Friday, September 30, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 1

I'm not sure what has possessed me, but I am attempting to blog for 31 days straight on one topic.

I follow Melissa, from the Home Decorating blog, The Inspired Room, on Twitter. She recently posted about a series she and a group of 6 other bloggers hosted last year called 31 Days of Autumn Bliss, where they wrote on a topic of their choice. They are opening that series up this year to anybody else out in the blogoshpere who'd like to take a 31 day challenge during the month of October to blog about anything that inspires them.

One of my passions is words, which I figure is pretty obvious since I have a blog. Words entertain me, motivate me, inspire me. And I have staked my life on the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. That Word literally saved me. And His word? My lifeline, my joy.

It's safe to say I'm passionate about them. So, I'm going to blog about them. Specifically, the words, phrases, and quotes that help me on a daily basis to live a joyful, meaningful, non-wasted life.

Some of these words will be serious and I think, potentially, life changing. Some will be a bit sassy (courtesy of my mom). Some you will have heard before. But all of these words are places I quickly and routinely hang my hat. They are quotes and phrases that help me navigate through the daily joys, jostles, and jolts of life.

I'm also taking this challenge for a few other reasons.
    1. Since I'll be blogging for 31 days in a row, I will have to learn the art of brevity. That is not my bent, and I need to have that skill in my arsenal.
    2. I want to record these phrases for my kiddos. They've heard me say most of them, but it's nice of me to write them out for them.
    3. If anybody out there reads one of my posts, and it rings true for them, helps them on their daily dash - well, that will make me smile. I pray that my blog, my words, are an encouragement.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Ultimate Birthday Card

I had an especially obvious God moment on my birthday.

I say it that way because I believe all our moments are gifts from God, and therefore, strictly speaking, they are all God moments. But some moments make you stop and say, "That was no coincidence. That was from God."

My birthday fell on a Sunday this year, so our family spent the morning at church. We had just finished the first song at the worship service, when Lou, standing to my right, makes one of those "oops, I forgot to tell you something" movements, and leans in to whisper in my ear. He tells me that my dear sister-in-law, Lene, had called to wish me happy birthday. She wanted me to know that she was praying for me today - specifically the words surrounding the song Be Thou My Vision.

No sooner were those words out of Lou's mouth, when the worship band began the music to the next song - Be Thou My Vision.

Both our eyes widened, and looks of "No way..." were exchanged as smiles crept across our faces. To say I felt loved and cared for by our infinite God in that moment is an understatement. It was pretty much the ultimate birthday card.

The words I heard sung that day and that my sister-in-law prayed for me?

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Powerful words. Powerful prayer. I pray they take root in my heart. And I am grateful to whom these words were prayed - and for the one who prayed them.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Princess Bride and Parenting

When you have a dream,  do you always try to figure out why you dreamed what you did? I do, and similarly, when I have a thought that seems to come out of nowhere, I also start working backwards - trying to figure out why that particular thought popped into my head. Recently, my son, Luke, tweeted the following:

 Luke Harris 

Me and Colby watching 7 brides for 7 brothers. How can you not love the Berry House?

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is clearly not the movie, The Princess Bride, but The Princess Bride is the movie my brain heard when I read Luke's tweet - probably because I really like it and really don't like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. (Or, maybe I just need to pay more attention to what I'm reading.) But any time I think of The Princess Bride, I think of the following scene.

The words from that scene have, I guess, subconsciously been hovering at the back of my brain, waiting for an opportune moment to come to the forefront. That moment happened Wednesday.

Our Wednesday trip to Springfield for Mary Grace's violin lesson had a couple of trying moments.  We were multitasking - working on one of her writing assignments for Classical Conversations.  She was composing a poem, but she was not excited about it. Uncharacteristically cantankerous, she was answering black to my every white.
A more characteristic moment
After some "robust" exchanges, we settled into the yucky silence that follows those times. My frustration and exasperation must have been the catalyst those words from The Princess Bride needed to stop hovering and dash to the forefront. But instead of thinking

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.
You killed my father. Prepare to die."

I parodied it, albeit only mentally, for the parenting situation that was about to make me blow a gasket.

Hello. I am your parent.
You will stop sassing or you will die.*

Now, remember, I'm not saying any of this out loud. Just me and my thoughts. But I actually thought this was pretty clever. And I love clever. So this immediately lightened the moment and I realized that this technique could help me in other tense parenting moments.

If a child disobeys...

Hello. I am your parent.
You will obey. Prepare to do so.

If a child thinks they know it all....

Hello. I am older and wiser.
You are young and stupid. Prepare to learn.

If a child doesn't put stuff back...

Hello. I just neatened this. 
You messed it up. Prepare to clean.

If a child argues....

Hello. I know how this ends.
You will lose. Prepare to surrender.

I'm warning my kids right now. I can see similar Princess Bride parodies in your futures. The possibilities are endless! And how welcome is a little light-heartedness in the middle of a tense situation.

So, we've gone from a tweet about a movie, to a different movie, to a relatively famous quote, to parodies on that quote that have made me smile about some of the tougher aspects of parenting. Go figure how all that works, but it does make me look forward to future tweets.

Hello. My name is Shelley Harris.
You read my post. Prepare to stop.


Friday, September 9, 2011

A Milestone

I was born 9-11-1961.
My Dad's clinic where I was born. It has since been torn down.
The first part of that date means more now than it did then. If you're doing the math, you are realizing that I had another milestone birthday the day our world blew up - the day our world came crashing down. I felt for my kind friends and family that day. They all wanted to wish me a "Happy Birthday!"  when none of us were happy. Luke, who was in the 6th grade, got in the car after school that day and said, "Mom, I'm sorry this all happened on your birthday."  Another friend, who I saw that evening, put the whole turning 40 in perspective when he said, "There are a lot worse things than turning 40."

Yes, there are.

So now, ten years later, I'm turning 50. I think most would agree that 50 is a big birthday. Half a century. While I think all birthdays are a bit of a mortality check, this one is particularly. Not very many people live to be 100, so I'm pretty safe in saying that my life here on earth is probably half over. That is not a bad thing, it is just a real thing.  I say that recognizing that my days are completely in God's hands and my next breath could be my last. That's exactly where I want my life. But there's still something about these milestone birthdays that make you pause and take a little closer look at your life and how you are living it.

I remember consciously doing this for the first time in relation to turning 50 in January. I had been mulling the idea of a blog for sometime, but had just kept putting it off. But when 2011 hit - the year of my 50th birthday - I started having the "you're not getting any younger" thoughts. "What are you waiting for? and "Just Do It!" were also bouncing off the walls of my cranium. On January 20, 2011, I hit the PUBLISH POST button for the first time. I was shaking. I was elated. And part of the motivation that enabled me to hit that button? I am turning 50.

That birthday, unlike me, is not procrastinating. Procrastination. Ugh.  That character flaw has haunted me every one of these fifty years. Some years ago, I heard about a link between perfectionism and procrastination which explained my Achilles' heel a bit. Actually made me feel a little better about it.

"Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand. Perfectionists tend to procrastinate because they expect so much of themselves, and they are scared about whether or not they can meet those high standards."

But with the thought of 50 on the horizon, the thought of life moving on at a pretty good clip, I have been spurred on to do it now like never before. Following Dave Ramsey on Twitter adds fuel to this anti-procrastination, pre-50 fire. A couple of his recent tweets....

If you keep doing what you have been doing you will keep getting what you have been getting. CHANGE! /reaping 

George S. Patton on decisions: "A GOOD plan, violently executed now, is better than a PERFECT plan next week." Make the call! 

See what I mean?

Finally and most importantly, God has been speaking to me through His Word.  Everywhere I've been turning lately seems to speak of the brevity of this life.  A passage that sums it up is one I've been memorizing.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

This is truth. These kind of words keep a person keeping on. That's why we need to be in God's word every day. God's word corrects wrong thinking. It is the salve for the hurts that come our way.  It enables us to not just survive, but to really live. Psalm 19:7-8 talks about what God's word does to us and in us.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
     the precepts of the Lord are right
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;

I want those things! Now, more than ever. Because, I'm turning 50, and I don't want to waste a minute of this gift called life on worthless things that don't revive the soul, that don't make wise the simple, that don't bring joy, and that don't enlighten the eyes.

And speaking of gifts, I couldn't end a post about my first 50 years without expressing what is really inexpressible: deep, deep gratitude to God.  Why He gave me life, why He loves me, why He saved me, why He gave me the family He did, why He gave me the friends He did, (and, add to this a thousand other "whys,"), I cannot even remotely begin to fathom. I'm choking up even as I type.

Last year, when I wrote a thank you to all the people who wished me Happy Birthday  on Facebook, I quoted Psalm 16:6. I need to repeat it here - because it is so true.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I'm turning 50. I'm grateful for the first 50. I'm grateful for today. And I trust the one who holds my future.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Leaving Bolivar at 6:15 Saturday morning, Lou and I headed east toward Nashville. The GPS was programmed appropriately for our first destination, Murray, KY, where we were meeting some of my relatives for lunch. There's a little river between here and there and the bridge we had chosen to cross was up at Cairo, IL. However, just east of Sikeston, we saw a very important sign that our GPS knew nothing about. It told us one of the bridges was out at Cairo, meaning we would have to detour a bit north of there and take another bridge across. We were contemplating this turn of events, when we saw another sign.


Now I grew up taking the ferry across the mighty Mississippi. My Grandmother lived in the Bootheel, and in the late 60s, early 70s, there was no way to get across there except by ferry. For us kids, that boat ride was a highlight of the trip. Lou had never had opportunity to do such a thing, so we said, "Why not?" and took the next exit.

The next sign said, "Ferry, 27 miles." Since I'm one of those people who brings a road atlas on trips even though we have a GPS, I located the ferry crossing spot on the map. If, for whatever reason, the ferry wasn't operating that day, it was going to be a looong way back to just get on another road that would eventually get us to a bridge. We were hoping we'd see more ferry affirming signs along the way. We saw two more, and it's a good thing we did. To say that 27 miles was sparsely populated is an understatement. For those miles we were on a poorly maintained 2 lane asphalt road with soybean and cotton fields on either side. We saw two cars in that 27 mile stretch. We were banking heavily that the signs were telling the truth - that there really was a ferry across at the end.

Before we actually saw the ferry stop, we saw the following sign.
 That is definitely helpful information. Driving on just a little, we parked our car behind a motorcycle and a truck, got out, and waited with the other folks under a huge tree beside the river. We could see the ferry making it's way across from the other side.
Tweeting about taking the ferry

Ferries haven't changed much in 40 years

In the middle of the Mississippi
 After a 10 minute ride across the river, we made our way through the countryside of western Kentucky and enjoyed a lunch with family at KY Lake.
My dad's first cousins: Jo, daughter, Phyllis, and JW. I hadn't seen them in over 25 years.
After lunch, we headed south toward Nashville. Thinking we hadn't packed enough into one day, we went to the Grand Ole Opry that night, and enjoyed some live country music.
Jimmy Wayne

Sunday, after worshipping with the believers at Fellowship Bible Church, Brentwood,TN, Lou and I headed to the Natchez Trace Parkway for a bike ride. It is a very bike friendly road stretching from Natchez, MS, to Nashville, TN. Along it's 444 mile route are points of interest, overlooks, and rest areas. Lou and I did a 15 mile out and back, stopping where ever the Trace signs indicated something interesting.

This ride was a walk in the park for Lou but a moderately hard ride for me. There were no killer hills, and we did have the scenic stops.
Lou, enjoying one of those scenic stops
 But it was hot (90s), very sunny, and we were rationing our water a bit, because it wasn't available at every stop. Which brings me to my last thoughts about the importance of signs.

Since we had looked at the map, we had a general idea about how far between each stop. That knowledge is helpful, but oh, how encouraging a sign is when you are hot, tired, and thirsty.

Even though this sign looked like it was a lifeless, firmly planted in the ground structure, what it was really doing, if you had eyes to see, was clapping, jumping up and down and shouting, "Way to go, Shelley! You only have one more mile! You can do it! (And, because of our water issue) There's water here!"

I liked that sign. I needed that sign.

Sometimes you need signs along the way that encourage you to keep on keeping on in the most basic, everyday way. Then, once you've got what you need there, you are ready to see this sign.

I consider this a "big picture" sign. It takes you to a place that helps you to know who you are and how things all fit together. You need this kind of sign too. It helps give beauty and purpose - a "bigger story" aspect to the journey.

I liked that sign. I needed that sign.

I know you know where I'm going with this. I am constantly amazed at what God uses to remind me, to teach me about Himself. After I had the above thoughts about those various road signs, God spoke to my heart about the bazillion signs He has given and continues to give. All these signs are pointing to Him, the source of our salvation, our hope, and our joy. Some of those signs (heavy on the word some - this is obviously not an exhaustive list) are

The Bible - the Creator of the universe actually had words written down for us
Jesus - the Creator of all became one of us
Creation - it's this fluid canvas that begs our heart to cry, "Glory to the one who does this! I want to know the one who does this!"
People - God brings people into our lives to be with us on our journey, to say encouraging words, and to help us.

I like these signs. I need these signs. I'm lost without these signs.

So today, I'm thanking God for a trip to Nashville and the sign language He used to remind me how much He loves you and me.

Follow Through Friday note: Thumbs up this week on working on my sampler, so big yea! there. The above post was really not an official follow through - it just happened to get posted on Friday. It was written on Tuesday, and I had planned to post it then, but Lou and I could not get the ipad to upload the pictures to my blog, so I had to wait until I was at our computer at home. For next week: Still working on my sampler...