Thank God for the Gift of Fear (with Nods to Gavin de Becker and Oprah)

giftoffearIntuition is God whispering.  –author unknown

It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly scared. You know–hands trembling, what in the world should I do next, I just might throw up…kind of scared. And yet that’s exactly where I found myself this week and I’d do just about anything NOT to feel that way ever again. That’s why I’m writing this…to help me process what happened, but also to remind each one of us (and women in particular) to mind that little voice–it’s our God-given intuition…the gift of fear.

Let me start at the beginning…the very beginning (bear with me here.)  While Oprah Winfrey and I have been on the outs for several years (LOL), I was at one time a huge fan and watched her show as regularly as any college aged kid could without purposefully arranging their class schedule.  One day I happened to catch an episode that honestly changed that way I live my life.  Oprah was featuring an author and security issues specialist named Gavin de Becker.  You may recall that many of the show’s episodes centered around empowering women and his book titled “The Gift of Fear” focused on the importance of trusting your gut because so often intuition is our best guide (and sometimes our only hope) in alarming situations!  This isn’t a religious or faith-based book, but I read it as further confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s activity and presence in our everyday lives.  I took his advice and suggestions to heart for a number of reasons…1) I am a small person, young (at the time) and female…all of which could make me an easy mark, 2) the advice was practical and empowering, and 3) I felt like intuition was a God-given gift that had served me well in the past.  I believe this book crossed my path for a reason and since 1997 it has never been far from my mind.

Having lived in small and large communities, frequenting cities and as a traveler in general, I make it a point to be aware of my surroundings.  Being a news junkie doesn’t hurt (it’s a crazy world out there, right?)  I will admit…I may be a little high-strung when it comes to personal safety, but like I mentioned before I think the advice in this book (the validation that comes from trusting your gut) has proven itself on at least a handful of occasions in my life.  I can immediately recall a few scary situations where I put the tools from the book into practice…like while viewing an apartment with a questionable potential landlord, parking on a side street with my infant son and walking at night in the Bay Area, and being approached by an overly aggressive woman asking for money in a Dillon’s parking lot in Wichita.  In each of these scenarios that little voice spoke and the advice from the book came back into focus.

woman being followed DSThis isn’t a fun subject.  As women, this is a weight that we carry.  Men don’t fear for their personal safety like we do.  For years I dwelt on the fact that this just didn’t seem fair.  It affects my life everyday.  I’m careful about where I park, I’m overprotective of my kids, I try to assess every situation.  But I must confess:  I do get lazy.  I’m guilty of letting my guard down and it frustrates me.  This is part of the reason for this blog post.

Yesterday, while making a stop at a local store in my small town I was followed into the building by a strange man.  I noticed him immediately.  His demeanor seemed shifty and he was with a woman who did not enter the store, but instead waited just outside the main entrance.  The guy followed me as I went searching for two unrelated items on opposite ends of the store.  My antenna went up.  I thought it was odd that he turned down the same wrong aisle I turned into.  He made his way into the cleaning supplies aisle where I was and never looked at anything or picked anything up.  When I zig-zagged through the store in a an attempt to lose him he continued to follow, my mind was racing.  Imagine my surprise when this guy appeared to be looking directly at me from the jewelry section.  I again changed course immediately.  I needed to get out of this store!  I purchased my one item (having abandoned the need for the other item) and made my way to the exit…with him about 10 steps behind.  He had purchased nothing in the store.  Even as I type this my mind is trying to rationalize his behavior.  The urge to be “nice,” to not be so suspicious,  and to dismiss my uneasiness keeps creeping into my thoughts even at this very moment.  “Oh, he probably just needed some help.  You’re overreacting.  He wasn’t trying to scare you.  You let your imagination run wild.”  NO.  I heard God’s voice whisper to me.  I have no doubt about that.  I make no apologies for responding to my intuition.

The thing that gets me, though, is that the little flutter in my stomach first occurred before I entered the parking lot that day.  As I crossed the intersection to get to the store I clearly heard a whisper that said, “You don’t want to go there.”  But I didn’t listen.  I just wanted to pick up two items and go.  “What’s the big deal?” I told myself.  When I parked the car, I noticed that things didn’t feel right.  I still went in.  I want to be the kind of person who believe in the goodness of mankind, but I have to remember that this is a broken world.  I have to remember to trust the voice.

As I scrambled to get out of the store, I called my husband and let him know what was going on.  I had my keys ready.  My gut tried to soothe my panic by telling me that I was doing everything right.  I couldn’t get to the car fast enough.  As I pulled away, I saw the guy standing outside the store scanning the parking lot.  Look, I live in a small, safe community.  My intention here is NOT to scare anyone, but I will not discount what I felt.  I refuse to disqualify that voice.

Ladies, if you have not heard of this book…please consider getting your hands on a copy.  We need to know that it’s okay (in fact, it’s wise) to listen to our intuition.  It doesn’t make us unkind, not nice or even hateful to look after yourself or your loved ones.  I’m not saying we should walk around on edge all the time or believe that at any moment something horrific could happen to us.  I just want to remind myself and others to trust God more fully and to be open to his nudging in all that we do and everywhere that we go.

When I finally calmed down (several minutes and miles later),  I said a prayer.  I apologized for not responding to the Holy Spirit while I crossed the intersection.  I apologized for not leaving the parking lot when that bad feeling first came over me.  And at the same time, I thanked God for prompting me into a state of awareness and for giving me the ability to see the situation clearly.  The gift of fear…that Divine presence and the book again coming into focus all at once.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.   Psalm 46:1  

Excerpt from The Gift of Fear

Don’t Know About You, But I’m Feeling 22

Fav Baby Photo

Everyone is the age of their heart.  ~Guatemalan Proverb

I didn’t do anything as gaudy as send myself a birthday bouquet but I am about to break a few social mores.  That’s right, I’m saying it, “Happy birthday, to ME!” and I’m going to post photos of ME, and I’m writing a blog about ME 🙂  But I hope you’ll give me a pass…mostly because I AM the birthday girl.

Okay, to be clear, I’m not trying to solicit birthday wishes and/or gifts…but I just had to share a few thoughts about turning “the year before THE year.”  What????  Doesn’t make any sense?  Well, check this out:  Most of us know that turning 40 it’s a pretty big deal…as in it’s a pivotal moment (and not necessarily in a good way.)  And while I won’t be 40 until next year (2015), I did have a friend tell me that (NEWSFLASH)  turning “the year before THE year” is actually a pretty big deal, too!  I had no clue.  39 is a BIG thing…really?  Since when?  I guess…since now.

39 has been called the “creepy-creeper” birthday.  This connotation suggests that 39 is both undesirable and sneaky? Maybe even a little scary?  Sort of like you’re walking along…minding your own business…when this dreadful number jumps out from behind the bushes and boldly states, “Warning.  You’re about to cross over into old age!”  Or something like that.  Supposedly, at 39 this is the last year that I can be considered somewhat “young.”  I’ve been told that I’ve now entered the final months where it’s even somewhat socially acceptable to wear my hair long, paint my fingernails any color other than matronly mauve, or wear jet black mascara (among a great big list of other taboo items.)  If there is a distinction in adulthood, apparently 40 is the line for women and so I’m left with this one little year in which to kick up my heels and behave accordingly.  365 measly days left to be young!  I can hardly believe it…it all went so fast!  Actually, I find all this to be pretty funny.  Funny for two reasons:  1) because I think when I was in my 20s that I actually believed these rules and 2) especially funny because in my heart of hearts the first number that pops into my mind whenever someone asks me how old I am has ALWAYS been 22!

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Birthday gathering with friends 🙂

Yes, I know.  It’s been a long, LONG time since I was 22, but you have to hear me out about this.  So when you’re a kid, you can’t wait to be in double digits.  10 is a BIG deal.  The next milestone age is 13, right?  Because now you’re a teenager.  Followed by 16…the year you can get your driver’s license.  The next biggie is 18…no curfew, you can vote, live on your own, etc.  And finally 21.  The BIG ONE.  That’s right…all the sudden you’re able to do all the things you’ve been told REAL grown-ups do. (?)  I know, we all know…most of them are very OVERRATED.  So when 22 rolls around you figure, okay…that’s it.  Nothing to see here people and I guess I just stopped counting after that.  Ridiculous, right?  I know…but that’s the house that I’ve been living in.  Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s still MY house.

At this point, I’m sure you’re laughing at me and I’m actually laughing at myself, too.  It’s been ages since I’ve been carded, had a night life, or gone on any adventures that don’t involve having my two kids in tow.  I’m not up on the newest trends, nor do I drive a hot car, or keep up with the latest movies or music.  I don’t really do any of the things that would lump myself in a category with anyone who is actually 22, yet that’s still the number that sticks in my head.  I always imagined that someday I’d graduate to a new birthday number, but it just never happened.  So now that I’m turning “the year before THE year,” I thought I’d better do a little research and see what the hubbub surrounding the number 40 is really all about…I mean, since I don’t want to be caught off guard (again) and I’m headed in that direction anyway.

It appears that there really are a lot of resources out there concerning the Big 4-0.  Countless books, websites, blogs and articles about embracing the “new and improved” you.  As I enter “the year before THE year,” it might behoove me to start reading up on some of these expectations and societal norms.  Here’s what I’ve gathered from the headlines so far:  40 is magical.  40 has attitude…it’s called “fortytude.”  There’s also a rumor that 40 can be fabulous (but I caution you, there are a lot of caveats to this one.)  40 is the first year a woman can qualify as a “cougar.”  40 is something that needs to be figured out and faced…it also makes you fierce and a force to be reckoned with (don’t you love all the alliteration that comes with 40!)  You can also be fit and forty at the same time (who knew?)  For those who truly believe in stressing themselves out about the number 40, there are a few websites that offer up 40 things you should accomplish by the time you reach 40.  And, by the way… in case you haven’t heard, forty is the new “F” word.

That’s a lot for one girl to take in.

All of this aside, here’s where I’m at.  It’s MY birthday and all I really want to do is thank God for another day, another year, and another reason to celebrate life (while eating Dairy Queen cake, of course.)  I don’t really get wrapped up in all this aging stuff.  I’m sure the day will come when the wrinkles and the gray hairs will win out, when my body doesn’t cooperate like it used to, when people stop asking me just how old I really am (and just start assuming I’m OLD!)  Until then, I’m just going to keep chugging along…making up nonsensical songs with my daughter, teasing my son by repeating hip phrases that sound anything but hip when I say them, wearing my hair as long as I want to, and sporting nice, bright nail polish as the mood strikes.  I’m not going to worry about figuring out or facing 40 or even reading up on the 40 things to do before you reach this supposed milestone.  While society might find my lack of alarm annoying or unheard of,  I think the psychological term is called “self differentiated.”  That’s right…who says you can’t teach an “old dog” new words.  And by the way, I’m going to stick with the age 22 for the time being (especially since Taylor Swift makes it sound so fun!)  Sure I’m a long way from it (and you really couldn’t pay me to go back,) but mostly just because it’s a nice number and like I said before… I still have a house there.  (Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s MY house.)

Here’s to 365 days of “the year before THE year!”

I’m not 40, I’m eighteen with 22 years experience.   Author unknown

Gonna Make My Black Thumb Green (aka A Lesson in Faith Planting)

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Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.  Liberty Hyde Bailey

I didn’t just believe that I had a black thumb, I had confirmed it…time and TIME again.  You probably think that I’m exaggerating, but it’s a well documented  fact.  Have you ever had someone take a plant AWAY from you?  Yes, that has happened to me (and not just once.)  I was a cold-blooded plant killer and I’m not proud of it.  I wanted to be able to grow things, I really did.  I potted, watered, and adjusted for sunlight and shade.  I wasn’t above asking for help, checking out library books and looking up tips on the internet.  It just wasn’t my knack and, honestly…hey, I was cool with that.  But for some unknown reason, people kept giving me plants (I think that happens when you move as often as we have…let’s face it, a plant is a pretty safe “welcoming” gift.)  In defense of these plant-bearing gift givers, I realize that you all had no idea what these little green treasures were in store for once they were under my care 🙂

Fast forward several years and while I’m certainly no green thumb, I’m not quite the plant killing queen that I used to be.   So, I still can’t grow ANYTHING from a seed, but I have managed to keep three plants alive (and mostly thriving.)  One plant has actually been around for nearly five years and I’m proud to report that it has somehow managed to survive three repotting stints as well.  (Yes, it’s the little things.)  In fact, I actually purchased a plant (my first time) just last month and so far…well, so good.  I think my mother-in-law would be so surprised and my mom, well I’m sure she can just hardly believe it’s true!  (The black thumb thing runs in the family.)

Thinking about this shift in my gardening abilities reminds me of another change in my life.  This one pertaining to my faith in God.  While I’ve been a believer just about as long as I can remember, I was never really comfortable sharing that faith.  To be honest, I didn’t know how.  As  a kid I can remember occasionally going to church, however, I really didn’t have any formal faith upbringing.  Despite all this, I considered myself a hard-core, pint-size prayer warrior (and I’m not even sure that was a term at the time.)  I prayed about anything and everything.  My overactive imagination, news junkie status (even as a kid) and an overwhelming realization that we lived in a broken and scary world would occupy my thoughts from the time my head hit the pillow until dawn.  So often I found peace and comfort in prayer and somehow knew that there was a great, big God out there who loved and cared about me.

In time, those little prayers eventually turned into a desire to read the Bible…which gets easier once you learn how to read and possess a  vocabulary.  By the time I was in high school I was working on reading the Bible all the way through.  I would read one chapter a night before bed–and I don’t think anyone ever knew.  I really didn’t talk about it.  I just did it.  Looking back, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t understand much of what I read.  I just felt called to do it.  And when I finished, I started over.  Look, I’m no theological scholar and I certainly didn’t consider myself holier than my teenage counterparts.  All I know is that the more I learned about God, the more my love for Him continued to grow.

I wish I could say that my Bible reading led me into church as a young adult.  It didn’t.  Of course, I did do a lot of praying in college…it WAS college after all!!!  I had tests to pray for, temptations to avoid, friends who needed help, and then of course there was safety and an entire crazy world out there to worry about.  I think in some ways my desire to get into journalism was a love for writing tied into an off shoot of a faith that I was trying to figure out.  My end goal in my pursuit to become a reporter was always to make the world a better place.  I wholeheartedly believe that knowledge is power.  I thought if we could just gain an awareness for the people in our neighborhoods, community and world that we would all have our hearts transformed–we could BE BETTER and DO BETTER.  Little did I know that this warm stirring that I so desperately wanted to impart on the hearts of others was in line with a desire to share with the planet the God that I was coming to know.

My faith journey goes on from there, but those early years–the faith planting years–came to mind today as I watered and tended to my plants.  Now, I look forward to attending church every Sunday (actually I’m something of a church nerd as I love visiting new churches whenever I can.)  I also love being a ministry volunteer and a pastor’s wife.  I continue to read and pray and discover more ways to draw closer to God.  I often thank God for putting people in my life to inspire and encourage me to pursue this faith.  What I once kept guarded and close to my heart, I now openly talk about.  I’m not afraid to share what I know about God.  In fact, I feel called to talk about Him often…especially with young people.  I remind them (and myself) that it takes time to develop and foster any kind of worthwhile relationship.  The same is true with faith.  The world won’t know about our awesome Creator, if someone (you?  me?) doesn’t share it with them.  I still wholeheartedly believe knowledge is power.  And if faith and following Jesus is the most powerful choice we can make in our lifetime, I want every person to have that option.

I can’t tell you what a blessing it is to have my children grow up in the church.  Faith planted…I see their early development (and that of their peers) tended to by good men and women whose lives serve as living testimonies to faith in a mighty God and who desire nothing more than the same for my kiddos and others.  In this season of my life, this is where I focus my attention.  What a blessing it is to witness a child’s heart discovering God for the first time.  Connecting with a young person and letting them know that there is a Creator who loves them.  Sharing scripture and Bible lessons with new believers and fostering the kind of environment that says there is so much more out there for each of us.  Seeing Christ’s love influence the thoughts and actions in so many young ones…well, it takes my breath away.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have an opportunity or even the ability to share and witness faith  like this.  I didn’t think I was capable or qualified.  I didn’t think I could GROW into that person.  God had a better idea and I really can’t wait to see what blooms as a result.

This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 The Message

 

My Own Field of Dreams (and Memories)

Sean pitching 2013“Baseball…is a place where memory gathers.”  — Donald Hall

Another baseball summer has come to an end.  And so goes that magical time of year where we schlep our kiddos to and from practice, block out our evenings and weekends for games, purchase sunflower seeds and Gatorade in bulk, spend all of our money at the sporting good stores and plant ourselves for hours on end upon narrow (and often uncomfortable) bleacher seats.  Oh, how I LOVED it!   There’s just something special about being at the ballpark.  And this summer, America’s favorite pastime took on new significance for me as a typical ballgame outing transcended time and space (cue Twilight Zone music here….)

One of the consequences of living hours away from family is that the chorus of cheers and encouragement for your kid come from yourself and the parents of your kid’s friends.  I had become accustomed to hearing these familiar voices during my son’s baseball games, but on this particular weekend when my son stepped up to bat I could hear my Mom say, ‘Here you go, Sean,” followed by my Dad, “Pick a good one.”  And just like that, I was transported back in time, to ball fields in my home town.  Their voices and their presence that afternoon sent me right back to my childhood.  You see, I was a “baseball sister,” nestled in the stands…sucking on sunflower seeds, drinking soda and watching my little brothers at bat.  My Dad was on the field as coach and we all waited with bated breath for every pitch.  In a flashback moment I could see their uniforms and determined looks.  I recalled hot and dry, western Kansas evenings and the sports complex where they played little league.  I took a deep breath and present day reality set back in.
baseball 2013 004All afternoon my head (and my heart) bounced between the baseball game at hand and games past.  My mind’s eye could clearly see thrilling victories and agonizing defeats–my brothers’ sweaty faces and red, dirt stained white pants.  I remembered Dairy Queen celebrations and post game lamentations at the kitchen table.  Then I would see my son, in all his determination strike out a monster of a batter (keep in mind this is little league, but this batter was as tall as the umpire!)  In the stands, my folks and I reminisced about Gatorade gum (does that still exist?), pre-game rituals and the power of green m&ms.  Every caught ball, grounder and close call produced cheers and jeers intermixed with stories from my own childhood…Do you remember when kids wore stirrups as part of their uniforms, when entire teams ran to the parking lot for coolers loaded with soda and snacks, when games were scheduled as late at 9:30pm, and when wearing rally caps was a concept that NEVER had to be explained?  Remember when…?   
Between games, my Dad and husband talked about strategy, the ins and outs of coaching your own kid and various pitching techniques before heading back to the diamonds.  We reminisced about how much baseball caps have changed (do you recall the mesh back, plastic snap variety?) and laughed about the NO SWIMMING ON GAME DAY rule, which still holds true for the new generation of ball players, at least in my family.  We compared games of yesterday with my husband’s baseball experience on the West Coast.  Before long we found ourselves in line at the concession stand again…purchasing more sunflower seeds, of course.  And my niece helped to carefully pick out green m&ms (we might as well test out the “home run” theory) and discreetly handed them off to my son in the dugout (see candy commercial below for explanation), and finally we settled in for another inning of play.    New game, but such familiar territory.  I was living my own “Field of Dreams.”  Like the well-known baseball flick, I was experiencing a mixture of baseball past and present, family togetherness and a desire to hold on to this special summertime moment.
Three games later we were sun-worn and windblown, but smiling.  Sean pitched his very best game of the summer.  We cheered as he and his teammates celebrated in the dugout.  I took in the moment as the most important men in my life collectively grinned from ear to ear and looked so proud!  Okay, it’s just baseball and little league baseball at that, but these are the occasions that become some of our best memories.  As in life, another baseball game, another victory, another afternoon together is never promised.  For now summer baseball will continue to weave itself in and out of my son’s childhood.  We have camps to look forward to, the excitement of new teams and teammates, and the joy of taking in the occassional MLB game whenever we can.  There’s nothing like building family memories around the ball diamond and dreaming major league dreams all while celebrating little victories at the local Dairy Queen.
“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”— Rogers Hornsby
 

What a Difference 20 Years Does (and Doesn’t) Make….

Best friends...summer of 1993.

Best friends…summer of 1993.

High school looks so much cooler on TV.  –unknown

A 20 year high school reunion…sign me up!  Couldn’t wait to get there. Loved high school. The opportunity to see familiar faces…not just classmates, but people who I had grown up with and those who helped (in big and small ways) influence and shape my life. Yes, yes–a thousand times yes, I would definitely go!

As the momentum for the big weekend began to build, my mind was flooded with memories. Memories of old friends, teachers, dance team days, newspaper staff, cruising Main Street, school projects and parties.  The floodgates really opened up while looking through the school yearbook, hearing songs from the “glory days” and chatting with my best friend about who might attend (do you think he’ll be there…and would she actually show up?)  The “do you remembers” tapped into a part of my heart that burst with good times and great adventures.  Let’s do this!

Imagine my surprise when the RSVPs started to roll in (thanks to facebook we could see this in real-time) and not everyone clicked “yes.”  What????  This was going to be great, this was going to be so much fun!  How could you not want to be a part of this?  My mind quickly rationalized the obstacles of time, distance and money.  The realities of job and family commitments.  Okay, I understand that, but if you could attend…wouldn’t you want to?  Shouldn’t you want to?  As I counted the days and shared my excitement with family and friends their comments and perspectives gave way to a different idea.  What if, they suggested, high school wasn’t so great for everyone.  That our teen years can be/are/were difficult, lonely and confusing.  The possibility that maybe there were people who one couldn’t and wouldn’t want to see (ever again?)  That perhaps there were some who just wanted to move on and did so without ever wanting to look back.  To be honest, I just had a hard time accepting this…until….

A mere two hours before the first scheduled event, a panic ensued that I had not anticipated.  Not really prone to nervousness, I immediately dismissed the incredible dread that was building up in my stomach and the wave of jitters that was creeping in from all sides.  And a nagging thought settled on my spirit–did I really want to do this?  Followed by a worse thought–COULD I REALLY DO THIS?  I remember sitting across from my best friend at our hometown Pizza Hut and NOT being able to eat a thing.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to be!  I hadn’t driven four hours for this.  I hadn’t made plans to meet up with old friends only to become a “no-show” myself.

reunion photo 2013

20 Year Reunion for Garden City High School Class of 1993

In my 20 minute panic attack I think I experienced a little bit of what might hold someone back.  Doubts that probably mirror some of the teen angst from 20 years ago.  Will anyone notice me?  Will I be remembered?  Followed by, will I be remembered well?  Have I done anything of significance in the last two decades?  Have I grown and changed in positive ways?  Will I foul up anybody’s name? Let me sidebar here to tell you what a good, dear, sweet friend I have.  She talked me down from this insane moment of fear.  She reminded me how much I had looked forward to this.  She convinced me that we would have a wonderful time.  We talked.  We prayed.  We shared.  We ate bread sticks and pizza.  And (finally) we went.  30+ classmates and spouses took part in the reunion activities.  It was fun (and funny at times) to see each other again.  Who had changed and who had stayed exactly the same.  The hugs abounded and the memories came alive (especially as the class yearbook was passed around!)  There was much chatter about where everyone lived now and who was married and with how many kids.  I loved meeting my classmates spouses and later at the picnic, seeing their kiddos.  It was fun to hear the stories again and remember the good times.  How much we still had in common after all these years and how life and time had changed each of us.  And yet, throughout the weekend one comment came up time and time again as classmates marveled at how well we all got along NOW.  Now?  It never occurred to me that we didn’t get along back then.  Maybe the conversations didn’t flow as easily in the old days?  Maybe we held on a little too tightly to our cliques and groups?  Maybe it was just harder to fit in?  But, perhaps it was something else.  I sort of chalked up any divisiveness and separation to adolescent self-involvement.  I know this was true for myself.  I don’t really remember not getting along with anyone, but I do know that I was completely absorbed with my own friends and interests.  My world was small then and in order for it to make sense, I’ll admit I approached it with teenage tunnel vision.  And doesn’t it make sense that in our early days we would gravitate toward those whose worlds most resembled our own?  It’s not an excuse, it was just a consequence of immaturity.   And I think this is why reunions have the potential to become so much more.

Today, twenty years later we probably have a lot more in common than ever before.  Sure we grew up in the same town and our families’ lives were often intertwined, but that may have been the extent of it.  Now we can relate to each other on so many new levels like jobs and careers, marriage and relationships, pregnancy and parenthood, divorce, illness, faith and every other degree of success and loss imaginable.  We’ve matured and with that we’ve grown… allowing circles to open up and boundaries to blur.  In a strange way, it might actually be possible for us to grow closer 20 years after graduation!

A four-hour car ride home makes for a great time of contemplation.  I smiled to myself as various conversations replayed in my head.  I thought of those who had moved on with great success knowing how hard they worked…their positive attitudes and energy making my heart soar.  I prayed for those who had braved great and difficult challenges and who appeared to come out stronger for it.  And somewhere on the wide open prairie, the song “Bruises” by Train came on the radio.  Bruises of triumph and pain.  Bruises that remind us that we’re all human, imperfect and in the same boat.  Its chorus reminds us that all these things “make for better conversation, loses the vibe that separates, it’s good to let you in again, you’re not alone in how you’ve been….”  It was the perfect ending to a reunion weekend, and guess what?  I can’t wait to do it all over again!

Cows, Corn, Choruses and Mary

maryAn amazing, creative, kind, talented, colorful, generous, godly woman (who was hands down the best grandma EVER) is no longer with us.  She was a dear, sweet friend…and today my heart hurts.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mary four years ago.  She had a great laugh and a wonderful southern accent, a beautiful singing voice and an infectious (sometimes ornery) smile.  Mary possessed a super sharp wit and not only was she fun–she was funny, too.  One of the things that immediately caught my eye was her sense of style.  She had a pair of shoes in every color imaginable and for every occasion.  I had never seen a grown woman wear bright sunflower yellow shoes and yet she pulled it off with ease!  She had all the sensibility of a refined, southern woman with just the right amount of whimsy and fun.  This was Mary.

The more I learned about her, the more I liked her.  Her passion for God, her family, music and the church were contagious.  I loved to hear her take on a scripture and the  joy she found in discovering just the right hymn for Sunday morning.  Always thoughtful in her role as worship leader, she fought hard for every verse (especially in the long hymns) and I’d never met anyone who loved Epiphany more than her (…will those three kings ever get here?)  She was such a gifted musician whose leadership and presence will be dearly missed throughout the music ministries at our church.  A music teacher for nearly two decades, so many have come forward with their stories about Mary both in the classroom and out.  I loved to hear about her adventures (and misadventures) at school and imagine that she would have easily been a favorite teacher among her students.

Mary’s love for her family was at the forefront of all she did.  And as far as I’m concerned, she truly earned the Best Grandma EVER award.  The time, energy and love she put into Ari, Aidan and Braxton is beyond words.  She absolutely adored those children with all that she had!  I knew that she was instrumental in exposing them to music and theatre, but imagine my surprise to see her at a dusty ball field on a hot summer night cheering on her grandson, planted on uncomfortable bleacher seats during basketball season and sitting through never-ending student talent shows.  Young at heart, she found time to nurture those kiddos in every way and we always looked forward to seeing the boys in church on Sunday mornings.  She extended her “Nana qualities” to my children as well…affectionately referring to my son as a “sapsucker” and looking out for them as if they were her own.  We all looked forward to hanging out at Ms. Mary’s house, Nerf gun wars, perler beads, swimming and enjoying lemonade poolside.  It wasn’t long before my son claimed her as his own “Augusta grandma.”  And how she loved Harris and the boys!  Speaking so fondly of her wedding and sharing cute stories of her own children growing up.  Always with such affection she referred to her little Harris and Robbie.  It makes me smile when I think of these two grown men whose mother’s eyes lit up whenever she talked about them.  So fun-loving and playful, Mary was a wonderful storyteller and had some truly wonderful life experiences…and I’m so glad she shared.

I know I’ll miss the way she could convey a message with a simple raised eyebrow or smirk.    My heart hurts to think that we won’t be exchanging text messages in the school parking lot while waiting to pick up the kids.  I will miss our days as teammates in the never-ending Nerf battles with the boys (for your information she was a great shot, often pegging the kids with little effort.  The best part was the apron she wore during these battles.  It had a large pocket that she used to load up with ammo.  She looked all “granny,” but was totally “Rambo”–it was quite the sight!)  I will miss watching her play the piano at church and what a natural she was as she portrayed various characters during Vacation Bible School. She was always good for the “whether” report on Wednesday nights, too.  It was that time between KIDS choir and Worship on Wednesday when she would tell me “whether or not” she was leaving me with a feisty, ornery group of kids or a team of cooperative angels!   I will miss her silly ringtones and how she carefully matched each tone with her loved ones (Harris’ tone was the absolute BEST.) And how I enjoyed Super Bowl parties at her home and the way she would cut up during meetings at church.  That was Mary.

Differences-Hymns-ChorusesWhen I think about Mary there’s one story that always comes to mind.  She often clipped out cute little anecdotes, comics and quips about church and church life.  She offered these up during our weekly worship design team meetings.  One of the first ones she ever shared with my husband and I was about traditional hymns versus praise songs.  It had us rolling with laughter and she pulled it out on more than one occasion.  It always comes to mind as we drive through rural areas because it comically compares cows and cornfields with the “thees” and “thous” of traditional hymns.  Mary got quite the kick out of it!  I can still hear her reading this story. The way she drawled out the words “Martha, Martha, Martha…” through laughter.   While I’m sure Mary had her preferences between hymns and praise songs, she knew that honoring God wasn’t about one style over another.  It wasn’t about your way or my way, it was and IS about praising God…a key part of a life well lived.  This was the way she carried herself both inside and outside of the church:  joyfully and purposefully, both cows and cornfields as well as “thees” and “thous.”  I will always appreciate her humor and the way she balanced her faith journey with fun and joy all the while holding on to the traditions that mattered most.  That was so Mary.

Like so many in our small town, my life was touched by her life.  I thank her for honoring the Lord by sharing some of her life lessons with me.  I love her for modeling a good, Christian woman for myself and many others.  I’m blessed by her generosity and willingness to serve our church.  And I’m happy to have called her a friend.  The cows, corn and choruses will never be the same.

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.  –Voltaire

Always Open

more piano 027There’s a little piano that holds court in our living room.  Nestled into a corner just to the left of the fireplace, this small upright garners quite a bit of attention.  Don’t let its ordinariness fool you…this piano is a bona fide magnet!   What is lacks in presence, it more than makes up for in amazement…and I see its wonder every time someone new comes into our home!

The piano arrived last summer.  I was thrilled!  I took lessons in elementary school and thanks to a battery-operated keyboard (that I’ve toted around for 25 years), I’ve managed to play a little ever since.  I’d always wanted a piano in the house, but given our somewhat nomadic-clergy-family lifestyle, we haven’t had the luxury of having our own.  So when the opportunity to have one placed in the parsonage arose, I jumped on it!

My kids were very excited.  Nevermind that we only had one piece of sheet music and a hymnal to play.  Nevermind that it was missing its front wheels.  And nevermind that it was out of tune (I referred to its sound as slightly twangy).  We had a piano!  Slowly we acquired some beginner’s pianos books for the kiddos and I downloaded some of my favorite songs from the internet.  We adorned the piano with a photo of the children, a lamp to help with the lighting and a few other homey touches.  This piano was the perfect fit for our little family…and then IT started.

Whenever someone would step into our living room they would comment, “When did you get a piano?”  Invariably it would start a conversation about music and for those who play (or played) an instrument it would lead to a moment of reminiscing.  Those who stayed longer than a few minutes would eventually make their way over to the piano.  It’s funny to me how much restraint adults have…they noticed it, talked about it, moved toward it, but never touched it.  But when children visit the house (as they’re apt to do thanks to the social nature of my kids), they can’t help but play it.  And who wouldn’t?  I mean, I purposefully leave the keylid open.  Always. 

At first my little girl would try to keep the keylid closed when the piano wasn’t in use.  She reasoned that it was something like keeping the refrigerator door closed.  I love that girl!  I guess she wanted to keep the keys “fresh.”  I tried to explain to her that a piano should be inviting.  My personal philosophy is that once the piano keys are out of sight the whole piano becomes an unused piece of furniture.  As I type this I know it sounds a little strange, but it’s exactly how I feel.  A piano is meant to be played!  In my head a closed keyboard means “don’t touch, stay back.”  Thus, our piano is always open. 

Recently we’ve had some kiddos over who didn’t just touch the piano, but actually sat down at the bench and stayed awhile.  Sure, they hardly knew what they’re doing, but they played nonetheless.  I love to see their little fingers jump around and how they proudly believe that tapping out a morse code style version of Mary Had a Little Lamb somehow makes them the next Mozart.  A few of the boys have ventured to play two keys at the same time!  Others run their hands across the whole length of the keyboard and some sit and test their fingering skills as they cup their hands and play one note at a time.  It may not sound like much (and sometimes it doesn’t sound like that much) and yet it still seems beautiful. 

For myself personally, time spent at the piano is both refreshing and energizing.  I love testing my own abilities and playing music that demonstrates the God-given gifts and talents of a songwriter.  I lose myself in the melodies and tune everything else out.  Musicians and non-musicians alike know that music can be transformative.  I give my heart and my soul over to the sound…and there’s nothing quite like it.  The piano is both powerful and soft…conveying hundreds of emotions with a voice all its own.  For those who play, you know how easy it is to lose track of time.   And it never fails, every time I play I discover something new.  I look forward to experiencing that joyful feeling again and again. 

In some ways that little piano reminds me of our relationship with God.  Yes, I said it.  God is like an open piano.  Patiently and lovingly waiting for us to discover Him.  Always welcoming, our great and wonderful God calls us to come over.  He doesn’t demand our attention, and yet we can’t help but notice His greatness.  He doesn’t mind when we ask questions.  He doesn’t mind when we approach hesitantly.  He doesn’t mind if we don’t have it all figured out and need to sheepishly peck at the keys to find our way in this world.  He uniquely meets our needs and knows our inner thoughts note for note.  It seems the more time we spend developing a relationship with our Creator, the more enriched and blessed our lives become.  As with a song, time spent with God can be transformative.  Our Lord offers us something new every time we enter His presence.  Like an open piano, we– as His creation–are naturally drawn to Him.

Maybe I’m giving our little piano too much credit.  Maybe.  But I know this, we can’t give God enough credit. 

I hope that anyone who visits my home knows that they are welcome to succumb to the great magnet that is our little piano.  I pray that anyone who hasn’t discovered God’s never-ending love and goodness moves closer toward a relationship with our Maker.  As far as I’m concerned, both opportunities are always open.

Prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when you’re listening. Playing the piano allows you to do both at the same time.  –Kelsey Grammer

WINK ;) baby names

😉 What I Now Know about baby names

baby-namesAs a Sunday school teacher I often find that I learn as much (and often times even more) than the young people in my class.  This week was a perfect example of that as we took out our “God goggles” and looked at “naming” and more specifically the difference between good and bad naming.  Who knew that so much could be wrapped up in a name?  And as I studied the lesson a couple of things stood out to me.  First of all, the idea that naming is Biblical.  It was the first job that God gave to man.  You might recall the story in Genesis where Adam was called to name all of the creatures.  The second thing that kept coming up was just how powerful a name can be…which led me to this post.

When my husband and I found out that we were expecting we tossed around several name ideas.  It was fun, light-hearted and a learning experience as we discovered that we had very different ideas about what makes up a good name.  Soon after finding out that we would be having a boy, we began to narrow our focus.  I wanted Matthew or Thomas…family names.  Steve wanted to name our son Jacob or Calvin.  Family members and friends weighed in with their ideas.  Before long we had a long list of possibilities–none of which we were really crazy about or could agree on.  Then someone threw out the idea that we should have a backup name for a little girl…just in case the doctors were wrong.  Yikes!  Like a lot of couples, we finally got serious and bought a baby name book–and the real trouble began!

If you’re ever looking for a good chuckle, look up your name in a baby book.  Better yet, look up the names of family and friends.  Very entertaining.  The baby book we chose (from Motherhood Maternity) was particularly golden as it had a subsection under every name that detailed celebrities who share the same name as well as a sentence or two that describes how the general population feels about the name.  Priceless.  For example, my name–Anna–means graceful, however, the general perception of the name Anna brings about images of a hardy, pioneer woman.  Let me just say that I am anything but a hardy, pioneer woman.  I would have DIED on the prairie!  If I couldn’t pick up my food at a grocery store or through a drive-thru window, I wouldn’t eat.  Nevermind the fact that I can’t stand to be cold (or hot).  I need climate control, too!

This newfound information made choosing a name even harder.  Through laughter we eliminated many names and with awareness added many more.  Finally, we found a name for our son where we least expected it.  In a conversation between my husband and I (about an old Air Force buddy of his) we settled on the name Sean.  Our son would be named for a friend.  The baby book confirmed our choice as Sean means “God is gracious.”  It was perfect.  Still I couldn’t help but look at the two little sentences at the end of the entry…Sean is typically a well-liked man who is debonair and sophisticated like Sean Connery’s James Bond character or  he is an intense, moody (yet talented) character like Sean Penn.  Chuckle, chuckle.  (If you know my Sean, you know exactly which description he favors.)

My daughter’s name came about a little differently.  Armed with knowledge (veteran parents now) we set out to choose a name for our little girl.  Many of the girl names we liked just three years before didn’t makes sense for this new bundle of joy.  I started at the beginning of the baby name book and went about choosing a name methodically.  This became a bedtime ritual for me.  When Steve would finally settle in for the night I would toss out a few names.  He was great at pointing out potential problems with little girl names, things that I had never thought about.  The list of acceptable names was short.  I found myself drawn to one name in particular and offered it up for opinions.  Bad move.  Let me say that again…baaaaad mooooove!  Turns out people have very strong opinions about little girls’ names.  Our mothers were not impressed with this name option.  Oh, they were polite about it…but “umms” and “wells” can surprisingly speak volumes.  I was at a loss until I started the name game fresh again…back to the beginning of the book.  I came upon the name Casey.  It was a sweet Irish name that meant “brave.”  I liked it and before I knew it, I LOVED it.  This was the baby’s name.  This time when we announced our name choice there really was nothing anyone could have said that would have changed our minds.  I think that’s how you know when you’ve come across the right name.  You just have that gut feeling and won’t be swayed any other way (which is good, because this one wasn’t an immediately accepted name choice either.)  I especially loved the short little sentence at the end of this entry.  Casey is an outgoing, friendly brunette.  You just can’t go wrong with an endorsement like that!

So, both children ended up with wonderful, well thought out Irish names (did I mention I’m nothing close to Irish?)  And here’s What I Now Know about baby names:

1.  Naming requires time and consideration.  Many times we overlook the significance of a name and forget to weigh our decisions.  A cute name today can easily become outdated.  An old-fashioned name may require a lot of explaining for years to come.  An unusual spelling is unique, but can be problematic down the road. 

2.  Family names can be tricky.  I have mixed feelings about family names.  I don’t mind the idea of Junior, the Third, the Fourth, etc., but when you have a family name chances are someone is going to nickname your child.  Don’t consider it rude, it’s just that differentiating one person from another is often a necessity for a family.  Be prepared to offer your own nickname.  It can save you a lot of trouble. 

3.  Step into the role of a class clown or bully.  This tip probably seems odd, but it has a serious place on the list.  For example, I really like the name Ashley.  But it was quickly pointed out to me that this name is gold as far as teasing is concerned.  Also, if you child has trouble pronouncing the name Ashley, there’s another opportunity for poking fun.  Kids have enough going on these days…don’t add to it by giving them a name that someone else can easily exploit.

4.  Tread lightly where initials are concerned.  I used to think initials were cute and don’t get me wrong, they work for some people.  But overall, I wonder whether using initials is a disservice to the child.  Look at it this way…when you go by your initials it’s somewhat of a shock to people when you use your real name.  And you’re going to have to use your real name at some point.  I remember someone who went by his initials.  Honestly, it was years before I knew what his name actually was.

5.  Keep the name to yourself…at least for a while.  Let it grow on you.  Walk it around a little bit.  Consider it from all angles.  How does it sound for someone at age 5, 10, 15, 50?  Does it still sound good to you?  When you finally decide to share your baby name–be prepared.  You will get feedback!  It’s not like you have to defend your baby name, but if you’re dead set on it you should be ready to back up your name choice.  Ultimately the decision is yours, but I remember in the name announcing process not really being prepared for some of the comments I received. 

6.  Think of your child.   It’s their name, not yours.  Sure you like it, but think about pronouncing it, spelling it, hearing it chanted at a football game, read aloud at an awards assembly, with the words Mister or Madam President in front of it.  Look at the name’s meaning and significance.  You shouldn’t base your name on some celebrity, but it doesn’t hurt to be knowledgable about whether or not the name will bring to mind a famous person. And lastly, pray that you will give your child a good name…and when you do, use their name well.  How quickly a name can go from good to bad based on tone and inflection.  Build your child up by using their name with love and never in a negative way.  Have you ever seen a child cringe when their name is called out?  Make it a practice to use their name with respect, after all you’re naming a child of God. 

All in all, I’m happy with our baby name choices.  It’s been fun to share with the kids the stories about how we chose their names and what their names mean.  I love to hear how others have arrived at their child’s name choice as well.  There’s only been one hiccup to Sean and Casey’s names…over the phone (especially) people often as me, “Are your children boys or girls or one of each?”  Yes… I thought that I had considered every aspect of their names.  Apparently, I had overlooked gender neutral naming.  LOL 😉

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.   Proverbs 22:1

😉 What I Now Know (W.I.N.K.) is a recurring entry on this blog.  The idea of WINK as an acronym popped into my head the other day while I was doing laundry.  You see, aside from being a slave to housework I actually have quite a bit of knowledge filed away in my overworked brain.  While I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, I know something about a few subjects that just might be worth sharing.  And just like that this new blog idea was born–WINK (What I Now Know).  I hope to share a little bit of what I’ve learned as a daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother and all-around regular, ordinary girl.  Look for ongoing posts, but What I Now Know (as a busy wife and mother) is not to promise weekly entries because life happens– and it usually happens when I want to blog!  (Here’s where if I could wink at you, I WOULD.)

“B” Christmas…or My Very Own Charlie Brown Christmas Special (starring ME!)

Bells will be ringing—the glad, glad news…oh what a Christmas to have the blues….

ASomething has been askew this Christmas.  I was sort of afraid to admit it until now since I proclaim this to be my favorite time of year.  It’s not that I’m without a loved one, it’s not that I have an insurmountable list of problems, worries or fears.  I’ve been trying to tell myself that it’s just the weather, but it sort of snowed the other day and that didn’t squelch the icky feeling.

I think if I’m really honest, I’ve missed Christmas–not in the “longing for” sense of the word, but more the “missed out” connotation of the word.  It’s a horrible feeling since Christmas is still two days away.  The dreadful feeling gave itself a name today–“B” Christmas, as in plan B.  (Remember that feeling in high school when you felt compelled to choose a B school, just in case you didn’t get into your college of choice or the time when you had to settle for your second favorite prom dress because your “friend” already snagged the one you were eyeballing!)  You know it’s not a bad thing…but it doesn’t feel all that great either.

I’ve been trying to hash out what went wrong…you know, analyze the variables and figure out what was different this year than in Christmas’ past.  Nerdy, but that’s how I work.  So, here’s what I’ve come up with:  the season actually began too early with Christmas cookies in October, followed by an unusually busy baking season, Halloween (the unofficial start to Christmas) came and went too quickly (and I didn’t take the kids trick-or-treating nor did we visit any pumpkin patches), outside commitments were plentiful, time-consuming and pressing (basketball practices, extra long soccer season, music concerts and church obligations), Thanksgiving was very structured and passed in a blink (I was super intentional this year about being grateful and in the moment…maybe too focused?), I planned too many homemade/handmade gift projects and of course, the mother of all sins…I stayed up way too late trying to make it all PERFECT!  I am guilty of trying to cram 48 hours into 24 hour days…but who isn’t?

In the end I paid for all of it.  I was tired, irritable, a time tyrant.  I spent all my waking hours in the kitchen and/or at the computer.  I planned each day out for maximum productivity and left out any creative and spontaneous time for fun.  Look, I’m not completely crazy…I had moments of being an on-the-ball mother, wife, church volunteer, and baker.  There were occasional moments to pause, but not enough moments to reflect or savor.  There were too many times I thought I wouldn’t get it all done, panic-stricken times when I was certain it wouldn’t come together, and way too many instances where I wondered why I had taken on so much followed by numerous vows to NEVER do any of this again!  I hate that the most.  The cold, hard fact is that I created this problem for myself.  If I had the Christmas blues I was the one standing there with sapphire color paint under my nails, smeared across my cheek and splotched all over my clothes.

In this “smurf-like” state I didn’t have many options–so I did what people with the blues generally do, I cried.  And wouldn’t you know it, I finally felt better.  It reminded me so much of the Charlie Brown Christmas special.  It’s filled with good intentions, projects and purpose.  Linus even recites scripture to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.  Charlie Brown wants to be the director, the leader that the Peanuts gang is looking for.  He wants to be the guy who’s going to make this Christmas special.  He doesn’t just take on this project for the benefit of those in the Christmas program, he takes it on to better himself…because he believes this venture will raise his Christmas spirit.  Yet, despite his best efforts we all remember the part where Charlie Brown walks out–dejected, sad, depressed and dispirited after he is ridiculed for choosing a tiny, sad excuse for a tree.

But here’s the best part:  It seems like out of nowhere everyone seems to get it.  The Peanuts gang suddenly see the tree in a new light!  They find that part of themselves that connects with the heart of Christmas.  It happens in a blink and without reason and in that cheesy-manner that only comes from 1960’s Christmas specials, but it happens.  I don’t know if the show’s creators would ever say it, but I think that’s the moment when God stepped in.  And in my very own Charlie Brown Christmas special (starring ME!) after those sad, blues-filled tears fell, God stepped in for me as well.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a 1960’s Christmas special by any stretch of the imagination.  It didn’t happen in an instant, but it did happen.  Slowly the heart of Christmas filled my spirit and the holy day that I love so much, the season I call my favorite…started to come back to me.

As I finish up this blog it’s now the day after Christmas.  My eyes tear up at the thought of this joyous Christmas 2012 that I almost missed out on.  I thank God for the opportunity to worship and celebrate His Son’s birth on Christmas Eve with an unburdened heart.  I rejoice in spending Christmas day with my husband and children and without any agenda…in fact, we all stayed in our pajamas ALL DAY.  I am overjoyed to say that I consider this Christmas a blessing.  And while my house is a disaster, the pine needles are piling up under the tree like sand, and I’m staring down at least several days worth of Christmas decor to put away, I finally feel content.  I’m still listening to Christmas music.  My husband asked me how long I planned to keep playing it and I didn’t have an answer–I still have a lot of Christmas to make up for.

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.” ― Peg Bracken

Fried Chicken Evangelism…or Happy Birthday, Steve!

I think I’ve met my match where birthday blogs are concerned.  I’ve been wanting to write this one for days, but I’ve had two things stacked against me.  First, trying to write this blog and keep it a secret from my husband (BTW, it’s HIS birthday) and the difficult task of condensing a relationship that means so much and expands a great deal of time into just a few paragraphs.  It’s a story whose chapters continue to be written quicker than I can type.  Yikes!

I could start with when we met.  Now that was funny.  I was interviewing for a reporter job in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  As I was meeting various staff members, off in the distance I could hear this loud, booming voice.  Upon turning the corner in the newsroom, I could see that the source of this voice was “holding court” in the center of the room.  I clearly remember that he was in the middle of telling a story, when he stopped and said, “You’re from Kansas?”  If memory serves me right, I think the look he gave me spoke volumes.  I’ll sum it up by saying that I’m certain he was searching my smile for a shock of wheat and wondering if I wore socks with my shoes, maybe even if I wore shoes at all.  You see, HE was from California…which explains his loud, all-about-me nature…which I would later learn he referred to as the “wonderfulness of Steve.”  This brief encounter concluded with various Kansas jokes…I’ll spare you the details but they had to do with telephone poles and cow patties.  Somehow this was the beginning of our love story.

Fastforwarding, I’ll share another one of my favorite Steve stories:  Our honeymoon.  Let’s just say we took a wrong turn back to the hotel following a Hawaiian midnight Christmas Eve mass (we sure know how to have fun don’t we?)  Down this dark, semi-spooky street we happened to walk past a woman.  Being the naive Kansas girl that I am, I just assumed she was waiting for her ride.  Turns out she was waiting alright…but her attire didn’t suggest she was on her way home from church.  As we moved past her and down to the street corner, Steve suddenly decides that he has to speak to her.  Maybe it was because she was all alone on a dark street, maybe it was because it was Christmas Eve and maybe it was because we had just come from church…regardless, Steve just had to go over there and talk to her–leaving me alone, standing on a dark (somewhat seedy) street corner!  I wasn’t privy to the conversation with this “lady of the night,” but anyone watching would have thought this scene was hilarious.  A man leaves his bride of less than a week, on a street corner, in a strange town, in the middle of the night, to minister to a prostitute.  As if this scene wasn’t hilarious enough, you should have seen the send-off she gave him…let’s just say she told him where to go and how to get there!

I should mention that my husband is now a pastor.  It’s his calling that has taken us from Arkansas, to California, and miraculously back to my home state of Kansas.  Before you think a pastor’s family life must be boring…let me tell you we’ve had some great adventures and God has blessed us with some incredible opportunities.  At the same time, Steve’s calling tests my skeptical nature on a regular basis.  Nevertheless, he continues to serve others in a variety of settings and throughout all hours of the day.  One of the things that I’ve really had to get used to are the constant phone calls.  Did you know that someone is always in need?  I had no idea.  But when your name is printed in the phone book and/or is associated with a church, many times you are the first person that people call.  Steve has given money, boxes of crackers, high-priced danishes (inside joke,) and arranged transportation and motel rooms for those who have come across hard times.  I’ll never forget the time he told me he was leaving the house to take fried chicken to a guy holed up in a motel room who didn’t have any money for food.  Don’t ask, it’s a really long story.

I’ve often thought of writing a book about Steve and his faith walk…gushing about how wonderful I think he is and how much I love and respect his story.  He’s a big part of bringing me to this point in my life…not just physically to this place, but mentally and especially spiritually.  I fell in love with Steve because he makes me laugh.  I  continue to be amazed by the depth of his heart and how much he genuinely loves and cares about people.  I admire his strong faith and the inspirational way that he seeks to share God with me, our family, our church, our community and just about anyone he meets.  If you know Steve, you know I could go on and on.  When I do write that book, I already have the title picked out…Fried Chicken Evangelism.  Happy birthday, Steve.  YOU ARE LOVED.

A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.  Proverbs 15:17 NLT