Saturday, October 25, 2008

Things I learned in Louisiana

I just returned home from a women’s conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was doubly excited about this trip because in addition to getting to hear some great speakers, I knew I’d also get to see a part of the country that I’ve never been to before. Of course, before I left some of my friends felt obligated to tell me about the giant spiders and cock roaches that flourish in the southern humidity. Thankfully, I didn’t see any creepy crawly creatures. But, there were a couple of things I noticed that you might find intriguing if you’ve never been to that part of this great land.

When I first get off of a plane I immediately look for the closest women’s room. Not because they fascinate me so much but because you never know when the next one will avail itself to you. I was a Girl Scout. I like to “be prepared.” Anyway, the New Orleans airport has a most interesting contraption in their restrooms. The seats of the toilets are covered in plastic. When I first saw it I thought, “Hmmm…that toilet must be out of order,” so I proceeded to the next stall, only to find the same situation. Once I gave a brief glance at the directions I realized that, at the wave of your hand, this plastic cover is designed to rotate around the toilet seat to provide an always fresh and sanitary spot for you to sit, thereby eliminating the need to fight with the tissue paper covers which have become a treasured part of every woman’s public restroom experience. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical at first. How did I know for sure that this plastic was not just circling its way around and around the seat, never really producing a clean product? Before leaving today I had the opportunity to read the ad in the stall describing how it all works. It’s complicated to explain but try to picture a spool of plastic with the open end wrapped over the back left side of the toilet seat, pulled around the seat to the right side and threaded onto another spool which will eventually become the throw away section when the clean side is empty. Kind of cool, but I think it’ll take a little getting used to. It’s these little things in life that fascinate me and provide me with ways to keep you totally guessing what I will possibly write about next on this blog. I’m just so sorry I forgot to take a picture for you!

The other thing that I found interesting in Louisiana was the number of Fleur-de-lis I saw. They reminded me very much of the Boy Scout symbol so I was kind of confused to find them everywhere. I saw them on bumper stickers forming the letter I in the word “faith,” I saw them on car windows, on necklaces, in boutiques, everywhere. Finally, when I saw it on a necklace of one of the conference hosts I just had to ask about its significance and why I was seeing these things all over the city. Here is where my lack of knowledge regarding the area becomes VERY apparent. While I knew that New Orleans had a French quarter, I hadn’t really considered the fact that it’s because a lot of French people live there. Apparently, the Fleur-de-lis symbol is big for the French and, for most Christians (at least the French ones), it represents the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then, after Hurricane Katrina it became a symbol for all of Louisiana that New Orleans would be restored. Well, the people of Louisiana have one thing straight. It will require the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to restore not just the people of New Orleans, but people all over the world.

The things I learned from the conference I will save for another day. It’s probably more interesting than the toilet covers and the Fleur-de-lis, and certainly more inspiring.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I believe it was back in June that I promised my blog readers a review of the book Nurture, by Lisa Bevere. Thanks to a “weather related detour” on my flight home from Boston last month, I was finally able to finish the book. I spent most of the flight reading and the extra 15 minutes of flight time was the exact amount of time that I needed to get it done. I was probably the only one on the plane excited about the delay.

I was feeling rather sheepish about taking over four months to finish a book but as I sat on the plane reading it I realized that the message at the end of the book was PRECISELY what I needed to hear at this point in my life right now. I love the way God works those things out.

My opinion is that Nurture is a great book. It isn’t an easy read, or at least it wasn’t for me. Perhaps it’s because it’s packed full of lots of nuggets of information to think about and really shouldn’t be rushed through. Actually four months isn’t really a long period of time for me to get through what I refer to as a “Christian Living” book. Some of them I never finish.

So, what makes this book good and worth reading to the end? It’s Lisa’s encouragement for women to nurture each other. I couldn’t possibly tell you about EVERYTHING in the book but I think the dedication at the beginning of the book pretty much sums up the flavor of the book. Here are the words from the dedication page. “This book is dedicated to every woman, regardless of age, who longs to make her connection with other women and touch the world she lives in but does not know how. You, beautiful one, are an answer, not a problem and we need both you and your contribution. May these words help facilitate what you need to begin to see your life enlarged on every level. May the God-gifted treasure within you flourish as you find your voice and place as one among the many women who even now watch for you.”

So, if the dedication has piqued your interest then I suggest you go buy Nurture, and a highlighter, and get busy reading. Whether it takes you four weeks, four months or four years, I believe that God might just have a nugget of information for you, too.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Too old? - Nonsense!

I spent the last two days at the Women of Faith Conference. You know how some women go to a conference and they tell you it was a life changing event? I wish I could say that there is always something HUGE that changes in my life when I go to a Women of Faith event, but there isn’t. But every year there are a bunch of little things that renew and build my faith. This weekend was no exception. In fact, I’d even say it was the best Women of Faith event to which I’ve EVER been. No big moment, just a whole bunch of little ones.

There were a ton of great stories this year, including an amazing testimony from Mandissa, former American Idol contestant. Boy, can that girl sing!

But, the story that really touched me, actually occurred at the pre-conference. Jan Silvious, author and speaker, told a story about her mom. Jan’s mom was a very active senior until the day she fell and broke her hip. The doctors were not able to fix the break and Jan’s mom spent the rest of her life confined to her bed and a nearby chair. BUT, she lived in an assisted living apartment (though she preferred to call it a retirement apartment) and every Tuesday, this 87 year-old woman put on a nice top, her make-up and a lap robe, and was wheeled out into the lobby of the care facility. There she taught a Bible Study for the others in her building! I LOVE THAT! Most of the women who attended her study were quite hard of hearing, and probably couldn’t see much either, but they came to talk about Jesus. That is just so cool!

Why do I love this story? A few years ago I sat with a very depressed woman who told me that she was sure that God was done using her for the purpose for which she’d been born. This woman was in her 40’s! Are you kidding me? I don’t think I’ll ever forget that conversation. I assured my friend that God had SO much more for her and when He was done using her, THEN he’d take her home. Jan’s mom is proof of that.

I think I also love this story because, well let’s face it, I’m not in the beginning years of my life, and though people would probably say I’m middle aged, I’m fairly certain that I’m not going to live to be 106 (you do the math.) Despite that I believe that God has some amazing things planned for me. It’s easy for me to talk myself out of pursuing the course that I believe He has me on because I think I’m too old. Almost every day I can slip into the “what am I thinking?” mode, and I have to stop myself and remember that God will equip me for everything He’s called me to do, regardless of my age.

In the same morning session of the Women of Faith Pre-Conference, Pasty Clairmont said this, “As long as there is breath in your body, God still longs to show you one more thing.”

So, can I say that my time at Women of Faith was life-changing? No. But, I can say, without a doubt, it was faith building and exactly what I needed for today.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Don't Miss It!

Every Wednesday morning I go to Faribault for Mom’s group. To get from my house to Faribault I basically have to drive through the countryside. Though I may feel differently about this drive in the dead of winter, it has, so far, been an enjoyable part of my Wednesday mornings. Last week the thing I noticed most were the “amber waves of grain.” Seriously, they were really amber and it was some sort of grain (what, I can’t quite say.) I couldn’t help myself, I broke out singing “America the Beautiful.” I dare say you might have joined in had you been with me. Or not. I have an odd tendency to break out in whatever song I feel fits the current circumstances, which can, at times, be quite inappropriate. I’ll be great when I’m old. They’ll probably have to muzzle me in the nursing home.

This week, the grain was past the amber stage and had moved more into what appeared to be the dead stage, but the trees, oh my! They were unbelievable. I drove along thinking, “God, you are one amazing artist!” The oranges, reds, and yellows, amidst the dark greens were stunning! I know you’re probably thinking, “Uh Nancy, the trees do this every year,” and of course, I know they do, but seriously, it’s easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Every year God puts on this amazing art show for us and we start to take it for granted. Plus, if you think about it, the "pretty" part of fall lasts MAYBE a month, which when totaled up is only about 6.5 years of our lives. That is less time than the average American spends watching television in their lifetime!

My point is - don’t miss it! Here in southern Minnesota we are just hitting the peak season. Go out, enjoy it! If you live in the city, take a drive out in the country and enjoy the amazing beauty of God’s handiwork.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Encounter with a Fence

I heard a man speak a few years ago and tell the story about when his wife backed their BMW out of the garage with the passenger door still open. This little mistake on her part caused some major damage to their BMW, as you might expect. When she called her husband to tell him what had happened he told her to call the insurance agency and file a claim. She said, “Well, aren’t you mad at me?” to which he responded, “Did you do it on purpose?” Of course, she said no and his response was, “well then why would I be mad at you, it was an accident.” Last Saturday evening I suddenly found myself wishing I was married to that man. Not really, but I did have a bit of a blonde moment.

I was at a retreat at Lake Geneva Christian Center in Alexandria. As part of the retreat team I was helping with clean up at end of the weekend. One of the things that needed to be done was a bunch of tablecloths needed to be hauled from the worship center to a building on the other side of the road. The plan was that we’d load them into my car, along with a couple of other things, and then I’d drop them off at the building on my way out of town.

Between the road through the camp and the worship center there are two very wide sidewalks, and a grassy area surrounded by a wooden fence. These sidewalks are wide enough for a Suburban to drive up. I know, because there was already a Suburban parked by the worship center doors. In general, however, these sidewalks are only used for walking, or perhaps a golf cart. But, since I knew the Suburban would fit between the fences and up the sidewalk, I decided that driving my little mini-van up the sidewalk would be the simplest way to get the tablecloths into the car. If you’ve never hauled commercial tablecloths before, let me tell you, they are quite heavy, so my goal was to save steps on my already blistered feet.

Clearly, I underestimated the amount of space my car would need to make the turn onto the sidewalk and before I knew it I heard a horrible crunching sound coming from the right side of my van. To make matters worse, my van was now stuck and wouldn’t move forward or backward without resistance. There was only one person around who saw the whole thing. It was one of the young girls who worked in the retreat center cafeteria. She is clearly committed to the well being of the retreat center because her first words to me were “Don’t worry, you’re fine. The fence is still standing.” Gee, thanks. That was the first thing on my mind. I didn’t really find the humor in that statement until about three hours later and once I did, I couldn’t stop laughing.

In retrospect, it would have been better to call John and tell him about the accident while the tears were flowing, instead of waiting until after my severe case of the giggles started. The news might have been better received were it not punctuated with bursts of laughter. It’s not that he yelled at me or anything, it’s just that he didn’t quite catch the ACCIDENT part of the whole situation right away.

The morning following the accident John read a story in the paper about a woman who burst into tears when her kids accidently broke her treasured tea cup. The kids were stunned to see their mother crying and her daughter finally asked, “Do you love the teacup more than you love us? That stopped the mother’s crying as she assured her kids that they were way more valuable to her than a tea cup. John made me read the story and then looked at me and told me that he loved me more than the van. I knew that all along but it was nice to hear. In the end, it’s just stuff. I think God allows accidents into our lives sometimes to remind us of that truth. Our “stuff” is never more important than the people in our lives and certainly not more important than our relationship with Him. It’s good to have a husband who recognizes that truth . . . . eventually.
How is it that one little fence post can do so much damage?

The worst part of the damage was behind the sliding door. I think that's why it was so solidly stuck in place. I did, by the way, manage to get it unstuck. I figured any more damage wouldn't really make a difference so I just gave it a little more gas and it moved. In a few weeks, it'll all be a distant memory.