Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Staff retreat this week....

More later. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thanks, Joe Cocker. I Needed That

Major props to Cole Phillips who blogs and pastors a church in Kyle, Texas. He posted this on his blog (I'm doing church research - I'm WORKING!) and I am ever so grateful.

I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

Joe Cocker fans? You'll get it. Young folks? Well, there was this guy, see...and there was this big festival in New York, see....

Ah, never mind. Just watch it, because you'll probably laugh anyway.

You've gotta hang in there past the first verse.

What do you think?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Study Break Pictures

Here are a few pics and some random details about last week's study break. It was all too quick, but it sure supplied a lot of bang for the buck! I really enjoyed the time away, for a multitude of reasons. Recently I've been reading Ruth Haley Barton's Invitation to Solitude and Silence and reminding myself how amazing and incredible mere silence can be. We are so busy with ourselves that the concept of being still and quiet and simply sitting is almost inconceivable. I experienced some of that - not nearly enough - but it was a great reminder of the power of presence- not mine, but God's! Barton says that it takes us getting out of the world, completely disconnected, simplified and reduced to no activity, no productivity, in order to recognize the truth about who God is. 'Cause He ain't me. And I need to stop thinking that I'm in control of everything.

Anyway, it was a great trip. The photo at the top is for Syd, my own trombonist. This guy was stunning. I caught him, pre-show, out back warming up. He was among a group of stellar musicians who play just for the love of the music. It was wonderful.
Aside from my awesome time wandering in the woods, I was so blessed to sit at this Steinway and play for several hours. I approached it, alone in the 300 seat auditorium, with reverance, understanding that it was something like a holy moment. Indeed, I just wanted to be with God, after silence, by expressing something through my fingers. So I played....I started with 'Be Thou My Vision', one of my favorite melodies of all time, and I cruised through jazz and pop and blues and worship songs and complete improv stuff and whatever floated through my head. It was cathartic and almost surreal. The longer I played, the more I felt as if I "knew" the piano; I was very aware of the relationship we developed as it responded to my touch. It was really cool.

I took a break for lunch and then went back to play some more, and when I came back in and threw the lights, it was a different experience; not new, not awe-inspiring, just comfortable. I found that very interesting. I brought some pieces to play and dug into a bit of Mozart, which I find a great blessing. The man knew beauty - he wrote the most stunning melodies, and then wrapped them in their simplicity around complicated harmonic and rhythmic interplay to produce masterpieces. I love Mozart sonatas....
When I left, it was a good drive. Through the mountains, no cell service, so I cranked up the iPod with some Martha Munizzi and got ready to relax with my cran-water and drive. I cruised right along, until I encountered the pinnacle of small town excitement - a parade! I happened along at the tale end of the event - in fact, it was as if I was in the parade, because folks still lined the streets as I rolled over horse dung and followed the sound of the band. I rolled my windows down and said 'hi' to folks as I sat, parked, or moved, at 5 mph. It was surreal, truly. One guy threw a piece of candy into my car and said, "Enjoy the parade!" Another guy was offering cans of Coors to everybody who drove by; I declined and he drunkenly howled, "Hey! You look like a teacher!" To which I smiled. It was a very interesting half hour....and later in the trip, before I arrived home, I got in at the beginning of another parade. Just a good weekend for small community celebrations, I guess.
I stopped at a road side park in the National Forest to take a break. I hadn't had time to do my journal and Bible reading that day, so I decided to do it at a picnic table in this setting. It was special and a memorable - and beautiful - time. Of course, I kept fighting off thoughts like, "Woman Traveling Alone Disappears From Roadside Rest; Nothing Left Behind But A Bottle of Cran-water and A Bible". It was a little freaky.
I went closer to the stream, reliving my childhood when I could have spent hours playing in any source of running water - the ditch, the spring behind the house, the river. It was beautiful and melodic, the water running and dancing over rocks and fallen trees. I kicked off my shoes and stood in the midst of it all, saying prayers of gratitude to God for such simple beauty.
Coming out of the mountains, I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of the valleys and hillsides. I find myself wondering about those who live, surrounded by rolling meadows and mountains in their backyards. It is a world far-removed from that in which I live.

I want to get there more often, even if only in my head, my own stillness and centeredness.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bloggers, Bloggers Everywhere

My friend Patrick is blogging. He's a great guy, an amazing musician and one of my favorite people.

Show him a little love, willya?

Click here and say hi!

Estelle Getty died today. She was always my favorite Golden Girl, I think. Innocent, yet feisty enough to hold her own. It made me sad to hear of her passing. I loved that show, and always associated it with my grandmother; there were bits and pieces of her in every character.

And who could forget these great words, penned by Andrew Gold?

"Thank you for being a friend
We've traveled down the road and
back again

Your heart is true, you're a pal and a

Tell me - who among you knows the next verse?


I thought so.

By the way, forgive me if this offends, but dudes and dudettes: I have lost EIGHT FRICKIN' POUNDS!!!! Can I hear an 'amen'????

There's something about the Diet-That's-Not-A-Diet that works. Maybe it's the supplements, maybe its the cran-water - maybe it's just not eating so danged much. But I feel good in terms of the former snugness of my garments. And even better, I feel really good inside - like HEALTHY kind of good. Like I'm living the way God made me to live. Like I'm taking good care of myself.

Seriously, mentally, physically and spiritually, I feel more alive and like myself than I have in a long time. I told someone today that trying to alter my eating habits through this "Fat Flush" thing was the best decision I'd made since I came to work for PCC.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Worship Confessional 7-20-08

So yesterday was a pretty good day. Still in the 'Big Stories of the Bible' series, we were raring to go with some good music and two skits.

The most exciting part is the way our team is expanding to include live music in our Power Jam kids' service. The band that plays the big room one Sunday goes on to do PJ the following Sunday, and so far, so good. There's a bit of a strain on our tech resources in terms of people, but we're managing and learning and working out the kinks as we go.

We all gather at 9:05 - no matter what - to pray. (Yesterday, 'what' was the middle of our tech run - but we stop and pray regardless of what's happening. We hope to have finished the tech run by 9:05, but thus far it hasn't happened.) It's awesome to see a big team gathered to pray...

Anyway, yesterday's message was 'The High Cost of Standing Your Moral Ground', on the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife. Again, Brian stepped away from the podium and did his message unscripted, which is a huge step out of his comfort zone - but one that is bringing great results.

Here's what we did:

T-R-O-U-B-L-E - Travis Tritt. Yeah. First time I've ever heard 'you're a sweet-talkin' sexy-walkin' honky-tonkin' baby' in church. It was risky, but we had a disclaimer to 'pay attention, and it'll all make sense', and it did, more or less. Of course, we're talking about Potiphar's wife. Trouble. Get it? One of our acoustic players, all-around-great-guy did the vocal, and he killed it. That's a lot of spelling in one song.
Everywhere That I Go -Israel Houghton. We love it. This song was especially powerful for me as I got up and ready early in the morning. I listened while I was getting dressed, and the chorus really dug into my heart and gave me strength for the day. 'You promise me/you'll never leave/you promise me/I'm never forsaken/I believe/your goodness and mercy will follow me, surrounding me where I go/everywhere that I go'. I just needed that yesterday.
O Taste and See - Brian and Jenn Johnson. Another blog find; great tune. First time I actually got to play it, and our girl Gina rocked the house.

We transitioned with a short skit about small groups, home-grown and funny. Out of that one of our small group leadership team members did a short welcome, and we continued. During the offering, we'd showed pics from last week's Mega Camp (VBS) and played 'I Am Somebody' underneath.

The message was excellent; he led us into a skit, The Ring (Willow Creek) in a very subtle fashion. As he finished, talking about the cost of sin, Brian just walked away and the lights came up stage left on our actor, a table and coffee cup. We found a track of coffe shop sounds on iTunes, looped it and played it during the skit, which set the perfect ambience. The piece worked well, with just two actors - the point was that the male character had cheated, and the female character was giving his ring back - but it was extremely subtle. Highly recommended for any services on adultery, betrayal, commitment, the cost of sin, etc.

As the skit ended, the female character walked away. We faded the lights on the man at the table and began the piano riff from Rebecca St. James' version of Forgive Me (Scott Dyer, from Willow Creek). A lone male singer did the first two verses, as the 'voice' of the male character; after a creative key change, we brought the rest of the vocals in for the third verse, where the lyric changes tense and perspective:
"Lord, we come to honor you
We are forgiven
We bring our praise and thanks to you
We are forgiven now
Lord, we praise you for your grace
Before you we are raised.....forgiven"

Christian sang the final word - 'forgiven' - alone, and it was powerful. Then Brian returned to share the truth about forgiveness through Christ, and as he did, I played underneath, a little noodling that built as his words increased in intensity. He quoted Romans 7, and when he got to Romans 8 - 'There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus', the crowd erupted in spontaneous applause. We kicked it hard and the band launched into the chorus of 'Amazing Love':

"Amazing love, how can it be
That you, my king would die for me
Amazing love, I know it's true
And it's my joy to honor you"

Then everybody went home. It was a good day.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Something I Needed To Hear Tonight...

"Chaos is often the shortest path to our spiritual core." - Paul Countinho, How Big Is Your God?

Thanks, Hope. I went through some serious chaos this afternoon. I needed this.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Study Break 08

In spite of the fact that I had a great two weeks out of town, on vacation and 'sort-of' study break (I did some good reading), something in me has been saying that I needed to really have a study break. Part of my job includes study break time, and I either use it or lose it. For me to get away, it's imperative that I know the kids are settled somewhere, rather than leaving them alone or farming them out to somebody.

Because of everybody's schedules this summer, it's been hard to find that time.

But I grabbed a few days this week, before David comes home on Sunday (the other kids are going to camp), and I headed to the mountains. It's too short, but I figured it would be better than nothing.

And wow.

I have met with God. He has shown me 'signs' that are almost funny, which does something amazing to my heart. I feel like I have a relationship with my Father that is growing and expanding and becoming truer and more intimate daily. I have no doubt that the primary reason is because I've taken seriously the call to spend time reading the Bible daily. I'm using the journal we made available at church, and knowing that so many of my friends and PCC family members are doing the same has really helped.

Last night, I listened to three hours of amazing music, performed by some of the finest 'hidden' musicians in America. Lots of old time cowboy music, which is not necessarily a style I love, but when you hear music done with excellence and passion, it's good no matter the style. I heard some incredible western swing music performed by a master. It was a good evening.

And today, I had the best day of the summer thus far. It didn't seem to consist of much in the details, but overall, it was tremendous and restorative. I took another 'walk in the woods' and had a great conversation with God, although the devil must have gotten ticked and sent mosquitoes. Eventually I had to bail.

I played the finest piano I've played in years for about two hours, a beautiful Steinway; just improving and messing around, actually working on a transition for a tune we're doing on Sunday, and then playing some Mozart sonatas. I'm reminded that I am a musician, and not just somebody who plays in church. It was very healing.

I have walked quietly and smiled at people and said, "Hi", but refrained from relational challenges. I have thought a lot about who I am and where I am, and what God is calling me to do next.

I read the rest of the book of Acts and enjoyed every minute.

And for a while, I just sat. I was still.

And I was with God.

There is nothing better.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Currently Listening To...

Jakob Dylan has escaped my attention for most of his career. I've heard a few songs from the Wallflowers, and of course I know who his daddy is - but I've never listened to his music with any intentionality.

A few days ago a friend sent me a sample tune from this record, and tonight while I was looking for something at Barnes & Noble, I heard the song again - but I couldn't place it! I texted a sample of the lyric to myself so I could hunt it down, and then had a brilliant idea; I ran to the music department.

"Who is this?"

It was Jakob Dylan - the same song I'd received, 'On Up the Mountain'. Beautiful, evocative lyric that really moved me.

I came home and found the song on iTunes; ended up downloading the entire album. It's incredibly good.

I feel like somebody just told me an exquisite secret.

Check it out.
My brother gave me some good advice regarding dealing with my difficulties. I thought I'd share it:

"I was reading the gospels and the thought occurred to me that the more we focus on the wide open spaces of the Kingdom of grace, the smaller our problems become. As humans we PREFER to focus in our difficulties like a large man focuses on buffet signs (sorry, it's the best metaphor I could come up with). But LOVE never shrinks. His love is limitless, and ever-expanding, which means it can be as big as we need it to be, in order to dwarf our problems." ec
God's love literally dwarfs our problems. That's an active verb. He acts on our behalf. It's not just my struggle to see things clearly or to figure stuff out, or to apply what I know of grace to the situation. He acts for our good, for His glory, on His terms.

Isn't that awesome?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Big Stories Of The Bible Video

Here's the video we produced to launch the our series - even though, due to technical difficulties, we didn't really "launch" until two weeks in. There are a few inside jokes (our pastor is follically challenged, as is one of our worship leaders - who also preaches - and the creator of this video as well.)

Kudos to Scotty G., the other bald guy, for creativity and technical skill. The idea grew out of somebody's blog; I don't remember who, but another church did this overdub idea and posted it and we thought it was funny. **Yes, I DO know who - I tracked down Stephen Parris at unmediocre and he confirmed that it was, indeed, his team who sparked this idea for us. Thanks, Stephen! And y'all check out his blog - good stuff!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Worship Confessional 7-13-08

I already wrote about my personal experience today, but here's a run-down of the actual service.

We're in the third week of Big Stories of the Bible 2.0 (or II) and today's topic was Abraham and God's request that he sacrifice Isaac. Heavy stuff - child sacrifice - for a 21st century church. Brian did an awesome job with the message (check out Powhatan Community Church on iTunes to get podcasts), and the rest of the service, though challenging, worked.

Today was the first day that we began to run live music in Power Jam, our kids' ministry. To make this work, I split all of our musicians into three teams (they'd been running as two bands, serving two weeks on and two weeks off). The new schedule has one team in 'Big Church' for one Sunday, then in PJ the following week, then off one week. We're going to try this until the end of August and see if we can get some momentum going and work out the technical kinks.

Today the tech issues and lack of manpower bit us hard during set up, and we ran really late. Our 'Big Church' team was heavy with teens and we really needed the extra time - but we didn't get it. We ended up cutting a tune and working up to the wire with a good bit of stress - but attitudes were remarkably good and I sensed a prevailing spirit of unity.

Here's how the service went down:

Happy Day - Tim Hughes. We had to change the key so our girls could lead it, and it lost some of its punch - plus we only had one electric guitar, and this song needs a bit more power. But it was a good start.
Marvelous Light - Charlie Hall. A first for us, the teenagers suggested it because they loved it at World Changers. Good song, pretty much the same chord progression as 'Happy Day', which I realized after we got into it...
Mighty To Save - Laura Story. Great song.
Our series introduction video was homegrown and a great first effort by Scott Gordon; I hope to post it here tomorrow.
The Guide - Borne. This is the tune we ended up cutting, but we'll throw it in next time. Sweet song. It talks about Jesus, but I really don't think it's literally about Jesus - however, we chose to present it as such because that's how those of us who know it interpret the song.
I Need to Wake Up - Melissa Etheridge. We left out the second verse for expediency and to avoid any political overtones, but this song stands powerfully in a worship service that calls for change, commitment, movement, etc. We wrapped it around a video - Clean Slate by Friendswood Community Church (check it out at WorshipHouse Media here); after the first verse and chorus, which were mostly acoustic, we played a quiet vamp underneath the video and its audio. As it ended, we pushed hard into the chorus, did the bridge, and then back through the chorus again. It really worked.

It was a good day - trying for us in terms of human resources, but also informative and a blessing. We stretched ourselves a good bit. Before service, when we gathered all of the Power Jam folks, the tech crew, all the musicians and everybody involved, we had a crowd of close to forty people. Now that is a powerful sight, seeing that many individuals commited to making church happen for their community and to 'bring up there, down here.'


Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

So this was me, this morning. Out of my comfort zone.

But what a ride!

I was really nervous last night - I practiced, a lot. Playing piano comes to me as naturally as breathing - but playing guitar is a different story.

It was a challenging morning for a LOT of reasons; folks called in sick, we split to two bands running simultaneously, we had a relatively inexperienced band and ran out of time to rehearse them. We had to cut a song. The song I planned to lead on guitar had a video in it after the first chorus and we had some tech issues to resolve with that to ensure that it would work. It was the closing piece and closely tied to the message, and it really needed to work.

When 9:30 comes, all that's left to do is pray and have a good time worshiping God. That's what we did. And He always comes through, with power.

It was very cool, being up front with the guitar. While I was very stressed about my fingers hitting the right spots (which usually isn't an issue on keys), I was so comfortable standing with the band and able to move around a bit. It was very cool!

This was a personal goal of mine for the year, and I'm really happy that I pushed through the fear and accomplished it. Woo hoo!

Two other parts to the day that were actually even better:

Sarah led worship today with us. She is such an amazing talent, so focused already at such a young age. I see so much of myself in her, and yet I believe that she is miles ahead of me in so many ways - her faith, her family connections, the compulsion she has to create art and music. Last night she babysat for our friends the Gordons, and when she got home around midnight, she headed straight for the guitar. She played and worked on a song for two hours before she finally went to bed.

I am so proud of her, and it's one of the greatest joys of my life when we are able to lead together.

My mom and dad came to the second service; I told them Sarah was leading, and they didn't have Sunday School at their home church, so they stopped by. I'm always happy to see them. They know so many people at our church and it feels very homey to them.

When the service ended and I finished the Melissa Etheridge tune with a reminder that we would pray for everyone there this week, that they would ask God to show them how and where they needed to move, to change, to shake up - because God loves all of us too much to let us stay where we are - Mom came up to the front. I figured she was just saying goodbye, but in the midst of rolling cables and tearing down our stuff, she grabbed me and hugged me. "That was so powerful, that song," she said. "I am so proud of you."

I am so proud of you.
So, I did my job today, I conquered a personal challenge, we worshiped God, we presented a powerful message, my daughter sang. But you know what I really took home from the day?

My mom is proud of me.

I pray that I'll never forget what a powerful gift we give others when we let them know we're proud, we care, we love them. I pray I'll always remember to be that kind of mom.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A New Song

There is much creativity in this house, particularly in the wee hours.

This is a very rough cut of Sarah's latest tune. I think she recorded it in the middle of the night Thursday.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Innovation At Its Best

I've been lurking around sites like lifehacker for a while now, and reading posts by guys like Fred and Tim and Chris who are all, "Hey, everybody, awesome new technological woo-doo doo-dad making life easier, so cool, have you checked it out yet?"

And though I did not go buy a new iPhone (because I have Verizon, and I happen to like them. Most of the time. Therefore, my choices are limited.), I decided to do something innovative and new. Technologically speaking, that is. I suppose I could have cleaned my bathroom - now that would have been innovative. And new. But I digress.

I downloaded Firefox. Mainly because I was reading TIME magazine and one of the brief blurbs said I ought to be using Firefox.

Look at me, internet! Being all cool and on the cusp of innovation! Inspired by TIME, which I read because my mom gives me her hand-me-down copies (thanks, Mom! And by the way, why don't you ever leave me a comment? I know you're reading this.)

Okay, maybe not so innovative. But Firefox is a heck of a lot faster than IE.

On a side note, my phone alarm is going off. My phone is downstairs. Interesting fact about me: i have a 10:00 p.m. alarm on my phone, designed to remind me to a) take my Zyrtec, and b) go to bed. At my age, you think I wouldn't need to be told to go to bed. But I do.

Though I usually don't. Go to bed, that is. I mean when my alarm goes off. Of course, the ironic part is that right now, I am in bed. And my alarm is going off to tell me to go to bed. But my phone is downstairs. so I have to get out of bed to go get my phone.

And I'm out of Zyrtec.

Sometimes life just doesn't seem to work.

And that's quite enough italicization for one day.


Beautiful Boy

I took several books with me on vacation; I read I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron (which I loved - laugh out loud) and The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg, both collections of essays for Women Forced To Acknowledge That They're Getting Older. That's me. I loved both books - laughed AND cried, and identified with a lot of what I read, including some things that I just anticipate understanding in the next twenty years. Some of my blog buddies ought to read these books. You know who you are.

I read Janet Evanovich's latest Stephanie Plum novel, and they always make me laugh out loud. They're good, predictable and easy to digest - sort of like a 3 Musketeers bar. Yum.

By far, the most moving book I read was Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. The story of his son, Nic, and the challenges of parenting through Nic's drug addiction, this work profoundly impacted me on several levels. Sheff did an outstanding job of relating the heartache and devastation of loving through intense pain; the descriptions of the worst of their times together were gut-wrenching. I gained great insight into the pain of hidden within the families of addicts. I pray that my ability to be more empathetic will grow because of what I experienced as I journeyed through this book.

I highly recommend Beautiful Boy. Your time will not be ill-spent.

Read more about the book here; read about Nic Sheff and his story in his own words here.

David and Nic Sheff; photo from the NYTimes

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vacation Snapshot

This is an example of our Disney mornings...doesn't Daniel look WIDE awake????

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ginger Kid

The hits just keep a'comin'.

Another Brawley has joined the blogosphere!

Please check her out - she's a very good writer - and leave a little blog-love. I'd be every so grateful.

Just click here.....and bookmark the spot. I guarantee you'll find a lot to interest you...

Navel Gazing...

I am struggling today. Yesterday. Monday.I want to go back to vacation.

I think this is the first time - ever - that I would have preferred to stay gone rather than come home. Spending a bit of time trying to sort that out, I'm not sure of the contributing factors, but it's always worth it to do a little self-examination. Care to join me?
  • Yesterday we received a piece of mail addressed to the kids. It was their father's wedding invitation. Lots to process there.
  • I came home convinced that I wanted to do things differently - and I do - but I'm not. Doing things differently, that is. Monday was great. Tuesday I got back on the treadmill. And unfortunately, I don't mean that literally. More like the treadmill that is my daily routine. Last night I spent hours mousing around the internet, chasing email, reading blogs, coupled with constant craving to have something in my mouth. After the Ritz crackers came the frozen pizza and then the ice cream and then the rest of David's ice cream that he didn't want and then a glass of Fresca, which I really don't like anyway...and my whole body just feels toxic, bloated, crammed full of crap. I got a lot of exercise while away - seems like we were always walking, walking, walking - and now I'm back to sedentary working, working, working. And eating, eating, eating. And the pushing junk in my mouth seems tied to some emotional thing. It's about time for that emotional/hormonal thing to attack, so that might be part of it...
  • So I'm disappointed in myself.
  • My environment is still a mess. Honestly, when do I get to complain about something new? Geez, Louise. I still haven't unpacked everything - suitcase is sitting in the middle of my bedroom floor. Sarah has two friends staying here for the week, visiting from Ohio and PA, and they are sleeping sometimes in the living room (so there are comforters and pillows everywhere) and sometimes in her room, and there's something in the fridge that stinks but I can't find it (though honestly, I haven't looked really, really hard) and I just want something simpler, you know? Less stuff. More margin. I want a vacation that morphs into real life.

My life feels very complicated right now, and though there are many, many things for which I am thankful, my soul feels uneasy and restless. And I feel no small about of guilt for not being able to find contentment in where I am. I keep hearing the lyric of this song flowing through my brain:

I need to move, I need to wake up; I need to change, I need to shake up
I need to speak out, something's got to break up
I've been asleep and I need to wake up now

Ironically, we're doing this song in church this week - the sentiment fits perfectly with the challenge at the end of the service, although Melissa Etheridge's intent when she wrote the song was to incite us all to action regarding Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Whatever. Take truth where you find it. Ironically, I'm going to sing it. And it will be my debut playing guitar and leading. So....

Never-ending navel gazing.
Please pray for my friend Vicki and her husband Dave, who had a stroke on the fourth of July.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Finally caught up on all my blog-reading (over 700 posts...ugh...) (okay, I confess, I just scanned a few...jon at stuff christians like writes like 40 posts a day) (and they are all funny) (are you reading him? you should) (where was i?)

Oh, yeah. Normal.

(but really, go read some of his posts. they are laugh-out-loud funny. seriously.)

Anyway, where was I? Normal.

I think I'm back to it. I'm exhausted. 7:00 a.m. meeting today, frozen pizza for dinner. What else is new? And the house is a mess.

Gratuitous Disney pic - my sister-in-law Shana and my baby girl Syd, who will all-too-soon be driving for real...ugh...



Monday, July 7, 2008

Fresh Eyes

I got up this morning - my first 'real' day home since two weeks away - and as I walked/stumbled down the stairs towards the coffee pot, I was struck with an early-morning 'wow'.

Walking down the stairs in my relatively comfortable, three-bedroom, two-bath, 2.87 acre lot home with electric heat and air and fresh paint on the walls, I thought, "Man. I am blessed." Just feeling the width of the staircase and seeing the open hallway was rather stunning.

(Of course, because I'm not a morning person, it doesn't take much to stun me before I make it to the coffee pot. But still...)

After living for one week in a hotel room with five kids and then another in a two-bedroom condo with seven other people, I guess I can't overlook the fact that I am blessed.

I live in such ignorance at times.

God, forgive me. And open my eyes again and again and again....

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Beach Vacation Pics

Aunt Barbara, Uncle Graham, Mom and Dad after our obligatory dinner out at Captain Charley's in Swansboro...
The kids make an annual assault on Cap'n Charley himself...

The moms and the boys - these are the male grandkids; Daniel, David and Levi. And their loving mamas...

Shana and Eric - my brother - two of my favorite people in the world.

A few of the kids checking out the river.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Casual Observations Of Scantily Clothed People

So we're having a debate/discussion regarding the inevitable 'people-watching' that goes on at the beach.

Here's the thing: there are a LOT of folks here this week (it is, after all, fourth of July week and the public beach is quite crowded, though where we stake our claim in front of Mom and Dad's place is fairly quiet) and most of them are, of course, in various states of undress, commonly known as bathing suits.

We all confess to watching, observing, etc. However, we're divided into two camps: those who say that the watching and looking is an unending, almost uncontrollable measuring stick - a constant mechanization of looking at others and adjusting where we fit in on the scale of acceptable appearances. Are 'they' fatter than us? Then we're good. Oops - next subject obviously more physically fit? Then we slide back down the scale.

The other camp says it's purely objective - observation without categorization or judgement or comparison. Simply looking at all that's around and making note of it.

Me? I confess to the former category - though, thankfully, after a few days here, it's lessened a good bit. I find it difficult not to compare myself to what I see around me. This presents two issues: I know it's wrong and critical and judgemental, and I am frustrated by my shallow observations.

Secondly, I often fail to 'measure up', and that's also frustrating as well. As a woman who feels 28 inside but whose chronological age is a few decades beyond that, I'm forced to deal with appearance issues that are beyond my control and impossible to deny while prancing around in a bathing suit, surrounded by lithesome and elastic-skinned teenagers. Some of whom are my own progeny.

And if I am spending time doing such quick evaluation and judgement, it stands to reason that others are looking at me in the same way. There's something in the Bible about that, right? 'Judge not, lest ye be judged'?

I know these are issues of my own insecurity. And I know that most of us carry such issues inside of us, no matter whether we're in sun or shade. But it doesn't seem like a good way to live; it feels confining, restrictive.

So there you have it. The discussion continues here, and I'm praying that my eyes will see through clothes (or lack thereof), weight, skin tone and drink containers to see only somebody's daughter, somebody's husband, somebody's best friend, all God's children.

Your thoughts?

Is It Already July?

Well, our trip to Disney is now a great memory - or, more accurately, a million great memories piled up into one terrific time. I can't sort out all that we did and saw and heard and experienced - but it was truly a memorable few days. I am so glad I had the opportunity to experience this with my kids!

The entire trip has been interesting and entertaining; we left Sunday afternoon after church. Before we actually drove out of town we went by the neighborhood where our church was doing a huge work project - and things there were so exciting that it took us 2 1/2 hours to leave! With that late start, we headed south - through rain. And more rain. And hail. And more rain.

A detour to Mocksville, NC was necessary, because Sarah had left her purse there at the Wendy's on the way home from her mission trip to Cherokee the previous day. The management was AWESOME - they plied us with free frosties, fries and nuggets, just because we drove from Richmond to pick up Sarah's forgotten bag. It was a blessed way to start the trip.

We made another stop in Durham, where I met another blogger - Milton, from donteatalone - who actually came out of the kitchen where he was working to say 'hi' as we dined in his fine establishment. It was way cool and a great experience. And Milton, by the way, has awesome striped chef pants!

On to Columbia, SC, where we spent the night with my uncle David, who shared stories and laughter from the family history files. We enjoyed staying up late, marveling over his antiques and awesome house and visiting together.

On to Disney - we had four days, one for each of the parks. It was busy - and hot - and crowded - but we navigated well together. I have more pics that I'll post later - not enough bandwith here - but suffice it to say that it was a great trip.

This week, we're back in NC for an extended family gathering. I am not officially on vacation any longer - I'm taking this as study break time, and doing some reading (mainly the book of Acts and the books of Timothy) and writing and thinking. But it sure is nice to do it all a stone's throw away from the Atlantic Ocean. My brother and his family are here, along with my parents, and we are loving some time together to sing (best new song of the vacation - 'To Love Somebody' by the BeeGees, an acoustic version with good ol' familial three part harmony) and reminicse (good stories about childhood and when our kids were younger) and cook (last night, fresh shrimp skewers and some excellent watermelon) and just enjoy one another's presence.

Our routine is beach in the morning, pool in the afternoon, laughter and the occasional nap in between. We stay up late and eat Mom's cookies and marvel at our children. Shana says that it feels like a kid is missing this year - I think it's because we are past the point of constant supervision, and they are outgrowing our intense parenting and moving on to self-reliance. They all can swim, we can leave them at the beach alone (but not IN the water without an adult); Sarah even brought boyfriend Elijah along this year.

Things stay the same, and yet they change. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.