Monday, April 27, 2009

Aging - it's a tricky thing

Aging is a tricky thing. It appears to me that in the 30 years since my son, Paul, was born, I have only aged about 15 years and he has doubled that number! But, my body, and my driver's license, tell me differently. Hey, I wonder if you can lie on your driver's license about your age the same way you can about your weight? (Oh please, you know you do it, too.)

When I talked to Paul today I asked him how it felt to be 30. "I don't know, probably not as bad as it feels to have a son who is 30," he answered a bit too quickly. It never feels any differently on your birthday, does it? One day feels pretty much like the next but somehow 40 doesn't feel as good as 30 and 50 doesn't feel as good as 40. Oh well, at least I've got the wisdom thing on my side. Being older gives you that.

I'll tell you how it feels to have a son who is 30. Short! I feel short! But, that's probably because he's 6'2", not because he's 30. Happy Birthday, my son!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jacob's Story - A Journey of Faith

Imagine lying on the hospital bed, waiting to see your baby for the first time, and having the ultrasound technician ask you if you’ve been leaking any fluid, followed shortly by a muttered, “this isn’t good.” My friend, Carla, and her husband, John, started a turbulent, but victorious, four month journey with those very words. I met Carla Agliata last September, at a mom’s group Bible study that I help teach at our church. Carla is a quiet, beautiful girl with an indomitable spirit. As the weeks of our Bible study passed she started to share a little bit about the son she’d lost. Once I realized that her husband, John, had written a book about their son’s life, and death, I knew I wanted to read it. I really don’t know what I expected; I just know I got so much more.

Jacob’s Story in an amazing testimony of faith when all is going wrong. As I first started reading it I found myself stopping to read a section to my husband. After just a few pages I realized that this was going to be an exceptional book and we made the decision that I would just read it, in it's entirety, aloud to John (husband, John, not author John) as we traveled to and fro in the car. This would eliminate my having to stop and start every time I found a section that I wanted to share with him. Please note, this isn’t the fastest way to get through a book, especially when you have to take occasional breaks to catch your breath.

This book isn’t so much about all the medical issues that Jacob and his mom faced, though they are included, as it is about how John and Carla drew near to God in those four months they spent waiting and praying for a miracle. And, it’s about the lives that Jacob touched in just a few short hours.

What I loved most about this book was the way Carla and John embraced the significance of Jacob’s life even as he grew in the womb. Included in Jacob’s Story is an amazing article that John (author John, not husband John) wrote for the Oxford Press, where he worked, titled How Long is a Lifetime? The book is worth the price if only for that short article, but there is so much more!

It may seem that Jacob’s Story would be a depressing read, but really, it isn’t at all. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll need some Kleenex, but you’ll also laugh . . . . a lot. John has a writing style that I absolutely love. When you are done reading this book you’ll not only be encouraged in your faith, but you’ll feel like you are friends with the Agliatas. They are an incredible couple, who, I’m happy to say, now have another beautiful son, and another on the way.

Visit Jacob’s Story website to get your copy of this book. You’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Time for Tea/Christmas Sanity Plan, Part 4

Christmas all-year is my plan for 2009. This month I had a blast having the neighbors in for a four course tea luncheon. I thought, at first, that is was "high tea" but apparently, to be considered high tea it needs to be served in the late afternoon or early evening. Since our tea time started before noon I guess it was just an ordinary tea. (Who says you can't learn anything reading my blog?)

Anyway, since part of my Christmas Sanity plan is not only to eliminate craziness in December, but also be more relational, I called the neighbors and invited them for lunch. Being as I wanted this to be a special day for my neighbors, I first started by thinking about ways to make the table look pretty. This always proves to be a HUGE challenge for me. My girlfriend, Debbie, can put a table together in about 30 minutes and it looks amazing. I spend about two days and it looks o.k., but I keep trying. I started with a "tea" theme and went from there. I borrowed a few items from my friend, Jane, who knows more about teas than I could ever hope to know, and used many items that have been handed down from my mom and my grandmothers. Not only was I happy with how the table turned out, I found it fun to reminisce over the beutiful items that have been passed down to me.

Then, I got busy checking out proper tea foods. I've visited many tea rooms around this area and I've never seen anyone do it better than Aprille's Showers Tea Room in Stillwater. So, I modeled my luncheon after theirs, with a few modifications. Mine had probably 10% less carbs and 20% more fiber, which is not indicative of it being any healthier, just different. My menu consisted of Spinach/Strawberry salad, Cold Strawberry Soup (since I already had the strawberries), three types of Tea Sandwiches, and Scones with Devonshire Cream. Yum! The best part of it all is that nothing I made was difficult, but it all looked beautiful (if I do say so myself.) My neighbor, Sandra, volunteered to bring the scones (and some of the tea) so I think she had the hard part.

So, the food was good and the table looked beautiful but by far the best part was spending a couple hours with my neighborhood friends. Cyndy who lives catty corner behind us and has boys that grew up with mine. Sandra, who has lived across the street from us since we first moved in and is god-parent to our middle son. And, Pat, who lives two doors down and put up with my boys sliding on her hill for many years, not to mention I suspect, their mooching a few cookies.

We laughed and talked all through our meal. We even talked about the "good old days" when neighbors just dropped in to say hi. With all of us leading busy lives we usually just get by with a nod as we pass on the street or a quick conversation in the grocery store. As they left I wondered why we don't do this more often.

I could have made the pumpkin bread or fudge that I normally bring to my neighbors at Christmas. It would certainly have been cheaper. It would have even taken much less time, but this was way more fun! It may be an annual tradition, with hopefully a few simpler teas in between.

One another note, Susan, at Between Naps on the Porch has some fabulous tablescapes to view each week. She is inspiring if you are looking for something fun to do with your "table for tea." Check it out.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Inspired by One Woman's Dream

By now, most of the world has seen the you tube video of Susan Boyle performing on Britain's Got Talent. If you haven’t, stop right now and watch it. Susan, you see, is not one of the beautiful people. And, in the music business she is also creeping right up there next to old. But, she’s got spunk, and a dream, and she knew that being on Britain’s Got Talent was, most likely, her last chance at letting the world know about her amazing voice.

What I love about this woman is she never gave up. Surely she’s known for years that she could sing but apparently one day, at the age of 47, she decided “what have I got to lose? Why not go for it?“ I, personally, have already passed that age and I have to say, it’s kind of scary. At 20 you see your whole life stretching out in front of you and then you turn around, you’re 47, and you think, “wow, that’s right close to 50, which really isn’t all that far from 60” and then you start to realized that by the time 47 more years pass, you’ll probably be dead. It just isn’t very comforting. In my case, I had to do some serious self-talk to get out of the “I’m nearly dead” funk. So, what I’m saying is, I’m very proud of Susan for giving it a try.

BUT, what really struck me during her performance, and pre-performance chat, was the way the judges AND the entire audience looked upon Susan with disdain. They weren’t even trying to be polite. All they could see was a woman who doesn’t look and act the way a singer should and they made up their minds about her before she sang even one note. Let’s be serious, we expect this from Simon. He’s made a career out of being nasty, but the audience?

In all honesty, I’m embarrassed to admit that I, most likely, would have had the same thoughts, it’s just that I wouldn’t have let them show on my face. But it gives me reason to wonder why we are all so quick to judge a person based on their appearance or demeanor? When children pick on the fat kid, or the kid with glasses, or the nerdy one, we pull them aside and explain that picking on someone because they are different really isn’t a kind thing to do. But, what if they are really learning their behavior from us? It certainly gives us something to think about.

I hope Susan makes it big in the UK music world. She has amazing voice and I, for one, can’t wait to get her first recording. You go girl! You inspire me. Never, never, never give up!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lady Liberty and Taxes?

I was driving home yesterday and as I stopped for a traffic light there she was, dancing her heart out. Maybe you’ve seen her; “Lady Liberty” in the flesh. At least that’s who I think it’s supposed to be. She was wearing a bluish/green toga type of garment and a star-shaped headdress similar to the one found on the Statue of Liberty in New York. Why is she dancing on this suburban intersection, you ask? To be honest, if I’d only seen her yesterday I wouldn’t have a clue but at other times when I’ve seen these “Lady Liberty types” they were promoting Liberty Tax Service.

As I sat watching this girl dance and wave at passing cars I had to wonder, “Does this really encourage people to use this particular tax service?” It seemed particularly useless yesterday being as she wasn’t even carrying a sign. But, then again, today is tax day and if you don’t have your paperwork to the accountant before April 14 at 4:00 p.m., it’s probably already too late for that option.

Why Liberty Tax Service is still paying this girl to dance on street corners is beyond me. There are a few possibilities that come to mind; 1) she’s acting as a public service announcement to remind people to send in their tax forms, 2) they want the independent business owner to consider them for their year-round accounting needs, or 3) they mistakenly signed a contract with this girl to work through April 15, forgetting that they wouldn’t necessarily want new business less than 48 hours before the filing deadline. I’m voting for number three.

It’s not just Lady Liberty that you see on street corners these days. Who hasn’t seen the person dressed up as a giant Quizno sandwich, or the guy who seems really disinterested but is standing there holding a “going out of business” sign. MAYBE the going out of business sign would promote some business but seriously, the giant Quizno sandwich? When you see a person dressed as a sandwich do you think to yourself, “Man, I am so hungry for a sandwich?”

On the other hand, I’ve just promoted** these two companies on my blog. Maybe their money was well spent. By the way, I looked up Liberty Tax Service on the web. Their dancing ladies (and men) must be accomplishing something because they have dancers, I mean locations, in all 50 states. I’m thinking they should team up with Jenny Craig. Dancing on the street corner would surely burn a few calories and get you to your “new you” sooner!

**Legal disclaimer – my non-existent legal department wants you to know that the mention of said businesses is not intended as an endorsement of their products or services. All I know is Quiznos has decent sandwiches and salads, Jenny Craig works for some people (especially those who don’t have strong cravings for good chocolate), and Liberty Tax service provides mild entertainment for passersby.

Friday, April 10, 2009

An Easter Story (Be Careful with Your Words)

Twenty eight years ago I was a young mother with just one little toddler running around the house. I wanted to be sure my little guy learned, from an early age, all about Jesus. And, of course, the Easter season seemed the perfect time to teach him about how Jesus had died for us and then risen to life again three days later. It was a concept that I figured a two-year-old would at least partially understand if I explained it well.

We had talked about Easter for many days, I had Paul’s cute little Easter outfit ready, and he was playing in the bathtub on Easter morning as I “fixed my face”. Paul loved his tub time so as he played I finished getting ready to leave and then returned to the bathroom to get him out of the tub and dressed. (Yes, I realize now that it’s a bad idea to leave your child in the tub unattended, but he lived.) As I returned to the bathroom I said “Paul, it’s time to get dressed for church. We are going to celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead!” Instantly, my sweet, happy, little two-year-old started screaming hysterically. It wasn’t because he wanted to stay in the tub and play longer; he was clearly petrified by my announcement.

It occurred to me in that instant that his little mind was picturing something like “dead man walking!” Hmmm….perhaps I should have worded my announcement differently. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a slippery, screaming toddler out of a tub when he is cowering as far away as he can? I had to sit down and calmly explain to him that no, Jesus would not actually be at church in His body, but that His spirit would be there (which I’m sure I explained in a non-scary way) and that we were going to celebrate how he rose from the dead 2000 years ago and was now in heaven.

We somehow got Paul to church that day. I don’t remember all the details but there might have been some jelly bean bribing going on. And today, thankfully, he still celebrates Christ’s resurrection.

Enjoy your Easter celebration, but if you have small children, be careful with your words!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Oh, How Quickly We Forget!

This morning I was looking through some of my old blogs in search of some information. I landed on a blog that I posted almost one year ago. For the past few weeks, we Minnesotans have been doing a bit of whining. O.K., many of us, myself included, have been whining for the past four months, but the frequency and intensity of the whining has increased more recently. We’re crying UNCLE! We’re done with winter; and while today it looks like winter is over, we just can’t be sure. Somehow we’ve gotten it in our heads that this winter of 2008/2009 is longer than normal; that the snow should be gone and yet, what did I read in my post of a year ago? Here is an exact quote “Despite the snow and yuck going on outside right now, I'm sure that spring is coming.”

Ah, the mind is a marvelous thing. I had totally forgotten that just one year ago, on April 10, we had snow in southern Minnesota. This, my friends, is why women have more than one child! I like to refer to it as “healing of memories.” We forget the bad! Forgetting definitely has its advantages. Forgetting the pain of a broken heart; now there’s a good thing. It allows you to heal. Forgetting how much a kidney stone hurts; now that can be a bad thing. Not that you need to remember the pain, but forgetting might allow you to slack off on your water intake thus recreating the problem. Ouch!

But days like today, I hope not to forget. The birds are working on their nests, the sun is shining, and there is no snow in sight! Best of all, the scillia in my front yard are starting to bloom! I love spring! If I forget days like today, I’ll never make it through next winter!

Oh, and for all of the people that don’t already have your Christmas decorations taken down, it’s time. That’s a bad thing to forget!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Turning Trials to Triumphs

I have been trying, for a little over a month now, to figure out how to explain the book From Battle Scars to Beauty Marks by Ellie Lofaro. The title of this book, and its subtitle, Turning Trials to Triumphs, is what intrigued me. I’ve heard Ellie speak a couple of times and, in addition to being a gifted Bible teacher, she’s incredibly funny. There isn’t much in this book, however, to make you laugh.

In Battle Scars to Beauty Marks, Ellie shares the stories of seven incredible women, who’ve experienced the worst of life; a son turned to drugs, physical abuse, anorexia, infertility, the loss of a child, rejection, and more. It isn’t an easy read; emotionally, that is. But, it is an interesting one. What you find in the stories of these amazing women is a tenacity and faith that is unwavering. In some instances, there has been healing and resolution, and in others, the final chapters are still being written.

I had the chance to speak briefly with Ellie about this book (not that we are tight friends, we were just at the same conference right after I finished her book). She calls these women her heroes. Their beauty marks are courage, hope, honor, grace, humility, strength, and faith. Beautiful character traits that we all desire and somehow hope to acquire the easy way. But, as we know, that isn’t always the case. As one woman put it, “I wanted Jeff to grow up strong and healthy and loving God . . . . Is that too much to ask? . . . . So what do I get instead – all the fruits of the Spirit!” (O.K., this part did make me laugh.)

My favorite part in this book are the Bible verses quoted in the very first chapter:

Habakkuk’s Cry found in Habakkuk 1:2-3

"How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds."

Let’s be real. Have we not all felt that way at some time or another? Verse 5 though, holds God’s reply:

"Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

I love that! You may or may not want to read this book. I’ll leave that up to you. But, if you are going through a hard time, know that God desires nothing more than to take your trial and turn it into His triumph. Watch, and be utterly amazed!