Archive - blog carnival RSS Feed

Winter waiting

Winter seems to be a time for waiting.

Ever notice that? Once the holidays are over, most of us can’t wait until spring.

Poets and prose writers often lament winter:

“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it. We know it.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
– Percy Bysshe Shelley

“No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn.”
– Hal Borland

Baseball players, too:

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
– Roger Hornsby

It seems to me that much of winter is spent wanting it to be over and looking forward to spring. Seems like wasted time somehow, but much of life is about waiting, anticipating good things to come, and realizing in the winters of our lives our own ability to endure:

“In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.”
– Albert Camus

Or not…

“I like these cold gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.”
– Bill Watterson

Winter is the only time of year when you can get away with blaming your grumpiness exclusively on the weather. There’s something deeply liberating about that, don’t you think? (I’m mostly only kidding…Okay, not really.)

****

This post is part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. For more posts about winter, please visit his site, peterpollock.com

Shattered

Shattered

We have three sets of dishes in our house: the set I registered for before I got married, a Tuscan looking stoneware set, and the set we use every day, Correlle.

We use the fine china once or twice a year, if that. It spends most of the time in a cherry hutch my mother gave me. The set is complete and undamaged save one dinner plate my husband dropped a couple of years ago.

The stoneware set is used more often–if we have company over for dinner. I also use separate pieces from the set to serve appetizers on when we have casual get togethers. This set is complete and undamaged.

The Correlle set we use every day, for each meal–bowls for cereal, plates for lunch and dinner. I even use the platters to defrost big stuff in the microwave. That set? Lots of pieces missing from that one.

When we lose one of those pieces to slippery or careless hands, you wouldn’t think it would be a big loss. I can go to Walmart and replace whatever happens to break. It’s common and inexpensive, easily accessible and replaceable. It’s also the hardest working set of dishes in the house. Correlle Ware is lightweight and stands up to daily use and abuse. I will readily admit I don’t give these dishes a second thought. They are there for me every day. Not terribly attractive or impressive, but a constant in our daily lives.

I mentioned before that you wouldn’t  think losing one of these pieces would be a big deal, but that’s not the case. It’s a very big deal. Because, as anyone who has tile floors and Correlle Ware can attest to, they don’t just break when they’re dropped–they shatter into pieces. These tiny pieces travel great distances across the expanse of the tile floor. When a cup, bowl or plate is dropped, everyone is cleared out of the kitchen. If I’m not wearing shoes, I get a pair on immediately. Those tiny slivers cut through skin like tiny daggers.

The dog’s bowls are emptied and washed, the entire floor is first swept then vacuumed. But despite the effort made to assure all the pieces are swept up and thrown away, there have been instances where a bare foot finds a tiny shard that was missed–sometimes days later. They seem to get into the dark crevices and go undetected.

I don’t really understand why anyone would design dishes that are made for regular use and abuse, and yet be susceptible to complete and utter destruction when dropped by a careless hand. So strong and resilient, and yet so fragile.

Have you ever felt like a Correlle dish? Willing to weather daily use and abuse, being taken for  granted day after day, only to shatter into a million pieces when carelessly dropped, swept up and discarded? If this sounds like an object lesson for your life–past or present–may I tell you something?

You need to know that there are probably hidden shards hiding in the dark places, seemingly undetected, that can and will hurt those who get close to you. But more importantly: You are not a cheap dish. You are not common or inexpensive, easily accessible or replaceable.

You are a beautiful piece of fine pottery, fearfully and wonderfully made.

And you may have been broken or even shattered, but the Master Potter, the One who lovingly formed you, desires to gather up all the pieces of your shattered self and put you back together. Not as good as new, but infinitely better.

Because you are His masterpiece.

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Broken, hosted by my friend . Please visit his site for a list of many wonderful posts on this topic.

Rejoice (or not)

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Ed Cyzewski wrote a great post around Thanksgiving entitled The Search for a Meaningful Christmas: Moving Beyond Guilt and Sentiment. It’s actually the first installment of three posts. Parts 2 and 3 are What are We Celebrating? and How Should We Celebrate Christmas?, respectively. If you haven’t read them, they’re definitely worth your time. Especially if, like me, you’re not exactly bursting at the seams with Christmas cheer.

Honestly? It’s stressful: Decorating, gift shopping, crowds, school parties, grown up parties, Christmas plays and/or recitals, travel plans, etc. We over eat, over spend, over extend ourselves to the point of near exhaustion, and yet we’re supposed to be merry and bright because it’s Christmas time. I know many of you reading this are shaking your heads and thinking, “That’s not what Christmas is all about. It’s about celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world, and even those who aren’t Christians can still celebrate a time to be with family and friends; to give and receive gifts as tokens of what we mean to one another.”

And all that’s great. You’re right–that IS what it’s all about, but that doesn’t mean many of us aren’t doing all the aforementioned things that add stress to the season. I’m not exactly feeling like the Grinch, I guess I’m just not feeling the Christmas spirit this year. I may get there, I may not. But I’m done feeling guilty about it. Ed really nailed it in his post when he said:

“I wonder if we sometimes try to force meaningful experiences or major spiritual epiphanies on ourselves during holidays like Christmas.”

I’ve realized that’s what’s always bothered me about this time of year. I’ll repeat what I wrote on Ed’s blog: I think people get overwhelmed and depressed at Christmas because they feel guilty for not getting swept up in the magic of Christmas. Instead of thinking about all they have, people often focus on what they are lacking–whether in spirit or material possesions.

This year, I’m giving myself the gift of permission. Permission not to feel guilty for not being merry and bright just because I’m supposed to. And by letting myself off the hook for not feeling what I’m supposed to feel, I’m leaving myself open to be caught off guard by unexpected moments of joy, of which I will be truly grateful.

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Rejoice hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To read more (and undoubtedly more uplifting) posts on the topic of Rejoicing, please visit his blog, PeterPollock.com

A tale of two vacations

The call came in early September. My sister has been involved with the Gulf Coast oil spill clean up for the past several months. One of the command centers happens to be in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The big, evil oil company she works for rented a condo on the beach through the end of the year, and as fate would have it, no one was using it over the Thanksgiving holiday. When she called and invited my family to spend an extended weekend at the beach, I gladly accepted. Me and the beach go way back. It’s my favorite place in the world.

In my excitement, there was one thing I failed to consider–whether the luxury high-rise condos allowed pets. They did not. All of our vacations since we got Buddy Love have been to visit family, so we’ve always taken him along. We were very leery about boarding him because he suffers from stress-induced seizures, and being in a strange place without his people would most certainly qualify as a stressful situation. With only a week before our scheduled departure, we were faced with 3 options:

  1. Spend Thanksgiving at home and decline the invitation from my sister
  2. Have my husband stay home with the dog and take the kids to Gulf Shores
  3. Find a place in Gulf Shores which allowed pets

Boarding Buddy wasn’t ever a serious consideration, and options 1 and 2 were not exactly appealing either. God bless Google! I was able to find a cottage rental about 12 miles from where my mom and sisters were staying, and since the condo was already paid for, we weren’t sticking my sister with an extra bill for lodging.

It truly was the best of both worlds. I was able to spend Thanksgiving with my mom, sisters and my family at their kind of place: A beautiful, new high-rise condo right on the beautiful beaches of downtown Gulf Shores:

And a quiet, secluded little cottage on the bay. Away from the fancy stores, hotels and restuarants:

Both offered spectacular views:

Even though I rather preferred the view from our screened in porch to the 11th floor of the high-rise:

Although I’ve lived in the 4th largest city in the U.S. for most of my life (and maybe in some ways because of this), I prefer cozy to convenience, rustic to modern, and preserved to pristine. At the end of the day, I suppose what’s important is not where we stayed, but with whom we spent time with. Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and friends. To fellowship with those we love and more importantly, the One who loves us.

And there’s not a place on this earth where I feel His presence more than when I sink my feet in where sand meets saltwater and gaze upon the vastness of the sea.

Is there a place you feel closer to God than anywhere else?

This post is my contribution to the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by my friend, Bridget Chumbley. Please visit her site for more posts on the topic of Fellowship.

The problem with gratitude

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I was raised to always say “please” and “thank you”, a tradition I am trying to instill in my children who will hopefully pass down to their children. I don’t want my kids to say thank you automatically. I want their thank yous to be the result of the overflow of gratitude from their hearts.

“for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” ~ Luke 6:45b

There are few attitudes which can so drastically change your outlook on life as one of gratefulness. Instead of complaining about having leftovers again, you can delight in the knowledge that your family has more than enough to eat. It is from this position of gratitude where you may be compelled to help others who are not so fortunate. But one must be careful not to give with the expectation of being the recipient of gratitude from those you help. That’s not generosity; that’s self-righteous manipulation. I grappled with this very realization while volunteering at a temporary shelter housing Katrina survivors.

Should people be grateful? Absolutely. But you can’t force anyone to be grateful anymore than you can force someone to be generous. They either are or they’re not. Compounding the problem is the fact that we live in a society where there is an ever-increasing atmosphere of entitlement.  Why should anyone feel grateful for something they believe they deserve in the first place?

Before this post spirals into a socio-economic-political-philosophical tangent (which incidentally, it did before I deleted most of what I typed here), I think what I’m so feebly trying to communicate here is best summed up in the following quote:

“Gratitude is a duty which ought to be paid, but which none have the right to expect.”
~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Honestly? I still have some work to do.

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This post is part of the blog carnival on Gratitude, hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more, please visit her site.

A mother’s love (by Annie K)

The blog carnival topic for this time around is Reconciliation. Check out some other great posts on this topic at my friend Bridget’s place, One Word at a Time. I love this story written by my friend Annie last year. There’s more to the story. You can find it by visiting her blog, Buzz by Annie’s.

******

For over five weeks I had avoided going into her room but I knew sooner or later I was going to have to face the daunting task of packing up the things she left behind.

I looked around the room and took in the few items left hanging in the closet, mainly the old clothes she didn’t wear anymore. The desk held a few nick knacks, school supplies and stuffed animals. The walls had been left mostly bare except for the remnants of her high school volleyball days and a random tack here and there.

I climbed up on the bunk bed and began taking down the volleyball shirts one-by-one. Player number on the front, name across the back. One shirt had the words ‘Team Captain’ boldly printed across the chest, and I had a flashback to the moment she told me she’d made captain. There were bags she had hung that had been decorated by her ‘secret bear pal’ and given to her on the days we played our cross town rival. Pictures of her with the team, the saying, ‘you wish you could hit like a girl’ and the ’10 Reasons I Play Volleyball’, all came down one at a time along with the memories I had of her volleyball days.

I climbed down from the bunk bed and began going through the items on her desk. There was an Angel jewelry holder that she had painted at a little pottery studio we had visited and I carefully wrapped it up and put it into a box. I gently tucked the stuffed animals into the box along with jewelry, pictures, old cell phone chargers, books, and school projects that she had worked so diligently on.

As I cleaned off her desk, I noticed the tiny white Christmas lights that she had strung around her desk and up the bunk bed. I plugged them in and continued working.

I went to the closet and began opening the drawers of her dresser, a hand-me-down from when I was a little girl. As I opened the top drawer I smiled at the mismatched socks in it. We had always laughed about the fact that she never wore matching socks. And there was not a match in the drawer. I closed the drawer and left the socks as they were.

Other drawers held old high school sweatshirts that I packed along with the volleyball shirts into a box. The jewelry box she’d had as a girl that was tucked safely away in the third drawer down was just going to stay put. For now.

As I surveyed the room, I hadn’t realized how late it had gotten and the room was becoming dark except for the white Christmas lights. I glanced over at her desk and my eyes landed on the blue dolphin lamp sitting there. Blue was her favorite color and she’d always loved dolphins. I reached over to turn the lamp on and it lit up as mini lightning bolts raced through the dolphin. I stood there for a moment watching the lightning show…and then the tear fell.

And it fell for the emptiness of the room.

And then another fell for the hurt and sadness of my daughter walking out the door and not looking back.

And another fell, for not seeing her in those mismatched socks.

And then the tears came.

For wondering how the dreams for ones child could go so wrong somewhere along the way and for feeling like I was packing up all the memories I had of her 17 years into a few boxes.

And for missing the hugs, the kisses and the ‘I love yous’, the laughter, the quiet moments, singing Lady Gaga in the car, being goofy, baking cookies and watching movies.

And they fell because I won’t watch her graduate from my old alma mater, and because don’t want to miss out on her future.

And they fell because I’m afraid she doesn’t know how much I miss her.

************************

As I sat there letting the tears fall I knew it was only the beginning. There will be many more tears in the coming weeks, and who knows, maybe months because there is a lot of healing in our relationship that needs to happen, for both of us. But, there is one thing that I am certain of where my daughter and I are concerned. And that is no matter what the differences are, or what trials we face, or how mad and disappointed we are with each other, she knows I love her and I know she loves me.

Condemnation versus Conviction

Over the past few weeks, Jeff has been doing a sermon series called “It Came from Within” based on the book by Andy Stanley. We’ve been talking quite a bit about guarding our hearts above all else. Here’s a brief intro to one of Jeff’s sermons:

We learn there are things to do or not do, to say or not say in order to keep the wheels of life greased. At home, at work, in school, in dating relationships, with friends, with family and even with complete strangers, we develop a filter, and everything that comes out passes through that filter. It’s not that a filter is bad; it’s just that a filter is only meant to deal with what flows through it, not what flows to it. Even the most carefully monitored filter can fail, and when it does, something pops out that makes us say, “Whoa, I don’t know where that came from!”

But Jesus says, “I do. I know where it came from. It came from your heart.” He talks about it in Matthew 12:34b when he says, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Which got me thinking about this week’s blog carnival topic: Condemnation. It seems our internal filters shift into overdrive when we come from the position of feeling condemnation about sin rather than conviction. Condemnation tells us to hide our sin. Conviction tells us to confess and sin no more. It’s a struggle. Especially when we are trying to convince everyone that we have it all together. And let’s just be honest. Does anyone really have it all together? I know I certainly don’t.

At the end of each sermon, Jeff poses a few questions. (A few of the questions change a bit from week to week. This particular one is about anger.) I’d like to share them with you with the hope that they will lead you from a place of condemnation towards conviction, and ultimately to restoration.

  • Is everything okay in your heart?
  • Are you mad at anybody?
  • Are you waiting around for somebody to come to you and make things right?
  • Have you had any extended, imaginary conversations with anybody lately?
  • Have people asked you, “What are you so angry about?”
  • Have you secretly celebrated someone’s failure recently?
  • Do you have any secrets that are eating at you?
  • Anything going on that you hope no one discovers?
  • Is there a question you hope no one ever asks you?
  • Have you lied recently to somebody you love?

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” ~ Proverbs 4:23

This post is part of the blog carnival on Condemnation, hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more, please visit her site.

Recipe for misery

image courtesy of photobucket.com

“If you want to be miserable, think about yourself, about what you want, what you like, what respect people ought to pay you and what people think of you.” -Charles Kingsley

Last week I wrote a post about why I hate writing. In a nutshell, I wrote that I hate writing because sometimes writing hurts. Self examination and reflection can be very painful at times, and seeing your shortcomings right there in black and white can be pretty ouchy. But writing (or any other creative pursuit) doesn’t always have to be about self-reflection, and I would go far to say that if that’s all your writing is about, it makes for self-indulgent and narcissitic reading. Redemptive writing comes when you allow yourself to relive the pain so that others might be healed by it, or at the very least, know that they are not alone in their struggle.

As my bloggy pal Sharkbait pointed out so well in the comments section of the aforementioned post:

I think part of the problem is that writing often usually leads to truth. And truth is often not pretty, and can be painful at first.

But as a (bad) writer, I often find that one of the biggest misconceptions is that writing is supposed to hurt. People seem to think that writing leads to depression, alcoholism, anti-social tendencies, suicide and poverty. At some point in history we stopped giving artists permission to be fulfilled and happy with their art.

I fight this in my writing class, I fight this in my writers groups, I fight this every time I try to convince someone that writing is not selfish and pointless, and to give themselves permission to try it.

The writing we do, often is about “piercing a vein to let the poison out”. And thus often is painful, and necessary.

But it is dangerous, I think, to start thinking that because it is painful and necessary, that the pain is necessary.

*Editor’s note: Sharkbait is NOT a bad writer. He’s actually quite good. He challenges me and makes me think. I dig that.

This post is part of the blog carnival on Healing, hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more, please visit her site.

Renovation, Part 2

At the end of last year, I wrote a post entitled Renovation. You can click on the link if you’d like to read it, but in a nutshell, it was about a older house in our neighborhood that was a bit run down. It was sold, and the new owners came in and started clearing up the overgrown trees and shrubs, and basically gutting the house. Here’s how the house looked then:


I’m sorry I didn’t do a follow-up post sooner. Had I done so, you would have seen pictures of what I thought was going to be a renovation which turned into the entire house being completed demolished. The only thing left of that little blue house two weeks after these pictures were taken was the concrete slab, the driveway and the garage.

Fast forward a few months. It didn’t take long before I realized the house which would replace the little blue one would be quite a bit bigger and quite a bit more expensive than its predecessor.

Building continued in earnest for a couple of  months, then all of the sudden, everything stopped. This is how the house has looked for the past several months:

Those last two photos? The one of the travel camper and the garage? That’s where our neighbors have been living for the past few months. It seems they have their own business, and some clients have not paid some pretty sizable invoices. They counted on that money to finish the house.

This could be a story about how you shouldn’t spend money you don’t have, or how not to count your chickens before they’re hatched. And I’ve often thought those things privately as I’ve walked by their property. But there’s a better story here.

Because this family, despite moving from a very nice house in a nice neighborhood into a garage and a travel camper for the foreseeable future, seems to have a wonderful attitude about the whole thing. No, they’re not happy about what’s happened to them, but they always have a smile and a wave for everyone. They went from having a 20 man crew working on their house to the father, son and friends doing what little carpentry work they can. Never complaining, never with sour dispositions. They don’t seem to make excuses or lay blame for their woes on other people, even though I’m sure that’s tempting.

No. They’re learning to appreciate what they have–a roof over their heads and each other. This situation might have torn some families apart. This family seems to have rallied together because of it.

My other neighbor told me that the owner of this house (who, if I had to guess, I would say is in his 50’s) had drawn up the plans in high school; that it was the house he had always dreamed of living in some day. Today, he’s still not living in his dream house.

I’m pulling for them. I hope those clients come through and pay them what they’re owed. In the meantime, living in the shadow of their broken dream house, I’d like to think they’ve still found their home. And they’ve discovered that the best things in life aren’t things at all.

This post is part of the blog carnival on Brokenness, hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more, please visit her site.

A gift of hope

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I love these blog carnivals. So many different perspectives on the one word prompts provided. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself. Visit my friend Bridget Chumbley and check out all the great entries about Hope this week.

I wanted to do something a bit different this time around. You see, I’ve been reading this wonderful book written by Pete Wilson called Plan B – What do you do when God doesn’t show up the way you thought he would? It’s been such an encouragement for me, and I wanted to give you the opportunity to be encouraged by this book as well.

The book is brimming with hope. And while I don’t think I could pick one particular passage as a favorite, here’s a sample of what you’ll find there:

When it becomes apparent your dreams are not coming true and you feel you’ve been stripped of everything, this is no time to run. It’s no time to take things into your own hands. It’s definitely not the time to turn your back on God.

This is when you need God more than ever before. You need to lean on him instead of running away.

Your dreams may not be happening, and things aren’t turning out the way you expected, but that doesn’t mean your life is spinning out of control. It just means you’re not in control. It’s in those moments you can learn to trust the only one who has ever had control in the first place.

Now, I would never wish this on you, but there will be a moment in your life when you feel like everything you have is starting to slip away. You will be tempted to run, but I pray instead you will persevere. Because no matter how things seem, God is still with you. And things will turn around, one way or another. Maybe not the way you planned. Maybe not the way you assumed God would handle it. Maybe not even the way you hope. But you will see God’s hand at work–if not in your circumstances, then certainly in your heart.

Does this sound like something you’d like to read? If so, all you have to do is leave a comment letting me know you’d like a free copy. I will pick two winners at random and announce them next Tuesday.

“To all who choose to believe,
in the midst of their Plan B,
that one day faith will win over doubt,
light will win over darkness,
love will win over hate,
and all things will be redeemed
and exist the way they should.”
– Pete Wilson

Page 3 of 6«12345»...Last »