Monday, May 16, 2016

Reading, Writing and Teaching

Lately, I've been ruminating on three things - reading, writing and teaching.  It sounds like the old schoolhouse rhyme, but it's not.  It's more my thought processes on these various activities that have me in a pondering mood.

Reading.  I've been a reader from way back.  My Mom taught me to be a veracious reader at a young age, and I spent my summers checking out as many books as I could and soaking them in like water to a sponge.  In my pre-teen years, I could read as many as five books at one time.  As I got into high school, reading became more for homework than pleasure, and my desire waned.  Then came college, which also included tons of hours reading about things I was studying, not escapes into other's stories.  In 2009, I joined a book club in hopes to regain my passion for reading and it worked.  Then I went back to school and there was barely enough time to read my book for club, aside from anything else.  I've been out of school since last summer and my reading passion has grown.  I can't get enough of it.  So far I've read 12 books this year, almost halfway to my year goal of 25.  Any time I have down time, my nose wants to be in a book.  

Writing.  Last month, I celebrated my eleventh year blogging.  Wow.  That's longer than any dating relationship I've ever had and longer than most of the jobs I've held.  I've been a fierce writer cranking out posts left and right, and then a not so fierce writer struggling to post an article.  I've kept a goal of at least two blogposts per month, so I feel accomplished.  This leads me to my real reason for ruminating on writing.  I'm back to the thought of whether I should write a book.  My friend, Paige, and I have no less than 4 or 5 ideas of books we'd like to author together, so once she gets her tenure, that is on.  But, as I've participated in a few book launch teams lately, the fire is back to write a book.  Most of the authors I'm helping launch started out as bloggers.  My mind reels on how to even begin.  I have lots of ideas, but no clear path to get there, and like Mr. Holland's Opus, life and other ministry takes priority.  Nonetheless, it is occupying my head space right now.  

Teaching.  Part of the motivation of getting my MBA was to have the ability to do some adjunct teaching someday.  Of late, this has also been taking up a lot of my head space.  I'm far from ready to begin the process of seeing what's out there, but to be ready, I need to have a CV prepared so if and when the right teaching position pops up I can apply.  I love my current job, but I've always wanted to do this on a part-time basis to see if I even like it.  Given the first two items - specifically writing - I can't do both.  Herein lies the conundrum.  

All my life I've always had bigger goals than I had time or resources, but I'm so Type A, it's hard to not act on some of these dreams.  At this posting, I'm contemplating doing what I did when I was praying about getting my MBA...I decided to take some steps and see if doors opened, and if they did, that was the way I would go.  My MBA decision was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I'm hoping the same outcome as I ponder these wonderful opportunities all around me. 

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Looking for Lovely

Early this year, I applied to be on a launch team for a new Lifeway Book releasing by Annie F. Downs - Looking for Lovely.  I'd never participated in a launch team before and figured I'd have little chance to make it...but I did!  And there began my journey of lovely. 

I'd followed Annie on the socials and knew she'd written other books (of which I haven't read...yet), and that she was single, which is always something that endears me to a godly woman.  Those of us never marrieds that follow Christ have a desire to marry.  But, we're not going to settle for Mr. Maybe.  Some choose singleness.  Others follow God's choice for a season, however long that season lasts. 

I anxiously awaited my advance copy and it came with all the pomp and circumstance of a glorious royal entry full of glittery confetti!  Party started!

I paced my reading of this book because it would be a little over two months before it hit the market on April 5 and I wanted to savor every word.  And it didn't disappoint.  

Annie shared (quite vulnerably, I might add) about a season of life when she dealt with her "broken crazy."  A time in her life when her resilience was non-existent and she struggled to focus on the good in things; lovely was not a word in her vocabulary.  

The journey through this book of Annie's search for lovely takes you so many places - to the Holy Land, the Ryman Auditorium, a beautiful sunrise, a farmer's market and Monet's House.  Each chapter unveils the lovely Annie found in the midst of the ordinary things of life and packaging it up like putting lightning bugs in a jar in hopes they would blink forever.  At the end of each chapter after Annie had visually walked us through her lovely experience, she challenged us with our own assignment.  Get up early and watch a sunrise.  Paint your nails.  Whatever that challenge was, Annie encouraged us to find lovely in our lives.  

When I ruminated over this blog post review of the book, I wanted to share a lovely in my life.  There are so many in my life that I often overlook.  Earlier this week I was at dinner with a longtime friend.  As we ate, a man who was in the restaurant making balloon animals in return for donations for a mission trip walked up and gave us each our own animal.  I got a turtle that is cute as a button.  He said they'd probably last about two weeks.  Now I have a "lovely" sitting in my home to remind me of that dinner with a cherished friend.

To pick a lovely I could really share in depth, I wanted something that, even to this day, I recall and smile.  It was last May, the first Saturday in May, which for us in Louisville, Kentucky, is Derby Day.  I have a standing date with a sweet lady from my church, Martha, the first Saturday of every month.  Martha has known me since before I was born.  She and my Mom were dear friends.  She is a pillar of our church and when you look up hospitality in the dictionary her picture is there.  Recently, her two best friends have slipped from her life - one has gone on to Heaven and the other one is trapped in a world of dementia.  We started this standing date when I realized how I would feel in her shoes.  And, selfishly, because she is a connection to my Mom and Dad, who are both now gone.  Even more than that, she is so wise and special to me.

On every other first Saturday we would head somewhere for brunch or lunch in town, with Cracker Barrel as one of our favorite places (talk about lovely!)  But on that first Saturday in May, Derby Day, I suggested someplace special.  I made reservations at the Science Hill Inn just outside of Louisville in Shelbyville, Kentucky.  This historic building was a preparatory school for girls from 1825 to 1939.  It still stands today and houses a quaint dining room serving Kentucky delicacies.  For Derby Day, there was a lovely brunch and we headed there for our special day.

As we entered the building, you could feel the historic presence of girls who had dreams of being anything they wanted to be.  We made our way to the dining room and it felt like I walked into the 1800s.  The tables were colonial style and draped with bright, white tablecloths.  The serving staff was all adorned with tuxes or black and white attire and you could tell all of them had worked there for years and knew the regulars by name.  We were seated by a lovely window overlooking the gardens.  It was perfect.  It was lovely.  

We talked and shared and didn't feel rushed to leave. (Unlike the time they threw us out of Cracker Barrel...but I digress)  While sitting there, a sweet teenager came to our table and asked if she could pray for us.  Simply lovely.  Our server shared her Dad was a pastor in the area and they were a great family.  If the day wasn't lovely enough, this made it lovelier.  The weather was picture perfect and the company even better.  

As I mentioned, Martha and I do this every month, never fail, save one month when it just didn't work out.  And I look forward to it every month.  But this Derby Day 2015 will be a lovely I'll never forget.  

If you are expecting an exegetical thesis on the book of Ezekial, it's not this book.  But, if you've ever had a problem finding lovely in your this world....and tired of being the strong one or adulting, this is a must read.  All of the lovely points to the One who is the Loveliest of all.  

"This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." - Romans 5:5

"Hope is an expensive commodity, not easily fought for, and the result of a process that will take some time." - Annie F. Downs

Friday, April 01, 2016

Non-April Fool's Funny

It's April Fool's Day and I've already had an attempted prank played on me.  One of my employees tried to tell me they were rebooting West Wing.  On any other day I would have "SQUEEEEEED!" for joy, but I knew it was merely his poor attempt to doop me.  In honor of this fun day (which is on a Friday this year!), I'm sharing one of my all-time favorite video moments.  It's from The Ballinger Family, who vlog daily and have three of the cutest children ever.  The youngest, Parker, at age 3 experiences candy for the first time in this video.  His reaction is my favorite.  When I get excited about something, this is really how I feel.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Gospel According to Eagles

I have a new obsession and it's watching the DC Eagle Cam.  The American Eagle Foundation has this cam, and three cams in Dollywood that watch over the nests of our country's bird, the Bald Eagle.  There are other nests and cams that operate, but normally are most active when eggs have been laid, hatched and the world can watch the interaction of the Mom and Dad eagle with their young.  

I am hooked.  Who knew watching an Eagle Cam could be so engaging?  I'm fascinated by so many things that occur while watching.  The Mom Eagle keeps watch over her young and before they are hatched she helps to incubate them by sitting on the eggs.  This may change if the temperature changes, so she keeps a close watch on these pre-born chicks.  For the DC Eagle nest, the Eagles are named Mr. President and First Lady.  The Dollywood Cam has Franklin and Independence, Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson, and Sir Hatcher and Lady Independence.  The Dollywood nests have recently laid eggs, so the Mom Eagles are staying right in the nest the majority of time.

Mr. President goes out and secures food, so watching the cam can be a bit gross at times, when he brings some dead animal to the nest and they pick it clean to feed the baby birds and themselves.  There is blood, so be prepared.  The admins that monitor the periodic chat times, also post updates.  Mr. President does give the First Lady breaks and she leaves the nest to have "Eagle-ess" time while he takes over duties watching the Eaglets.  Good to know that the Eagles share the parenting duties.  

When I watch these cams, I'm completely enamored at the intricacy of creation.  Their nests are so well made (and quite heavy I've heard), and constructed to sit atop a tree and hold the family without fail....unless some tornado whips through I'd assume.  I can't imagine not believing in God as our Creator when you look at the nest alone and how it is built by these majestic birds.  Also, their ability to mate, lay eggs and protect their young is something beyond my comprehension.  Of course, there is a disclaimer on the site that anything can happen in the wild, but I've seen enough of upset Eagles to know they will put up a true fight before letting anything come near their eaglets.  But, as Scripture teaches in Matthew, birds don't worry about things because they know the Creator will provide.  Mr. President doesn't tell First Lady, "So I hope I find some food when I go looking today."  Because he knows he'll find some.  Oh to have the faith of an Eagle.  

Beyond the evidence of a Divine Creator, after watching the Dollywood Cam, I'm struck by something even more amazing.  The Momma Eagle rarely leaves from sitting on her eggs.  She recognizes the life that is in those eggs, ready to come alive and she is doing her part to ensure they hatch and survive.  She recognizes life, even before they hatch.  Read that again, "even before they hatch."  When we talk about life in a human mother's womb, we can hear heartbeats, see the babies on ultrasounds, and know that blood is pumping.  But even for the Eagle, they recognize there is a life that is about to emerge.  And they are going to do everything they can to make that happen.  The wonder of new birth.  Oh to have our world value life like the Eagle.

Friday, March 25, 2016

It Only Happens to Me

My life is funny.  I think that's why I enjoy life so much because the small encounters I have on a regular basis make me giggle.  I'll share a few in today's blog post that, even days later, leave me smiling.

A couple of weeks ago I met my sweet friend, Martha, for our monthly Cracker Barrel date.  We meet for breakfast (or brunch actually) once a month and I cherish those times together.  Many days we end up spending a couple of hours talking and enjoying our food, but on this particular day, we could tell they wanted us out.  Granted, there was a wait, so we needed to leave, but I chuckled at our not taking the server up on "to-go" drinks and then him returning with drinks to go.  

Before we left, I made a trip to the restroom.  There was one lady coming out and a woman and her child at the sinks.  I entered the stall and then poof the lights went out. My first thought was the child must have hit the switch, but I thought surely the Mom would have noticed that.  Then, when everything was so quiet and I was in the restroom alone, I thought "Did I just lose my eyesight?"  I put my hand in front of my face and couldn't see a thing.  Eeks!  I have lost my eyesight!  I was quickly reminded that public restrooms have no windows.  Have you noticed that?  I challenge you to check out the next public restroom you enter.  No windows 99.9% of the time.  So I struggled my way in the dark after taking care of business to get to the door and flip the light on.  I'd waited expecting someone to enter and they didn't.  I knew it wasn't the rapture, because, people, I know where I'm going!  As I got to the door someone was coming in and surely thought I was a loon.  I told her "someone flipped the lights off."  She looked at me as if I'd just escaped the mental hospital.  For all the angst of that restroom visit, I chalk it up to the wait staff wanting me to leave.

Last week I was lounging in my recliner to read and was going to use my heating pad.  With RA, many times at the end of the day, I need some heat on my joints to ease the pain.  I have a heating pad that I believe was on Noah's Ark, but it does the trick.  Until recently.  I noticed that the light would go sporadically off and on and didn't know why.  Gee, didn't even dawn on my that the heating pad was 100 kabillion years old.  On this one night as I was shaking the wire I saw a spark and saw smoke.  The cord had worn through and it was sparking.  Great.  Thankfully, God loves me and kept me from catching on fire.  I quickly tossed the ancient heating pad in the garbage.  

Though I have crazy things happen, there are lots of "good" crazy.  Today on my way to work I stopped by Starbucks to get a green tea.  This Starbucks is notably the slowest on the planet.  About every 3 trips, I get a free drink due to the slow service.  Today was one of those days.  Not all crazy is a bad thing.