Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Little Mandy

Another Christmas memory of my childhood is of my mother reading us the same story every Christmas Eve.  I remember she read it from a yellow note pad of paper that had been laminated and stapled together.  The story poem was written in her hand writing.  I don't know where that yellow laminated note pad is now, but I found the poem and have included it below.  It wouldn't be Christmas without Little Mandy.


LITTLE MANDY'S CHRISTMAS-TREE
by James Whitcomb Riley

 
LITTLE Mandy and her Ma

'S porest folks you ever saw!--

Lived in porest house in town.

Where the fence 'uz all tore down.



And no front-door steps at all--

Ist a' old box 'g'inst the wall;

And no door-knob on the door

Outside. My! but they 'uz pore!



Wuz no winder-shutters on,

And some of the winders gone,

And where they 'uz broke they'd pas'e

Ist brown paper 'crost the place.



Tell you! when it's winter there,

And the snow ist ever'where,

Little Mandy's Ma she say

'Spec' they'll freeze to death some day.



Wunst my Ma and me--when we

Be'n to church, and's goin' to be

Chris'mus purty soon,--we went

There--like the Committee sent



And-sir! when we're in the door,

Wuz no carpet on the floor,

And no fire--and heels-and-head

Little Mandy's tucked in bed!



And her Ma telled my Ma she

Got no coffee but ist tea,

And fried mush--and's all they had

Sence her health broke down so bad.



Nen Ma hug and hold me where

Little Mandy's layin' there;

And she kiss her, too, and nen

Mandy kiss my Ma again.



And my Ma she telled her we

Goin' to have a Chris'mus-Tree,

At the Sund'y School, 'at's fer

ALL the childern, and fer her.



Little Mandy think--nen she

Say, "What is a Chris'mus-Tree?" . . .

Nen my Ma she gived her Ma

Somepin' 'at I never saw,



And say she must take it,--and

She ist maked her keep her hand

Wite close shut,--and nen she kiss

Her hand--shut ist like it is.



Nen we comed away. . . . And nen

When it's Chris'mus Eve again,

And all of us childerns be

At the Church and Chris'mus-Tree,--



And all git our toys and things

'At old Santy Claus he brings

And puts on the Tree;--wite where

The big Tree 'uz standin' there,



And the things 'uz all tooked down,

And the childerns, all in town,

Got their presents--nen we see

They's a little Chris'mus-Tree



Wite behind the big Tree--so

We can't see till nen, you know,--

And it's all ist loaded down

With the purtiest things in town!



And the teacher smile and say:

"This-here Tree 'at's hid away

It's marked 'Little Mandy's Tree.'

Little Mandy! Where is she?"



Nen nobody say a word.--

Stillest place you ever heard!--

Till a man tiptoe up where

Teacher's still a-waitin' there.



Nen the man he whispers, so

Ist the Teacher hears, you know.

Nen he tiptoe back and go

Out the big door--ist as slow!



Little Mandy, though, she don't

Answer--and Ma say "she won't

Never, though each year they'll be

'Little Mandy's Chris'mus-Tree'



Fer pore childern"--my Ma says--

And Committee say they guess

"Little Mandy's Tree" 'ull be

Bigger nan the other Tree!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

She's copyin' me!!!

They say that copying someone is the biggest form of flattery.  Well, let the flattering begin!  My dear friend writes a blog that I really enjoy.  She has been telling stories of her family's Christmas memories over the years.  You can stroll on over and visit her if you like.  Just click here and get you a warm cup of tea or coffee and settle in for some great reading.  Reading her blog is like sitting and having a heart to heart conversation with a great friend. (which she is!)  So in honor of my sweet friend, I will share some of my own memories.

I love hearing about what other people do for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Everyone has their own family traditions that make special days "complete" in their minds.  I usually spend part of one class period at the end of school before Christmas break having the students share something about their family's traditions.  It is so much fun to listen to them get excited about the smallest things!  Isn't it really the little things that mean the most?

My Dad is a minister and therefore our family was always extremely busy during the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Christmas music rehearsals, Hanging of the Green, children's choir programs at church, handbells, the Singing Christmas Tree, and of course the Christmas Eve service.  My Dad always planned the Christmas Eve service.  Our extended family lived in Alabama and we were in Florida.  While my grandparents were living we would travel to Alabama for Christmas some years.  We would finish the Christmas Eve service and head home to have my Mother's chili.  We would eat chili and crackers every Christmas Eve.  After that my brother and I would go to bed and around midnight they would come and transfer us to the car for the all night drive.  My Dad would drive all night and my brother and I would fight over who got to sleep across the back seat and who had to sleep in the floorboard of the Oldsmobile.  With not having to wear seat belts, sleeping on all night trips was pretty easy.  When we woke up the next morning we would stop for some breakfast and then finish the drive and arrive by lunchtime.  Somehow Santa always found us at our grandparents' house.  It always amazed me.

One year I remember the usual chaos approaching Christmas.  I remember having to pack the suitcases and get everything ready for the trip.  As we got older we were responsible for packing our own suitcases.  This one particular year my Dad was pushing us to leave on time and wanted to get on the road immediately after the Christmas Eve service was over.  "Are you suitcases packed?"  "Do you have everything you need?"  "Is it ready to go in the car?"  We heard these questions over and over again.  The last statement will forever ring in my ears.  I believe it went something like this...

"If you don't have it when you get up there, we are not buying it!  You will just do without!"

We made the journey and arrived in Alabama.  The next day we were supposed to have a family portrait taken with all the cousins, aunts, uncles and my grandparents.  We went to get dressed for the picture when I heard my parents discussing something quite loudly in the next room.  Apparently my Dad had reminded everyone to pack their suitcases....but forgot to pack his own.  He had no clothes but the clothes on his back.  At least that's the way I remember it.  Nice children would have sat silently and never commented on the irony of the situation....but we had too much fun saying...."If you don't have it....we are not buying it!"
Every time we look at that family portrait and see the shirt my Dad had to go out and buy for the picture we tell the story over and over again.  It never gets old!

And to this day...my favorite saying is....

"If we don't have it when we get there.....we'll just buy it!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Comfort and Joy

I have been thinking a lot lately about loving and worshiping God.  Why is it that we don't just fall face down daily in thanks to God for all his mighty deeds.  Why is it that we don't praise Him continually for his  surpassing greatness.  Our human nature is so tied to "comfort and joy" that we are so fallen when it comes to true worship and UNconditional love.  We are incapable of loving unconditionally apart from God.  He is love.  He alone can give us the desire to love, worship, praise and proclaim his mighty deeds!  


I have no one to blame but myself when I fall short in my worship of my Lord.  I think we all realize and know full well that unless we are saturating our lives with God's Word--living in it---that we will never give Him the glory He deserves.  


I don't know what it's like to suffer deeply.  There are people who are put through dark times like Job.  True, we all suffer and have trials to go through...but some people are really put through dark valley's "of the shadow of death".    There is never a "fence sitter" in this company of people.  They are either going to choose to praise God or curse Him.  Sometimes it is a journey. Everyone faced with suffering on any level will go through the normal human emotional roller coaster.  It is only human for us to struggle with our thoughts and emotions.  It's how we come out on the other side of the trials that shows our heart.  If we choose to remain angry and bitter we allow our circumstances to determine our love for God.  If we choose to praise Him and love him despite our circumstances then we stand to grow closer to Him and love Him even more deeply than before.  


I have never had a "Job" experience....and personally, I am thankful.  I don't know anyone who would consciously choose to walk that road.  I do know people who are walking this road today, though.  Maybe not to the extreme that Job did, but pretty close.  Each one is choosing one road or the other.  I am praying that those who's circumstances are so desperate will surrender to the molding of the Holy Spirit.  I can't even imagine how difficult it is.  I don't even come close to understanding that kind of desperation.  It makes me more mindful of praying for people.  I am watching them...not with judgement or criticism...but with prayerful anticipation of what choice they will make.  How are they responding?  What can I learn?  Intercessory prayer is so important.  I believe that God also teaches us profoundly about Himself through our prayer life and our intersession for others.  I don't believe that I tap into this nearly enough.  There is so much to learn about God in praying for others who are suffering.


I came across an article by John Piper recently.  You can read the full article HERE.


Here is an excerpt from the article that I found very helpful.


Four Lessons from Job

The lessons for us are plain and simple and profound:
  1. Believe with all your heart in the absolute sovereignty of God. Pray that God would give you that conviction.
  2. Believe with all your heart that everything he does is right and good. Pray that God will give you that assurance.
  3. Repent of all the times you have questioned God or found fault with him in the way he has treated you. Pray that God would humble you to see these murmurings as sinful.
  4. Be satisfied with the holy will of God and do not murmur.
Be like the great George Mueller of Bristol England. On the Lord's Day, February 6, 1870, his wife Mary died of rheumatic fever. They had been married 39 years and 4 months. The Lord gave him the strength to preach at her memorial service. He said,
I miss her in numberless ways, and shall miss her yet more and more. But as a child of God, and as a servant of the Lord Jesus, I bow, I am satisfied with the will of my Heavenly Father, I seek by perfect submission to His holy will to glorify Him, I kiss continually the hand that has thus afflicted me.

"...I kiss continually the hand that has thus afflicted me."    Wow.  That is truly a choice of submission.  The pure sweetness and agony of those words have a profound peace wrapped around them.  That is a peace that only God can give.  Peace in the midst of suffering and agony.  Jesus is surely the "Prince of Peace".
He is the source of our "gentle and quiet spirit".  


May Christ reign in our hearts today.....with true peace....that brings true comfort and joy.


  




Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Precious jewels

I have a very unique wedding ring guard.  It is a wrap that has six tiny marquise diamonds...three on each side that surround my engagement ring.  This sweet little ring guard has quite a story.  Before we had children we moved to Florida from Alabama.   I woke up one morning and went about my normal routine.  I showered, dressed, ate breakfast and went to work.  I taught school all day and then went home.  As I was preparing supper, I noticed that one of the diamonds on my ring guard was missing.  I was very upset.  I couldn't imagine where in the world it had fallen out and because of it's delicate size I knew there was no possibility of EVER finding it.  As I sat thinking about the lost gem, I remembered that the night before I had awakened in the night time because I hit my hand on the night stand and it really hurt.  As I was thinking about hitting my hand, I remembered that I always sleep with my hand under my pillow.  Could it possibly be there?  I ran to the bedroom and unmade the bed and ever so slowly lifted my pillow and looked underneath.  I could not believe my eyes!  There was the tiny little diamond!!!  I am still amazed when I think about it.  It was a long time before I got the ring fixed.  Two pregnancies and life got in the way.  One day, many years later, my husband had it fixed and gave it back to me.  I was thrilled.  It was like getting a brand-new ring because I hadn't worn the guard in so long.  We had moved to North Carolina and went back to Florida to visit my family in the summer a few months after I got my ring back.  I was doing some laundry and as I was pulling clothes out of the washer, I knocked my hand on the agitator.  I finished putting the clothes in the dryer and went to put some ice on my hand.  I had hit it pretty hard and it looked as if it would bruise.  As I looked down at my hand.....yep, you guessed it.....the little diamond had once again disappeared!   It had been quite a while since I had knocked my hand.  If the diamond had fallen in the washer...it was gone.  It was so small it would have gone down the little drain holes.  I was once again very sad and disappointed and added quite a bit of frustration to my feelings this time.  How could this happen twice?  I sat there and thought for a few minutes about how I didn't want to tell my husband.  As I was fretting over this news....I noticed I was barefoot.  A fleeting thought went through my mind...a very strange thought.   Was it possible?  I looked on the bottom of my foot and THERE IT WAS...stuck to the bottom of my foot!!!  I can't believe this little diamond has disappeared and been found not once, but twice.  I mean it's not like it's a large diamond that you can see across a room!!  Sadly, the diamond guard once again got put in a drawer and went unfixed for quite some time.  I took it myself over the summer and had it fixed....again.

The story doesn't end here.  Yesterday I was coming out of my classroom and knocked my hand on the doorknob.  I walked down the hallway and into my office and sat down to check email.  I don't know how much time went by when I looked down and noticed that...yes....my diamond was once again....gone.  (the big sigh)  Really?  Again???  I mean this is three times in 18 years that the same diamond is lost and then found.  What are the odds of that?  I got up and thought that it was useless.  The hallway tile is white....and very dirty. Many feet had trampled the hallway.  I walked down the hallway to my room anyway.  I walked slowly and looked at every inch of the floor between my office and my classroom.  No diamond.  I got to the door of the classroom where I'd knocked my hand.  I looked down on the carpet....and there it was!  It was so small I almost missed it.  I laughed out loud.  The odds of this happening three times and being found three times were so high that it was quite comical. 

As I put my ring up today in a safe place to await the day I can once again have it fixed, I was thinking about that little gem.  Valuable, yet small.  It is a diamond and diamonds are precious.  It's size makes it vulnerable.
I got to thinking that God looks at me as a precious jewel.  I look at me as "small" and "hard to see" sometimes---not very significant.  God is so faithful.  No matter how many times I get "lost" along this journey, He always finds me and fixes what is broken.  I am never lost to Him.  No matter how small or how lost in the crowd I may feel, God knows where to find me in that haystack and He fixes me over and over again.  He never throws me away!  He never gives up and leaves me there for the vacuum! 

I will take my ring and have it fixed again.  And I will remember how much my God loves me and considers me His jewel. 

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another,
And the LORD listened and heard them;

So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the LORD
And who meditate on His name.
“ They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts,
“ On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”
Malachi 3:15-17

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'Tis the season to be

What will you choose to "be" this Advent and Christmas season?  Busy?  Stressed?  Happy?  Tired? Overworked?   Bitter?  Lonely?   Sad?  Hurried?  Rushed?  Frustrated?  Excited?  Occupied? Generous?  Joyful?  Broke?

For  years I have been many of the things in the above list----sadly, the negative ones.  This season of the year has often found me waking up each day wishing I could pull the covers back over my head and hide.  One more program.  One more rehearsal.  One more meeting.  One more field trip.   One more concert.  One more church function.  One more project.   I met each morning with dread and exhaustion. I would hear about Advent and the anticipation we should feel about the coming of Jesus.  My joy was lost.  I used to enjoy all the activities and "stuff" I was doing.  But as I've gotten older and had children I realized how the time is slipping away.  My schedule had gotten so packed with "good Christmas things" that I was starting to dislike it more and more.  Bringing others cheer was causing me bitterness.

Now, I don't think that the actual programs and activities were wrong.  The problem was that it wasn't in moderation and balance.....it was in excess.  Excess=too much!

The brakes had to be put on to slow the speed...and at one point I even came to a complete stop. Something had to change.  We made some significant decisions within our family about how we would spend this past year.  We have done pretty well sticking to our "plan".  All in all, life has slowed down to a steady pace instead of a runaway train.

Advent.  I have heard about Advent.  I have participated in the lighting of the candles and the meaing behind each one.  But I don't believe I have ever lived it.   Christmas comes and I am not prepared.  I have often fretted over not being prepared with gift purchases or travel plans.  But I don't feel I am ever spiritually prepared for Christmas.  By the time it actually arrives, I usually crash.  I have nothing left.  I don't really want to celebrate because it comes so quickly when I finally have time to think about it. 

 Tonight we began our Advent devotions.  We opened the first window on the Advent calendar and read the first lesson in our study as a family.  The investment of time together studying God's Word has been such a blessing to me this past year.  Consistency with family worship has shown through our relationships with God and one another.    I am so grateful to my husband for leading our family in our times together.  It is never time consuming or anything that takes lots of planning.  We just open up the Word and read together and discuss.  We pray.  Sometimes we even sing!  I hope that my girls will always remember the times we spend together and they will continue to spend time with God, and lead their own children, "talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates".  (Deuteronomy 11) 

This time of year is still busy.  There is a lot to do and accomplish in the lives of my children, my job, my husband's job, church, and family.  But God has given me perspective.  He has given me His wisdom in making some choices for my family that I think have made all the difference in our outlook on each day.  I no longer dread the morning.  (most days, anyway!!!)  I still may need an extra cup of coffee, and we may eat out a little more during the month of December while rushing here and there.  But the rushing isn't nearly as out of control and the schedule is more balanced.  It is my prayer that I will be prepared for Christmas when it gets here.  Prepared in my heart, that is.  Come, thou long expected Jesus!

'Tis the season to......BE. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Making memories and passing on traditions

We shared our Thanksgiving meal with some friends and neighbors this year.  We really enjoyed the fellowship.  We contributed to the meal as well, but it wasn't exactly the same as doing the whole thing in our kitchen.  I really wanted to make sure I had a chance to pass down our own traditions to my girls, so we decided to celebrate again, today....the day after Thanksgiving. 

Yesterday we made our traditional "dressin'' which starts with a whole baked hen in the oven.  Meredith learned how to crumble the cornbread, add the eggs, and add the stock until "it looks right".  No measuring...just making it look right.  We also tasted (prior to the eggs, of course) to make sure there was enough seasoning, enough onions and enough crunch of the celery.  She then learned the proper way to mix it all up....with your hands.  So fun....and no spoon needed.  It is quite therapeutic actually.  She even learned how to add a couple of pieces of loaf bread by putting them under the faucet to wet them and squeeze those and add to the mixture.  Lots and lots of "hands in" activity!  It will take a few more times of doing this for her to actually get this on her own, but she is well on her way at 11 years old.  Never too early to learn to make dressing.

Today we moved on to the girls' favorite things.  Janey is sadly a potato girl.  She could live on mashed potatoes.  So today she peeled them all!!!  It is time for her to learn how much work goes into those taters!  It took her quite awhile, but she did a great job with the potato peeler.  After they were done, she did the honors of mashing them.....but as is our family tradition, there must be the appropriate amount of lumps still in those taters!  She also made the gravy.  This year I used a simple packet, but plan to teach her to make it from scratch soon. 

Meredith was in charge of the deviled eggs and sweet potatoes.  She cut all the eggs and mixed the yolks with mayo and mustard until it was "the right color of yellow" as my Mother says.  I'll never forget the first Thanksgiving that Brad and I spent alone and I was trying to make Mother's potato salad.  I didn't know how much mustard to add, so I had him call her for me and ask her.  She told him "until it's the right color of yellow".....and that totally blew his mind.  I knew what she meant.  So Meredith mixed all her ingredients without measuring...because there really aren't measurements...it just needs to be the right consistency, the right "color of yellow" and taste great!  She did an awesome job.  She used the little cookie dough scoop to fill them and we thoroughly enjoyed them.  She asked me while we were cooking why they were called deviled eggs.  According to many sources, the term deviled eggs was first seen in print in 1786 in the Oxford Dictionary in reference to cooking.  You can follow my link to read about it.  We learned quite a bit!

Next Meredith made sweet potato casserole.  We even used Splenda in place of the white sugar so we could save a few calories.  She used the hand mixer and made the potatoes and then the topping of pecans, brown sugar (no substitutions there, though), flour and butter.  It was quite tasty as well.

There were other dishes---broccoli and craisin salad, rolls, cranberry sauce that looks like the can (read my last post), roasted chicken, and of course iced tea!  What a fun day.  All three girls in the kitchen.  Brad has a bad cold and so he was very happy to eat and then be sent back to the sofa for the football game while I allowed the girls the wonderful pleasure of cleaning up after the meal.  (There are perks to them getting older and learning to cook!)

Happy Thanksgiving!!  I am truly happy.  I am loving being a mother and teaching my girls to love others, love the Lord, respect their elders, have manners, not just be grateful....but show it and say it, and passing on memories and traditions that I hope they will never forget.  I have enjoyed talking to them about our family and our relatives and how I learned to do these things.  I love sharing stories about our family and making sure they have a tight connection to their roots. 

As we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade yesterday, they decorated the tree and commented on all their homemade ornaments, remembering when and where they made them.  They decorated the house with all our trinkets and fixed them just like they wanted them.  They set out the manger scene and made sure everything was placed "just right" in their minds of how it might have been the night Jesus was born.  The fire was on and the Lucy (the cat) was watching.  Such a simple scene brought me such pleasure.  I am very thankful to be alive and to have such a precious family. 

Now.....where are those leftovers?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving, rotten fruit, and the real Santa Claus

Freeze!  Time out!  That is what Thanksgiving is more and more as the years go by.  It is a pit stop in the middle of a race through the December.  The nature of my job makes December extra busy beyond the normal busyness.  But, I enjoy sharing about God's gift to the world through music during this time of year.  Some of the most beautiful music is Christmas music and Advent music.  Thanksgiving comes at just the right time.....time to take a time out and yell  "Freeze!" much like we did when we were kids.  It also brings back lots of memories.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  

I bought some clementines at the grocery store this past weekend.  I love oranges and tangerines.  I grew up in Florida and was spoiled to have about six orange trees, two grapefruit trees, and one tangerine tree right in my backyard.  Of course while I was growing up I didn't realize how lucky I was.  It was hard to count myself "blessed" when I had to go around the backyard every Saturday with a heavy duty black trash bag and pick up all the rotten fruit that fell to the ground.  The longer you waited to pick it up, the mushier it became.  I would reach under the tree and pick up a piece of fruit, only to have my fingers go straight through the rind.  Yeah...yuck and "ewwww" is right.  But as I sit here and eat my little clementine, I remember coming home from school and my mother cutting a whole in the top on an orange picked right off the tree so I could squeeze and suck the juice out of it.  I also remember my Daddy getting up on Saturday mornings, or on special occasions and squeezing a gallon of fresh orange juice with the pulp still in it.  Mmmm.  Nothing like fresh squeezed juice.  Now as I go to the store and look at the citrus, I have a very hard time buying any.  I do every now and then because I crave it...but it is never quite as delicious as it was at home.

I also have such fond memories about Thanksgiving growing up.  It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  The T.V. doesn't budge from the parade channel until I see him.  He's the real one, you know.  All those other Santa's out there are fake.  But the Santa in the Macy's parade is the real deal....the big guy.  I love watching all the dancers, the singers, and the helium balloons.  Sadly, the performers over the years from the "pop" world aren't as good as they used to be, but I still look for Kermit, and some of my favorite "non-human" performers.  I always laugh at the hundreds of John Jacobson "show choir" singers and dancers, and I love the Rockettes.  

Our family has it's favorite additions to the meal.  We have the best dressin' in the world that my Mother has always made and now I make it for my family.  We also love deviled eggs, sweet potato pie, and lots of other things.  One thing we always laugh about is our preference for the cranberry sauce....the kind that comes in a can.....with no berries.  The jellied cranberry sauce that looks like the can when it comes out and makes that special sound when it releases from the can...."thhhhhhhhlop".   Yes, I know people make home made cranberry sauce and have special recipes, etc...but I just have a special love affair with good old Ocean Spray.  :)  It's also a lot less stressful!

Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without a nice long nap.  I think I am really looking forward to that the most.  It's nippy here in North Carolina.  I have the fire going.  I'm lonesome for my family.  I have lots of great memories in my mind that will keep me company.    Comfort.  That is what Thanksgiving is.  Pure comfort.  Time to "freeze"....time to reflect....time to count my many blessings and praise my heavenly Father for his never-ending love.  I am spoiled.  Truly spoiled by Jesus.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Embracing my place

I am feeling a bit reflective today.  It is lunchtime and I usually rush through lunch....which leads to either indigestion or just plain feeling yucky.  Today I decided to write a little and "journal" here during my lunch break.  Sometimes journaling is the only way to get the thoughts out of the head so I can move on to the issues of the day. 

We had a death in our family this past week and our weekend was filled with the details surrounding the funeral and such.  I am so thankful that even though the events were very sad, I was able to spend some time with my parents that I would not have been able to due to the schedule of every day life.  We had a nice visit amidst the hurried events of the week and weekend.  I enjoy hearing all about what they are doing and about people I know from my hometown.  I think one of the things I am missing a lot these days is living among my "history".  I am envious of those who are raising their families among the people who raised them.....parents, church family, friends, neighbors, old teachers, etc...It is so neat to see people raising their families in the place where they were raised.   They are bringing their children up in the church they were baptized in.  Sometimes I get stuck in the "wishing well" of thoughts about that.  I wish I had my old friends around.  I wish my children could grow up knowing their kids. I have been looking at pictures that make me long to be connected.  I guess it isn't meant for me to be connected with those lives as much as I would like to.  I see their events and snapshots and wish I was there in the picture, too.  I wish I had the familiar feeling of being around people I have known all my life and who have known me since I was a child.  It's the "Mayberry" that I've always dreamed of having. 

God has other plans for me, I suppose.  I am ready to embrace those plans and embrace my place.  I want to have deep relationships.  I find that hard in this day and age.  No one can stand or sit still long enough to listen.  I often feel as if I'm keeping someone from something if I talk about my own life.  I also wonder if people will actually remember what we've talked about.  There are a few people in my life who really listen.  I am so appreciative and thankful for them.  I want to be a good listener.  I think it's important to listen and follow up so people know they are loved and thought about and "heard".  Those are important building materials in a relationship.

While I've been dreaming of yesterday, God has shown me that I am missing out on so much joy today.  One of my girls awakens very cheerfully each day, while the other one tends to greet the morning with a scowl and a groan.  The morning scrooge has become quite unpleasant to be around in the mornings and tends to lean toward the "mean" side of the street until she's had her breakfast.  In order to remind her to begin her day on the right foot, we started waking our girls up every morning with Psalm 118:24.  We say, "This is the day the Lord has made"...and they are to respond (cheerfully, I might add) "Let us rejoice and be glad in it."  The first few days each of them responded enthusiastically.  After all, it was a "new game" in their minds.  After about three days, the "new" wore off.  My morning scrooge gritted her teeth on day four and responded with venom.  Cheerful child overheard and responded with sugar dripping from her lips.  We got quite the chuckle over that morning.  Thinking about the "game" we play with our morning words reminds me that I don't live out the scripture I have challenged my children with.  I do not live each day with joy because God made it and has a plan....already planned.....already in motion.....a perfect and beautiful plan.  I need to join in His masterful symphony.  I wonder what beautiful passages I have missed....what solos, duets and exciting cadenzas that have gone unplayed because I have been sorting through my 8-tracks with nothing to play them on. 

I am ready to embrace my place. 

"This is the day that the Lord has made."   I will rejoice and be glad in it. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Could you keep it down a little?

Nothing deeply profound to talk about today....just a bit of a written rant.  Is it just me, or are young people today louder than they used to be?  There is also a feeling of entitlement and arrogance that I have noticed growing "louder" over the last few years.  I have been teaching for almost 20 years.  I can remember a time when it was understood that when one enters a building--a place of business, worship, or school--he/she enters and speaks at a normal, quiet level, so as not to disturb things that might be in progress.  I know that children learn the difference between "inside voices" and "outside voices".  When did it become acceptable to yell/scream/holler inside a building?  To top it all off, when it is brought to their attention, they simply ignore the request to lower their volume and continue on at the same level.  They don't even realize they are speaking so loudly....it is their normal way of acting on a daily basis.  The volume is bad enough, but the disrespect upon being asked to lower the volume by continuing to "own their territory" by their volume and behavior is what is disturbing.

I believe the noise is a symptom of a much deeper problem.  When I enter a building, I tend to enter quietly.  I don't know exactly what is going on inside the establishment and I was taught that one should always use their "inside voice".  I hate going to stores, restaurants, and other places where people are carrying on at such a volume that I cannot even talk to the person I am with, much less enjoy time by myself.  Cell phone usage is out of control in public establishments....and people on the phones are talking much louder than they would to someone sitting next to them.   The thing that I just can't get over is the noise level inside.  The students who have lockers in my building are very loud.  You can hear them coming down the sidewalk....and understand what they are saying....while they are still outside.  They then proceed to BUST in the door and continue their conversations and a decibel level that is just not acceptable.  In order to get their attention, one literally has to yell over them in order to be heard.  It isn't just my building, it's everywhere.  It isn't just school, it's everywhere!  What is going on?  Are kids losing their hearing?  Are they so out of control that they do not have enough manners to speak quietly and in a normal tone of voice.  There are NO normal conversations happening.  They are all very loud and very bold. 

I'm weary.  I feel like they look at me as if I'm always getting on to them for being loud.  I purposely avoid areas and places that I find it so out of control.  I feel as if I am the only one who ever comments on their volume....at least that is the reaction I receive from the noisy bunch.  So why are they so bold?  There is no consideration for others.  None.  The fact that people are working or a class is going on does not enter their mind.  I think our society has become so self centered that we hardly ever consider others before ourselves.

I really don't know where to begin to solve this issue.  For the time being I guess I will be the "mean lady" who always tells them to "lower their voices"....and keep a bottle of Advil handy.

 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!

"Abram has learned to laugh! He has found some JOY!"  These were the words written in an email today from a teacher at our school who has just adopted a little boy from the Congo.  This little boy is old enough to have learned to walk, but is just now learning to crawl.....just now gaining some weight......and having his needs met by his new mother and father in only just the past couple of days.  Both parents are now in the Congo and one will be headed home to care for their other two children while the other stays to wrap up the last bit of paperwork needed before returning to the states. 

I was thinking about the statement she wrote at the very end of her latest email update.  This little boy has "learned to laugh".  That statement took my breath away.  There is not a day that doesn't go by that my children aren't laughing and giggling so much that I have to sometimes put a stop to it.  In the light of her words.....I think I will think a little harder before I stop them next time.  My children are bursting with joy...daily.  I thank Jesus for this.  He is the only source of that joy.  We are not capable of understanding true joy apart from Christ.  Sure...people have moments of happiness and laughter....but to experience true joy....that can only come from Jesus.  This little boy, Abram is experiencing joy for probably the first time in his life and it is truly because of the love of Jesus in his new mother and father.  They love each other with love that comes from Christ.  They loved this baby oceans away with a love that only Christ could have placed within them.  And now they have loved Abram and been caring and meeting his desperate needs for only a few short days and hours....and he has "learned to laugh..he has found some JOY!" 

I am ashamed of the days I do not walk in the joy of the Lord.  It is because of my own selfishness that I waste those minutes and hours wallowing in my own misery.  Even on my WORST days I should be walking in joy.  I talk about singing with joy in my class quite a bit.  We laugh quite a bit.  We rehearse hard and continually remind ourselves that we are learning to sing "skillfully and shout with joy!" (Psalm 33:3)  In learning our music skillfully we are doing our very best as an offering to our Lord.  I tell the kids that the joy from their heart should be unmistakably on their faces!  But that's just it.  I know that they are young.  Some are Christians....and probably there are some that aren't.  You can't fake true joy.   When you have that joy in your heart others WILL see it.  I hope that as these teenagers grow in their faith and in their ability to confidently express themselves through music and performance that they will be able to show this joy more and more through their singing.  It is such a precious sight.  I see it when I look in their faces in class.  I see it when the music is "just right" and "clicks".  I see glimpses in the faces of those who are quiet and withdrawn.....or "too cool" to show any emotion at all.  Oh, Lord, that You would live in them so fully and deeply that they can't help but show it.  Barriers of insecurity and fear would melt away and become nonexistent.  The eyes that cut from side to side----looking for the approval of the "keeper of the coolness" would look only at Jesus with confidence.....and their hearts would "Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things!" (Psalm 98:1)

"Abram has learned to laugh!  He has found some JOY!" 

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.  Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” Psalm 51:7-12

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Unplug

I have recently heard comments like these:

"My child is so bored at school.  The teachers don't make class interesting or engaging."

"I don't enjoy church.  It's not fun.  It's just boring."

"My child doesn't like school.  They don't like listening to a boring lecture."

"We need to teach our teachers to be more engaging."

This disturbs me on so many levels.  I'll try and keep it to one perspective this go 'round...and that is from the perspective of a teacher.

By whose standard are we measuring the characteristic of "engaging"?  The definition of the adjective engaging is..."winning; attractive; pleasing".  Now I will be the first to agree that a good teacher can hold the attention of their class.  A good teacher is interesting, wise, encouraging, and hopefully inspiring.  This is getting more and more difficult in our society due to the fact that a vast majority of our students are so "plugged in" to other things that frankly are (to them) much more "attractive, pleasing, and winning".  Video games, electronics, movies, and other media are so technologically advanced that humans really have a hard time competing when the stimuli people are used to is so glamorous and high-tech.  To the average teenager, seeing a Hollywood blockbuster version of a classic novel will "win" out almost every time.  You can finish it in under two hours, the visuals are stunning, there are sound effects that you would never conjure up in your own head, you can instantly download the soundtrack to your ipod, phone or computer, and the characters are all created for you....accent, looks, wardrobe, and attitude.  Not many students (though there are some thankfully) would choose to read night after night when given the opportunity to just "see it" and have it spoon-fed to them.  Sadly, the Hollywood version isn't the author's work.....it is an interpretation meant to sell millions of dollars worth of tickets.  Who cares if they throw in a little extra "va-va-va-voom" here and there to "attract and please" the audience.  


If you really want to get picky, I would ask parents today, "Is your child engaging (verb)  in school?"  Do they purposefully engage themselves in the great conversation that their teachers are prompting them to have?  Are they reading their assignments?  Are they preparing for the conversation to be had in class the next day so they can be part of the discussion?  Probably not.  Most want to be given what is necessary to pass the test and "move on".  Who cares if they learn anything?  It's sad.  Now, there are some students who really get it and buy into the idea that they are part of the equation.  You get out of things what you put into them.  Where I get weary is in the realization that many parents (not all) want the teachers to do whatever it takes to engage their child, motivate them to learn, get them excited about the material.......and this at times can be summed up by saying "entertain them".  I love teaching.  I love motivating and inspiring students.  But to be quite frank.....it is very hard to compete with what the parents are buying and providing for their kids, or allowing their kids to purchase for themselves.  Television alone is bad enough.

I recently heard a talk radio broadcast about the television programs that are geared toward teens.  Many are rated "PG13" or "TV14" and kids watch them because the rating says it's okay.  Ha!  Who decided that the ratings were the expert in what is "okay" for your child?  Most parents don't even know what their kids are watching.....or even worse, are watching with them.  Do a little research on the shows out there today and also take time to listen (or read Facebook posts) about who is watching what and you would be shocked at what they are tuning into each week.  The subject matter is appalling and way beyond what any teenager should be exposed to.  The talk show host was complaining about the offerings but ended up saying, "But what are you going to do when that is all that's on for them to watch?"  Really?  Do they need a neon sign saying, "Turn it off.  Go get a book.  Have a conversation.  Unplug."?  I am amazed that it would never occur to a parent to say "no".  If your only options are raw chicken or spoiled milk maybe skipping that meal would be the better option.

Yes.  Teachers should be engaging.  I'm all for making sure that we have the right teachers in place that inspire our children.  But against whose standards?  Hollywood's?  I don't think so.  (anyway...they don't pay teachers what they pay actors.)  Unplug your kids.  It might surprise you how creative, imaginative, and yes.....talkative they might become if they didn't have so much other stimuli getting in the way of relationships.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tears on my pillowcase and carrots in my stew

I was folding laundry tonight and I had a few odd pieces that had been washed in a load from Saturday left to fold.  A lone sock here, a washcloth there, a dishtowel....and a pillowcase.  It is a white one with little pale pink flowers on it.  As I folded the pillowcase I started to cry.  It's such a random thing.  As I was folding the pillowcase a flood of memories came rushing through my mind and heart.  It reminded me of my grandmother ("Nana")  for some reason.  My brother and I would stay with my Nana and Papa in the summer for a couple of weeks every year.  I have a lot of specific memories about their house.  One of them was the sheets.  They were always soft.  I always slept in the "white" bedroom.  We referred to it as the "white" bedroom because it had a white-washed bedroom suit and the other bedroom where my brother slept had a black dresser.  The "white room" was kind of fancy in my mind, and the sheets had little pink flowers on them.  She also had a closet full of high-heeled shoes with extremely pointy heels and pointy toes.  I loved trying on those shoes.  She also had drawer full of jewelry that I would sift through for hours.  Their house also had floor vents for the air and heat.  I used to love when the air would come on at night and they would quietly rattle.  It soothed me to sleep....that and the fan my brother insisted upon having in his room that blew directly on his face. 

A few days ago I was in the kitchen preparing supper.  I had started some stew meat in the crockpot earlier in the day and around noon I put a few potatoes in and went to get out the bag of carrots to cut up and add to make a stew.  As I was cutting the carrots, I had a flash back of my maternal grandmother, "BB".  I can't remember how old I was, but I know I was very, very young because she died while I was a little girl.  We were visiting "BB" and "Pop".  My "BB" had just cleaned her kitchen and it smelled of clean Ivory soap (the bar kind).  She always had Ivory soap in the house.  I remember wanting to "cook".  I wasn't old enough and she wasn't making anything at the time.  She let me stand on a chair in her clean kitchen and cut up carrots with a dull knife and put them in a pot of cold water and pretend to cook by adding salt and pepper.  I also remember being in her kitchen and eating frozen strawberries that came in little cartons like the small school lunch  milk cartons.  She always had them in the freezer because she made homemade strawberry cakes.  My daughter is turning 11 this week and has asked me to make her a strawberry cake.  I also remember that "BB" always had real Coca Cola in the bottles for us drink.  It was so much fun flipping off the bottle caps. 

I don't know exactly why I have had these memories flood my mind this past week.  I guess it is because my girls have been talking about my parents a lot for the past couple of weeks and how much they miss them.  I think I am lonesome for home.  I am also sad because none of my grandparents lived to see my girls. I am am the youngest and only grandchild that did not already have children when they died.  My father's parents were both at my wedding.  I am very thankful for that.  Both my mother's parents died when I was very young.  I don't know why the emptiness grips me so strongly right now.   I think it's because it's fall.  Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, but it makes me homesick.  I really can't put my finger on why because I grew up in Florida and we didn't have fall!!!  No leaves changed and it was just plain hot at football games and trick-or-treating.  I know there must be some literary or deep meaning behind why I love autumn so much but at the same time it makes me sad.  Frankly, I don't have enough energy or strength in my heart to sort that out.....it would just make me cry more. 

So come, autumn, come!  But please blow away the melancholy in my heart.   

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Internal or external

I read this morning about Noah.  I was trying to imagine the world being so evil and corrupt that there was no good inside anyone at all.  In Genesis 6:5 it says, 

"The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time."

I know I am sinful, but thank the Lord that I am saved and forgiven and have Christ living in me.  At least some of the time my thoughts aren't evil.  Everyone struggles with both internal and external sin.  I think that if we spent more time on our thought life, our external sins would be less.  I also read that we should live daily to have a "mind held captive to Christ."  That sure would solve everything....or at least begin to make a dent in our fallen souls.  I am so thankful that Christ died for me and took all my nastiness on Himself in order to allow me the privilege of having this relationship with Him.  Yes, at times it is a struggle.  At times it is really tough.  But look at the alternative-----"every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time."   

I let my evil nature spill out anger on to my daughter yesterday.  Even though she was forgetful.....I had no right......no cause.......and really NO REASON OR EXCUSE to spill my own frustrations out on her.  If only I could show a spec of the patience (makrothumia--Greek word....look it up. Very interesting) that God shows me minute by minute of every day.   Thankfully my precious daughter forgave me.  
I love her.  I really really love her.  I thank God for showing me how much of a fool I am at times.

I am very thankful for God's grace yesterday, today, and I know.......tomorrow.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Maker or Keeper?

Maker or keeper. There is a difference.....a big one. I have been studying the fruit of the Spirit. One of the nine characteristics is peace. I heard a quote once that went something like this: "Peace isn't the absence of conflict; rather it is the presence of Christ." He is our peace.


Peacekeepers are people who don't want to rock the boat. They are the ones who see the tower of blocks and don't want anyone to add or take away a block because the entire tower will come tumbling down! So they run around "keeping the peace" at all costs. They don't say anything. They don't confront anything. They don't reach out for fear of rejection. As long as things remain just like they are everything will be "okay". Really? Not so. People are often afraid of speaking up or confronting a situation because they might be rejected or hated. They could possibly lose friends. Peacekeepers are keeping a false peace. Things under the surface are coming to a slow boil and if the burner is turned up even one notch...............whoops! False peace. Who needs it? This "lie" is unhealthy and causes more stress and turmoil than any shred of peace. It is an exhausting practice.

Peacemakers are people who enter in and make a difference. They aren't hot-headed or arrogant. They aren't pushy. They don't run around trying to continue the lie. Jesus was a peacemaker. He came into the world to make a difference. He confronted people when they were doing wrong. He entered into situations where people needed help. He offended people---not in a negative way, but by simply telling the Truth. He made people mad. He was rejected. At time people mocked Him, and others followed Him and were fascinated by Him.  It was usually one way or another--they either accepted His Truth or rejected it.  The water didn't remain still.....it was quite rough.  But in the midst of the upheaval around Him he brought peace by His words, presence and Truth.  He wasn't concerned with his own life, but with what His Father in Heaven had sent him to do. We are so concerned with how things will affect our universe....our little world....the one that revolves around "me". How will I be treated if I confront this situation? Will they hate me? Will they still want to be my friend? If your friend is caught in a sin trap and won't get help, you need to step in and help by confronting them and encouraging them to stop or get help. If they don't then you should take it one step further and go to someone who can help them. Yes, if you step in you will "rock the boat"...."upset the apple cart"......."pop the balloon"......and possibly be hated. Maybe, maybe not. But in the end, it might save a life. It might cause someone to turn to Christ. It is what Jesus did. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should...

The saying, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should" has come across my radar many times lately.  I have encountered it on the Internet dealing with sports.  One college football team is painting their field red in response to Boise State's infamous blue playing field.  This is going to look like a blood bath for goodness sake.  Before we know it, there will be all colors of the rainbow on football fields everywhere in order to gain notoriety for lesser known or publicized schools.  Can you imagine looking at certain colors out there for two hours straight?  Yellow?  Red?  Blue?  Purple?  Orange?  I'm afraid that the human eye might not be pleased and comfortable after awhile.

I have also encountered this phrase in a sermon preached recently by my husband on "Designer Roles". The scripture deals with the roles of men and women in the church--particularly corporate worship.  Part of the message dealt with what one would consider appropriate dress for worship.  Do we choose to wear things "just because we can"?  Should we?  What is our motive?  Does it draw attention (either positive or negative) to us rather than Christ?  People get very defensive when it comes to what they wear.  It leads us to really ask ourselves the motive behind how we choose to adorn ourselves, especially on the Lord's day and in His house....but also in daily living.

I have also contemplated the "just because" statement when it comes to television, movies, music and other media.  So many people today choose to watch television programs and other things simply because it what is available to them.  They figure, "these are my choices....I will watch TV or movies....therefore I will choose what I feel and believe is the best choice for me from what is presented to me by the media."  As a teacher who deals with music choices on a regular basis, I am often faced with eager students who love their musical choices so much that they want to share them with everyone.  The show GLEE, for instance is brought up regularly as "the best thing ever" and I am begged (yes begged) on a weekly basis to include arrangements of songs from this television show for us to perform.  My response to these students is usually to go and print the lyrics off, study and consider them in the light of who we are as a school and a choir, study them in light of who we are as believers in Christ, and return to me with their rationale for why this would be a good choice for our choir to sing.  Most of the time I either do not get a response at all, or some of the deep thinkers will come back and say, "I see what you mean.  But I still like the song."  Here again as Christians we are faced with decision we have to make in regards to what we have shoved in our faces by the mass media.  The latest bands of the day, the most popular singers and celebrities, the newest television show that "everyone is watching", the newest book series out (and we want our kids to read, right?), the box office smash that is a "must see in theaters", and the clothes that are "in style" or on the racks.  Many Christians fall prey to the mentality that "this is what the world is like"....."this is what my choices are and I must choose something"......"everyone is going/watching/reading/listening".....and again I hear in my mind.....

"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

We are told in Romans 12:2,  "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  (emphasis mine)  Apparently these people were battling "the world" like we are today.  If it was bad then, it is even worse now...and going downhill fast.  It is only when we stop conforming to the world and giving into the choices it presents us that our mind can begin to be transformed and be renewed.  And THEN we will be able to discern what God's good, pleasing and perfect will is for us.  Looking for "God's will"?  Transform your mind by being different and rising above the scum and filth offered to us on a silver platter with glitz and glamour and "fun" decorating the package.  That enticing package is a path of poison.  It is the slow kind of poison that eats away little by little and often without our knowledge......like a hidden cancer that rears it's ugly head at Stage 4 without any prior symptoms or warnings.


Just because I have greasy fast food available to me at every stoplight in the city doesn't mean I should eat this every day.


Just because I am old enough to drink and smoke doesn't mean it is good for me.


Just because the radio is playing a song that verbally raps domestic violence in the name of "it's not right" on the other side doesn't mean that those words and phrases aren't penetrating my heart and mind. Maybe I shouldn't listen and repeat.   (and sing the tune over and over again in my head)


Just because "everyone" (and I use that sarcastically) in America is watching a certain television show doesn't mean I should.  


Just because the books are on the shelf doesn't mean I should read them.


Just because.....


We live in a wonderfully free world.  I am so thankful to have choices.  I am thankful that I have things at my fingertips to enjoy, read, listen to, watch and experience.  But making wise choices is tough when the crowd is moving in mass toward something.  It is so easy to follow the crowd.....or even get caught up in the crowd unintentionally---whether that is by mistake or association.  Matthew 7:13-14 says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.   But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."  Does this sound like a party train to you?  Does this sound like you will be in mass company?  It sounds a little lonely if you think about it.  But it is what God has told us in His word and it simply means....


"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."