Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's been great, but goodbye 2008

It's New Year's Eve. It's time to reminisce. It's time for countdowns and highlights and top ten lists from the year coming to a close. And it's time for parties. Jules at The Roost is doing all of that on her blog. She's hosting a picture party and is my inspiration today.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of 2008 not so much because the photography is good, but rather because of the memories they invoke. And actually, the first two are not really photographs, but they highlight some outstanding 2008 moments for me. The other 8 are just some special memories.

1. Ella Minnow Pea:
I read a lot of books, but not much fiction. This little book was an exceptional exception. Ella Minnow Pea is a satirical "novel in letters" that had me laughing out loud.

2. Mamma Mia:

We don't go to the theatre to see many movies. We usually wait for the DVD. However, when our travel plans fell through one weekend, we ended up at the theatre to see Mamma Mia! Again, not typically the type of movie we go to see and not one the best movies I've ever seen, but, oh, how it made me want to laugh and sing and dance! Not many things do that for me. I still laugh every time I think about Pierce Brosnon singing "SOS."

3. The Man with the Camera:

You know who is always missing from all the photos? The man with the camera. We had a big anniversary celebration at church back in October. I took my camera that day, and this is the ONLY photo I took. I love it because there are never any pictures of him - He's always behind the camera. He, of course, took several hundred photos that day. (and he wasn't in a single one of them!). He does excellent work. He's the one linked on my sidebar.

4. The Birthday Cake:

My absolute favorite, plain pound cake made from scratch by my absolute favorite, anything-but-plain husband. Yum. It's one of those memories I can smell.

5. A Friendship Garden:

Phyllis and Laney delivered this little garden to my office and made me feel so special. It was so thoughtful and warmed my heart so. You can read about it here.

6. More Friendship and a little Fiesta:

The Christmas Tree Fiesta plates are the best gift ever from the best friend ever. She loves Jesus and it shows in everything she does!

7. Mom and Dad: This picture was taken during a summer visit to their house (we live 3 hours apart). Smiles, pink cheeks, plaids, and polka dots.

8. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - no, wait, it's the CAT that's hot, not the roof...
I love this picture because for one, Marbles is quite camera shy and often runs away even before she hears the shutter click. Two, even if we do get a picture of her, it's never of her belly. She's a little modest about that too. The look on her face here just seems to say, "It's July and I'm wearing a fur coat. Leave me alone while I try to cool it all off."

9. Hillbilly Sisters:In July I went to a different time zone to sister #1's house to celebrate sister #2's 50th birthday. Of course there was cake. And all three of us brought presents for each other. Hillbilly teeth was one of them. We laughed so hard at this that one of us had to have a wardrobe change. Not saying who (but it was NOT sister #3!). Quite a giggle fit, it was. Still makes me laugh.

10. Christmas Music

This was one of those things that I felt so privileged to be a part of. It's hard to explain. Our church joined with another local church to present this musical, which made it more powerful than it ever would have been on our own. Every song was about the name of Jesus. (And by the way, the Man with the Camera mentioned in #3 took this photo). We worshiped and praised Jesus with some new faces and friends and it was wonderful. I'm praying for more of that kind of thing for 2009.

Happy New Year!

Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand." 1 Chronicles 29-12-14

More or Less

I have never really one to make resolutions on New Years. It usually takes me too long to finally make up my mind about something, especially something life changing. By the time I convince myself mentally, it's way past January 1 and on into the summer. By then swimsuit season is in full swing, so no use to make the weight loss commitment and reading the Bible through in a year, well, if I double up I can do it in six months, can't I? (Have you ever read the entire books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in one sitting?!)

Plus, the older I get, the harder it is to change my life anyway.

I don't really have a detailed plan, but I do have a prayer for the new 2009 year.

Here it is:

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

And in my experience, Virginia IS Santa Claus. Actually, we call her Ginger, but I'm pretty sure her driver's license lists her as Virginia.

If you read my letter to Santa, you might already know that I asked him to bring me Christmas Tree Fiesta dishes. Well, he obviously delivered them to Ginger's house and being the sweet friend that she is, she wrapped them up and made sure they found their way to me.

It was the Sunday after Christmas. We had just come back from a holiday visit out of town while Ginger and her husband were packing up to leave on their own trip, plus she had other family coming over. We didn't have a lot of time, so we drove over to their house and just stood on the sidewalk for a quick visit. She put the beautifully wrapped gift in the back seat of my car.

Scott and I had several places we wanted to go that day. When we left their house we didn't go home, we just set out from there. So, the unopened gift sat in the back seat of the car all day long.

It was dark and late when we finally got home. One of the last places we went that day was the grocery store, so we had all those grocery bags to unload as well as some other things we'd gathered that day, including the gift box from Ginger. Then I had to put the groceries away, tend to the cat, make some phone calls before it got too late, and God only knows what else I busied myself with. I still hadn't opened the gift. And really, that's not like me at all. I usually can't wait to unwrap a gift, or at least peek in the gift bag.

On top of all that we had planned to do that day, it was also the day of my Christmas crash. You know, the big let down after a month of all the extras: extra family visits, extra food, extra choir rehearsals, extra mail, extra boxes and tape, extra programs, extra activities, extra decorations, extra emotions, extra sentiments. And then all of a sudden, boom, it's over. Hurry up and clean up and pack up and straighten up and tighten up and wake up and go back to work.

My crash was not as much physical as it was emotional. I was already over the edge and heading down when I finally got around to opening the box from Ginger that night. I don't think I've ever cried over dishes before, except maybe some broken ones, but these Christmas Tree Fiesta dishes made me cry. They made me cry because they are perfect. Beautifully perfect in more ways than one.

I don't deserve such a sweet friend. When Ginger and I first met at church, she made an extra special effort to become my friend. We did some Bible study and choir things together, then one day she invited me to her house for lunch. That was a couple of years ago. Since then she has become my weekly prayer partner and scripture memory encourager.

Ginger chose me to be her friend. Ginger knew my heart and made the special effort to fill it. Those are things Jesus would do. Ginger has shown and been Jesus to me.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:15-17

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Shrinkin' Violette Christmas

I'm having a little trouble getting in to the gifting thing this Christmas. I don't know if it's all the talk about the economy or something else that's flattened my jingle bells. I just haven't gotten too excited about buying gifts. And I don't even want to think about someone buying me something. Oh, the undue pressure of reciprocal gift giving.

I can't remember what I gifts I bought my family last year. Do they even remember what I bought them?

I do remember receiving some money last year, but I don't recall anything else that I unwrapped.


There's another Christmas gift-related incident that I don't remember, but have been reminded of several times. Let me introduce you to Shrinkin' Violette. I never knew her personally myself, although there was a time when I wanted to. She had yellow yarn hair. She also had a pull string that allowed her talk. She said things like "I'm shy."

I was only two or three years old, so I do not remember any of it, but apparently even at that tender age, I was sucked in by the Mattell toy marketing. I guess I had seen one too many of her commericals because as my mother tells it, when asked what I wanted for Christmas that year my response would always be "a Shrinkin' Violette doll."

I think Shrinkin' Violette unnerved my mother a little. Like some questionable video games and dark, evil-ish toys sold today, I think Mom thought Shrinkin' Violette would be a bad influence on a little three year old girl. After all, her name does sound a bit negative and I believe that my mother didn't think it was wise for me to love something so much that had those kind of connotations.

I can understand my mother's concern. Trying to raise a daughter to be strong, confident, smart and independent is tough enough even in the best of circumstances. Why would you want to jeopardize any of that with a doll whose name says she just wants to run away and hide.

So, Christmas morning came that year. Mom says that after all the gifts were opened, all I could scream was "Where's my Shrinkin' Violette doll, where's my Shrinking Violette doll?" Over and over.

Mom used her sound judgement that year and left Shrinkin' Violette on the Island of Misfit Toys. We laugh about that story now. We laugh about how I cried and cried over a silly little doll that I didn't get that year and paid no attention whatsoever to all the other lovely gifts.

Now, all these years later, I still don't even remember a single Shrinkin' Violette TV commercial, much less not having one of the dolls of my own. So, I guess the moral of the story and what I'm trying to tell myself is - - don't stress over the shopping or the gifts. It doesn't really matter. None of us will remember the gifts anyway.

What we will remember are the stories and tales that will be written when we spend time together. Years from now we will reminisce about all the laughing we did over some Wii game we played together, but we won't be able to remember that it was called Wii. We'll remember shopping together and laughing about whether to choose blouses with ruffles or no-ruffles, but we won't remember what we bought.

Most of all, since I was born generations later and since I've never even been to Bethlehem, I have no personal memory of the night Jesus was born. I can't say, "I'll never forget that night," because I wasn't there. I wasn't there to bring Him frankincense or to play my drum. That hasn't topped Him from wanting to spend time with me. And, funny, but the time He and I spend together are not really memory-making moments. They are future-making moments. We both are looking forward.

He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Revelation 22:20

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hey, lo, and behold, there are halos and wings in my tree

I don't really know when it happened. I'm not sure how it all started. Looking back now, I think it began with her: Years ago, Scott and I were on a mini-vacation in Helen, Georgia and we bought this little carved wood angel ornament at a Christmas shop there as a souvenir. It was Bavarian-esque and a cute little reminder of our trip.

A few years later, I realized that every time we took a trip I looked for Christmas ornaments to take home as souvenirs. Like these guys (yes, DisneyWorld):

Once we took a vacation to Virginia with my in-laws. My mother-in-law bought me this beautiful blown glass ornament in Williamsburg. It's even more special now because last year she took up her eternal residence with the angels.

And then, after a few more trips, I realized that not only was I buying souvenir ornaments, specifically they were angel ornaments. I didn't plan it that way. It just happened.

I began finding angels made out of other things....

Like okra

and sea critters

and macaroni

and cotton bolls

and straw

I also discovered, that like the wise men, angel ornaments often come in sets of three. I like to think of them representing me and my two sisters. Yes, three little angels. (well, OK, so that's a little debatable).

And then Marbles the Cat made herself at home at our house and I began looking for cat angel ornaments. On the back of this one I wrote "Marbles' 1st Christmas 2004".

And subsequent years...

And then I bought some angel ornaments just because they had red hair like me.

And there are many, many others. Angels with heart shapes. Musical angels. On and on.By the time I realized what was happening, I couldn't stop myself. It has become almost a quest to see if I can find angel ornaments wherever I go. Now, my Christmas tree is full of angel ornaments. Well, almost full. There's always room for one more. There's lots of good news to share.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:13-14

The costly kings

I'm not usually an impulse shopper, but this particular day I must have really been in the Christmas spirit. It was a few years ago when I came across these little Magi ornaments and they were not cheap. (well, they might be cheaply made, but the price tag was not!) They are very delicate and breakable, made of something that is a cross between glass and egg shells. I just had to have them.

They were sold separately, not as a set. Please tell me, who would want just one wise man?! Certainly not me. I had to have all three of them. So I bought them. All three of them.

I don't remember exactly how much they cost, I just remember it was way more than I should have been spending on ornaments. I haven't seen any like them since, so I'm glad I have them. They always make me smile when I unpack them every Christmas.

I mean, look at those little camels. Don't they make you giggle just a little? They are just so adorable that I think they deserve their own little spotlight, so I don't hang them on our tree. Plus, they cost enough to deserve a little extra attention. I set them out on a little ledge near the tree opposite this nativity scene, as if they are making their way over there...

The nativity scene is a handblown glass ornament that was given to us by some friends at church. The yellow coaster is my added touch of Fiesta decor. I always have to add color.

These little things are special for lots of reasons, but mostly because they remind me that a Savior traded in his kingly robe and crown for a cloak of human skin. And He did it for me. He did it so that I would have a crown one day. I want to be like those Magi. I want to kneel in the presence of Jesus and lay my crown at His feet.

Lord, teach me how to be a wise woman. Show me how to let all the glory be Yours and not to think any of it belongs to me.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:9-12

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Orange you glad it's Christmas

There's something about a bowl full of citrus fruit that says, "It's Christmas!"

I like to hold an orange or a tangerine close to my nose and inhale deeply. Ahh, the smell. Or better yet, peel it by hand without using a knife. Then rinse my hands with just water. No soap. That way my hands smell like citrus for a little while afterwards. Ahhhhh.

We were gifted with a large box of oranges and grapefruits a couple of days ago (way more than what the picture shows!). I think it's a perfect gift.

For one, it reminds me of growing up in Flordia. Two, it brings back Christmas memories. Especially of my Christmas stocking. When I was little girl we always got tangerines in our stockings. There were pecans and Hershey's kisses in there too, but the tangerines were my favorite. Still are.

This is a picture of my original stocking. It's a hundred years old (well, not really, but almost). My mom made these stockings for me and my two sisters. I still pull it out every year. We don't have anything that even resembles a fireplace in our house, so I have hung it on a lamp. That's the closest thing to a heat and light source I could come up with.

I love this little, old stocking because it looks like mom used her silk stockings as a pattern. And there's a jingle bell sewn on the toe. It's very narrow at the ankle and sometimes made getting those tangerines out a little challenging. You couldn't put a lot in there. Hmmm, maybe that was the idea...

And speaking of stockings, I have a new kind of stocking, sort of. It's my table runner. I love it because it's not only fun, it has several bright colors in it. It allows me to use more of my Fiestaware than just the red and green. Come on over and I'll serve you up a nice big bowl of navel oranges and pink grapefruit, peeled by hand of course. The pink and orange fruit will go just perfectly with the table setting, don't you think?!

And if you have to have salt on your grapefruit (I will NEVER understand that, but some people insist it makes it better), then I'll bring these guys over from the kitchen counter. Santa & Mrs. Claus and Mr. & Mrs. Snowfolk salt & pepper shakers are like my extended family. (They are like the Pilgrims that I told you about here.) Scott affectionately gave them the moniker of the Publix Team, a reference to their place of origin.

We do have tree and some other Christmasy things that help make our house festive. Stay tuned. I'll share some more soon. What's up at your house?

UPDATE: Let me show you my Magi, click here.
and for my angel ornaments click here.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Worthy of Worship

This year our church choir has combined with another local church choir to present a Christmas musical. We will present the musical and their church this coming Sunday, and then at our church the following Sunday.

Joining with another choir really heightens the excitement and motivation and volume (in the number of voices and in the decibels of those voices) and a whole lot of the other things. I’ve met some new friends at the combined rehearsals. I’ve gotten to know some current friends a little better seeing them work in a different atmosphere. Overall, I think it’s been a very positive experience.

Why do people choose to attend one of those churches instead of the other? I don’t really know why specifically, I just know that people have their reasons. Both are Baptist churches. They are probably less than five miles apart. The churches may look similar in architecture and landscaping, but what goes on inside is what makes the difference. Even though we are alike in some ways, they way we worship may be completely different.

We thought about all the different ways people worship as we got ready to type up the program. Knowing that there would be some crossover attendees from the different churches (and hopefully some who haven’t yet met the Savior or found a church to attend), we wanted to put some kind of blurb in the program that would reassure anyone that absolutely any expression of worship of Jesus Christ would be gladly accepted and welcomed.

When you’re looking for the right kind of words to say something like that, the best place to go is scripture. Here’s what we put in the program:

We are honored to be able to present this program to you and we would consider it our great joy to have you worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in any way worthy of His majesty and glory.

He has created us to praise Him. He has given us the tools. He has given us instruction.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Psalm 100:2

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. Psalm 47:1

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. Psalm 134:2

Let the name of the Lord be praise, both now and forevermore. Psalm 113:2

After searching the scriptures for that instruction, it sort of made me think about the way I express my worship. Do I do it the way He says to do it? The scripture doesn’t really say anything about “if you’re your comfortable, then do it.” It just says do it. Hmmmm.

What about you? How do you express your worship?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I love it. I hate it.

My favorite thing to drink in the whole wide world is Coke Zero over ice. The ice is very important. But, please, don’t put me at a table where someone needs/wants to crunch their ice after all the liquid is gone. Aaarrrrrrggghhh. Like fingernails on a chalkboard, it makes me shiver.

I love it when guests staying at my house want to buy the groceries and cook a special meal. Yay and amen to that. But, my goodness, do I really need Stove Top stuffing, rice, potatoes, AND corn all in the same meal? And by the way, macaroni and cheese is not a vegetable. Can you say starch overload? I’m in need of a big salad.

I love coming home to a freshly vacuumed, dust-free house where all the dishes are clean and put away and the laundry basket it empty. Oh, and the bathrooms are sparkling clean. I always make sure all those things are done before company arrives, but I seem to refrain from attempting any such tasks as long as the company stays. If it’s an extended say, I really get behind. Sadly, not one of those things is on my list of favorite things to do. Especially the bathroom thing. Ugh. I have date later with a toilet scrubber.

I love it when I get to leave my office for lunch. The hardest part of the day is coming back to the office an hour later.

I love cracking open a new book. Especially if it is one that has been in my “to be read” stack for quite a while. It is always disappointing, however, to get to the final page and realize I have to say goodbye to my new friend.

I love reading other people’s blogs. Then I realize I’ve used up all my time reading and haven’t written or posted a thing on my own blog. I hate that.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to the last few days. Caught somewhere on the edge of few of my favorite things turning in to my “how did I let it get this far?” list.

Maybe I have a control issue. Or, maybe it is a LACK-of-control issue. Maybe I love those things too much. I think my intentions are good initially, but I lose sight of what makes those things good in the first place.

And then I read about myself in the Bible…
You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Revelation 2:3-5
Jeepers. I really did lose sight, didn’t I? OK, God, you’ll be my favorite today.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The beauty of sleep

I guess you could consider it a tradition. It’s something Scott and I do every year as we anticipate the Christmas season. We always buy a new Christmas CD. It’s one of the first things we do to get us in the holiday spirit.

I think early on we bought only one each year. As the years went on and we became more and more aware that our musical tastes were developing as complete polar opposites, we started buying one apiece. Then it became two, or three, or four – each.

Needless to say, after all these many Christmas seasons together, we have a large collection of holiday music CDs.

One of my all time favorites is the soundtrack to The Muppet Christmas Carol. It is usually the first Christmas CD I pull out of the rack to play. The track I hit the repeat button most often for from that CD: One more sleep ‘til Christmas.

There's something in the wind today
That's good for everyone
Yes, faith is in our hearts today
We're shining like the sun
And everyone can feel it, the feeling's running deep
After all, there's only one more sleep ‘til Christmas

There are a couple of my favorite Christmas songs that are on CD’s that are not “technically” Christmas albums, but I play them during the holidays anyway because they really are Christmas songs. Welcome to Our World is one (Chris Rice and Michael W. Smith both recorded this one.)
Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking heavens silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

And then there’s Rich Mullin’s You Gotta Get Up. Also not on a Christmas album, but still speaks of the season.

Did my sister get her baby doll? Did my brother get his bike?
Did I get that red wagon, the kind that makes you fly?
Oh, I hope there'll be peace on earth
I know there's good will toward men
On account of that Baby born in Bethlehem
Mom and Daddy stayed up too late last night
Oh, I guess they got carried away in the Christmas candlelight
And you gotta get up, you gotta get up, you gotta get up
It's Christmas morning

This year, my purchase (so far, anyway) was Sara Groves’ O Holy Night. I’m really, really, really, loving the Cradle in Bethlehem song. (I’ve since learned that Vince Gill recorded this song several years ago).

Sing sweet and low your lullaby till angels say, "Amen."
A mother tonight is rocking a cradle in Bethlehem
while wise men follow through the dark a star that beckons them.
A mother tonight is rocking a cradle in Bethlehem.
"A little child shall lead them," the prophets said of old.
In tempest storms he leads men far as the bell is tolled.
Sing sweet and low your lullaby till angels say, "Amen."
A mother tonight is rocking a cradle in Bethlehem

As I listened to these songs over and over on my iPod, I noticed something. All of these favorite songs had something in common (besides the obvious Christmas theme and birth of our Savior).
They all have something to do with sleep. If it’s not in the lyrics, the tune itself is a lullaby. Sleep, sweet peaceful sleep.

I just don’t get much of that. Especially not this time of year. There is always so much ‘extra’ stuff to do and finish and stress over. I’m not an easy sleeper even during a non-holiday season. I need absolute quiet, darkness, and stillness before I can rest. The least little thing will have my eyelids popping open. Add a little holiday activity and I’m awake for the duration. (No wonder Santa doesn’t come to my house!)

God knows I need some sleep. I think that’s why I’ve been drawn to all these sleepy songs lately. I know the Savior wants me to know the peace that He came into this world to bring me. Peace that will allow me to rest easy. Not because there is no work left to do. Quite the contrary, actually. There is still a lot of work to do, but it’s in doing the work of my Savior that gives me the privilege of saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Ahhh, I feel a nap coming on now.

Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. Proverbs 3:23-25

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wii Wii Wii all the way home

What would a post-Thanksgiving post be without a picture of someone carving the turkey. Thanks, David.

I think I was eating it about as fast as he could cut it. And I have proof. I'm not sure which one is the REAL turkey in this one...

And in keeping with the theme of being well fed, let me tell you a joke I heard last week.

The 3 Little Pigs went out for dinner.

The waiter came to take their drink orders.

Little Pig #1 said, "I'll have a glass of water."

Little Pig #2 said, "I'll have a glass of iced tea.'

Little Pig #3 said, "I'll have three beers."

The waiter later returned with all the drinks, and then asked for their entree orders.

Little Pig #1 said, "I'll have the chicken."

Little Pig #2 said, "I'll have the steak."

Little Pig #3 said, "I'll have three beers."

Later, after the Little Pigs had finished their main course, the waiter returns and asks for their dessert orders.

Little Pig #1 said, "I'll have the cake."

Little Pig #2 said, "I'll have the pie."

Little Pig #3 said, "I have three beers."

Finally the waiter asked Pig #3, "Why all the beer and no food?"

To which Little Pig #3 said, "Someone has to wee, wee, wee all the way home!"

Insert laugh here. OK, now it's your turn. Heard any good, clean jokes lately?

And speaking of wee, or rather, Wii, here's how we worked off all that turkey we ate. Thanks, Dan for bringing the exercise equipment, i.e., the toy. I think I should be thankful that I was the one holding the camera in this one. Click the arrow to watch the video of the nieces and sisters wii-ing. It makes me laugh.

You may eat any clean bird. Deuteronomy 14:11

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This pilgrim's progress

Meet the Pilgrims:

These little guys are salt & pepper shakers. Several years ago my mom gave me and my sisters each a set of these. (we also each have a set of the Mr. & Mrs. Claus ones, and the Snowman ones too).

They came from Publix. There used to be the cutest TV commercial featuring this pair coming alive but trying not to be noticed by any human being sitting at the table. There was winking involved and something about mashed potatoes. I can't really remember it all. (note to self: Google it later to see if you can find it).

Given my love of all things Publix, I love these little people. They're cute, and, well, they came from Publix. That love of Publix started years ago as a young teenager when a shopping trip there was deemed a family entertainment outing. We all love the Publix.

That's why these little Pilgrims make me think of my family.

Because of where we live and because it' s just the two of us, Scott and I spend many holidays traveling long distances to the houses of other family members. Sometimes our circumstances won't allow us the opportunity to get away and go. When that happens, it's OK because I can always count on the Pilgrims to be at my table every Thanksgiving. If I can't have my family at my table, I can at least have these little shakers there that remind me of them.

On this Thanksgiving, thank you, God, for pilgrims and for families, the likes of which I am a both.

God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me— my whole life one long, obedient response. Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love traveling this freeway! Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way. Affirm your promises to me— promises made to all who fear you. Deflect the harsh words of my critics— but what you say is always so good. See how hungry I am for your counsel; preserve my life through your righteous ways! Psalm 119:32-34 The Message

Monday, November 24, 2008

Way out there over on the far side

In our small, rural town we have several phone books. One book has listings of phone numbers in neighboring towns A, B, and C. Another one has listings for towns B, C, and D, but not A. And yet another has listings for A, C, and D, but not B. And another... on and on like an unsolvable algebraic equation.

In other words, our town is not large enough to warrant its own phone book. The one book that I use the most often has less than 100 yellow pages. Of those yellow pages, less than one column on one page is dedicated to restaurants.

Not of lot of places to eat out around here.

There used to be a Checkers drive-in (actually, it was just a drive-thru). It went out of business not long before the Sonic opened. The little Checkers building has been empty now for a year or so.

About a month ago we watched them paint the black and white color blocks green on the unoccupied Checkers building. We thought maybe, wishfully thinking, it would become the Krispy Kreme home for hot doughnuts now.

Turns out the new drive-thru restaurant is not a chain, but a locally owned business. We haven't actually eaten any food from there, but from what we can see of the menu, it looks like they serve pizza, and gyros, and other international type food.

And, based on the new signage, I'm fairly certain of their international heritage, so it must be authentic. And perhaps they are from one of those countries where the steering wheels are on the right side of the car and they drive on the left side of the road. Because what used to be the drive-IN is now the Way-Out. Only.

Or, maybe I'm misreading it and Way-Out Only is not a new direction, but a classification of people. You know, those crazy kind of people that are just way out there. When we speak to them we say, "You're not from 'round here, are you?" Yeah, so maybe it is a "This lane now catering to the Way Out crowd" kind of thing. That would be nice.

Scott said that there was indeed a Way Out people group. He cited a Flintstones reference (Ahhh, leave it to him to come up with a handy application for all the useless trivia in his head!). Anyway, it seems that the Way Outs were a musical group whose lineage was not from Bedrock. They were from somewhere else (i.e., another planet) and apparently a bit misunderstood.

Does anyone else remember the Way Outs from the Flintstones?

If you all do remember them, and I don't, then maybe I am the one that's way out there.

Just for fun, here they are:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. Hebrews 11:13-14

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The countdown could take 9,125 days

I mentioned back on Election Day that I was reading Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson. The irony that day was standing in a long line waiting to vote and using the waiting time to read a book that described Abraham’s 9,125 day wait for God’s promise to be delivered to him.

Sometime later that week I got an email from Jimmy, a fellow I went to college with. I haven’t actually seen him in years. We keep up with each other infrequently, only trading emails every few months or so. He knows the general gist of our lives but not a lot of details. Same goes for what I know about his family. Being kindred spirits from way back, it doesn’t always take a lot of words to catch up.

When I emailed Jimmy back, I wrote, “Scott and I pray every day, several times a day, for God to move or move us. We've been praying that for years now. We're old and tired, and it shows. But we keep praying.”

I didn’t really explain to him why that was our prayer. I just knew he would know.

Jimmy read my Election Day blog post and replied, “You’ve got a lot of days left to pray, Abraham.”

Smarty pants. He’s right.

I felt like the message God was trying to get across to me was, “Sit back and enjoy the ride. This may take a while.”

Which is funny, because there was something else in the Wild Goose Chase book that I can’t get out of my head. I finished the book several days ago, but I’ve been back to reread one page over and over.

The whole book, in general, is about following the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The page (actually it’s just one paragraph) I keep rereading says that when the Holy Spirit leads, he does not take shortcuts. He always takes the scenic route because that is where we learn the most valuable lessons.

Ooo, I need to hear that again. The Holy Spirit does not take shortcuts. He always takes the scenic route.

You know, I have heard more people lately be more vocal about their belief that the end of days is near. They read the news and the see the current events and they say it’s getting closer.

Yes, I believe that were closer today than we ever have been to Jesus’ return. And we’ll be even closer tomorrow. I also think that Jesus’ return is the only way our earthy social, political, and moral problems will ever be resolved. I am not afraid. I will be relieved. Relieved that I will no longer have to pray, “How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

But as of today, as of this minute, I’m still here on this earth. As long as that is true, then I’m still on the scenic tour. There are still lessons to be learned. There are still prayers to be prayed. There are still lives to be changed. There are still people who need to be saved. He sees all of that and all the burdens that go with it more than I do.

So I wake up again and press on. Learning to enjoy the ride.

In His time. In His time.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3: 21-23

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Looking good will cost you

If I don’t write a blog post, it is usually not because I don’t have anything to write about.

More often than not, it is the opposite. I have so many things swimming around in my head that I have trouble narrowing them down enough to post about (which is also why my posts are usually not short and sweet. Sorry).

Then, occasionally there are the times when I have something specific to write about, but I’m just too embarrassed or ashamed to admit whatever it is.

Alas, that is where I’ve been for the past couple of days.

My hang up that I don’t want to say out loud?

I’m old.

Oh, and I’m cheap.

I got solid confirmation of that this weekend when I tried to get a new pair of glasses.

Scott and I both had eye exams last March. Scott got his new glasses shortly after that. At that time, I got new contacts so I put off getting the new glasses for a while. One, buying two (his and hers) new pair of glasses at the same time was more money than I wanted to spend at one time. The contacts I can pay for monthly. Two, I don’t wear my glasses that much. I usually only wear my glasses at home in the evenings after I take my contacts out. Three, my new prescription was for bifocals. My first pair. I was not eager to have them.

I’ve been seeing a TV commercial for a store advertising a 50% off sale on glasses. I’ve been putting it off for nine months. Plus, after I take my contacts out at night and I sit down to read, I have found that my regular, old glasses just don’t cut it anymore and I have to wear a pair of drug store reading glasses on top of my other glasses so I can see the words in my books. Yes, that’s two pair of glasses on my face at one time. It was time. I had put it off long enough.

We went to the store with the 50% off sale and I picked out some frames that were reasonably priced. The 50% off sale had obviously brought lots of other customers in to the store too, so we had to wait a while. The technician finally called my name, asked me several questions, made a few computer clicks, explained all about how to make the adjustment to bifocals, then she told me what that total price of my glasses would be.

Turns out the price of glasses has gone up since March. I guess it was all that up and down stuff in the economy or something. Even with 50% off, the cost of my glasses was way more than Scott’s were back in March. WAY more. And his weren’t even on sale.

I couldn’t do it. I could make a mortgage payment with that money. Or two car payments. I just couldn’t spend that much money on glasses. I walked out of the store without them.

So, have you ever seen the little old lady who’s wearing glasses styled like she’s had them for 20 years and she’s still squinting because she can’t see to count out the sixty-eight pennies at McDonald’s for a cup of coffee, or in my case a Diet Coke?

That’s me. Old and cheap.

Huh? What did you say? Speak up, I can’t hear you….

“What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you."
Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Mark 10:51-52

Friday, November 14, 2008

A festive fiesta!

Dear Santa:

I've been pretty good this year. Good at what, I'm not exactly sure. And if I haven't been good, I've at least thought about being good. Does that count?

I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really want some of these:

Isn't that just the most festive fiesta you have ever seen??!!

You can get them here. (OK, so they've already taken the picture and link off the website. Let's hope they haven't sold out already! You can use the search function at the bottom of that page for "Christmas tree")

I want the luncheon plates, but I'll take any of the other pieces too.

And if it's not asking too much, how about an early delivery? They won't be quite as much fun after Dec. 25. Plus, I'll need something to put cookies on Christmas Eve (wink, wink).

Love and hugs to the misses, all those little elves, and the reindeer too.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Those look like comfortable shoes

Most people who have spent any time my husband would most likely classify him as a good listener. And he is. He has great stamina to be quiet and listen to people who want and need to talk. Many times I go on ahead to the car and take a nap or read several chapters in a book while I wait for him to finish listening to someone else. He is not a conversation closer. He always waits for the other person to finish everything they need to say.

Really, I wish I could be more like that.

What most people don’t know about him is that he can also be quite the chatty cathy. That’s typically his role when we have lunch together. The things he says and the topics he talks about often make me laugh, so he is usually my entertainment too. I always tell him that going back to work after having such a lunch with him is the hardest part of the day.

Yesterday I sat across the lunch table from him and he didn’t say much. I thought he seemed a little blue about something.

Finally, I said to him, “So, do you feel like you are standing right on the edge of something drastic and horrible happening and that the next step will be into the abyss and there will be disaster and pain and suffering and the end of the and life as we know it?”

He looked at me funny and said, “No, not really, Why?”

Well because that’s the way I have felt for the last couple of days.

I think it started with the mortgage crisis all that stock dropping. Then there was that business of family members in crisis staying at my house. And a cold, rainy, grey trip to the beach. Oh, and all that change that came with the presidential election. And all the other personal change that I’ve been praying for for years that hasn’t come yet. Not to mention the budget debate at church, where Scott’s paycheck comes from. It is actually the low attendance that’s causing part of that problem, but the lack of people is even more disheartening than the lack of money. My 401K statement that came in the mail yesterday seemed to mock me by saying the last 10 years have been somewhat of a waste, revealing the total investment figure to be currently reduced to what is was back in 1997. Plus, hormones. Enough said.

And those are just the highlights. Or I guess I should say, the lowlights.

Like I said, I had been living under that black cloud for a couple of days. Finally saying it out loud gave me a headache. By the time 5 o’clock came I could hardly wait to get home and put on some comfortable shoes, because everyone knows that is the surefire cure for a tension headache.

My life is not really all that bad. I have much, much, much to be thankful for and very little to truly complain about. Except maybe those pinching heels I wore yesterday.

Ahh, which was my own bad choice, wasn’t it?

Hmmm, maybe that would apply to my attitude about some of those other things too.

No worries today. I’m wearing low heels, it’s time for lunch, and I’ve got a date with a good listener.

I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. Psalm 142: 2-3

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Identity Theft Insurance

One of my Bible study groups just finished Gripped by the Greatness of God by James MacDonald. It was one of those very thought-provoking kinds of studies.

Each week focused on a different aspect of God: greatness, holiness, awesomeness, sovereignty, works, and worship. I learned something new in every week of this study. It’s that good.

The last week was about our, my, identity in God. The scripture reference for the week was Isaiah 43:1-21, which starts with:

Thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”
That one verse alone certainly says a lot about my identity God. Because of God I’ve been redeemed, I don’t need to fear anything, He claims me as His own and He does it by using my name.

"Hey, Nancy, pay attention! You are Mine!"
I believe all of those things. Really, I do. I just forget sometimes that God really gets that personal and intimate with me. Sometimes I treat God just like I treat the rest of my family. I love them and I know they love me, but I don’t talk to them every day because they live in other states and time zones.

The awesomeness and holiness of God calls for something better than that from me.

God spoke and there was light. He raised His voice again and there was sky and land. He said, “let there be plants and animals,” and there were plants and animals. He did all that without lifting a finger.

But when it came to me, he didn’t just speak, He formed me. The picture that puts in my head is a physical one. God used His hands. It involved His touch. And if He used the dust of the ground, His hands were dirty afterwards.

I don't now about you, but I spend a lot of time every day trying to avoid getting my hands dirty and keeping them germ free. I'm a little selective about what I touch, and if I'm going to to so far as to actually get my hands dirty, it has to be because I'm really committed to what I'm about to stick my hands in.

I am here because of His touch. I am who I am because of His touch. Now that’s personal.

I can’t quote exactly, but James MacDonald said something like…Everything the Bible reveals about God is to show us how to have a right understanding of who we are in relationship to Him. God doesn’t tell us things about Himself just for the fun of it, just so we will be informed and knowledgeable. He tells us things about Himself so we can realize who we are.

I am well aware that the Enemy, Satan, works hard every day to convince me otherwise. Satan likes to talk about some of the sorry circumstances of my life to get me to think differently about that personal touch from God.

But when my identity is based solely on my relationship to God, nothing can change it. Especially not Satan. That’s one lesson from this study I pray I never forget.

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. Psalm 119: 93-95

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

May I take your order, please?

I have the day off for Veterans Day today. Not having to go to work on a Tuesday is really a treat. The only thing I have on my to-do list today are a few household chores that I’ve been putting off.

Since I didn’t have a schedule to keep today, Scott and I planned to go out for a nice, leisurely breakfast. Breakfast is Scott’s favorite meal to eat out, but we don’t get to do it much because Scott is NOT a morning person. Offering to go out to eat breakfast is usually my enticement to get him up earlier than normal. It doesn’t always work.

This morning we got to the locally owned restaurant about 9:30 am. The morning rush had already come and gone. Only three or four tables had people seated, the rest of the tables were empty. There is a red, octagonal shaped sign at the entrance that tells you to ‘Please wait to be seated.’ Which we did and for way longer than I thought we should have given the slim crowd. I could have already been through the drive-thru and had a biscuit in my mouth in that amount of time, but we’re still waiting to be seated. Waiting is not really what I had in mind when I thought ‘leisurely.’ Weren’t they paying attention to me?!

Finally, we were seated and gave the server our orders. Mine, as always, was very specific: Scrambled egg sandwich on wheat toast with lettuce, tomato, and mustard. No, it is not listed that way on the menu. Yes, I am often accused of being like Sally in When Harry Met Sally when I order food.

Surprisingly, it didn’t take that long for the food to arrive at our table. The server placed the plates in front of us and we never saw her again. No unsweetened iced tea refills. No coffee warm-ups. No one to report to that my scrambled egg sandwich on wheat toast with lettuce, tomato, and mustard had no tomato on it. Why weren’t they paying attention to me?!

As disappointing as it was, I ate the tomatoless sandwich anyway. After we finished eating, with an empty glass and an empty coffee cup, we sat and waited for the server to bring the check. And we waited. And we waited. With empty cups. If you’re going to make me wait, the least you can do is offer me a refill. Water would be nice.

We finally went up to the register, still with no check. Instead of trying to find a server and retrieve the check, the young woman at the register asked what we had ordered. I told her that I had an egg sandwich. I didn’t say anything about lettuce or tomato. The extra twenty cents charge is for lettuce AND tomato. I was entitled to free lettuce if I didn’t get the tomato with it, right?

We left the restaurant and went to the McDonald’s drive-thru to get Scott his second cup of coffee.

No, I’m not complaining. Really, I’m not. This kind of thing happens to us all the time. I should be used to it by now.

The crazy part is, why do I keep believing that I’m entitled to more or better? Why?!

All I know is, every time something like this happens it doesn’t take long for God to remind me that I’m the one who should be paying attention to others. I’m the one that should be serving others. I’m the one who owes. I’m the one who deserves less than what I’ve been given. I am not the one that other people need to pay attention to. When they look my way, they need to see Jesus. He will fill their cups.

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. Mark 14:23

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's a small world after all, even for gators and dogs

My parents grew up in Georgia. They moved to Florida as very young adults. I was born in Florida. As a young adult, I left them in Florida and moved to Georgia. Then as a not quite so young adult I moved to South Carolina. Once I settled in South Carolina, my parents moved from Florida back to Georgia. Along the way, one sister also moved from Florida to Georgia. The other sister returned back to Florida after stints in Georgia and Germany.

Confused? Well, just know that the rest of my family lives in Florida and Georgia; I live in South Carolina.

For the first 10 years of my life, we all lived in Jacksonville, Florida.

Jacksonville is the neutral location for the annual Florida vs. Georgia college football game. It was, and still is, a big deal the weekend all those crazy fans came to town. We always tried to avoid the stadium area. Except for the one year that I actually went to the game, but that's another story.

I did not attend the Unveristy of Florida or the University Georgia. Neither did anyone in my family. As a matter of fact, one sister even went to rival FSU.

I married a man who is an alumnus of Furman University (thus, my South Carolina connection. Plus, you know the former UF coach Spurrier is now at Uunivesity of SC. Small world, huh?). We were both living in Florida when we met and married and, at the time, I had no idea what a UF fan my husband would turn out to be. And he IS a fan.

Needless to say, he was quite happy with the score last weekend.

Now, I truly could not care less about football. But if UF wins, my husband is happy and that makes me happy. It's just bad news if they lose. So, I cheer for the gators to try and maintain and atmosphere peace and tranquility in ye olde household.

However, I saw this video this week, and even though it really has nothing to do with football, I found myself saying, "Go Dawgs!"
I'm not a regular ESPN viewer, so maybe you have already seen it. If so, it's worth watching the replay.
And if you haven't seen it, you can rest easy and watch it now because it has nothing to do with football.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18