Passing Lanes

Sunday mornings have always been special because it has always (and I mean ALWAYS) meant church. I was five days old the first time I attended. I am grateful for the heritage of building Sunday morning church-going into the foundation of my life. It has never left me. 

However, our current church situation offers a Saturday evening service, which is an exact replica of the Sunday morning one. Our son, Noah, is a member of the worship band and we, of course, love to go worship with him. Also, a large percentage of our  beloved small group, The Wolfpack, as we call ourselves, attends the Saturday evening service. It has become a regular routine to have dinner with them afterward. Always a treat!

It is nice on Sunday mornings to awaken and know we have a day to go out to breakfast or do a few chores. Sorry, Mama. She forbade Sunday chores growing up. But the Lord is gracious and He gives understanding when Sundays sometimes become a day of catch-up in preparation for the new week ahead.

This morning, after breakfast out, my husband and I made a little jaunt to IKEA. We were on a mission for one item. Every time I go and the winding journey begins in the area of those set up little apartments, I want to go home and put a for sale sign in my yard and move in. They are incredibly cozy. Marketing genius. 

As we walked through the network of passages which, intentionally of course, direct the consumer through every department of the store, an idea occurred to me. We were walking briskly, a misnomer at IKEA. There are young couples pushing baby strollers and mid-age couples trying to corral their kids, and older couples shuffling through, in no hurry whatsoever. 

The thought came to mind that there should be designated lanes at IKEA, just like an interstate highway system. There could be a regular lane in the middle, a slower one on the right that creates an easy exit to a specific department, and a high-speed, or passing, lane on the far left. 

At one point walking through the labyrinth, an older couple (older than us, anyway) quickly moved out of our way as if we were the running of the bulls. We definitely got a ‘look’ from them. I guess I didn’t realize we were up in their business so closely. They probably felt our hot breath on their necks. I smiled, apologetically, and quickly moved on. This whole scene could have been avoided if there were proper lanes at IKEA. 

For a bit of trivia ~ you may not know that IKEA is an acronym. The name consists of the initials of Ingvar Kamprad (name of founder), Elmtaryd (the farm where he grew up), and Agunnaryd (his hometown in Småland, southern Sweden). 

If any of you visit Sweden and happen to run into Ingvar, please ask him about my *IDEA. I think he may like it. 

*I Desire Easier Access

Couple Hair

I took Mama to church this morning. It was a good service and it was good for her to see old friends. She and I were a few minutes late because she got very upset about not having pantyhose to wear to church. We almost didn’t go due to that issue. I tried to tell her the Lord doesn’t mind but she insisted it was improper. 

We slipped in the second to last row and joined right in with the worship music. When the pastor began to preach, I noticed an elderly couple a few rows ahead of us. The woman had on earrings and a sweater with sparkling threads running through it. Other than those rather differentiating qualities, their heads looked alike. Hers looked slightly more coiffed but the color, the cut and the length were the same.

You know you are getting older when your head is interchangeable with your husbands. Thankfully, for now at least, my hair is long and dark. Mike’s is salt and pepper with a great George Clooney cut. I keep asking my hairdresser if she thinks I am too old to wear my hair long. She promises that she will tell me when that day comes. I definitely do not want to be one of those 75 year-old women with long, stringy hair clinging tightly to it as one last youthful hurrah. On the other hand, I do not want look-alike hair. 

Ironically, the pastor today was talking about how we worship. He mentioned how easily we can become distracted at church. For example, it seems so holy to have the Bible app on your smart phone and use it to look up scripture rather than carrying the old-fashioned ten pound family bible. However, is everyone really staying on task with 2 Chronicles or are some swiping over to Facebook to check the number of likes on their new boat pic. It’s a social issue. 

Needless to say, I felt a tinge of guilt during prayer when I covertly got out my iPhone and took a snap of this look-alike-hair couple, especially in light of the sermon topic. I asked the Lord to forgive me. For the last 11 months I see so many things through the eyes of my blog. 

It is 9:39 PM and Mama is in bed. We are both worn to a frazzle. But we made it. We had struggles for sure but we had joys, too. We walked hand in hand up and down the driveway and picked up sticks and those annoying spiked round balls that fall from the sweet gum tree. Mama thinks they are beautiful and collects them every time she visits. 

Life ends up being a series of inconsistencies; a concert of dissonance. Yet, there is not a more lovely sound than those discordant notes coming together at just the right moment. 

The push and pull is how we find that beautiful middle.

Serious Sunday

This morning at church a friend of mine shared her story. I knew much of it but learned a few new details today.

It is a story of redemption. It is a story of years of darkness and lostness and aloneness. It is a story of life not making sense in the day to day. 

Her world was completely broken. She was standing at the edge of a cliff with the grounding disappearing beneath her feet.

But how encouraging to know the truth. The truth that in the middle of her pain, God was there. He was in pain with her. As parents we know that when a child of ours is suffering and in anguish, how great is our anguish, as well. I fully believe that the Lord grieves with us. 

I admit that I do not understand why God does not/will not intervene in circumstances. This is one of the (many) great mysteries of life. But I do know that He is a God of redemption. He is a God who will make all things right, in time. 

For my friend, He made all things right. He made it so right that this story could have only been written by Him. Her story made a complete circle that no one, not one person would have believed 40 years ago. It is still hard to believe except that we have the proof. 

And for those of you who know the photo, oh yes I did. 


Serious Sunday

I have not done a lot of traveling in my life. And I’m thinking I better plan to pursue it with a little more vigor. I would prefer to not see it from my three-wheeled mobility electric scooter, but will if that becomes my only option. 

Many of our family vacations have been to the southeast; South Carolina, Alabama shores, Florida. The furthest west I have been is Olathe, Kansas. Being a not-great flyer has certainly limited my travels to some of the most majestic places in this country—Boulder, Colorado; Jackson, Wyoming; Missoula, Montana, the Grand Canyon, the California coastline and the Pacific Northwest. 

Early this week we received in the mail a postcard from our dear Andrew and Lindsey as they made their way across the map. It was sent from Kodachrome Basin National Park in southern Utah. A (apparently) beautiful place not mentioned in the above paragraph. 

The postcard read “We read Psalm 19 last night under an amazingly bright moon that lit the desert. It was a passage most commensurate to this night.”

Psalm 19

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.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

Their words to the ends of the world.

And ten more truly poetic verses.

The postcard is a reprint of an original poster available at some National Park Bookstores. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA’s (Works Progress Administration) Federal Art Project printed over two million posters in 35,000 different designs to stir the public’s imagination for education, theater, health, safety, and travel. Due to their fragile nature only two thousand posters have survived. 

I was printed in 1957. I may develop a fragile nature. But my hope is to remain one of the originals who survives the wear and tear and stands as a symbol of beautiful history.

Serious Sunday

The third Saturday in July, which was yesterday, is recognized in the U.S. as the “Could Haves” and “Should Haves” Day.

Created by author and motivational speaker Martha J. Ross-Rodgers this day is intended for all of us to let go of the past and live for the present. To honor this day it is suggested that you get a piece of paper and a pen and write down your “could haves” and “should haves” and then throw it away. 

Once you have your “could haves” and “should haves” in the trash, make this resolution:

From this day forward, I choose not to live in the past. The past is history that I cannot change. I can do something about the present; I choose to live in the present.”

Nice thought. Nice commemoration of a third Saturday in July. A positive move, no doubt.

However, this mindset must be more than one day in July. It is something to be practiced every morning when you awaken and again every evening before sleep. This is a daily discipline, like brushing your teeth. Soon you will not need reminders, you will simply embrace it as a part of your everyday life. 

There is a corollary to this precept. The past can be a useful tool to gauge future decisions, boundaries, and even regulate self-control, self-restraint. 

Occasionally our haunted past can be the precipice to present and future redemption. 

Serious Sunday

Christian Wiman is an American poet and editor. He was born in 1966 and raised in the small west Texas town of Snyder. He graduated from Washington and Lee University and has taught at Northwestern University, Stanford University, Lynchburg College in Virginia, and the Prague School of Economics. Wiman now teaches Literature and Religion at Yale University and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. 

My son, Andrew, who just graduated from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, was fortunate enough to have a class with Wiman and come to know him as a friend. 

In 2013, Wiman published a book entitled My Bright Abyss. It is an essay about having faith in the face of death.

At age 39, he learned that he had a rare and probably fatal cancer. His world fell apart. In the midst of his suffering and pain and fear, life felt meaningless. However, as the book ends, he is in remission.

He regained his health because of obvious medical treatment, his marriage, and his twin daughters who were born during his illness. He also credits his remission to his own will, art, desperation, and imagination. He gained his faith and felt grace. In his words, he experienced the mystery of “present joy and future hope.”       

I am currently reading the book. Weeks ago when I started it (no, it should not take me this long to read this book, but Mama and work and life often get in the way of reading), I immediately loved it. Nine pages in and I was already underlining phrases. One of those that I truly loved was this:

If grace woke me to God’s presence in the world and in my heart, it also woke me to his absence. I never truly felt the pain of unbelief until I began to believe.”

Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. We also, sometimes, don’t realize our emptiness until we experience fullness.

I love the title. My Bright Abyss. How great is that? Can a word, a thing, like an abyss actually be full of light? Be completing? Create “present joy and future hope”?

Occasionally the pounding of hooves is not a horse, but a zebra. And occasionally an abyss is not dark, but bright. 

Life Lessons/Serious Sunday

My husband loves the movie Nanny McPhee. I know that sounds kind of weird. He loves it because several years ago he heard a speaker make reference to the movie in regard to the way the Lord works in our lives. That piqued his interest and we watched it the next week.

It is one of those movies you have to stick with because, in the beginning, it is easy to lose interest. 

The movie is set in Victorian England in the 1860s. Cedric Brown is a widowed undertaker with seven unruly children. He loves them very much but since the death of his wife, is unable to spend much time with them and do the parenting needed.

The children terrorize and run off several nannies and all seems bleak until the frighteningly hideous Nanny McPhee appears. She tells Cedric that she is a “government nanny”.

McPhee is not the least rattled by the children’s behavior. She is as cool as a cucumber. In time, with discipline and a little ‘magic’, she transforms the family’s lives. In the process, she changes from ugly to beautiful. Her warts and unibrow disappear and her oversized nose shrinks. 

Over time, the children change into responsible, well-mannered people and are able to help their clumsy father with his own problems, thus making Nanny McPhee less and less needed.

This, of course, is the storyline. The children have come to love and appreciate her and want her to stay. Oh, the irony.

At the end of the movie, Nanny McPhee (who is now lovely) magically makes it snow. The children are thrilled. When she turns to go, against their cries for her to remain with them, she has this great line, “When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.”

There are myriad lessons to learn from this film. If you see the movie, find the golden nuggets that fit your life. They are to be found. 

One of my (several) favorites is that Nanny McPhee is fair and wise. She teaches the children that they cannot rely on ‘magic’ or luck to improve life. She reveals to them that they must, along with a higher belief system, use their own brilliant minds and creative thinking to change their circumstances. 

What a novel concept. 

Number Ten

We all know that The Ten Commandments are a set of biblical principles God gave to the people of Israel, through his servant, Moses. These beneficial laws given to us by a loving father are meant to show us how to live a better life now and to be in communion with Him.

’Thou shalt not covet’ is number ten of The Ten Commandments. To covet what another has comes from a sense that something is lacking. Coveting and stealing often go hand-in-hand. To steal is to take something that has not been freely given. This can include anything from the casual taking of a flower from a neighbor’s yard, or a grape at the grocery store. The grape mention is a story on its own. My sisters and I discuss this often. They taste one for sweetness assurance, I don’t. That certainly does not make me a saint, it’s just something I don’t do. 

Oh my goodness, though, how many temptations to covet can there be in one day?!

I find myself occasionally coveting another person’s house or car or outfit. I often covet a woman’s hair that does not get fussy in humidity the way mine does. 

The problem with coveting is this. Coveting means we want to take or possess something another person has. We want theirs. This is where things get tricky. 

If I wish I had another woman’s head of hair but am okay with her having it, too, is that coveting? I am not wishing ill upon her and that she instantly goes bald or suddenly has thin, wiry, stingy, oily or dry hair. No, I don’t want that. She can keep her beautiful hair. I just want an identical reproduction on top of my head. I simply want it, too.

Though the guideline is to not covet. Period. And commandment number two is quite clear about “graven” and “carved” images. I’m pretty sure that also includes houses, cars, clothes, and hair. I will work on this. 

Of course, I occasionally covet youth. Most 60 year-olds would be breaking commandment number nine if they told you otherwise.

Cookies and Other Things

I had the distinct pleasure to spend a truly lovely evening with a dear cousin of mine, JK. On a side note, she is one of my loyal blog readers, for which I am very grateful.

JK spends two weekends a month with Mama. She is an incredible help to our family and Mama loves her completely. JK is a gem. She is authentic and kind and loving and fun. Mama once told her she is a goddess. Mama has never called me a goddess, but maybe someday. 

I am so glad that Mama loves her. Though, Mama has always loved her. JK is the youngest of three daughters born to my Mama’s closest sister, Jane. JK and her sisters pretty much grew up with my siblings and me. We were like one big family, living next door to each other for a while and after that, moved only one street away. 

This evening we grilled burgers then sat on the deck to eat and talk and laugh. JK said she was surprised that I did not write about a national day yesterday, being Saturday. I asked her what day it was that was being observed. She told it was National No Underwear Day. I laughed and told her that I did not know. I utilize a website called National Day Calendar. I checked that website tonight but it was not listed.

I decided to “Google it” to see what I could find. 

Upon research, I discovered a website which stated that June 23 was indeed No Panty Day. This is not to be confused with National Underwear Day on August 5. 

As you can imagine, I am a bit befuddled to write a blog about No Panty Day. My writing mind is bare as I am unsure how to undress this subject.

However, I did find it interesting that No Panty Day  coincided with these other national remembering days ~ National Hydration Day, National Pecan Sandies Day and National Pink Day.

And on that note, I will bid goodnight and leave the rest up to your imagination. 

A Time for Everything

In preparing for my father-in-law’s funeral service, we have been going through albums and piles of photos. I spent much of this afternoon scanning them onto a thumb drive, from which my son, Christopher, will make a powerpoint presentation. 

It has been pleasant and difficult. We have had some laughs, some tears, and some ponderings. 

I have seen pictures of my parents-in-law at 20 and at 40 and at 60. It is interesting to see the age progression. I do wonder how at 60, they felt. Did they feel old? When I talk to my mother-in-law at various times about age, she says “Oh, you are so young.” But to a person in their 80s, 60 IS young. And on the other side of that, to a 40 year old, 60 is far away and old. It is all relative.

I love this photo of my husband (he is the cutie with his arms crossed, sitting next to his mama) with his family. The year at the top of the photo reads 1965. My father-in-law is 35 and my mother-in-law is 32. They look like the stereotypical 1960s family.

I’m guessing that if I could ask them both, they would say those last 52 years were a blink of the eye. 

That is how I feel about the last 20 years, a mere blink and I was 40. 

The bible book of Ecclesiastes speaks about time, stating there is a time for everything;

        A time to be born and a time to die

        A time to plant and a time to uproot

        A time to kill and a time to heal

        A time to tear down and a time to build

        A time to weep and a time to build

        A time to mourn and a time to dance

        A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them

        A time to embrace and a time to refrain

        A time to search and a time to give up 

        A time to keep and a time to throw away

        A time to tear and a time to mend

        A time to be silent and a time to speak

        A time to love and a time to hate

        A time for war and a time for peace

And I especially love the next two lines;

        He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time

        He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom

            what God has done from beginning to end. 

If I truly believe that God has made everything beautiful in its time, then I must hold to the hope of beauty where it may be found. And I will hold to the hope of eternity that somehow, from the very beginning, have known is in our hearts.