Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My shrub nubs

My, oh, my, the bizarre-ity I've lived the past few days. The events and surprises that have come my way are certainly blog worthy. Except that I'm not that kind of blogger. I mean, I can't sit down and immediately rant about what just happened. I have to ruminate for a while before I can begin to write it down. So, I've got a lot on my mind, but you'll have to check back in a fews days (or weeks!) to find out what it is.

Scott's been a victim of my bizarro world activities lately too. He told me several times over the last 24 hours that he just wanted to come home after work today and work in the yard. Do some mindless physical labor. No thinking. So that's what we did.

Now, just in case you did not know, I am not really a yard person. We both let the yard work slip way down on the priority list once we moved to the woods. We tried to keep it up at first, but it became too difficult to keep up with all the shedding trees. It was a never-ending, losing battle. Going au naturale was a lot easier. Easier, yes; lovelier, no.

If my dad saw my yard he would declare, "Depart from me, I never knew ye." His greener than envy grass and plant and flower and fruit tree and pepper plant self would be so embarrassed for me and my grey moss and brown leaf ground cover.

But, alas, it was time. We needed the distraction and the yard needed some attention. I started out today trying to re-pot a couple of ferns, but soon realized I didn't have any potting soil so I gave up on that. Then I got out the hedge clippers. The bushes along the front of the house had been spawning spindly arms that almost reached the roof. Those shrubs needed to be chopped. So I got busy. And busier. And busier. And busier. Did I mention I'm not a yard person? I have no idea how to trim a hedge, or a shrub, or a bush. I now no longer have shrubs. I have sticks growing out of the ground. I don't know what happened to all the leaves. I guess I got a little carried away.

There is one bright spot in this shrub escapade. When I first stepped behind the bushes I noticed a little lump of something brown up close to the edge of the house. From where I was standing it looked like a little pile of poop. There were flies buzzing all around it. I figured it belonged to Marbles the Cat, but I thought it was odd that she hadn't covered it up. She always covers it up. There are a lot of brown leaves around to help her with that. Plus, I've never seen her poop so close the house. But I kept cutting my shrubs, working my way towards that little pile of poop. Once I got up to it I took a closer look. It had little tiny feet. Four of them. Upon closer inspection I saw that it was not a pile of poop but rather a decomposing mole.

I suppose I can still blame that on Marbles.

Last year moles ate the roots of my plumbagos. While Marbles napped. You can see the pictures of that and read about it here.

Oh, she's come so far.

I hope I'll be able to say that about myself when I'm finally able to write about what's really been going on this week.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Monday, April 20, 2009

Welcome to the Hotel California

"...You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave..."

Erin sent me this photo a couple of days ago. Ever since then I've been wracking my brain to come up with a clever post about it. But I got nothing. Nada. Nichts.

It just speaks for itself.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Hebrews 9:27-28

Friday, April 17, 2009

I remember

My dad celebrated his 86th birthday this past Monday. He was born in 1923. It was the roaring twenties. It was a time when life in the United States began to return to normal in the wake of World War I.

He would have been starting school the year the Stock Market crashed in 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression.

He was 16 when World War II broke out. He eventually joined the Navy and that War. He was 21 when he floated on a watercraft in the English Channel on D-Day.

Warren G. Harding was President of the United States the day my dad was born. Calvin Coolidge got the job a little later that same year. Dad has lived to see 14 more Presidents get elected since then.

He was in his late 30’s when he lost one and a half fingers in a lawn mower accident.

I don’t remember any of that.

What I do remember is that he used to smoke a pipe. That is, until he had a heart attack at 53. He missed my sister’s high school graduation because he was in the hospital recovering from that heart attack. He also missed that same sister’s wedding six years later when he was in the hospital recovering from prostate cancer surgery. Four (or is it 5? I can’t remember now!) Years ago, he and my mom sold our old homestead in Florida and moved to Georgia to be close to that sister.

He was in his sixties when he had open heart surgery.

He was able to be there for my high school and college graduations and to walk me down the aisle at my wedding.

Both of my sisters and I were able to be there for his birthday party this past Monday. It’s not often that our immediate family all gets to be together, but it certainly is interesting when we do. We talked about memories of growing up together. It’s funny how totally differently we each remember the same incident. And how prominent one memory is for one of us and for others there is absolutely no recollection of it at all.

And we each have our favorite memories; stories that we repeat over and over every time we get together.

My brother-in-law always tells the story about me crying when he and my sister told me they were getting married. I was in the back seat of my sister’s car; they were in the front seat. It was the first time I had ever met him. I remember the tears, but certainly not for the same reason he remembers them.

Sister #1 always tells on Sister #2. When Sister#2 was about 3 or 4 years old, she sensed my mom was in peril because the car was out of gas. She wanted to help out so she took the water hose and filled the gas tank up. With water. I don’t really remember that one, but I believe it.

My Dad tells a story about me of which I have absolutely no recollection. Apparently there was some concert I was dying to go to and he agreed to take me. I had some sort of hissy fit in the car on the way there because an accident had traffic at a standstill and threatened my actual attendance at the concert. Apparently we did make it to the concert without my dad having to take me to the hospital. I don’t remember that at all. I don’t even remember who was playing at the auditorium.

My oldest sister graduated from high school the same year I finished the third grade. She went off to college, and then got married right after that. I only have a couple of memories of her being at home when I was young. We both remember one summer she was home from college. It was just her and I at home during the day. She had the ironing board set up in the living room and was working diligently on all the wrinkled clothes. I had had the hiccups all morning. When I totally was NOT expecting it, she finally screamed at me and scared me so badly that I no longer had the hiccups, but then we both couldn’t stop laughing about it.

We don’t realize when they are happening that we are actually writing these stories. The fact that we each remember the same incidents so differently is proof to me of just how individual and different we all are; how we each are uniquely made by God and serve a very specific, individual purpose.

All the things I remember are the things that only I remember. While we may share some, no one else has exactly the same collection of memories. I realize that even more so when I think about what memories an 86 year old man might have. Some of them are things I can only read about in history books yet they are very personal for him. Given the course of his life and his time in history on this earth, he has so many memories. Some of them include me. And I thank God for that.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Flexing my "I" muscles

Yes, "I" always seem to end up in the middle of things where I do not belong. When I force my way in like that, the end result is usually that I end up confusing the real truth for everybody else.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-23

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I die a little bit every day

Last Wednesday I called a friend of mine. It wasn’t really a good time for her to talk then, so I promised I would call again later.

She and I became fast friends as freshmen in college. Our dorm rooms were right across the hall from each other. We did a lot of laughing and learning and sharing secrets in that dorm hall.

Marriage, children, careers, divorce, time and miles have all played some part in us not being as close now as we were back then. Plus, you’re just never as close to someone again once you give up sharing a bathroom and a hall telephone (imagine that, we went away to college without cell phones!).

A couple of months ago I received one of those “it’s-been-ages-and-how-the-heck-are-you” emails from her that we trade every few years or so. She told me in that email that she has cancer.

I couldn’t seem to get her out of my mind earlier this week, which is what prompted me to call her. I tried to call her a second time on Thursday. Alas, it was still not a good time to talk. I told her not to worry, I would keep trying to call until we finally hit the right time. I hung up the phone again not really knowing any updates on her condition. I didn’t know how she was feeling or what she was thinking or anything.

Even though I knew nothing about her current condition, I sensed a great burden to pray for her. I know we’re not that close any more, but suddenly she became the only friend I could think about.

I went to bed that night unable to stop tears from dripping down my face. I prayed for her family. She’s a single mom with four sons. The youngest is still in high school. She teaches music to elementary school children. I prayed for them. I laid there thinking how it just didn’t seem right. I mean, I know death is imminent for all of us. But why this way? Not that I have any kind of death wish, but why did it have to be her instead of me? I mean, there are only two people in my office (including me), I don’t have any children, and I do have a loving husband. If I were dying, there would be far fewer lives affected by it.

We may never really know why suffering and grief gets distributed the way it does on this earth, but I do know that I cannot waste it. I must find a way to see the glory that God can use it for. It’s not always easy.

When I woke up Friday, I still felt the burden. And kept praying.

Then I began to read other blogs. Ones I read frequently. The first post I read was about a woman teaching her son that life wasn’t fair and if it was, he (and I) would have a lot less than we do and others would have a lot more. She wrote on about going to a medical facility to have blood drawn for a non-life threatening condition and being surrounded by a waiting room full of bald people waiting for chemo. All she could do afterwards was cry fierce tears over the unfairness of it all. And there is nothing we can do about it but trust God.

I cried some more. And prayed.

Then I read a second blog post. It was the one year anniversary of the birth and death of a child. They knew before the little girl was born that she would not survive, but they chose to trust God and not terminate the pregnancy. Apparently they planted a tree in the little girl’s memory and now after a year, it needed to be pruned. The mother wrote how about difficult that experience was for her, even though she knew that God tells us He has to do it in order for us to grow. Pruning hurts.

I cried some more. And I thought about pruning. I had always thought of pruning as something that was done to each individual. Everyone needs a little pruning of their own braches in order to grow. It wasn’t until all of this that I saw pruning as maybe something that happens to the human race as a whole. I mean, maybe some lives are plucked so that others will grow.

I went to the next blog and read on. This one talked about speaking at the memorial service of a long time friend. The service was for a woman who had won a temporary battle with cancer and through it inspired other woman to truly pray in faith. The cancer returned later and God took her home. The speaker at the service talked about the woman who reached out for the hem of Jesus’ garment, and was healed. She went on to say that even with that miraculous healing, that woman still eventually died from something else. We all do. The best we will ever get in this world in just a hem of healing. The real, true healing comes after we leave this earth.

OK. So I cried and cried and cried some more wondering, why is everything I’m encountering focused on death??? I grieved over it all the entire day.

That day was Good Friday.

Now it is Saturday. The dark, dark days in between Jesus’ death and His resurrection.

My friend with cancer; like I said, we’re not as close as we once were. The blog posts I read; I have never met any of the writers personally. I don’t really know any of these people well and yet, I am grieving for them.

I thought about what I would do if they were all my close friends.

Jesus is my close friend. I hate what they did to him.

But I love what He did for me. He came back. He brought life for all of us that are grieving.

There is hope.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Going out on a limb

Recently I made a spontaneous purchase. It was a book. Surprise, surprise. Me buying a book is not that unusual. It just wasn’t the book I specifically went to the bookstore to get. It was a small book (136 pages) and relatively inexpensive. Plus, I had a discount card that saved me an extra 20% off.

Scott was the one who first pulled it off the shelf, handed to me saying it looked like my kind of book. I took one look at it, totally agreed with him and bought the book.

After reading the first 50 pages or so, I was a little disappointed. The content didn’t seem to be nearly as thrilling as making the spontaneous purchase itself, so I put it down for a couple of days. I’m one of these people that cannot leave a book unfinished. Even if it’s the most boring book I’ve ever read and it takes me weeks to do it, I simply have to finish it. A few days later I picked the book back up and took it with me because I knew I was going someplace where I was going to have to wait. I figured a boring book was better than just sitting there doing nothing.

Well, surprise, surprise. The second half of the book turned out to be worth the price and any associated spontaneous purchase guilt.

What caught my attention and eventually sucked me in was when I read the sentence that said something like, “Zacchaeus went out on a limb for Jesus.”

The author went on to explain that the people of Zacchaeus’ community just paid their taxes and went about their lives. They tolerated Zacchaeus and his tax collecting ways. They didn’t like it, but they played along for the sake of keeping peace. There’s no record of anyone else trying to help Zacchaeus see the error of his ways. They just labeled him a sinner and left it at that. I think we can assume that most had given up on trying to influence him to change so they turned their eyes from his business ethics and basically ignored him.

“But Jesus looked at him and believed in what he could become, so He invited Himself to dinner.”

And immediately Zacchaeus changed.

Then the author asked, “Is there a Zacchaeus in your life? Somebody that everybody else’s has given up on? Judged incapable of any further good?”

Well, hmmmm. There might be. So what if there is?

I’m not about to go and tell them what they’re doing is wrong. That would be rude. Plus, it would make me look like the bad guy, being so judgmental and all. I don’t need anything else that encourages other people to think that I think I’m better than them. No. I just act cool. Look away. Turn my head. Ignore it. Just let them go on doing what they do. That’s the polite thing to do. That’s showing love, isn’t it?

And while I’m ignoring them and looking the other way, playing my politically correct game, I miss seeing that they’re out on a limb looking for Jesus.

And I miss my opportunity to point them to Him.

Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:9

The book is The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning