O come, O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel(Has) come to thee, O Israel!
~Latin hymn, 12th century, tr. John Neale 1818-1866
"My child, lean your head upon My bosom. I know well your weariness, and every burden I would lift. Never bury your griefs, but offer them up to Me. You will relieve your soul of much strain if you can lay every care in My hand Never cling to any trouble, hoping to resolve it yourself, but turn it over to Me. In doing so, you will free Me to work it out."
~Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved
Every Christmas season, beginning somewhere between Thanksgiving and December first, we come together as a family each evening and celebrate Advent by lighting candles, reading scripture, praying, worshipping, and reading Christmas literature that reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. When my kids were young we read Arnold Ytreeide's Advent books Jotham's Journey, Bartholemew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels. They were extra special because one of my sons is named Jotham. As my kids got older, they outgrew those books, so we moved on to more mature books. This year, we're reading Celebrate Christmas and the Beautiful Traditions of Advent. It's really nice to take a half hour with my famliy each night to slow down and focus on His coming.
The hymn above is my favorite Christmas song. It is very emotional for me to listen to the song and imagine the longing in the hearts of the Jews who were crying out to God for the Messiah to come. I know what it is to cry out to Him. I have recently discovered a verse that perfectly mirrors my heart right now: "Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. ~Lamentations 2:19" This has been a tough December. Lots of things changing, and I am weary.
In the crying out, the praying, I realized that He is also calling to me. "Oh, come." I am still reading those love-letters from the Frances Roberts book "Come Away My Beloved". They seem to be just what I need to hear, straight from His heart to mine. He calls to me, to come away. To hide in Him. To hand Him my burdens, my greifs, my heart. What a relief.
I will make it through this season. I have a safe place to go when things get too diffucult. This too shall pass. He calls to me, and I run to Him. And I wait for His second Advent. Someday He will come again.
All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution is prohibited without prior written consent.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
"Beauty may be the most poweful thing on earth. Beauty speaks. Beauty invites. Beauty nourishes. Beauty comforts. Beauty inspires. Beauty transcends. Beauty draws us to God. As Simone Weil wrote, 'The beauty of the world is almost the only way by which we can allow God to penetrate us . . . Beauty captivates the senses in order to obtain permission to pass straight through to the soul . . . The soul's inclination to love beauty is the trap God most frequently uses in order to win it.' "
~John and Stasi Eldredge - Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul - pages 131-132.
"From the arable river lands to the south, the approach to Montefiore appears a sequence of relaxed hills. In the late spring, when the puckers of red poppy blossom are scattered against the green of the season, it can look like so much washing, like mounds of Persian silk and Florentine brocade lightly tossed in heaps. Each successive rise takes on a new color, indefinably more fervent, an aspect of distance and time stained by the shadows of clouds, or bleached when the sun takes a certain position."
"My eye traces the foothills already gained, considers the alphabet of light that spells its unreadable words on the surface of the river."
~Gregory Maguire - Mirror, Mirror: A Novel - page 1 & 2.
Sometimes I get tired. I feel dusty, cramped, shadowy. Life is good, and I am blessed, but sometimes the routine, the details, the demands weigh on me, like a blanket of dust that covers an antique cabinet. Sometimes day-to-day living is as though I were trusting a crust of bread and a glass of water to nourish my soul --- and don't get me wrong, a hungry and thirsty soul is thankful for bread and water --- but sometimes I hunger and thirst for more.
And there is more to be had.
Sometimes I feel guilty when I take a break from my normal routine --- paperwork, schoolwork, housework, emails, parenting --- but sometimes I need to stop and share a morning at the coffee shop with my daughter, or drive through the neighborhood to see the trees changing color. Sometimes I need to spend an hour with a really good book, and a cup of warm tea. Sometimes I need to listen to beautiful music and light candles, and do nothing but daydream. And you know what I learned today?
Beauty nourishes me.
It feeds me, like nothing else can.
Why is it that we focus so on usefulness, and forget how necessary beauty is. I'm not talking about physical beauty -- though there is something to be said for the beauty of a strong forearm on a man, or a square chin, or a perfectly rounded hip on a woman --- but beauty is so much more . . .
A glorious mountain reaching into the clouds, a perfectly formed flower, a multi-colored tree, the way sunlight plays on the currents of a river --- these things shout that I am loved, that the world is right. I am nourished by beauty in the form of a song like Lucia Micarelli's "She's Like the Swallow". I am nourished, too, by written words that paint a breathtaking picture or transport me to another place and time.
So I spent today nourishing myself with beauty. I read Gregory Maguire, I listened to Lucia Micarelli, I drove around looking at trees that seem to be on fire, and will too soon, burn out and stand black against the snow and the overcast sky.
A Xanga friend who takes absolutely stunning photographs recently posted that she has submitted a photo that will be featured in National Geographic. The link she shared provided me with an hour of beautiful photos to browse.
The demands of life still beckon, signal to me of their immediacy, their urgency, their importance. And they will still be there when I am ready to give them my attention, perhaps later today or tomorrow. But when I return to them, I will be stronger, cleaner, washed clean of the dust and grime of the daily, and satisfied by the nourishment that beauty has provided my soul.
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Abide under the shelter of the lattice for I have betrothed you to Myself, and though you are sometimes indifferent toward Me, My love for you is at all times as a flame of fire. My ardor never cools. My longing for your love and affection is deep and constant.
Tarry not for an opportunity to have more time to be alone with Me. Take it, though you leave the tasks at hand. Nothing will suffer. Things are of less importance than you think. Our time together is like a garden full of flowers, whereas the time you give to things is as a field of stubble.
I love you, and if you can always, as it were, feel My pulse beat, you will receive insight that will give you sustaining strength. I bore your sins and I wish to carry your burdens. You may take the gift of a light and merry heart, for My love dispels all fear and is a cure for every ill. Lay your head upon My breast and lose yourself in Me. You will experience resurrection life and peace; the joy of the Lord will become your strength; and wells of salvation will be opened within you (see Song of Solomon 2:9-13).-----Jesus
(From the Book: Come Away My Beloved: The Intimate Devotional Classic Updated in Today's Language by Frances J. Roberts. - page 8 - The Call of Love)
Love-Letters, Checklists, Relationship, Coffee and a Bike
I just began reading this book in an effort to spend a few intimate moments alone with God each day. This in addition to my bible study, and the weekly corporate worship service at church on Sundays. I am a believer and follower of Christ. I attend church regularly, read and study the scriptures, serve as a minister in our youth group, and pray often. But I found I needed more intimacy in my relationship with God. So on Monday morning, I made some decaf coffee, and went to my bookshelf looking for a different devotional than the one I have been using. I am a book lover, and I have been known to purchase a book because it looks good, and then give it a home in my library, but not really read it for months or years. So, when I re-read the title of this volume, I knew in my heart that this was what God was calling me to do --- "Come away, my Beloved."
I remembered this book as a devotional --- each day's installment has a scripture, and a paragraph or two of insightful thoughts to digest as you spend time with God at the beginning of your day. When I opened it, and read the first 'chapter' I found that this was no ordinary devotional. Yes, there is a daily passage of scripture to read. But what follows that is a love-letter, from God, to the reader.
I love letters. I feel that letter writing is a lost art that is slowly surrendering to the electronic and internet age. Letters written in loving script on parchment, scented with perfume and sealed with wax are treasures; a stack of letters tied in ribbon and tucked away in a fabric covered box is a trove of endearment and delight! I love love-letters so much, my husband bought me a book a few years ago for Valentine's Day that is filled with reproductions of love-letters written by famous men and women to their lovers -- love-letters from Napoleon Bonaparte to Madame Marie Walewska, from Honore' Balzac to Evelina Hanska, from Dylan Thomas to his wife Caitlyn, from Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barret, and from Benjamin Franklin to Madame Helve'tius.
The letters from God, in this devotional struck a chord in my heart. So, I began to type them up, one each day, and print them out on paper. Then I wrote a response, and printed it as well. I have a small stack on my bedside table now, of six love-letters -- correspondence between the Creator of the Universe, the Lover of my Soul, and myself. It may seem a bit silly and romantic, but they are precious to me. Because they represent intimate communications from His heart to mine. And isn't that intimacy what followers of Christ were created for? There are not words to explain how satisfying it is to sit and read a letter from God in the morning, and then write one in response. Or how taking a few moments to open the pages of a previous letter to linger over the loving words can settle my anxious heart, and quiet my spirit when I need it most. This is a powerful thing for me.
Last night, after a long conversation with my son Tyler, who only came to live with his Dad and I three months ago, I realized that he never really understood the difference between believing in God and doing good things and having a real, intimate relationship with Him. To Tyler, being a Christian was like carrying around a checklist of all the right things to do. If you can check everything off of your list today, you are a Christian, and you are okay. We talked for a long time about his relationship with his father, my husband, and I gave him the following example:
Imagine that you wake every morning to find a note on the refrigerator from your Dad. He is already gone to work, but there are some things he wants you to do today, and you hold the checklist in your hand. You work hard to complete every task on the list. Pleasing your father, and being a good son is important to you. At the end of the day, you place the checklist back on the fridge, and everything has been checked off. Your father, who has not returned from work, will have to read the list after you've gone to bed. You feel good because you've accomplished your goals, and completed the list of tasks, proving you are a good son.
The next morning, you find another list, and your dad is already out the door, to work. The cycle begins again. This continues for several days, and you find yourself disenchanted with the idea of checking the list, and working all day to please a father who doesn't even spend time with you. There is no relationship, so the incentive to please your father, and be a good son is not long-lasting, and in your frustration and discouragement, you decide that you cannot be a good son. It is too difficult, and carries no weight of satisfaction of reward.
Now, imagine that the story is different. You wake every morning and have breakfast with your father. You see him off to work, and look forward to his return every evening. After work the two of you play basketball together, you talk about everything and nothing, you laugh and joke. You develop an intimate relationship with each other.
Soon, your father tells you there are some things he would like you to do. He makes a list, a checklist of sorts, and gives it to you every day. You are happy to do the things he asks. because you desire to please him. He praises you each day when he sees your checklist completed, and he is understanding and merciful when you miss something, or need his help to complete it. It's not difficult to continue being the best son you can, because your love relationship with your father compells you to do so.
In both instances the father is God. The checklist is what you read in the Bible about pleasing Him. The difference in being disillusioned and discouraged, or being a good, godly son, is relationship. What we were created for.
Tyler really took this to heart, and this morning, over coffee we spent a few moments reading scripture and discussing his relationship with God. I explained that if you ask Him, God will speak to you in His Word. You can tell Him what you're dealing with, ask for help on your test, thank Him for things, and spend time in His presence, developing relationship. He wants to help you with anything you're concerned about, and He wants to spend time just hanging out with you. Sometimes, He will even do something unexpected, to show that He loves you, and it will be something tailor made to delight you. After a few minutes in God's word, Tyler went outside to the back porch to be alone with God and talk. He came back in a few minutes later, and proceeded to do his chores, eat his breakfast and start his school work. My heart was thrilled to see him stepping out in faith, and pursuing a relationship with God.
My other son, Jotham works part time at a hamburger joint down the street. Recently he and Tyler were given a bike that was broken and was about to be discarded. They invested their own money and sweat into the bike, and fixed it up. For a while Jotham rode the bike to work and back. He would stash the bike in the back of the store, behind the trash dumpster, of all places. One afternoon a week or so ago, he came walking home and reported that someone had stolen the bike. It was a bitter pill for the boys to swallow.
About an hour after Jotham went to work this morning, I got a phone call from the hamburger place. I saw the name on the caller ID, and my mother's heart skipped a beat. I was imagining a trip to the emergency room, or some other bad news. But on the other end of the line was Jotham's voice. "Guess what, Mom. I got the bike back! A guy came by on it, and I went out and told him it was mine. He argued with me, but I didn't back down. He finally gave me the bike and walked off. Now it's locked in the storeroom, and I'm gonna go get a bike chain and lock when I get off work, so noone can steal it again."
It was great news.
About twenty minutes later, the house was quiet, and Tyler and my youngest daughter were working on school work. Tyler got up, and came into my office to talk. "Hey Tauna, remember what you said this morning?" he asked, with a smile. "I prayed about the bike today." Another grin. And he went back to his computer.
...Isn't it awesome how God can use a bike to say,
"I love you."
"I know where you are."
"I hear your prayers."
"And I want a real relationship with you."
Sounds like a love-letter to me.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
I bequeath to you today one little girl in a crisp dress, two twinkling eyes, a happy laugh that ripples all day long and a flash of shiny hair that bounces in the sun when she runs.
I trust you'll treat her well.
She's slipping out of the back yard of my heart this morning and skipping off down the street to her first day of school -- and never again will she be completely mine. Frail and proud she'll wave her young and independent hand this morning and say "good-bye" and walk with little lady steps to the school house.
Now she'll learn to stand in lines and wait by the alphabet for her name to be called. She'll learn to tune her ears for the sounds of school bells and deadlines and she'll learn to giggle and gossip and look to the ceiling in a disinterested way when the little boy across the aisle sticks out his tongue at her.
And now she'll learn to be jealous.
She'll learn how it feels to be hurt inside.
She'll learn how not to cry.
No longer will she have time to sit on the front porch steps on a summer day and watch an ant scurry across the crack in the side walk. Nor will she have time to pop out of the bed with the dawn and kiss the lilac blooms in the morning dew. No, now she'll worry about those important things. Things like grades, and which dress to wear and whose best friend is whose. The books and learning will replace the blocks and dolls. Now she'll find new heroes.
For five full years now, I've been her sage and Santa-Claus and pal and playmate and mother and friend. Now she'll learn to share her love with her teachers, which is only right, but no longer will I be the smartest, greatest woman in the whole world.
Today when that school bell rings for the first time she'll learn what it means to be a member of a group with all of its privileges and disadvantages too. She'll learn in time that proper young ladies do not laugh out loud or kiss dogs or keep frogs in pickle jars in bedrooms or even watch ants scurry across cracks in sidewalks in the summer.
Today she'll learn for the first time that all who smile at her are not her friends and I'll stand at the front porch and watch her start out on that long lonely journey to becoming a woman.
So world I bequeath to you today one little girl in a crisp dress, two twinkling eyes, a happy laugh that ripples all day long and a flash of shiny hair that bounces in the sun when she runs.
I trust you'll treat her well.
~Author Unknown (to me, at least)
It has been a melancholy month for me. I have avoided writing about it, because it's been a little painful, even though it's a normal time of transition. But now, I can avoid it no longer. It must come out of me, and so I finally turn to a blank page, and write...
First, I want to share a photo that, when I first saw it, made me both laugh and cry:
This little darling is my neice. She is six. She is pure joy to me, and maybe it's because I have learned what happens when little girls grow up, but I cherish every minute I get with her. She reminds me of my oldest daughter Sarah, so very much at that age.
The picture speaks to me on a deep level. It reveals such joy and innocence -- and complete abandon.
When my Sarah was this age, I thought her childhood would last forever. And though I remember sending her off to her first day of school, there came a day when she was entering sixth grade and I chose to take her back, and homeschool her, and her siblings. The reasons were several, and immaterial to my point today, but if you wonder why I chose this route, ask me! I will gladly share my story.
Anyway, the homeschool journey has been a huge success for Sarah, and for me. Amazing. It has been the same for her brother and sister as well. Though the choice to homeschool isn't for everyone, it works for us, and the results have been better than I could have dreamed.
This year Sarah was a Senior, and this summer, I figured grades, and issued my first High School transcript. Sarah graduated with honors, and it was a milestone. Her dad and I took Senior pictures, and they were beautiful.
We had a crazy, busy summer, and in August, she enrolled in two classes at the local community college. It was exciting to go with her and tour the campus, and help her choose classes. She also started a new job last spring, and is working close to 40 hours a week, to save for a car, and any extra college expenses for the Spring semester, when she will take a full load of classes.
We threw a huge graduation party for her on Labor Day weekend. Surprised her with a video of photos from birth to this year, complete with songs ranging from "Blower's Daughter" and "My Funny Valentine" to "Sara Smile". She plans to live at home for a couple of years, taking classes here, and then she will transfer to an out-of-state college. Right now she's considering a couple of schools in Dallas. So, I figure it will be a gradual leaving-home process. It's an exciting time, and most of it is good. Though, once in a while, she pulls away, abruptly, in her quest for independence, and my heart is left feeling sore and bruised. I know it's a natural process, but it's not easy.
I am beginning to realize, that something has shifted without warning. For the first time in seven years I am not planning lessons for Sarah. She is a student elsewhere, learning from others. She is working full time at Applebee's and I rarely see her.
She comes home at night, after a long day of school and work, only to slip into her room -- fall to sleep -- and wake early in the morning to do it all again. I am thankful to spend a few minutes with her at the end of the day, or go to Starbucks and chat over coffee with her for an hour on the weekend. She is busy. Her life is full, and she can only see ahead to her exciting future.
As it should be.
But I can see the past. And I hear the clock ticking. I hold my niece and listen to her stories about school, and her puppy, and her new purse. And I am homesick for the young Sarah. I am homesick for the Sarah of last year, the Sarah of last week.
I know the day is coming quickly, when she will pack her bags and move even further away from me, down the road of life. I hope on that day we will celebrate, and rejoice. That is our plan. I expected that I would cry on that day, after she was gone. I didn't know I would cry so much this summer and fall, as her life changed so swiftly before my eyes.
But I do cry.
Today, I am lonely for her conversation, her face, her presence somewhere in the house. Somehow she snuck out into the great big world -- without any fanfare. And I sit here at home, and stare at her empty chair, and listen for her laughter, that is not there.
World, please treat her well.
Friday, July 28, 2006
"The road to a friend's house is never long."
"One hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, how big my house was, or what kind of car I drove. But the world may be a little bit better, because I was important in the life of a child."
"Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches."
~Proverb 24:3-4, New King James Bible
We purchased our home only four months ago, and it is still a work in progress. We still have boxes of stuff in the closets, and in every room, there are unfinished projects. But we love to have friends and family come to visit. They often remark, while sitting at my table, that it feels like home. That makes my day!
So, come on in, the door is open, and if you have a while, we can drink some coffee or tea, and chat a while.
In the cool of the Spring, I sat on this porch and watched the clouds, and neighborhood kids fly by. The flowers are Sarah's project, and they are just beginning to bloom.
The flag is a constant. I am very patriotic, and fly my flag daily in honor of my grandfather, my brother in law, and all the other soldiers who serve our country, so I can sleep safely at night. I can't wait until this fall, when I can return to the porch to contemplate nature and other deep thoughts, but right now the outdoor thermometor reads 98 degrees, and it's too hot to be outside, so COME IN!
Yes, the welcome mat is well worn, and dirty. I guess that means we enjoy many guests. the grass on the porch also says I am too busy to sweep. Oh well, at least I can say that the welcome mat does its' job well!
As per the rules, here's the first 'required' photo. Eventually this door will be brick red, in order to better welcome our guests. I bought paint yesterday, but it may take a while before I get to it. The knocker, through which the wreath ribbon is threaded, was a gift from my son, Jotham. I don't know whether you can make it out, but it is a lion's head. My son is a great fan of Narnia and Aslan.
When the weather is nice, my front door is usually open like this. I love to be able to see out into the street, and to present a welcoming sight for any guests. I do lock the glass door, though.
Since the weather is pretty warm, go ahead and close the door. Helps my A/C cool the place! The sign over the door reads "Blessings", and that is my prayer for anyone who crosses the threshold.
Toss your keys in the basket or the bowl by the door...
Here is where I break from the rules, and instead of showing you the unfinished sheetrock in my family room, I will show you the library. Technically, my family spends more time in this room than the family room anyway. We homeschool, and this is where my kids do their school work, update their Xangas and MySpaces, and IM with their friends. Networked computers help me grade papers and retrieve files digitally. I love it. It's the next best thing to wireless networking -- which I enjoy on my laptop!
My husband built the bookshelves, and they are un-stained. We will be staining them someday. It's on the to-do list. The fireplace is one of two, and I can't wait to light a fire, and put up Thanksgiving and then Christmas decorations.
The walls I did myself. They are a faux finish of "October" (orange) and "Autumn" (gold) and look better in person than the camera allows. When I was painting them one afternoon, my neighbors across the street thought the room was on fire. It was really funny. The hardwood floors were stained by my husband Larry and my daughter Sarah. She had brown feet for weeks afterwards. It was a riot. But now they are beautiful! Between these chairs is a basked with more books. It's where I read my Bible, and pray, read my magazines, and talk with the kids when they are in a chatty mood. These chairs are also the favorite perch of my three cats, who were strangely absent when I pulled out the camera. Let me brush the cushion off, before you sit down, so you won't leave with cat hair on your backside.
No, I am not neurotic about knowing the time, but I do love clocks. The library is my clock room. This little table holds a TV/VCR Combo, perfect for educational videos, and in the summer, it doubles as a Playstation / XBox location. (One of three in a house of five teenagers.)
One of the required photos for this tour was a shot of where I do my blogging. My desk, built by my husband, sits in the corner of my kitchen. I am surrounded by four dry erase calendars, to help me keep track of stuff for the mortgage company I work for, the publisher I work for, our church's youth outreach and our household stuff. Above my laptop is a huge whiteboard where I post pics of my kids, and write important notes and phone messages. I have twelve different colors of dry erase markers, because I am a very visual and creative person, and need lots of space and color to write/think things out.
My desktop is unusually clean today, but I have my cup of honey green-tea, and I am ready to write!
My kitchen is decorated in Coca-Cola memorabilia. I posted a while back about the fact that I don't drink Coke - but love the new Coke Blak. Above my calendars I have coke tins and post cards, matchbooks and marbles. In this shadow box I also have several mini Coke bottles, one from Israel, and two that were bottled in 1912. The Coke in them has turned to an oily black sludge. (The white box you see is a very loud alarm. It only sounds when we accidently type the wrong code into the system. It would scare away any would be bad guys, though. And probably leave them deaf for several days.)
This counter, opposite my desk holds all the bills and mail. In the cabinets and drawers are all my school books, my notebooks, paper, pencils, post-its and such. In the red frame above the light switch are several hand-written receipts for Coca-Cola delivery. The oldest dates back to September of 1938, where the charge for a case of Coca-Cola totaled 80¢.
The rest of the kitchen is pretty normal, with touches of Coca-Cola througout. Yes, those are dirty dishes in my sink. But they will get washed today. In fact, we run the dishwasher twice a day, and still, dishes in the sink are unavoidable. One of the by-products of a house full of hungry teenagers. I wouldn't trade full sink for an empty house, though.
Here's the stove, and the one-cup coffe/tea maker. My cup is on the counter, now. Waiting for my daughter to finish making her coffee, so I can have anothe cup of tea. Would you like a cup?
This counter leads on back around to my desk. The two rooms you've seen so far are where I spend the majority of my days. I used to have a tiny kitchen, and in the family room we set up four computers, the dining room table a couch and a tv. We didn't really have room to move without bumping into each other. This house is such a blessing. I am grateful.
The last room on the tour is my master bedroom. It is huge, and I love it as well. The bed is situated on the red accent wall, and the other three walls are gold. If you don't have one of those space age foam matress toppers, I highly recommend it. I don't wake up feeling so old in the mornings since we bought ours. This room has two seating areas. The recliner faces the television, and on the opposite wall is a black iron chandelier I made from a pot rack and tealight lanterns. It looks really cool with candles lit. I plan to put a black iron bistro set under it, so we can have an occasional romantic dinner behind closed doors.
On the wall opposite the bed is this huge clock. It measures 2 1/2 foot square. It sets itself by radio control, and tells us the temperature and humidity. It is supposed to be a patio clock, but the black iron went so well with my bistro set idea, that I couldn't resist. Besides, I never have to wake up at night and wonder what time it is. I can see this clock in the dark without my glasses. This spring, when daylight savings time kicked in, I stayed up until 2:00 am to see this clock "spring forward". The hands moved of their own accord - from 2 o'clock, forward to 3 o'clock. It took a full fifteen minutes. I wonder how long it will take it to "fall back".
Well, I am so glad you came to visit. I am sorry I have talked more than listened. Why don't you grab your coffe, and we'll have a seat. You can talk for a while, and I'll listen. And if you have to leave, then please come back soon!
Thursday, July 27, 2006
"There's something like a fine gold thread running through a man's words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself."
~John Gregory Brown, Author
"Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope."
~Bill Cosby, Comedian
"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was."
~Anne Sexton, Author
Today, my father celebrated forty years working for the same company. Forty years of showing up for work every day, working hard for those he loved, doing a good job with a good attitude and I never once heard him complain.
My Dad Leonard (where I get my middle name 'Len')
My dad and mom divorced when I was in third grade, so he wasn't always there when I came home. But he was always there. He worked hard and provided for us. My sister and I always knew he loved us, and wanted the best for us.
I have good memories of my father when I was growing up. He is a really funny man. When I think back on the little things, they always make me smile:
When I was young I remember he pulled up to a stopsign at the corner of Tuxedo Blvd. and Madison Ave. He opened his door, and closed it again, and being curious as always, I asked him "Why did you do that?" He convinced me that the letters on the stopsign meant "STop...OPen your door...and close it." I still think of that day when we drive past that corner.
Whenever we asked Dad where he got something he always said, "At the getting place."
Dad always had several decks of cards around his apartment. We played lots of Spades and Canasta. I remember one deck of cards that was HUGE! Another was very tiny. He had decks with his initials on the backs, a deck where the cards were circles, and another where the cards were triangles. He had so many strange decks, and we loved to play with them. Last week I was shopping and I found three decks of cards. One was shaped like a surfboard, one like a lighthouse, and one like a Tiki. My husband gave me a weird look when I put them in the shopping cart, but I had to have them. They reminded me of Dad.
We still play cards when we get together. Some things never change.
My dad could stack 25 quarters on his elbow, and flip them all into his hand.
He could squirt water through his hands and hit my sister and I anywhere in the swimming pool.
Dad always rode a motorcycle when I was young. I remember when he had a cast on his leg, wrapped it in plastic bread bags and rode his motorcycle to work in the snow.
My dad loved to take the boat out to the lake and go fishing. I remember one summer we went out and spent hours catching catfish. Another time we went frog-gigging. (If you're a city-folk you might have to google that term. Here's a tutorial.) And one day I still remember. We spent the day on the lake in the boat. My sister and I finally talked Dad into letting us swim, though we didn't have our suits. We jumped over the side of the boat in our t-shirts and cut-offs, and splashed and laughed. It was so much fun. At some point late in the day, the boat wouldn't start back up, and we had to paddle to shore. Then we had to walk around the lake, in the dark, to the place where our truck and trailer were parked. As our flashlights lit the way, the air was cool, and we were freezing in our wet clothes, but we had a great time.
I remember waking up with my sister on a saturday morning at dad's apartment and making scrambled eggs for the three of us. I don't remember if the eggs were even edible or not, but Dad always seemed to enjoy them.
When I was very small, I remember spending many late nights at the bowling alley. Dad bowled on a league, and my sister and I were his cheerleaders. I can remember several times when he would bowl strike after strike, and come very close to a perfect 300 score. I know he bowled a perfect game more than once, but what I remember was the anticipation. I would close my eyes, hold my breath and cross my fingers hoping for another strike. Later, when I returned to one of those bowling alleys as an adult, I felt strangely nostalgic. It was like going home.
I remember the day I got married at nineteen. Both of my dads walked me down the aisle. I was so nervous, but what I remember most about that moment is that I could feel them both shaking on either side of me, and both of them had something in their eyes.
Not to long ago, my sister and I got to take a trip to Galveston with my Dad. We left behind the husbands and the kids, and it was just the three of us. It was like old times. We walked along the beach, drove all over the island, ate delicious seafood, and laughed and laughed. I don't think I will ever forget that day, and how special it made me feel for us to have him all to ourselves.
Dad and my Sister
Daddy and Me
I really wish I could be with my father to celebrate his 40 year anniversary with the company today. I am really very proud of him, though, and thankful to call him "Dad!"
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
"Of all eloquence, the nickname is the most concise. Of all arguments, the most unanswerable."
~William Hazlitt, British essayist. (1778-1830)
"Chance is a nickname of Providence."
~Chamfort, French playwright. (1741-1794)
"My feet ain't got nothing to do with my nickname, but when folks get it in their heads that a feller's got big feet, soon the feet start looking big."
~Leroy 'Satchel' Paige, American Baseball Pitching Legend (1906-1982)
Just for fun, I think I will post in response to DoWhaChaDo89's challenge.
I wonder what nicknames you all have, or gave to other people...How and why did you pick their nickname or get your nickname?
Proverbs 22:1 says "A good name is more desired than great riches." Do you think that God has a special nickname for you...what would it be?
Those silly little terms of endearment that say "Funny face, I love you."
When I hear the nicknames others use for their spouses, or children, I often think they sound funny. For instance, our pastor calls his wife "Honeybun". I guess it fits her, but it sounds a little odd to hear her called by that name. However, when I hear my nicknames, or use nicknames for my kids, they are sentimental, charming, and make me feel warm and fuzzy all over. :-) I suppose that warm fuzzy feelining is why people use nicknames for their loved ones.
I guess it all started when I was just learning to talk. I was the first grandchild, and couldn't say "Grandma" or "Me-Maw", so I decided to call my maternal-grandmother "Mimi". Ten grandchildren and seventeen great-grandchildren later, she is "Mimi" to just about all of them.
When each of my kids were born, I remember making a special effort to choose names that met certain criteria. Among other things, I wanted names that were not easily shortened into nicknames, like "Willie", or "Sissy", or "Ginny". Not sure why that was important, but I think I considered my kids names as very important, and didn't want someone else to call them by names I didn't like. We ended up choosing Sarah Jesica, Jotham Samuel and Jericho Elisabeth - with strict instructions that they were not to be called Jessie, Sammy, Jeri or Lizzy. :-)
Boy was I naive! Grandma, (my Mom) found cute mutations for all three of my kid's names in a matter of days. Now that they are teenagers, it's nice that only grandma calls them by their special name, whether it's "SaraJes", "Joth", or "Jer".
You know, my mom is really good at this nickname thing. She used to call me "Tunafish", and "Sassafrass" when I was growing up. As the grandkids grew, I heard nicknames from my childhood revived --- like "Suggie-Mouse" (sugar mouse), "Sunshine", "Sassy", "Susie-Q" and "Morning Glory". Funny how those words can still bring a smile to my heart.
Larry and I don't have cute pet names for each other. We call each other "Honey", and "Sweetie" occasionally. But that doesn't mean that our home and our lives aren't filled with quirky, sweet names. My nineteen year old daughter, Sarah, is the only one that still calls me "Mommie". Jotham calls me "Mom", and Jericho calls me "Mama". When he and I were dating, Sarah called Larry "Pretend-Daddy". Now he's the only "Dad" for all three of the kids, and sometimes "Larry the Cucumber" or "Larry Boy" (Veggie Tales) and "Larry the Cable Guy" (Because he works for a cable company.) Most of you know me as "TaunaLen".
My youngest, Jericho, has more nicknames that any of us. Her friends call her "Jazzy", "Jaz" "Jeri", "J", "Babe", "Ska", "Krazy", "Jer", "Squirt", "Shorty" and "Monkey". When she was little, Larry used to call her "Jeri-choo". Jotham, he called "Joe-Thumb" and we still call him "Joth" along with "Jot"and "Jo".
A few years ago, at camp, someone came up with a nickname for the whole Scroggins family. We spend a lot of time working as a team in our Youth Outreach, so this person decided to refer to each of us Scroggins as an individual "Scroggi" (sounds like scraw-guy). That didn't last forever, but at camp, Jotham is still the "Scrog-guy" and Jericho is now the "Scrog-girl".
Sarah works at a restaurant where they wear name-tags. Just for fun, they are always changing what's written on them. On any given day, you can go in and find her being called "Destiny", "Sugar", "Maradonna" (during the World Cup), "Shawn" or "Amber". Around here she's knows as "SaraJes", "Cera", or "Sarie".
When I was eleven, my baby brother Derek was born. (known as "Sunshine" and "D" to my mom - "Bradford" to they guys on the job) We were pretty close growing up, and still are, for that matter. When Derek was about four, there was a particular little girl that was his best friend. She had an older brother, my age. When Derek heard her call her older brother "Bubba" he picked up on it. When he started calling me "Bubba" we thought it was cute. And now, twenty-five years later, it still slips out in conversation when he's not paying attention.
Now I am sure that for many people, the nickname "Bubba" brings to mind a flannel-shirted, red-suspendered, snaggle-toothed trucker with a beer belly, and a tobacco stained grin. But when I hear it, I go back to the eighties, and my baby brother thinks I am the coolest big sister around.
Does God have a nickname for me? I am sure He does. Though I can't decide what it might be. I do know that He often reminds me -- "Child, you are 'Mine'." That 'nickname' means a whole lot to me.
I hope I am not the only one who does this. Now and then, when I am in that place between awake and asleep I hear my mother's voice calling me like when I was a child. Usually I hear "Tauna", as she calls, like I'm running late for the school bus, or forgot to do the dishes. Only occasionally, I hear her say, "Come on "Sassafrass" let's go..."
What nickname do you hear?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
"You're beautiful. You're beautiful. You're beautiful, it's true."
~James Blunt, "You're Beautiful"
"Buttercup, a farm girl in the kingdom of Florin (between what's now Sweden and Germany; this was before Europe), wasn't the world's most beautiful woman at age fifteen, nor even the third most beautiful nor the sixth. In point of fact, she was barely in the top twenty, and that based on potential, for she hated fussing over her looks. What she liked to do was to ride her horse and taunt the farm boy."
~William Goldman, "The Princess Bride"
"I want to be beautiful, and make you stand in awe. Look inside my heart and be amazed. I want to hear you say who I am is quite enough. I just want to be worthy of love, and beautiful."
~Bethany Dillon, "Beautiful"
I've been reading this book, "Captivating, Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul". It's a tough one, because it really gets personal. And I tend to cover some things, unwilling to deal with old wounds. So, I had put it aside for a while, to digest, and maybe, to stall.
Then the issue of beauty blindsided me.
I recently got a haricut. A dear friend of the family cuts hair for us, and usually does an amazing job. We love him very much, and are always excited when he comes over to do our hair. Long story short (really short), I guess I didn't make myself clear, because when he was finished with my hair, it was SHORT, and I was devastated. After he left, I cried most of the night. I hated it. And there was nothing I could do about it.
I was very depressed, and when my mom called me on the phone the next day, she could hear in my voice that something was wrong. I explained what had happened, and she listened. I told her I felt like the one attribute I had that I felt was pretty was now gone.
Mom talked for a long time, and I won't go into all the details here, but she did point out that I have had an unhealthy view of my physical appearance since I was very young. Even when I was 14, and weighed 125 pounds, I worried constantly about how people saw me, and was unhappy with my appearance. I realized that I have long felt like people pitied me, because though I have the potential to be very pretty, I have ruined that potential by putting on so much weight, and that is all they see.
Strange that even recently people have commented to my daughter how pretty I am, and how attractive a couple my husband and I make. I have trouble believing them. I mistrust their intentions. How can anyone see me in any way other than the way I see myself. It shouts at me. It's unavoidable.
She asked me what I saw when I looked at my husband, my children, my sister, even herself. She pointed out the physical flaws she had, and asked me, is that what you see? Tough questions. Because I don't see those things when I look at my loved ones. Why was I believing the lie that they saw those things in me. Why did I care whether those who don't love me saw those things or not?
So, mom advised me to be thankful. To step out in surrender to God's perfect plan, and if I couldn't be thankful for the haircut, at least accept it as part of His desire for me, at this time in my life. It was tough, and I knew I couldn't be thankful for it, but I did commit to accepting it.
And when I surrendered, God went to work on my heart.
I spent some time on xanga that afternoon, going from site to site, following comments, and discovering new people. I happened upon a link to a woman's blog. She is a young mother, an attorney, and she has melanoma. I didn't examine her photo, I read her posts. And she was beautiful. I wish I had saved the link, but she taught me what she had to teach that day.
I read posts by some of the most beautiful women I know, whom I have never seen in person, and realized that I find them to be beautiful -- because of their stories, because of their hearts, what they share in their posts. People like Beatrice and Mattie. They share their jokes and poems, and stories, their hopes and dreams, their frustrations, their lives, and I am richer because I have been allowed to read them.
I caught part of a (TiVoed) music awards show, where soldiers were being honored. Six soldiers came out on stage, and they had all been injured in battle. One was a woman. She was short, stocky, white haired, and far from the accepted definition of beauty, but my first thought (whispered by God) was "I'd love to hear her story. Her sacrifice and courage are beautiful."
I thought about the beautiful women in my life, my mother, my aunts, my sister, my daughters. I find their beauty in their lives, their stories. Even my grandmother who sits in a nursing home day after day, and doesn't know us. A theif has stolen her memory, but her story lives on in those who love her, like me.
God reminded me of a recent trip to Oklahoma City, where we spent some time in the mall. There was a Thomas Kincaide Gallery, and my daughters and I wandered in. I have always enjoyed Kincaide's paintings, and as we oohed, and ahhed over our favorites, the young woman working there explained that there were layers upon layers of paint on each canvas. The amazing thing we learned, that day, is that Kincaide's paintings are painted in such a way that they change with the changing light of day. The young woman demonstrated by turning on a light that was directed at one painting, and adjusting it so that it looked like morning light on the painting. Then she adjusted again, so we could see what the painting looked like in the light of a sunset.
As beautiful as those paintings were, the difference made by turning on that light was absolutely breathtaking. I realize, now, that this was a lesson in beauty. We have all been designed by God, and we have our own outward beauty, it's true. But that outward beauty is rather flat, until you turn on the Light. My true beauty, the beauty that is seen by those who care about me, friends, family, God, can only be seen in the light of Life. My story -- and His love shining out from inside of me, that's what makes me beautiful.
It's true, we become more lovely when we know we are loved. And the beautiful people I am grateful to know all shine with a light that does not come from without, but from within. I am blessed to have been exposed to their beauty. And as I see the beauty in others, I can accept that there is beauty in me. And it shines through.
This whole concept is a bit like wearing a new set of clothes -- stiff, and a little uncomfortable -- but I can see how this lesson is changing me. I see myself differently, in light of the beauty I see in others. Little by little, these new clothes are becoming familiar.
God is still working on my heart. And yes, I am reading the book again. But I am closer than I have ever been to trusting Him with this part of my heart, to believing what He says about my beauty, my value, my woman-ness. I am thankful for this lesson.
I might even be thankful for this short haircut, soon.