Sunday, November 25, 2012

Letting Yourself Go, and the Peace that Comes With

Um. That should read letting  IT go.

It was almost a year ago (in three days it'll be a year) that everything became different for me.  That day there was no big event. It was actually just a Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Life had turned radically different that year, and nevermind the reason, the reality that life was going to be different and not what I wanted circled around me, choking me, almost drowning me. 

The thing about holding on is that it causes more pain than the surrender.  Holding on to hurts, and pains, only causes inward damage.  Letting go of it, allows God to come in and replace the it with something more beautiful. The other thing is that God does not force anyone to surrender.  A true friend, someone who totally loves you, waits for you to take the first step.  The rest is easy.

On November 28, 2011, I let go.  It's been all uphill (or downhill? whatever is better) since.  
The thing with surrender, is the moment you do, you find the peace that come with. 

I can attest to  the fact that in that almost whole year from that day to now, I have never been the same, and only getting better from here!

*The Shepherd and the Treasure
The shepherd was known to everyone in the town. The animals loved him, but so did the people. He was quiet and kind. He did not speak harshly. Even when someone was wrong, he would make it right. He would wrap his arms around him or her, and in his quiet, gentle way calm the storm.
A little girl lived in the town. Quiet and peaceful. 
The little girl was stubborn. And, she was smart, but always underlying the "smart" was the stubborn. The fierceness and fieriness that comes when you are determined to do whatever it is you want to do. "I do it myself," she would say, and she would snatch her hand away, from the larger one offering assistance. 
As she was playing outside one day, she came across a treasure. Never-mind the type of treasure, what it was, just know that it was a treasure. It was small, and it fit in the palm of her hand. It was sparkly and the most beautiful color. She knew immediately upon picking it up that she would never let it go. It would be with her always. 
The shepherd saw her with the treasure, and he knew what she did not. He came beside her, and offered her a different treasure in place of the one she gripped so tightly. She would smile up at his kind face and say, No thank you shepherd. I have my own. He would smile, and pat her on the head and walk on. 
What the shepherd knew, is what the little girl did not notice. That the treasure slowed her down. She still would play and sing and dance, but she moved slower, sang softer, danced less frequently. It was difficult, holding her treasure in her hand, and trying to move throughout the day. However, it was hers, and she could not put it down. Occasionally, as she was playing, she would feel a slight pain shooting through her hand and up her arm. She would examine the treasure, and sigh. Her treasure, though beautiful, had a sharp, cutting edge. Often as her treasure cut into her hand she would think about putting her treasure away, setting it aside, but she would shake her head no, and grip it more tightly. A treasure, after all, was worth the pain. 
The shepherd would come by frequently, more and more often. Always with the same question, and she offered the same response.
The day came, however, when the pain in her hand could not be tolerated any longer. There was no playing. No singing. No dancing. Only silence. The little girl would sit with her arms crossed, gripping the treasure tightly. Her hand had begun to bleed. It was slow at first, but the sharp edge cut, and day after day it cut into the same wound that was trying to heal from her grip the day before. She loved her treasure. It was inexplicable the way she felt. The thought of setting her treasure down caused her more pain than the pain in her hand. Her mom and dad were wise. They would encourage her to put it down. She would shake her head, no. Her friends were kind, we'll take it from you, we will help you. She would walk away. 
The shepherd would come by, and ask. Crying even still, she would look at him and say, "No shepherd. I love my treasure." 
One morning, the little girl awoke. The day was no different than the day before. The sky was a gray, the pale gray that comes in the fall. Inside, however, the girl knew it was time. She needed to be free. She stood up. Put on her best dress and her shiny shoes, and walked outside and down a long path and to the river. She knew who she would find there, waiting for her, and she was right. The shepherd stood by the river, his eyes soft, his lips smiling. 
She opened her hand, and with her other she grasped the treasure. She held it to the light, and examined it one last time. It was still beautiful, but instead of admiring the shine, she saw the edge. The sharp, and cutting edge. It was time. She walked to the shepherd, and stood beside him. He stretched out his hand, asking for her treasure, and she handed it to him. With her at his side, they walked to the edge and let the treasure fall into the water. The water swallowed her treasure whole, and swept it away.
The little girl sat right where she had stood, and cried sobbing tears. All the pain and frustration running down her face, and pouring out of heart. The shepherd sat down beside her, patting her head. Saying nothing, but waiting. 
She opened her hand, and they stared at her wound. The deep, long cut that the treasure had made. He traced the wound with his finger. He then reached in to his satchel, and pulled out a different treasure. He held it to her, and this time she took it. It was magnificent, of the deepest, purest color. The light shined off it's surface. She smiled, and could hardly speak. This treasure was exquisite. Far outweighing the beauty of her old treasure. And it was smooth. No violent edges, nothing that would cause pain. "Oh it's beautiful," she whispered, and she tried to hand it back to him.
The shepherd smiled at her softly, and said, "Didn't you know? I've had this the whole time, just for you."
The little girl cried again. Not out of pain, but joy and peace.
Then, she started to dance.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Doing Everything Wrong- the Right Way.... Wait, what?

 Still being at home, Indiana home, my memory always circles backs around to the growing up days.  Most days I still feel like I'm in the process of growing up. (Let's be honest though, I stopped growing in 6th grade.  Too bad the tall kid go the lower locker in high school. He would bash me in the head at least once a week.  Northridge kids will know the lockers I'm talkin' about!)

Despite the fact that I am technically grown now, I am always in the process of learning, and relearning and giving it ago again.  A few years ago (four to be exact) I wrote a post, and I decided that I would re-post it.
*The Purple Pants and a Well Worn Sweater*
Oh yes, it was my favorite outfit through my freshman year in high school. The pants were purple. There was this faint black patterny design- so light that by the time I got rid of the pants, the black design was no longer visible. The sweater was red- yes red- with patterns of black, green and purple. The purple in the sweater is what tied the whole outfit together- well, in my mind at least. The beauty of those purple pants- they were very versatile. If I needed to dress down I had another shirt- horizontal stripes of gray, pink, blue and purple. In addition the versatility, these pants were extremely comfortable! Nothing like perfection!

How funny is it, that there are certain things we pick out in our mind as "perfect" and then later we realize that whatever it was, wasn't so perfect after all.  Because the Lord has always been gracious and kind to me, I have no pictures of myself in that particular outfit.  (And, if I find any, they will be destroyed. If anyone else has pictures, please do the same!)

I have decided that I am really good at perfecting imperfection. Oh, the glory of being human. The messes we make in our life on a daily basis; from ordering a burger instead of the Quesadilla Explosion Salad (I recently experienced this), to, of course, wearing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, thinking the wrong thing...I could go on and on. Point being, I have experienced the imperfection that comes with day to day living.  It never quite fails that at the same time that I'm working so hard to do whatever is right, I am perfecting all that is wrong.

In thinking about my desire to be perfect. It is difficult to say the least. (Okay, it's impossible.) I try though. I try to please everyone: my friends, my family, my coworkers, my boss. And then what's funny is sometimes I forget to look to please the one person who really counts- God. It's hard to please everyone at the same time. Especially, when you have people who have conflicting ideas and opinions. God, however, is always consistent in His direction.

Way back in 2008, my friend Jenilee also wrote about a similar topic. That week she talked about Galatians 6. In the last paragraph of that particular post, she wrote, "It isn't easy doing good. It isn't easy to examine every moment of the day to see if it is "keeping in step with the Spirit." But, it is worth it. It is what we, Spirit-filled followers of Christ, are called to do. We won't be perfect... we will continue to make mistakes... but we have to try..."

Tonight, my mom and I put together a shelf, which happened to be the first shelf I have ever done. Things were going well, until almost near the end, when we had to take apart and do over.  What we had done, we had done really well, but almost right, isn't.  The purple pants from high school, and the sweater, and the horizontal striped shirt are long gone. In their place I have found other substitutes. There are still days that I get home, (Illinois home, apartment with Blanche home) and I quick look in the mirror, and I realize my great outfit for the day was a miss. That is the great thing about tomorrow.  I have the opportunity to work at it again. It is my hope that as I continue living day to day, I will continue to learn more about God, and I will become more of who He wants me to be. If only being perfect was as easy as changing a wardrobe. Unfortunately it's not. The good side, being dressed in an attitude that comes from God is free!

Thankful for the days I do get it right, and for those days when my pants aren't inside out,

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sticky Fingers with Patience as an Appetizer

Pancakes, just like a lot of things in life, take patience.  I have little to none, at least when it comes to waiting.

A few weeks ago I had visions of my Ma's perfect pancakes, along with the world's greatest syrup. (Blackburns).  Saturday mornings were always extra special mornings when my mum would go into the kitchen, and whip up her magic.  Like mashed potatoes, or potato salad (or anything potato-ish), pancakes are total comfort food. 

Some of you may know, but my mom is a total cooker. It's no lie, she's cooked for me for years, but aside from that she's cooked for large groups of folks, including our church while growing up. As a result, she's always been insistent that I learn to be a cooker myself. So she taught me.  Her methods are.... different? Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I've picked up the same ones. Would you like a recipe? I can provide one to you, however, it will not usually include exact measurements.  For example, when making dumplings (even now), I'll ask,
"How much flour do I add?"
"Keep adding." (Note that she occasionally is in a different part of the room, or not even in the room.)
"But, you're not looking!"
"I just know. Keep adding."  20 seconds, or three scoops later, "Okay. That's good."
She's always right. 

Back to the Wednesday night pancake craving, and it was 7 or so in the evening. I was determined to make them. I was in great haste. I was ready for the goodness that a pancake can deliver. I was pouring the batter onto the skillet (after making certain, of course, that the skillet was appropriately hot) and had served myself two warm and buttery pancakes, and was pouring the rest of the batter onto the skillet when I saw my error.  (This particular "recipe" only makes 5 or so.)  The egg, a vital part of a successful pancake, had only been mixed into half the batter, and the globs that fell out onto the skillet looked less than appealing.... and in reality it was. I was left in the end with flour on my face, all over my pants, and syrup on my arms (I've no idea how that happened) and two small pancakes.

The thing about patience is, you really are given good things when you wait.  This is not the first time that I've ruined a batch of something, because my speediness prevented me from paying attention.  I have also been blessed beyond the best thing my imagination could whip up because I waited. 

Waiting is hard.  Knowing what I want and sometimes what I need leaves me feeling frustrated and perhaps angry at times.  I am a doer, and there are things that I want to do to get to where I want to be and have, and yet, there is no action step for me to take.... Yet, there is.  As I learn the lessons God puts in front of me, and I learn to wait and to pray more, I move closer to tomorrow, where it just so happens, good things are waiting for me. 

"Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow- that is patience."

And, I'll be honest. Good pancakes come to those who wait.
Now for that syrup.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Umans, with the Turkey, in the Kitchen

           Home again.  It's Thanksgiving time, and while I try to live in a continued state of thankfulness, [I do say try because, well, I'm human. (Or, as my Uncle would say, "Uman.")] I find it especially easy during the holidays.  I arrived home extra early this year, showing up in the driveway Tuesday night, instead of the typical Wednesday afternoon/night.  I worked on Wednesday (just not in the office) and then the festivities began. (Well, first I took a nap.)
           We are not  swanky.  I like it this way. Not that I wouldn't enjoy fancy pants and all, but there is something extra relaxing about laughing and cooking and eating and laughing and eating, all in comfy pants. (Everyone should know by now I live in comfy pants, although today I did fix my hair.) We are just us, and as we come to the table with whatever we feel best in, and that's who we are. I like it best on days that we celebrate life just as us.
            Every year is surprising.  This year was no different as I begged my Uncle to sit at the table and play games.  We do not keep score. We don't really ever know the rules.  The goal is usually to make Jacob laugh and catch it on film. Today we turned it into a free for all.  Several of us took a turn at "winning" as the rest of us hunched over, and tried to catch our breath. We did that for hours today. I loved it.   We do have pictures of that moment.  While our clothes are not pressed, our hearts are happy, and our faces tell the story.
           It's amazing to me that there are times, and today was no different, that the stress of life, and the working, and the errand-ing, and the doing want, to catch up to us, grab us by the ankles and pull us into a continual state of sameness. Sameness doesn't have to be bad or boring, but at times I feel like I am nearly drowning. All of those events, those necessary work days and errand days, are all a part of life.  However, so is today.  What a great way to celebrate life; take a day like today and plop it into the middle of every other regular day day,  add food, comfy pants, games, and some people willing to laugh.
          We'll do today again, on a different day.  We'll be dressed similarly, or maybe exactly the same.  We'll be cozy and warm (whether or not it is winter or summer) and we'll settle in for laughing, and eating.  I'll be there.  You are welcome to come to.  We always have room at the table.

My brother is a listener.  He hears and learns lines and phrases and sayings.  He quite often will throw those phrases out, but he adds a little John twist.
John- Wears the tea pan lid?
Aunt- Right behind you John.
Ma- John, if that were a snake...
John-... It woulda bit me on the tongue. (Slower, with emphasis.) It woulda bit me on the tongue.
                                 *Close enough Bud, close enough. 

That's how we roll.
Let's be thankful for our today-whatever they had, whatever they were, let's be thankful.  Then let's carry the thankfulness on into our tomorrows.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Sweet Chicken

It was literally a hot pot.  That’s how we met.  Undoubtedly, we would have met even if our bathroom had both hot and cold water, but it’s makes the story a little more interesting. 

I was a freshman.  She was arriving as a sophomore.  We were suitemates.  Rita and I were settling in to our room, and Melissa came through the bathroom we shared.  We initially had no warm water, and then no cold.  The “Throne” was literally boiling due to the high temperature.  It took a few days, but by then we were friends. 

We connected over chips and salsa, and Cheddars became a favorite study spot and a place to play cards and eat queso.  She loved pizza, and I was all about chicken. She annihilated me in Cribbage.  (Although my Egyptian Ratkiller game is probably better.) She married Josh, who I grew up with, (Love ya buddy!) and our worlds intersected even more.

Not all of our plans turned out for the best.  Sledding down the hill of death was probably not one of finest moments.  (Although truth be told, it was exciting until we landed and had whiplash for three days.)  We dropped the Sign Language course after one class realizing the traveling that was involved. But, not before I bought the book.  We attempted to learn, “Talk to me sweet lips,” but could only find the signs for “Talk to me sweet chicken.”   We also learned the importance of finger spelling.  Passing notes in chapel? Nope, we just used sign language.  Melissa tried to gracefully hurl herself over some bars, and nearly killed herself. (After I stopped laughing, I was able to run to her aid and see she was still alive), and I basically did the same in the middle of a fast food restaurant, making a spectacle of myself. 

We made up songs (which we sometimes still do), and we would drive around with 7 or 8 people in her little red car.  We were acrobats, and dance fanatics.

These days you might say we’re calmer.  Age does that.  Underneath it all, we still have our wild ideas, and great plans for the future.  We go in turns of staying up late and falling asleep early. She’s even more beautiful, and I consider myself fortunate to be able to live in her light. She is a baker, and a mom, and I am a “crafter” and a wannabe writer.  My plan is by the time I have babies, hers will be old enough to babysit. In the meantime, she reminds me that good things are in store for me in the future, and I remind her that one day her children will be through the whiny stage.

I am not sure what causes people to connect, but we did.  And, while some people may find time and distance to cause two to drift apart, it is exactly the opposite for me and Melissa. The truth is, the more that time passes, the better we are.  And while I do not live in Nebraska now (maybe someday), Melissa is always home to me.

You and me.
Me and you.

Love you, My Sweet Chicken.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I remember when I met her. I remember in fact was she was wearing. She was my future college roommate, and my now friend of 15 years.

I should explain though. We had met previously, through words on paper. But, this was the day we actually met, in person...My Rita.

My dad had driven down to Southern Indiana, spreading the goodwill and cheer of Bible Quiz. It was on that particular day that Bible Quiz Finals occurred at the same time Fine Arts was. (For those of you uncertain of what Bible Quiz and Fine Arts are, at this time you just need to know it involves a lot of teenagers.)

My dad however, met Rita's mom, and then Rita.
He arrived home, and handed me a slip of paper with name and address.

"I met this girl," he said. "Write her. She is going to your college too, and she won't know anyone."

So, I wrote her. The next months were letters back and forth. Letters about posters and music. The color of bedspreads, and if we should decide to be roommates. We decided we should.

It was time for State Finals (for Bible Quiz, and Fine Arts), in Indianapolis. All day long I kept running into this girl, and we would chat. We would smile and chat, and ask how the other was doing. At the end of the day, during the awards ceremony, our names were called at separate times, my name, and then the name of the other girl. Ironically, it was Rita- my future roommate Rita, that I had been talking to all day long. We talked again. We laughed and smiled about the chance encounter.  We were roommates for 2 years and then friends forever ever since.  (It was touch and go for a while. I thought one of us might not come out alive at one point- toss up on who- but we survived!  Who knew that she would find it calming to rearrange our entire room, during the middle of exams week!) 

Anyone can say life is not easy.  Anyone can say that things do not always go the way we think they should.  Rita, though, despite the not easy, and despite things not going the way we want, she shows that you can get up, press on, and the morning is usually better than initially anticipated. Her story is hers, and while our stories are combined, her part is hers to tell.  I just wanted to take a moment to say I'm proud of you.  I know it's been quite a trip over the last 11 months, and it's not quite over, I know you will rise above everything, still standing tall (or, if I have it my way, stooped over laughing hysterically).

Love you Rit.

Things that Initially Sound Like a Good Idea....

1) Fun Dip. In reality, it's colored powder. It's sticky. It's messy. No one wins.
2) Touch Screen Phones. Hanging up on loved ones has never been easier.
3) Alarm Clocks. A Warning that it's time to wake up? I'd rather not.
4) High heels.
5) Apartments on the third floor, and couches that come in one piece.
6) Crazy glue.  Glue your fingers together just once, and you'll never touch that stuff again.
7) Pinterest. Don't judge.  
8) High Temp Hot Glue.  You've been warned.
9) Carrying six bags at one time, down the side walk and up three flights of stairs. With a jug of milk.
10) Buying items from an infomercial.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Attack of the Megadriles

We were 14. Barely.  I'm pretty certain it was summertime.  Amy and I were huddled together in the tv room of her house. It was 11 (at night) and we were watching Squirm, A 1976 "horror" film. If I were to write a quick synopsis it'd say, "Just outside of "Peaceful town, USA," downed electric lines shoot electric volts into the ground, and create man-eating monsters. Will the town survive?"  

We couldn't turn away.  At one point our terror turned away from the movie and toward her family.  We screamed, and then we realized it was midnight-ish... or later. We waited anxiously wondering who would get got first- us, by her parents, or the town, by those electrified monsters. (No one even noticed our scream.  Good thing we weren't being attacked by man-eating..night crawlers.)

There are few things I remember from the film. 
#1, some man with a (blue?) pickup, thought he was attractive. He would walk up to the cute girl, smile a horse face smile,  and say, "Hey, wanna take a ride in my truck?" For weeks, I'd walk up to Amy and say the same thing. I even remember the face I'd make.
#2, when the going gets squirmy, the squirmy hide inside a wooden trunk.  Remarkably, those pesky worm creatures could borrow into and through every other wooden surface, through floors and walls but not a wooden trunk?
#3, every girl needs a good pair of high platform shoes.  For get away purposes. 

Although I remember that as being a favorite  night, I will say I never intended on watching that movie, and I'm pretty certain I never will again.

Unless perhaps Amy wants to get together to see Squirm 2.

And, I do tend to do a double take every time I see a downed power line.... Never can be too careful!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Going Home

It always happen that the moment I pull into the drive way, unpack my car, and walk in the doors of home that I sigh. Middlebury. While as much is different, much is the same. John's "ramson" note is still on the wall of the garage.  (To be a proper kidnapper, you have to leave a note; it's only appropriate that you leave one with black marker on the garage wall.) Three Forks, my favorite spot made up of three trees, is still across the street.  There are pictures still of me and my brother all over the place.

The walls are different now. The paint is a new color. There's a new couch.  Ironically, the couch matches my couch back over the state line. My mom's favorite spot is my favorite spot. My Dad is gone this time, off traveling for work, and my brother is visiting my Auntie. Today, was me and my mom, and we rested, (okay, actually I rested and she did homework like a good student). Tomorrow we're going to church, and to Cheddars (my favorite, but new to town).

There's nothing like having a place to call home.  Home is not just a building, a specific location. Home is with people. Home is a place you can go to and just be.

I go home, and I get stuck there, and never want to leave, but the world is out there calling out demanding that I come and see.  I'd really just rather lay on the couch.  

"Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to."
~John Ed Pearce

Friday, November 09, 2012

Living in the Light

It was only a few weeks ago.  We were taking a hike through the town, much like a hundred other hikes before. Aside from the fact that we were walking, and walking is always fun the night was dissimilar in every other way.  The sun set far too quickly, and it's counterpart was already nestled in the sky by the time we rounded the corner to head home.  I gasped when I saw it.  I cannot say that I ever remember seeing the moon in that way before.  My description, before I even put pen to paper is lacking. It was glorious.  It was a full moon, and the moon in it's fullness is always a beautiful thing, but this time. This time, it was different.  The moon, this moon, was encircled in a ring of light.  Imagine it laying on the ground, flat.  The circle around the moon wasn't an inch away, but more like ten or fifteen inches.(I attached a link, Halo look later but imagine the ring, as thinner and the sky beyond pitch black) It was gorgeous.  Had it been a reasonable thing to do, I could have laid on the ground, and stared all night at it.

What am I seeing? Although I know it was seconds I was literally in awe. I was so caught up with this sight, this every day occurrence that has happened once, twice, hundreds of times, but I was seeing it for the first time, or thinking I was seeing it for the first time. It couldn't be an Eclipse.... We hear about those, it doesn't look like this..... I can "google" and figure it out later.... Is the Earth  in the way of something just a touch bigger, and is the light was shooting forward, sliding by the Earth and around the Earth and landing in a circle around the moon........... Is the Earth is in the way of this other object taking over and shining its light all throughout the Universe!

I was starring at the moon as all of these thoughts were swirling in my head. Then a thought hit me that had nothing to do with the moon at all, but it had to do with the Light that God has called me to live in. The Truth and the Life God has called me to follow and to serve.  While I was looking at the moon God was reminding me that  I have a job to do, and sometimes I just get in the way.  Sometimes, I hope at least sometimes, God's light is pouring around me, but what I want, and what I need to happen, is for God's light and love to pour THROUGH me, so that there is no shadow and no shade, only light.

I, in my own strength am ill-equipped. I cannot make a difference, I cannot shine a light.  But, when I allow myself to be overtaken by the Light....that's when I can.

Living in the Light,