Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's Quiet

Here's Edie's thought question for the week. (If they weren't so good, we all wouldn't be out there thinking about them)
What quality of Christ's do you most see in yourself? Tell us about it.
First of all, what I love about this question is that it forces you to actually say that you and Christ share something in common. We were made in their (the Trinity's) image, so there is something that God placed in each of us that resembles His Son more than other somethings. It's not the gifts. Not the talents. A quality....a characteristic. Not that we consider equality with Christ in this area something to be grasped, to paraphrase Philippians 2. I've decided that the quality of Christ's that I most see in myself is a quiet arrival.

When He came into the world, the fanfare and hubbub were all around Him, but He was quiet (and, if you believe the carol, "no crying He makes" either!). He had that incident in which he "ran away" from his parents, but, we know from our reading that He was doing His Father's business, and definitely not raising a ruckus (except to amaze folks with what He was saying).

In all of His teaching engagements, He never announced who He was (for the longest time, He didn't want anyone to know who He really was) or had folks sign copies of His lecture notes afterward. He just spoke to them. And when He was tired, sought quiet--away from the people.

There was that time when He upended some tables in the temple. And though He was perfectly justified in His actions, the tables and their wares and the shouts of unhappy vendors were probably He was clearly still misunderstood at that time.

The loudest He ever was might have been when He shouted His final words upon the cross, before His arrival into Heaven (again).

* * *

I don't make a big entrance anywhere. I'm not flamboyant. (I dress in brown a lot!) I'm very quiet and unassuming most of the time. I try to let my actions speak louder than my words, and let my words speak volumes without coming across at too high a volume.

I tend to be both the first to arrive and the last to leave--because I never know when someone will seek me out, and my goal is to always be present and available. Just without the neon sign.

Not that it's always been to my benefit to be quiet. Sometimes, you really need to be heard in some way. I don't upend tables very often. And, actually, my version of upending tables is when I yell at my kids, and that's never been effective. Uncharacteristic, yes, and not effective.

I would do well to retreat to the mountain. Seek the quiet. Pray about how to speak the truth in love. Then return, quietly, parable in head, letting His words speak to them, even if they, yet, don't understand.

As for entering Heaven, I will not come close to what Jesus brought to His re-entrance. And I sing loud praises for that!

"Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?"

Friday, August 29, 2008

Busy Day

Get the phone call.
Make some plans.
Mom puts money
In my hands.

Doorbell rings.
Then I see them.
They'll take me
To the museum.

After a while,
We get there.
Open the doors.
Pay the fare.

Look at exhibits
Before our show.

After some looks,
Downstairs we go.

We decide

To buy a snack.

I choose popcorn
Off the rack.

Go in the theater.
Watch the movie.
It's about a river.
It really moved me.

We look around
A little more.
See the planets
And dinosaurs.

Lunch was later
Than we thought.
Water and a bagel
Was what I bought.

We'll be at another place
Before our eyes.

It's another museum
But it's kid-sized!

There's a tummy, a tree house
And a cafe, too.
A garden with a river.

(Goodbye, shoe!)

After a while,
We go home.
And say "Goodbye!"
To the IMAX dome.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

PB Teen for the Younger Set

Gracious Bonita, at Streams of Living Water, writes a beautiful blog. She also provides inspiration for those of us who want to improve our home decor without waiting for "improvements" in our home decor budgets. Read any of her "domestically challenged homemaker" blogs, and leave with a smile and a great idea or two.

The room I have the greatest difficulty with making interesting is, believe it or not, our playroom! For whatever reason, my girls would rather take their toys any place in the house but the playroom. Needless to say, this drives hubby and me a little crazy. What to do to make this a place in which the girls long to spend time?

Daughter #1 is becoming infamous for taking the Pottery Barn Teen Catalog out of the mail stack and whisking it away to the family room (not the playroom) to browse. I, too, use the catalog for inspiration in coming up with gifts for the actual teens in the family (my nieces and soon-to-be-too nephew, with many more to come!).

So, taking a page from PB Teen, I moved the furniture, pulled throw pillows from the girls' bedrooms and, voila--a reading nook/lounger couch!

We had been holding on to the girls' crib mattress, not that we would dare pass that along to anyone. But, it still had life and could be used as a floor mattress for a young guest in a pinch. Well, now it has new life as a lounger (and very occasional nap spot for D#2). At the moment, this crazy terry cloth hand-me-down fabric from my mom is just wrapped around the mattress. Since D#2 likes to use any fabric as a blanket, I realize the need to sew that in place.

One of the cool elements of the room is the re-fabbed rug that I did last year. This rug started out as a basement rug for my craft area. After we moved, it became our dining room rug and received lots of ugly spills. My Internet research suggested that dyeing the rug in an industrial-sized washer might not be the best choice for me. So, I opted for another suggestion which was to cover the entire rug! I chose a fleecy sweatshirt material, which is great to snuggle into and play on even without the extra pillows. (Other folks who have done this have used a purchased duvet cover--slide the rug inside, fluff it out, and you're done.)

Another project I finished was the drapes. They are actually three full bed sheets, on end-of-season red-tag Target discount. I used two for the center panels and cut the third sheet in half lengthwise to use on the two smaller windows of the bay. Sometimes, they are pulled together as shown. Sometimes, I leave the end panels down and just tie back the center panels. Great to have that kind of flexibility--especially if we want to open windows!

Everything is machine-sewed, but I don't see why you couldn't use fabric glue or hand-stitching for seams and hems. I just love the vibrancy and symmetry of the pattern, and you can't always come by that at the fabric store (certainly, not for that price). Plus, when so much is already finished on a sheet, you can enjoy the nice edges without having to do them yourself.

The other part I like about the arrangement is that the entire room can be used for different purposes, as it is set up in more of a circular arrangement. Doll clothes and accessories are on one arc; books/music/lounger and chairs on another arc; a table and chairs is against the wall of another arc (a wall soon to include some magnetic paint for hanging artwork, poems and other kid favorites).

Granted, they can't scooter all the way around the circle from the playroom to the dining room, but.... Maybe they won't use the scooter in the house after this.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's OK to Think Big

Blogger Edie has been much on my friends' blogs these days. I was excited about her blog, which invites readers to answer a posed question on Fridays. I wanted to join in, too. (Nice to meet you, Edie!)

What's your passion or passions? What has God given you a heart for or about?
How is it revealed in your life?

This may sound like a strange answer, but I think God has given me a heart for always seeing the "big picture" and for encouraging others to see it as well.

As I writer, I do love details. I love interesting facts, remembered trivia, crazy references, definitions, origins and parallels. Analogies? I sometimes go so deep into one that my readers can't get themselves back to the surface. (Not good writing!!) It's the rich details that make writing exciting, funny, poignant and personal.

But, without having a big picture in mind, the details are as snowflakes on the ground--pretty in and of themselves, but without structure, as they lie waiting to melt away or to turn the surrounding dirt into mud.

Our details--our little things--are often the subject of our undoing. We are obsessed with the small stuff. We get so worked up over the small stuff and perfecting it that we can't remember why it's important in the first place. (Are we making a snowman or an igloo? What do you mean it's a snowball figh-- !)

We need to have a big picture!

Sometimes, we pick apart our lives the way we pick off all the turkey meat from the bones at Thanksgiving. Not a pretty picture, is it?

We hold up our lives to the Scriptures and see how terribly short we fall. If we believe what we read, we know our lives aren't perfect and we want to change. All that is great. But how often do we get so obsessed over trying to re-right our shortcomings that we lose sight of the big picture of Christ's saving work on the cross? The Holy Spirit's constant counseling presence? God's Word? God's love, protection and covenant with His people?

I'm not saying we should all walk around with our small stuff dangling around our necks like some kind of fashionable bling or T-shirt slogan ("This is my sin and I'm working on it!"). We all have small stuff. It's a given. It's in the Book.

But, when I remember that there is a bigger picture, a bigger plan, for me and for everyone else in this world--and that I am not in control of any of that--then I can put my small stuff into a better, bigger perspective.

"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." Romans 3:23

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." John 14:16&17

"'I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.'" Isaiah 44:22

"...'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness'.... God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." Genesis 1:26&31

"The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.'" Jeremiah 31:3
God has also given me a new passion for digging deep into His Word and for really wanting to understand the Truth, for which I am grateful beyond words I can write here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Forgetting What Lies Behind

"By the time I went to grab it, there was nothing," said Tyson Gay of the USA Men's 4x100 relay team. "Some people say that when it hits the hand, you should have it. I'm a veteran. I've run all kinds of relays. I've never dropped a baton in my life. It's kind of upsetting.
I can't believe it."

Sometimes, practice doesn't make perfect. Both the USA Men's and Women's 4x100 relay teams experienced the same kind of loss--not qualifying by means of dropping the baton.

We all "drop the ball" now and again. Unfortunately, when you're in the Olympic spotlight, dropping the ball, or baton, is--as Tyson Gay said--unbelievable.

I can't imagine how many times these teams must have run and passed, listened for footsteps, felt the "touch" of the one behind. When you are working on such a tight and fast team, you develop the rhythms and you know the timings. To see two teams falter in such similar ways--sadly, looking as though they hadn't rehearsed before--is.......

My heart goes out to them today. They will have to endure a lot of "talk" by the commentators and answer the same question over and over again. They will be "the history" of the event, until the next USA teams remake the history. Instead of carrying the stick, they'll be "on the stick," carrying the weight of a mistake.

* * *

There are no earthly guarantees that practicing everything you know will work for victory. Indeed, there is only One, who was on the stick and carried the weight of the sins of the entire world, who guarantees the ultimate victory.

When we look to Jesus and to God's Word through such team relay racers as Paul, we can, eventually, know perfection--even when we drop the baton. But the baton of perfection isn't something to be grasped in our earthly days. Praise God for His mercy as we forget what lies behind us and reach toward what is in front of us!

"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ and may be found in Him,

not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

- Philippians 3: 7-17, New American Standard Bible (italics mine)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Torch Burns Bright....Still

"The Human Drama of Athletic Competition...."

Even though the line was written for the introduction to ABC's Wide World of Sports, it perfectly applies to the Olympics.

In terms of pure athletics, there is no better venue than the Olympics. The media are doing what they can to influence their own version of drama upon the athletes. But, if you take out all the "up close and personals," you're left with some really exciting moments of athleticism and that intangible yet palpable feeling that you and the athlete are somehow as one.

The first Olympics I remember watching was the '72 Munich games. Mark Spitz, not Michael Phelps, was the household word. I remember Franz Klammer's unbelievably wild downhill run that brought him gold in '76 for what was then East Germany. And, Dorothy Hamill, of course, who we saw at a skating exhibition two years earlier when we visited Colorado Springs.

Five-time individual gold medalist, 1980s speed skater Eric Heiden was the poster boy of my bedroom door collage of fantastic people, which was soon followed by my intense interest in women's figure skating. (And wouldn't we all have been better off without having witnessed the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding fiasco).

Perhaps my favorite Olympic athlete, though, was Dave Wottle, who ran in the 800-meter individual race of those '72 games, crossing the finish line with his trademark white golfer's cap, taking gold for the USA! Who would have guessed?

So to see Daughter #1 and her cousins (aunts, uncles and grandparents, for that matter) be so taken with the Beijing games is not a surprise. Not that any of the kids has said she wants to be a Shawn Johnson or a Lolo Jones, but they all understand that universal experience created by the event:

  • A passed torch, bringing nations together. (One world; one dream--great slogan!)
  • A fantastic display of teamwork that is so lost amidst the outrageous salaries, promotional placements and attitudes (yes, you, Brett Farve) of today's professional athletes
  • The re-emergence of the family (on network television!). No, families of Olympians are not perfect, but it is such a welcome change to see real families who love, support and encourage one another. (Unlike the horrid Fall season line-up of NBC "family" shows. It's disgraceful to see these promos while waiting for the next event.)
  • And, doing your very best at what you have practiced and practiced and practiced.
And it is that last point that I hope to instill in my girls. Olympic athletes are not unlike our own next-door neighbors. (Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner went to school in the same town as D#1's cousins.) They train in nearby gyms, swim clubs and high school playing fields. They aren't coached by high and mighty pros. Did you see the tickled expression on Michael Phelps' and Natalie Coughlin's swim club coach? The coaches are just as excited as the crowds to see their protegees do their amazing bests.

The possibility for Olympic-like achievement is within my daughters' realm if they practice what they do best--whatever that is for the time being--with the encouragement, love and support of family and other members of the "team."

Consider the torch officially passed.

Special thanks to D#1 and her cousins, LMW, SJW and MEW for their terrific artwork, and the days we spent enjoying the Olympics together.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Cul-De-Sac

Where are the kids?

D#1's Poem of Lament
(The "Cul-De-Sac Kids" of Fallston were not home to play this summer)

e have a meeting

Every day.

That's the time

When we like to play.

From 6 p.m.

To 9 o'clock,

We call the kids

From around the block.

We play kickball, tag and

Scooter all night.

We might even battle

A big water fight.

Throw in some other games

And you will soon see,

Every night

Is full of glee.

But when my cousins and I

Stepped out on the lawn,

We found out that
the kids
Were, surprisingly...GONE!

Maybe some kids

Went on a vacation,

Packed up their bags

And traveled across the nation.

Maybe they just

Did the whole thing without us.

But I couldn't imagine

Why they would doubt us.

Guess that we'll play

By ourselves--what a sorrow!

But, hey, who knows

What could happen tomorrow.

* * *

Good to be home.... And I told D#1 she could have a regular day on the blog.
Just wish we could be completely unpacked.
(Or is it that we are unpacked but that we can't find anything?!)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Science Museum

(Another poem from D#1,
inspired by our visit to the Science Museum of Boston)
Simple machines and simulators,
Butterflies and alligators,
The human body from foot to face,
Communication and outer space,
Illusions and, according to lists,
There's some stuff that we have missed.
In 16 seconds, someone dies,
Here's a blood scale--give it a try.
Baseball, light and even mirrors,
And yet there's more...
Wish you were here.
* * *
We're on the road again today.
The J (Jersey) Girls are headed for other points south.
The sun is shining, the temperatures are cool.
Enjoying the last few days of vacation "on the road."
(And SO pleased to have a back-up blogger in residence!
Royalties payable in ice cream....)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wish you were here!

A picture postcard from Boston, where we visited the Museum of Science, got rained on and had a yummy Cafe Mocha from Starbucks in the car!

Enjoying our time in Boxborough and will be moving to southern locations later today.

Thinking of you!

The J Girls

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Travel Life

(A poem by Daughter #1)

on't have a home

'Til nine days ends,

Play with relatives

And make new friends.

McDonald's for lunch

Every day,

Fries and a shake

And a yogurt parfait

In the car
For a million hours,

No time to stop

And smell the flowers.

The "Travel Life"
Can be fun,

But we'll be glad
When the trip is done.

(Not our Swedish wagon, but it might as well be. See? No "Check break light." Hubby fixed it! Now, we have to figure out what's wrong with our GPS. Let's just say we had a few "adventures" out there on the road.

But, all in all, so far, so fun!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


While driving home from the library, when great blogs happen (?), the amber alert said "Ozone alert....Telework."

Telework? I'd heard of telecommuting, but not teleworking.

OK, so, to somewhat comply with our amber alert sponsors, I'll be 'teleworking' for the next week or so--you know, working across state lines.

The J Girls call it the "Cousins Tour," but, it's really all about mom's 'work.'


Where's that blog about interpretations vs. view?....

Sunday, August 3, 2008

When A Good Pastor's Wife Leaves

Next to every good pastor, in my experience, is a faithful and lovely pastor's wife. As sad as it is to see my pastor leave my church, it's just as sad to see his wife go, too. Many a story about Diane came through her husband's sermons. But, I can't remember a time when she wasn't spoken of in the highest regard. (Although there were 13 years before I arrived at the church when there may have been a slip!)

Diane is a Welcomer! She has a genuine smile and an outgoing yet totally comforting presence. She never overwhelms with a too-hardy handshake or a too-pushy join-our-church-today hello. She definitely finds and reads your eyes, and gives you a tap or a hug depending on how she sees things in you.

I was very fortunate to have had Diane join the church's handbell choir, which I direct. She played with us for our first two seasons before opting to spend more time with her husband. (Who could blame her! "What? He's home!?") Diane was one of THE hardest working bell ringers that we have had--always practicing, always asking questions. Always concerned that her efforts weren't good enough, yet always coming forward with her best, having grown through her concerns to a full bloom! It's not every day you find that kind of spirit in someone's service.

Before that, I only knew Diane in passing. She was a former Mentor Mom in the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group--a position I am now going to try and undertake. (Thank God for good role models!) She had a part-time job at the library and always gave me a whispered, "Hi, Sue!"

She also, inadvertently, had one of the greatest impacts on my life. As Paul Harvey would have said next, "Now it's time for the rest of the story."

* * *
One day, when I was in the library and pregnant with Daughter #2, Diane came up to me.

(Whisper) "Hi, Sue!"

"Hi!" (Back to browsing kids music selections)

"I have something to ask you...."

Uh oh.

You know when there's an ask by the pastor's wife that you have to put on your full listening gear and defensive shields against 'something.' What is she going to ask? I'm due in a few months. No. No. No....

Diane gently launched into a conversation about 40 Days of Purpose, Rick Warren's best-seller, that we all would study as part of a churchwide focus.

"Would you be part of the Prayer Team?"

Prayer Team? Where did you get my name from?? Who would I work with, because I'm not doing this myself?

"Do you know Kelly?"

Kelly, now a.k.a. Chatty Kelly, was a very distant somebody-who-went-to-our-church person. Our daughters were in the same Sunday School class and wore the same black velvet Disney Princess boots. We rarely spoke.

"She's expecting, too."

Yes. I had noticed another very pregnant woman a few pews up on Sundays. Diane explained that Kelly was doing this, too, and tried to convince me that my past MOPS leadership would serve this effort well, while somehow implying that working with another pregnant mom would make things easier.

"OK," I said. (Could you answer more meekly?)

I introduced myself to Kelly after a service one Sunday morning. I said Diane had asked me to serve on the Prayer Team. What do you want me to do, etc., etc. Kelly--with negative pregnancy hormones in full swing--basically gave me the brush-off.

"Are you going to the meeting today?" she asked.

"," (OK, I could be meeker.)

"Oh." (You know the kind. The 'Oh' of disappointment that said, "Then why are you doing this at all, and why do I have to work with you!?")

Then, she may have said something like, "I'll call you later." But, I clearly remember her turning to talk with another mom, commenting on her cute outfit.


* * *
I would go on to work with another gal on the team, writing short e-mail devotions/prayers to sustain the church during the 40 days. I had Daughter #2. Kelly had her Daughter #2. And after the 40 Days study, a mutual friend asked me to join Kelly's longtime Bible study.

Surprisingly, I said yes. It definitely wasn't about Kelly. It was all about Bible study. Funny thing, though, 4-1/2 years later, Kelly and I have become the best of friends.

Diane probably didn't ask me to join the Prayer Team way back when to have me befriend Kelly. Though Kelly and I certainly weren't going to do it on our own. (HA! We can laugh now, but this was inconceivable at the time, unlike our baby girls.)

God knew that Diane would be a critical link in making a new relationship happen, and He knew the ripple effect that would be created by bringing Kelly and me together. We are indebted to the one who heard God's Word, put in into action, read our eyes and encouraged our hearts. (And, no doubt, said a few prayers along the way, too.)

Thank you, Diane! You will be missed!!

(And now you know the rest of the story.)

Friday, August 1, 2008

You, You Don't....

Summer is a crazy time with kids. We've blogged and E-mailed about it since June! Although we've had some crazy (i.e., frustrating) times here, there have been some special times, too. We knew Daughter #2 was going to summer school a few days a week. Daughter #1 was going to day camp. But, this week, Daughter #1 was home while Daughter #2 was at school. A few hours of just-the-two-of-us. So we christened the start of Mom and Daughter #1 dates with the Shoney's Breakfast Buffet.

Daughter #1 has had many a Daddy/Daughter date, to the point where they have seen the inside of a restaurant way more than my husband and I have alone together in the past nine years. It's rare that Daughter #1 and I have time alone, much less an outing at a restaurant.

So, over powdered donuts and bacon (her) and grits with sausage gravy (definitely not her), we played the American Girl version of "Would You Rather...."--which is far nicer than the typical rising 4th grade version that has some truly gross possibilities. (Daughter #1 enjoys a match with anyone over anything!)
We talked about if it would be nicer with no siblings or 10 siblings. We both had pros and cons. (She has one sibling; I have 3 sisters.) Would we rather eat out every day or at home every day. Again, difficult to pick just one. Even choosing between dancing or singing in front of 10,000 people was a tough call. I figure you can fudge dance steps, even though Simon Cowell would undoubtedly say, "The dancing--if you could call it that--was hideous." Daughter #1 was more ready to sing, having just sung at the YMCA (though not by herself and not for more than 25). ("How about doing "Y-M-C-A" with hand motions in front of 10,000?!")

We closed out our first date with some window shopping at Target. Daughter #1 has some birthday gift cards to spend, and it's a great opportunity to talk about how much things cost (and how to find out how much things cost, as super soakers on summer clearance weren't 'red-tagged' the other day).

As she's entering the second half of her pre-adult years (yikes!), having special time together is a real blessing. You find out a little bit more about who she is, what she likes, what she still needs to know, and how much you don't have in common. (What do you mean you like cats better than dogs?)

And, in a strange capper to the day, the father of one of Daughter #1's classmates called to ask if I would work on the Barack Obama campaign. He said when his daughter talked up the candidate at school that Daughter #1 was one of the most obvious and vocal supporters of his campaign.

"Really!?" I said, having told him that I was undecided. (And too busy with the PTA. I actually have his wife's former volunteer spot!!)

I'm not sure which one of us was more surprised.

Guess Daughter #1 and I need to go out again soon. ("Hey...Panera for bagels tomorrow??")