Saturday, June 30, 2007

"People Pleaser"

Ewww. That label has such a negative connotation to me. So much so that I don’t want it attached to me. I try so hard NOT to be that person who, when making a decision, takes into account what everyone else might think. After all, I’m a first-born, one who should not be affected by peer pressure or any sort of pressure for that matter. I was even described as “bull-headed” by a professor in college. But instead of taking that as a compliment, I tried to correct him and told him that he must have me confused with another student. In taking that stance, I was trying to present the front that I am always sweet and soft-spoken and kind. As much as I’d like to be that person, that‘s not who I am all the time. And so I confess that I struggle with being a people pleaser.

The problem with this habit is that it is futile. I cannot predict how every person with whom I come into contact will react. Even those people I know somewhat well often don’t follow a predictable pattern in their reactions. Every person has different opinions, and in order to excel at people pleasing, I would (a) need to know all those opinions, (b) balance them, and (c) still need Divine intervention in order to tell me how to do (b) so that everyone would be happy.

I caught myself thinking about this topic in relation to this blog. A friend and I have been discussing the challenge of trying to write clearly so that all can understand. The way this friend brilliantly summed it up was “[p]art of being a good writer . . . is knowing your audience and realizing that everybody comes from different perspectives[, which is] sometimes hard to account for.” And so when I learned that people from all over the world have stopped by this blog, even if only for a little bit, the enormity of the task of trying to write well enough to please them hit me. I recognize that I am not well-versed in what perspectives those in Germany, Chile, Peru, Brazil, England, Egypt, Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica, Morocco, and other countries come from, and consequently I may not do a very good job of communicating my message to them.

Along the same lines, I feel like I should write something every day in order to keep people happy, and yet sometimes that’s hard to do either for lack of material, energy, or time. I also found myself trying to balance the heavier heart posts at the beginning of this week with some lighter posts toward the end of the week. And that didn’t please ME. Honestly, it felt like filler because bigger, heavier stuff was still on my heart, and I’d have been more true to myself to have either posted about those things or posted about nothing at all.

And so, I quickly realized that I’d gotten off track. That this blog is supposed to be for an audience of One, that One being the Great I AM. At the end of the day, if God is the only person who reads this material, would it please Him? Would it bring a smile to His face? Would it show that I am trying to use any writing talent that He has given me for His glory, instead of my own? Because at the end of the day, the answers to those questions are the only ones that matter.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fun Fridays Update

By failing to post about our Fun Fridays lately, I probably gave the impression that we had already deserted them. Never fear, Fun Fridays have been ongoing!

On Friday the 15th, the entire office went to a BBQ place for lunch. While we were there, we "roasted" our clerks who will be leaving at the end of the summer. We laughed a lot as awards were given based on each clerk's unique attributes that have surfaced over the year.

Of course, I was not at work on the 22nd, but it sounds like it was a "Fun Food Friday." I heard that there was chocolate cake, banana pudding, and cherry cobbler with ice cream to celebrate different events. Too bad I missed that!

And today, we went out to lunch to celebrate a co-worker's birthday. You can't beat chicken fried chicken, buttered corn, mashed potatoes, and huge clover rolls. Now if only my hair didn't smell like homecooking . . .

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Top Ten Things I Learned While On Vacation

I wanted to do one more thing to wrap up my vacation, so here's a little top ten list that I made of things I learned:

#10 - Traveling with a group of twelve is not for the impatient. Everywhere we went we waited. We waited for close to forty-five minutes to get three cars out of valet parking. We waited to get seated at restaurants (to the tune of over an hour at one place). We waited for our food. We were lucky to see any sites after how long it took just to get food several times a day. It made me wonder how Jesus and the twelve disciples did it day in and day out (not the waiting at restaurants or for cars, just traveling with a large group in general). But the waiting was worth it; when will we ever get all twelve of us together again to travel Texas?

#9 - I want some of my 80-year-old great aunt’s adventuresome spirit. Who else would say after riding a train for nine hours longer than expected, “That was FUN!”

#8 - Take time to watch the butterflies, and watch children as they try to catch them. I had great fun with my seven-year-old cousin as she patiently waited for a butterfly to land on her. When you live where it rains most of the year like she does, having a butterfly land in your hand and travel up your arm is a real treat!

#7 - I’m not ready for the old folks home yet, but rocking in rockers on a balcony with the whole group while listening to an outdoor German concert is a lot of fun.

#6 - Pictures keep the vacation and the memories alive. The day we got back, we made a CD of all our photos and have had a lot of fun going through them and reminiscing over things that just happened last week. I can only imagine that we will wear out the CD, if that’s possible.

#5 - If you are trying to break the sound barrier, just call our group. We actually scared my young cousin with how loud we got while playing a game. We definitely know how to have a good time.

#4 - The beauty of the hill country filled my soul: Think green rolling hills with amazing vistas. And all the culture. I enjoyed soaking it all up.

#3 - There comes a time to put away the sister hat and just wear the friend hat. My sister is nearing thirty, and yet I caught myself asking her where she was going at times, as if she needed me to keep tabs on her. The word “annoying” aptly described my actions. So, I’m working on cutting my “apron strings.”

#2 - I sleep better in my bed at home (the place where I grew up) than I sleep anywhere else on earth.

#1 - My dog will always greet me when I return from vacation as if I have been gone a lifetime because she missed me with all of her heart.

Am I in Texas?

Pitter patter. Pitter patter. Thunder. More pitter patter.

That’s been what we’ve been hearing a lot of lately. Every day this week and apparently most of last week, rain has been pelting this area. I’ve walked through ankle-deep water most days on my way to the parking garage. Lawnmowers are silent as yards inch taller and grow a deeper green each day with the repeated rain.

And so I must ask, “Is this Texas in June?”

A typical Texas June has temperatures in the upper 90s and possibly the 100s. The word “rain” isn’t even spoken of on the news, except to say that some would be nice so that yards don‘t burn up and watering restrictions can be lifted. People’s thoughts are usually turned to water parks, watermelon, lemonade, homemade ice cream, and waiting for the long summer days to end so that the temperature outside becomes bearable.

Although these dark rain clouds have made night come earlier than normal, don’t take my comments as complaints. I would like a brief reprieve, but I’m looking forward to not having a huge electric bill or a hefty water bill. As long as the tornados stay away, I say, “Let it rain.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Waiting & Trusting/Trusting & Waiting

Today didn't go as planned. I had to go to the doctor to get clarification. Two weeks ago, I had an x-ray done on my back just to make sure that it had healed properly from a car accident a while ago. The x-rays showed that my back was fine, which was good news. But as the doctor read me the report, he mentioned a clip that showed up in my lower left pelvis. He asked if I'd had any medical procedures performed that could account for that clip. I was speechless. The only abdominal surgery I've had was to remove my gall bladder (on the upper right side of my abdomen) four years ago. He said he wasn't concerned about the clip but advised that I should probably have my primary doctor take a look at the x-rays. I couldn't deal with this before vacation, so I decided to wait until I got back to go to the doctor.

So, today I went to see the nurse practitioner. She wanted to order a CT scan. I asked if we could repeat the x-rays first because I was just sure that there must have been a plastic clip in the pocket of the scrubs that they made me wear during the x-ray. She agreed that we could start there and order a CT scan later if necessary. So, I strolled downstairs to the hospital, waited my turn, had the x-rays taken, and returned to work 3.5 hours later.

Right after the x-rays were taken, the tech said that she thought that she saw something that looked like a clip but that she couldn't give me any results. Weird, but that sounded like results to me. Results that I didn't want to hear.

So, during the hour and a half before I got the call from the doctor's office, my mind played out numerous scenarios. Mostly not good. I have a tendency toward that for some reason. And yet I kept hearing, "Do you trust Me?" I kept responding, "Yes, Lord," but my heart wasn't in it.

When the nurse called, she said that I do indeed have some sort of clip and that it must have been used to clamp off something. ???? I couldn't even ask intelligent questions at that time. I felt violated. Why had no one told me that I have this mystery clip floating around my pelvis? How is this normal?

And I heard it again, "Do you trust Me?"

On the drive home, I called a couple of friends of mine who are doctors. They gave me some suggestions on what to ask. One even said that it's probably a clip from the gall bladder surgery that just fell and that it is nothing to worry about. Okay, I'm trying to swallow that.

I realize that in the grand scheme of things this little clip that resides in my lower left pelvis is not a huge deal. And I'm thankful for that. It's just a bit unsettling to have not known about it before now and to have no idea how it really got there.

And yet I continue to hear, "Do you trust Me?"

Unfortunately, my weak-willed answer is "I think so, Lord; I really want to." But my actions show otherwise. And so tonight, I feel a bit like the father who took his son to Jesus and asked Jesus to heal him if he could. Jesus responded, "If I can? Everything is possible for him who believes." And the father replied, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:22-24)

I do believe, Lord, that nothing is too big, too little, or too unimportant to take to You. This little clip is merely a speck in Your presence. And yet You care. Help me reflect on Your faithfulness and expand my willingness to trust in only You.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Have you ever felt disconnected? I’m feeling that way right now on several levels.

For one, I didn’t watch or listen to any news last week while I was on vacation, so I have no idea if there was some major news event of which I should be aware (and I’m not speaking of updates on Paris Hilton's jail status, but rather nationwide and worldwide events). In the grand scheme of things, this disconnectedness doesn't bother me that much because I know that I can get online and search archives of newspapers if I so desire.

For another, my head is feeling physically disconnected from my body. This is a little different from what I talked about in my post entitled “14 Inches” a few weeks ago. Instead, this disconnection is a result of sleep deprivation. My exhausted head and eyes decided to shut down this evening for about three hours, though the rest of my body felt fine. After a good night’s rest, I’m hoping that this disconnectedness will resolve itself.

But the main disconnection I’ve been feeling is a disconnection from God. I don’t mean that I’ve thrown my beliefs aside and become an atheist or an agnostic. I also don’t mean that I’ve tried to connect with God and heard, “The number you’ve reached is no longer a working number. Please check the number and try again.” Quite the contrary. I feel like God has been wanting to connect with me, and I’ve ignored Him. I’ve missed what He wanted to tell me and have no archive I can search for the missed updates. All because I’ve been too busy. Too busy getting ready for vacation. Too busy at work. Too busy on vacation. Too exhausted upon my return.

For some reason, every time I go on vacation I have these grand illusions that I will spend a lot of good time with God and studying His Word. I feel like I’ll have all this “extra” time to pray and just enjoy His character and company. And, inevitably, that’s not the case. Instead, it’s as if I go off and leave God during the day while I’m out having fun, and then crash into bed with a few prayer requests and “thank yous,” and maybe even fall asleep before finishing those. This isn’t anyone’s fault but my own. And so instead of coming back from vacation refreshed and renewed spiritually, I always tend to come back empty.

The good thing is that this emptiness nags at me. It beckons me to get back in step with God. To seek Him out. To reconnect with Him.

Thank You, Lord, that You willingly gave up Your Son for my sake, giving me a direct line of communication with You. Please continue to give me a hunger and a thirst to connect with You and to spend time in Your Word. Refresh and renew me. And help me not to vacation from You. Amen.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer Vacation Built on Secrets

My extended family is not known for being able to keep a secret. They don’t mean to reveal secrets; it’s just that they tend to leak secret information before they are even conscious that what they are talking about is a secret. But this year was different.

Last August when I was with my aunts, we decided that we should plan a surprise for August 2007 to commemorate my mom’s ??th birthday. The official planning started in January after we learned that my sister would be coming to Texas for a week in June. We all decided that Mom’s birthday celebration would be carried out then instead of August, thus increasing the chance to surprise her.

As we started planning, additional relatives asked to be part of the surprise. We soon assembled a group of twelve that would be coming to Texas for four days to visit San Antonio, Fredericksburg, and Boerne.

Meanwhile, my sister and I had a lot of storytelling to do. We easily convinced Mom to take the week off from work. The harder part would be getting her to pack for four days without spilling the beans. However, about three weeks prior to the trip, my sister told her that we (which Mom assumed was the three of us) would be taking a “girls’ trip” to San Antonio and Fredericksburg for a couple of days. Mom peppered my sister with questions, but my sister answered them all without slipping. And because my aunts were afraid that they would accidentally tell Mom that they were coming to Texas (i.e., the big secret), they stopped communicating with my mother so that they would not have an opportunity to divulge the secret.

On the big day, all four of my mom’s sisters, some of their daughters and granddaughters, and one of my mom’s aunts arrived in San Antonio by plane, train, and automobile. As we passed the evening awaiting my mother’s arrival, everyone kept asking me, “Do you think your mother suspects anything?” and “What do you think her reaction will be?”

The answer came around 11:15 p.m. when my sister convinced my mother that they were meeting a friend in The Menger Hotel lobby. My mom was urgently searching around the lobby when she spotted me. (She thought that she would be picking me up from the train station later that evening.) She slowly started to notice the people around me and recognized their familiar faces. She was in shock and started crying. She kept asking, “Why?” But she could not process my sister’s answers of “because it’s your birthday” and “because we love you.”

Mom stayed awake most of that night trying to sort through what had occurred. Thankfully, she was able to put the shock of the evening behind her and enjoy the next three days with her extended family. As for my sister and I, we took early retirement from the vacation planning business and now use our time to confess the many fibs that we devised to get Mom to go along with our plan.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I'm Back!

I've left the porch swing at our adorable B&B cabin and am back at home. Unfortunately, the day sped away without a "real post" as unpacking, laundry, mail, and an eager dog wanted my time and attention. I got a lot accomplished today and hope to get back "up & running" for real tomorrow. Thanks for your patience!

P.S.--The one post I did on vacation was posted outside McDonald's in our small town. It was the only place that had Wi-Fi available in a multi-county area. While we were in Fredericksburg, I was told that I could go sit at a pecan company and try to feed off their Wi-Fi, but I thought the locals might think that to be a little odd and didn't want to discourage their business.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Humbling Feet

Ever wonder why God gave us feet?

I realize that we needed some type of movable appendage at the end of our legs to make us mobile and to prevent us from having to hop everywhere. And our feet definitely serve that purpose. But I think there’s even more to them.

Have you ever noticed that feet aren’t all that attractive? Especially men’s feet. But even when feet have been well taken care of, they still aren’t that pretty. But, maybe I’m biased because I have webbed toes. Or maybe, just maybe, God gave us feet to keep us humble.

After all, it’s hard to be haughty when you’re barefoot and your feet are out there for all to see. Are your toes hairy? Is your arch flat? Do your feet stink? Are your toes webbed?

The next time you might be tempted to not be humble, just glance down at your feet and think of God’s sense of humor. I’m pretty sure it is evident in all our funny feet.

Friday, June 15, 2007

People in my Pathway

Do you ever wonder why God put a certain person in your path? I’ve pondered this question a lot throughout my life. I can look back over my life and see how God brought a new person into my life at just the time when I needed a friend and then that person faded out of my life just as quietly as he or she had entered my life.

Back in junior high, all of the cliques were feuding, and I seemed to end up on the outside. By myself. Alone.

Then, the Sunday before the first day of 7th grade, a new person my age showed up in my Sunday school class. This may sound like a normal occurrence. But, I’m from a small town, and new people were few and far between. This person offered me friendship, taught me how to make friendship bracelets and how to play Nintendo, and helped me make other friends. A few years later, this friend moved away. And we lost touch.

About ten years later, I had another person end up on my same path. I had been through some rough times emotionally. So, I assumed that God must have put this new person in my life to be my soulmate. After all, this person shared many of my same interests. But several years later, I was able to look back and see that person’s role was simply to teach me to trust again, which was no small task but seemed less significant considering the role that I had assumed that person was playing.

And then there are the people that I come across each day that have needs that pull on my heartstrings but I’m not sure what role I’m supposed to play. For instance, there is a man who lives outside my work building. He sits or stands beside a trash bin for most of the day. He has had the same set of clothes on for several years now and wears a winter jacket and long pants year-round. He never begs or even speaks to others, though sometimes he does appear to be talking to himself.

Having read Same Kind of Different As Me, an amazing book about the role a homeless man played and continues to play in the life of an international art dealer, I can’t walk by this homeless man without acknowledging his presence, if not with words, at least with a glance and a facial expression of some sort. I usually pray for God to provide for this man’s needs and help him find a real place to live and gainful employment. Yet, I struggle with whether I should be doing more.

I often wonder when I pray that prayer, “Lord, is it your desire to provide for this man‘s needs by having me bring him food? Should I offer him reading material to help pass the day? What’s my role? Just to listen? To pray? How do I show this man Your love without putting myself in danger?”

I don’t want my actions to be stifled by fear, but that last question is a nagging one. It reminds me of the line from The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe in which the children ask whether Aslyn is safe, and the reply goes something like, “Of course He’s not safe, but He’s good.”

“Lord, I know that You are good. I want to love others well. If that means praying for a person, please bring that person to mind often. If that means providing food, help me to be obedient rather than fearful. If that means extending a listening ear to someone, help me not to be so selfish with my time. Show me how to be salt and light to those You put in my path.”

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Red Light = Red Letter Day

A few weeks ago, I noticed that I kept hitting red lights. At the time, I didn't take it very well. It was frustrating to say the least.

But I made a new connection. Red lights, which I normally thought of as a tool that mades me late, actually buy me time.

That sounds weird, but it is true. On those days when I had hit all red lights, I noticed that I talked to God more. Maybe a lot of those talks started with, "God, would you please help this light to change quickly." But a lot of those "light conversations" became my chance to talk to and hear from God. As I sat. And waited. And waited.

On those days when I seemed to get all green lights, I did my own thing, quickly foraging ahead. I realized that I was missing out, as weird as that may sound.

So, I now try to take advantage of these red lights and actually look forward to them. I hope you will too.

(Photo supplied by

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Preparing To Have Fun

I now know why a lot of people don’t take vacations. It is WORK to get ready for one.

I’m in the middle of a huge project at work that I want to wrap up before I leave for vacation. And, I’m feeling “hard pressed on every side” as I try to make that happen. You see, I have appointments and errands and obligations before and after work each day, which limit my ability to work extra hours to get this huge project done.

But are all the things I’ve crammed into my schedule in preparation for vacation really necessary?

Did I need a haircut, a brow wax, and a pedicure? I tell myself that those were absolutely necessary because I am seeing my family. After all, I wouldn’t want to show up as the "Shaggy, Unibrow, Callous Foot Wonder" and embarrass them.

Do I “need” to get the dog bathed and get my house in “perfect” order for the housesitter? Obviously, I don’t want to be known as a slob or have the housesitter deal with the dog hair that is everywhere.

And then those familiar words hit me: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

You see, I am a Martha through and through. I want everything looking perfect. I want everything to be in order.

But at what cost? Sacrificing prayer time?

I see a definite correlation between the increase in my anxiety level and my absence of time with the Lord. I want to be prayed up for this trip--for good health, safe travel, and sweet time with family. But in order to do that, I must make prayer a priority and dispense with my preconceived notions of what I may or may not look like when I arrive and how my house might look while I’m gone.

Lord, I want to choose “what is better.” Help me. As I prepare for this trip, show me what really needs to be done.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Smells on Memory Lane

Take a deep breath.

Did you smell anything familiar? Did you get a whiff of something that takes you back in time?

I did. And it brought me back to memory lane, or maybe I really never left after the music brought me here on Saturday.

I must confess that the sense of smell has always been strong in my family. I’m not sure if we have a heightened sense of smell. But there are just some smells that we can’t get enough of. And it’s actually kind of weird.

On any given day, if they lived in the city, you might catch my mom or some of her sisters at Payless Shoe Source walking the aisles, pretending to shop for shoes. Really though, they’re soaking up the smell.

And growing up, I used to love going grocery shopping at a small local store called Boysen’s because it had such a unique smell. The store has long since gone out of business. A church now meets in the building. So, I’ll just have to rely on my memory of how neat that smell was. (Unless, of course, I am bold enough to show up one Sunday just to get a whiff of the smell--which I’ve heard is still there.)

Two smells that bring back very fond memories are my grandmother’s dusty/musty 1966 Chevy Impala and the smell of rain at her house as it came through the metal window screens. Unfortunately, I can’t go soak up the love that came with those smells because Granny passed away last fall. I’m just hoping that my olfactory lobes can continue to duplicate those smells again each time I’m on memory lane.

But not all the smells that I’ve enjoyed have disappeared. My dad’s tool drawers are still in tact and take me back to days of seeing him teach high school kids how to fix cars. He was completely in his element then with a glass bottle of Dr. Pepper in hand.

Not too many rooms away, I can get a whiff of my mom’s jewelry box. I can remember her asking me to go get out a certain necklace with a locket on it so that she could wear it to church.

And then there are the scents of cologne and perfume that bring a certain person to mind. English Leather is what my dad and grandpa wore on special occasions, and on normal days, they smelled like the Lava soap that they’d used to wash away the dirt and grime on their hands.

After revisiting all these smells, I am reminded that “we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” (2 Cor. 2:15-16)

Lord, I recognize that I am not equal to such task. But that you have called me anyway and asked me to be the fragrance of life. Thank You for giving me wonderful examples of what it is to be a sweet fragrance. As I go out into the world, help my life to be an aroma that is pleasing to You.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Restful Sunday

(This pic is from my cell phone, so the quality isn't that great, but hopefully you'll get the idea.)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

New Battle Hymn

There’s this song that I keep hearing. First, it was at a wedding reception. Then, at a retreat. So, I picked up the CD. But, it got pushed to the background, behind a bunch of others, and I forgot to listen to it.

Until this morning.

That’s when I pulled out Matt Kearney’s CD entitled “Nothing Left To Lose.” The album’s title is a bit apropos for my life right now.

Different music has defined numerous times in my life. All it takes is for a certain song to come on, and I’m instantly traveling down memory lane, being transported back to a specific time in my life. I remember where I was when the song played, what I was doing, and how it made me feel.

Some songs play now, and I can’t stop laughing because of an event that took place years ago. Sometimes a song comes on, and I reminisce about a bittersweet time that can’t be re-duplicated; all I have left is the memory to hang on to. And, every now and then, there’s a song that gives me a little kick in the pants and tells me to keep fighting for what I believe in and to keep speaking Truth into the lives of others.

That’s what Matt Kearney’s song “Won’t Back Down” did for me. The chorus goes like this:

“And I won’t back down
I won’t turn around and around
And I won’t back down
Doesn’t matter what comes crashing down
I’m still gonna stand my solid ground.”

Sometimes, I want to be a people pleaser and just say whatever makes people happy. To avoid conflict. I prefer to be a peacekeeper instead of a peacemaker. But that’s not what I’m called to do. (Matthew 5:9)

And so, I have to gather up my courage, and stand my ground . . . Daily.

Even when I don’t want to hurt feelings? YES

Even if I’ll never have to see the person again? YES

Even when I don’t feel like it? YES

My “battle hymn” is playing in the background. Guess I need to start practicing peacemaking instead of just trying to keep the peace.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Fun Friday

A few weeks ago, a co-worker decided that a group of us should do something fun on our lunch hour on Fridays. Who could say no to that?

So, we started our first Fun Friday by trying a new restaurant that a friend mentioned. This place was truly Texan--it served amazing hamburgers and homemade milk shakes, offered dining under live oak trees on a multi-level deck, and had live music . . . AT LUNCH! It was fantastic!!!

Today, we did something a little different. We watched movies. Not just any movies. Home movies of me in high school. At the prom. And giving a hysterical presentation in senior English.

Why allow others to laugh at me? Because it’s fun to let others see how much I’ve changed, or not. It’s also fun to show off my small town roots.

My co-workers had never heard of a prom being taped before. This was merely the proof. They now wish that they’d had their proms videoed. (So that they could add the video to a time capsule and show what styles were in back in “the day.” )

The day flew by because it was fun to anticipate their reaction and to laugh with them as they made fun of hairstyles and clothing, mine in particular.

Thankfully, I have no desire to run for public office or I’d be in trouble considering that I’ve now given my co-workers plenty of ammunition to fuel some pretty funny tv ads or newspaper articles.


Here's another fun post for a Fun Friday:

Ode to a Couch

Oh couch, sweet couch! You were my first major purchase after I graduated from college and started my first real job. I would never have guessed back then that you would see me through over a decade’s worth of sitting. That you would welcome all my friends. That you wouldn’t get tired of being the only place to sit day in and day out. When the dining room table and chairs arrived seven years ago, they initially gave you a little bit of competition, but they were never as comfortable as you were. You survived the past three years of dog hair and dog accidents, and still you kept your impeccable exterior. Your only fault is that your plaid pattern, which initially drew me to you, is a bit busy for the patterned tile floors. I have tried to make it work for several years now, but just felt it was time for you to move on and bless another family. Keep being so selfless, and remember that you will always be my first couch!
Happy Friday to all!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Thankful Thursday

I’ve always thought that Thanksgiving should be a daily celebration. I’m not suggesting that we need the Macy’s parade, the big feast (though that & a good college football game would be nice), or even the time off from work.

Instead, I’m thinking more along the lines of a daily discipline of taking time to reflect on the many blessings that we’ve received during the day. Some people do this in the form of a gratitude journal, and that’s something that I’ve tried to incorporate into my life this year.

I started journaling my answered prayers and my daily blessings because it reminds me of God’s faithfulness in the little stuff. His faithfulness in the big stuff is pretty easy to remember. But, it’s those little things He does daily--like answering those tiny prayers that I sometimes don’t even speak out loud or even have time to fully develop--that I want to remember. Because they add up. And because they show me that God is at work every day.

When I’m waiting on God to answer one of my big prayers, and MY deadline for Him has long since come and gone, I want to give up. I tend to think that God has entered retirement. But, I know that can’t be true because I’ve got a whole list of things that He did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that and so on.

And because I know I’m going to write down these blessings at the end of the day, I am constantly on the lookout for God at work. I don’t know that I necessarily see more than I used to see, but I definitely pay more attention and hopefully have a more thankful attitude in general.

Today, June 7, 2007, God showed me that He was at work by having new neighbors move into a house across the street that has been vacant for almost a year (and by having them mow the 2-foot-tall yard, to boot!), by giving me energy to make it through the day in spite of a late night last night, and by healing an eye inflammation that has bothered me for two days.

So, what are you thankful for today? I’d love to know how God made you smile today.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Word Project

I’m in the middle of a challenge. Actually, there are several, but the one I am speaking of is called the “Word Project.” That’s what our church has named a 22-week project in which they have challenged the church as a body to memorize Galatians. The end goal is not necessarily to be able to say every word in those 6 chapters in the correct order. Instead, the goal is to get the message in our minds and hearts.

I’ll admit that my first response wasn’t one of delight. I think my face reflected a look of incredulity. I think I actually may have even snickered as I told my small group what to be expecting in the weeks to come.

Then, I heard that a lady, who is now a friend but was merely an acquaintance at the time, had already memorized all of Galatians. She did it a few years back when she and a group of women were studying the book and decided to challenge themselves to memorize it. At that point, the challenge somehow became more do-able and a lot more desirable.

As of this week, we are 10 weeks into this challenge. I fell behind last week, so I’m actually still working on the verses for week 9. Up until then, I didn’t really have to try very hard to get the words to stick. Sure, I invested time listening to the cd that we have that contains all the verses on it. But, I didn’t struggle all that much.

Then, last week’s verses stumped me. Maybe that’s because I had gotten a little too prideful. Maybe I had gotten a little too independent and self-reliant.

Well, no more. I now recognize that there is no way that I can get 148 verses (yep, I counted) in my brain without a little help from Above. This isn’t like high school when I could cram the elemental chart from chemistry in my head in a matter of moments and have it stick for years to come. A lot of other stuff has been added to my head since those days. And, it seems as if my brain hasn’t let go of old phone numbers, people’s birthdays, or the words to songs I no longer listen to. All that stuff had temporal value and yet my brain holds onto it.

Now, I’m having to retrain my brain to let go of the temporal and crave the eternal. It’s not an easy process. But I think the rewards will be much more lasting than knowing the phone number to the Pizza Hut back home.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Button Pushing

Ever had one of those days when you are embarrassed about the way you’ve responded to a situation? I’m not talking about the slight faux paus, like when I mess up a colloquialism and say something like "take another stab at the apple." I’m talking about responding to a situation in such a negative way that embarrassment sets in because the person on the receiving end would be hard-pressed to know that I am a Christian.

My buttons got pushed the other day by a customer service representative for an electric company. We didn’t get off to the greatest start because I kept having to ask her to repeat everything that she said because I couldn’t make out the words that she was saying or even identify if she was speaking English. Then, when I sat and listened to her, she kept asking if I was still on the line. It quickly turned worse when she couldn’t give me a straight answer to my simple question: How can I guarantee that you all will read my meter each month instead of estimating my usage? She had no answer; she read my account balance again and again and told me when the next meter reading would take place. Obviously, I was getting nowhere with her, so I asked to speak to a manager. She asked to put me on hold. Then she came back not once, not twice, not three times, but four times before she actually put me in the queue to speak to a supervisor. I tried to explain to the supervisor how frustrating my experience with the customer service rep had been, and he said in a monotone voice that my concerns would be passed along to the training division. They will send me a meter reading schedule. That’s it.

What am I leaving out? Possibly the despicable tone that I used. Oh, and the self-righteous attitude I conveyed. And the way I acted afterwards by telling lots of people about my bad experience and naming the company involved.

I had a similar encounter this weekend while purchasing a computer. I was told the computer would be ready at 6:30. I came back about 6:40 and was told the computer would not be ready until 8:00. I asked why they hadn’t called to let me know of the delay and received no answer; it was as if that’s not part of their protocol. So, I came back at 8:00 and was told it would be ready at 8:30. My patience ran out. I had a minor melt down but refrained from climbing over the counter and from crying–both of which seemed very likely in the heat of the moment.

I’m normally a pretty calm person. But for some reason, bad customer service representatives seem to push my buttons, even more than bad drivers and ignorant people. I guess I just feel like they don’t hear me, and by golly I deserve to be heard because I pay their company big bucks.

It sounds pretty gross to write that but that seems to be the way I operate with them. Maybe I expect too much. Maybe I should stop assuming that I will receive "customer care," and just realize that a lot of the people in these customer service positions don’t have the training or the desire to see my problem fixed.

Or maybe I should take my concerns up with Someone who really does care.

Thank you, Jesus, that I don’t have to queue up to talk to You. Thank You that You listen, that You speak my language, that You don’t refer me away to others but that You draw me to You.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Puzzling Plumbing

My poor house. It now knows what a trip to the dentist is like.

When I got my water bill in April, it was more than my summer watering bills, which is saying a lot since I live in Texas. So I called the water company, and they came and did their testing and determined that they weren’t at fault; their meter was performing superbly. The tester left me a little sheet on the door to announce his findings. The bad thing was, I couldn’t read his handwriting. My initial review of his chicken scratch marks revealed no problem. Great! But then after talking to my mom and realizing that didn’t make sense, I went for a second read. Oh, it says there is a leak. Yuck. That means it is up to me to fix.

So, a leak detection service (wish I hadn’t had to learn there is such a thing) came to run tests to determine where the leak is hiding. The plumber came with them. He took one look at my tile floors and was less than happy. I started praying immediately (why wasn’t I doing that all along?) that they wouldn’t have to drill the Grand Canyon out of my den.

An hour later, the leak was narrowed down to a five-foot area between the water heater in the garage and the half bath. Answered prayer = den is safe!

The plumber said that he hopes he can get to the pipe through the garage wall, but he may have to drill through the tile entry way if the crawl space isn’t big enough. I’m thinking that I’ll volunteer to use a jackhammer in the tiny space, if only it will save the tile, which has probably been discontinued.

My dog is less than thrilled with the sound of the jackhammer, which I can hear clearly through my Smith & Wesson earplugs. (Note: I bought the earplugs to use while taking tests, but I will remember to take them to Mount Hermon.)

Unfortunately, there’s no anesthetic for my garage wall. It is being drilled unmercifully. The layers of plaster are flying away. The bare pipes are being exposed. The broken pipe will be found. A new one will be put in its place.

As I think about this, I feel the urge to pray for God to be gentle with me as He peels back layers of my heart to expose its “leak(s)” and to gently repair the brokenness. That He would help me see the lies that I have believed and help me take them out of my mind and replace them with Truth.

. . . .

Post-op Report: The plumber found that the pipe in the garage was functioning normally. The leak was actually out at the street. The detection had produced a faulty report. After working for 5 hours on a Saturday, the plumber ended up charging me less than $200 for all of his labor and the small part that he replaced. I am extremely grateful that it didn’t cost the $1,200 that was estimated, but I am sad that the plumber spent his whole Saturday looking for a leak that wasn’t where the detector said it was.

I'm not exactly sure what the lesson was in this, but I'm guessing that this is supposed to teach me to question the "detection service" that I use in my own life before I start trying to fix things.

Enough Doubting

Do you ever doubt?

Usually I doubt the weather. But today, I found myself doubting a recipe. Not just any recipe. An add-one-ingredient-to-this-mix recipe.

Surely hundreds of people have tried this box mix before. Surely if it didn’t work someone would have told the company.

Despite knowing that, I still doubted that 2/3 c. of yogurt would be enough to moisten all of this dry brownie mix.

That got me thinking: Am I am enough Lord? Enough to spread your light in the darkness? Enough to handle mean people? Enough to encourage others? Enough to do the job you've asked of me? Enough to?????

Thank You Lord that You are always Enough. Enough to cover my doubts with Truth, Light, and Love.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

14 Inches

Fourteen inches. That’s all. Sounds like a short enough distance that I could hop on one leg while blindfolded and still make it. But that’s not the leap at issue.

These fourteen inches are from my mind to my heart. And somehow, because of where those inches are located, the distance seems much greater. Just ask the nerves that run between the two organs. Mine are probably a bit weary from the constant battle.

My heart: I feel unseen, unwanted, unchosen.
My mind: Just believe the Truth. (John 8:32)

My battle isn’t the only one like this. I talked to a friend today whose heart-mind battle looked a lot like mine but with different words. This friend said that family members affirmed that the outcome of a situation was good, but the heart couldn’t grasp that. It was holding onto a history of feelings. And the mind, which wanted to believe that all was well, was not sold on that outcome just yet. It was still allowing the heart to take the reins. And so the fourteen-inch battle was still in full swing.

To get my mind on top of my battle, I need to be willing to reject any feelings that are not consistent with the Truth. And I want to do that. It’s just, I get stuck sometimes with my heart on a different page than my mind. It’s as if my heart has taken my brain hostage, intercepted all the signals from my brain, and is directing the communication. My brain, which is powerful enough to solve calculus problems without any direction from my heart, is having trouble taking back over command central.

They say, “Pick your battles.” But, I’m not sure that I personally ever got a vote on this particular battle that my heart and mind started waging years ago. I’m signing off from the battlegrounds today, but I can’t say it will be the last time that my pesky heart stirs up trouble.

Let's Start with Semantics

For those of you who aren’t from Texas, a bluebonnet is a wildflower that appears alongside Texas highways every spring.

For those of you who are from Texas, snow consists of frozen water vapor that falls to the ground in soft, white crystalline flakes.

Normally, these two natural “objects” would not be found together for obvious reasons. But with Texas weather, anything can happen, including having a wintery snowfall in the midst of spring. And that’s exactly what occurred on Easter weekend this year.

But that wasn’t the only odd occurrence this spring. It was around that time that I felt God awakening in me the desire/need/urge to write.

But I didn’t immediately put pen to paper (my preferred way of writing). Instead, I did what comes naturally to me: I questioned God.

“Lord, is this really something that you want me to do? You know I had that idea a few years back to write a book, but I had to scrap that because my motives were wrong. Would you help me do this without making this about me?”

“Lord, you know I write all day long for work and often struggle with getting things to flow and sound right. Have you equipped me to do this? You know that I'm not humorous (or at least not on purpose). And my creativity, while it stuck around a little longer than my flexibility, has long since faded. And I think that most of my best writing was used up during college. So do I really have what it takes to write?”

“Okay, Lord, I’ve been reading all these books and blogs about publishing in the Christian genre, and it isn’t easy. It’s actually a LOT harder than I could have imagined. There’s a marketing aspect involved, and I’m not sure that’s part of my skill set.”

“Lord, it took me 6 tries to be able to get my little blurb accepted to join The Christian Writers’ View. Were you trying to block me or test my perseverance? This isn’t going to be easy, is it?”

As I was struggling through this process, I decided to pray beforehand for once. (I’m really guilty of going into things and asking God to bless my decisions instead of consulting Him ahead of time.) And through those prayers, I realized that it was right to pray beforehand, and at the same time, I realized that no matter how much prayer I put into this, I still might never be published. And I have to be okay with that. I need to accept God’s leading might not be calling me to a life of fame.

So even after all the prayers and questioning, I still felt God tugging on my heart to be obedient and to write. I didn’t get a lot of clear answers to my questions, mostly just reminders. I was reminded that sometimes when things seem so much bigger than me, it is something that God wants me to do in order to require me to lean on Him. (All I have to do is think back to getting my job and how I said after my not-so-great interview that the only way I was going to get the job would be for God to secure it for me.) And sometimes, God strips me of things I depend on (MY creativity, MY abilities, etc.) to allow His creativity and His ability to shine through. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All writing comes by the grace of God.”

And so, I feel a little like a bluebonnet in the snow. I’m out of my comfort zone. But hopefully I will acclimate quickly and just enjoy the newness, the contrasts, and the opportunity to just hang out for as long as He allows in this world of writing and writers.

Birth of a Blog

Though I haven’t given birth to a child, this first posting can be compared with nothing less than birthing. I have carried around ideas for months and have even written out several blog postings, but it is the writing of this debut posting that has given me such pains.

I feel this overwhelming need to make a good first impression. Consequently, for weeks now I have been changing the template of this blog (I believe the current one is actually the sixth incarnation); I have edited the links and the written material in the margins; and I have been struggling with what to put in this first posting. I’ve put such pressure on this first one, thinking that you might not stop back by again if it wasn’t full of pizzazz. I wanted everything to be pleasing and perfect for everyone who read this.

And then I saw the movie Copying Beethoven, and it was as if the character Beethoven was speaking directly to me: “See, in your work, you’re obsessed with structure, with choosing the correct form. You have to listen to the voice speaking inside of you. I didn’t even really hear it myself until I went deaf.” And to hopefully prevent having to endure deafness, I’ve decided to listen to the voice inside me and actually birth (i.e., transcribe) what it is saying.

And so I started writing this and thinking back to seeing pictures of minute-old babies straight from the womb, and I realized that just-birthed babies really aren’t all that cute. There’s a lot of cleanup and training to be done. But the baby is loved nonetheless. Because of whom he or she is. Not for anything that the child may or may not do in the future.

So, in that same vein, I hope that you will enjoy this blog simply for what it is--reflections from my daily life as I attempt to process what God is teaching me. I know that I need some cleanup of my own and hope that by writing more frequently both my writing and my ability to process life will improve.

Another of my hopes is that what I write will resonate with you on some level and maybe even cause you to ask God questions about what is going on in your life. However, I know that I can’t make you react a certain way, just as a parent can’t make a child act a certain way. Writing has its limitations because all writing is merely words strung together. And my words, in and of themselves, are not magical.

So maybe this is what it is like for parents--birthing a child, trying to do the cleanup but realizing your limitations, doing your best in spite of the limitations, and turning the rest over to God. And so shall I.

I hope you’ll join me during the process. Because who knows, this “baby” might just turn out to be the cutest thing that you’ve ever laid eyes on!