Back to School Shopping

July 31, 2008

I have been indulging, okay dragged kicking and screaming, in the annual back-to-school shopping ritual.  First, I should like to say that it’s possible that I’m not a “true” woman, since I rarely like to shop.  And, pair me with a child with a mind of their own (any child out of infancy and verbal), and I lose it. 

Yesterday and today I shopped with my teenager. 

I’m not sure anything else needs to be said….

Okay, I’ll say it.  Or ask it.  Do I have the only child on the planet who will first drive you crazy about when we are going, and then, once we go, practically refuse to try anything on?  I had to cajole, insist, and down right order her to try things on.  She’d frown, I’d say just try it, and after an obligatory period of resistance which usually included a lot of muttering, she would finally try it on.  Whatever it was.  Then, more than likely, she would like it and we’d buy it.  I felt like a professional shopping wrestler by the time we were done. 

Part way through the day, I decided to accept things.  My daughter is a glass half-empty and I am a glass half-full person.  We will see things differently.  Shopping together will always be a challenge.  Maybe I need to make it less of one.  After all, I can only control my attitude.  I stopped reacting so much to every negative response and just pointed out what was needed or not.  Gave her choices to buy it or not.  Placed boundaries and called for decisions pleasantly. 

I am way too uptight about this kind of stuff.  I need a new mantra.  Something like “Shopping is fun.”  By the end of the day yesterday, we had accomplished that day’s tasks.  Today was easier.  And went faster.  In 35 minutes we had two new pairs of jeans, a vest, and a new shirt.  A world’s record for this duo.  My change in attitude was a big part of that.  What a surprise! 

Now, we’re off to open house.  Finally, along with the rest of our county, we’ll get school supply lists.  So, I can go shopping with my teenager in Wal-Mart with too crowded aisles and crazed mothers trying to conquer the list. 


Maybe I’ll just send her dad with her….

I Corinthians 13: 4-7

Love is patient and  love is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails.


July 28, 2008

Every month at the Georgia Romance Writer’s Group meeting, we make time for member’s news.  It’s kinda fun to listen to people stand up and say that their book has been accepted by a publisher.  Or they just had the movie rights optioned for their series.  We all clap and get excited.  Funny, even the most published ladies in the group appreciate that applause.   

But, there is another time we clap.  Sometimes even louder.  It’s when an author-in-waiting stands up and says that they just got their first (third, fifteenth, whatever) rejection from a publisher on their novel.  Yes, we clap for rejection.  Loudly. 

Why?  Because it means that the author is doing something.  Finishing a manuscript. Putting themselves out there.  Taking a chance.  Every single published author in the room has had their share of rejection letters.  It’s a rite of passage.  And, it doesn’t always end with your first publication.  Even authors like Haywood Smith, the Red Hat Club novelist, who has written bunches of successful novels still gets them sometimes. 

None of us like rejection.  I know I don’t.  It’s probably why my three stories are all still unfinished and not yet rejected. 

Today, I got news of my editor/agent appointment time at an upcoming conference.  I get a one-on-one appointment with a major editor and a major agent to pitch my work.  It’s a good wake-up call.  Time to finish.  To risk rejection.  To take a chance. 

There are so many times in life we risk rejection.  Friendships carry that risk.  Family carries that risk.  Marriages carry that risk.  All relationships carry that risk.  But we still need to put ourselves out there.  Rejection has something to teach us.  Perseverence for one thing.  Where our own wounds lie for another. 

We’ve all been rejected at some point.  During our lifetime, we’ll probably experience it again.  What I’ve learned in my writer’s group is that rejection is to be expected and even embraced as a vital stepping stone in my journey. 

My manuscript may be rejected.  I’ll never know until I take that risk.  But, if I don’t finish it and try, I stay stuck in the journey.  

So, if I’m rejected.  There is a major consolation here.  I continue the journey in good company.  Even the best of us get rejected and denied from time to time….

Mark 14:72 

And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.


July 27, 2008

Last night I watched “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” for the first time.  All right, so I’m not always up-to-date on watching movies.  Not even remotely up-to-date.  Strangely enough, it wasn’t my choice to watch it.  My dear one and I were having a rare moment on the sofa and I had the remote.  Scrolling through the choices, I suggested “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” or maybe a movie.  Guess what?  He chose the movie.  Me, I wanted the cop drama. 

So much for gender stereotypes. 

We watched the movie.  Guess who laughed more?  He did.  Eventually, I loosened up enough and enjoyed it too.  Frankly, I ended up liking it a lot.  My favorite part was at the end where the father, who loves to explain how everything, especially words, has a Greek origin, speaks at the reception.  To show his acceptance of his non-Greek son-in-law, the father toasts the couple and explains, in a slightly convoluted way, how the groom’s last name is originally Greek and means “apple.”  It’s quite a stretch.  Then he compares it to his family name which means “orange.”  In the end, he concludes that we are all different, but we’re all fruit!

My dear one and I are different.  I like intense TV shows and he is more fond of relational programs.  He fixes things and understands all the technical details and I can’t explain how I got from point A to point C, but I got there.  Probably an intuitive leap, which drives him crazy.  He can plot a course in an airplane and get where he’s going, but I’m the one with the directional sense on the ground.  I like to curl up with a good book and just relax, while he’s the one still working to get the job done.  He can do math and I, well, I married him because he can do the math. 

In the end, differences can drive us apart, drive us crazy, or drive us to where we need to be.  But, they are always an invitation to change.  Yourself, not the other guy.  Last night’s lesson for me was simple.  I need to lighten up a bit.  We did watch the cop show later and it was intense.  I think I liked the movie better.  It was just fun and sweet.  I don’t always want to slow down to that pace. 

So, which direction are you going to let the differences drive you?  Where you need to change is always the best choice.  No GPS necessary.  And remember, we’re all fruit!

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Know Thyself

July 25, 2008

Over the last three or four days, I’ve come to believe that I must not really know myself.  Or, at least, that’s what several websites that I’ve tried to log onto would have me believe. 

“Invalid User ID or Password” is a message that I’ve been getting a lot lately.  Oh, it would be understandable if ALL of them were websites I rarely use, but two were websites that I am on almost daily.  That’s when it started to get frustrating.

I entered my ID again.  And again.  And, well, you get the idea.

Same message both times.  Same message five or six times.  Same message even if I changed the ID just in case I was confused.  Seems like no matter how many times I insisted that I knew myself, the website insisted that I was wrong.

I was not a happy camper!  If you could have measured the increase of force on the keyboard as I typed….  Oh, and if you had been nearby you might have wondered who I was having that animated conversation with at the time….

Eventually, I was logged on.  But not until I went through the process of answering security questions and having my ID’s sent to me.  When they came, well, let’s just say that, in at least one case, I didn’t know myself as well as I thought I did. 

In the Kingdom of God, we don’t always know ourselves as well as we think either.  It isn’t until life takes a twist, disaster strikes, health impairs, friends desert you, or you drive on I-285 in Atlanta, that you really know what you are made of inside. 

We would do well to examine ourselves carefully.  And when the trial comes, as it inevitably will, we can see who we really are. 

Psalms 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

I promised to share our family’s funniest memory in my last blog.  My younger daughter, after reading that blog, asked what the family’s funniest memory was….


That’s when I realized that this incident had happened before she was born!  All those times we teased her father or mentioned super-glue, all of the rest of us had a point of reference that she didn’t. 

So, I told her the story. 

I think she’s still trying to figure out what was the big deal.

Okay, so maybe you had to be there. Funny has that problem sometimes.

Our relationship with God is like that.  God has a different point of reference than we do.  He knows more.  WAY MORE.  We don’t always get the big picture.  We see things from one point of view, from one side or another, and the challenge is to transcend that limited reference point.  

These are the times when things happen we don’t understand.  These are the “Why?” moments for some of us.  Me, I’ve never been big on asking God why, but on trying to understand how he will use something.  But you may come at life’s situations in a different way.  Which ever it is, we need the whole picure.  And it’s the one that only God has. 

So, when I really need a point of reference, I have to go to God.  But, only if I want the big picture. 

Get the big picture.

Joshua 5:13-15

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, [Art] thou for us, or for our adversaries?  And he said, Nay; but [as] captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?  And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest [is] holy. And Joshua did so.

Yesterday I wrote about traditions.  We have several in my family.  From red velvet cake on birthdays to holiday pies and Christmas ornaments, we have those traditions that bind us.  What also binds us are the memories that our family shares. 

Memories that we share as a family bind us through their emotional echoes down through the years.  Whether it was through laughter or tears, a moment happened that stays with us forever.  You know the moment.  It’s the “Remember when Dad….”  or it’s that look that you give each other when something happens and you both just start laughing. And no one else gets it.  For us, the “Bondini Incident” will always bring tears of laughter to our eyes. 

I cherish our family memories.  I still get a little misty over the memory of my dear one holding our first born.  But I grin at the memory of him reasoning with her over why crying wasn’t a productive way to get your needs met.  She was five-days-old at the time. 

I still remember my exasperation when we were half-way to the hospital for our older son’s birth and I looked at him and asked, “Can we talk about baby names NOW?”  He answered with our son’s name.  Said God told him when I went into labor.  It was a memorable moment between labor pains. 

I also remember our first trip to Disney with our first three children.  We stayed in a two-bedroom condo off property.  There are all the expected memories of Disney.  But, one of the strongest memories is of what happened when I, who was new to the use of a mechanical dishwasher, used dish liquid because I didn’t know it wouldn’t work the same.  I filled the cup.  Ankle deep suds and hysterical laughter.  To this day, it is a reference point for an out-of-control sudsing mess. 

Memories, for better or worse, are what form as life happens.  They hold us together.  They provide the reference points.  They are an emotional glue in life.  Usually, they just happen.  But we can have a hand in making them. 

Start a tradition, do something with a child, or a grandchild, or your family on a regular basis.  You don’t have to go to Disney for a memory.  I interview people as a part of my job.  One of the questions I ask them is about their favorite memory from childhood.  Usually it is something simple.  A weekly Friday night ice cream cone at Dairy Queen with their father, playing ball in the yard, fishing with grandpa, and Sunday dinners at grandma’s house are some of the things I hear.  I really enjoy the look on their face when they tell it.  They go back there for a moment.  Transported.

So, go for breakfast together on a Saturday or always cook Mickey Mouse pancakes on that day.  Have a family meal on Sundays after church.  Spend time together at yard sales.  Have a family game night.  Pray with your child every night.  Have a monthly picnic.  Buy an ice cream cone together on Tuesday nights.  Find something simple.  Just do it. 

What things do you do to create a family memory?  Share your ideas here.  But most of all, just start creating them.  When you do, you create that link to the past for those you love.  A signpost of good moments. 

Tomorrow: Our funniest family story, “The Bondini Incident.” 

Genesis 9:16

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that [is] upon the earth.

Traditions are an important part of every family.  One of the questions we ask potential foster families is what are your family traditions?  A lot of times people go blank at that point.  but, we all have them.  They are an important part of every family.  A repetitive thing that is part of the fabric that binds us together.

One of my family’s traditions is a homemade red velvet cake for your birthday.  I use a recipe handed down to me by my dear one’s mother, the recipe that she used to make his birthday cakes.  It has a unique icing that is different than the traditional southern cream cheese version. 

When my children were small, we did the usual character or cookie cakes.  Only the adults had the red velvet.  Interestingly enough, after about age fourteen or so, each one decided on the red velvet.  So, what started as my husband’s tradition became the family’s tradition. 

So every year, I bake at least six red velvet cakes.  One for my dear one and five for my children.  Yes, I know I only have four children.  But this cake is so important to one of them that I must bake two on his birthday. He would give you the shirt off his back or his last dime in the world.  But, he won’t give you his cake.   His middle name is dessert! 

My family knows what to expect on a birthday.  A meal of their choice, the whole family at the table, and red velvet cake.  It is the tradition that birthdays at our house revolve around. 

God knew that traditions were important.  It’s why festivals were initiated, tents were erected, special foods were cooked.  Because we need to remember.  We need the cyclic events in life to bind us. 

More than likely, your family has traditions.  The moments that bind you together.  If you don’t, and your children are young, start one.  If you can’t think of one, borrow one.  My recipe is available! 

Joshua 4:5-9

And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:That this may be a sign among you, [that] when your children ask [their fathers] in time to come, saying, What [mean] ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.  And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.

My laundry room often takes on a life of its own.  There are seven of us in this household, and six of us do our own laundry.  I will leave you to imagine how well that works!  I was in there trying to do Triage today, although it probably needed CPR, and it struck me that the laundry has a lot to teach me.  So, here are some of my favorite lessons from the laundry room. 

1. Let me get it out of my system first and give you my favorite quote from Erma Bombeck: “Normal is just a setting on your dryer.”  There is no one definition of normal.  Yet, I sometimes find myself trying to live up to some imaginary plumb line.  Both my washer and dryer acknowledge the differences in life.  They offer a lot of different settings and temperatures from Cotton/Sturdy to Delicate/Knit.  There is no one version that is normal.  The laundry room allows for a lot of differences.  So why do I, a child of God, keep measuring myself against some false standard.  God has His own standard.  It’s not normal either.   

2. The sooner you treat a stain, the more likely it is to come out of the fabric.  Even the simplest stains can become permanent if left to set too long.  My heart is like that.  I can allow the stains of sin, of attitude, of bitterness to set in.  If I stuff down my feelings or allow things to fester, they become much harder to dislodge.  The same is true of relationships.  Fix them quickly before opportunities are missed.  Both of these are lessons I’ve learned the hard way. 

3. Clean the lint filter regularly.  Life’s daily loads take a toll.  Lint accumulates quickly.  If we don’t clean the filter, not only won’t the dryer work efficiently, but we could end up with a fire.  My spirit is like that.  Daily life accumulates lint.  We have to take time to clean ourselves off.  To keep our spirit from accumulating too much of life’s lint.  Otherwise the next load could prove more combustible than you would expect. 

4. Some stains leave a permanent mark no matter what.  Like red Kool-Aid or red berries.  Sometimes what comes into contact with our heart can leave a permanent mark.  When the substance itself that comes into contact is impermeable.  Not Kool-Aid or red berries.  Guard your hearts and be careful what stain you rub off on others.

5. Laundry has rules.  When we fail to follow the basic principles, there are consequences.  I think all of us have had pink underwear at times!  Life is like that.  If we don’t follow Godly principles, pink underwear is the least of our problems.  Reaping and sowing apply in laundry and in life.     

Life, relationships, and our walk with God are a lot like laundry.  And fortunately for us, He is the ultimate spot remover. 

Psalm 51:2

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

Hope Deferred: Part Two

July 11, 2008

I closed Part One with Proverbs 13:12.  I think we have all had those moments in life where what we hope for is missing in our lives.  It does make the heart sick. 

Twenty years ago, someone at my church, not a leader, laid hands on me.  He had a “word” that I would be healed by my next doctor’s appointment.  That presented a bit of a quandry as I did not have a doctor’s appointment scheduled.  Hmm?  What to do?   Was there a special time to schedule?  Yes, I really did think about that, as naive as that sounds now. 

 Well, I made the appointment.  But, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew.  I just wanted to hope.

The day of the appointment, my blood sugar shot to 300.  Just in case I was wondering….

I cried all the way to the doctor’s office. 

Then, I made a decision about what to do with my “deferred hope” and heart sickness.  I think it was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made.  I decided to stop putting my life on hold while I focused on healing.  I decided that I would serve God with or without a healing.  That what he had in my life was too important to focus on diabetes as the defining part of my life. 

I started a mini-prison ministry the next day in my local jail.  I haven’t looked back.  At least not until recently. 

I guess that I got tired.  Going to Lakeland is really out of character for me.  I don’t regret it.  It was the right thing to do.  It was focusing on healing that was wrong.  Fortunately, I had the good sense/inspiration to pray for spiritual renewal as well.  I have to tell you, the spiritual renewal I prayed for there is coming in a very different way than I expected.  VERY DIFFERENT!

So now what is left to me is to renew that twenty-year-old vow.  I will serve him healed or unhealed.  I’m there.  It’s easier the second time.  I understand more now and know that I can’t worship at the altar of healing.  It’s not wrong to want to be healed, but it takes my eyes off God to focus on it. 

We all worship at different altars at times.  Do you, like me, see an altar in your life?  One that doesn’t focus on Christ?

Daniel 3: 16-18

Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego answered and said unto the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us from thine hand, O king.  But, if not, be it known to thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.


July 10, 2008

Loyalty: a noun.  Synonymous with adherence, allegiance, bond, constancy, devotion, faith, faithfulness, fealty, honor, steadfastness, troth…. 

Need I go on.  Really, I can.  I was an English teacher after all and know how to use a Thesaurus. 

Most people who know my dear one and myself would apply these words to us.  We’ve been married for over thirty years, attended the same church for almost twenty-five years, stayed true and constant to those who call us friends, tithed faithfully, and raised four children through thick and thin.  Faithfulness isn’t something taken lightly in my house.  I think that almost everytime our pastor has prayed over my dear one, “a faithful man” is the phrase he uses.  That’s a strong indicator. 

But, tonight I struggle with breaking a loyalty.  (NO, not divorcing!)  With removing my self from a commitment that I feel I can no longer sustain.  With walking away from a long-term relationship. 

And, it breaks my heart. 

When do you walk away from something you have had in your life for almost half of your adult life?  How do you decide when to remove loyalties, break a fealty? 

Perhaps when the relationship is no longer healthy.  When it’s like being codependent.  When your heart is broken and there is probably no fixing it.  When you see no other way.  When the others involved are on a self-destructive path and won’t hear. 

Tonight I struggle.  I am angry.  Hurt.  Incredulous.  Betrayed.  Oh, did I say angry?  Well, I am. 

I know this post is vague.  I have very strong feelings tonight, but don’t feel that it would be right to share the specifics of my struggle with the world.  So, out of respect, I won’t air “dirty laundry” on the internet.  I know very well that I will have to forgive.  And, I will.  But I’m not sure the relationship will continue.  And, for that, I grieve. 

Psalm 12:1

To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.]] Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.