Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Marked Woman

On December 31, 2012, I saw Les Miserables.

That movie has marked me.

I kind of knew the story going into it, but I didn't remember the specifics. I knew a few of the songs - also in a very general way. Now, four weeks later, I know the story. I know the songs.

I went with my family (sans Luke) to a theater in Kansas City to see it. We had driven up there to spend the night before our 6:30 a.m. flight to the Seattle, WA, area. We had deliberately put off seeing the movie. We had "saved" it for this time before our midwinter vacation. With all the hype, we were all very eager to see it.

The tone was set from the get-go. Brutally real drama...and singing. All singing all the time. Next to no dialogue. Was that going to get annoying?

Nope. At least not for me. Because after one of the very early scenes, I was emotionally rocked.

Valjean, convicted and marked for life thief, who had enjoyed a meal and place to sleep because the Bishop had pity on him, had just been apprehended and brought back to the Bishop's house after stealing much of his silver. The Bishop, instead of condemning Valjean and sending him back to prison, tells the police that the stolen silver was, as Jean Valjean had told the officials, a gift. That blessed Bishop then sang the following words to "his friend."

That is right.
But my friend you left so early
Surely something slipped your mind

[The bishop gives Valjean two silver candlesticks.]
You forgot I gave these also
Would you leave the best behind?
So Messieurs you may release him
For this man has spoken true
I commend you for your duty
May God's blessing go with you.
But remember this, my brother
See in this some higher plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man
By the witness of the martyrs
By the Passion and the Blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have saved your soul for God!

My first thought after watching this scene was, "I would have never done what the Bishop just did." 

Never. I would have sent Valjean's ungrateful self back with the police. I would not have given him mercy, and I definitely would not have given him grace.

Over the last few years, I have been trying to wrap my mind around the concept of grace as the Bible describes it. I have to confess. I just haven't gotten it. I've heard the acronym for grace all my Christian life: God's Riches At Christ's Expense.  I sort of get it, but not really. When I saw the above described scene in this very real, very raw movie, I felt like my some of my grace blinders fell off.

Mercy is not sending Valjean back. Mercy is not getting what you deserve.
Grace is giving him the candlesticks. Grace is getting what you don't deserve.

The Bishop's faith in who God is and what He has said in his word is so rock solid that he can give mercy and grace (and precious, real silver) to a thief, completely trusting the consequences of all those gifts to God.

Do I believe what God says that much?

Will I trust Him and show more mercy? Will I trust Him and show more grace?

Could I ever, in a hundred years, take something from my house that was as valuable as those candlesticks and give them to anybody, let alone a complete stranger - a thief? How do you get to that place?

The movie had just started and I was reeling.

That mercy and grace lesson was reverberating in my soul as I watched the rest of the movie. More than one scene made my soul ache. More than one scene made me wince and yet, I didn't shed a tear.  I’ve talked with others who saw the movie. They mentioned crying throughout. I didn’t. 

Then came the scene where Jean Valjean died. It started with a beautiful ghostly Fantine singing. “Monsieur, I bless your name...” 

Jean Valjean, dying, laboriously whispers, “I am ready Fantine.”

“Monsieur, lay down your burden.”

“At the end of my days...”

“You raised my child in love..”

“She’s the best of my life...”

“And you will be with God.”

At this point, Cossette and Marius come in. There is forgiveness and affirmation of love between them and Jean Valjean. Then Fantine comes in again:

"Come with me
Where chains will never bind you.
All your grief at last, at last, behind you.
Lord in heaven, look down on him in mercy!"

Valjean responds:

Forgive me all my trespasses
and take me to your glory


Take my hand, I'll lead you to salvation
Take my love, for love is everlasting,
And remember the truth that once was spoken
To love another person is to see the face of God!

Valjean's giving, loving life that resulted in this kind of freeing death was the fruition of the seed of grace shown to him by the Bishop. The realization of the power of grace - the effect that an act of grace can have in a life - was, at this point, overwhelming to me. And I started to cry.

And I could not stop. Not for quite a while.

I think I halfway freaked out the kids. They just kept staring at me and asking, "Are you ok?" By the time we arrived at a restaurant for dinner, I was, thankfully, under control. 

It's been 4 weeks. I've been aching to write this post. I'm still thinking about grace and mercy and the bishop and God. I can think of two instances since seeing the movie - since being convicted so mightily about what grace is and what it might look like - where I have been about to live out what I consider "justice" and then purposely chosen grace instead. That's such a huge miracle for me. I'm sure I've had more than those two opportunities in those weeks, but I'll take those two for now.

Two baby steps on what I hope becomes a more grace filled life.

Friday, January 25, 2013

InstaFriday - InstaJanuary

Was my last InstaFriday really at the end of November 2012?

Yes, it was. But I'm ready to rock a few cell phone pictures from the first month of 2013.

We began this year by winging our way to the great Northwest. Our initial motivation for heading that way was the marriage of the son of dear, dear friends. A major fringe benefit to the location of that wedding was the fact that my brother lives in that same area! So to Seattle and Portland we went!

Departing at 6:30 a.m. on New Year's Day, we were at the airport by 5 a.m. (*yawn*). We were a force at the ticket counter.

The personal screens on the seat backs of our plane out of KC kept the girls entertained hypnotized all the way to Seattle. This shot is almost a little too "Wall-E" for me.

Once there, the phone commandeering began. Elizabeth and Mary Grace were joined by cousin Savannah.

My brother showed us one of his favorite sights in the area, Chambers Bay Golf Course, which will host the 2015 U.S. Open. See that tree in the distance? The only one on this links course.

We also hit the very first Starbucks. They are a well oiled machine at that place, moving the hoards of people in and out in record time. It's actually nothing like any Starbucks you go to anywhere else. It's a narrow warehouse type space with no chairs and tables. But it is, of course, very cool.

After a couple of days in Seattle, we made the 2 hour drive south to the Vancouver, WA/Portland, OR, area. My very generous brother let us borrow 2 of his cars. I followed and Lou led. This was my view the entire time we were there.
I let Lou drive Keith's BMW - and yes, it rained a lot.

While in Portland, we took in some of the local sites.

But our main focus in the Portland area was our friend's wedding. We've been friends with Sky and Louise Forrister since the summer of 1987. Stuart, their first born, was born 4 months after Luke, which means they've been friends their entire lives also. It was very cool that Stuart asked Luke to stand up with him as he married his beautiful Tirzah.

We flew home the day after the wedding and because our flight was delayed out of Seattle, we wandered around that airport. If you're stuck in an airport, it's a good one to be stuck in. It has some fun stores...

interesting and unusual products on sale...

This kind of made me sad

and a free touch screen football throwing game thing on a wall.

We pulled in to our driveway on January 6, and because our two college kids had a couple of weeks before they reported back to class, our "parking lot" was full most days.

Kids' cars + friends' cars

But now, the 3 older kiddos are back in Fayetteville, and we had a week of "normal" before I hit the road again. Lou and I managed to squeeze a walk in on a cold but decent day. Remember, there's no bad weather, just bad gear.

Lou's first selfie

A week ago today, I drove these two lovelies to Little Rock, AR, for a soccer showcase.

Grace vanHoornbeek and Mary Grace 
On the way home, and sporting their YOLO shirts, I made them pose once again. They had a little fun and face juggled that picture. Those juggles are so funny but so strange... Who thinks of these apps?

Home from that trip, we've made a little time to craft. I saw a heart wreath made of Pom-Poms on Pinterest. Making pom-poms is fun and easy!

And, I've happily and successfully de-cluttered 40+ items this week. Old (with whiskers) magazines made up the lion's share of this week's group of exiting items. Good-bye and good riddance!

On Wednesday, before the cold weather and cold wind hit, Lou and I peddled a few miles. So much fun.

And lastly, I'm including a recipe that I took a picture of and sent to a friend. She called because she had misplaced her recipe and was having a molasses cookie emergency!

You want this recipe.

Lou's former nurse, Jamie Campbell, used to make these and Lou would come home raving. Now I have to make myself make another kind of cookie because the only kind I ever want to make is molasses - and that praise from a major chocoholic!  I always make a double batch. They freeze great!

Before I end this and make a batch of cookies myself, :) I want to share a verse that I've committed to memory this first month of this new year. It has spoken to me and reminded me of rock solid truth. It's Joshua 1:9.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”


life rearranged

Friday, January 18, 2013

2,013 in 2013

I promise, I have not reached "Hoarder" status.

No where close.

But I have lived in the same house for 16 years with 7 other people. And we've gradually accumulated "stuff." You know what stuff is - those things that you, at one time, did need or want. You used it, but then it fell by the wayside. Our house is big enough that it can handle a decent amount of stuff.

But now, my stuff - my clutter - is really starting to weigh me down! I find I live more in what the Flylady calls CHAOS (Can't Have Anybody Over Syndrome), because I need to store, rearrange, clean around, and neaten up our clutter. I wish I was one of those people who is naturally very organized and purges on a regular basis, but I'm not. I have to work at it.

I need a plan and accountability.

Sometime in the last month I read a blog (can't find it now!) that suggested a fun little plan that struck a chord in me.

In 2013, get rid of 2,013 things.

Desperate times call for desperate measures!

That is a lot of things. Do I have that many things to get rid of? I guess I'll find out. I know we are already almost 3 weeks into January, but I'm gonna try and do this thing! When you do the math, it comes down to 40 things/week leaving my house.


My plan right now is to count everything that is getting the ax with the exception of daily mail and papers. I am literally writing down everything. Gulp.

I mentioned above that I need a plan and accountability. This blog will be my accountability. Not only do I hope to report on my progress every once in awhile, but at the top of the blog, directly under the title, is my "Pages" bar. Click on "Clutter Count: 2,013 in 2013, to see how things are going. I'm hoping this helps motivate and celebrate!

I also mentioned above that one of the reasons I want to do this is so I no longer live in CHAOS. For sure, that is one. But some of the others are as follows:

1. Spend more time with God.
2. Spend more time with Lou.
3. Spend more time with my kids.
4. Spend more time writing/creating.

As you can see from this list, I want to have more time to be in relationship with people and less stress over taking care of clutter.

I'm not gonna lie - I'm a bit nervous about this. Naming a goal and numbering a goal and writing about a goal makes it very real. It's much easier to talk about what you are "gonna do" someday...

Nevertheless, here I go. The journey of de-cluttering of 2,013 things begins with the first 40!

And for this week, January 13-19, 2013,  I have met my goal. The first 40 things have left my house!


I feel better already!

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Dad's Birthday

I'm thinking about my dad, a little extra today because today, January 11, 2013, would have been my dad's 85th birthday. Dr. Hugh Wynn Vaughan was a good man.

I found 6 old photographs of him that I could lay my hands on very quickly that I thought I'd share here. There's no real rhyme or reason to them - other than the fact that if I saw one of him holding me, I included it.

I loved that man and I knew he loved me.

That is a great gift from a father to a daughter.

Our yearly trip to the zoo. I'm 8 months old.

My Dad and his partner, Dr. Sid. Dad said they never had a cross word. Dr. Sid died in January of 2004. My dad died in March of 2004.

Dad holding me, Kathy, Keith and Andy. I still love saddle oxfords.

Another trip to the zoo

One of my favorite pictures of Daddy. Visiting with Mr. Scott.

This is one of my dad's favorite pictures. Mine too.

Grateful today for many happy memories!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Hardest Monday of the Year

I have a new theory.

The hardest Monday of every year is the first Monday after New Year's Day. I will support this theory at the end of this post. But first, I want to color in the lines of my hardest Monday of the year - January 7, 2013.

I woke up on that day feeling down. A palpable down. A heavy sigh down.

My family and I had returned from a fun vacation in Seattle on the 6th of January, a Sunday. We knew getting up on Monday was going to especially trying, as our bodies would still be on Seattle time - 2 hours behind good old Central Standard time. Our 5:30 a.m. felt like 3:30 a.m.

Strike one.

But up we got. Facing me was a counter full of mail and bills, a week's worth of laundry to do and some school preparation that I had, of course, put off until the last minute. I teach the Essentials Class at Classical Conversations of Bolivar on Monday afternoons, and I needed to get my ducks in a row concerning that before I did anything else. I was trying to do the next thing, but before the clock struck 7:30 a.m., I was beginning to feel that feeling in my chest that I feel when I'm about to sing a solo in front of a lot of people. I was air hungry and nervous. And tired. And overwhelmed. And down.

Strike two.

I had had time to read a little in my Bible, but it felt a bit empty. I had prayed for help. I knew today was going to be a day of major battling for joy.

The time came to take Mary Grace to school. She and I got in the car and did what we typically do. We listened to our fighter verse of the week.  The notification of the new verse comes right to my phone every Monday. Here is the verse for this week.

Hearing the words to this verse was my first help from the Lord.

He sees...and his heart is "to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him." I know my heart is not blameless, but He is merciful, and I was encouraged that he promises strong support.

About an hour later, I hear the familiar typewriter sound that lets me know I just got a text message. I open it to find my second help from the Lord of the day - this time through the sweet gift of my friend, Kim Scowden.

That kind of text will do things to you - in you. My anxiousness is beginning to be replaced with excitement over such specific, spot-on gifts from God.

The morning continues and I take the time to check my twitter account. I see the following tweet from Marc Lamont Hill:

I'm in a crappy mood so I'm probably going to be tweeting a lot today. 

I don't know Marc personally, but I can tell by this he's not feeling so chipper on the 7th.

Continuing to scroll, I see the following tweet from my friend, Connie Tweedy.

Struggling with discouragement. But just saw this inspirational quote: "Until God opens the next door for you, praise Him in the hallway."

Good grief! I'm not the only one feeling down today! I wish Marc Hill could read Connie's tweet, because I was encouraged reading it!  I had to tell her about it, and the result was the following texts.

As you can imagine, by this point, I'm not down.

I still have stacks of mail and bills waving at me from the kitchen counter. I still have laundry mocking me from the utility room. And, at 9:21 a.m., when Connie and I were texting, I was still working on my Essentials! But I was encouraged.

God used His Word and two dear ladies from my community to encourage me in the fight for joy. This spoke volumes to me about the importance of both. Of course, God's word is our absolute lifeline - our source of hope and joy. But God also provided people - our community, my community - to put hands and feet and voices and texts and tweets on His Word.

The more I thought about the tweets I had read and the feeling I had when I awoke (somewhat affected by jet lag), I started wondering about the whole "It's Monday" sentiment we often express in our culture.

And then I started looking at this particular Monday. The first Monday after the holidays. The first Monday after a new year. I think most of us go into a new year with high hopes, expectations, and resolutions. And for just a bit, we have a clean calendar, a clean slate - with no history of not quite measuring up.

Then the first Monday hits. We wake up feeling not quite so chipper and the reality of nitty gritty life hits us. This Monday feels a little more "ugh" because just a couple of days ago we were so pumped about all the possibilities a new year brings. That's why I think this is the hardest Monday of the year.

Thankfully, on my hardest Monday, a couple of dear ones encouraged me. The Word encouraged me.

I was rescued on this Monday.

That rescue reminds me of two things.

First, stay in the word - even when it feels empty. It is truth. It meets our deep needs.

Second, be the one who rescues, who encourages on other days. On the hardest Monday, on other Mondays, on other days, when God nudges your heart about someone, send the text, make the call, and pray the prayer. Tweet or facebook the encouraging quote. You never know who needs to hear what God has put on your heart to say.

My hardest Monday will now go in the books as one of my best Mondays.

Thank you, Kim.
Thank you, Connie.
Thank you, Lord.