought our paint from them. Since we had already decided to buy the paint from them, this was a no brainer. The picture below shows the main color with two options for the trim color. We have chosen the color on the left, although some of us are already having second thoughts---but not seriously enough to change after buying two gallons of that color paint.


As with any home improvement, it always is more than you anticipate. After seeking out advice from the paint store, we have treated the house for mildew and begun scrubbing every paintable surface. Also, we have rented the lift.


This lift gets parked beside the house and then it can go as high as 50 feet up and 30 feet on either side, enabling the painters to do a whole side of the house without moving a ladder. The controls are in the basket, which is also big enough to hold their supplies, and the rails keep them safe. Here they demonstrate how it works. The sound you hear is Tim's mp3 player connected to a boom box playing a recording of "The Hobbit".

video

And now they get to work


Today, Andrea came along with Ben to work, and she did a lot of priming on the front porch.

On hot days we often like to drink terere' and eat snacks (like watermelon) on the front porch during our breaks.







Somehow I managed to miss getting a picture of Ben at break. He was sitting right next to me. I remember thinking I needed to go over to the other side of the circle to get a better angle for Ben, but I must have been distracted at some point. Next time...

Luke wanted to paint too. He even managed to grab a paintbrush that had been used for primer and got a few brush strokes on the front porch floor before we could stop him. Laura had the idea of letting him paint with water, Chuck got him an old paint brush, and we just kept filling up his 'paint' container.




Laura left for a while to get a haircut and when she came back she looked like this.


Luke knew that she was Mommy, but he was quite worried about it. He would call her 'Mommy', but he wouldn't let her hold him, and he wouldn't walk past her without holding my hand. Mostly he wanted to sit on my lap to try to reassure himself.


After a while he decided he wanted to 'drive' Chuck's pick-up, and then he let Laura sit next to him and play with him.

Because of the lift, the guys are working long hours so that we can get as much as possible done in the week that we have it. Christian stayed for supper, sausage pizza baked on the stone. Then he and Chuck worked until nearly dark while Tim went to a rehearsal. I really appreciate their willingness to work so hard!


* * * * * * *
Today I'm grateful for:
  1. A mockingbird that sang through the night the last two nights.
  2. Many willing hands to help with the work.
  3. Someone who mysteriously weeded my corn. (Thanks Dad and Mom!)
  4. Blue salvia that grew on its own in my neglected flower bed.
  5. Strength and health.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Today I'm grateful for:
  1. Thinking to look at my calendar before I was too late to attend a workshop that was scheduled for 8:45 a.m.
  2. Waking up early enough that I could walk four miles and get home early enough to see the calendar in time.
  3. Tim being willing to work a lot extra today in order to fully utilize the lift while we scrape, clean, repair, and paint the outside of the house.
  4. Psalm 103, my psalm for the week, which is completely a psalm of gratitude.
  5. Even though it feels almost too busy, things are getting done, and most of the time I'm able to relax about the things that I'm not getting done.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Gratitude - 18

Today I am grateful for:
  1. Luke's sense of humor.
  2. God using people who are a mess.
  3. Broccoli from the garden.
  4. Our church working together to build a house for someone who needs one.
  5. Waking up this morning in time to walk during sunrise, even though I had only had 6 hours of sleep.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Gratitude - 17

Today I am grateful for:
  1. A cool and still day.
  2. Mate' with Mary Lou on the front porch.
  3. A full table at lunch.
  4. A couple of hours alone with Chuck for supper and a walk.
  5. Good relaxed conversation.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gratitude - 16

Today I am grateful for:
  1. Early morning walk where I recognized the calls of cardinals, meadowlarks, dick sissels, red wing black birds, quail, morning doves, pheasant, and all manner of less melodic birdsongs. I flushed a pheasant right next to the road.
  2. Wes. He gave his faith story in church today. I would post the video of it here, but the sound did not pick up well and I am so disappointed about that. His words moved many people.
  3. Aunt Clara. We celebrated her life today and spent hours reminiscing. I learned a lot.
  4. Evening thunderstorm, with rain, exactly when my little plants in the garden needed it.

Gratitude - 15

Today I am grateful for:
  1. Cinnamon rolls baked with Mary Lou.
  2. Long walk/talk this morning.
  3. Pigs went back into their pen without too much trouble.
  4. Nice evening with family from far away.
  5. Warm days, cool nights.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gratitude - 15

Last night as I drove to the airport to pick up Mary Lou, two ambulances passed me on that short stretch of Kellogg in between I 235 and the airport exit. They took the airport exit and I got a bit worried. As I drove down the airport road I passed a lot of other ambulances, maybe 15, maybe more. I was relieved to notice that they were near the UPS hangar, so I relaxed about Mary Lou's flight.

Then I got into the airport and at the waiting area people were talking about the flight that was supposed to arrive at 9:30. The monitors all said that it was supposed to arrive at 9:45, and that it was on time. But 9:45 was really 15 minutes late, because the flight was scheduled to arrive at 9:30. An older man made a phone call. "Are you in Wichita? What is happening?"

He turned to his companion and said, "The Frontier flight had to make an emergency landing because something was wrong with the landing gear or the brakes, but they are here and OK."

So I got the scary and the relief all in one brief message.

Today I am grateful for:
  1. Mary Lou's SAFE arrival!!!
  2. Long conversation that picks up where we left off, no hesitation, sharing lives, figuring out faith, asking the hard questions and understanding each other.
  3. A house full of people all working, enjoying breaks and lunch, hanging out.
  4. A completely empty house for about an hour and a half between supper and the airport.
  5. Andrea spending a rare day here on the farm.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gratitude - 14

Today I'm grateful for:
  1. Time to finish caging the tomatoes.
  2. Basil has sprouted.
  3. Terrere' with the guys on the front porch at morning break time.
  4. High pressure washers.
  5. Boys to paint my house. (some primer today, some color tomorrow!)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gratitude - 13

Today I am grateful for:
  1. The fact that time passing can decrease the intensity of emotions.
  2. Wes asked for my help in editing his faith story.
  3. Time to sit quietly and think.
  4. Choosing the main color for the house.
  5. A friend in the sheriff dept checking out the smoke from our trash fires, just because he cares.

Gratitude - 12

Yesterday I was grateful for:
  1. Tim and Christian beginning the scraping of the house.
  2. Brats, oven fries, applesauce, and green beans with the boys and their friends for supper.
  3. Rain.
  4. Sun dried bedding.
  5. Having enough.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gratitude - 11

I'm past 1/3 of the way through a month of gratitude. Today was the first Monday of summer vacation. I spent the greater part of the day in the kitchen getting some things made for the freezer. We now have wheat bread, oatmeal bread, pitas, hummus, yogurt, muesli, and chocolate chip cookies. It won't last long. I'll enjoy it while I have it.

Today I am grateful for:
  1. A day when I could see what I'd accomplished at the end of the day.
  2. Cracker Barrel supper, courtesy of friends of Ben and Andrea---Thanks!
  3. More greens from the garden.
  4. Walking and talking in the dark with Chuck while we watch approaching lightening in the distance.
  5. Enough resolve to finish cleaning the kitchen before relaxing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gratitude - 10

Today I am grateful for:
  1. Waking up wide awake enough and early enough to walk an hour before church.
  2. A thought provoking Sunday School lesson on hermeneutics.
  3. Great worship music at church.
  4. An excellent nap with no guilt for being lazy.
  5. Authentic fried rice feast for supper.
  6. Fun playing games with the kids.

Gratituce - 9

I'm grateful for:
  1. Watching "Dave" in the late evening with Tim and Liz
  2. Good friends from faraway here to visit for both Greg and Laura, and for Andrea and Ben
  3. Back to walking after neglecting it for several days.
  4. The chard and the romaine have sprouted.
  5. Time to read the first chapter of "An Altar in the World", entitled "Waking up to God"
It was late when we finished the movie and I wanted to talk to Chuck a bit, and Tim wanted the computer. I didn't post these until Sunday morning. Sorry. I'll have more tonight.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gratitude - 8

Today I am grateful for:
  1. Sunshine.
  2. Beet leaves.
  3. My small group.
  4. Grace.
  5. free frappucino with Chuck (from McD's)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gratitude - 7

My gratitude for today is:
  1. A pleasant evening with Andrea hanging out here with us.
  2. Cooking for an appreciative group.
  3. How sweet it is to have Luke push up against me while he falls asleep at nap time. (This one will appear again, I'm sure. I never get used to how good it is.)
  4. The smile on Andrea's face when Luke insisted that she snuggle with him after his bath tonight.
  5. Wes grabbing the vacuum and taking over vacuuming the living room for me when he got home from school.
  6. Long phone calls from Vermont.
Today is the 16th year since Rhonda died. During the last year her first grandchild was born. I remember wondering how it was that life could go on after such a horrendous thing as murder. It does, but she is still missed.

It's still early (for me) but I'm too tired to write more tonight. Hoping everyone has a good evening tonight.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gratitude - 6

Spent the morning doing financial records and making laundry soap (which is fun because I watch episodes of Glee while I grate the soap bars). Had late lunch out with Chuck, a nap, and then looked up tents for sale. After supper spent hours exploring Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks on line to prepare for our summer vacation.

Gratitude for today:
  1. The weather cooperated with my energy level so that I could do indoor desk work without feeling bad about missing out on strenuous outdoor work.
  2. I love Long John Silvers, but only go there rarely because of the grease factor. Today was the day.
  3. I managed to finish the 'farm' account while Chuck worked on things inside the house, which meant I could ask all my questions in real time, instead of writing them all down to ask later.
  4. Grace from others when I was kind of grouchy.
  5. Good leftovers for supper.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gratitude - 5

My Gratitude list for today is:
  1. The first salad from the garden---small spinach leaves and small beet leaves---delicious!
  2. A great blue heron and two mallard families on the water while I walked the bike path this morning.
  3. Crazy email banter between my brothers.
  4. Luke is so sweet about taking his nap, and he loves to have a good snuggle when he wakes up.
  5. A wash line with wires that are straight and taut.
In case there is any illusion that this is quick and easy, I will dispel that now. I'm thinking that by the end of the month I will have five things in mind already by the end of the day, because I will have learned to notice things as they happen. Currently I still have to review the day and remind myself about the things that happened.

It reminds me a bit of how Laura would delay bedtime when she was little. We always did "happy's and sad's" as part of the bedtime ritual. Laura wanted to choose her absolute best happy and her absolute worst sad. In order to do that we had to review the entire day in detail. I remember laughing with babysitters about how many details Laura could remember about her day.

Anyway, I was thinking today about the discipline of examen. This discipline asks two questions at the end of each day. The first has something to do with gratitude. It can be worded several ways.

When was I most aware of God today? When did I feel closest to God today? What was I most grateful for today? When was I most at peace today?

The second question is always the inverse of the first. When was I least aware of God today? When did I feel farthest from God today? What was I least grateful for today? When was I least at peace today?

Supposedly, the discipline of writing the answers to the 'happy/sad' question each day can give you insight into your deeper self. I'm not going to start that now, but maybe, once I have the gratitude habit, I can move on to this...probably not publicly though.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gratitude - 4

The second topic at the workshop on Gratitude was "Gratitude Grounded". The main idea was that gratitude has a depth that allows it to be present in all circumstances. The following is from my notes.

Living a life of gratitude does not mean living a life of happiness. Gratitude is deeper than happiness. We often mistake happiness for gratitude and vice versa. We believe we are not full of gratitude if we are not full of happiness. The character of Pollyanna would show us the happiness side of things. The person of Anna, waiting in the temple and eventually recognizing the infant Jesus, shows us gratitude. Widowed while still young, she had lived in the temple until she was old, living a life of worship and praise in spite of her losses. In the crowds at the temple, only she and Simeon recognized this holy child.

Ordinary happiness depends on what is happening to me. Joy is extra-ordinary happiness, which is independent of what happens to us. The root of joy is gratefulness.

We notice that joyful people are grateful and assume that the gratitude comes from the joy. That is false. It is the choice to be grateful that causes the joy. We can't wait for happiness to be grateful.

We must bask in the now. We must find gratitude now. Gratitude lasts long after happiness is gone.

Happiness isn't enough.

But don't scorn happiness. Relish it. We don't cling to it, but we also don't disdain it even though we know it is temporary. Instead we enjoy it fully while it lasts and release it as it leaves.

Gratitude is dependent upon what God has given us---Deep reconciliation in spite of our mistakes. Unconditional love. Reason to live. Reason to die. Wholeness.


Things I am grateful for today:
  1. Corn beginning to sprout in the garden
  2. Chuck reminding me it was time for sunset, and the sun was just at the horizon, clear and red, with no wind. We watched it touch the horizon and then sink until it was just a sliver, and then gone.
  3. A small amount of time to do a writing exercise.
  4. Financial grace---I haven't downloaded our bank records into our financial accounting program for quite a while. I thought it was going to be too late to get it all without doing some hand entering of data. I found a way to get it all to import by setting date ranges a little bit differently than I usually do. Yay!
  5. Ben stayed at work later than expected because of glitches with loading hogs, even though he has big plans for tomorrow and needed to prepare.
  6. Time to talk with Wes. (bonus gratitude)