Monday, July 27, 2009

Unto the yeast of these

I bought a pair of flip flops at Publix for $6. Green, of course. The reason that’s noteworthy is because I’m not really a flip flop sort of girl. One, because I have cold feet most of the time. If my feet are cold, everything is cold. I usually wear socks and closed-toe shoes. Two, I have really ugly toes. Most people’s toes are somewhat rectangular with a circular tip. Mine are round. Just plain round. One or two of my toes have a little twist. They actually look kinda like yeast rolls. Or maybe doughnut holes. And my toenails are wavy, not nicely curved or even flat. Just not a pretty sight, so I usually keep them covered to save others who get squeamish at such sights.

But back to the Publix flip-flops. It was an impulse purchase. We went in there to buy bananas. Scott prefers Chiquita bananas over Dole or any other brand, and they are hard to find locally. We can always count on Publix though. We don’t have a Publix close by. The nearest one is about an hour away, so it is truly an adventure to get to go there. It always makes me a little giddy. Just as we entered the door, there was a flip-flop display along with all their other summer goodies. I got caught up in the moment and just couldn’t resist.

I finally had something to wear that said “summer,” even it was something that’s not really “me.”

I’ve had a bit of a difficult time with the summer apparel.

Last year in preparation for a trip to Florida with my sisters, I ordered a swimsuit online. You may ask, “Who is crazy enough to order a swimsuit online?” Well, I’ll tell you who. I am. I simply refuse to take a swimsuit into a department store dressing room with all those lights and mirrors. I scare easily. It’s bad enough at home in the dimness of my own room.

Anyway, when the package came in the mail, I ripped open the plastic wrapping and pulled out the bottoms. They were cute and really fit well. Along with that I received a notice stating that the top had been back ordered. They provided a promised ship date. It was OK, I still had time before the trip. When the anticipated ship date came, instead of the back-ordered top, I received another delay notice. Then another. Then another. Finally a notice arrived informing me they had cancelled my order because they could not deliver the goods after all and would be refunding my money. I would rather have had the top.

So, I went on my trip to Florida topless (only in my suitcase, actually. Never out in public). I took the bottoms with me to Florida thinking maybe I could find a match in a store there. No such luck. I eventually sent the bottoms back for a refund too.

This year our planned trip was to Kentucky, not Florida, but still I wanted a swimsuit for the hotel pool. I started earlier this time. Ordered online. Yay and hooray, I received both pieces this time. However. I don’t know if I ordered the wrong size or what. The top was great but the bottoms just wouldn’t do. Not at all. Talk about looking like a yeast roll. I would rather have gone topless like last year than to wear these bottoms in public. I sent them back and ordered an exchange of a different style and size, hoping it would still match the new top. Just a few days later I received the replacement. Ick. Still not good. Sent it back too, ordered another replacement. It arrived. Yuk. Not only a yeast roll this time, but an old, stale one. I lost track of how many times I sent bottoms back ordered a replacement. The last one is still in the backseat of my car. I threw it in there thinking I’d take it back to the post office, but then realized I probably could have just bought another whole suit with all the return shipping charges I had paid. Just didn’t have the heart to bring it back in the house.

So. This summer’s almost over now, which means two summers have gone by without a new swimsuit. I think maybe it’s some conspiracy to keep me out of a swimsuit altogether, which I am NOT inclined to argue with.

Which brings me to another issue.

I went for my annual GYN exam a couple of weeks ago. The first thing the nurse asked me to do was step on the scale. I told her no. Really. I said, “Not today.” She was very sweet and sympathetic. She looked at me a little sadly, like maybe she felt sorry for me, but mission accomplished. We moved on to the exam room, bypassing that cold, cruel scale. While I didn’t say it out loud, I was thinking to myself that everything else they make me do during this appointment is humiliating enough. I don’t need the added embarrassment that little lead weight would throw in my face as the nurse pushes it further and further over.

Do they really need to know how much I weigh or do they just want ME to know how much I actually, really and truly weigh and not just what I imagine myself weighing!?

Hmmm. Maybe the doctor’s office is in on the conspiracy to keep me out of a swimsuit.

Or maybe it’s the yeast rolls they’re trying to keep out of.

Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it's anything but that. Yeast, too, is a "small thing," but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this "yeast." Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the Feast. So let's live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread—simple, genuine, unpretentious. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This is driving me crazy

Have you ever noticed that many bank parking lots are tricky? Most of them have one-way drives. I’m guessing maybe that’s because of the drive-thru teller windows. It might also have a little something to do with security, although I’m not entirely sure about that. I mean, I don’t really think a robber is going to pay attention to a one-way sign in an attempted fast getaway. However, trying to travel speedily the wrong way down a one-way drive crowded with cars all headed in the opposite direction might prove detrimental to an escape.

Either way, and whatever it is, I’m sure there is a reason for it. If they go to all the trouble to paint arrows on the asphalt and put up directional signs, then there definitely must be a good reason even if I don’t really know what it is.

My office is in a bank building. I don’t work for the bank; we just lease space on the second floor of the building. I’m in and out of our office, and therefore in the parking lot, at least a couple of times a day. We also have a bird’s eye view of the parking lot from our second floor window. And we watch.

The parking lot here has one main entrance from the road. The main entrance is NOT also an exit. It’s a one-way deal. There are other outlets from the other side of the parking lot, but the main entrance from the roadway is a one-way drive. The parking spaces are diagonally aligned in the direction of the one-way traffic flow.

I’ve seen it happen time and time again. A car enters the parking lot from the opposite direction and travels the wrong way up that one-way drive. They are usually customers who want to go inside the bank instead of using the drive-thru teller lanes. For some reason they just don’t want to drive the extra 9/10 of a mile further down the road to get to the appropriate entrance to be in the correct direction for the parking spaces. I’m sure they see the Do Not Enter sign but deliberately choose to disobey. Then, because they are travelling in the opposite direction of the lot plan, they have to do a 3-point turn in order to get their car somewhat in between the white lines of a parking space. And even with the 3-point turn, they never quite make it, which creates problems for other people trying to park adjacently.

Crazy thing is, when they come in that opposite direction, they pass by a section of the parking lot where the spaces are perpendicular to the drive, not diagonal, so no 3-pointer would be required. Which, by the way, is probably exactly why those straight parking spaces are there - - to provide a place to park so you won’t have to go the wrong way up the one-way drive. Of course parking in those spaces would mean you would actually have to walk a few extra steps more to get to the door of the bank.

Yesterday I was standing out on the walkway by those one-way, diagonal parking spaces waiting for my lunch date to pick me up. Sure enough, a woman drives her Buick up the wrong way, does the 3-pointer, and puts it in park even though one tire is still over the white line. She got out and as she walked by me she said with a humpmf, “I know I’m not supposed to come in that way. But I did.” I hadn’t said a word to her. I was just standing there. I had my sunglasses on so she couldn’t even really see my eyes to know if I was looking at her or not. I guess she didn’t see me when she first drove up, then when she realized I was standing there, felt the need to comment.

I’m curious. What are these people thinking before they pass by the Do Not Enter sign?

Maybe, “It’s just little ol’ me. It won’t matter.”

Or, “I’m just one little car in the midst of all these others. No one will notice.”

Or, “Just this once won’t make a difference.”

Or, “If I hurry, no one will notice.”

Or, “Just this once won’t make a difference.”

I am struck and convicted by the fact that I don’t think anyone really seems to be thinking about anyone else but themselves. It’s just me and my way.

We don’t consider beforehand the opposition we might meet from others actually going the right way. We don’t really think about becoming the cause that stops progress. We don’t consider how placing ourselves just over the line becomes an obstacle to the one next to us. No one thinks about what an example they might be setting for some younger person watching. No one wants to think about the guilt they might feel if they get caught. We won’t let ourselves think about any actual consequences for going the wrong way.

No. The thinking is more along the lines of: Even though I know it is wrong, this way is more convenient for me. This way, I won’t have to travel as far. This way, I won’t have to walk as many steps. I’m in a hurry and this way is faster.

But does that kind of thinking really get me anywhere but further down the wrong road?

Oh, that I could always, in every situation, see the right Way.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why do children have to die?

The past weekend Scott and I went to the upstate to visit with Scott's dad, my father-in-law. We call him Pop. Scott's sister was there too. Sunday was the 2-year anniversary of my mother-in-law's death and Pop wanted his family to be together on that day. Pop wanted Scott to sing in his church on Sunday the song Scott sang at her funeral.

My mother-in-law was on hospice care for nine months before her death, so there was a lot of time to think about her funeral service. Nobody actually did much talking about it, but everyone was thinking about it, and I think everyone must have been thinking something different. Pop was absolutely sure he wanted Scott to sing. Scott was absolutely sure that he would never make it through trying to sing at his mom's funeral without losing it. Scott spent all of those nine months telling me so.

When my mother in law did finally leave us for heaven, not only was Scott grieved, he was also a nervous wreck about the whole singing or not singing business. Pop has always been stubbornly persuasive with Scott. In the end Scott decided it was easier to say yes and struggle through it for Pop than to say no for his own personal relief.

During the funeral and with his agreement beforehand, I spent every minute up until it was time for Scott to sing trying to distract him from what was going on in the service. I guess a better way to say that is that I was trying to help him keep his focus on nothing but singing to help prevent him from losing it. When the time finally came and he got up to sing, a voice came out of him that I had never heard before. And it was beautiful. Scott made the sacrifice and let himself be used of God to bless others. I'm convinced that it was the voice of the Holy Spirit that I heard that day.

So, here we are two years later. Scott did sing that same song in his dad's church on Sunday. Lois was the reason we were all together that day and she was definitely missed, but it was a little easier to celebrate her life this time.

Later that afternoon as we got ready to leave Pop's house to head back home, another funeral procession was underway. Pop's house is right across the street from the cemetery so standing in the driveway, we had front row seats.

We had to wait for the procession to drive by before we could get out on the road. It was unlike anything I've ever seen before. It was Heather Brooke Center's funeral. She was a 8-year old little girl who was shot four times by the estranged husband of her father's girlfriend. It is a sad, sad story (you can read about it here). None of us know the family, but it didn't matter. We were still moved by what we saw.

There were hundreds and hundreds of motorcycles in the processional. One motorcycle even pulled the casket behind it in a carriage. I'm willing to bet that most of those riders didn't know the child either, but they wanted to pay tribute to this special situation.

Scott, who has sung for countless funerals for people ranging from those he didn't even know to his own mother, said, "but it's different when it's a child."

I stood there on the driveway in the sweltering heat. I had a napkin in my hand that I had been using to wipe perspiration off my face. As the cyclists drove by, a time or two I found myself waving my paper hankie at them before I realized what I was doing. Then, I was wiping the tears from my eyes with it. Again, I didn't know the child or anyone in her family.

But it's different when it's a child.

I have two good friends that are close to my age. They don't know each other because they live in different cities and are from different times in my life, but they have something in common besides having me as a friend. Both of these women lost sons to cancer before they ever reached double digits in age. I know that the death of those little boys changed their lives completely and forever.

I never knew Blake or Tyler either. (The anniversary of Tyler's death is this week too.) I didn't meet their moms until after they were gone.

I don't know how Ron & Cindy and Linda & Bobo have managed to beat the odds and stay married in spite of how difficult it must have been.

I don't know how they managed to continue to raise little girls after that, teaching them to love a brother they never really knew.

I just don't know. As I sit here and think about it I just can't imagine what it must be like.

Then I hear a voice in my heart and maybe I understand a little better.

"It's different when it's My child."

And I know it's the voice of God.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What's in your house?

I had lunch with a friend today. She and I and a third friend try to get together for lunch once a week. Emphasis on the TRY part. We always plan on it, but it doesn’t always work out. Intersecting the schedules of three busy women is no easy task, but we do try. Today it was just two of us.

Our goal of getting together is to help and encourage each other in our own spiritual walk. We have a 3x5 notebook of index cards filled with scriptures we have attempted (again, emphasis on the ATTEMPTED part) to memorize. We share our prayer needs and pray together. We try to keep the conversation focused on how God is working and moving in and around our lives at that particular time.

Today, when my friend asked me what God was teaching me this week, I told her that God has had me looking around my house. I’m looking to see what’s in there. Really.

Elisha is the one who made me start thinking about it. There’s a story in 2 Kings (chapter 4) about a widow whose husband died leaving her and her two sons with a great deal of debt. The man that all the money was owed to was coming to take the sons as slaves as payment for the debt.

Elisha asked her, “Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

Turns out all she had was a little bit of oil.

After she followed a few instructions from Elisha, she filled not just a few, but many empty jars with oil. She ended up with more oil to sell which brought in enough money to pay back the debt with enough left over to live on.

The oil was in her house all along.

That’s what has stuck in my mind. It was in her house all along.

When I told my lunch buddy about it, her eyes got big and she could hardly wait to tell me what she’d been thinking all week.

She’s been studying John 2. There was a wedding going on there and they ran out of wine. After a few instructions from Jesus, they filled all the empty jars with water. They ended up with not just wine, but the best wine.

They started with empty jars. And water. Those things were in their house all along.

Those things were already there.

God took the provisions that the widow and the wedding party already had and made more than enough to go around. And made it the best.

My friend asked me, “What is it that you don’t have enough of that you need?”

Oh, my. How do I answer that?

I have plenty. I have more than a lot of people in this world and I am grateful for it all.

Still, there are some empty jars in my life. Emptied of things that money can’t buy.

But I’m going home to look again. I know I don't have any wine, but I do have a little oil. Whatever else is there, I know that God can and will use it to fill my jars if I follow His instructions.

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." John 2:5

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I did and still do

OK. There. It's done, finally.

I've been trying to get that picture posted all week.

I was out of town last week, and couple of days the week before too. Getting back in the swing of things after being away for a while gives me a headache. I want to whine about it because I like the road trips better than I like going to the grocery store and answering the phone at work and sorting laundry and piling up dirty dishes in the sink. Plus, there's a holiday at the end of this week, so nobody really wants to do anything anyway. Including me.

Except that I really, really, really, wanted to show off these roses. It's just taken me a week.

My sweet little husband put these roses in the church last Sunday in honor of our 23rd wedding anniversary. Sunday was actually the date of our anniversary.

Someone asked him at church that day, "At what point did you know it was going to stick?"

His answer: "June 28, 1986."

Good answer, honey. Good answer.

Buying me flowers is not typically something he does. And that's really OK with me. He's the kind of person who doesn't like to see the same scenery twice, so when he does something for a special occassion, chances are he will do something different the next time.

I am so-o-o-o-o not like that. Which is why I love him. He really is everything I am not.

We always do things completely differently. It doesn't matter what it is. If I start something on the right, he starts on the left. If he thinks something needs to go up, I'm looking down for it. I survey my options before I decide and then go, he goes on ahead to see what all the other options are and then decides. He looks at absolutely everything all along the way, I hurry up and get where I'm going and then and only then do I take time to look around. He drives fast and walks slowly. I walk fast and drive slowly.

We do, however, often have the same goal. We just never seem to have the same idea on how to get there.

So, I have no idea exactly how we have managed to stay married and happy for all these years.

But we obviously have had the same goal all along: keeping it stuck.

And it has.

I love you, Scottie.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33