Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Reflections and Words to Live By

Another year is coming to a close and I feel like only yesterday I was composing last year's post on 2010. As I've pondered on how I would recap this year, I found myself quite challenged. This year, in a word, was interesting. Think of being on a roller coaster that would go at the speed of light then stop to let you off to catch your breath, then sweep you back on to continue the ride. Or a Ferris wheel that spun out of control causing your view to be blurry. Enough of the carnival comparisons. I decided that from the reflections of this year, I would come up with words to live by. Things I hope to remember in 2012 and years to come.

1. The more things change, the more they stay the same - I'm not sure the origin of this phrase but I've heard it practically my whole life. This could sum up my year. One of the biggest changes was experiencing the acquisition of my company. I've been through these acquisitions more than I care to recount, but every one is different from the last. The acquisition happened in August and was so impactful because although I work with many of the same people, at the same office building, doing a very similar job, it was still a major adjustment. You see the constants weaved within the change. But, things did change, and will continue to change. I still love my job, even though the complexities and chaos have increased, and I'm ever so thankful to have a job in these economic times. There is another phrase "The only constant in life is change" and that rung true this year. On December 27 this year, I recalled that 27 years ago that day, I started my first full-time job. What was I doing? Sales support. And today, 27 years later, I'm managing a team of 3 (soon to be 5) Sales support associates and an inside sales team. Some things never change, they just evolve.

2. Loss is sad, but normally always provides growth - In May of this year, I lost a dear friend, Jan. It rocked my world. She was like a little soul sister who shared passions in ministry with me and we shared so many memories together. We joked about growing old together and taking care of each other. She left this world suddenly and way too early, but exactly when God had ordained. I miss her laugh and her crazy commentary, but I know I'll see her again in Heaven. I've had close friends lose parents this year, reminding me of how that felt 11 years ago when I lost my Mom. And, even during my company's acquisition, many co-workers lost jobs. Though they are still around and thanks to technology we can stay connected, it is still a loss. Work consumes a large chunk of my life and when those that play a part of it every day are gone, it's a tough adjustment. But no matter the loss, I try and learn from it and grow. Losing Jan was tough, but it reminded me of the importance of carrying the passion of Jesus she had and to be devoted to serving Him. When I reflect on my Mom's loss even 11 years later, I realize how God used that to grow me in ways I never would have otherwise.

3. Be radical - The word "radical" is defined as "an extreme change from accepted and traditional forms." After this year, my mind reels with ways to be radical. My realist side says to completely shed all the unnecessary and minimize stuff and work on all the craft and sewing projects in my head, and maybe even start that book I long to write....my "opus." My romantic side says jump into a passionate relationship with all you have and let the waves take you wherever they may flow. My rebel side says to create the most amazing new product and become a millionaire, or just quit my job, go open a bed and breakfast on the beach. My redeemed side says to be unashamedly bold and confident in sharing the gospel with every breath I have with no hesitation. Bottom line, being radical makes your blood pump. I have no regrets about any steps I've taken, risks I've made, because even in those moments where I thought I'd done the craziest thing, later in my journey, I saw how God used it all for His Purpose.

4. Be Balanced - Since August, my life has been a blur. Yes, this acquisition is an ongoing theme as I reflect over the year. We had a lot to do in a short period of time and as 2012 peeks around the corner, I know that the goals are high for what we want to do there. As a Type A, obsessive person, I can quickly be consumed by my job. It is my livelihood and pays the bills, so as a single gal, I see that as what I must do. But, I've learned that there has to be balance. I have to be that seal that knows how to plop that ball on my nose and keep it well balanced. Work is important, but taking time out for others and even for myself is important. I would ask myself "What does all this mean for eternity?" and that's a really good question to ask. It means, for now, it's how I put food on my table, gas in my car and pay my bills. But, it doesn't mean it defines me or is all I ever do. Learning to balance is hard for this extremist, but I'm going to strive to live by these words.

5. Cherish Your Friendships...They are Eternal - I am blessed with some of the best friends on the planet...and they are located all over the planet. I wasn't able to attend Jan's funeral, but I was able to send something to be read at her funeral and I spent some time reflecting on our friendship. We didn't do anything earth shattering,...never traveled the world, or did the extravagant. But of all the things we did, we made memories. Even if it was watching a movie together eating her Trinidadian cooking and drinking slingshots (an amazing coffee drink). What I learned was that even in the small, insignificant times with friends, I'll always remember them. I'm an easy-to-please gal. Sharing meaningful conversation, a good cup of coffee, or just sharing life together enriches my life more than most anything else. I'm blessed to have more friends that are so dear to me than I could name here without leaving someone out, but over this holiday season, I've realized how so many people have very few close friends their entire life, and I have more than I deserve.

May 2012 be a wonderful year full of more blessings than I can count and fun adventure.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Five Minutes: Connected

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Connected.

Ready. Set. Write.

There are days when I feel like I'm too connected. My cell phone, affectionately named "Pepper" for the amazingly talented assistant of Tony Stark aka Ironman, Pepper Potts, has become an appendage. Besides staying connected via phone and text with friends and family far and near, it is where I can see my work e-mail 24/7. Somehow that shouldn't make me giddy, but it does. I get my personal email on my smartphone, Twitter updates, Facebook...weather reports and other apps that can tell me the closest (and cheapest) gas stations, restaurant options, the closest Starbucks and movie times. It's a mini computer with all I need, including navigation.

I have a hard time remembering the days when I just had a phone with a number pad that I only used for voice communication. Now I can talk into my Google phone and search the Internet. As odd as this may sound, being this connected is somewhat comforting. With the holidays approaching, my company is shutting down for 8 business days yet some business will still go on. Will I be able to stay somewhat dis-connected? Maybe. But it's good to know I can stay as connected as I want and not have an onslaught of 10,000 emails in my inbox on January 3.

All that being said, how connected am I am to the True Source of Joy? I find myself trying to stay motivated to get in the Word deeper, to pray more, and with vigor and passion, yet, the busyness of life gets in the way. I need to be more connected with God, no matter how connected I stay with the rest of this crazy world.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Five Minutes: Color

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Color.

Ready. Set. Write.

Over the years, my favorite color has changed. For many years it was blue. But for the past few years, I have moved to purple and pink, quite interchangeably. When I think about my choice in favorite colors, I realize that it tells a story of my ever-evolving personality.

Blue was safe. It is the color of the sky but carries a warmth with it. Blue isn't risky. It's solid, sure and always the constant blanket above me. That was me for a majority of my younger life. Safe, solid, not a risk taker.

Purple is fun. Just saying the word purple makes me giggle. It's the color of grape kool-aid and a vibrant, striking hue that is commanding. Purple also represents royalty (ok, so maybe I'm a Diva). This became my favorite color when life became more footloose and fancy free and I love the bright and bold of a vibrant life.

Pink is girly. It can be as loud as fuchsia or as quiet as a baby soft pink. It also carries with it the spontaneity of purple, but with the tinge of femininity. Pink is rarely worn by men (although my Dad can rock a pink sport coat like a champion), so the color pink truly represents being a girl. That is me. All girl. But fun and giggly and vibrant. I'm a pink with a purple outline.

Funny how colors truly reflect our personality. Now, where is my box of crayons?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A Deer in Headlights...Literally

It was a cold and dark night just a few weeks ago when I was enjoying some long-awaited girl time with my friend, Beth. It's amazing that even though she lives just minutes from my house, finding time to get together is difficult. But on this Friday night, we finally made it happen...and we made the most of it...to the detriment of Brock's bedtime. It was a great evening...and then I headed home.

As I was driving down the two-lane road from the highway to my house, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a deer right at my passenger door. My first thought was "this can't be good" so I slowed Bluebelle (my car...folks, I name everything) down in hopes the deer would run on. But, alas, she didn't and took that opportunity to dart in front of me, causing her to smack right into my grill and headlights and go spinning down the center of the road. All these guys who sit in deer stands and wait hours to shoot a deer are nuts. People, just drive down the road and you can hit them square between the eyes.

After the impact, which thankfully didn't deploy my air bags, I found myself in the middle of this two-lane road. There were some cars coming the other direction, but thankfully, far enough away that they didn't hit me head on. I directed my car off to the left and thankfully there was a gravel drive that lead into a gravel lot. Now, I've traveled this road a ga-zillion times and never remembered that being there. I circled around, caught my breath, and as I was getting ready to pull out, a man in a truck pulled in. "Are you ok?" I told him I was, just a bit shaken up. He replied, "Well, at least you are safe, that's what is important." He took a look at my front end and said it was pretty banged up, but thankfully, my car was still drive-able. I cautiously pulled back out on the road to head home and passed the poor deer lying lifeless in the road. It was not the way I'd hoped the night would end, but I was so thankful it wasn't worse.

When I got home, I couldn't sleep. Not because I was hurt, but because I was in a state of awe over the protective hand of God. Look at my paragraph above. Count the number of "thankful" words. I think there are five. Five. Honestly 5000 wouldn't be enough. When I recounted the event (which I do so well in my reflective mind), it completely amazed me how God's Timing was perfect. I came upon the deer and saw it before it darted, causing me to slow down to lower the impact. I have a CRV, which sits higher than a car, and coupled with the low impact, didn't cause the deer to flip up and come through my windshield, possibly causing me harm. The cars coming in the opposite direction were far enough away that a residual head-on collision wasn't imminent. The exact spot where it happened allowed me an easy escape to a gravel lot. Most of the that roadside is merely gullys or ditches. My car is drive-able and because of my insurance, I'll be able to get it fixed. My mind was reeling with all these things that were complete reminders that God was protecting me every step of the way.

For you naysayers out there, you might immediately respond, "If God was truly protecting you, He would have kept that deer from even hitting you." Though I believe that God could pick that deer right up and plop him in a neighboring field, I know that God allowed this for a reason. The last few months have been tough. After my company was acquired, it was somewhat like going through a mourning period. One company ends and another one begins, though some of the players are the same, others have departed. It has been a pretty dramatic change and many times during the initial transition, it was hard to see God, though I clung to the fact that He was always there. Hitting this deer and all the circumstances around it was exactly what I needed to tangibly see the presence of God, alive and well as I always knew. But because I'm much like Thomas, I have to 'see' to believe. I'm safe and that deer gave up his life so I could see the One that gave His Son so that I could have life.

My car still isn't fixed yet....parts are on order. And I'm still a bit gun shy when driving at night. But there is one thing I know. God never sleeps and is always protecting me.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Five Minutes: Tired

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Tired.

Ready. Set. Write.

There is a line from Ferris Bueller's Day Off that I love that goes something like this..."Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop once in a while, you'll miss it." That movie is always a fun reminder to me that taking a day off and playing "hooky" is sometimes good for the soul.

In this holiday season when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, I'm amazed at how each year life gets busier. And, I'm a single gal with no children so I cannot fathom the hoopla that ensues with families of multiple children. It's as though we have about 6-8 weeks to crunch in all the Christmasy goodness we can from parties to food to musical presentations to theater productions to shopping to watching those classic Christmas specials and movies to decking the halls with boughs of whatever looks good in our homes to....well, you get the picture.

I find myself tired during this season and that somewhat saddens me. I should be rejoicing...ho-ho-ho-ing, singing glory, alleluia to the celebration of the One who came to save me, yet I'm swirling around like the Tazmanian Devil trying to be all things to all people and longing for my recliner, a good book, a cup of java, and Christmas music in the background.

When I grow weary and tired during this time of year, I stop. I set boundaries. And I reflect back on that memorable scene in Charlie Brown's Christmas when Linus says "Lights, please..." and recounts the Christmas story....because "Charlie Brown, that's what Christmas is all about." Indeed, Linus, indeed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Five Minutes: Grow

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Grow.

Ready. Set. Write.

In the brisk of the cold this morning, the beauty of it all was seeing the sun shining brightly. It's November 18 and we're on the cusp of the winter season where days are short, the air is cold and sometimes snowy and the creation outside dies off and prepares for re-birth in the Spring. Oddly our word today is grow, which isn't something I'm thinking about in this season.

But, if I look at myself, I know that there is growing going on. Over the past three months my work life has been turned upside down. I am ever so thankful for a job, but it truly has consumed almost every waking moment as one company merges into another and good-byes to folks are said and hellos are made to new co-workers. This isn't my first rodeo but no matter how many times you go through this, there are always new things to experience...new areas of growth.

I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is next week and Christmas around the corner as my focus is truly off the reason for the coming season. Yet, I know that even in the midst of that my God is growing me. Teaching me He is always in control. Reminding me that nothing takes Him by surprise. Revealing Himself to me through circumstances in my life, the words from His Scripture and from the encouragement and counsel from sweet friends that comes right on time. Yes, it's cold and wintry weather is blowing in, turning all green things brown. But I rest in knowing that when nature is sleeping and waiting to grow, I am still growing.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Five Minutes: Unexpected

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Unexpected.

Ready. Set. Write.

Last Saturday I headed off to a baby shower on a beautifully crisp Autumn afternoon. As I was stopped at a traffic light, a kind man in the truck next to me said, "Ma'am, your rear left tire is going flat." Unexpected. The Type A planner in me began to reel with thoughts of what I should do. The fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants side of me just kept rolling along to my destination where I could clearly investigate the damage. As alerted, the tire was almost flat.

Unexpected. This wasn't a part of my planned day. And, the unexpected circumstances like this are annoying. But I love the unexpected moments when a friend calls I'm longing to talk to and we can catch up on life. Or I get a random text from a friend that is just the encouragement (or laugh) I need at that very moment. Or I have an unexpected invitation to grab dinner with great conversation or even a trip to the theater that pops up out of nowhere. These unexpected blessings are sometimes even hard to enjoy with the planner DNA that flows through my veins, but the older I get the more I enjoy those moments.

The baby shower was a precious time and I enjoyed it while forgetting about the slowly leaking tire on my car. Thankfully, my AAA membership came to the rescue and I called for assistance that allowed me to roll along until Tuesday when I could get to the shop and have it fixed. A pesky screw had invaded the tread and caused the slow leak. When it was fixed, they handed me my keys and I was on my way. "Is there a cost?" I said. And, they told me no. That's the best kind of unexpected.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Five Minutes: Remember

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Remember.

Ready. Set. Write.

I have been told I have a verbatim brain. I remember things in great detail and can associate dates based on the things that occured around those times. This either drives people insane or they are amazed at my abilities. It is confirmation to me that if I ever develop dementia or Alzheimers, someone needs to just shoot me because my mind will simply explode from its inability of use.

Sometimes I think my ability to remember can be a curse. As my blog title states, "Ruminations and Reflections," I can ruminate with the best of them, and think on something with as much detail as one who chews their food 30 times before swallowing. And, reflect, whoa boy, can I reflect. I fear I spend too much time reflecting that I depart this world for a while as I think back on the past. I'm not one who uses the phrase "remember the good ole days?" but I fondly embrace all the memories of my life and can get lost in that at times.

What an amazing brain we are given by Our Creator that allows us to store more data than the largest computer on the planet. I can recall the craziest things and have so much mindless data it's scary. Remembering is a blessing....especially in those times when God seems absent or life is dark. I simply remember those times when I walked that path before and realize that He really never left, but was merely working behind the scenes for my good. Those kinds of remembering are the sweetest of moments.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Five Minutes: Beyond

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Beyond.


Ready. Set. Write.


The most exciting things and the most frightning things are beyond. As a child on Christmas night I could barely sleep wondering what would be under the tree for me the next morning. It was beyond my imagination. When I left my first job of seven years (on my own accord for those keeping score), I cried as I drove away from what I had known as my comfort zone to a new beginning beyond what I could imagine. That next job has forever shaped and formed every job I've had since. It was beyond my dreams, and what was frightening has become some of my biggest blessings.


In my travels, I have visited both coasts...the California, Highway One view of the Pacific Ocean as it crashes against the shore while I am bundled up in the crisp, cool breezes. I looked out beyond wondering where the ocean ended and the vast expanse of it all. I peered out over the Chesapeake Bay as it feeds into the Atlantic Ocean and looked beyond my location to ships and military forces protecting me as they would enter in their ports, or be the carrier where aircrafts land. I could look beyond and my eyes would never land on the end. It seemed to go on forever.


Beyond can be scary, but it can be exciting too, especially when I focus on Ephesians 3:20, which says, "Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think." That kind of "beyond" is what I pray and long for God to do in my life daily. To His Blessings and Beyond!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Five Minutes: Catch



Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Catch.

Set the timer. Ready. Set. Write.

Uttering the word "catch" exudes a feeling of suddenness in my heart. The thrill of catching a fish (nope, not done that). The accomplishment of catching a ball (yep, done that). The warm, fuzzy feeling when someone says "You are a great catch." (yep, experienced that) The sneezing and coughing of catching a cold. (we've all had one of those) Or the skeptical question asked "What's the catch?" (yep, I'm skeptical) Catch is such an interesting word that it's hard for me to focus on one aspect of "catch" to even compose a sensible post for five minutes.

My mind goes immediately to the story of Jesus and the disciples and how He taught them so much about life from their viewpoint...as fishermen. Many of them made a living catching fish, yet when Jesus asked them to follow Him, He told them, "I will now make you fishers of men." I love how Jesus meets us right where we are, using language that we understand so we just "get" it.

Jesus knows just how to catch me. And, oh how glad I am that He did.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Five Minutes: Ordinary

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Ordinary.

Set the timer. Ready. Set. Write.

I've never seen myself as an ordinary person. Just about everything in my life is just the opposite, and I rather relish that part of me. I was a miracle baby born to parents who had waited 18 years for a baby. I have a chronic illness that I'm treated for, but definitely one for the medical books in its complexities. I've never been married at 46 years of age (ok, maybe not as uncommon these days), but I long for the companionship of the man God has for me.

Yet, in many ways, I guess I am ordinary. I'm far from famous, other than the six people who read my blog. The most famous thing about me is my presidential assassin relative. I've never been published though I'd love to be...other than an article in the Courier-Journal a few years ago. Most people of the world wouldn't know my name. People would say I'm an extrovert, but there are times when I think I'm all introvert. Much to the amazement of those that don't know me well, my life isn't as glamourous as it may appear. Most days I go thru life with just me and God. But my life appears phenomenally amazing because I savor all the little things. Little things truly make me happy.

The glory of being a unique is I have a story to tell unlike anyone else. And the glory of being ordinary is knowing my God is using me in ways that are not seen by the world...or sometimes even me. Ordinary sounds like such a vanilla word...but, really, there could be wonderful flavored sprinkles hidden in the ordinary of life.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

iDing

The first personal computer I used on the job was a Mac...to be specific, a Toaster Mac. It was revolutionary in 1984...and was the beginning of the era of making technology cool. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and genius behind these Macintosh computers, died yesterday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. The world has lost one of the greatest inventors, visionaries and entrepreneurs we've ever seen.

Though I'm not as "apple-fied" as some, I do own an iPod and found myself a bit misty as my smartphone dinged last night with the alert that he had passed. I've been in the technology industry for more than 20 years. Clearly, the "ding in the universe" that Jobs hoped to make has played a big part in my employment...and continued employment as technology is vital to our everyday living. I saw this in my Twitter feed last night..."My iPhone just told me that Steve Jobs passed away. Perhaps not since Gutenberg has someone's own invention announced their death." Indeed. As I watched the Today Show this morning and their memorializing of this passing of an icon, Tom Brokaw made a telling observation as only that journalistic giant can. (I heart Tom Brokaw if you couldn't tell). He said, in that steady voice of his, "When I was a kid, I was all about the jukebox....this is now my jukebox." And he held up his iPod. Yes, Steve, you did make a ding in the universe.

It seems the last few weeks have been ones of loss. People around me are losing friends and family and literally one day this week my news feed was filled with those asking for prayer regarding families that had suffered loss. Even I've been consumed with grieving the loss of our blog world's sweet Sara aka Gitz. As I was talking to my friend, Amy, last night we were discussing the passing of so many and the "changing of the guard." Who will take the places of these people in the world? People that are making a difference, that encouraged us...spiritually or just in life choices about our futures and careers. I reminded her we have to look in the mirror...it's us. But, boy, I don't know that I feel up to that challenge. We're following in the footsteps of some mighty "dingers" of the universe.

In 1993, the Wall Street Journal quoted Jobs, "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me...going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful...that matters to me." He dinged and created one of the greatest computer brands in the world. He dinged and started an animation studio that has forever changed the movie screen. He dinged and we walk around with ear buds listening to our mobile jukeboxes. He dinged and we answer a phone that is a mini touch computer that serves as an additional appendage. For generations to come, our world will be changed by the ding of Steve Jobs.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Five Minutes: On Friends

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word or topic to write on for five minutes, no editing, free flowing from the mind. I started joining in the fun a few weeks ago, prompted from Sara. As many of you know from reading my blog, Sara has been very sick and on her way Home. Sara danced into the arms of Jesus late last Saturday evening and though the world has lost a most encouraging woman, her faith has become sight and she is whole. Bittersweet, but rejoicing. I'm thankful Sara has introduced me to Gypsy Mama and many other bloggers who inspire my days. Even at her death she was challenging those there, as she lay in her casket wearing a t-shirt that said "It's Not About Me." Fly to Jesus, Sara, your chains are gone.

Today's topic: On Friends. Ready. Set. Write.

Friends are my lifeline. Being an only child and having very little blood family, I have encircled myself with friends that are just like family. This was a lesson my Mom taught me eons ago when she just knew because she and my Dad were older when I was born, that I'd live a lot of my life without family. And, if I didn't marry and have my own family, she pushed me to make sure I had close friends. I've often wanted to create a word to define that role of "friends that are like family"..."friendlative"..."Fami-friend"...it just seems appropriate to deem it as a word.

This week it has become even clearer to me the importance of my friends. When celebrating a new year of life, or the passing of a loved one, my friends, not family, are the ones that have been there. It might seem odd to those that have lots of family and their lives are surrounded by such, but even those of you with that blessing, don't miss the blessing of extended family through the friends in your life. The funniest story related to "friendlatives" was one time when I was filling out paperwork for the doctor and they asked for my "next of kin that doesn't live with you." At that time, I was living with my Dad and my Mom had passed away a few months earlier and my Grandmother, the only other "kin" had just passed. I looked around and gave them the name of one of my best friends, Christie. Later, I told her, in case she ever got a call, and laughed at her new "next of kin" title. She is now affectinately knows as my "NOK."

Friends...even the Bible speaks of their importance ..."There is a friend who stays closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24) Friends...it's more than a TV show, it's a true blessing

Monday, September 26, 2011

Decades

As my blog title implies, I'm a person of great reflection. This week my mind is replete with memories and reflection as I approach growing another year older and experiencing the 11th anniversary of my Mom's passing. It seems I'm a bit consumed with loss recently. My company was recently acquired, causing a loss of co-workers to layoffs and a loss of what we've always known to new and exciting territory. Sweet Sara, a blogger I've followed for about a year or so, just left this world for Heaven, all to soon for our liking, but just the right time for her. After years of being confined and homebound due to a debilitating disease and multiple complications, she is now free from pain and whole...and surely dancing down the streets of gold. Losing her at a young age brought back memories of my sweet friend, Jan, who is surely greeting her at the feet of Jesus. Lest we get mired in this discussion of loss, let me move on to the true focus of this post...time...or more specifically, decades.

I'm about to celebrate another birthday, of which I'm thankful for, but I'm reminded that I've lived many decades. And, I'm closer to being half a century than I am to being a quarter of a century. The day after my birthday marks the 11th year of my Mom's passing...the beginning of the second decade I'm living this earthly life without her. I could fill the ocean with things I wish I could tell her, which clearly means we'll have plenty of time to catch up in eternity. Each passing year I've tried to keep her legacy alive. I once referred to it as keeping a remnant of her life for future generations. I've suceeded in being the fun, creative gift giver she was, and give her the credit for my giddyness when coming up with just the right gift idea. The older I get the more forthright in my opinions I become...thanks, Mom. And, I can talk to just about anybody, just like she used to do and would drive me to crazy embarrasment. I am on the precipice of accomplishing another task...completing a crocheted afghan. I've attempted two projects before (they are stuffed in a garbage bag because I can't bear to just throw away the yarn, though I'm edging on hoarder status with that statement). I've finally found just the right pattern and hope to have it completed for my friend, Christie's, brother and sister-in-law's baby due in December.

Once I got close to completion of this next rung of the legacy ladder, I was already itching for the next Momism to conquer. And I saw her sewing machine sitting unattended and the perverbial light bulb went on above my head. My Mom sewed all sorts of things and her Mom, my Granny, was a seamstress by trade. I would be a natural, right? I started strolling the aisles of the local fabric store back in May during a day of retail therapy and "Rose" time when I was convinced to enroll in their sewing basics class. As I bought a pattern and fabric (assuming Miss Superhero here could figure it all out by myself), the cutter told me I'd be a pro after this 3-hour class. And so I went. And I loved it. When I came home, I used my first lesson on my own machine...threading the bobbin and threading the needle. Now this may sound easy to you non-seamstresses, but, not so. I dug out the instruction book (as the sewing instructor said we might need to do) to follow the steps to prep my sewing machine for business. And as I flipped through the pages of that instruction book, I found this....

It was a certificate that my Mom and Dad signed to commit their home to be a home of prayer. Why it was tucked between the pages of the sewing machine owner's manual is still a mystery to me. Threading bobbins and sewing machines became minimal as I studied this document closely. It was signed on November 9, 1957...a decade after my parents married. Now that is significant for a couple of reasons. First, my Dad wasn't a believer when they married, yet by the time I was born, he was so solid in his faith, I would assume he had been a strong believer since his childhood. This commitment came 10 years into their marriage, about eight years or so after Dad accepted Christ. He was still a baby Christian yet learning what it meant to be obedient. Second, it was 8 years before I was born...almost another decade. That's huge. They had been married 10 years...and childless. I know many couples in today's medical advancements that try for six months and are certain they are destined for a life of infertility. Yet my parents had been married for 10 years at this point and no children, though I know they wanted a family. And, they were committed to making their home full of prayer. Oh how I'd love to ask my Mom how it felt to surrender to this commitment when knowing a prayer she had for a child seemed to remain unanswered. For someone like me who has prayed for a husband for those many years and more, I could use her wisdom and life experience there. In just a providential moment of seeking the steps to use my Mom's sewing machine, I found a priceless little commitment card that speaks volumes.

I did eventually get the machine prepped for sewing, though I have yet to be inspired to take on that first project. I feel that urge to sew coming back again, so my training and toil won't be in vain. But, if I never finish a project, the fact that I was able to stumble upon this jewel of a testimony was worth it all. Married a decade with prayers unanswered. Almost another decade before a child entered their life. And decades later I am impacted by a commitment card my Mom...who has been gone a decade...felt compelled to save. To her, maybe it was a tangible to show her that God does answer prayer and He still performs miracles. Oh, how precious to think I'll continue to learn lessons from my sweet Mom for many decades to come.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Five Minutes: Growing

Each Friday, Gypsy Mama chooses one word to write about for five minutes, unedited. For those that have read my blog recently, you know that this was also a weekly exercise sweet Sara participated in, but she is soon to be heading Home to see her Savior. As of this afternoon, she was still the same, though her body was showing signs of fully shutting down. Be in prayer for her family as they journey a road that isn't easy to travel, even with the assurance that Sara will soon be whole and free of pain.

Today's word is: Growing. Five minutes, ready, set, write...

It's the first day of Fall, which means the leaves will soon be turning vibrant colors and falling off the trees. Then Winter comes. And although the white snow covers the ground and looks so pretty at first, the cold and wintry weather isn't my favorite season. But, before you know it, the ice will thaw and the buds of Spring will poke their heads through the green grass...and I become as giddy as Lucy Van Pelt with a football for Charlie Brown knowing the cool and warm breezes have returned. The changing of seasons means growing.

Just today, one of my employees brought her sweet 14-month girl to the office. It seems only yesterday we were weeping together over her desire to get pregnant and the challenges she was having to conceive. Now, as her little girl blows me a kiss good-bye and she toddles out with her Mom, I realize how fast she is growing. The time of infertility and want of a child has quickly faded.

I'm going through a season of life where my company has been acquired...and this is about the 655th time I've been through such an experience, albeit different every time. And I find myself adapting, waiting, adapting and waiting some more as I travel the journey of integration. It all is a part of growing. Growing in my career. Growing in my faith.

We are always growing. Each day we grow a bit older, and hopefully a bit wiser, but we're always growing in some direction. I want to grow well. Be that beautiful flower that blossoms fully and sends out an aroma that is unmatched by anything else in the world. Growing is good. May I make every day of growth matter.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Five Minutes: Joy

Just last month I decided to follow the challenge that Sara set forth each week, following Gypsy Mama's lead by taking one word and writing for five minutes, unedited.  It was a way for me, amidst my busy life and full head of words I want to put on a page, to blog quickly, succinctly and satisfy my creative writing ache.  Today those who follow and love Sara are praying for comfort and peace as she is preparing to go Home to be with Jesus.  Her life motto, her phrase, and a hashtag on Twitter that is trending in her honor is "Choose Joy."  So Gypsy Mama's word today is:  Joy.  Though today my heart is heavy for Sara, I'll choose joy.  Ready, set, write:

When I think of joy, I immediately am reminded of that acronyn - "Jesus, Others, Yourself" - and quickly realize that order is what drives us to experience true joy.  We sing "Joy to the World" at Christmas time...we say we're filled with joy about certain circumstances or experiences, but joy should seep from my pours even when my circumstances and experiences aren't exactly as I'd like or all that I want. 

I've never met Sara, the Choose Joy gal, in person, but reading her blog daily, I feel I've come to know her personally.  Through a very debilitating disease that left her homebound and hardly able to breathe, she would pour out the greatest wisdom and words to convict my heart on a daily basis.  I deal with a chronic illness too, one that affects my immune system, though, unlike Sara, I don't have the multiple complications, allergic reactions and other issues that are causing her body to just shut down.  I've become quite convicted when reading her blog as it points me to Christ and Joy everytime I read it.

Yesterday, after two full days of meetings on integration and process changes due to my company's acquisition, my head was full of information and sorting through all I'd heard.  I checked on Sara's blog for an update and saw where Hospice had been called in and her family was gathered around her as she awaits been escorted Home.  I shed a tear and quickly remembered that what's important is not the temporal, not the day-to-day, but the eternal.  And I am driven to choose joy.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Five Minutes: Changes

I've chosen my own "five-minute word" today.  I normally link up to Sara who is the inspiration for the five-minutes posts, but right now, she is taking a much needed break.  Pray for Sara.  You may not know her at all, but read her blog and her bio and you'll find one of the most amazing women on the planet. 

Today my word is "changes."  Five minutes..no editing...ready, set, go.

There was a time in my life when I loathed change.  As I grew older and change smacked me in the face, I realized the blessings that can come from changes.  Oh some changes aren't blessings - losing loved ones, declining health - but changes in many ways are refreshing.  After dealing with lots of change in my life, I almost lived to crave change.  But then there are some days I think I must be nuts for that kind of craving and should stick with chocolate.

When I reflect over my life I see the winds of change everywhere and think..."Wow, how did I get through that one?"  I quickly realize "only by the grace of God."  Recently I've dealt with a big change in my life.  The company I love and have worked for the last six plus years was acquired.  This isn't my first rodeo and I've been through this before, but always was one of the severed casualites.  This time, I'm not.  And, I'm blessed with a job, albeit a bit stressful in the midst of transition, but hopefully full of promising opportunities. I had to say good-bye to co-workers that were friends and even had to tell two of my own team they had to go.  And once again I reflect on how I got through that and realize the truth of God's Grace.  I press on living in God's Grace and knowing that God is never surprised and I am right where I am supposed to be for this season of life.  Until He decides the next change is ready to happen.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Five Minutes: Beauty

Each week, Sara, posts a blog based on one word. She writes about that word for only five minutes...no editing, and you can read her post here. This week's word is: beauty. Ready, set, go.

I seem to spend a lot of money on beauty. I buy makeup to accentuate my eyes and make my face presentable. I buy lots of hair styling gels to keep my natural curls from turning into an afro. I get my hair styled (and, yes, colored) regulary. I have a gym membership to help lose or, at minimum, maintain, my weight. I buy Bath and Body Works products to emote an aroma that is pleasing and sometimes appealing. All to achieve what I suppose is beauty. And I do this for what? Well, to make me feel good on some days, because looking pretty makes a girl feel good. But there are probably many other reasons with not the greatest of motives, such as doing it to hide the aging that takes place. Or to simply hear a man say "You are beautiful."

When I really think about beauty, my mind automatically goes to the outward. It's the outward that I suspect others see first in me, so I want that to be the best it can be. I'm quite thankful God did not give me the body of a supermodel for I am convinced living a holy and pure life would be tremendously more difficult. Yet, living a pure and holy life is really what beauty is all about, right? The world has it oh, so wrong. And on a daily basis, I buy into that. That being said, I'm all for presentability and very good hygiene, but keeping some of those indulgences in balance is a convicting thought to have.

"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised." - Proverbs 31:30. I want a man who will say I'm beautiful, not just for my pretty eyes, or my curly hair, or my smile...but because he sees an inner beauty that will never fade with the passing of time and age, but will only grow me more beautiful.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Five Minutes: Whole

For quite a few months now, I've been reading Sara's blog. Thanks to Katrina, who linked to her in one of her posts, I've now become a faithful reader. Visit Sara's blog when you have time and read her story...then read her posts....then see God's Mercy and Faithfulness in her life. She is a true inspiration. After months of reading her blog, I've been enamoured by her Five Minute Fridays. She chooses a word (which she gets from another blog friend of hers) and sets the timer and writes what is on her heart about that word. In fact, one of her "five" posts inspired this post I wrote back in May. With my busy life, I have lots of blog ideas in my head, which are long and verbose (just like me) posts but little time to compose them. My goal was to at least write two posts a month. I've decided to remove that pressure by beginning to do "Friday Fives" to not only meet that goal, but surpass it and take off that pressure I put on my perfectionist self to write two posts a month. My self-imposed Type A perfectionist ways even irritate me on some days.

Today's five minute word is...whole. You can read Sara's post here. Five minutes...no editing...stream of consciousness...go.

The movie Jerry Maguire ends with the infamous line "you complete me" and although every romantic girl longs to hear a man say that, it is so off the mark. No man, no matter how glorious he may seem, can complete me. Yet, I live in a world where many people look at the single me and feel that I'm somewhat incomplete and not whole without a man. Lest you think I am touting the women's liberation chant of "I am woman, hear me roar" may I correct that...I am not. I simply know that only one Person completes me. Jesus Christ.

Being 45 and single surrounded by many married couples and some with a passel of children can make one feel they are not whole. I'll confess I've battled that...since I haven't experienced marriage...or children....I've somehow "not arrived." When wallowing in that mire, it takes a good smack in the face of Scripture to realize that isn't the case. Though marriage is a blessing and ordained from God, it's not the moment we all wake up and say "I'm whole!" Many times, it's when we wake up and say "Oh my, am I ready for this?"

When I struggle with feeling incomplete, and having a "hole" and not being "whole" it is so comforting to curl up in my recliner, wrap up in my snuggie and have a long conversation with the One who does complete me and has made me whole.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Christmas in July

I am an endangered species, one of a rare breed. I have never seen "It's a Wonderful Life" all the way through. Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, you can take comfort in knowing, as of yesterday, I have now seen the movie. Every year at Christmas time, NBC would show this movie (usually on Christmas Eve, if not 55 other times between Thanksgiving and Christmas) and I'd start the movie but by the time George Bailey sings with Mary "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" I'd lose interest. Those who know me best are aware that my all-time favorite Christmas flick (from the classic genre) is Holiday Inn, followed closely by Miracle on 34th Street (original version, in black and white) and White Christmas. But, I know there is this faction of Bedford Falls followers that would gasp in disbelief that watching this movie wasn't a tradition of mine. You would think I'd have defamed Rudolph or something.

Every summer the Louisville Palace hosts a summer movie series. On Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening, for two months in the summer, they show a genre of classic movies for a mere $5 a ticket. Past series have included Hitchcock movies and movie musicals. This summer the theme is Jimmy Stewart movies. The Palace is located on 4th Street in downtown Louisville and the perfect venue for a classic movie series. Built in 1928, it was originally built to be a movie theater and was restored some years back to its original ornate and beautiful decor as a location on the National Register of Historic Places. Now it hosts many a concert and theaterical production, and the annual classic movie series. This series includes all of the well-known Jimmy Stewart classics - Rear Window, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Harvey, Vertigo - and others...including It's a Wonderful Life. Since it's July and hotter than all get out here in the Ville, it seemed appropriate to go with some friends to see what is traditionally known as a Christmas movie. Consider this my version of Christmas in July.

For those other rare species like myself who may not have seen the movie, it's the story of George Bailey. George has big dreams, but things always seem to keep him from getting to those big dreams. This movie theme alone hooked me in as I'm a lover of Mr. Holland's Opus and any movie that shows a life traveling an unplanned road, but when looking back, you see how you have touched and changed many a life. George was that kind of guy. From saving his brother from a death via falling in a frozen lake to marrying the love of his life who had loved him since childhood. Yet, all along the way, he felt like his life was worth nothing. George even gets to the point that he decides the world is better off without him and he decides to jump off the bridge and leave his wife with his life insurance policy. But, Clarence, the angel, jumps in and George feels compelled to save him and thus begins Clarence's journey to get his wings. He does this by showing George what the world would be like without him. Needless to say, the movie ends happily and for those few Whos in Who-Ville who haven't seen the movie, I won't completely spoil it.

Sometimes it's nice to stop in the middle of the hot, sweaty summer and watch a story that normally life is too busy to truly allow me to let it soak in during the holiday season. This is just that movie. And, I can hear Clarence say to George, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" Thanks, Clarence, for the reminder that no matter how big or small we seem in life, or no matter if we live out our wildest dreams or not, our lives touch others and make a huge impact, even when we think not. That's a lesson that should ring true throughout the year, not just when the Christmas bells are ringing. Maybe I'll make this my new Christmas in July tradition.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Good Friends = Good Times

You know those kind of friends that you can catch brief moments with along life's journey and let way too much time pass, but when you finally connect for a concentrated period of time it's just like one second had never passed? Mark and Sharon Robinson are just those type of friends. This sweet couple lives in Nashville - a mere three hours from my home - yet it had been a year and a half since my last visit to Robinson Mountain. Life moves at a fast pace and with both of our schedules, finding time to visit when it worked for both of us was a challenge. Around the middle of May, I decided it was way past time for a visit and contacted the bed and breakfast for available weekends. It just so happened that July 4th weekend was free for both of us and my reservations were booked. Only God would have known that a week later I would lose my dear, sweet friend, Jan, and would desperately need this time away on Robinson Mountain. The weekend was simply...good.

Good Food - The Robinsons can whip up the best meals in the snap of a finger. They make it all look so easy. And I learn much about foods and prepping for a meal for one (or two, in their case). I learned how hearts of romaine last longer than other greens, so a value to buy for my money. I was introduced to Greek yogurt and I may have to do a jig over that delicacy. Mark made some excellent blueberry pancakes for breakfast one morning and even when we had a "pancake down!", he was able to rescue it from a certain demise. On Saturday night, Sharon realized she needed to make breakfast for their Bible Study class the next morning. She poured through her recipe books and we talked about her options based on what she had in the pantry. She decided upon a blueberry crumb streusal cake that turned out lovely and delicious. This is proof why Robinson Mountain is the ultimate bed and breakfast.

Good Worship - One of the highlights of my visits is attending church with them at Clearview Baptist. I get a double blessing as one of my former ministers of music, Michael Smith, is now serving at that church. Mark and Sharon are the mentoring couple for a co-ed singles class and it was so refreshing to see them lead what many would chalk up as too challenging a role to undertake. I don't know a couple more fitting for that role than Mark and Sharon. It was precious to hear their heart about all the sweet souls in this small group and their vision for the growth of those in that class. One of my weekly routines is to listen to sermons online. It helps me keep focused on the Lord throughout the week and allows me to learn from many godly pastors from across the country. My list of "virtual pastors" comes from my travels. Once I visit friends and their church, I begin to listen to their pastor regularly. This is no different with Clearview. Ever since my last trip in February 2009, I've been listening to Pastor Mark Marshall almost every week since. When I visited this time, I was fully prepared to jump right into his expositional series through Luke. And if corporate worship wasn't enough, the tender time of devotions at Robinson Mountain were also refreshing. Each day we would have a devotion together and pray for each other. There is something unexplainable when you can open God's Word and share with each other and dig into what a verse means or what God is trying to show you. It may seem small and insignificant, but this time on Robinson Mountain may be one of my most favorite parts of my visits.

Good Conversation - The July 4th weekend was blazing hot in Nashvegas and our brief idea of going to a local botanical garden early on Saturday before it got too hot was scratched when by 8am it was already over 90 degrees. We enjoyed a matinee movie at a local theater - Cars 2, great sequel - but the majority of the weekend we spent in the air conditioned comfort of Robinson Mountain, or in one of the Robinson vehicles. Since my life goes non-stop every other day of the week, I wasn't disappointed at all to relax and just catch up with my sweet friends. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, we have kept in touch enough to know the basics, but we needed all those outlines colored in and that took time of great conversation. And, when I arrived, Sharon said that she hadn't really grieved the loss of Jan and had prayed that while I was there we both could talk through our loss together and truly grieve the passing of such a precious friend to both of us. And that we did. We laughed as Sharon shared the story of Jan's "SNAIL" fist bump. And we shed tears as we prayed together and sought God's peace and comfort as we continue our journey here on earth until we see our Trinidadian Princess again. You can't really top great conversation. Having that uninterrupted time to truly share our hearts, our desires, our struggles and seek each other for counsel was simply priceless.

The word "good" just doesn't seem strong enough to represent the weekend of comfort I had. But "good" is a strong and solid word, much like the friendship I have with the Robinsons. A strong and solid friendship that stands the tests of time and distance and is simply...good.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Gospel According to Army Wives - Part One

I'm a fan of the Lifetime drama, Army Wives. My friend, Julie, introduced me to this show a few seasons ago and was my primer to understanding all the Army lingo as she is a real Army wife herself. Now, you might read "Lifetime drama" and have a pre-conceived idea in your head about the tawdry, awful show this surely must be. But, I have to admit that this show is not your normal Lifetime fare of kidnappings, love triangles, soppy love stories and the like. This truly is one of my favorite dramas on television. The most recent season just came to an end, much to my dismay, but towards the end of this season, there were a couple of story lines that truly showcased the gospel. Since I'm accused of seeing Jesus in everything, I couldn't resist writing about this and making it a two-part series.

The division that is featured on this show was deployed earlier this season. One of the best episodes ever was one about a fallen soldier that was the son of Frank and Denise...Frank, an LTC in his son's division. That episode should win an Emmy...but I digress. While the division was deployed, Roxy, the wife of Sergeant Trevor, went against her husband's wishes and invested in a venture to build a truck stop in the town. Though Roxy's actions were out of a fear of Trevor being killed in combat, leaving her with two young sons to support, she and Trevor had many an argument via the phone across the seas because she refused to listen to Trevor's counsel on the topic. She ended up investing in the truck stop and hiring a contractor from her past....the father of her youngest son. Not the smartest move on her part as their past together was quite interesting. Whit and Roxy were friends, but he never really was a part of their son, Finn's, life. On top of the unwise investment in the truck stop, Roxy wasn't honest with Trevor and didn't tell him Whit was the contractor.

The division was coming home and the job wasn't complete. Now Roxy was going to be faced with having to tell Trevor the truth as he would see that she went against his wishes and invested in the truck stop and had Whit there as the main contractor. The age old problem of "your sins will find you out." Needless to say, Roxy was in a mess. Life wasn't good between her and Trevor. So much so it was affecting Trevor's performance and their marriage was clearly on the rocks. Prior to this deployment, Trevor and Roxy were one of the cutest couples on the show, so seeing their marriage and trust crumbling was very disheartening.

Roxy did what many of us do when we're in a pickle...she sought counsel from a close friend. Denise, who has had her own share of dishonesty in her marriage in the past and turned her life around, was her Army wife of choice. Roxy explained to Denise what she had done, shedding tears of regret and sorrow. Denise calmly looked at her and said "Roxy, you need to see this from your soldier's eyes. You've lied and you've not honored his wishes while he was away. You need to go to him and ask forgiveness for what you've done." I almost did a rewind on my DVR. Denise said what? She just gave Roxy solid marital advice unlike anything you'd typically hear from Hollywood. Denise didn't tell her to exercise her women's rights....or "you make money too, you can do what you want"...or any of that women's lib mumbo jumbo that has caused our society to believe something different than what the Bible teaches us about marriage. No, Denise told Roxy to honor her husband, follow his leadership. She told her that she failed to do that even when he wasn't present, but that whether he was physically there or not, she did wrong and needed to ask for forgiveness.

The show ended with Roxy confessing to Trevor her sin...her lies, her dishonesty. And her regret for doing those things, asking for his forgiveness. The gospel kept on going when Trevor sweetly forgave her and embraced her with a hug and kiss. He didn't condemn her or chastise her for the choices she made. But as a man who is worthy of being followed for sure, he loved her through the pain she had already endured. This forgiveness and mercy hung true in an episode or two later when he encouraged Roxy to bring Whit back to finish the project in a timely fashion. He trusted her and through this act of ongoing mercy was rebuilding a love and trust that had been broken. That persistent and redeeming love that never fails.

When I mess up and don't know how to even confess it to the Lord, I need to remember that He is waiting with open arms to forgive me, love me and wipe away my tears with His Hand of mercy. This is why God uses marriage as His picture of the Gospel. If only all our marriages would reflect the Gospel so clearly as this one little scene from Army Wives, the world would surely see Christ in us.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Soli Deo Gloria

Today in Trinidad, friends and family said their final earthly good-byes to Jan Harriott. This sweet Trinidadian Princess, at a very young 29, took her final breath on this earth May 25. When I heard the news that day, I remember the numb feeling I experienced and wanting to stay in denial that surely it wasn't true. I had just talked to her a week to the day prior and all was fine...I was even trying to coordinate a trip for her to come to Louisville one last time before she returned to Trinidad. But, alas, that never happened.

I met Jan around 10 years ago and I never knew the impact her friendship would have on my life and simply how much I would truly miss her. Even though miles separated us now, we were just as close. She was a heart friend...those friends that know you at your depths. Those friends who ask "What is God teaching you this week?"...or "How can I pray for you?" Jan was a partner in ministry with me. When she came here to attend Boyce College, she was a member of my church and served faithfully, primarily discipling teen girls and we both dreamed of writing literature together one day. I'd call her when I had ministry issues and needed her advice. And though she was much younger than me, so many times we lived out the verse "iron sharpens iron." I've ruminated over this blogpost since the day she passed. How can I sum up in one post all that Jan meant to me? At first, I was too bitter and angry that she was gone that I needed to confess to the Lord and work through that with Him before I could move forward. God is so patient with me, someone slow to learn and stubborn as can be. Now that I've had a few weeks to press forward, I felt like the best way to sum up the rich, but short life, of Heber-Jan Harriott, is to list the three things I think she'd charge me with if she could talk to me straight from the feet of Jesus.

1. Laugh a lot...and when you're done...laugh more - Jan had a laugh that was more than contagious. I so wish now I had it on recording somewhere because I'd replay it on days when I needed a good dose of the giggles. Her Trinidadian British accent made her proper diction eloquent, and then she'd say something hilarious, get tickled at herself and become a silly American like the rest of us. I'll remember all her fun sayings that would sweep the nation....when she'd hear a good sermon, or good teaching, she'd say "Everybody raise your right hand and say 'Who stole my Hummer?'"....she'd start a conversation, "Tell your friends and neighbors"...those voicemails I'd receive where she'd open with singing "Good Morning, Baltimore!" and provide a "Shimmy" at the end....we were "Diva Agents" and went on many a "mission" that we couldn't discuss. Jan would want me to laugh now...and even more because I'm sure she'd say "Diva, you aren't going to believe what is waiting for you!!"

2. Dream Big - If there was one thing Jan did, it was dream big. She was never satisfied with the status quo...she wanted more. She longed for the fairy tale herself, but even when she coordinated weddings for others, Jan realized she could do this and dreamed of having a Wedding Planner service named "When Dreams Come True." Jan loved discipling girls and she worked many a summer at Centrifuge Camps as a development director helping the leaders prepare sessions...Lifeway even used her curriculum one summer at a camp. When she took care of those leaders, she did it in a big way. Those leaders were loved and she made sure of that. And every girl that came through camp was loved even more. She'd call me during her breaks in those summers to share stories or seek counsel on how to deal with some of the toughest teen problems girls face. Her dream for discipling girls into godly women always grew bigger. One of those dreams came true when she developed and launched a "GIRL Talk" event at our church for the youth girls. Every aspect of it was her vision...or shall I say, God's vision through Jan. From the fashion show, to the panel of women, to the "pink" theme, to a single male sharing what a godly man looks for in a woman, to a fine dining experience learning proper etiquette, it was all part of her dream. She hosted one of those events at our church and truly wanted to see us take it on the road to other churches. Sadly, that never happened. Jan had a lot of dreams, many of which never were fulfilled...this side of Heaven. I rest in the fact that more than all her dreams could imagine have been fulfilled at the feet of Jesus.

3. In all things, give God glory - The one thing I'll always remember and be challenged by Jan's life is that no matter what, she always gave God all the glory. When I was dealing with the anger and bitterness of losing her way too soon in my limited perspective, I recounted all the things she didn't get to do that she longed to do. She loved to sing and was gifted with a beautiful voice....but never got to do it at the level she'd hoped. She longed to disciple girls 24/7....but that dream didn't happen. She loved the fairy tale and hoped one day to marry that man God had for her....that didn't happen. She was waiting for her green card at the time of her death...but it still hadn't cleared and she was going to have to head home to Trinidad on June 20. Even when immigration tried to send her home two years ago, then stopped the process, she decided to go back to school to become an EKG tech and use that training in medical missions one day. She had just finished her certification....and that never happened. Though Jan and I shared our hearts and we shed many tears and questioned "why?" on many occasions, we always closed our conversation one way. Jan would always give God glory. I can still hear her say "God is sovereign." That passionate commitment to the Lord will forever be Jan's way of keeping me accountable even though she's left this earth.

I have many notes, books and other cards that Jan gave me. I'm so thankful for those little touches of her in my life. Every note she would leave...every message inside a book....every card she'd send...ended the same way "Soli Deo Gloria" which means "to the Glory of God alone." If I had to sum up Jan Harriott's life in three words, it would be Soli Deo Gloria. Until that day when I see her again and she takes me on a tour of Heaven and to my mansion, which will be next door to hers as she always hoped, may I live giving all the glory to God and God alone.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The UnaPopper

They say that art imitates life...or is that life imitates art? Nonetheless, art and life collide. This is best demonstrated by the comparisons my work environment has to the television show, The Office. I've written a couple of blog posts...one about a faux pas ala Michael Scott and another about all the reasons I work at Dunder Mifflin. Another recent "episode" happened at my workplace that was a definite sitcom in the making.

Many of us at work enjoy an afternoon snack of microwave popcorn. I have personally developed an affinity for Orville Redenbacher's organic microwave popcorn, especially the Salt & Cracked Pepper. There is a talent to popping microwave popcorn. You can't always trust that little "Popcorn" button on the microwave. Most of the time you need to monitor your popcorn as if it were on the stove top popping in a pan. One fateful Friday afternoon, some popper decided to make a tasty snack...but, alas, it went bad quickly. In no time at all the office was full of smoke and the smell was wafting throughout our cubicles. Although I have come out with some burned kernels in my past, this popper was not me.

The evidence of a major burning was so prevalent that we were concerned that something serious was going on. One of my co-workers headed in the direction of the smoke and found the tar-like bag of burnt popcorn tossed in the garbage with the smoke still rolling. He immediately threw the bag out the side door and went to retrieve a fan to start circulating the smoke outside. This reminded me of that Office episode when Ryan started a fire by microwaving his lunch. But the hilarity had only begun.

After this incident, and the fact that we didn't know who had committed the crime, our CFO decided to send an email to the company as a reminder of proper food preparation procedure. The greatest line ever in a company email appeared as a public service annoucement: "So, remember, please pop responsibly." Priceless. The humor in my everyday life is simply amazing.

We have donned the culprit with the moniker - "The UnaPopper" - and we have yet to uncover their true identity. But, we have a great story to share, fodder for an upcoming episode, and the remains of a crinkly bag of burnt popcorn that the birds are still feeding upon outside our building.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Non-Mother Mother's Day

This year, the way the calendar falls, we have a string of holidays - Cinco de Mayo, Kentucky Oaks Day, Derby Day and Mother's Day. Now, two of those days apply mainly to Louisville residents, but nonetheless, the week has been replete with reasons to celebrate. I feel like I need to make up a holiday for Monday just to keep the excitement going.

As I was praying and thinking this morning, I was dwelling on all those women who aren't Mothers, like I am. Mothers' Day has never been quite the challenge to me, even though I haven't been a mother, until the first year I lost my Mom and endured that holiday. It was tough. You see, my Mom was an amazing woman. Anyone who knew her could be assured that their life would never be the same after meeting her. She touched so many people in so many ways - emotionally and physically. And, she herself struggled with being a Mom. My parents waited 18 years to have their one and only child - me. Mother's Day holds a special place in my life because it was on that day in 1974 that I decided to make my decision to follow Christ publicly and take that next step of obedience towards baptism. As a thinker (even as an 8 year old), I was slow in making that commitment after many questions and inward thinking, and listening to pastors and teachers. It was the greatest decision of my life and making that public on Mother's Day seemed fitting since my Mom was so pivotal in my coming to Christ.

So, back to the discussion at hand - women who have never been Mothers. I'm sure there are many out there who never desired to be Mothers, so the day isn't a bit challenging. But, I know there are plenty out there who long to be Mothers and just never have had the opportunity or maybe never will. They overflow with feelings of nurturing that go unfulfilled. For them, I hold a special place in my heart. As I grew up, I just figured one day I'd marry, we'd have children, etc. But when I got older and the marriage thing hadn't happened, and the biological clock was ticking louder, I accepted the fact that I'd never bear a child. I know all you biblical scholars out there will remind me of Abraham and Sarah, but whew, a baby at 90 isn't my preferred way to motherhood. Unlike marriage, which I still long and hope to experience one day, motherhood isn't a burning desire for me. I thank God for aligning my heart to His Will in that way, knowing it is His Protection from me grieving what I do not have.

Lest we get mired in the downer of those of us that are non-Mothers, let me speak a word of encouragement. If you fit that mold, take heart. There are so many "children" out there for you to spread your love. I am more than blessed with "children" that are not my own that I have loved on and nurtured throughout the years. There is something safe for a young person who loves their own Mom, but just wants to talk openly with someone like their Mom without the bias of their own Mom's perspective. Being in that role of a non-Mom, helps me retain the 'cool' factor, but speak the truth as their older, wiser (hopefully!) friend. I didn't change their diapers or know every fault they have, or every quirk...or even how messy their room can get. But I see in them someone with potential and growth that their own Mom may see, but due to the daily routine of care and feeding, it gets clouded. A Mom who can achieve a balance there is a Mom worth shadowing. It's that balance that is a challenge for Moms and I admire those that do it, and do it well.

On this Mothers' Day, if you find yourself motherless - either you have no Mom, or you aren't one yourself - love on some young one around you who needs that nurturing. I hope to do that myself but before I do, I'll reach for that book of Family Circus cartoons that my Mom gave me not long before her passing. I'll read through it and read every note she left on all the pages making reference to our personal experiences as a family and how funny they were. My Mom was the greatest and if I can be just a slice of who she was, I'm grateful.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Royal Wedding

It was a summer day in July 1981 when I was a 15-year old wide-eyed girl mesmorized by the young Diana Spencer and her wedding that day to the Prince of Wales. I awoke in the wee hours of the morning to watch every moment of that day. As a teenage girl, I dreamed of the fairytale, like many do, and marrying my "prince" one day. I had read every magazine article, my Mom had bought me books and I soaked in every step of their engagement to the altar..and thereafter. I remember when William was born and the hoop-la that followed his birth as an heir to the throne was born. Then when red-headed, Harry, was born and a "spare" came to be, I was still following Diana's footsteps.

Diana was a normal girl, living a normal life dreaming of what I dreamed of and had achieved it. She was the future Queen and even more important, loved being a Mommy to those two boys. It was soon after the second birth that the fairytale began to fade. And, I followed that road with her too. I hurt for her as her marriage crumbled and as she tried to be the best Mom ever and move on with her life after her dream prince had always loved another. A sad ending became sadder in 1997 when a fatal accident took Diana's life. I, again, followed every step of the mourning and funeral and couldn't believe that 16 years after that wedding day it was over. I remember watching William and Harry walking behind her casket as it rolled towards Westminster Abbey to her funeral and grieved more for the loss of a mother to those boys. Somehow I hoped that her influence in their lives would redeem what was lost. Yesterday, I believe it did.

Once again, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning to travel to a friend's house to watch the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. Although I hadn't soaked up every detail of Kate's life as I did Diana, the fairytale excitement was still there. I watched with anticipation of seeing her dress, seeing William look at her for the first time at the altar and that kiss on the balcony. Her dress was exquisite, William told her she was beautiful when he laid eyes on her and we got two kisses on the balcony, not just one. Kate handled the whole affair with grace and when you looked at these two young people who had been friends for years before dating, you could see those glances of inside jokes and understandings that come from two best friends getting married.

The ceremony and the whole wedding event was just as I'd hoped. The sermon by the Bishop of London was suprisingly refreshing. Those Anglicans got it going on. My favorite part was this...

"In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life could flow through them into the future. William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that He gave Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. And in the spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each other."

You can read the full sermon here, but it was articulately given and a reminder to the two billion people watching of the simple gospel - "a generous God who so loved the world that He gave Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ." Amen.

As I reflected on the day and watched Will and Kate wave to the crowds, leave the Palace, I had that reassurance that Diana's life wasn't for naught. For here is a man marrying the love of his life and looking ahead to a future monarchy being built. A young man whose life was formed and shaped by a Mother who told him "marry for true love" and taught him how to live as normal of a life living in the spotlight of the British media. May those offspring of Will and Kate truly reflect their influence as they "flow into the future."

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum - The Sequel

I just returned from our bi-annual event where my company hosts IT executives and technology vendors to provide a first-class atmosphere and a place where technology solutions can be evaluated for future purchase. I can give you the longer pitch, but I'd lose you. It's quite a stellar event, but when it's over, we all take a breath, and definitely feel our age (at least those of us over the age of 35) and gear up for the next one in seven months. I wrote a post after our very first event and thought I'd recap the week in a similar fashion.


1. The flight to and from our Miami destination took us through Charlotte airport. Whoever designed that airport didn't factor in growth, or the lack of time between connections. Unlike Atlanta, or other larger airports that have different layouts, if you land at Concourse B and your connecting flight is in E, you have to hike through every letter in between. As I boarded the plane in Charlotte for Miami, I headed to my seat - 14F - and found it occupied by a man with his wife next to him. Before I could say anything, they said "Oh we sat in the wrong row." As their lunch was sprawled out before them (and I didn't have time to grab food during the connection and wouldn't even get a peanut on this flight), I didn't have much mercy. The man in Row 13 immediately offered to let me sit up there, but the principle of the matter was, I wanted the window. I thanked him, but said I really would prefer the window. The couple let out a few harrumphs and said "I guess we could move" and the very sweet man in Row 13 said, "Oh, you can have the window." Now I'm in lucky Row 13, in the wrong seat. If the plane crashes, they think I'm married to that man who sat in the wrong row. Thankfully none of that happened.


2. Our five-star resort didn't live up to our expectations. I won't mention names, lest I get picked up in a Google search and their lawyers come after me. But, let's just say it's a resort in Miami that hosts many a PGA tournament. A little Internet research and you'll probably figure it out. The biggest issue at this hotel was their lack of available water. The hotel has a main building where you check in, then all the rooms are located in lodges around the peripheral of that main building. In the 90+ Miami heat, you head toward your room up and down hilly pathways and when you arrive, parched and in need of water, you find two bottles in your room of Evian and Fiji water!...with a price tag of $5 per bottle. Drats! Then, you see an ice bucket - success! - and drag your dehydrated body to find the ice machine. But, it's nowhere to be found. And this lack of water and beverage throughout the event continues. This, my friends, is just a little glimpse of what hell will be like, but, oh, so much worse...not only will there not be water, you won't have a dime to pay for it even if Satan had a lemonade stand. This analogy didn't hit me until right before I left, but I have thanked God more than once for my salvation from a place like hell. You want to hold revival in the land? Take them to this resort and withhold water. If the gospel doesn't reach them there, there hearts are way too hardened.


3. When we arrived at said resort, we were famished. It was 3pm and we hadn't eaten. We headed toward the restaurant in the main building after checking in and had an appetizer and meal. Getting a server to bring us beverages was a challenge (see previous hell reference). After we finally got our food, the server asked how our bills would be split. We asked they be separated and she inquired about the appetizer. We requested that it be split equally among us. Although the language was a bit of a barrier, she did speak English and we figured she understood. Au contraire, my friends. We got our bill and all meals were split equally. Sigh. Hard to explain that on an expense report.


4. I arrived on Saturday and when I got to my room, I turned down the air so the sweltering humidity would dispense in my room before mold began to develop. I slept well that night and woke up the next morning, took a shower and thought "Man it's hot in here." I just thought it was "Welcome to Miami" until I decided to check the thermostat...which was now a blank screen. Lovely. No air conditioning in Miami (see earlier hell reference). The very nice engineer came and said a fuse had blown or a breaker had tripped. Tripping, blowing, whatever, he took care of it, so when I returned to my room 14 hours later, I could breathe. Thank you Mr. Repairman. Evangelical note: There is no air conditioning in hell, much less nice repairmen.


5. The travel home started at 7:15pm from Miami and our plane safely hit the hollowed ground of Kentucky at 12:15am. We were one of the last, if not THE last, flight of the day and by the time we got to baggage claim, our bags were rolling on the belt. Much improved over our 30 minute wait for bags in Miami. As I rolled my luggage to my car, Bluebelle, and happy to see her, I headed out to pay my parking and get home to my own bed. The parking attendant said "Thunder is going to be a cold, rainy time this year." I explained that I'd been in Miami for five days, disconnected from reality so she briefed me on the weather happenings and forecast for this Saturday's kickoff for the Kentucky Derby Festival. As I drove off, I smiled to myself as I felt comforted that after a week in a town where very few spoke my language, I had a sweet lady that said "Thunder" and I knew she wasn't talking about a rainstorm. Dorothy sure was right...there is no place like home.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Grins and Giggles for the Week - Squirrels, Super Moon, and Surprises

In the past, I've written blog posts called "Musings for the Week." In my verbose way, I'd highlight a few areas in my life that were insightful, but not worthy of my normally long Rumination post. Now that I've embraced Twitter and have learned to summarize my thoughts in 140 characters or less, I've decided to change this feature to "Grins and Giggles." (I have this affinity for alliteration). There are little things in life that we overlook at times that bring joy, grins, blessings, giggles and smiles to us that deserve a notice. In a study I'm doing with a friend, the author made this statement in regards to the love of God...."We look with pained desperation for what is already there." That statement has rocked my world and caused me to not take for granted the joy that surrounds me. And now, without further ado...the first installment of Grins and Giggles.

1. On my way to work, lamenting the work before me, I drive by two squirrels chasing each other and playing in a yard as they climb a tree. I get all giddy thinking how they live life without a care in the world as their Creator takes care of them and remember...He takes care of me just the same way.

2. I just finished teaching an eight-week study at my church. This study was a churchwide effort and a great lesson in allowing the gospel to shine through our lives. But, the study was structured much differently than I'd taught before and many of the lessons truly stretched me intellectually as well as spiritually. Some weeks I'd study and read and feel like I just heard Charlie Brown's teacher in my head. Many a week I felt very inadequate to lead. I spent time in prayer confessing to God my inabilities and just asking for His Wisdom to see me through. Just when I needed it, one of the members of my class sent me an encouraging text, followed by an encouraging e-mail about how much she was enjoying the class and my teaching. Little did she know how much I needed that...not to fuel my pride, but to keep me going. It reminded me to be that encourager to people in my path.

3. A couple of weeks ago we experienced the "Super Moon." This vision of the moon was a bit clouded in my area, but I could still experience it to the fullest. It was on a Saturday night, in the midst of a very fun weekend, and the first full weekend of spring-like weather. Even in the dark of night, God provides the brightest of moons to make me smile.

4. I few weeks ago I had an employee who had worked for two weeks resign with no notice, simply sending an email and never returning. As a manager, I felt like I just had a huge fail as I was in the midst of three hires and after three months of recruiting, everyone was in place. My co-workers passed me in the hallway with that "sorry for your loss" expression as if I'd had a death in the family. At the end of that week, one of my employees took her eight-month old baby girl to the park in the beautiful weather. She posted a picture on Facebook of her sweet, smiling face as she experienced her first ride in a bucket swing. One of our co-workers printed out copies to sit on our desks. When I need that pick me up, I just look over at that joyful smile and can't help but giggle. When we encounter failures in life, sometimes we just need a good swing in the spring air.

5. One of the sweet young women in my life recently turned 21. I love her to pieces and she is full of artistic talent that I'm sure will take her far in life. For her birthday, I was able to secure her a tool for her trade that she needed desperately. I wanted her 21st birthday to be epic and this was something she had to drag back and forth from school when she needed it...which is no easy task since she depends on public transportation or rides to get her there. Since I couldn't be present for the surprise gift reveal, her Dad was sweet enough to video it for me. I love technology. Now, when I need an uplift in my day, I pull up that video, smile and remember that no matter how many times I fail in my week, there are times when I hit a home run.

Friday, March 04, 2011

If Jesus Had a Cameo on Glee

I love the show Glee. Clearly I'm an anomaly and blow the demographics profile of the typical fan, which is probably those that could be my children. But, as a music lover - especially of all genres from the 80s to Broadway Show Tunes - this show has sweet appeal. I've received a lot of questions as to why I would watch a show that embraces the liberal agenda that runs rampant in Hollywood. Tis true that the show focuses most of their episodes on some issue that portrays a non-Christian worldview. The harsh reality of this is that these issues are in the face of our teenagers today. Sad, but true, and it keeps me on the edge of what those sweet young ones in my life face in the hallways of their high school.

After watching an episode recently where Finn, the quarterback of the football team and member of the Glee club, asked the cheerleaders, when faced with the choice of being a "Cheerio" cheerleader or staying in the "geeky" Glee club, "What would you choose if you weren't afraid of what others would say?" And they said "Glee Club" and chose the path of the misfit..the path of the high schoolers that receive slurpies in their face and are taunted daily. And, I thought, "If I was asked that same question of my Christianity, would I say the same thing?" If I was persecuted as those in foreign countries who take a stand for Christ, would I be a Peter and deny Christ? Or would I take the road less traveled and take the hits for what I believe in? I took this thought further and wondered what an episode would be like if Jesus made a cameo appearance on Glee. So many famous folks have made guest appearances - Gyneth Paltrow, Carol Burnett, John Stamos, Katie Couric - what would an episode be like if Jesus Himself made a guest appearance. I think it would go something like this...

Emma, the school counselor, is called away for a week to accompany her dentist husband, Dr. Carl, at a dental convention and she needs a fill in counselor. A humble man, by the name of JC, appears on the scene to fill in as the substitute counselor for the week. He's not a man of stellar looks, a simple man, but for some reason, the kids of McKinley High are drawn to Him. From the hurt he sees in their faces, JC knows their pain runs deeper than a few slurpie incidents. It's a void of something missing. A true love that reaches beyond what this world can offer. He spends time sharing the truth of Love, of His Love, to those the world finds unlovable. Rachel, a girl who has two gay Dads and a warped view of what a family unit really looks like...Quinn, who had a child out of wedlock and needs to understand what forgiveness is and how a new life in Christ can change her...Kurt, the professing homosexual that is struggling with his "lifestyle choice" while JC shows him what the Bible says about how we were created, and does it with grace and love. He spends an afternoon at Cheerio practice lovingly showing those girls that running to sex is not the answer to the emptiness they feel. JC shows them they are valued in His Eyes, just the way they are. He even has an interesting encounter with Sue Sylvester, the brash cheerleading coach, and softens her heart to the truth that her Down Syndrome sister isn't some punishment from God but that she is a blessing to the world and a sign that every life is precious.

Toward the end of his week, as the school is spun on its side from the transformation JC's Truth is making in the lives of the students who He is reaching, He encounters Artie, the wheelchair-bound Glee member. He's heard about this JC and is longing to know more about who He is and what He's sharing with his friends who have been changed. As JC shares with Artie the truth of the Gospel, He does something miraculous. Artie's heart is broken and open to becoming a follower of Christ and having the abundant life all of his friends now are experiencing. Through this spiritual transformation, JC transforms him even more by healing Artie of his paralysis, while stating, "Artie, your faith has made you whole." And, Artie sings his own rendition of the Mary Mary praise song, "Shackles" singing those lyrics, "Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance...I just want to praise You! I just want to praise You!" And Artie dances...like he's never danced before.

As JC's week comes to an end, and He leaves His role as school counselor...the show ends with the group doing their version of "In Christ Alone"....these students standing tall and unashamed as they sing "This is the power of Christ in me. From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny." And many lives are changed, while many others watch JC walk out of McKinley High still searching and wondering..."who is this wonderful counselor, JC?"

We are all misfits in a world where we don't belong. But Christ came to give us life abundant in Him. By simply acknowledging we're sinful, turning from that sinful life and following Christ, our lives will never be the same. I know that episode will never really happen in a world where the truth isn't part of the entertainment agenda. But in my dreams, I see a cameo by Jesus on Glee, and seeing lives changed forever. And I'd call the episode, "He Came for Us."