Ponderings.

I take great joy in observing life. I spend a lot of time pondering my observations. So, one day I thought I would write them down. These are my ponderings. -dana

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas.

This morning is the same as all December mornings.  My husband rises a few hours before me.  He turns up the heat, makes the coffee and always turns on the Christmas tree lights.   This makes it nearly impossible to wake up on the wrong side of the bed!  So I'm sitting here this morning wondering  just how it is that this little setting--these simple little December moments-- can wrap me up like they do and warm me all the way to my soul.

Here's what I think about that.

When I was a girl, my mom made Christmas so special.   It all started with the arrival of the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalog, fittingly called the "Wish Book".   My sisters and I poured over the pages until we had them memorized.  We dog-eared the pages with our favorites on them.  I remember always wanting something unique that no one else would want.  A ventriloquist doll.  A unicycle.   Wishing for gifts was different than it is nowadays.  We didn't get things all throughout the year like kids do now.   So when Christmas rolled around, there was no shortage of things on our list.  The list had been forming since the Christmas before!!  From that catalog we shopped for presents for our parents, too.   I remember ordering my dad a penny that was inside a very small sealed glass dome.  Hmmm.  Yeah.  I don't really remember Dad asking for a penny in glass dome.  I was a different kind of kid.  My sisters will vouch.  Anyway, as I was saying,   we decorated the tree with silver icicles.  Now you and I both know when you put those things in the hands of three little girls and turn them loose you can wind up with a tree that looks....well, certainly not from the pages of Southern Living!

A few weeks before Christmas, presents would begin to appear under the tree.  My sisters and I couldn't wait to get home from school to see if there were more.  I remember Mom fixing hot chocolate for us and how she would sit with us and watch us shake our presents as we'd try to guess what was in them. It didn't seem to matter that the presents weren't arranged "just so" under the tree.  Presents were for shaking!  Johnny Mathis must have been playing in the background, because that music is permanently etched in my mind.  The vinyl record is on my stereo at this very moment!

In all our excitement, my sisters and I would all sleep in the same room on Christmas Eve.  We would whisper about what Santa might bring.  My stomach was always unsettled with excitement.  I would stay awake as long as I could, straining my ears to hear even a hint of what was going on beyond our closed door!  Christmas morning came early.  Mom and Dad would get up and we'd hear them say..."Looks like Santa came!"  We had to wait in our room until the coffee was made.  Mom and Dad would pour them a cup and call us in to the living room.  In two seconds the whole house dissolved into giggles and screams of delight and a mountain of wrapping paper.

 As a child I knew the story of the birth of Jesus,  but as children we don't connect all the dots.  What my parents did very well, though, was to paint a picture of joy and hope at Christmastime.  It was a time when everything was possible.  It was a time where my heart just felt different.  I knew that when I was very young, and as I grew older that hope had a name and the name was Jesus.

When we had children, I discovered that I had learned well from my mother.  So many of the traditions I carried on.  And we added a few of our own, like camping out under the tree a few nights before Christmas.  I gained a whole new admiration for what my mother had done to make Christmas a special and beautiful time. A million little things.

I loved every minute of having children at Christmas.  I loved the Christmas Eve service at our church and how we'd all circle the entire Sanctuary with the lights out and candles lit and sing "Silent Night".  I loved our pastor reading from the bible that the light of the world was born.  I looked at my children and saw their faces glowing with excitement in the candlelight.  And I saw hope.

I loved how after church we would head home and have yummy Christmas foods that we would make special just for that time of year.  Soon we'd say,  "The sooner you get to bed, the sooner Santa will come."  That's what my parents used to say.  I loved  how they camped out in the same room on Christmas Eve and how we could hear their whispering, giggling voices into the night!  I loved every single Christmas morning when the kids waited at the top of the stairs while Todd and I got our cups of coffee. I loved the quiet times that came later in the day, when we could sit with each of them as they showed how something worked or taught us how to play a new game.

So I'm sitting here this morning thinking how Christmas looks different this year.  It will be Todd and me until Christmas Eve, when two of our three will make it home.  Work has Todd on the rode a good portion of week...which means long, late hours.  He brought home a beautiful tree for us.  The next night, while I waited up for him to come home, I decorated the tree.  Johnny Mathis played on the stereo.  I fixed myself a cup of hot orange spice tea.   I pulled each ornament out and hung it on the tree...handmade ornaments with the kid's faces and hand prints on them...an ornament Todd and I bought years ago on a trip to Nantucket....an ornament that says, "now we are 'three'", symbolizing our first Christmas with a child.  I took my time remembering the significance of each one.  By decorating standards, my tree is  way overcrowded, but I can't bring myself to leave off a single one.  I can still remember my dad looking at our tree one year and saying, "That's exactly what a tree should look like".  And so it always will.

If you have a visual of a sad, lonely woman decorating a tree by herself in your mind, erase it immediately!  You know that feeling you have when you get in your car and it's so cold you can hardly touch the steering wheel until the heat kicks in and you turn it on high and let it blast you in the face.  Well that's the kind of warmth that wrapped me up when I decorated my tree this year.  God gave me the gift of a quiet evening to marvel at the years of Christmas blessings he has heaped on our family. And I, like Mary, "treasured these things in my heart".

The way Christmastime looks at my house changes every year. Sometimes it will be lively with family and friends, and I'm sure some years will be quiet.  But the hope that is at the very root of it all will never change.   And on those Christmas seasons that are more quiet than others, I pray God will remind me to be thankful for the gift of time to sit and marvel at his indescribable gift.

By the way, about the unicycle and the ventriloquist doll.  The unicycle was something I never mastered.  But let me say that had I really committed to the art of ventriloquism, I could have been the next Shari Lewis. I didn't want to leave you hanging!  Merry Christmas!

And she hung her memories on her tree.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hurrying.

"Wherever you are, be all there".

This quote has been my challenge since I read it years and years ago.  It's been my challenge for reasons that I will write about in a minute.  First, though, I'm going to digress for a moment as I am sometimes prone to do!

For now, let me just say that it apparently was nt the challenge of Mr. Deer Hunter who nearly ran me off the road last night.  Where he "was", was on the highway behind me.  He was definitely not "all there" however, when he tried to zip around me so that he could then zip in front of me and go faster.  The only glitch in his plan was when he zipped around me the 18-wheeler in front of him decided to hit his brakes. That was when Mr. Deer Hunter, with the "call of the wild" whispering in his ear,  decided to just go for it and whip back in front of me, his trailer narrowly missing the front end of my Jeep.  As I said,  he was not all there.  Where was he, then?

Well I'm guessing he was already on his deer lease a few miles further west.  He was already smelling the  maple bacon sizzling on the skillet at his deer camp in the pre-dawn hours.  He was already feeling his heartbeat increase as a buck with a rack as big as Dallas approached the feeder.  He was, in fact, already picturing how that mounted deer head was going to look in his home above the fireplace.  He was already hearing his wife say, "That thing is not going in MY house"!  So quickly his mind goes straight to Plan B--how the mounted buck will look in his office and how all of this peers will marvel at his hunting skills.  Yeah, yeah, Plan B is better anyway! 

I rest my case.  Clearly last night where Mr. Deer Hunter indeed "was", he was not "all there".  I thank the Lord that I am here to tell the story!!

Digression complete.  We shall move on.

I have fought being "all there" my entire adult life.  Lets take this morning for example.  It's one of the first really chilly mornings we've had.  I have the day off from work.  I have a full pot of steaming hot coffee in front of me and my house is clean.  What more could a woman ask for?  Yet, I admit that it is a struggle for me to be here...in this moment.  My mind is traveling a couple of weeks forward to Thanksgiving and the preparations.  I'm feeling my pulse increase.  I immediately start a mental "to do" list.  I feel guilty sitting in the quietness. I'm feeling the need to DO something. Most times it doesn't occur to me that this tiny little moment in time is a gift from God.  I wonder what he thinks as I squander it away with my "hurry-up, always-doing" mentality.

Outside the window in my kitchen there is a tree.  In that tree many days there is a Cardinal. In my haste, I most often think, "Oh hey, there's that bird again!" It took me some time to see a pattern.  Usually the Cardinal appears in late afternoon.  He usually perches on the same branch.  It appears that he is looking in the window right at me.  In the midst of our drought, he sits in the one tree that seems to be thriving without the benefit of water.  As I watch, I think how I love seeing the contrast of his vibrant red feathers in the green leaves.  I find myself watching for him.  It's a thrill when he shows up.  He shows up when I slow down.  Oh, he's probably there other times, too, but it is when I'm "all there" that I see him.

Some days and some moments I'm better at being "all there" than others.  Here are what those moments looks like in my life.

When I'm all there and my children come to visit I notice how they make each other laugh and I'm well aware of how the sound delights me.  I love how when my daughter gets completely tickled, she doubles over when she laughs.  I notice how my son's hands, when they are working,  look just like my dad's hands did.  I notice the quiet strength and patience of another son and I think how he reminds me of my granddaddy.  When I'm all there, nothing soothes my soul like the sounds of my children playing music together. Then I don't worry about what we're having for breakfast tomorrow, I just enjoy the music.

When I'm all there, my heart  melts when my husband of almost 30 years kisses me when he comes home at the end of the day. When I'm all there,  in the midst of life's hardships, I still lose myself in hope as we dream about next year over Saturday morning coffee.  When I'm all there, I like to bake an apple cake just for the moment he will walk in the door and tell me how good it smells.

When I'm all there, I soak in an entire day in the company of a sister. I'm reminded of one of the things I love about her---how she makes everything fun! I'm amazed at her creativity and how she enjoys just about every moment of her life.

When I'm all there, with the radio playing in the background, I enjoy a long soak in a hot tub until the water turns cold.  I like how moving one piece of furniture can make me enjoy just walking into a room.  When I'm all there I take notice of how much lighter my load feels when I do something as simple as clean out my purse!  When I'm all there, I just close my eyes and wait for the moment my little eight-year-old voice student will hit a high note at the end of "Silent Night".  She hears it, too, and we just smile at each other.

When I'm all there, I love sharing a cup of coffee with my mom.  I love that even though I'm 51, when I go to her house I feel instantly relaxed and kind of like a kid again!   I love how she always has cookies to eat!   I love how she is so full of life and active and independent and I'm thankful she lives nearby. 

When I'm "all there" I get a glimpse of a beauty that is so simple that it almost brings me to tears.  I feel like I'm seeing things from God's perspective instead of mine.  When I'm "all there", tangible things lose all significance and real living begins to happen.   It is where God says "This is where beauty lives and it is my gift to you.  Go ahead....drink it in.  Splash around in it!"

When I'm "all there",  I have no wish to be anywhere else.  

"One must never be in haste to end a day;  there are too few of them in a lifetime".  -Dale Coman


Something I saw when I was "all there".

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things reclaimed.

     I'm drawn to old things.  I cannot remember a time when I wasn't.  Actually, I come from a long line of women who are drawn to old things.  Mimie, my grandmother on my mother's side, collected beautiful old things that she gathered when living all over the world.  Her old things were fine things.  Sideboards.  Pitchers and bowls.  Chairs.  Tea carts.  Clocks.  China.  Figurines. Mimie's beautiful old velvet chaise sits in my little office alcove upstairs.    Then there is my mother.  Mom was a junker when junking wasn't cool-- long before "American Pickers" were on the hunt!  I'm fairly certain that my sisters and I furnished our first places with Mom's finds. In fact, one of Mom's greatest finds had to have been an old table, which lived at one time or another in all of her childrens' homes.  I have done the same for my children. An old school bus seat that I found has been repurposed in my son's living room. A beautiful old armoire was brought back to life with a little elbow grease and paint and now lives at my daughter's house.   Another of my sons is building a fine collection of old classic books.

So, you see, the love of old things is in my blood.  My heart beats much faster as I approach anything that resembles a yard sale.  It is the thrill of finding something wonderful beneath a pile of things not-so-wonderful.

This is the story of what I found one day under a pile of not-so-wonderful stuff.

A small stained-glass window.  I hardly recognized it for what it was at first.  It was caked in years and years of dirt.  Before I rescued it from the pile for a closer look, the lady told me she would take five dollars for it.  When I pulled it out, I saw that it had a few cracks, and a small triangular-shaped piece of glass was missing.  But hey, for five bucks, why not?  I bought it.

I took it home, put it in the storeroom, thinking I would clean it up in a few days.  It was a few months when I remembered it.  When I fetched it from storage, I began to clean off layer upon layer of dirt.  Slowly, the simple design began to emerge--a single red tulip with two green leaves.

I wondered where the glass had lived in its better years.  I wondered whose hands had gently cleaned the fragile panes.  I wondered how it was broken and who had discarded it when it became imperfect.  Though there were no explanations for all my "wonderings", I was glad I had decided to reclaim and rescue it.

That beautiful little piece of glass I purchased for so little now lives in one of my windows in a room I spend time in every day.  The morning sun shines through it,  creating the most lovely shapes and colors despite its imperfections.  It's hard for a window to go through life without some of those.

It's the same for us.  We just cannot live this life without imperfections.  Like the glass, there will always be those who see us as "less" because of them.  As humans, we won't end up on the bottom of a pile of rubble, but we do end up in lonely houses with shades drawn thinking we'll just live out our days collecting dust, feeling as if we are of no use to anyone because we can't be perfect enough or because we've been damaged.

But then there is this One.  He digs through the rubble for you and me.  He never even asks "how much for this one?"  He just pays with everything he has.  When he looks at the cracks in us and when he finds us with pieces missing, he still wants us.  Imagine that.

He still wants us.
With years of soot and dirt on us.

Just take a minute and let that soak in.

I believe when He looks at me and when he looks at you, He sees something completely beautiful.  And He reclaims me.  And you.  No one else can see me that way.  No one else can see you that way.

We are His pieces of broken stained glass.  And I believe He takes great joy in the light that shines through our broken and cracked panes.

lovely imperfection.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fire.

Last spring, wildfires began to rage in the beautiful dessert mountains in West Texas.  In a little town called Fort Davis, nestled just below McDonald Observatory, people held their collective breaths as homes, ranches, livestock and human lives were threatened.   Many did not survive.  Along with everyone else, I, too waited and watched.  My Uncle Ray's home, which through inheritance was left to the care of my sisters and me, was directly in the line of fire. 

This rugged terrain has become dear to our family, as we have all enjoyed the spectacular night skies that first drew my uncle to this particular part of the world.  We have many times gazed at the constellations wishing Ray was there to explain to us exactly what we were seeing.  My sons called the land home for some months.  They cycled through the mountains and grew food on the land.  They called the locals friends.  It was with a sick feeling in our stomachs that, from many miles away,  we watched it burn.

Months passed and the fires had long since been contained before I made a trip out west with some trepidation about what it would look like.  When I arrived in the veil of darkness, it looked no different.  The next day, though,  a  leisurely drive would reveal exactly where the fires had burned. A trip up Skyline Drive in the park revealed blackened trees and burned-out structures.  But it revealed something else.too.

Where the fire had not burned, the grasses grew high and were brown in color.  Where the fire had burned, grasses of the brightest and most vibrant shade of green were just beginning to appear through the earth.  Though the end of a drought-ridden summer was approaching, the land took on a spring-like quality.  The rebirth was in full swing, and I was an eyewitness.  From a mountain of dead and blackened foliage, I looked down into a valley with sprigs of green.  With hints of hope.

At times, fires have raged in my own life.  It seems the winds will not quiet long enough to contain them--they burn out of control.  Then finally, they burn themselves out and there comes the quiet aftermath.  Where it seems all hope is lost and all I see in front of me is a pile of rubble.  I am overwhelmed.  But then, I call to God and he is near.  Amidst the charred remains, He shows me a sprig of green. And then he multiplies that green until all signs of fire are gone.   My soul has been refined and I run through a vast field of the thickest and most beautiful grass I've ever seen.  I take joy in how it feels beneath my feet. And I laugh!   It won't be forever, I know.  There will be other fires.  And though they won't leave me unscorched, I know this.  Every single time, I will emerge stronger and more lovely than before. 

As I was driving home from my trip out west,  I began to hear reports of wildfires raging within an hours drive from my home.  I was so thankful for what God had shown  me just days before.  This is the hard part, I thought.   The painful part where all we see is devastation.  This is the time when it is hard to give thanks.  But through it, we will all learn how to give. To reach out to others. To love more and better.   We'll have no choice but to trust.  And soon something green will emerge in the midst of black. And then we will remember to be thankful.  For we will have been refined and once again  made lovely.

Refined.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Same time next year.

Here is my thought on having children.  The minute we give birth we begin the process of letting them go.

There's the first time we let someone else hold them.  The first time someone else feeds them.  The first time we leave them with a babysitter and let them stay overnight with a grandparent.  The first time they take steps without holding our hands. The first time we leave them in Sunday School crying.  The first time we turn loose of the bike seat to let them take off on their own.  The first time they sleep over at a friend's house. The first day of school. The first time they are last up to bat when the teams down by one and they strike out.  The first time they hurt and we can't fix it.  The first time we hand them the keys to the car and they drive off alone. Their first love.  Their first heartbreak.  Their last night at home before their first day in college.

Yep. The minute we give birth, we begin letting go--little by little every single day until one day we realize that we no longer have a starring role in the story of their lives, but rather a supporting role.  Then, just as we begin to adjust to this new role and even begin to like it a bit, it happens.

Moving day.

Just like magic, we once again become the stars in our childrens' lives...in the short film titled, "Moving-Day Memories--99 Ways to Have Fun In 104 Degree Heat".   And why are we the stars?  Because no one else auditioned for the part--that's why!

Like clockwork, every year since 2003, Todd and I have been invited to help our offspring relocate.  Some years, it is only one child.  But every now and again, like this year, we get to move at least two of them and possibly even a third!  It's how we celebrate our anniversary every year!  Suffice it to say, this wasn't something we considered when we married in August some 29 years ago!

So this year, the story goes something like this.

I,  a.k.a mover #1, finish up work on Thursday and meet up with my daughter, a.k.a,  the movee.  We gas up the truck, drive 75 miles to the city where we meet up with my husband, a.k.a, mover #2, who has just driven in from San Antonio to secure his starring role in this film.

A strained back prevents me from doing any of the heavy lifting, so I attack the kitchen while father and daughter maneuver mattresses and heavy furniture down to the street level to load in the truck--which is parked in an alleyway with hazard flashers blinking out the "please don't tow us" prayer.  About three feet of rope is all the hope we have for tying down mattresses and other objects that could potentially become airborne in transport.  I bite my tongue and I purposefully remove myself from the conversation dealing with mattress restraint.  Back to the kitchen.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't ever have things in my fridge of questionable origin, but I AM saying that I don't ask other people to clean them out.  But, if this is the price I pay to be a star in my daughter's life again, then so be it! Even while removing a bag of fermented something from the veggie bin, I have no complaints.  After all, I was blessed with no sense of smell for moments such as this.  So actually this role suits me quite well.

Eventually, at 9:30 pm or so, my husband starts the 75-mile drive home with a loaded truck.  He should be home by 11:00.  When he gets there, he will unload our daughter's things into our dining room where they will be housed for a couple of weeks until her new place is ready.   At that time, we will reload everything into the truck and repeat everything...in reverse...sort of!

Meanwhile back in the city, mother and daughter work side-by-side packing up the kitchen.  We take a couple of loads out to our second vehicle.  Against my better judgement, my car was parked (not by me) in a space that TECHNICALLY wasn't available, even though no one else was parked there.  In the time it took to take an elevator up to the 4th floor, grab a load, and come back down, the car was gone.  MY car.  GONE. VANISHED.  The time is 11:30 p.m. Seriously?  Yes.  I've come to understand that towing in Austin's west campus area is an inconvenience that leaves few unscathed.  It is just a right of passage that must be dealt with.  Okay.  Well, I'm glad we got that out of the way.  My daughter's roommate says she knows just where to find the car--this will be the fourth time she has assisted others in retrieving their towed vehicles.  Well, that's good news.  Along with the fact that the towing place is open 24-7.  Then again, I was raised believing that nothing good happens after midnight, so I'm slightly concerned.

In the wee hours of Friday morning, two college-aged girls and one middle-aged mother navigate through dark streets and sketchy neighborhoods until we end up on a dead-end dimly-lit road.  A high chain link fence surrounded a lot full of towed vehicles--and somewhere in the midst was my little Jeep.  We approach a window, behind which hides the guy that would hopefully give me my car back.  We communicate only through glass, for his protection he says.  Eventually, after we settled our bill and thank the nice man, he instructs us to proceed through a gate to claim our car.  I pause and ask him if there are guard dogs inside because that was all I needed in one night---to have my car towed AND to be attacked by dogs.  He says no.  No dogs.

Back at the apartment, with my car carefully stowed for the night, there was the inebriated neighbor who showed up at the door.  He mumbles something about orange juice and then proceeds to lie down on the floor with half of his body inside the apartment and half in the hallway.  A slight predicament, but it resolved itself shortly and we crash on the couches at 2:30 a.m.   At 7 a.m. the moving again ensues.  It is already almost 80 degrees outside.  Todd shows up on the scene again with an empty truck just begging to be filled.  During this time it occurs to me again why my husband and I had  been chosen for this role. It's because of our incredible ability to know exactly how to position the legs of a table to get it through the door and how to trash things without a second thought.  And it's also because we have no inhibitions in asking total strangers if they want furniture (abandoned by another roommate and not needed for the new pad) so that we don't have to load and deliver them to another location.  SCORE!  The first half of the move is done just as the temperature reaches 100.  I've lost 8 pounds in water weight alone!

Todd heads to work.  I head home.   Our daughter heads to Colorado for a much needed vacay!  Thanks to heating pads and Advil,  we'll be ready for the second half of the move in a couple of weeks.  We have already secured our starring roles---no audition required!  And then, a few weeks after that we'll be on location in Michigan starring in the life of another offspring.  Hey, in this business it's either feast or famine!  When it's time to feast, we gladly oblige!

Soon, we'll settle into our supporting roles again.  The weather will cool off.  We'll probably even get some rain.  At least once a day we'll wonder about what the kids are up to.  We'll encourage them from nearby when we can and from faraway when that's our only option.  And all the while we will know that just around the corner is August and another moving day.  And we will once again be the stars.
Happy Anniversary, Honey!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Stop Sign.

I'm a goal-oriented person.  Once I set a goal, I can think of little else until I'm "there".  The beauty of the process is often lost in my rush to get to the goal.  When I gear up, it's serious business.  Gatorade for electrolyte stability and hydration.  Peanut M&Ms for protein and blood sugar boosts.  (I'm no medical professional, but it works for me!)  And blinders, so that I won't be distracted by anything to my right or my left--you know, so I can stay focused on my goal! 

I don't think I was born this way.  I actually blame this particular trait/flaw on timed math tests that I took as a child.  These tests didn't help me be better at math, but they did instill in me this need to rush.  Almost always.  From using mouthwash (really who has time to swish for a whole minute?) to pumping gas.  I have done a personal survey of pumps in my little town. Many have a  CFS flow slower than a dripping faucet AND they never have paper to give me a receipt.  Because I always get a receipt, I'm forced to take 25 additional seconds to go inside--and that's only if there is no line.  I boycott them!  And here's the thing about rushing.  Nothing drives a "rusher" crazier than those around us who refuse to rush!  I am married to a non-rusher, and let's just say he could easily swish mouthwash for 2 minutes and probably would not even notice that it took him a full 10 minutes to fill up his vehicle. If he had to go in for a receipt, he would spend an additional 15 minutes visiting with the guy behind the counter.  Real friendly guy, my husband. I've loved him for about 30 years.  That's 30 years in REAL time, but if you ask him, he'd probably say, "Thirty years, really?  Huh, It doesn't seem like it's been that long!"  That's because he's a non-rusher and live's on non-rusher time. 

One day, I tailgated a couple of non-rushers.  This is that story.

I live about six miles from town.  There was a time when I made that trip  an average three times a day.  It was before gas was so expensive and when I was busy raising the kids.  I knew exactly  how long it would take me to get down our little winding roads to the highway.  My ETD's and ETA's were carefully timed and I was proud to have relatively few delays.  I was the mother that was NEVER late to pick up my children.  One particular day, I pulled out of my drive and immediately in front of me was a white truck, apparently just out for a casual morning drive. With the sun almost blinding me, I followed closely up to the first stop sign, hoping he would go straight.  Then came his left turn signal indicating he was going my way.  Drats! My blood pressure slid slightly up. I turned on inspirational music and ask the Lord to calm me, as I would be stuck behind this truck for the next 2 miles.  For a rusher, 2 miles at a slow pace feels like twenty.  With the sun out of my eyes, I began to notice things about the truck.  It was kind of banged up--a much older model.  I also noticed that he wasn't alone in the vehicle.  There was a woman with him, scooted over and sitting right next to him.  Hmmm.  That's odd.  Don't really see that so much these days.  Kind of silly at their ages, I thought! They must have been completely smitten with each other, because they didn't seem to notice or care that I was riding their bumper.  They appeared to be in their 60's.  Yes, I could see it all.  I was that close!

I followed them through a couple more stop signs. Just my luck they always turned the way I was going.  Then we finally made it to the stop sign at the highway.  In just a few seconds I would be zipping around them on my way--you know---with my eye on the goal!  But at that stop sign, something happened that made me pause.

They came to a full stop in front of me.  They turned to each other and kissed.  Then the man looked both ways and pulled out on the highway and they continued on their way.  I'll admit, the sweetness of that moment threw me off schedule for a moment.  I was instantly glad I had witnessed it, and I thought God had sent me a little lesson.  And I figured that was that.

Over the next couple of months and for a few years, it was uncanny how many times I ended up behind this same little couple in the same beat up truck.  She was always sitting next to him.  And  at the stop sign at Highway 29, they always did the same thing.  They always kissed.  Every time.  I would share every encounter with my family over dinner.   From time to time they, too, would end up behind them, and they would witness the kiss.  Every time we mentioned it, we would all smile.  That kiss was a symbol of something we found hard to articulate, but it made us happy always.  We found ourselves hoping we would end up behind them.  They were the one thing that made me more than happy to slow down.

I don't remember when I quit seeing them.   I just didn't see them for a long while.  Our kids grew up and left home.  My schedule probably changed a little bit.  Maybe I wasn't rushing about so much anymore.  Then, years later, when I'd almost completely forgotten about them  and their wonderful kisses, there they were in front of me again.  Same truck.  Same slow drive.  I could not believe my good fortune!  I followed not nearly as closely as I had years before, giving them all the space and time they wanted.  As we approached the stop sign at the highway, I remember thinking "please let them kiss, please let them kiss".  I don't know why their tender tradition had affected me so, but it had.  For some reason, on that day, I needed them to kiss.

And they did.

Love.   Joy.  Peace.  Patience. Kindness.  Goodness.  Faithfulness.  Gentleness.  Self-control.
Over the years, the kisses of these two strangers had come to embody these things to me.  The fruits of the spirit. Even though I didn't get it before,  God was reminding me each and every time he let me drive behind this slow, old beat-up truck.  He was reminding me of two things.  One. That it is impossible to bear good fruit when we're alway rushing about.  Two. The most beautiful moments in this life aren't scheduled or planned.   Nope.  The most beautiful things in life can sometimes happen at a stop sign. When life just is.

I hope I get to drive behind these two again in my life.  But this I know.  There will never be a time when I pull up to that stop sign, that I don't think of those kisses and the simple reminder they carried with them.  That's when this rusher takes off the blinders and has a good look around.  Because there is just no telling what I might see.

a reminder.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Letting my arrows fly.

When I graduated high school, my first adventure was to travel about 3 1/2 hours south east to San Angelo for college.  I stayed there for two years before moving my adventure to the big city of Austin for my final two years of university.  At age 22, I married the love of my youth and from that union God created our family. There are five of us, and for almost 30 years this family has been my most wonderful joy!  What follows are my thoughts from the last couple of days--thoughts fed by a family wedding, a conversation with my husband and a Sunday morning sermon.

For me, weddings rank in the top five celebrations in this life!  Last weekend my husband and I, along with two or our children, were blessed to experience the joy firsthand with our beautiful niece. With weddings also comes the opportunity to reunite with family members I haven't seen in a while.  We talk about jobs. We talk about old times.  But mostly we talk about our children.

Now, I'll have to digress for just a moment here to say that our children have not always fit the mold for this particular side of the family.  At different times during their young adult lives, my boys have sported long hair...sometimes  ponytails...even the occasional pigtails!  They've worn beards of varying lengths---maybe going for as long as a year without shaving.  At family reunions, greetings from relatives  often went something like this: "Wow, for a minute I thought that was Jesus walking through the door".  Or they are compared in appearance to the caveman from the Geico commercials.  They get that, too. The funny part is those doling out the niceties actually think they are the first  to ever come up with them.  Little do they know...!   

My children aren't business majors.  They were/are liberal arts students...studying Spanish and German.  Our daughter, after a year of university, has taken time off to be a full-time musician. One is a vegetarian.  They all love a good thrift shop.  They don't fit the family profile!  Their lives, at this age, look nothing like most of our family members and their children. They look nothing like my life looked at their ages.  When I was their age, I had travelled to Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi.  Here's where they have collectively travelled--mostly on their own dimes: Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Slavakia and other places.   They go to learn.  To serve.  To understand.

Now back to the wedding.

As a family member quizzed my oldest son on his upcoming life plans, he asked (in regards to travel), "Why do you like to do this"?  How do you answer this question?  If someone hasn't experienced it firsthand, is it possible to understand the beauty of riding in the back of a truck with chickens in a foreign land?  Or biking 1,000 miles partly with a 70-year old man? Or sharing dinner from a campfire with little Peruvian children?  Is it possible to understand the sheer lovliness of helping to build a one-room home for a family whose feet will no longer have to feel a dirt floor beneath them?  Can we understand finding beauty in something as simple as learning to bale hay, make apple cider and bake forty loaves of bread in a brick oven.   To the one asking the question,  this way of life is downright confounding--even inconceivable! 

Later in the evening,  as I shared a conversation with a cousin, I realized we have such differing views on parenthood.  He expressed how difficult it was to have his son be some 10 hours away from home for college.  We talked about study abroad and he said he would never encourage that.  I know it was never intended, but to me there was a subtle implication that perhaps the strongest parental love keeps our children close to us.    That way we keep them safe.  You know, like maybe the really close-knit families don't ever wander too far from each other in this lifetime--because in some way, if our children want to "go" it must mean that they are running away from us. 

The morning after the wedding, my husband and I drove for a little over an hour to attend a church service in the city where our daughter would be singing.  As we drove, I wore my emotions on my sleeve as I recounted my conversations from the night before.  They were still nagging me. Maybe I was a little offended.  Maybe I was quite a lot defensive.  You see, I was still pondering how a family can be "close" when they are not "near".  I wanted to somehow justify this.  Let's just say it bugged me that others just didn't "get" my children.   For just a moment, I began to wonder if maybe there wasn't some truth in keeping our children "near".  I mean, it would be nice to never have to miss a family birthday.  It would be awesome if all my children could be with me on Mother's Day!  If they were near, whenever they have a problem, I could do my best to "fix" it, you know?  After all, I'm a mother and that's what mothers do, isn't it?  Maybe I messed up when I sent them off time after time.  Maybe if they'd known how my heart grieved for them to stay, they wouldn't have gone so far.  A little manipulation isn't a bad thing, right?

Then came the serman. A discussion about our quivers.  Straight from Psalm 127.  The pastor read from a letter sent from the missionary Jim Elliot to his parents as he was about to go far away.  They weren't with him 100% in his endeavor, and that bothered him.  Here is what he wrote to them.
"I do not wonder that you are saddened at the word of my going to South America….Grieve not, then, if your sons seem to desert you, but rejoice, rather, seeing the will of God done gladly. Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as an heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So with the strong arm of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly – all of them straight at the Enemy’s hosts".
So, from a wedding, a conversation with my sweet husband and a sermon, God sent me a word.  And it is this.  We CAN hold our children close even when they are not near.  I felt like I was getting a big bear hug from God as he confirmed to me how right it is to let the arrows fly.

In a matter of weeks, my three children will be in New England, Guatamala and Germany.  I send them off with so much prayer and a renewed enthusiasm, knowing full well  that the deepest of all love lets go.

Adam in Bolivia.
Shooting our arrows in the direction of El Salvador.
Off to somewhere.

Lainey in the desert mountains.

Reunion.
Jake on the backroads of Germany


Welcome home, son.



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Supper.

Supper.  When I was a little girl that was what we called the meal at the end of the day.  When my mother would open the back door of our house and call "supper", my sisters and I knew that playtime was over and something good was waiting when we came inside!  I'm fairly certain she never had to call twice when she used that word!  When I was a little girl, we played outside.  We were olympic gymnasts on our swing set. We would pull the streamers out of our bike handlebars and insert an old key and we'd ride all over our neighborhood pretending that our banana-seat bikes were cars.  We got dirty and we worked up an appetite!  So you see, "supper" was a wonderful word.

With very few exceptions, supper was eaten at home.  Mostly those at the table were Mother, Daddy, myself and my two sisters.  Conversation was always lively--at least amongst the girls.  Daddy was a man of few words, and usually only spoke up when the rest of us got out of control.  "Getting tickled" at the table was commonplace.  It could be triggered by something as simple as the configuration of green peas on a plate bearing a striking resemblance to our preacher.  Or it could be because my sisters saw me hiding most of my ham (which I did not like) inside the empty shell of my baked potato.  They thought it was funny.  I thought is was ingenious!  Eventually, before things got totally out of hand, Daddy would look up and say one word in a deep voice.  "Girls".  That one word spoken by him was guaranteed to quiet us down for at least 60 seconds.  I must also say that "girls" included Mother, who was always right in the big middle of it with us.  Though a quiet man, Daddy was always a stickler for manners.  Napkins in laps.  Elbows off the table.  No smacking!  And absolutely no television.

What happened around our table in the 60's and 70's in a little oilfield town in West Texas would never be called "dinner".  With dinner there is a connotation of seriousness. With the place settings.  With the food.  With the conversation.  No, what we had was supper.  And it was the best time of the day.

I'm uncertain as to whether families nowadays have supper.  I think "dinner" is more in line with these times.  We have dinner out with our families because we're busy.  We have dinner out with friends because it's easier.  I find there is a lack of intimacy in "dinner".  We're able to keep a safe distance from each other when we meet up in a public places.  When we don't cook together or clean up dishes together, there is less chance that we have to share ourselves.  Hmmm.  Here's what got me thinking about this.

A few weeks ago a friend that I had not seen in about a year invited my husband and me to her house for "supper".  When she said the word, it sounded almost foreign to me, but it immediately brought back all kinds of sweet, warm images from a time in my past.  It had been ages since I had been invited to "supper".  I had high hopes!  The night arrived and my husband and I set out on the 45-minute drive through the countryside to get to my friend's house.  We were greeted by her and her husband and took a stroll through the century-old house they'd recently moved into--the place where generations of their family had lived.  It was the house where I would be reminded of the importance of supper.

There was the time of fixing drinks together and chatting on the back porch while the food was in the oven.  Later, there was the clearing of the table together and rinsing the dishes together during which time the conversation never lulled.   The meal, as delicious as it was, paled in comparison to keeping company with sweet friends.  It was intimate and fun and honest.  It was casual and relaxing.  Four friends sitting around a table with an abundance of laughter and stories.  A glass of iced tea at the front end and a strong cup of coffee at the other end.  Photo albums came out.  The sharing of family events. It was the kind of night when you have to make yourself get up to leave because you really would like to stay a bit longer!  We left that night with goodbye hugs on the front porch  under the porch light. As we walked away to get in our car, I heard the screen door close behind us.  I had just experienced "supper".  And I was happier for it.

suppertime on the porch.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Conflicted....

I am basically a-political.  Oh, I can get going when debating certain issues, but it isn't a matter of politics for me.  It's the condition of my heart.  No matter what my head may say, my heart has no regard at all for what might seem reasonable or politically correct.   My heart hurts when my head tells me to be happy.  And my heart sings when my head says I should feel badly.  See why I'm conflicted?  In 51 years of living, I have learned that people seem to be wired one of two ways.  There are those who seem to follow their heads and those who follow their hearts.  Sometimes, I think a person can do an occasional "crossover", but basically I think we are either one or the other.  I, almost without exception, follow my heart.

So, for example, take a piece of chocolate cake.  I know I should have an apple instead.  I can even try to convice my heart that I could grow to love it more than chocolate cake.  However, my heart will not be fooled.  It knows the joy even a single bite of chocolate cake brings and it knows an apple, even with all its health benefits, can't produce that kind of joy.  I follow my heart.  I eat the chocolate cake.  My heart rules me 99% of the time.

Now that you know this about me, I will move on to something much more serious than chocolate cake.  It is something that I feel conflicted about--it's like my heart and head are having a tug-of-war.  I'm pretty sure my heart will win, as it always does, but I am having more difficulty than usual wrapping my head around it because it deals with life and death.

Osama Bin Laden is dead.  My head says, "Ha, ha!  That sorry, evil so-and-so, finally got his!"  My head says it's time to feel proud for my country and thumb my nose at the middle east and haughtily say "Winning" in a sort of Charlie Sheen way.  And add to that, "Well guess there'll be no more chocolate cake for you, buddy!".  But wait.  My heart can't be quiet anymore.

I saw an image of our Statue of Liberty holding the head of Bin Laden.  Blood is dripping down her arm.  It gave me a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach.   Last night on the news, I saw American streets in Washington D.C. and New York City where mobs had gathered to celebrate death. Honestly, at first glance, it could have been a scene straight off the streets of the middle east.  I remember seeing that kind of celebration when terrorist groups received word that the target had been hit on 9-11.  They celebrated death while me mourned it.  My head tells me that it all depends on which side of death you're on...the "for it" or the "against it" side.  My head tells me I'm on the "for it" side now.  My heart isn't letting me believe it.  Somehow it feels wrong to harbor that much hatred.  But then again, I didn't suffer tangible loss on 9-11.

I mourned with all of our country on 9-11.  I remember I had just taken my children to school and had arrived back home.  My husband called and said something awful was happening and he said I should turn on the television.  So, along with everyone else in our country, I watched utter horror unfold.  On my  pre-dawn walk with friends the next morning, the sky was eerily quiet.   The world was holding its breath.

 I cannot for one minute imagine the terror of those whose lives were forever altered on that day.  My heart is letting me weep with them for the years they've lost waiting for justice.  I weep for those in our military who fought the fight to protect our freedom and lost their lives doing it.  Justice has come and it was deserved.  It was the necessary consequence for the sin.  And my heart feels at peace about it.  Still, my heart will not rejoice as one who places no value at all on human life.  Deep within me is a sadness that it had to come to this in the first place.  A sadness that in this world there lives such hatred that we celebrate death.  They celebrate ours and we celebrate theirs.

So I'm sitting here feeling conflicted, wondering why in the world I can't celebrate this death.   Then I suddenly know why!   At the center of my faith is a loving God who hates any kind of sin at all and allows natural consequences to happen.  Paramount to my faith is the belief that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, lives in me. IN ME.  IN MY HEART.  That same God created a man named Osama Bin Laden. And though his death had to come and was necessary, God is not celebrating.  He is weeping for a lost son. That is why my heart cannot celebrate death. 

Make no mistake, I will not miss the terrorist who stole moms and dads from their children and husbands from their wives.  I am at peace that in his death justice was served.  But there is no celebration for me over death.  My heart tells me that's wrong.  As usual, I will follow my heart....and pray that God will bless America as I  give my greatest effort to love when my head tells me to hate.

"As surely as I live", declares the Sovereign Lord, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live". Ezekiel 33:29.

A simple plea. ( My visit to Ground Zero-nine months after 9-11).


Immeasurable sadness. (Wall of Memory-nine months after 9-11).


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Diagnosis: Pre-Menopausal Paranoia.

     Imagination is a curious thing.  As a child, I imagined all sorts of things.  Being an olympic gymnast as I hung upside down on my swing set.   Footsteps crunching in the leaves outside my bedroom window.  Tornados lifting my house off its foundation.  Maybe when life isn't as exciting as we'd like, our imagination decides to juice things up a bit.   I never thought about whether or not we outgrow our imagination.  But for me, apparently not. 
      A few weeks ago I assure you that I wasn't thinking my life was lacking in excitement.  In fact,  I welcome calm days that come and go on an even keel.  The day I'm writing about, from the beginning, looked to be one of those kinds of days. A little work.  A little relaxation.  It was a Tuesday, and that evening was my weekly bible study.  I was a couple of days behind on my study, so I decided to head into town early, pick up my favorite cold drink (large diet coke with extra ice--always from Sonic because they have the good ice), and drive to my favorite spot in the local park just a few miles out of town. 

     Now let me tell you about my favorite spot.  It's at the far end of the park, away from the childrens' payground--kind of in a remote area.  When I have extra time to kill, I frequently go there to read or just to enjoy the quiet.  Sometimes I get out and sit at a picnic table--other times I open the sunroof on my car, turn off the engine and gaze up into the big old oak tree I park under.  The river is right beside me, and the small dam creates the wonderful sound of water rushing over it.  Ahhh.  Nice, huh?

     This particular Tuesday was exceptional.  A cool breeze and only the birds interrupted the silence.  I opened the sunroof and the windows.  I opened my bible and my study guide.  I dug out my pen and my reading glasses.  I took a big swig of soda and was just about ready to begin when it happened.

     A van approached slowly coming down the road to where I was parked.  It was a maroon "Good Times Van".  Remember those? It had a funky design on the side.  If you've never been inside a "Good Times Van", let me just tell you about them.   They are big enough inside to carry a small nation--therefore certainly big enough in which to hide a body.  At this point, you might be wondering why my mind would go there.  In all honesty, I questioned that too--even trying to pass it off as the resurfacing of the much overactive imagination I had as a child.  But then this quote popped into my mind.   "Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you".  On most days, I am not paranoid.  The double negative is a positive.  Someone was out to get me.  Imagination is fully engaged.

      As the van got closer, I could tell the driver was a woman. Even with her windows rolled up, I could hear the sound of a pounding bass coming from her stereo.  I watched her approach, telling myself she would probably just turn around when she got to the end of the road.  She didn't.  Instead she turned in and parked right behind me---not beside me, but behind me in such a way that if I were to back out, I would have to carefully manuever so as not to hit her back bumper.  I held my breath and then what I'd feared might happen happened.  She killed the engine.  Then she rolled down her window.  From this I deduced that she would be staying for awhile.  For just a split second in my mind I could see Horatio, removing his sunglasses and saying to me "Good job, kiddo."

     Inside my head, music started playing. It wasn't the kind of happy tune you'd expect to be humming on such a lovely day.  It was kind of like the theme from "Jaws".  Ominous.  Yes, that's the best word.  Ominious. I carefully turned my key enough to roll up my windows.  I had a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach as I heard my car doors click into the "lock" position.  I wondered if she'd heard the click, too.

     Fortunately, my side mirror was in the perfect position for me to keep an eye on her without her knowing it.  I saw her cigarette smoke curling out her open window.  I pretended to read.  She was on her cell phone.  Was she calling to let someone know the coast was clear and she had secured her position--telling them I was all alone?  She began to apply makeup.  Nice cover-up, but this old gal has seen that episode of CSI.   Clearly she was using her mirror to look at me!  She was covering up for what was about to go down.  What happened next nearly sent me into a panic.

     Coming down the same road as the "Good Time Van", another van approached slowly.  This one was white and unmarked.  Then I understood.  Of course I would be taken in an unmarked van because it couldn't be easily traced.  Once the white van made it's left turn, I would be completely blocked in.  All of the sudden the "Good Time Van" begins to honk over and over.  They had really planned this out.  The Good Times Van was to be the distraction while the white van would grab me. It was then out of the corner of my eye I saw movement--it was a child running toward the "Good Time Van".  The white van made a u-turn and sped away.  Or was it just driving at a normal speed?  I was confused.  

     Had the child foiled the plan?  As I checked my mirrors, it appeared that the woman inside the Good Times Van actually knew the child.  The hug was my first clue.  I think I heard him call her "mom".   The child got into the van, and just as slowly as the van had invaded my peaceful little place in the park, it left.  Once again, quiet returned.  I looked at my clock.  Only 10 minutes had passed.  In 10 minutes time I had gone from "all is normal" to "kidnapped" to "all is normal again". Ten minutes. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. As I looked at my reflection in the rear view mirror, I noticed that all the excitement had added a healthy "blush" to my skin tone! I think it improved my circulation.

     Hey, don't judge me. I'm pretty sure that given the same set of circumstances, most anyone's mind would have gone to the same place mine went.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure. Quit looking at me that way! Besides,  it's nice to know that at an age when I've outgrown my jeans and my ability to hang upside down on a swing set, that I still haven't outgrown my imagination.  Here's to occasional bouts of paranoia.


 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Girls from DC

    When I was 13, I did something very mean.  In the school snack bar one morning, where 20 of my closest guy and girl friends gathered before class, I impulsively pulled the chair out from under my best friend Ruth.  She fell hard to the floor, her cheerleading skirt flying up right along with her hands, no time to brace herself for the fall.  I remember there being lots of laughter.  Then I remember her disbelieving gaze fall upon me right before she gave me a good smack upside the head with the purse that we fondly referred to as "the canteen".  Yes, I, the best friend, had just humiliated Ruth in front of our peers.   I shudder to think that I might have harbored some pent up hostility and jealously toward Ruth since she made cheerleader and I didn't.  I was, after all, only the runner-up, which meant I would spend game days having to wear normal clothes to school, not a cute litte red and white cheerleader uniform.  It also meant that I would spend ballgames sitting in the bleachers with the "pep squad" (the cheerleader wannabes) dreaming of what it would be like to be out on the track with the cheerleaders who were living the dream. 

     Well, clearly I've moved on!!  (Although the fact that I can still recall that morning in detail concerns me just a tad). Like all good junior high friendships, Ruth forgave me and our friendship continued.  Ruth and I, and our other close friends were, unknowingly, binding ourselves together for a lifetime with shared experiences. I really gave little thought then to the twists and turns these friendships would take as time rolled by. I didn't give a moments thought then to how we would grow apart.  And there is no way I could have anticipated the joy of our coming back together in mid-life.

     Life, for all of the girls from DC, got busy for a lot of years.   Moves.  Marriages.  Children.  Jobs. Some of us shared short exchanges on Christmas cards or saw each other briefly when we were home for holidays.  But, as I said, life was busy.  And let's face it--life pre-facebook and internet was just plain hard!  To stay in touch then meant having to find a piece of paper and an ink pen that wasn't dried up.  Then you had to find an envelope.  And then a postage stamp.  And then if you'd misplaced your address book, which was a REAL book usually stored in a desk drawer and not somewhere in cyberspace, then the letter might lay on your desk for weeks before you threw it away because all the information was old by then.  Like I said, life was hard.  It was easy to lose touch!!

   After 30 years, a class reunion happened.  We all came back together for one short weekend.  Our inner circle of friends vowed that we would have a mini-reunion during the next year.  And that is exactly what has happened every year since.  We meet up in a cool town for  a magical time where years melt away along with wrinkles. (Okay, the wrinkles don't actually melt away, but with declining vision, we don't see each other's wrinkles, therefore, in our virtual world, they do not exist.  How's that for logic?)  There's lots of coffee to keep us going because there's so little time and so much to talk about. There's a fair amount of junk food mixed in with lots of fresh fruit and veggies because we're older now and we need the roughage!  And mostly, there's laughter.  Lots of it.  This last year, we all turned 50.  So there was a big birthday cake and presents.  And more laughter.  And we reminisce.

     We reminisce about "the daredevils" who attempted to invade the halls during lunchtime when Mr. Blackwell had lunch duty.  We laughed about  Lisa giving "kissing" advice.  We talked about how smart Sue Anne was.  She actually took hard classes, as opposed to me. I took things like choir, office aid and speech which allowed me to rank higher without actually having to put out much effort.   Suzanne and I laugh about Fresca burps and tormenting freshmen.  We all laugh about living vicariously through Rose, who always attracted the attention of the older fellas.  We talk about liking the same boys at the same time, which is bound to happen when you live in a small town.  We laugh until our sides hurt about pranks, like dressing a mannequin in a choir uniform for a concert, which created quite an unforgettable moment for Mr. Richardson, our director, when the curtain went up! We groaned just remembering the horrible sunburns resulting from our water-skiing escapade at Lake Brownwood. Everything wasn't always fun and games, though.  And we talk about that, too!

   We talk about bullying.  We didn't really call it that then, but it happened.  We talk about what it felt like to be teased about weight and how badly it hurt to be called "Shirley Pimple".  We talk about tough times at home.  We talk about losing a parent. We remembered a tragedy in our town that made national news and resulted in the loss of our classmate.  We ask each other questions we wouldn't ask then.  We explain things we couldn't explain then.

   For all of us, there was life then.  And somewhere in the middle, there was life that happened while we were all apart.  We got married.  We got unmarried.  We got remarried.  We had babies and they grew up.  We lost ones that we love.  We traveled. We had grandbabies.  We had wonderful moments in our lives, and we had a few not-so-wonderful moments in our lives.  And for all of us, there is life now, which is where we all found each other again!

   Seems we girls from DC were bound so strongly by those early years, that it was inevitable that we would find each other again.  We have a shared history that is unique to us. Moments that will never again be duplicated, and quite likely never  spoken of  again except when we are together (thank goodness!).  With each annual visit (gosh, that sounds too much like a gynocologist appointment)--lets rephrase that to say that each time we reunite, we learn more about that mysterious "middle part" of our lives when we were apart.  I am so thankful for my girls from DC.  Here's to many more years of togetherness!!


All is forgiven.  Ruth and me post "mean girl" incident. 
See how happy we look??!!



After 40 years of friendship, some of  The Girls from DC: 
Suzanne, Deena, Sue Anne, Maurie, Lisa, Donna and me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hope.

     It's a blustery, cold day today.  Even a few snow flurries are dancing around outside my window.  My thermometer shows 15 degrees.  School has been called off today.  Church services have been called off for tonight.  I will not argue with my friends up north---we in Central Texas are, admittedly, whimps when it comes to cold weather!  When it's 110 degrees outside with 80% humidity, we thrive.  When it's in the "teens", we shut down.  It's who we are!

     I do believe that at age 50 I have acquired late-onset Attention Deficit Disorder!  As I'm sitting at my desk trying to be ultra creative in designing a poster, what I see outside my window is so much more intriquing than what I see on my computer screen.  And what I see outside my window got me thinking, so I thought I would write about it...

    At the end of our front walk is a gate, and over the gate is an arbor.  In the summertime, it is in full bloom with the most fragrant jasmine.  For a short time in early summer it is graced with lovely yellow lady banks roses.  And even in the most excruciating summer heat, orange trumpet vines flourish on the arbor, offering a cool shade to whomever might want to sit below.

   In wintertime, the arbor looks kind of sad--only a bunch of desolate vines begging for the blooms of spring to "gussy" them up!  When I walk beneath it,  I hear rustling deep inside those vines where some sort of bird has managed to find refuge and warmth.  On this particular day, as I look out my window, I am pleasantly distracted by the cardinal that has perched himself in the tangle of dormant vines.  He sits there for a very long time.  I wondered if he was staking his claim there, although it didn't appear that he had any competition.  Currently, the arbor does not look like prime real estate for our feathered friends!  Then I thought how the cardinal is not worried about today, because he knows that in a few months the arbor will be a luxurious dwelling place.  It happens every year.  The old, faithful vines come back.  That is hope, and it gets us through wintertime and into spring.

    When our lives are in the middle of winter (which, incidentally can happen in the middle of summer!), God gives us hope.  It is all around us.  We just have to look.  For me, there's hope in an old couple sharing ice cream and in a little girl all bundled up with cheeks flushed from the cold and hot chocolate spilled all down the front of her coat.  There's hope when there is a little rain shower when the sun is still shining, when I put on a pair of socks still warm from the clothes dryer and when I hold a steaming cup of tea in my hands. There is hope when I hear the voices of my children at the other end of the phone line.  There's hope when I get an unexpected hug from a little boy who then, embarrassingly, tells me I'm pretty.  And this morning, there's hope in a bright red cardinal sitting in a mass of tangled, dead-looking vine.

There is hope in laughter and hope in the smallest comforts.  There is hope in good stuff!  I believe these are gifts from God!

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, watever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you".    --Phillipians 4:8,9

the arbor in springtime...
                                                                                                       

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunshine.

     We've all had them.   They come unexpectedly and randomly like a surprise visit from a long-lost friend.  And whether they last an entire day or for just a moment, we are better for having had them.   They are those beautiful moments of clarity when God whispers in the ear, "I am".  And with those two words, everything suddenly makes sense.
     Last week I planned to drive into the city with my husband to spend a day with my daughter.  Even though it's only a little more than an hours drive from home, between her schedule and mine we don't often get an entire day together. I knew the day was a gift, but as I walked out my front door I was keenly aware of stresses and worries of the day.  It seemed they would be making the trip with me.  
     After a stop for coffee and Pop Tarts (my guilty pleasure--brown sugar cinnamon-no sprinkles), we headed east into the city. At 7:15 a.m.,  the sun was directly in our eyes.  As Todd and I talked, I found myself slightly annoyed at having to constantly adjust my sun visor, as the curving hill country highway played a game of cat and mouse with the sun.  At some point, Todd received a business call.  When I was left alone with my thoughts, I became acutely aware of how wonderful the warmth felt on my skin.  Previous days of dismal weather had apparently taken an unrealized toll on me. So,  instead of hiding from it, I put away the sun visor and welcomed the rays.  I closed my eyes and soaked it in for the remainder of the ride.  I really had no other thoughts at all other than how silly it was that I was ridiculously giddy from the sun! "I am" He said softly.
     By the time I reached my daughter's apartment, the tag-a-longs (worry and stress) were behaving themselves.  In fact, they were so quiet I almost didn't know they were there. Lainey and I talked and laughed over coffee.  The cool morning was promising to turn into a warm afternoon and we enjoyed the breeze through an open window.  We propped ourselves up with pillows on her bed and listened to music we both liked.  I told her she really must take down her little Christmas tree...after all it was the end of January!  She showed me something she was crocheting and I told her how her dad and I had dragged a concrete bench that used to sit under a tree into the house to use as a coffee table!   She pulled out her guitar and sang me a new song.  I was overwhelmed by the lovliness of a simple, ordinary morning.  Again, I heard "I am".
     In Texas, one never knows about the weather.  Because it is so unpredictable, it can bring great pleasure!  And this particular day in Austin did not disappoint.  The skies were the most beautiful blue and January temperatures climbed to 85 degrees.  Lainey and I enjoyed our lunch on an outdoor patio where droves of people had come with the same idea.  We talked about the delicious Thai dressing on my salad and the wonderful pesto on her sandwich.  Then we people-watched.  We observed a new father with his tiny newborn and commented on how he was hardly touching his meal, instead preferring to ooh and ahh over his sweet baby.  We laughed at seeing a grandfather place a crayon in each of his ears in a public place...all for the utter amusement of his grandson!  We soaked in more sun and each other's company. Above the noisy lunchtime chatter I heard a resounding "I am".
   The day turned into late afternoon.  I kissed Lainey goodbye and Todd and I left the city behind to listen to the music of good friends at a cozy, small-town cafe.  We enjoyed the company of an old friend and made the acquaintance of a new friend.  We shared pictures from our phones. We applauded our friends whose passion and music filled the room. The night ended with hugs and laughter and promises made to get together soon.  Then, the man that I've loved since I was a girl took my hand and we walked to the car to head home.
    It was a quiet ride, with Todd and me each reflecting on our day.  Lightening lit the sky in the distance. When we arrived home, I stepped out of the car and into the night air.  I breathed deeply, and it felt good.  It felt cleansing.  My eyes took in a sky full of stars and my ears were delighted with the sounds of the river rushing just below.  It had been a day of clarity.  A day that only the Father could have orchestrated.  A day where overwhelming worries had been overshadowed by the sheer beauty of ordinary moments and the blessings to be found there.   God said "I am". That was, and is, the greatest truth.  And it is more than enough.
  


Monday, January 10, 2011

Oh the things that I think....

    So...now I'm 50.  As impossible as that seems, my birth certificate and my age spots (let's call them "freckles") assure me that it is true.  In addition, there are terribly tacky "forces of nature"  that are my constant companion nowadays.  They must be reckoned with as I enter this new, baffling phase of life.  Here are a few.  Where has all my memory gone? Why does my knee pop when it's in this position?  Why can't the phone book printer people use a 14 point font instead of an eight point font?  Why are most public restrooms in the mall up the escalator, down the hall and all the way to the back?  And these are just a few of my nicer "acquaintances".  However, because I am hoping to adhere to a certain level of decorum here, I'll refrain from mentioning others.

   Although it might seem from the first paragraph of this posting that my blog will be about aging, that's not the case.  Really,  it's more about after-thoughts.  When you've lived 50 years, there are a lot of those!

  I've been a writer for all of my adult life.  I've written press releases and magazine articles.  I've written commercials selling everything from healthcare to vacations to septic tanks.  I've written short plays and newsletters.   Mostly, I've written about OTHER things and OTHER people.  This blog is about what's on MY heart.  It's about family and faith.  It's about friends and funny stuff. 

  I have learned that the most lovely moments in life happen when there is no camera around...in fact, they are moments that simply cannot be digitally translated.  They are moments that just sort of sit and marinate in our hearts for awhile.  Then, at the perfect time, those moments are ours for the telling.  Or in my case, for the writing.  These are my ponderings.