Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'd Marry Him All Over Again

August 1, 2011, is my 24th wedding anniversary. This past week, Lou and I have been reminiscing, voicing more than one, "This time 24 years ago... ____."  I am thankful for the sweet memories. I am thankful for my sweet husband.  I'm posting it on my blog so it's out there, for the whole world to know. I'm virtually standing on top of the highest mountain, shouting out, with a huge smile on my face,

"I'd marry him all over again!"

I spent just a little time tonight, looking through a few old photographs and found a few items from those first months and years.  No real rhyme or reason. Not exhaustive (aren't you glad for that). They just made me smile, so I thought I'd share them here. Kind of a little wedding anniversary celebration on my blog. 
Announcement in my local paper

One of my favorite pics of us - summer 1987

At our rehearsal dinner

My first backpacking trip - July 1988. And just fyi, his pack was heavier.
Costume party. Lou wore his dad's WWII uniform. 

I love how our child pulls us together
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this man. I'd marry him all over again.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Follow Through Friday - The Sampler

The good news is I haven't let myself start any new needlework projects until this one is done. The bad news is I've been working on this project for about 20 years. Which is why I mentioned it last week in my Follow Through Friday.

My Follow Through Fridays will return...we've just been traveling so much this summer, that I'm all discombobulated. Just to help me get back on track, I'm giving myself a small goal this week. I have a sampler that is 22 years in the making (embarrassing). I worked on it some while we were at camp, and I'd like to work on it for at least an hour a week. So, next week, I'll report if that happens.

My report begins with a little background information. Not long after moving to Bolivar in 1988, we met Jim and Emily Frost, a Godly couple who led a ministry called Chi Alpha. Lou and I, young and kidless, helped with this 1990's version of the high school ministry, K-Life. We met in Jim and Emily's home on Wednesday nights, for fun, music, and teaching from God's Word. In their home, displayed on a wall near the entrance, was the following sampler.

I was admiring it one night, when Emily came and stood beside me. When I asked her how long it had taken her to make it, she told me that someone had made it for her. I had known before that moment that Emily was a Proverbs 31 woman, but it was triply confirmed knowing someone else had poured that much time into a project that said so much, and then given it away - to Emily. And I can say, after 22 years of knowing Emily, my respect and admiration for her has only grown. She is one of many women I have met that have inspired me to work at becoming a Proverbs 31 woman.

So inspired, 20 years ago, I decided to make that sampler - to have before me a reminder of what I want God to do in me.
My instruction booklet is showing it's 20 years old. Once that corner came off, I laminated it to keep it from completely falling apart.
There's a serious crease in the middle and I can't really tell what to do there, so I may need to purchase new instructions for the home stretch. I have everything done in that creased area - except the cat. And really, I do have a lot done! It's mostly outlining that's left.
My work in progress
And, I'm happy to report, I did put that hoped-for-hour in this week. It was on Thursday night, about 10 p.m., but it did happen. Follow through success! I'm so pumped about how close I am that I am purposing to work on it for at least an hour each week until it's done. I'll continue to report a thumbs up or thumbs down here no matter what my future follow throughs are.

Besides having a few stitches to put in, I also have a few stitches to take out before all is said and done. My poor little husband and wife in the picture below have an eye issue going on. It seems my french knot skills are inconsistent, to say the least.
But, if my eyes hold out and I stay consistent, it won't even be another year before this sampler will be frame-able. It's definitely been a work in progress. But I think know it will be worth it.

I'm a work in progress, too. Thankfully, I have some great examples to follow along the way.  Some real Proverbs 31 women. Their worth is far above jewels.
Thanks, Emily

Next week: Company's coming, so nothing new this week - except more work on my sampler...I know. I'm outta control.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tolkien and Trying

Scrolling through the blog, Into the Book, I saw a review of a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, 

author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, his real claim to fame in my book (wink), is that he was good friends with C.S. Lewis. 

Lewis' writings have influenced my life greatly, whereas Tolkien's have not. I confess to not having read any of Tolkien's. I tried once, but got bogged down in the strange names given to people and places. But because Lewis admired him, I knew, even though his writing didn't grab me, he was an articulate man of deep faith, thought, and intelligence. So I have appreciated him without being an ardent fan of his books. 

I appreciate him even more after reading this review of the biography, J.R.R. Tolkien, by Mark Horne. The review included the following:

Tolkien had a very hard childhood. His father died when he was very little, and his mother died when he was a teenager. His mother’s conversion to the Roman Catholic faith isolated him and his brother from other family members, so he bounced around through different homes throughout his school years, eventually ending up in the care of Father Francis Morgan, a friend of his mother. Even from a young age, Tolkien loved inventing things, and was particularly interested in language, quickly becoming bored with the Latin and Greek his school offered.

With the help of Father Morgan, Tolkien was accepted into Oxford
after two unsuccessful tries, and there began to become interested in the Nordic languages, particularly Finnish. 

In case you're wondering what part of that excerpt struck me, look for the bold print. How could a man of  that caliber fail to get into Oxford? Not just once, but twice?  I have no idea how college admissions worked back then, but wasn't his intelligence and potential just oozing out? Did somebody fail to see it? Or, was God weaving, working in those failures, to shape the character of a man?

"After two unsuccessful tries," are four words that convey what happened, but are devoid of the anguish that must have accompanied such disappointments. Don't we all have to work through our unique, yet similar anguishes? But, oh, how helpful it is when I read about someone - so successful, so influential (in good, deep ways) - that failed at something he tried, but didn't let it take him down. Those failures were part of the growing pains of a man who has influenced millions. 

I want to see my failures that way. As growing pains. At the moment they are happening, the emphasis is definitely on the word pain. But with time, as I look back at my failures, some of which I would put in the "doozy" column, the emphasis has shifted to growing. Which is exactly what I want to keep doing. And, if I want to keep doing that, pain will be involved. 

I hope, like Tolkien, I am always willing to risk the words "unsuccessful tries" being written or said about me, knowing that the un will never possibly come off successful unless I try

Friday, July 22, 2011

Just Peachy

Of all of God's good food gifts, the peach has got to be near the top of the list.

Every year, around June 1, I start getting giddy over that soon-to-be bite of juicy, drip down-your-chin-goodness of the first peach of the season. I was actually surprised this year at how early they appeared at the Farmer's Market here in Bolivar, MO. Pate's Orchard in Stockton is our local supplier and I have yet to be disappointed in any of their produce. We also frequent Plaster's Orchard at the Polk/Green County line. Plaster's people drive over to the Bootheel once a week and pick up peaches grown in Campbell, MO, from Bader Orchards. I am eating one even as I type - a process that is going slower than usual, since I am stopping every bite to close my eyes and say yummmmm....

It's fitting that the delicious peach I'm eating now is from Campbell, MO, where my Mom was born and raised. It's her recipe that I want to share with you. When my parents first moved to Bolivar, they ran over to Stockton to buy peaches. My mom overheard a lady in the building talking about making Peach Conserve. Never shy, she asked for the recipe on the spot. To say we like it, love it, is an understatement. It now occupies a hallowed place in our family. Mom usually makes 30 pints or so every summer, but this summer, she's felt a little more under the weather than usual. So, the girls and I tried our hand at it. Thankfully, Mom has been just a phone call away...
 I was actually on the phone with her when I copied down this recipe. A couple of clarifications:
     -a #2 can is 20 oz.
     -3 oz jello pkg
My mom emphasized the "don't skimp" part, so I set my timer to make sure I didn't.

Recipe ready, it was time to start. I googled how to get my jars and lids ready. I went here, found it interesting, but ended up doing what my mom said, and boiled everything. Then, the girls and I started peeling.
Many hands make light work

 And tasting. You can't help it. That goodness is just begging to go in your mouth.

 After the peeling and crushing, we boiled.

It takes a while to get that volume to a boil - and don't have your pot too full. I combined two recipes the next time we made it, and it boiled over. Not fun. Then the "no skimping" part and - done.

After making an impromptu funnel out of a styrofoam cup, we poured that conserve goodness into our jars. After all the lids had sealed and jars had cooled, we took them down to the downstairs frig where they will live until they are gone. Because of careful rationing, especially at the end of our supply, we usually don't eat our last jar until about March - which gives us a couple of months or so to miss it and long for it again!

We still have 1 or 2 more recipes to make - each one makes about 6 pints. I'm getting the hang of it, thanks to Mom's good recipe and her good coaching. I'm glad she wasn't shy that day in Stockton. And I'm very glad God made the peach.

Note: My Follow Through Fridays will return...we've just been traveling so much this summer, that I'm all discombobulated. Just to help me get back on track, I'm giving myself a small goal this week. I have a sampler that is 22 years in the making (embarrassing). I worked on it some while we were at camp, and I'd like to work on it for at least an hour a week. So, next week, I'll report if that happens.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top Ten

I heard a sermon one time that pointed out something about the ten commandments that now seems quite obvious to me, but until that time, I had never noticed before. One of these ten is not like the others.

That these 9 - no other gods before me, no idols, honor God's name (I wonder what He thinks of our casual, constant OMGs?), honor your parents, don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, and don't covet - made the top ten, is understandable. It's #4 that is the surprise.


Is our resting really so important to God that He would put it in this list? Right in there with do not murder?

This is on my mind because we are at KAA this week. Lou has been a volunteer doctor here at Kids Across America for the last 12 years. He's on call for emergencies and has sick call 2x/day, but all the other time, we rest. Our only scheduled event is mealtime, which is graciously provided for us. And, of course, we also enjoy all the other amenities a camp offers. But it is all rest. Purposeful rest. Not only is there more time to walk, swim, read, think and visit, but there is more time to be with God, to be in His word, to talk to Him, listen to Him. That is real rest and renewal. We always come back from KAA rested and renewed. Strengthened for the battles of every day life.

Purposeful resting strengthens. It's essential for physical and spiritual health. That's why God put it in the top 10 as something we need, not just for a week every summer, but every 1 in 7 days. Is that mind blowing to anybody but me? 

So what does a sabbath rest look like in 2011? 

Well, it would certainly look different for me now than it did when I had 6 kids at home ages 9 and under. Back then, a sabbath rest was going to the grocery store alone. It was moments here and there when everybody happened to be napping at the same time and I gave myself permission to rest too - in the middle of the day, no less! If any young moms are reading this right now, please, please hear this. Give yourself permission to rest. Or even more compelling, obey God, and rest. Ask God to show you what that looks like in your family with its schedules and demands. He always equips for what He commands. And, don't be shy about getting a babysitter just so you can rest.  Periodically, when I felt I couldn't dog paddle one minute longer and I couldn't find any time or space at home, I'd hire a sitter and go to Dunnegan Park for a couple of hours to just sit in my car and think, read, pray, and yes...nap. Rest.

My kids are older now (ages 21-12) and, believe it or not, no longer want to spend every waking moment with me! I actually ask them to go to the grocery store just so I can spend a little more time with them. My struggle now is not time to rest, but how I rest. During my sabbath times, am I coming away renewed and encouraged, which is the product of real rest, or have I spent my time on weak substitutes? Am I hoping that my continual doses of distraction and entertainment supply what God says I need? That duo has been through the studies and the test trials of the ages. While they may seem to work in the short term, they've been shown over and over again to have just the opposite effect.

In Isaiah 40:31, we are told what is needed for real rest, real renewal.

"but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

We have to set aside time to do this verse. It's a command. Rest. Sabbath.

One last thought. In that same sermon I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Matt Chandler referenced the following quote by Abraham Heschel that has pushed me to think more deeply and more practically about the sabbath rest and what it might look like. Lots of grace and freedom in these words.

A man who works with his mind will sabbath with his hands. A man who works with his hands will sabbath with his mind.

God gave Moses a top ten in Exodus 20. He meant them. Let's take another look at #4.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

You Never Know

When Andy comes to visit, I know I'm going to learn something.

My brother and sister-in-law, Debbie, and 4 of their 7 kids visited last week. We played putt-putt, rode go-carts, visited Bass Pro and ate at Lambert's. But those were just the different settings to do what I like to do best with

I think it was after our first meal together that Andy pushed back from the table and asked, "You know what Joaquin Andujar says is one word to describe baseball?"  Potential answers started flying. I suggested "depressing." (It's depressing because of baseball stats. How can you be a really great hitter when, batting a solid 300, you are messing up in one way or another 7 out of 10 times at the plate?)

He then proceeds to tell us Andujar's answer: "You-never-know."

Obviously not a one word answer, but when you read a little about Joaquin and a  few more of his quotes, it quickly becomes obvious that he would not change the phrasing of that question. 

"You-never-know." We talked about the truth of that, not only in baseball, but also in life, as we sat around a table full of empty plates. My contribution to that conversation took us back to January 2008, when Luke and the Bolivar boys basketball team beat the Branson Pirates in double overtime at their place. Branson, always a formidable opponent, had just won the Blue Division of the prestigious Blue & Gold tournament. Bolivar was their first game after that little accomplishment.  Right before the game started, there was a presentation of the trophy, an honoring of one of their players who set a 3 point record for the tournament, and the announcement that there would be a reception for their coach - celebrating his career wins - immediately following our game. Lou and I never said what we all thought was a given - "We are about to get killed." I was just hoping it wouldn't be too mortifying.

But, you never know.

I couldn't possibly do justice if I tried to describe that game and my blood pressure. Suffice it to say, we stayed with them (obviously), and played our hearts out. Thankfully, Lou and I succumbed to Faith begging to go to the game that night. She just happened to have her movie camera, and captured the excitement of that final minute. She was going crazy too, so the video jumps around a bit, but it's good enough to give us a lot of pleasure when we watch it and remember that game.

Hands down, the most exciting, happiest basketball game I've ever been to. It's also the example I use with my kids when we are facing some opponent in the sport du jour that is supposedly unbeatable. It's my "Remember the Alamo" of sports. "Remember Branson!" You never know.

This theme that Andy introduced their first day here cropped up again when Andy, Debbie, and I were walking in Dunnegan Park. Out of the blue, Andy mentions another "you never know" moment. He asked if I remembered the story in the Bible about the lepers outside the gates of Samaria. I didn't, so he told it to me, and I'll share the gist of it with you.  It's from 2 Kings 7.

During a horrible famine in Samaria, with no hope in sight, Elisha prophesies that "this time tomorrow" there will be food - even enough food to sell.  What those suffering from the famine didn't know was what was happening just outside their city gates. Four lepers were trying to stay alive also and were considering their options. If they ask to go into the city, they'll die from the famine. If they stay where they are, they'll die. But if they go over to the camp of their enemies, the Arameans, and surrender, they'll either be spared or killed. The Arameans seem like the only option with a possible win, so they go. The Lord had taken care of the Arameans himself, and the lepers find an abandoned camp with abundant food, drink, silver and gold - all left behind. The lepers then shared their find with the famine afflicted city. And all that happened by "this time tomorrow." So, once again, you never know.

Since my brother's visit, I've thought about our conversations even more. They've made me think about God more. I tested the "you never know" principle on Him. Do we "never know" with God? Well, kind of. That certainly was the case described here from 2 Kings 7. But while we may never know for sure what God is going to do (could this be possibly in part because we often think way too small?), we can know Him. He's told us who He is in His word. He's become one of us in His Son. And He's given us His Holy Spirit to live in us. And when you know someone, when you look at their track record, you know whether or not they are completely trustworthy. God has proven He's trustworthy. 2 Timothy 1:12 says it best.

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

My brother, Andy, came to visit. This trip, I learned a little more about baseball, the Bible, and God. That's a little entertainment and a lot of encouragement - a winning combination. He always packs those two when he comes. What will it look like on their next visit? You never know.