Friday, February 25, 2011

Follow Through Friday- Music

This sampler my mother made hangs in my piano/living room. Its truth and beauty speak to me, and I notice it often when I go into that room. What a gift God gave us in music! It is a language of my soul, and a language I'm thankful my mother made me learn to speak as well as enjoy. Like many of you, I started the dreaded piano lessons while in elementary school and took off and on for seven years. Seven years sounds like enough time to be pretty darn good, but I'd probably leave off the darn and just say pretty good with a bit of hesitation in my voice while still trying to sound somewhat complimentary. Let's just say I could play about anything I want if I was willing to plod through a bit. It wouldn't come easy - and 16th notes and triplets still make me nervous.

I find I play in spurts. When life feels a little out of control, I tend to play more. I think the combination of the  beauty of the music and the fact that I am in control while in front of those keys is just the salve I need at those times. (If I'm particularly agitated, Prelude in C# Minor, an old recital piece, provides the perfect combination of pounding and pessimism. ) Mostly, these days, I peck away at Clair de Lune - so haunting, so beautiful.   I also bought the music from the movie Pride and Prejudice a couple of years ago. I want to learn to play it. Maybe that needs to be a Follow Through...  

Singing has been another musical outlet. Although publicly, that has waned in recent years. In fact, the last time I sang at "big church" was the Sunday before my dad died seven years ago this March. He and my mom had been begging me to sing "My Forever Friend" - a song they love. It really wasn't my style, but I love them and sang it that Sunday, dedicating it to them right before I sang. Turns out that a gift to them was really a gift to me.  

When I was even younger, I did the wedding circuit. I think the first wedding I sang in was my sister's in 1978. I think the last was Beth Falcone's - can't remember the date. Both of those couples are still married - kind of feels good to begin and end on a positive note. 

One of my most memorable singing performances happened on a Thursday night at Thursday Musicale - a ladies music club I belong to. I was pregnant with either Luke or Hannah. It was Broadway tunes night, and I and two other pregnant ladies sang "I Can't Say No!" from the musical Oklahoma. If there has been a night at that club where we've all laughed harder, I don't remember it. 

And just like I took piano lessons, I took a few voice lessons also - compliments of my parents. They loved my singing so, they even paid for them after Lou and I were married and moved to Bolivar. While cleaning out the music cabinet, I found the following sheet with my voice lessons for the week. (I can't for the life of me remember who I even took voice lessons from!)  There was also a little reminder at the bottom.  
Music & Medicine
Even though I don't remember my instructor's name, I do remember that the stomach surgery issue wasn't for me! I must have also asked for info about the Guidance and Counseling program at SMS. I did end up taking a couple of classes in that field the first year we were here. And, I have been singing to my teeth ever since I saw this!

Well, it feels like I got a bit sidetracked chronicling the actual Follow Through project. It just didn't seem noteworthy to describe how I organized and arranged all this music.  Finding these bits of my history were so much bigger for me than actually getting a clean cabinet. You talk about what's really important to you.  But, the great thing is - I got an organized area to boot. Now I know what I have and where to find it. That makes life a lot more harmonious.

Next week: I know this is vague, but I can only say that I have a major loose end to tie up in regard to a project I've been involved with for about 4 years. I'm not really sure how I'll describe the resolution next week, but I need this deadline to overcome my inertia in regards to it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beautiful/Workable Spaces

As promised in my last post, some inspiration! I asked three sweet friends if I could have some photos of their craft rooms to share on my blog. They graciously, but a bit shyly, agreed. I enjoy looking at pictures of how people organize and arrange what they have - how they make what God has blessed them with beautiful and workable. These women inspire me in that way, but that's only scratching the surface of who they are. I admire all these women and am thankful that God brought us all to a town in Missouri to do life together. Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." They have sharpened me. They have helped me love God more.

Suzie Evans was the most ambushed of the three in regards to photographing her space. I happened to be at her home for another reason entirely when I remembered that I wanted to ask her about her craft room.  I always have my camera, so "do you mind...?" was out of my mouth before she knew what hit her. She felt like it was a mess, (it wasn't), but let me snap a couple. Her room, her house, make you feel like you're at a retreat in the mountains. She says her blood pressure drops and she relaxes the minute she walks into her craft room. Mine did too.

Next on the hit list was Sue Roweton. There's a reason her nickname in college was "Super Sue." Sue is one of the most organized, efficient women I know (and well read, well written, well spoken...).  She could give Frank Gilbreth, the dad and efficiency expert of  Cheaper by the Dozen fame, a few pointers.  Mary Grace has enjoyed crafting in Sue's open, always welcome, space.

And last, but not least, is Cheri Jones. Cheri made a statement one time, that gave me a lot of freedom. I'll be surprised if she even remembers it. When she and Jim were building their house, she talked about how the decor in their new house was going to be completely different from the house they were in. She was tired of it.  Ridiculously, I wondered, "Can you do that? Can you just admit that you were tired of what you had picked and go to something polar opposite?" Before I heard Cheri say this, if I admitted I didn't like something I had chosen anymore, it felt like I didn't have good taste in the first place. But since Cheri's statement, I know it didn't! It just meant I was tired of it. Cheri, a decorating expert, said so. Freedom! Thanks, Cheri.
I don't know if Cheri thinks her room has a Mary Engelbreit feel or not, but it reminds me of her style. Maybe it's the black and white polkadots scattered here and there:)

The definition of inspire is "fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative." The something creative will look different in each of our lives. And if you have little ones running around, you are probably happy just to do something, let alone what is typically thought of as something creative. But here's the deal. We all have our days filled with a lot of somethings - and a lot of it we don't have a whole lot of say about. But our creator God can help us take our every day somethings and create a beauty around them and in them. 

Thanks again to my three friends, who, because of the beauty in them, created some beauty around them. That's inspiring.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Follow Through Friday- The Basement

 As usual, having a deadline spurred me on to complete what I might otherwise have postponed. And as usual, I'm the happier for having done it. I have a plan for our basement. Granted, I have painted with a wide brush - I didn't really look at the nitty gritty details of making every space happen. But I am so much farther down the road than I have ever been. For me, a lot was accomplished.

Roughly, here's what's on tap:
The sketch on the right is a general layout of our basement. It is obviously not to scale, but I have measured to make sure everything fits where I want it. Where there looks like a ton of empty space, there really isn't. There is some openess, though, because we have a couple of former gymnasts in our family that still like to pull the mats out and flip around, so I wanted to allow for that.
The sketch on the left is more detail of our exercise space.
The photograph below shows my thoughts for my creative area and Mary Grace's sewing area. The word Ikea shows up here. When I do get down to making this space happen, I'll be visiting their site.
Next on my list: paint colors. It really hasn't been that long since we painted (2 yrs, maybe?), and when I asked Lou what new paint colors we should choose, he said, "I really like what we have." Before I had asked him that, I had visited Carl Larrson's website for ideas:
I really love his art. And surprisingly, the colors in his art and what we already had in the basement were similar. So, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Although we won't have to pick new colors, we still will repaint because we have had some kid powered projectiles do damage to our walls. Hence the sheetrock people visited us to correct that and left nice white patches.
Our carpet is a blue/green and looks like it's been played on by our 6 kids and their friends for 14 years. I really made no decision about it other than it will be replaced at some point. Over in the kitchenette and exercise area, I plan to pull up the linoleum and do something fun with the concrete like the following picture illustrates. Some of you may recognize this floor from the license office. Jean Stark has made that government office beautiful.
I also wanted to include a couple of pictures of items that have been in our basement since we built the house in 1997 and still love. First, our autograph wall.
We had seen this in a home when we when first moved to Bolivar and loved it. It was a blank slate when we moved in, and this is it 14 yrs later. Everyone who comes to our house signs the wall. 
Next: our chalkboard wall.
Luke, David, Nic, Gian (cousins), Hannah & Faith
Always have loved chalkboards, so we made a huge one with a can of paint when we moved in, and had our builder trim it out. (The artwork: compliments of Rachel Casey Hamann - always fun to have artistic babysitters).

I think that about covers it, basement-wise, for this Follow Through Friday. I do have something else artistic, crafty, and inspiring I'd like to show you. Three friends have graciously given me permission to share some photos of their creative spaces on my blog. I hope to have those up for you all in the next day or so.

For next week, I'm going to take it easy, comparatively, but it's something that's been gnawing at me. I have a cabinet full of sheet music and books that needs sorting. This time next week, that will have happened.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Repetition is the Key to Learning

If you ask my kids what's one quote they've heard me say over and over, I think they would say:
 "Repetition is the key to learning."
I don't remember where I heard this for the first time, but once I heard it, I knew it was true. I definitely need to hear/do/see things over and over to really "get it." And what I think is important certainly gets repeated to my kids.  So now, I kind of notice repeating things - especially in the written word - especially in the Bible. If God repeats a word many times, say in a chapter, and I notice it, I take a closer look. (This is the Holy Spirit acting as my teacher, which God says in his word he would do! John 16:13) 

Today, I read Mark 1:1-28.
In it, the word immediately appears 6 times, and the words, at once appear once. That's the thought of no hesitation or right now appearing, on the average, once every 4 verses. I'd say there's a little repetition going on here.  So what do I sense God saying to me today? 

-Obey me immediately. When you sense me whispering to your heart about something or someone, follow through.
-Immediately doesn't mean a rushed, frantic pace. It means a purposefulness about what I have for you to do today.  There's no just going through the motions of today. And remember, there's always enough time to do the will of God. 
-Remember the book you read, Don't Waste Your Life? Don't waste your life. Don't waste today. It's immediate.
-How about your children? What if they came to you today and told you they felt an immediate call on their life like Andrew, Simon, James and John said they did to their father that fateful day on the Sea of Galilee? What would you do with that? They are mine, remember. 
-I love you, immediately.

If I sense God saying these things, I hope I'm listening. Meditating. Praying. Doing. Immediately.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Follow Through Friday- The Basement

"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." Proverbs 29:18

This week's Follow Through Friday (that's being posted on Saturday because yesterday was crazy with life and away basketball games) was all about vision. In case you don't remember what I said in my last Follow Through post, here's an exact quote from one week ago:

This time next week I plan to have a written plan including paint colors, future furniture, floor changes and some kind of overall theme tying it all together.

I was to look at this amazing space we have - making it even more functional and more beautiful. The art of having a vision for spaces is hard for me. I so admire people who know exactly what they want, can see it with their mind's eye, and then they make it happen. Half of my problem is that I don't know exactly what I want. I see one picture in a magazine and I like that. Then I see another picture with a completely different look and feel, and I like that too.

Which one will I like the longest? The other half of my problem is that I've lived long enough now to know just how much work will be involved to get these things done. And I have a big lazy bone. Maybe I'm a bit lazy about these things because, in some ways, how well "my space" is all tied together doesn't matter that much to me.  I like things to be really neat and organized (that doesn't mean they are), but I'm not someone who is totally into decorating their house. I try not to feel like I have some female genetic deficiency because I'm like that.

 I really do love beauty, though. I feel it's important to surround our senses with beautiful things - beautiful music, beautiful words, beautiful spaces. God uses beauty to speak to our souls. So, I'm torn a bit. This is hard. And this week, because of that, it's not quite done. Oh, I've worked on it. Lou and I have talked and dreamed a little. I've asked the kids their opinions. I've asked questions like: "What would our dream basement look like? have in it? What would you like to be able to do down there?" 
I've made some notes, looked at pictures on the internet - even got out the blueprints! But I'm just not done. Remember, this is hard for me.  So, I'm going to continue it for another week. 

Here are some ideas we are bouncing around. Some of these elements we already have, and just need to improve upon. Some are new to the basement area and we may want to incorporate. 
  -exercise area
  -creative/wrapping/sewing area 
  -movie/gaming system area: David's mantra here: "We need an HD tv!"
  -pingpong table
  -puzzle table
  -game table
  -pinball machine (not $$ practical, but I think it would be so much fun)

Of course, this project has been bouncing around in my head all week. An unexpected connection was made in this brain regarding it Friday morning. I decided to stoke the fire before the kids were up so it would be blazing when they staggered in to eat. David was a few minutes early, so he sat in front of it until it was time for breakfast at 7:20. When Mary Grace came in, she made a bee-line for it also. I thought of the quote, "Build it and they will come." It took me a little extra time and energy to go get some wood, stir the embers and work with it to get it going. But something as small as a fire brought comfort and enjoyment to some people I love. I want to think that way more about my house (and the basement in particular right now). It's taking me some time and energy. It's hard for me (have I said that already?). But I want this physical space God has given us to be a place where the ones I love -family and friends - come for comfort and enjoyment. I know that feeling loved and having joy are not really a function of where you are, but who you're with. (Even more true and important, whose you are.) But if it's in your power to make where you are more beautiful, why not do it? Being hard for me is a poor excuse. Just do it, Shelley.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Newton, Hitch and Kissing

Tuesday, at Classical Conversations, 10 year old Will vanHoornbeek's presentation was on Sir Isaac Newton. He did a great job describing the high points of Newton's life and then ending with some of his famous quotes. I liked it so much I asked to see his notes when he was done because I wanted to copy down the quotes he shared with us.

And then somewhere in the midst of listening to him, something in my mind was triggered (snapped?). I thought of the scene in the movie "Hitch," where Hitch is teaching Albert how to kiss Allegra Cole goodnight.  (The scene is on you-tube and is absolutely hilarious, if you're interested).  Hitch describes the 90-10 rule which says the following.

Guys, when you are giving the girl of your dreams that first kiss, go only 90% of the way toward her.  She is to come the other 10%.

Well, if I'm hearing "Newton describes the attractive force between all objects that possess mass," and it's getting close to Valentine's Day, why wouldn't I jump to a scene like I've just described in Hitch? You have an attractive force between two objects that possess mass.  How all these thoughts cavort around and make these kind of connections is fascinating to me.

Sir Isaac Newton

My thoughts then took a jump into my attempts at poetry. I immediately thought of a couple of lines connecting Newton and Hitch.  My grandfather enjoyed writing poems and for me, the challenge of writing poems is, believe it or not, fun. It makes me smile. Hopefully, they'll make you smile a bit, too.

How a Kiss is Caught

Mr. Newton talked about bodies with mass
And the pull that draws them close.
This made me think of the movie, "Hitch"
And also prompted this post.

Hitch advised men 'bout the ladies,
And the delicate dance we do
He gave some tips both bold and coy
That help men in their quest to be two.

He must have studied his science well
Especially what Newton had taught.
It spawned a core belief of his
Of how a kiss is caught.

"Bodies with mass pull on each other,
So guys, get close to her face.
But just go 90% of the way,
She'll fill the rest of that space.

That girl will start to feel your tug
She's drawn like a moth to a flame.
She'll come that needed 10%,
It's Sir Isaac we have to blame!

She'll close the gap, and then you'll know,
She really wants that touch,
It could be the beginning of something new,
And then, no more 'going dutch!'"

Hitch really owes Sir Isaac a lot,
Since this law was his bread and butter.
The 90-10 rule, when put into practice,
Caused many a heart to flutter.

So who would have thought it?
Gravity and love - is this a new warp and woof?
I bet if you asked Newton or Hitch
They'd say, "Yes- and the kiss is proof.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I read Matthew 25:31-46 this morning. It's the story Jesus told about the sheep and the goats. Every time I read this,  I think of the song sung by Keith Green.
The first time I ever heard of Keith Green, I was heading back to the dorm after a weekend retreat in college. This song came on the radio.  I was mesmerized, trying to figure out who was singing this song with such passion and conviction.  But part of me also recoiled.  These words were way too convicting. I had no doubts about whether or not I was a Christian, but I also knew that according to this song, and more importantly, according to this scripture, I really didn't do any of these things to the least of my brothers. I thought I was a sheep, but was I acting like a goat?

Keith also puts a line at the end of the song that I've always felt was incomplete. He says:
     "And my friends, the only difference between the sheep and the goats, according to this scripture, is what they did and didn't...DO!"

Yikes. This sounds likes you can earn heaven. I know Keith didn't believe that, and I don't believe that because scripture doesn't teach that. These deeds mentioned here are the evidences of salvation. If you are really saved, you will do the kind of things Jesus talks about here. Maybe I can let myself off the hook a bit by saying these deeds are just representative of all the good we Christians should be doing.  I don't think that really flies, though. When you look at this list, the needs listed here couldn't be any more basic.

So what do I do with this? Ray Leininger, in a sermon he preached recently at the Esquire, mentioned the homeless people who hold the signs asking for help at I-44 and Kansas Expressway.  One thing he suggested was as simple as keeping a dollar bill handy in the car to give to them. Is that small? insignificant? wasteful? not really solving anything? Maybe, on one level. But on my soul level, it's a baby step to heightened awareness to some basic needs of others that I, for the most part, have left to other people or ministries. I'm not dismissing the fact that our check book has, at times, been used to help others. I'm just wondering if our hands need to be used a little more. Looking at someone in the eyes, hearing their voice, possibly touching their fingers as I hand them a bill (serve them a meal, visit them in prison) makes "the least of these" breathe in a way that just writing a check to help them never will.  And who knows where a baby step of obedience might lead?  Hopefully, to the right.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Follow Through Friday- The Office

Blizzards probably thwart a lot of plans, but they come in handy for someone who has to get a big project done by Friday. Week 2's project was our home office. I am happy to report that this deadline was just what I needed to get something done that was seriously bringing me down. Clutter does that, doesn't it? I know that, and yet I still tolerate it on so many levels in my life. Getting rid of clutter brings such freedom!  You'd laugh at me if you knew how many times today I've stopped what I'm doing just to go walk in our office and smile.

But I was't smiling a week ago - and here's why. The "before" pictures. Why, why, why did I ever let it get this bad?

 upper cabinets catch-all

upper cabinet catch-all

But I did let it get that bad, and there was nothing to be done but dig in and get after it.  I did this project in stages- unlike the last Follow Through Friday- which was basically all done on Friday.  I would hit this room every chance I got, 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there- and whittle away at the piles.  I did find a few treasures, like this Elisabeth Elliot flip calendar. It sat for years above my sink.  I got it back out and put it on my newly cleaned desk. (A "front and center" move - see Feb. 1 blog entry).

Another hidden treasure: this picture of David. Probably one of my favorites of all time. Love that he's playing with a shoe, the milk below his lip, his fat little tummy. Why it was buried in here, I don't remember. It's going in a frame.

But there was way more junk than treasure, and it was good to throw TONS away. Really, after I got rid of trash, I didn't have that much to organize. Let me clarify here that I only did the upper cabinets and desk area. The file drawers will require their own moment some time in the future - maybe another Follow Through Friday.

So, the final product. I'm tickled pink, but cleaning this all out made me realize just how much more needs to be done. It desperately needs painting, and now that it's uncluttered, it needs to be decorated.  But for now, I'm happy.

happy cabinet

Week 3: Decorating plan for basement.  We have tons of space down there but it's not as functional and pretty as it should be. This time next week I plan to have a written plan including paint colors, future furniture, floor changes and some kind of overall theme tying it all together.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Secret Dentist

Our house has sprouted some teeth of sorts
They vary in size and thickness
They grew cause Blizzard 2011
Is clandestinely, a dentist.

Oh sure, he spreads white snow on the ground
This merely throws us off track.
His target is the roof and the eaves,
Real dentists know this tack.

There's powerful stuff in the snow he leaves
on the roof just over our head.
The mingle-ing, shingle-ing magic begins
Once the sun gets out of his bed.

The sun is secretly blizzard boy's friend
The magic won't work without him,
The teeth start their sprouting, Mr. Blizzard is shouting,
"Oh yes! They're coming in!

They're growing - some long and with such a nice point.
I really do great work.
Doesn't the house look like it should?
If it's toothless, it only smirks!"

But alas and alack, the smile is short-lived
The sun doesn't know when to stop.
Its heat starts a pulling that won't be denied
And eventually - the teeth, they all drop.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Front and Center

Psalm 119: 23
"Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes."

To my knowledge, I have never had princes plotting against me. When King David wrote this, he obviously had had a hard day, and the future seemed to hold more hard days. And if I were him, plotting princes would be all I could think about. Lou tells me that when I get something on my mind, I'm like a bulldog.  I don't stop pulling and  straining at it. I won't let it go. (I'm thankful here that I wasn't compared to a rottweiler, which I picture being a lot more vicious in their "not-letting-go-ness." )

not cute

 But why wouldn't I think about it?  I'm trying to solve a problem.  It can't get solved unless I think about it, can it?

Of course I have to think about it. David thought about his issues and made plans. I have to do the same. But do I find myself brooding on the problem and what I'm going to do to fix it? Do I find myself brooding on the problem and what I'm going to do to fix it? Do I find myself brooding on the problem and what I'm going to do to fix it? (continue, ad nauseum).  I am told to meditate on God's statutes -  God's word.

When I read this verse the other day, I was up to my eyeballs in a parenting issue that was, shall I say, consuming me. Are you picturing "consuming?"  I was being eaten alive. I could hardly think of anything else. And the worst part? I was having thoughts about my offspring that I felt moms, who were really all they should be, would never have.

Enter the above verse from Psalm 119 that was part of my Bible reading one morning. God opened my eyes here and said to my heart, "You are meditating on the wrong thing. This issue is gonna bring you down and zap your joy if it stays so front and center. Think about it, and ask me for help.  I am the creator God and have given you the parenting creativity you need. Trust me to bring the solution to mind. You don't need to be obsessed or zapped. Meditate on my word."

Now, to meditate on God's word, it's either got to be memorized or front and center.  I have some memorized, and I have some front and center - or at least in my bathroom and my laundry room, where I spend a lot of thinking time since I'm usually alone in those places.
Inside bathroom cupboard: more tape, please

Laundry (I need to make this look prettier!)

That way, I have God's word in front of me - to correct my thinking and to give me hope. I share this to maybe give you some ideas and to encourage you to do whatever it takes to meditate on God's word.

This particular parenting issue is far from being completely resolved. But God has already, in the short time since this verse spoke to me, given some insight into this situation. He's helping me think differently, and consequently, act differently. Meditating beats brooding and obsessing any day.