Monday, November 25, 2013

Thank You

Coming up on a big ol' holiday; my favorite. Christmas is beautiful and holy and wonderfully twinkly and all that, but it's work for me, and so I have claimed Thanksgiving as The Holiday That Is Best of All.

I try to live in a state of gratitude, anyway - and now that some of my kids have grown up and left home, this Thursday in November marks a time when we are together again, whole in some good, solid, primal way. It is the food, yes; but it is the time, more. It is right now, with bodies draped across couches and blankets and a favorite show on TV, with comments and statements and a general lightness to the world. It is waking them up in the morning, catching that rare innocence while they sleep that reminds me of their smaller selves, the days when they fit in my arms. It is somehow the air itself, lighter. Sweeter.

So these next few days will be full and fat with love and hope and laughter. Too many people will be crammed in a house that is built to hold love, and we will burst with the joy of it all. And I am thinking tonight of the things for which I must give thanks, the things outside of what will fill this house this week.

Thank you for inviting me into the world of music, for teaching me about partnership and accompaniment; it was great training for learning to lead from the second chair (or the piano bench).

Thank you for writing me letters that were witty and personal, welcoming my adolescent self into adulthood with your unique voice.

Thank you for being a friend as you cared for me; your teenaged job was an investment in my maturity, and to this day I believe you always believed in me.

Thank you for being bold enough to stand in the church driveway and say, "I don't think He is finished with you, yet..."

Thank you for telling me that the power of charisma and persuasion and leadership is not to be taken lightly; considering it as a force to be used for good or evil has tempered me on more than one occasion, and that is a good thing.

Thank you for letting an hour-long piano lesson be a counseling session, and never letting on that you knew I was ashamed.

Thank you for sending me $150 and never, ever asking why I needed it.

Thank you for asking me a hard question about my faith and not letting me get away with my lousy answer.

Thank you for forgiving me.

Thank you for giving me your words.

Thank you for welcoming me, for never asking when we would leave, for never letting me see an end to your love and grace.

Thank you for seeing me, and for loving what you saw, and for convincing me that you'd never stop.

Thank you for singing your heart for me.

Thank you for your generosity, for showing me how to be open-handed.

Thank you for forgiving me when I neglect our friendship, and for still calling it a friendship.

Thank you for coming home.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Women, Sitting Around A Table, Talking About God

My husband is asleep, in bed. I think he's run himself to the end of his rope. He doesn't feel good. I'm glad he's resting.

My youngest child is in bed, moving towards sleep, freshly showered and done with homework, chores, small group and endless skateboarding.

My eldest son is working his job, spending late nights being a Responsible Young Adult. He'll deal with more homework when he gets home.

And me? I'm home, content and fulfilled after a day of conversation, personal attention, communication, instruction, music, and women sitting around a table talking about God.

Women, sitting around a table, talking about God. And ourselves. And the rich story of Life, filled with sorrow and joy, pain and injustice, fear and confidence. Raising children. Wrestling with relationships. Karma.

The holy part of religion, of church, of life itself, is not found only in the ceremony. It doesn't reside solely in the assembly. It's not just a Sunday morning thing.

Holy and pure looks like women, sitting around a table, talking about God.

And men, doing the same.

And sometimes, men and women together.

Sometimes you don't have to look too hard to find holiness. Sometimes it's sitting right beside you.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Today I Did A Dangerous Thing

Oh, yes I did. Very dangerous.

But before revealing that information, I'll share this: It was a wonderful day.

Up early. Raking leaves (a euphemism, because what the boys did was NOT raking; it was drive-the-tractor-and-vacuuming leaves, thanks to my dad. But it counts, and the yard is leaf-free. Mostly. Temporarily.)

House cleaning. Re-organizing, because yesterday I rearranged the living room (again). I like change, and there are times and moments in my life when I hear change calling my name and I respond. I don't have money to decorate, although I'd love to spend $80 on new, colorful pillows to accent the couch. I don't have money to spend on the house, although our tiny little 5' x 7' rug, purchased in a valiant (and cheap) attempt to 'center' the room and focus a little color, it looks sad. And pathetic. It tries so hard, but it's just. too. small.

I'd love a big new rug; a room-sized rug. Some day.

Anyway, there are many things I'd love to do to decorate, to make things more comfortable, to make our home pretty. But there are no house-decorating funds, and even if there were, I'd probably be paralyzed. I feel incredibly inept when it comes to home decor.

So, what I do is change things.

I have done this all my life. As a child, I used to rearrange my bedroom frequently. As a young parent, I kept my sanity by mixing up the furniture in the house.

Since my marriage to Tony and the combining of our households, the possibilities are more challenging. I get to be more inventive. So with a fall chill in the air, the prospect of my family being home together in just a few weeks for Thanksgiving, and a general itchy feeling for change in my spirit, I started pulling around the furniture.

I am deliberately leaving the pile of folded clothes on the coffee table
as well as the piano bench in the middle of nowhere. And the
little stool. Keepin' it real....

That's the TV antenna laying on the floor by the TV. Which is probably
why the TV reception is not so good.
I like it.

(By the way, I am not so impressed with myself that I think that people want to see pictures of my living room; this is for the kids, who WILL want to see pictures of the living room.)

(Or not.)

Between the furniture moving and the general cleaning and laundry folding, I got some chicken stock simmering on the stove, only because I found a lonely chicken breast in the kitchen that needed cooking.

I put away all the clothes that had been scattered around our bedroom. That took a while. I worked a bit, in preparation for tomorrow.

Then I left to run errands. Goodwill - where I gave away more than I brought home, but I scored a beautiful pair of soft, luxurious leather shoes, a sweater, a book for my son and a chunky, oversized sweater. And a print for the bathroom. All for under $20. And I went to Kroger, where I worked hard to save $56.11.

I came home to put the finishing touches on the soup. And it was then, as I moved toward the stove, that I realized what a dangerous thing I had done.

That's what's left of TWO loaves of pumpkin bread I made this morning. Between David and Tony (and me, with the first few tastes), we polished off an entire loaf of pumpkin bread. Plus some.

The danger?

It's the best pumpkin bread I've ever made.

I'll share the recipe here, although I lay no claim to being any sort of food blogger. I'm just telling you - this is a GREAT recipe.

Slight modification: I didn't have any mini-chocolate chips. In fact, I only possessed 1/3 of a bag of regular chocolate chips that had coagulated into some free-form chocolate sculpture. Somehow, they got hot and morphed into a massive mound of chocolate. I smashed the blob to smithereens with a meat hammer. It worked.

So, uh...if you don't have mini-chocolate chips, don't let that slow you down. Improvise!

And a quick tip - don't skip out on the cinnamon-sugar touch at the end. That sends this recipe from really good to absolute bliss. 

Absolutely dangerous, actually. It's just too good to resist. And nobody needs to eat an entire loaf of pumpkin bread every day.

That would be dangerous.

I stumbled upon the recipe here.

For the record, her pictures are quite fancy. Mine are not. But it sure tasted good.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Guest Post: People Still Hurt

Pastor Brian Hughes and
Matthew on his birthday
Matthew O'Donnell is one of the most talented people I know. Thanks to the encouragement of his mom, we got connected through music at PCC. Matthew's talents are considerable; his passion is contagious and his heart for people and for the things of God is obvious. It's been an absolute joy to work alongside him for many months now. I am in awe of how Matthew is growing in his awareness of himself, of the greater good and of the kingdom of God.

He is a brilliant musician; if you're around PCC, you've seen evidence. However, not many folks realize Matthew's giftedness as a writer. He is the magic behind many of our skits and dramatic pieces, as the resident writer on the Creative Team. 

This week, Matthew shared a passionate piece of prose that encouraged, inspired and invigorated me. I'm biased because I am witness to the work that God is doing in Matthew's life; regardless, this is a fine piece of writing and an exceptional dose of truth

I hope you'll read it, and find yourself inspired. Here's Matthew:

We all do our best to care for and pray for the people around us who are in need. We do a good job of reminding ourselves of these peoples' presence in our lives and in our church, even remembering them when we go before God. Even so, people slip through the cracks. We are not God, and we'll never have His heart for people, so our capacity for care, consideration and compassion is psychologically and spiritually limited. Everyone needs a reminder from time to time, so consider this yours for the day.

We pray for people who are in surgery, experiencing financial turmoil or turbulent work and home situations, navigating broken marriages, coming to terms with difficult diagnoses, watching loved ones suffer, figuring out how to keep moving after they're gone, but time, no matter how much we may will it to stop in those chaotic moments of desperation and despair, keeps ticking. There are others to be remembered and prayed over. The natural triage of our attention shifts to more pressing needs. It's not something to feel guilty about. It's just something that is.

God knows the hair on each of our heads and the hurt in each of our hearts, and as impossible as it is to remember every person you've ever prayed for, it's important to acknowledge that in a perfect world, we'd still be praying for each and every one of them. So take a moment. Think about those who have had their tour of duty on the prayer list and floated off the other end.

The man who lost his wife, and still, after all this time, has to wake up in bed every morning and be reminded that she's not there beside him.

The kids who grew into teenagers and adults, but still bear the scars of their parents' divorce.

The woman who was diagnosed years ago, and wonders how many she has left. 

The parents who carry the lifelong badge of having attended their own child's funeral.

The man whose injury dramatically changed his life in a day, and it's never changed back.

The woman who's a lifetime away from the abused little girl she once was, but still feels powerless and haunted.

Take a moment right now to remember them. If you want to wait and devote some time later so you can think about it more, go ahead, but make it a priority to stop and pray for these people. If you can't remember their names, it's okay. God does. Intercede on their behalf in front of the King today. It matters just as much or more so now as it once did when their wounds were fresh. We won't always remember to do this, but today you have a reminder. Take a moment. Remember them. Pray for them.

Thank you.