Monday, March 30, 2009

The application of appreciation


It’s an interesting thing.

I think on some level I want it. At least I think I want it.

At work, the appreciation I crave in response to the efforts I put forth comes mostly in the form of “show me the money.” If I do a good job, I don’t need my boss or anyone else to tell me so. Just give me a raise. Or a bonus.

At church, which is the other major occupier of my life, I certainly don’t expect to get paid for anything I do. Here again, I don’t need anyone to tell me how wonderful I am or to tell me how much they love what I’ve done. Words of affirmation are definitely not my love language. I just don’t need you to tell me how wonderful I am.

Actually, if you do tell me, it makes me uncomfortable.

So why do I those things? This is where it gets complicated for me.

Do I do things merely out of obligation? Well, at work, yes, much of it is an obligation. I was contracted for certain tasks when I agreed to take the job. There are a lot of things I do that go beyond my job description. That’s my integrity and my hope for the future. Surely that extra effort will pay off somewhere down the road either in a new pay grade or a new position.

On the church side, do I still do things out of obligation or do I have another more sincere motive?

Most of what I volunteer for at church, I do because I want to serve God. It gives me joy to do them regardless of what anyone else thinks. There are some things at church, however, that I just don’t feel like doing but I believe that doing them is the right thing to do. I know that loving people and serving them is what God has commanded me to do. I don’t always feel like doing that, but I know that I have to keep going through the motions until the feeling part follows. And it almost always does.

The contrary is also true. The feeling of love and appreciation usually never comes if I haven’t already been trying to get through the” doing” part of it.

Even more confusing for me is how other people love and serve me. Just how DO I want people to appreciate me?

I say that I don’t really want other people’s appreciation of me if it is not sincere. If you can’t really appreciate me or the things that I’ve done, then I certainly don’t want you to lie to me and tell me you love me or that you’re thankful for what I do. I don’t want you buying me gifts that are completely wrong for me just because it’s a special gift-giving occasion. If you really knew me enough to honestly love and appreciate me you would know that I do not like that color or that I already have three of those. It doesn’t really matter if it’s words or gifts; if they don’t personally fit me, I just don’t want them.

Yes, there are people out there who can’t appreciate who I am or the things that I do. Imagine that.

And, yes (especially since I live in the Old South), there are people who carry on the pretentious effort of keeping up appearances. Appalling, I know.

So that business about going through the motions until the true love and appreciation catches up, does that not apply to these folks too? Do I allow them the courtesy of going through the motions until the true emotions of love and appreciation emerge?

Well, if I don’t want to be hypocritical, then I guess I have to, don’t I??

What makes me sad is that perhaps I haven’t loved or served these people as much as I should have. I haven’t been the example to them that would teach them how to truly love and appreciate others. If I were a better friend to them, then they would be too.

I guess that makes me guilty one. I think they might be able to appreciate that.

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:9-11

Monday, March 23, 2009

My alter ego Eve

Scott gave up coffee and Coke for Lent. He’s done very well. I think he does pretty good on doing without the coffee. It seems to get tough when the associations that come with coffee tempt him – like breakfast or cinnamon rolls. He’s already announced that we will have Easter lunch at Starbucks.

I did not give up anything for Lent. I was in no mood to do without; or to be a failure yet again at not being able to hold out on doing without.

We have attempted to eat healthier lately, and given that, eating out is a little bit of a challenge around here. We found ourselves going to the Cracker Barrel a lot. They at least serve vegetables and you can get grilled meat. Cracker Barrel is one of the only two major franchise sit-down restaurants less than an hour’s drive from our house.

Our familiarity with it is embarrassing. We are so familiar with it that we have our own pet names for it. I call it the Barrel. Scott calls it Crackers. As in, “Hey, wanna go Crackers for lunch?”

After our one-millionth visit there, which was just a few days into Lent, I announced that I was giving up the Cracker Barrel for the rest of Lent. I could not eat another mouthful of those green beans, baby carrots, or pinto beans.

And we did give it up.

For a couple of weeks.

Alas, in my general exhaustion and total frustration over what in the world to cook and how many times I have been to the grocery store in a week’s time, I said, “Let’s just go to the Barrel.”

And we did.

In our brief absence, they introduced their new seasonal menu. Scott and I both ordered seasonal specials and it was a delightful change from the regular menu offerings.

So, I’ve failed again. But it sure was tasty.

By the way, did you know that a specialty at the Barrel is fried APPLES?

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My favorite subject

Last week I ended up being very disappointed. I had my heart set on something that just didn't work out. I made plans in my head. I got excited. It was one of those things that I may never get the chance to do again, so I really, really, really wanted to do it.

I psyched myself up by convincing myself that it was something that I needed, something that would make me a better person, something that would refresh and renew me and enable me to face the world again with more vigor and vitality.

Yes, it would cost me time, money, and extra effort but I reasoned that it would be worth every sacrifice required.

I lived in denial right up until the very last minute. So why didn’t I go through with it?

Well, it turns out, I don’t live in this world alone. Whether I like it or not, my life affects other people.

The money I would have spent, the time I would have used, and the effort I would have had to put forth would have served only me. Not only that, the cost in time, money, and effort would have been shared and shouldered by the others who needed me to be doing something else other than enjoying my own personal retreat. I have a boss and a board at work depending on me. My husband, even though he is always up for an adventure, would have suffered a schedule squeeze. My friends and accountability partners would have missed me at our weekly get-together. The things I usually work on for the Sunday morning worship would have been thrown together in haste. And let’s not even talk about the housework, laundry, and groceries.

I know I need a break from those things every now and then in order to maintain sanity. It just got me to thinking, and eventually convicted, about how much of what I do is purely for selfish reasons.

I tell myself that if I do certain things just for me, then I’ll be better able to help and serve others. The truth is, once I’ve experienced the personal satisfaction of whatever it was, I dwell on it and think about it long after the event is over. I think about how wonderful it was. I talk about what great fun it was or how meaningful it was to me.

Me. Me. Me.

The one thing I use more than anything to justify my actions is my own personal need. And they certainly need justifying because often they are so flimsy that they can’t stand on their own.

I need a nap (Never mind that I stayed up late watching TV).

I need a break (Never mind that I haven’t really accomplished anything all day).

I need a raise ( Never mind that I didn’t save a single cent from last week’s paycheck).

I need some new shoes (Never mind that I have a 3-tier rack full in my closet).

Those “never mind” things are the things I never let my mind think about.

Oh, I’m so tired of thinking about myself, because you know what? I’m not really all that exciting. There are much more interesting people in this world. I think I should like to think about them more.

Never mind me.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:1-4

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Homer Laughlin has my heart

OK, ya'll. You don't have to wonder anymore. You can go here and buy all my Christmas, birthday, anniversary, get well, sympathy, Hanakkuh, Kwanzaa, and any other holiday or excuse gift. 'Cause look what they have:
Homer Laughlin Fiesta heart dishes. In eight different colors. That makes me so happy. I feel like they made them just for me. Too bad my bank account would not agree.
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. James 5:13

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sanford, South Carolina, and Secession

So. Our governor, Mark Sanford, made the front page of news sites yesterday. We had been hearing about it for a couple of weeks around here, but it officially became national news yesterday.

It seems Gov. Sanford will be rejecting the stimulus money that President Obama's plan allocates for South Carolina.

Now before I go making political commitments I can't back up, and before you make assumptions about my political affiliations, let me just say that I have not personally read the stimulus bill. I'm sure there is a copy out there somewhere and I could probably find it if I searched hard enough, but I hear it's hundreds of pages long. Plus, it is saturated with two things that always bring me to boredom or tears or both: finance and politics. Ugh. I'm sure I would be setting my hair on fire before I finished speed reading page 10.

That is the reason I vote. I vote to elect people who will do those things for me.

No matter whether I actually cast my vote for them or their opponent, the people now holding office are the ones that got the most votes. If I don't agree with how they carry out their elected service term, I will have another chance to vote in a couple of years or so.

Some say Gov. Sanford is doing it to make national headlines to build his reputation as a strong Republican conservative making his way for a Presidential race bid for 2012. His plan to pay down debt with the stimulus money instead of spending it is conservative.

Some have questioned Gov. Sanford's motives for rejecting potential new jobs the stimulus package could provide given that South Carolina's unemployment rate is 10.4%. The county I live in has a 13.5% unemployment rate. The US rate is 7.6%. (That's as of Jan. 2009).

I think that there are some valid points to Gov. Sanford's ideas about the stimulus package.


The last time that South Carolina decided to enforce their own political independence separate from the rest of the United States, well, I don't think it turned out like they expected. That was back in 1860, almost 150 years ago, and some people still haven't gotten over it yet.

We have a long road ahead of us.

Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. 1 Peter 2:13-17

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lower your voice, please

All sopranos, basses, and tenors, please move along.

This sign is in the parking lot of a local grocery store.

The sign on the opposite side of this intersection facing the oncoming traffic just says "STOP" with no vocal part clarification. So, I guess you can go in, but you can't get out without singing. In harmony.

Now, before you go and tell me I'm stoooopid 'cause alto means stop in Spanish, let me assure you that I already know that.

I took a couple of semesters of Spanish is college. I can read it OK and can usually at least figure out a little bit about what I'm reading.

I just don't speak it very often at all. Certainly not nearly as often as I visit this grocery store parking lot.

It just struck me funny, here is our little town where the majority of the general population doesn't understand what you are saying if you don't speak with a southern lowcountry drawl. Much less a foreign language.

Maybe the grocery store is trying to drum up business from the Taco Bell crowd. It is, after all, in the same parking lot. You can even hear the Bell's drive through associate repeating orders on the loud speaker as you walk from your car into the grocery store. Except, I don't think any of them speak spanish.

It also made me think, if alto is the Spanish word for stop, what is the Spanish word for alto (as in, the lower female voice part)?

Which also made me think, if you sing the lower female voice part in a lovely Spanish choir and the choir director wants you to stop singing, does he say, "Alto, alto!"?

If the director were speaking directly to me, he would probably say, "Alto loco."

To which I would say, "adios and hasta la vista, baby."

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Psalm 19:1-3

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The good and bad of ye olde nostalgia

I spent another lunch hour with the Stetson University BCM kids again today. They will be leaving early in the morning, so I said my goodbyes and then left to do my errands and get back to work.

I’m back in my office now, alone, with the worst case of homesickness.

Margie, their BCM director, is the only one I really knew from long, long ago. She amazes me. Even after all these years she remembered things about me and my years there. That made me feel like I was still a part of it all. It was a bond that may have gotten covered over with other things through the passage of time, but absolutely never broken.

The other 29 were people I just met this week, but somehow I had a connection with them as well. I have been in their shoes. I have slept in the same dorms. I have sat in the same classroom chairs under some of the same professors. I have loved some of the same people they love (some of their parents were my classmates). I sat on the same Allen Hall wood floor for Thursday night vespers. I have taken naps in the same library and been thrown in the same fountain. It’s funny what kinds of things draw you together.


Here I sit.

Thinking to myself, I just don’t have friends like that around here. I live so many miles and lifetimes away from who and where and what they are now.

Yes, I have some dear friends here and they are very precious to me. They are here and now. They know my life as it is now. They share my very present joys and challenges. I thank God for them often.

But it’s different.

I guess being around these kids this week has reminded me of who I used to be. At the very same time, it has also caused me to look more intently at who I am now. I can’t help but see the difference between the two.

No, I don’t really want to be 20 years old again. I mean, not all of it, anyway. If I could go back to only the good things about being 20, then yes, tell Marty McFly to please pull the DeLorean up the driveway. However, there were also all those days that included enough stupidity to make me want to stick my head (rather, my whole body) in the sand from all the embarrassment. Nope. Just don’t want to do that again.

The other, older, "now" part of it is, I don’t think I am all I’m supposed to be yet either. I have more experience at this “life” business, a little more common sense and a few more smarts than I did twenty years ago, but I’m not where I thought 20 years ago I would be by this time in my life. I thought I was supposed to have it all together and figured out by now.

But I don’t.

It all reminds me of one of the songs Jimmy used to sing at Thursday night vespers back then. I can’t remember who actually wrote it or recorded it (If you do, let me know!), but I do remember some of the lyrics went something like this:

I’m not who I wanna be
I’m not who I’m gonna be
But thank God I’m not who I was.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:1-10

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Go Hatters!

A week or so ago I heard the Director of Missions for our county mention the local Baptist Association’s new website. Several days later, I finally remembered it when I was actually sitting in front of a computer so I clicked on over to check it out.

I clicked on several pages, read his blog, looked at some pictures, then I went to their calendar events. The very first thing listed for March was:

“Stetson University Mission Group in CBA

What??!! How did I not know about this? Have I been on a long winter’s nap or something?

I set about making phone calls and sending emails for more information and learned that they were to arrive on Sunday. It was Thursday when I found out about it. Three days!!!

What I found out from my inquisition was that it was the Stetson University Baptist Collegiate Mission group (BCM) and this is their spring break mission trip. They planned to do some repair and renovation work on the Christian Women’s Job Corp (CWJC) building. Which, I might add, is in desperate need of a re-working.

Well blow me down. The CWJC building is on the property of the church that I attend (where my husband is employed, for goodness sakes). Scott and I actually lived in that little building for a month or two back in 1997 when we first moved here and the builders weren’t quite finished with our house. The front door of that building is just a few yards from the door of the church kitchen.

I’m a graduate of Stetson and was what we called at that time, a BCMer. I felt like my own family was coming to town.

I’m not entirely sure how the Stetson BCM group from Florida got hooked up with our tiny little rural South Carolina county and it would probably be too long to list all the associations here, but I do not think it was coincidence. I’m just grateful and blessed and feel privileged that God made all those connections in my neighborhood.

This is Margie. She was on the BCM staff when I was in school. She didn’t have the title then, but she was still the one in charge. Now, she has the title. She is the director. At least until December when she retires.

I know I said it’s rural SC, and this does give the impression of an outhouse (without walls, no less), which may or may not be typical for our area. It was, however, the toilet they removed from the building so they could replace the rotten bathroom floor.

Here’s Margie again. That’s me on the left (I am the one who does not look like I belong in the picture. The oddball). The other two kids? Well, they are children of people that I went to school with. Troy’s daughter and Debbie’s son. I couldn’t believe it when I was introduced to them. That’s why I had to have a picture made with them, so I could go back later for a second look. I am so old. Funny. In some ways, I still think of myself as one of them. Maybe I should consider therapy.

Here’s the entire group.

And some more of their work.

I’ve spent lunch breaks with them the last two days. Being around them and involved in their conversations has reminded me what the brains and hearts of college people (students AND their leaders!) are really like.

They are thinkers. They are learners. They are doers. They are passionate.

They reminded me that I have gotten away from some of that. And I want it back.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22.

Monday, March 2, 2009

No - Not - Note

My husband doesn’t read this blog on a regular basis. Instead he catches up on it every few weeks or so, which is fine. Really. When he does read it, he finds all my typing mistakes. I don’t have that much trouble misspelling words, but I do have a tendency to use the wrong word. Well, not exactly the wrong word. More like just not the word I intended to use, but more about that in a minute. I also sometimes add an extra word that doesn’t need to be there or I leave one out that should be there. That is mainly because my brain works way faster than my fingers. If you’ve read many of my posts, you know.

My husband has suggested that I hire him as a proofreader. I admit, I need one. Trouble is, his once-a-month reading just doesn’t suit my schedule. Whatever my schedule is. I don’t even know myself because the past couple of weeks, I have hardly posted anything.


The main reason all of that was on my mind was because I made another typing boo boo at work this morning. I made the same kind of mistake I frequently do. The wrong word came out. It wasn’t that I chose the wrong word. It was my poor typing. See, I type the right word but I end up adding an extra letter or leaving one off, which changes the whole meaning, not only of the word, but of the entire sentence and the complete thought I’m trying to convey.

Here’s what I typed this morning.


Yes, that’s a word and it is spelled correctly. No problem with that.

However, I was addressing an email to my boss’ boss. His name is Doug.

Not Dough.

Dough, boy. I mean, OH, BOY. I sure messed that one up, didn’t I?

(And just so you know, Doug is not really the tall, lean, muscular, athletic type, which made me feel even more stupid. Ugh.)

I get so carried away sometimes that I don’t pay close attention. I do it all the time.

I think it happens in my hearing too, not just my typing. I think I hear one thing, but what is actually being said is something with just one added letter, but a world of difference in the meaning.

Like when I think I hear God saying, “No.” I think I hear that “no” so I sit around waiting on Him to do something different to change the situation.

But what He’s really saying is, “Now.” He’s waiting on ME to do something. For Him. Now.

And you know what? The clarification between “no” and “now” usually comes from other “proofreaders” in my life, my husband among them, who help me with discern what I hear.

"Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong. How painful are honest words! Job 6:24-25