Saturday, January 30, 2010

Grandma the ridiculous superhero

Our grandsons spent last weekend with us. They are 10 and 8 (soon to be 9) and, lately, have had rather full plates - especially for guys that are so young. Their lives right now are full of uncertainty and a little bit of fear and a lot of worry  - worry about adult things and things they can't fix. It kills me! I see the sadness in their eyes and I want to kiss it away - but, they want none of that - after all, they are getting too big for those physical acts of affection. 

So, my goal was to work around all of that anxiety and to just make them laugh and to be silly. They have great imaginations. They are almost like twins that have shared the same space in their mother's womb - at times, it is almost surreal. They finish each other's sentences and one will finish a story the other has started. They are a unit - solid and sure!

Over breakfast of "make a smile" pancakes at I-Hop, they started telling us the story they want to write - all about their family and good and evil. They kept bouncing back and forth with the story line and, actually, it was really good. I just assumed the story would include a superhero. After all, they always do. So, I said, "Ah Ha, a superhero - I can get into this". So, I went on to explain that I wanted to be in their story - as a sassy, flamin' red-haired, red-cape, red cowboy-boot wearin' - superhero. A superhero with ATTITUDE." I can just see it - it would be so cool. And, I went on to explain how my superhero power would be that when evil came after us, I would stare it down and fill its head with love and then it wouldn't be able to harm us - everything would be wonderful.  My comment was met with four eyes that looked at me with unbelief (there may have been six eyes; however, I couldn't see Joe's because he was sitting next to me). I don't think they heard about my incredible power - they were just doing their best to erase that image of their grandma with flamin' red hair, wearing a red cape and red cowboy boots from their young, impressionable minds. Gee, for boys with imagination, they certainly were not in my moment.

The real kicker of the story is that they finally (by the end of the day) determined I would be some kind of kook "electric" girl that couldn't contain her powers and, instead of using my powers for good (even thought I tried), I would end up channeling my powers back on myself and would fry my own brains and short-circuit myself. Boy, do they know how to make me feel good about myself.

But, for a moment - if only a short while - I succeeded. I encouraged them to laugh and forget the things troubling them and just let them enjoy being little boys teasing their grandma.  

I hope they remember that being ridiculous is sometimes pretty fun, that belly laughs always make you feel better and that their grandma loves them enough to put frightening images of herself wearing a red cape and cowboy boots into their little heads. But, more importantly, I hope they ALWAYS KNOW how very much they are loved!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Count your blessings, name them one by one...

I was confirmed Sunday. After attending St. Michael's Episcopal Church for 5+ years, I finally succumbed. My priest has quietly been after me for a while to officially be "confirmed." Not being confirmed was my quiet rebellion - for no other purpose than just to have a way out in case I ever needed it. Is that a silly notion, or what - a way out from what, I wonder?

It's just that I didn't see the point. I had made a public profession of faith and was baptized when I was nine years old. My walk with God has always been such a vital part of my life. It really irritated me I had to be "confirmed" to become part of the Episcopal faith tradition and not just "received" as I was. Seems a bit exclusionary to me - but, that's the rule.

Let me back up a bit. I was raised in the Baptist faith and have always worn the title "Baptist" like a badge of honor. I have always respected the way I was raised and my parents provided a loving upbringing in the church for me and my sisters. By circumstances, I found myself visiting an Episcopal church with my husband and, now, this is the place we call home.

I was not confirmed at my home church because the Bishop is retiring and making rounds to all of the different parishes in the diocese and will not be returning to St. Michael's until late next year. I had to strike while the spirit was moving me (so to speak); so, Mother Pat, my priest, found a church and the bishop and sent me on my merry way to be confirmed - complete with my confirmation certificate and the big "book of life" (it's the church membership book so the Bishop could sign me in - makes me official).

I kept this whole experience pretty quiet from my home congregation and from my family. I just wanted to slip in, get it done and slip out. A quiet little ceremony - I would get up with all the other folks being confirmed, received, etc., and be about my business. It was not going to be a big deal. But, Nooooo, I learned just a few days beforehand that I was going to be the "only one" confirmed. Great - just great!

I do not like to do things in front of people. I always cry. I have labeled myself a weeper and a squeaker -  my face gets chapped, my palms sweat, my eyes leak, my nose runs and my voice raises about an octave. I am mortified when all of this happens. I am very emotional - especially regarding spiritual things - my heart just becomes so completely full it has to overflow somewhere and it just pours out.

So, now I am going to be confirmed in front of complete strangers and I am all by myself. But, friends decide to surround me with their love and support and I find myself grateful beyond all words. Abbey, Ann and HazelAnn made a special effort to drive across town to be witness to this momentous event - I kind of wondered if Mo Pat sent them to make sure I actually showed up - that wasn't the case, though - they just love me:) In addition was my husband and two of my grandsons, Tyler and Gavin.

The Bishop called Joe and me to the front, the service began - Joe presented me and then, with the Bishop's direction, I was asked to repeat my baptismal vows. The Bishop then asked me to kneel in front of him for the blessing. He placed his hands on my head and prayed over me and - Oh Boy! - here comes the tears... What a tremendous and powerful moment. Not a big deal - Ha! It was a HOLY moment of holy moments. I've had them before and this one was especially moving for me. It was a reaffirmation of where I am in my life - a crossroads. And, it was confirmation for me that I am right where I belong - finding my way in this life with God's grace, mercy and love. I was so mistaken - I was NOT confirming anything. God was confirming me! And, I felt His love!

So, I count my blessings - I'm thankful for Mother Pat, my home congregation, the loving folks at All Saints, Mother Barbara who hugged me through this moment,  my friends that love and support me and my husband and family. I'm ashamed I did not ask my Mom and sisters to join me on this day - I was selfish and hope they forgive me. I missed them! It was remarkable and they belonged there with me and would have been there without pause - I wish they had known and they could have shared that moment with me - it would have been Holy for them, too.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Be Still - and, stop rockin' the boat

Remember the story about Jesus and the disciples out on the sea and in a small fishing boat during a violent storm? I'm paraphrasing this and you can find the story in the Bible (Matthew 8:23). This story amazes me. The disciples freak out because the storm is bad, the waves are high and they are just certain they are going to drown. So they wake Jesus from a sound sleep to beg that He save them. It's kind of funny, really, because He just sort of shakes His head and tells them to relax (Oh, boy) and then He does what He does best. He calms everything and everyone down.

Joe and I were on a cruise last year and it was our first. The first day I got out of the bed, looked out the little round window and said something like - "Holy smoke - what have we done?" We were completely surrounded by water - calm water - and, NOTHING but water. I was completely and thoroughly intimidated. And, even though we were on a fairly large ship, it seemed to be awfully small in comparison to our surroundings. Did I mention we were surrounded by nothing but water, deep and powerful water?

I can't imagine being in a small wooden boat during a ferocious storm. I, too, would have been terrified, panicked and would be screaming - "Lord, save us, we are going to drown."

This week has felt a bit like being in a storm. Even though we are trying to be calm about my employment situation and to keep our wits about us; oftentimes, the waves of our circumstances have been somewhat overwhelming. The fear of not being able to meet our obligations, not being able to take care of our medical needs, not being able to enjoy the lifestyle we now enjoy, not being able to put food on our table - has paralyzed us for a moment - and, usually, for only a brief moment. That is when the words come to me: "Why are you so afraid? Relax! Keep your eyes on me and I will take care of all that you need".

It's comforting to know that Jesus is riding the storm with us. At times, it is hard to hear his voice through all of the rumblings around us. But, this we know - storms do not last forever and and then the sun will shine.

NEW THINGS:  I'm learning more and more about the internet and how it can be my friend or nemesis. I am humbled by the outpouring of support and love I have rec'd this week - amazing friends that are invested in walking this road with us. I came up with my very own recipe this week - Chicken with good sauce - how is that for a name - it was yummy! And I watched my daughter (the veterinarian) clean Hank's (he's our dog) teeth - pretty cool!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A light unto my path and a lamp unto my feet

The sun is shining today. Finally! The day didn't start that way - when I awoke this morning we were surrounded by fog. However, now it has lifted and the sun is shining, the snow is melting and my heart is lighter. We've been surrounded by fog for several days now - literally and figuratively. I'm a little tired of it; yet, it fascinates me. And, it is a good lesson.

I was driving with my husband yesterday and it was so foggy we could only see a short distance in front of the car. It was a bit disconcerting because we could not clearly see what was in front of us - nor behind us, for that matter. It was like we were enveloped in the place where we were. And, the thought came to me - I guess this is a good metaphor for faith.

I am not a risk taker. I like to know where I am going. I like to have a map (mapquest is my friend). I like to have the assurance that the directions are clear, the road is safe, the detours have been clearly marked and the distance and arrival time have been determined. Then I can proceed - prepared and ready to go - in control.

However, I am learning that the lesson for this season of my life is all about faith. I guess I will find out what I am made of. I don't have a plan, I don't have any idea where I am going or even where I want to go. All I do know is that I'm willing to go where God is leading me and that He will light the way. It is frightening. Yet, it is exciting. Because I believe God does have a plan, He does know where I am going. And, the most important thing to me is that He knows where I am at this very moment in time. And, He knows that my hands are reaching to His so He can lead the way.

So, my prayer is this:
The Potter's Hand - Darlene Zscheck

Beautiful Lord, wonderful savior,
I know for sure all of my days are held in your hand,
crafted into Your perfect plan.

You gently call me into your presence,
guiding me by your Holy Spirit.
Teach me, dear Lord,
to live all of my life through Your eyes.

I'm captured by Your Holy calling,
Set me apart;
I know You're drawing me to yourself.
Lead me Lord, I pray:

Take me, mold me, use me, fill me.
I give my life to the Potter's hand.
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me.
I give my life to the Potter's hand.

NEW THINGS:  I'm been a bit pre-occupied. However, I have tried new things. Looking for work wasn't on my initial list; but, I'm getting good at it and it is kind of fun. I enjoyed Family night with our kids and grandkids - the new thing was to relax and just enjoy each other. The girls took care of the food and drinks and I just relaxed. I sure love all of them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

the valley vs. the mountain top

So, what do you do when you hear the words "I'm sorry, we have to let you go..."?  I experienced those words for the first time in my life yesterday when my boss told me I was no longer needed at the company where I have worked for 10 years. It wasn't at all what I thought it would be. I was not surprised, I was not overwhelmed, I just had this terrific sense of peace and - relief!

My job industry is changing. I have worked in Print Production for 25 years and it is now becoming something that is not necessary in our ever-changing world. Everything is moving into the electronic age - web, blogs, social media - the very things I enjoy are the things that have eliminated my job. Isn't that ironic...?

But, on to other-more important things...I've been thinking a lot about something I heard recently. The question is this...why is everyone always yearning to be on the mountain top when the valley is really where all the good things happen? It's a good question. The top of the mountain is cold and barren, nothing grows there, the winds blow relentlessly, the air is beyond cold and the ground is hard, treacherous, steep and dangerous. The only good thing about the mountain top is the spectacular view. It's true - on a clear day you can see forever.

However, in the valley things are protected, the soil is rich for growth, the sun shines, the rain falls and seeds are nourished, they thrive, they grow - albeit slowly.

I find myself, at this very moment, in the valley. I feel as if circumstances have changed around me so I am at that point where my life's soil is rich for growth, for seeking new things, for hearing and learning the lessons that God is teaching me. It terrifies me!

Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, is one of my favorite books. She has a character, Much Afraid, who is crippled and yearns to be with the Shepherd in the "high places." He leads her there but does not send her on the most direct path. He also provides companions to help her along the way. She gets to the foot of the mountain only to see that the path leads her into a valley - she is disappointed. Through another portion of the journey she crosses the valley only to run into the steep cliffs she doesn't feel capable of climbing. She is angry. However, the Shepherd, once again, detours her along another path - one not so steep but a little longer to her destination. Along the way of her adventure, she runs into all kinds of things that threaten her journey - fear, envy, selfishness, anger, pride, disappointment. But, she learns that the Shepherd sent her companions to cling to when those things block her way. And, His presence and help are only a whisper away. And, she learns that the mountain top is a destination but the journey is what is worthwhile.

So, I find myself in a valley, like Much Afraid - anxious to move to the mountain top where I can see clearly the path that has been laid out for me. I know the mountain top is a fleeting moment - although an exilarating one. And, I want my time in the valley to be worthwhile so I can grow, learn, and become all that God wants me to be. I'm praying I can remember that His presence and help are only a whisper away.

Friday, January 8, 2010

who knew?

I was at the grocery store the other night - stocking up before the big snow storm hit. The store was full of people - mostly those stopping on their way home from work so they wouldn't have to get out again in the crummy weather. The lines were long and everyone looked a little get what they needed, to get where they were going, to get home.

I was checking out and placing my food on the conveyor belt and I heard this little girl behind me whisper to her mom, "Wow, she eats really healthy." I was looking around to see who she was talking about when I realized - Ha! she was talking about me. Evidently she was looking over the stuff in my cart and decided it was healthy food. The funny thing is I was just thinking "Hmmm, how do I spend $100 on food and not get anything good to eat?" I remembered thinking that about the groceries my mom brought home when I was a kid, too.

I still don't know the answer. Maybe it is in the perception of what is good to eat and what is good for me - how often are they the same? However, the little girl was correct - I did have a cart full of healthy food. Trust me, it doesn't happen very often...

My husband has enlightened my life with a thought he shared with me years ago - You can't fill your life with the right things when you have the space filled with things that are wrong. I've been thinking about this lately. It doesn't just apply to relationships, it applies to all areas of my life - my physical body, my family, my friendships, my job, my home and my spiritual life.

One of the things I am committed to trying is to fill my life with good things - things that are good for me -things like good food, good thoughts, a good relationship with God, good friendships, good times with family and good relationships with those I love. I want to indulge myself with things that are good and edifying so I will be healthy - physically, mentally and spiritually. It is harder than it seems and a commitment I pray I can keep.

I would love for people to look at the shopping cart of my life and whisper to themselves - "Wow, she eats really healthy, I'd like to eat healthy, too".

New things - I've discovered my list of "new things" seems to be ever growing. As a start, this week I've cooked at home more often than eating out. I've tried several new recipes with rave results and, tomorrow, I am starting a new activity - Project 365 - taking a photo a day - I have to take nine photos tomorrow, though, to catch up:) I'm on my way!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Something new...

I will turn 50 this year. It doesn't really freak me out as much as it has brought me a bad case of antsy pants. I feel like I should be doing more, making a difference somewhere or to someone, reaching goals, making new goals, enjoying myself more, ya da, ya da, ya da... So, after contemplating this for a few days, I have decided to attempt to actually keep a new year's resolution. I have several - but, I think this one is the most spectacular  - Seriously, who really cares about the others - things like painting my living room, cleaning out my cabinets, etc. So, this is the big "To Do" - I am going to reach out of my familiar (aka "rut") and try 50 new things in 2010. This may mean trying a new recipe, cooking at home, trying a new hair style, learning a new song, reading a different author, driving a new way to work (or maybe, riding the bus), eating sushi, trying a new activity - who knows?

I think it will be fun and it will give me something to look forward to and to embrace. I'm working on my list...

Below is one of my favorite quotes. I've carried this little message in my billfold for years (I'm ashamed to say I have no idea who said this - please forgive me) and I like it:

"Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place is the place in your life where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful. What you will discover will be yourself."

How cool is that?

By the way - Today, I am trying a new recipe - I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, January 4, 2010

...the places I'll go - I think

January 2010 - I've decided to enter the blog world and step out and see if I have anything interesting to say, to learn, to share...So, I guess I will see.

This will be a work in progress and I'm sure I will stumble along the way. But, it's all about discovery. The first step is to say "yes" to the adventure, to the new possibilities... So, here I go....Yes!!!

That wasn't so hard...