Saturday, May 31, 2008

Summer Fun, Had Me A Blast

1. Grilling.
2. Fresh fruits & veggies.
3. Fresh air!
4. The smell of freshly cut grass.
5. Flowers.
6. Longer daylight.
7. No snow to clean off the cars.
8. No bundling up.
9. Sleeping with open windows & ceiling fans.
10. Fabulous beach wear.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Yard

As a beautiful Memorial Day draws to a close, I'm glad we had nothing to do because we actually got a lot done! We bought a few flats of flowers and did a little planting. Pics posted here.
The only item potentially requiring explanation is the chicken bath. That's right, the chicken bath. A few days back I was inside when the Mr. hollered,
"Sar', come out here! There's a baby chick hopping around out here!"
Imagine my surprise that we had chickens running wild in our yard. The baby chick hopped right on through the fence never to be seen again. I suspect it was a sparrow but I'll leave that to your discretion. Anyway, as mentioned prior, my grampa's bird bath broke several years ago but the bowl remained intact at the side of the garage. I decided to fill it with water, put a sun dial in the middle and provide a bath for chickens who cannot fly up to a regulation bird bath. The secondary gain is that Donny can drink from it easily as he has taken to drinking from the bird bath by standing on his two hind feet. I know, I know. I'm trying to stop him.
Hope your day was beautiful too!


Happy Memorial Day! Today is my normal day off following working the weekend. The Mr. and Daboyz are both off so we fell into a holiday together. Later we'll grill swordfish and veggies. Nothing spectacular on the agenda. I'm a big believer in letting the day unfold and not over scheduling. Those kinds of days off leave me more worn out that working!
It was sixty three degrees at 7:30 this morning when Donny and I headed outside to check out the weather. The sky is overcast. It reminded me of all those summer days behind me with nothing on the agenda then either. With so much change in the world and in me; some things stay constant. I try to keep my heart and mind open and aware so that the good foundations aren't forgotten. To no one's surprise, this morning reminded me of summer mornings on The Farm. Living in my grandparent's house makes that kind of inner time-travel even easier, although those memories are never far away. But after The Farm was gone, the nothing on the agenda days of summer were still captured in this very house and this very yard that Donny is right now sniffing with great enthusiasm.
The Mr. has hung a bird feeder for me that has become quite a wild life preserve! Sunday morning as I drank my coffee before work, I saw a blue jay, cardinal, robin, crow, sparrows, doves, black/gray/brown squirrels and a rabbit. And I had just commented to Trish that we have no rabbits! My grampa had bird feeders all over the yard. My grampa also had a cement bird bath that now sits broken at the side of the garage. The Mr. bought me a new cement bird bath for Mother's Day along with that bird feeder and some hanging petunias. It couldn't be any easier to enjoy those old summer memories for me.
I am blessed that my childhood summers were entirely unstructured and uneventful. I never awoke looking for an adventure. I was taught that having nothing to do was an adventure and privilege in itself. I was a child who awoke in Irish Hills and came downstairs to find my grandparents and parents drinking coffee and chatting. Windows open in the no-air conditioning farmhouse with muggy good-smelling summer breezes. Often overcast days, like this one. They didn't bother us. No one sat at breakfast bemoaning the clouds. Days were just accepted as created by God. No sense getting upset over such a thing as weather.
The summer time was gift enough with no school and waking up to grown-up voices and the smell of coffee assuring me that I was with the people who loved me most. On The Farm was a hammock on a frame. It was green with white fringe. The fabric reminded me of heavy denim and the fringe was like rope hanging off the sides. You had to kind of launch yourself into the center of the hammock to avoid either being dumped right back off rather unceremoniously OR the thing going into a spin altogether leaving you underneath. Then you had to stand up and untwist it to start all over again. The hammock was a little rough under your fingers and it smelled warm and summery. I hope you know what warm and summer smells like because that is the best description I have.
We don't have a hammock (yet.) We do have a chaise lounge with a green and white cushion on it and this morning it smelled summery although not yet warm. I watered my petunias and decided not to worry about the clouds because there is a muggy summer breeze stirring which is just as good. This morning I didn't use my own large coffee mug. Remember, this is my grandparent's house. I used one of their coffee cups and toasted the morning with nothing to do. I didn't wish for the old days or for them back but was grateful that I had enough summer days together to know how to do them right.
There are men and women who have given up days swinging in a hammock and watching their grandchildren spend the day doing nothing but living in freedom. While I number farms and the smell of coffee and hanging petunias among my treasures, let me not forget that all of this "nothing" has been bought again and again on my behalf. The quietness of my days has been charged to soldiers being rattled by the sounds of gunfire and screaming.
This morning there is no one less deserving or more grateful than I.

Deuteronomy 28:1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

May 25, 2008

Isaiah 55:1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Pic: My grampa's grapevine coming back to life after being lovingly pruned by my cousin Tom (husband of Trish!)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Considering the Economy

1. Plan my driving a week at a time to avoid back-tracking.
2. Grocery shopping with a careful bagged lettuce; we clean and chop.
3. Netflix! We save money on the rentals and late fees and we always have something to watch so we don't feel the need to wander anywhere for entertainment.
4. Buying clothing all with a mix and match goal.
5. Craving pizza? We get the Little Caesar's Hot & Ready deep dish, $7.
6. Learning to enjoy looking without owning...magazines, window shopping...
7. Eating at home unless we have planned ahead for a meal out & refusing to eat where the prices are ridiculous. Example, ate salad bars at Ruby Tuesdays a while back. Bill was almost $30. NEVER AGAIN.
8. Having a garage sale.
9. Carrying less than $10 cash.
10. Drinking tap water at home.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Day Off

And already it's going by too quickly! I got up late, 7:30. Stripped the beds and threw sheets into the washer. On my second cup of coffee now at 8:30 and have had a bowl of cereal. It's sunny here in Michigan, but cool. Not even 50 degrees and will not reach 70. Feels like fall up north rather than spring in the suburbs.
I'm going to put those clean sheets on the bed and get the laundry caught up. Water my flowers and even get dressed in a minute! My hair is now long enough to shower at night and not to have to wake up and do the shower and blow dry in the morning. How interesting is that news flash? It makes the morning grooming go by much more quickly though and it makes me happy. So there.
I might go do a little window shopping. Need some warm weather work clothes. My standard slacks and sweater isn't going to work much longer. And I am ever in search of comfortable work shoes. Apparently gym shoes aren't the fashion statement they are looking for. I'm working the weekend so this one day off goes too quickly and I never get enough done. All work and no relaxing or all relaxing and no work it seems!
Hope your Friday is a good one!

Pic: My morning coffee spot.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I have ever other Friday and Monday off and the Mr. has practice every Thursday evening. I am more or less home alone during those times. Mmmmm. I love being home alone.
When I'm home alone I wear pajama pants and sweatshirts. I wash my face of all my make up, take out my contacts and pull my hair off my face with whatever holds it. I do lots of house work because I enjoy it instead of feeling like I'm the only one working if other people are at home with me. I rarely turn on the television unless an old movie I love is on. I often listen to worship music but not blasting so loud my ear drums bleed like some people I know (coughdeancough).
I turn down the beds and turn on soft bedside lights so when my family comes home they find a welcoming place to rest at the end of along day. I burn candles that smell green. I only open the windows if it's very warm out and I might turn on the furnace even if it's seventy degrees because I'm always cold but no one else is. I usually don't over eat if I'm home alone. I read in between loads of laundry. I write blogs and e-mails. I take pictures of Donny.
I might call my mom or my sister for a chat without loud men laughing in the background. I don't leave to do errands because home alone time is too rare to waste. I don't sleep in because leisurely mornings are the best part of home alone. I make homemade soup and jello mash. I sweep up dust bunnies and iron a week's worth of clothes for work. I use my foot spa and give myself a no-polish manicure. I try on clothes that I worry I've outgrown to prove to myself that I haven't or inspire myself to cut down. I make lists of staff that I need to send a card to or do something special for. I think quietly and come up with marvelous ideas that I am usually too busy to think through and then I write them down so I will look brilliant later.
I pray sometimes while making iced tea and sometimes on my knees while I cry. I think about how impossible it is that three out of my four grandparents are dead because they are so tangible to me that I sometimes forget they are everything to me except here now. I make big plans that I may or may not accomplish. I think about mistakes and decide whether they need fixing or forgetting and then I do one or the other.
I lay on my back on the carpet and do leg lifts and stretches and tighten my core and pull my tummy toward my spine. I think about how good it feels and decide to do Pilates every morning before work.
I take the time to search for the earrings or the shoes or the socks I haven't been able to find for a month.
I write events on my fridge calendar.
I love being home alone.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Someone To Watch Over Me

I was home sick from work when a public service announcement came on the tube. It was telling me that just "watching" my kids was not enough. I needed, apparently, to involve them in several organized activities to prevent them from becoming bored and turning their high spirits toward prostitution or building a meth lab in their tree house or some such thing. Well, let me tell you; I disagree.
I think just watching my kids was just fine. I'm not talking about laying on the couch while they ran amok. I mean that a certain degree of controlled amok running is a good thing. I wonder if we have taught our kids to be easily bored by so much heavy handed activity scheduling. I took piano and ballet as a kid. My kids learned instruments in band and played T-ball. Mac played football in high school. Jay was on the golf team for ten minutes or so. They attended youth group, went to camp and bowled. They were not foraging for berries in the wilderness and learning to whittle their own class rings.
But the majority of our time was pretty unstructured. Awake before 8 a.m. Meals were at the same times daily. Bath, bed, was all penciled in.
But play time was just for them to play and me to watch. They knew they were always in somebody's sight so they didn't stray too far. They learned to entertain themselves. Daboyz would wonder by on occasion to announce, "We're bored!" and my reply was the same that my own mom's was twenty years earlier, "Go find something to do."
And off I and they went to find something to do.
I think there were two lessons in this...
1. You, my sons, are not all I have to attend to. The universe does not revolve around your navel. Sometimes, you need to just entertain yourself. Children who do not learn this lesson are easily identified in social gatherings. They are the ones loudly interrupting adult conversations to demand attention, that they want to leave, that they are bored or my personal favorite, interjecting their two cents into the discussion.
2. You, my sons, are always being attended to. I will never forget you're around. I will always have one eye on you and probably both ears. If I don't know where you are, I will stop what I'm doing and come find you. You are always the priority. If you are sick, everything screeches to a halt so that I can care for you. A daily report of what has happened while we were apart is required. I believe that you can handle a degree of freedom so I do not have to structure your every minute. I'd rather watch you unfold day by day and year by year.

When I saw this commercial for the proper care and feeding of children, my first thought was that it isn't that hard to raise kids. Of course, that's a silly thought. It is not that hard to figure out the right way to raise kids. It is very hard to discipline the parent to do right. Much moreso than disciplining the child. Maybe that is why we think that just watching isn't sufficient. We try to hem our kids in with enough structure and activity so that they aren't running amok. Or maybe we just don't want to be on 24 hour watch so turning them over to some organization gives us a guilt-free reprieve. Or maybe we just don't believe in our own ability to see them through the hours between here and independence.
I think it really is just balance. If your kid's interests and dreams require a third party to fulfill, go for it. It is a gift you give them to help them stretch beyond your own abilities. It is good parenting.
Then again, average days are what life is made of. It's ok if your kid is hanging around the house digging holes in the back yard or making tents out of bed spreads.
The important thing is that today and everyday your kid knows one thing for sure...

"I've got my eye on you."

Jeremiah 24:6 My eyes will watch over them for their good...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Bed

Less than an hour after writing about my sons' refusal to make their beds, I was caught by surprise. I went downstairs, where my son had slept last night, to throw in a load of laundry. I also went downstairs to pick up his mess, which I knew awaited me. I had the day before spent about an hour straightening up in his quarters. Washing his clothes, folding them neatly. I made his bed, taking off all the linens and replacing them, pulling the corners tight. Hospital corners, of course. Fluffed the pillows. You know the drill.
He came home last night and went downstairs to watch television. I went downstairs to do something and he never said a word. Never said thanks for cleaning my room, it looks nice. Thanks for organizing my clothes. Nothing. I wasn't hurt, I am not that easily bothered. But I noticed.
Today I went downstairs and put in my laundry and then around the corner to make his bed. For my own sake, I wanted that bed made! But it was already done. He had gotten up and left for the day and made his bed without a word to draw attention to it. I appreciated his effort even as I stepped toward it to fix it. You see, he had clearly just kind of pulled up the blankets and put the pillows atop the comforter. He obviously had not pulled the bed away from the wall, pulled off all the linens and tucked them back in hospital style. Those pillows were not fluffed. The foot of the comforter was not tucked down behind the foot board. I'll just fix it up a bit and bless his heart, he tried. I figured it was his way of telling me he had noticed my efforts the night before.
It was then I came up short just as my hand skimmed the top of the slightly rumpled comforter. In fact, my hand did just barely touch the surface. Something in me told me to stop. Told me to let it be, to accept the gesture. To receive the love that bed was meant to convey. Something told me it was terribly important that he not come home to find I had remade his bed. Certainly that I not thank him in one breath and then smilingly criticize his efforts in the next by telling him I had fixed it.
More times than I can count I have felt that whatever it was I put myself to, it was not good enough. Whether a meal that fell a little short or formal ministry; it could always be better. Today, with my hand lightly resting on my son's bed; I was relieved of those fears all at once.
It does not take God a step in my direction, a moment to think or a pause as he starts to fix my efforts. He sees me making the effort and calls it worship. He allows the love to flow from my attempts at perfection and makes it perfect by receiving it.
This morning I did not remake my son's bed. In fact, I went downstairs again and stood looking at it with a smile. It was just for me, these blankets pulled up haphazardly and pillows piled against the headboard without being fluffed. It was because he chose to love me in those moments in a way that I could see. And I almost belittled his gift. God never reduces our efforts to less than perfect. He always receives us and the thing we can offer today, is always enough.
This morning, my son remade my heart.


Ah hindsight! Sometimes people will tell me what good kids I have and some will even try to give me credit for a job well done. I tend to think that they are doing well despite me.
If it has not yet happened and you have a child, it will happen. There will be something(s) about your kids that you know is a hot mess and you also know you did it. We all like to present a picture of kitchen tables with science fair project in the making while eating carrot sticks. Maybe you truly did sit with your kids during homework and oversee nightly brushing and flossing. I know people who are such stellar parents. I admire them.
On the other hand, I have raised frankenboyz. When your children reach young adulthood you will experience the sinking feeling that your influence is all but finished and you have influenced some rather crummy characteristics. And you will look to heaven with your hands upraised and say, "Rats!"
I won't bore you with the finer points of daboyz as I say enough in their favor here. But I will share with you an example of my own child rearing now causing me aggravation. Brace yourselves, I never made the beds. There, I've said it. Three beds in our house. Zero made except on sheet changing day. I don't know why. Too busy? No. Too lazy probably. And I never expected daboyz to make dabeds. I don't recall ever asking them make their beds frankly.
So now I have a boy who just will not make his bed. And all of a sudden, I've changed my own rules and I want those beds made! I make my bed every single morning doggone it! And yes, it is because we are in a new old house and I want to have everything looking nice. But I want the beds made!
I also never demanded immaculate rooms. Evening pick-ups when they were little. In teenagerhood, I pretty much let it go. They were good kids and when I asked them to, they cleaned up. I felt having a messy space to call their own was fine. And I stick to that philosophy. Every kid has to leave his mark somewhere and a messy room is not such a desperate cry for help. But now I want the room clean.
Yes, I have changed the rules. And they have not. And it is my fault. I have failed to raise perfect men. Don't tell me about living in my house and doing things my way and whatnot. I am a chooser of battles, although not always wisely.
They are good guys. They do not make their beds.
They are kind and honest. They leave dirty socks on the floor.
They do not come home drunk or stay out all night. They do not load the dishwasher with their cereal bowls.
They are frankenboyz.
And I created them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Home Made

Deb (at right) wrote a post a few days ago, a poem really. It contrasting loving her job outside the home but loving her work within her home more. It resonated with me. I love my home more too. I love the work within my home.
Now that daboyz are out of high school they don't need as much from me as they used to. I won't lie to you, I don't mind their independence one bit. I still clearly recall having two little ones a year apart and the sense that I would never be "caught up." Laundry got the better of me as my plans to grow my own organic vegetables gave way to Happy Meals in the car. French fries are veggies, right?
I was not the homemaker of legend and lore. I was worn out and aggravated and believed with all my heart that potty training came exactly the day before I would lose my mind with one more diaper change. I did it, I pushed through and made myself do the things I knew were best for my kids. I don't regret staying at home (poverty not withstanding!) and I'm glad it's done with. The little kid era that is. As they get into their own cars to go do their own thing I breathe a contented sigh that the carpool days are a distant memory.
Now I find myself rediscovering the joy of caring for my family. I am also not one of those superwomen who work forty hours and come home to weave sweaters for their family. I come home tired. I come home and make dinner and tell the Mr. to clean the kitchen. I can no longer do it all, I've already done at last eight hours. But every evening daboyz come home for dinner and I have rediscovered the joy of putting a good meal in front of them and watching them contentedly eating and talking about their day. Mac needed new shoes for his new landscaping job and his dad and I took him shopping much like the old back-to-school days and I liked getting him ready for this next new adventure.
On my weekends off I change sheets, make beds and do laundry. We grocery shop and plan a fun meal for Saturday evening, usually movies to watch. I dust and vacuum and do all the chores that fall in the shadow of the work week. This is my weekend pleasure, suspending the world outside to make a home and care for its inhabitants. Living in this new old larger house we've hosted a few family get-togethers and had some friends over. Planning meals to feed a crowd, hosting and making a place for others to be welcomed is work that renews instead of drains.
In my busiest most frenzied days, I always loved the care of my family and my home. I haven't always been graceful in it, but it has always been my deepest source of worthwhile work.
Discovering a dish that everyone loves. Welcoming my boys in from the winter cold to a warm house and a hot cup of tea made just how they like it. Putting out lawn chairs and visiting on cool days outside with hot coffee. Good smelling t-shirts fresh from the laundry. Crisp cool sheets and fluffy pillows on our beds. Making the tossed salad that we all four love that is my own special mix. My son sitting next to my father learning guitar cords. My husband playing fetch with our puppy. My gramma's dead dogwood blooming.
This world moans with hopelessness and scurries after busyness. I think we have forgotten what is worthy of sore muscles and tired bodies. We must not fail to weave all that we are into our family. We must never give more to that which is outside our door than that which is inside our walls. If we have not discovered our purpose in nurturing and giving the gifts only we can give to our parents, our children and our spouses; then we may die with no legacy even if our bank accounts groan with gold.
Is there anyone for whom you can make a home?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

After the Tone...

So I turn on my work cell phone after being off for a day and I have a message. Here's the message,
"Hi Sara. This is Uma and I work for __________. My number is____________. Please call me."

Does this drive anyone else crazy? I think perhaps technology has moved faster than etiquette can keep pace. So listen up Uma and all you who leave similar messages.
I WILL NOT return your phone call unless you leave me a message explaining the purpose of your call. I am not at your immediate disposal. I am a busy person and am continuously prioritizing, delegating, doing and re prioritizing. This is true of my professional and private life. If you choose not to share with me the purpose of your phone call, your request for a call-back falls immediately to the bottom of my list.
And don't get me started on those who assume the presence of their phone number on caller i.d. will spring me into call-back action faint with the need to know why they called. Guess what, I don't even have caller i.d. I do not check caller i.d. on my cells. If you are sitting around waiting for me to call because you simply dialed my number and presume that your own number is on a tiny screen to lure me to you, you should pack a picnic lunch because you're gonna be there a while.

It's real simple. "Hi, this is Sara Smith with St. Elsewhere. I am calling to find out about what programs your facility offers for patients with Alzheimer's. My number is_____________. Thanks."
That person will get a return call immediately.

As for personal calls? "Hi, this is Sara. Just checking in to see if you want to get together for a cup of coffee."

Again, I'll be dialing immediately.

As for Uma, I suggest you call back and leave a detailed message if you'd like to speak with me.

Rant complete.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You're Fired

So, did you come back to hear about the day I fired my friend? We'll call her Penelope. I had known Penelope for years, met her in school. This was one of those very few people that I did stay in touch with post graduation. Penelope was really the one who stayed in touch, I was as antisocial then as I am now. But she was energetic and talkative and her phone calls kept us connected. We stayed in the same area so we got married within a year of one another and became a "couples" friendship. Penelope and I talked daily. Spent lots of time together as two young moms with a lot in common.
One of the things we did not have in common was that I was in a painful marriage and as far as I knew, she was not. This made me that much more grateful for her presence in my life, someone who was MY friend. Someone who wanted to spend time with me.
The truth is, I was selfish where Penelope was concerned. Because I didn't particularly like her. I didn't particularly want to be best friends, I just didn't want to feel entirely alone in the world. I wanted something normal in my life, something that was pleasant and during the play dates with our children I could pretend that my life was fun and easy and healthy.
Penelope did some things in my life that in hindsight I suspect were intentionally hurtful. I have my theories for this but it isn't really important. I was using her and she was using me; each for our own agendas. Having been friends for so many years, she fit easily in with my family and other friends. She was in the end a part of every aspect of my life. It was about this time that the Lord healed my marriage and the veil dropped from my eyes about a lot of things. There was a lot of responsibility for me to take in the hurts I had endured. It was time to grow up and use some wisdom instead of blaming other people for my problems and then expecting other people to fix those problems. I slid into the driver's seat and it seemed that Penelope was not willing to give up control.
The subtle things that she did became more apparent. There was a time when I would occasionally wonder at her motivation or I would be irritated with her but blame myself for being unkind. The stronger and more self-assured I became though, the uglier things got with Penelope. She wasn't celebrating my new life.
Just before God touched us, I finally came out into the open with just a few trusted people about our problems. I was desperate for prayer and help and Penelope was one of the people who I invited to sit in my living room while I exposed my wounds and my marriage. She was, as I knew she would be, compassionate and gentle with me.
Then within a few days someone heard her telling everyone about my marital problems. About my deepest secrets.
Not long after, I noticed these people starting to look at me differently. There was an obvious dislike directed at me from people I barely knew. Eventually, it was an all-out assault on my reputation and character with Penelope smiling sweetly and claiming ignorance.
That was when I fired my friend. I was so angry I could barely speak and I let her know it. I was so embarrassed I didn't want to show my face. There was no one in my life that Penelope wasn't connected to and I wondered how deep her damage to me had gone. I didn't know what to do and I prayed that she would just move on. It didn't happen.
Through all of this she was still calling me every day and pretending that I had turned on her. Well, in truth I had. I was avoiding her in my anger but not doing it quietly. In a way, I added fuel to the flames of her stories of my flaws.
Finally during one of her regular phone calls, I fired her. I told her that she was no longer welcome in my life or in my home. I told her that the only option I could see to combat the rumors she was spreading was to completely withdraw from her and respond that I had nothing to do with her. She tried to debate me with me but I finally told her that the only way I could avoid hating her was to not be in a relationship with her. I still heard stories of Penelope's version of what happened and who I was. But it was such a relief to break that relationship that I scarcely cared. I was free.
Several years later, I ran into Penelope on day. We caught up politely on what had happened in our lives. Some bad things had happened to her and I was truly sorry. Some good things had happened and I was truly glad. She said we should get together for lunch. I declined. I told her it was just better to keep doing what worked, and the distance worked. I wished her well and hugged her good bye.
So I don't regret firing my friend. Sometimes, the other person is to blame. Sometimes, the other person isn't out for our best interest and God provides a way out when he knows there is no cure. We need to stop wrestling with toxic relationships and let God sort us out. Sometimes we need to hang in there and fulfill his purpose. Sometimes we need to apologize and change. Sometimes the other person will finally find grace in our patience.
And sometimes, God says, "Go."
Go be happy. We can do this knowing that even the ones we left behind, he continues to follow. Let him take it from here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thank You For Being A Friend

I have had to fire a friend. It has been a while ago now, and I don't regret it. It was a difficult decision but the right one.
I think in the first part of life we make friends based on availability more than compatibility. Most kids in the first few week of kindergarten have a "best friend." Probably someone of the same gender in the same class. Someone who is there for recess and lunch time. Maybe even someone that actually lives within blocks but in your five year old life, you hadn't ventured that far. Most of our friendships progress along similar lines, school mates, kids we go to church with, the children of our parent's friends. If you are very fortunate, you and your friend will grow into a true friendship based on true devotion to one another and your shared experience. Other friendships will simply drift apart without anyone really ending it. You'll bump into each other in the mall and be happy to spend five minutes catching up with your former "best friend."
In the early days of learning to be friends, we think these friends will be with us forever. We swear eternal loyalty and infinite trust. And we mean it. I had many wonderful relationships in high school with people I really did love at the time. I laughed with them and looked forward to every day to just be with them. The day after graduation I never saw most of them again. Twenty three years after graduation I don't see any of them. I couldn't even tell you where they live, if they ever married or if they died between then and now. They were there; in my Algebra class, on the same lunch period, riding the school bus or trying to be invisible with me during gym. But when Algebra, cafeterias, school buses and dodge ball ended we had no further reason to be together.
On the other hand, some of us have had the same friends for almost our entire lives. My friend Sue is still close to the five girls she grew up in school with. My sister keeps in touch with some of the kids from her youth. My best friend in kindergarten through second grade was Dawn. I haven't talked to Dawn in years but we reconnected when she was a bridesmaid in my wedding and I know I could track her down today if I needed to. It is one of those friendships that drifted apart gently and without hard feelings.
And then there is the friend I fired.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Here Is The Church...

My new old home is within blocks of the old Henry Ford homes. These are wonderful old houses built by Mr. Ford for his employees years and years ago. I think that the Ford influence goes beyond the blocks he actually claimed. Our new old house is just a bungalow, not a Ford home like the one shown here. But I can feel the old fashioned neighborhood feel along the street where I live.
The other day I was taking a short cut home from Target when I noticed a little brick church tucked back into the trees of the Ford neighborhood. It was Village Baptist Church, and it doesn't have a web site that I can find. It looked sweet there, perfect in the old Ford neighborhood. I had a strange impulse then, that I want to go to Village Baptist Church. I am not Baptist, have never attended a Baptist church as a regular member. Although brothers and sisters in Christ, there are some differences between "their" beliefs and "our" beliefs and here and there has even been some animosity. Shame on us.
Today I attend a nondenominational modern church. We gather in a converted grocery store under spot lights and smoke machines and worship to modern rock with lyrics on big screens. We have a Panera-esque cafe and a book store. It is many things but quaint is not one. So why this draw to Village Baptist Church all of a sudden?
As I drove on past I thought about it. It seems like it would be comfortable and familiar to me. I bet I'd know most of the hymns and I can imagine sermons that might remind me childhood. Nothing modern inside those walls I bet. After all, no website and no cafe. Church was long over when I drove past but I picture ladies in Sunday best and men in suits walking under the old trees on sunshiny Sunday mornings with Bibles in hand. In the modern world where I live, I guess I convinced myself I could step inside of a Norman Rockwell painting at Village Baptist Church.
For twenty years I'd have debated the finer points of theology and questioned what ministries the church offered. Were they active in overseas missions? What kind of youth ministry? Do they reach out to the disenfranchised? The homeless, mentally ill, AIDs victims? This front-line kind of church has been a part of my life for a long time. Little steepled churches in old fashioned neighborhoods aren't likely to be aggressive in their approach to kingdom work. At least, not the way that draws attention and makes you feel like you're really doing something significant.
I imagine little steepled churches in old fashioned neighborhoods probably open their doors on Sunday mornings with organ music and a pastor in a three piece suit reading from a King James Bible. I bet there's a board somewhere showing where the missionaries are waiting for the offerings of the congregation so that they can teach far away people about Jesus. Maybe in the basement, four or five little ones are sitting around a flannel board learning about Jonah and the Big Fish.
I've been a gospel snob. I've looked down my nose at "Sunday morning Christians." I've attached myself to one or two or five "ministries" in my church as a show of my commitment to the work of God. But today I'm wondering again about a church like Village Baptist Church.
I don't have any idea what it's like in there. If I were to drop in, I might very well high-tail it out of there and regret my flights of fancy. Right now, though, I'm wondering....when did we decide that only the church ministers? What if I go to the Village Baptist Church to sing old hymns to an organ and listen to familiar passages from a preacher to fill up the parts of my soul that are hungry for quiet and comfortable church.
Can't I still love and help and minister even if it isn't official?
Maybe we all need to take a moment to consider that Jesus didn't put a clipboard at the welcome desk to organize outreach. He went to the Temple to be filled and to the streets to be poured out.
I might just dust off my big old fashioned King James Bible and drop by a little steepled church in an old fashioned neighborhood.

Pic: One of the Ford homes not far from my new old house.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Out of Egypt

I've just finished reading "Out of Egypt, Christ the Lord" by Ann Rice. A good friend lent me the book a few days ago and being a loaner, I wanted to finish it quickly so I could return it quickly. I was a bit skeptical about being as enthralled as he was with the novel about the life of Christ. I half hoped to be thrilled, half expected to be offended.
I was raised in the Assemblies of God under strict Christian conservatism. I was taught holiness and the importance of man's pursuit of it; and the reality that we will always fail in its achievement. In the frailty of trying to put mortal minds to divine ideas; much like the Pharisees I think we attached a lot of laws to act as our safety nets. Some would say we were self-righteous to which there is probably some truth. But I never saw us as that, just as people who really wanted to please God. Somehow the best way we seemed to be able to try to attain this pleasing of God was to avoid displeasing him. Then came the rules, the Law for the modern church. No drinking, smoking, swearing, divorcing, dancing, secular music, movies, amusement parks, and if you were really serious, no women wearing pants. Certainly not to any church function. We all had at least one pair of culottes worn to the Sunday School picnic every year.
We were trying with sincerity to be holy.
I stayed within this purpose for most of my life and today do not entirely turn my back on those precepts I once embraced. I no longer believe the consumption of alcohol will sentence you to hell. I have also not broken my own childhood vow to never taste alcohol. I have never smoked. It does not seem so much a sin now as just stupid. I like to dance and always have. Movies are a tricky thing. Like most of man's designs, movies can be used for everything thing from inspiration to depravity. We, in the old days, must not have trusted ourselves to know the difference so we just avoided the thing altogether. Now most of us do watch movies (VCRs made this a little easier, nobody would catch you!). And I suspect most of us watch movies we should not. I still wonder if we were better off to turn away from the things we could not be trusted with.
Today I have moved away from the Assemblies of God. Not in a stand against them so much as a leading to a new place. I have tried, by trial and error, to hold tight to the teachings that God requires of me with the courage to examine the things I only knew to be true by the mouths of men. It sometimes seems to be a tight rope. We are called to be holy, this I know. We are not able, this I know. Still, we must reach after God to guide us toward the unreachable and to cover in us what remains blemished.
I find myself now in a more personal and less afraid relationship with God. I am aware of him continually and still learning to live in constant worship. I do not care about the things that used to matter. I am not offended by people's sins, my own being quite enough to keep me busy.
I have found a new heart to hurt for people who I once judged. Yes, I judged them. Never in those words, but the spirit of the thing was the same. It said I am closer to holy than you because _________________________.
Closer to holy or closer to God? Or did I ever understand what either of these meant outside of my own actions? I spent many moments trying to redeem myself through obedient hands and a distant heart.
So I read "Out of Egypt" over the last few days almost afraid that it might displease God. This woman had written some pretty offensive material. Her own explanation of her faith walk was at odds with even my growth into faith and grace beyond Law. But I read it.
I do not write this to recommend this book to you or to turn you away. Like my own walk with Christ, it must come of your understanding today or tomorrow what you should do. But what I did find within these pages was a little shove toward a more personal Christ. Through fictional moments that might have happened in the life of Jesus at seven years old, I found a little more of my Jesus. Through the Psalms sung by the family of Christ I found a voice to worship as the Hebrews might have done, as David had done.
Is it blasphemy to read about a little boy Jesus raising the dead "acccidentally" or causing snowfall with his imagination? I thought it might be, the Bible being enough and all that needs to be said on such matters.
I did not learn about a different Jesus in this book. I did not change my thoughts about holiness or sin; law or grace. But I spent two days fully immersed in God among us. I have to think that at the turn of the final page, for me, it was time well spent.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Maybe next I can teach him to peel oranges?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

My Gramma's Dead Dogwood

There is a Christian legend of unknown origin that proclaims that the cross used to crucify Jesus was constructed of dogwood.[3] As the story goes, during the time of Jesus, the dogwood was larger and stronger than it is today and was the largest tree in the area of Jerusalem. After his crucifixion, Jesus changed the plant to its current form: he shortened it and twisted its branches to assure an end to its use for the construction of crosses. He also transformed its inflorescence into a representation of the crucifixion itself, with the four white bracts cross-shaped, which represent the four corners of the cross, each bearing a rusty indentation as of a nail and the red stamens of the flower, represents Jesus' crown of thorns, and the clustered red fruit represent his blood.

However, Like the "The Cherry-Tree Carol", it is unlikely to have any factual bases because the modern dogwood is typically too small and twisted in trunk and branch for such a task as cross construction, although the point of the story is that it isn't good for cross construction anymore.[4] (Wikepedia)

My gramma was impossible to buy for. Truly she was. When gift-giving occasions drew near, my mom, sister and I would race to Hudson's to buy her a box of Godiva chocolates. This was the gift with the greatest probability to please her. She had very specific taste, generally high end. She was not frivolous so costume jewelry and the like (which thrill me) did not amuse her. Being, shall we say, blunt (glad I'm not); she didn't mind pointing out what any individual gift lacked. She might even hand it back to you.
So a few years back, my mom and my Uncle Bob purchased my gramma a dogwood tree for her yard. Its delicate flowers sure to please her delicate sensibilities. A tree is anything but frivolous and it would adorn her yard and give her years of pleasure. And she liked it! After that we all wanted to buy her trees for holidays but how many trees could she really use? Drat!
As my gramma grew older and so did I, I became less aware of her yard and more aware of her decline and I didn't take much notice of the dogwood. Then this year, after my gramma passed, my mom and I were walking down the drive when she said that the dogwood was surely dead. It was gray and dry looking. Even as the rest of the yard was returning to life, it stood in place with no growth and no signs of life. I am not sure when it stopped leafing out. Probably a few years back. But this year, my mom proclaimed it dead and I seconded the motion. After a thoughts of cutting it down and wondering if I should plant something else there, I decided to leave it. There is a slab of cement right in front of it where my grampa's birdbath always sat. I decided I'd put a birdbath there again and that I'd hang a few bird feeders from its dead gray branches. I thought it would be kind of pretty.
Then on Saturday morning I noticed what might appear to be grayish green buds at the tips of the branches. I took a bit of a closer look but being not so much a yard person and lacking my grandparents' expertise, I didn't know if this was new growth or old buds that never made it during the tree's last season. The rain fell much of Saturday afternoon. Glancing out the window to see what Donny was up to, the dogwood danced in the corner of my eye. Pale green, pink and white pushing from the gray branches of the dead dogwood.
I took some pictures to send to my mom and put in the subject line, "gramma's dead dogwood." I picture her crying as she looks at the delicate little tree she and her brother hoped would please their aging mother. The tree that she pronounced dead with the sigh that defines the way she talks out loud about cleaning out the house, remembering the times we spent there and knowing that it is time to move forward.
I wrote to my mom that even if the dead dogwood only blooms for one more season, it is enough for me. My mom and I have relived my gramma's decline and how sad it made us to see her so sick. How it was a reason to celebrate to know that she is whole.
The dead dogwood may or may not be a miracle. Maybe my mom was wrong. Maybe it bloomed the same way last year or maybe it hasn't bloomed in five years. I really don't know. What I do know is that when I glanced out my gramma's bedroom window I saw the same beautiful delicate tree that she saw. And I laughed out loud as I grabbed my camera.
I cried when I took the pictures. But somewhere in heaven, I am sure my gramma was giggling.
Why should I be so surprised at life pushing through death?

May 4, 2008

Isaiah 45:8 You heavens above, rain down righteousness, let the clouds shower it down.Let the earth open wide,let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it I, the LORD, have created it.

Pic: Grampa's mystery sprouts; week four.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Ten Things

1. Overcast and a little warmer, typical Michigan Spring day.
2. Got a Sam's Club membership this week, might go use it.
3. Long work week, glad it's over!
4. My hair is in between short enough to be easy to style but not long enough for a pony. In other words, high maintenance. The worst.
5. Finally cleaned the interior of my car.
6. Today, car wash, despite the sprinkles. It has to be done.
7. Have three movies to watch and plan on being home and relaxing with an iced tea doing just that by late afternoon.
8. Recently suspecting someone that I thought was very honest may not be. I am not offended but rather interested in this new insight.
9. Nurse's week is next week, just thought I'd mention it. ;)
10. Had a busy Sunday last week so here are Grampa's mystery buds week three. Will post week four tomorrow. And a smaller patch sprouted last week as well. Still no flowers. Maybe they are just rather dignified looking weeds?

Thursday, May 01, 2008


When Donny first came home to live with us, we bought him a doggy toy. It was a fleece stuffed animal that he carried around and snuggled up to go to sleep with. Puppy teething came along and his "fuzzy" didn't survive the massacre. So we bought him another one. Fuzzy number two met a similar fate. Behold, fuzzy number three, aka the wabbit.
The wabbit had been sitting on my shelf for a few years. The Mr. bought it for me on day in one of those donate to this cause and get this bunny campaigns. So some orphans got some books and I got a white stuffed rabbit. After fuzzies number one and two went to fuzzy heaven, I turned my rabbit over to Donny and it became his wabbit. It was one of those stuffed animals that is weighted with these pebbly looking things. Having seen the effects of puppy teething, I cut a small whole in the wabbit and drained his backside of his pebble innards to save myself a messy clean-up. Over time I have also grabbed the wabbit when I noticed a tear here and there and removed the stuffing from him. Today the wabbit is pretty much a floppy furry shell of his former self. But Donny loves him. He carries him between our house and other destinations in the car and when he can, sneaks him outside. When Donny is kenneled in the mornings, in goes wabbit with him. When we come home, there Donny sits with wabbit still in his mouth. You'd think he'd have dry mouth.
Is there anything in your life that no one else would value but never ceases to give you comfort when you hold it, look at it and think about it?
Tell me what wabbits you hold when you just need a little comfort.