Latest Entries »

Spontaneously Faithful

The steady, day-to-day, sun-up to sun-down faithfulness of God amazes me.  He is faithful. As faithful to do what He has promised to do as His world is to keep spinning, as the tides are to keep to their timetable.  I have only to read the Psalms to be reminded of the daily faithfulness of God to His own. It isn’t as if I expect God to be faithful; He simply is.  Faithful is what God is.  He keeps me, even when (which is all of the time) I don’t deserve to be kept.

But that isn’t the faithfulness of which I speak today. I’m talking about those moments of spontaneous faithfulness that come directly from God, and you know they come from God, because there is no other explanation. You may have another term for those moments–desires fulfilled maybe?  But lately, when I try to describe these moments as desires fulfilled, the explanation lacks what I’m trying to say–the meaning I’m trying to impart.

I’m not talking about those deep desires of our hearts–those for which we pray, day after day, year after year, and when our prayers are answered, we know miracles have happened!  I’m talking about those small things, that if they didn’t happen, life, as we know it, would not come to a screeching halt. I’m talking about those small things that make this life we live even sweeter.  Those small delights–yes, delights is the right word–that sweeten the passing of time, and their spontaneous occurrences both surprise and thrill us simultaneously.

For some reason, it seems as though, lately, God has delighted in showering me with moments of spontaneous faithfulness–in providing me with a handful of small delights that have sweetened my days immeasurably.  Good news from a friend, a surprise gifting of something I’ve wanted for quite a while and didn’t expect to receive, better winter weather than I could have hoped for even after I prayed.  It doesn’t take much–these small delights, but receiving them blesses me.

God is faithful daily, but his faithfulness goes beyond a day-to-day routine. I’m finding out that maybe, just maybe, He takes joy in spontaneously surprising me with his faithfulness . . . that perhaps those small things I desire matter more than I think they do. And maybe He thinks so, too?  Spontaneous faithfulness. It is its own delight.

Hopes may be put on hold, but tiny delights make life’s journey sweet. Think I’m jesting?  Try this Proverb on for size:  Proverbs 13:12

Free time . . .

Yep, that’s right.  I just wrote down seemingly benign words–“free” and “time.”  When you smoosh them together into a phrase, you arrive at this wondrous concept of time that you get to decide how to spend.

It’s been a mighty long while since I had any, shall we say, dedicated free time–by this, I mean free time that I could trust would re-occur week after week–consistently occurring free time that would allow me to imagine and act upon some leisure pursuits that I’ve wanted to try for a very long time.

But free time has come, and I think it’s here to stay. (you can smile with me now)

And for my leisure pursuits, I’ve chosen opera and yoga.  Why these two?  I’m simply mad about the art of opera, and yoga is something that I’ve been wanting to try for years.  Years, do you hear!

Of course, opera is something in which I indulge daily via radio, so it’s not necessarily that I needed free time as much as I needed the brain space to indulge my passion.  Opera takes neurons, and until a few months ago, all of my neurons were, ummm, overloaded.  I think they may have been misfiring they were so overloaded . . . but now, they are behaving well and have a proper workload to carry, so they can also handle foreign languages and complex rhythmic and melodic patterns.

Yoga does take time, and it’s a pleasure to finally have time for this pursuit.  During my first class last weekend, as I stood in warrior pose, with my chest and arms open, it was stunning to me exactly how free I felt. I’m looking forward to the next class and the next.

Indulging my passion, opera, and pursuing a long-put-off interest, yoga, may not seem like much in the grand scheme of life, but in the here-and-now, they mean a lot.

It is vitally important that we love our work, but of equal importance is that we also love our lives–those parts of ourselves that are not occupied with our work and careers.  Finding that balance isn’t always easy, but I’m going to do my best; and music and exercise certainly won’t hurt me!

And if you’ve never listened to an opera, may I suggest starting off with something stunning like Simon Boccanegra or Il Barbiere di Siviglia.  You can’t go wrong with either of them!  (Of course, you could be really brave and try a more modern opera . . . Berg’s Lulu, for instance!) :-)


fun & games until…

The adage is true…”it’s all fun and games until a heart gets broken.”

It isn’t as though you meant to fall for him.  You didn’t.  In fact, at the beginning, it was just the opposite–a distinct brand of loathing that could only be characterized as fur being rubbed the wrong way.  But, over the course of so many months, something changes.  After more conversations than you can count, about a myriad of topics, you start seeing him a little differently; and one day, you realize he means much more than he should.

Then comes the worry–what do I do about this?  What should I do about this?  In the end, no matter what you do, there will always be regret.  No matter how bold or how timid you are with him regarding your feelings, you cannot escape that one emotion that most of us attempt to dodge–regret.  It’s inevitable, I suppose.  With the sudden rush of love must come the eventual acknowledgement of regret and the plummet of pain.

I know this path.  I’ve walked it before, and I promised myself I would never walk it again.  But hope is intangible and cannot be contained.  And at least I know that if I love, I am alive. C. S. Lewis would be proud of me.  I have not nailed my life into a coffin but am embracing the chance to love, even if it ends unrequited.

I have loved. I love.  I will love. This is my choice.

Did I go too far?

A friend . . . well, I say he’s a friend . . . asked my opinion as to whether or not he should ask a certain woman in his life on a date or not.  I had no idea how to respond, so the following was my response:

If she were Rachel, would you be willing to be Jacob and work 14 years to earn her, even though you only have to work 7 years to earn a lesser prize like Leah? 
If she were Ruth, would you be willing to be Boaz and take on not only a woman of foreign extraction but everything she brings with her–a widowed mother-in-law, lands in need of tending, the edict to raise up a child that will honor the memory of Ruth’s dead husband, etc., because that’s what Boaz did? 
If she were Sarah, would you be willing to be Abraham and wait?  Would you have the patience to wait, even if she tried to force her handmaid upon you, like Sarah forced Haggai upon Abraham and thus created a kink in God’s perfect plan? 
And maybe most importantly, if she were Gomer, do you have the fortitude to be Hosea and go after her time and time again and show her that your love knows absolutely no bounds?
All of these Biblical men type and shadowed Christ to some extent . . . the perfect Lover and our Bridegroom, and the One to whom every woman looks for perfect love. 

I know that every woman is worth all of this to someone.  You have to decide if her someone is you.  It’s a big responsibility, isn’t it?  As Christ loves the church, you are commanded to love your wife. 

Did I go too far?  Did I say too much?  Did I give him a sermon when all he wanted was my opinion?  Where does advice end and counsel begin?  He wanted my opinion and has stated that he values my opinion quite highly . . . but was I too blunt?

Second-hand Rose?

Do you remember that song, Second-Hand Rose?  It’s about a girl named Rose who never gets anything new . . . second-hand pearls, second-hand clothes, second-hand piano, and even a man who’s already been around the block.  In a sense, Rose, the heroine of the song, always come out second-best because everything she has is second-hand.  Already used . . . never new.  Not wanted by the original owner any longer.  Passed on to a second life.

Second-hand . . . second-best.  It’s a funny place to find yourself.  You don’t ever really intend to be second-best or second-hand.  You don’t plan on never coming in first, never taking the top prize, never having it all . . . until one day, you wake up and realize that yes, you are the second choice.  That you have become second-best.  Always the bridesmaid; never the bride.  Isn’t that how the adage goes?  Your opinion “as a woman” is valued, but you, yourself, “as a woman,” have no value to the man who values your opinion.  What an insult!  What an outrage!   If that kind of back-handed compliment doesn’t call for slap in the face, then I’m simply not sure what does.

But . . . there’s another way to look at this slight problem.  Second-hand also means vintage.  And I’ve got a talent for finding vintage items, bargain shopping, and dumpster-diving.  So, yeah, I’ll be Second-Hand Rose if I choose to be.  But only if I choose to be.  Don’t even think about making me your second choice.  I just might consider that a back-handed compliment . . . and reward you for it.


I attribute the above quote to “unknown” because I don’t know the originator of it.  What I do know about that statement is its truth.  Or if you prefer another . . . as Jenny B. Jones says it, “the ministry of fiction.”  I am a reader of fiction.  While I love nonfiction and truly appreciate the value of nonfiction and the place of nonfiction in my life, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a stunning work of fiction.  I’m referring to that novel that sucks me in as soon as I read the first sentence and doesn’t let me go until I look up from the last sentence on the last page.

Fiction nourishes me in ways that nonfiction cannot.  Fiction feeds my heart while nonfiction feeds my head.  I read nonfiction to solve problems, learn how to do things, and to figure out why things are the way they are.  I read fiction to learn about and to know myself.

If the novel and its author have done their work properly, I’ll find myself somewhere in the story. Each novel is the life story of one person, told countless times over, or it can be the life story of many people, told one time.  My life story is told in the fragments, sentences, and paragraphs of the thousand or so novels that I have consumed since learning to read.  I read fiction to make sense of how I feel, not to find out how much or how little I know of this world or the people around me.  That sounds completely self-serving and egotistical, but if we don’t know ourselves, then we can’t really know anyone else, can we?

Years ago, when I was well out of adolescence, I had to read young adult literature for a graduate school course.  One of the novels I chose to read was Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.  No one told me when I read this novel just how visceral my reaction to it would be.  But it happened–I reacted completely to Anderson’s emotionally harrowing tale of a young woman placed in an untenable situation.  Of every novel written from this perspective, I think Speak tells the story best, and I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Of every woman I’ve spoken to who has read this novel, we’ve all had the same reaction–like someone reached inside us and twisted our intestines around a bit.  Why?  Because we’re reading about ourselves and our worst nightmare, and Anderson nails the emotions–the pain, the anguish, the shame.

Then, there’s the summer I spent reading the Twilight series . . . of course, I had the good sense to wait until Breaking Dawn was published before commencing to read all four novels in the series, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed every minute of reading those four books that summer.  What better way to pass a summer than reading romantic fantasy . . .   Why?  Maybe because I really wanted/needed to believe in some sort of fairytale . . . even if it involved vampire and werewolf Prince Charmings, of all things?! The girl is regular–as normal as she can come, and the guys are extraordinary.  What woman isn’t going to love a story like that . . . and maybe that’s why it resonated so loudly for an entire generation of young women who are really tired of trying to be “uber” and “super,” when all they really want to be is normal and regular and we all know that there’s nothing more special than normal and regular.

Recently, it seems my fiction reading hasn’t been of my own choosing, but I’m working on it.  I’ve got a book on the table at home right now–it’s an ARC–about a young woman dealing with too much grief and change, and she isn’t handling anything gracefully.  How does she cope?  She develops an eating disorder.  I know this story–we all know this story.  This is the 21st century, and there aren’t any of us who have not known someone who developed dangerous habits as coping skills.  But, I’ve never read a book like this–it doesn’t start once the young woman is deep in the dark abyss of anorexia.  No, it shows her slippery slide down the slope of counting calories and exercising too much and trying to make everything perfect in her life–like perfect 90 degree angled-corners–and that’s what pulled me in.  The fantastic writing and the story of this girl and her desperate need for help.  She finds help and is on her way to figuring it all out at the end.  Not necessarily a happy ending, but the ending that is right and good and true.

And then there’s the novel I picked up simply because I loved its cover, and then I fell in love with its language and imagery, even though the story was the average love triangle.  It’s been 8 years, probably, since I read that novel, but the words and the imagery evoked by them have lingered in my memory.  On the first page or so, Claire, the heroine, was carrying a yellow umbrella to fend off raindrops (of course, the city was New York).  Later, the hero refers to memories like things stored in a dusty trunk up in an attic.  Ah . . . aren’t they just the most evocative images ever.  Really, it’s the best book for beautiful language–Claire Marvel by John Burnham Schwartz.  Ever since, I’ve wanted a yellow umbrella . . . and the book may not have inspired me in any other way, but I did wind up in France for a bit . ..

I could go on, but I’ll stop . . . for now.

I read fiction to find myself, and so far, the novels I’ve read haven’t let me down.  They aren’t going to, either.  It is inevitable, I suppose, that a writer will write about an experience that I will find similar to one of my own.  And that author is hoping that I find his/her book and that his/her writing calls to my experience, and that there is a shared moment of understanding between author, story, and reader.  Yeah . . . I know.  It’s magical and mystical and completely unexplainable.  Go.  Find your novel, and share your experience with the printed word.  There’s a reason the author wrote that story–maybe it was you?

A week ago, yesterday, I was as close to home as I’ve been in several months.  For five days, I was 3 hours away from my hometown, and yet I felt like I was home.  The air, the humidity, the heat, the streets, the people, the accents, the food–ah, the food–everything conspired to give me that warm, cozy feeling of home.  Technically, I was there to work–and work I did, but on one particular evening, shortly before my visit to this beautiful place came to an end, I had dinner with friends.

Now, these friends are not long-time friends–as in eons of time as only the South can count time.  We’ve not known each other since I was knee-high to a grasshopper; our families do not have histories.  Our association is much shorter and yet so much sweeter for it.  As I watched them drive up to collect me from the hotel, I was struck with how very dear these two beautiful men are to me–this father and his son.  How very precious they’ve become–how much I treasure them and their friendship.  How very empty and blase’ my life would seem without them in it.  I played the “what if” game for just a second–what if I couldn’t talk to them via everyone’s favorite social network?  How horrid!  How I would miss them.

When we first met, nearly 4 years ago, I remember thinking then that here were people very special–that I was blessed to know them.  And I have been blessed to know them.  So very blessed.

Anyway, we went out for dinner that night, and then they took me on a tour of the city.  They showed me the waterfront, the new homes and the old; we laughed until I wanted to cry; and when we hugged, I really did not want to let go–of either of them.  Because letting go meant that I had to come back to reality.  You see–this is what happened.  When I saw them for the first time in 3 years–when they picked me up at the hotel, I kinda, sorta knew how Sleeping Beauty must have felt when she was awakened from her long sleep.  And then, when we hugged our goodbye hugs, I knew exactly how Cinderella felt when her coach and four became a pumpkin and mice again.  The fairytale had ended; the dream was over, and reality set in again.  Time to come back to earth and get ready for another day of work.

Oh, yes, there’s always our social networking . . . but it’s not quite as tangible as hearing their voices and giving them a hug, is it.  And I had so missed their voices.  You don’t really know you miss people until you see them again . . .

I’ve always heard the adage, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  But, I’ve got my own take on that saying.  “Absence makes the heart grow bigger, to hold everything it can’t express during the absence.”

The art of Saturday

Every seven days or so, Saturday rolls around . . . like clockwork.  Technically, Saturday is supposed to be a day of “rest,” but I never take that commandment seriously.  Somehow, there is always too much to do, and I only have the one day in which to do it ALL.  But, occasionally, I’ll give in to the notion that I can and should have a day of “rest.”  Like today . . .

This week has been completely a week of Mondays.  It felt as though someone pushed the reset button each morning and that I was repeating the same day for five days in a row.  And so much of what happened this week was not glorious and soul-inspiring; it simply “was,” and there is almost nothing that can be done about days like that except to hope for a better day to follow.

Today arrived like a shiny new penny, and I decided to spend it doing some fun things that would be inspiring and that would remind me that I am human and not Borg, that there is another world outside of my little hemisphere, and that not all walls resemble those of an asylum.  So, I ate toast spread with Nutella for breakfast–reckless extravagance, dressed myself up, and then went out to gaze upon Impressionist paintings for a couple of hours.

Have you ever looked at a Renoir when life wasn’t going so grandly?  It will perk you right up!  That peculiarly Renoirish shade of orange made me happy, brought a smile to my face, and put a spring in my step today.  Watching kids dash around, from painting to painting, as they found those that they recognized, was a delight.  You simply cannot dash about in the Louvre; but in a hometown museum, you can.  And every child visiting the exhibit today was speechless over the Degas ballerinas.  Personally, although the Renoirs made me smile, the wall of Toulouse-Lautrecs surprised and thrilled me.  I wasn ‘t expecting to see any Toulouse-Lautrec sketches, lithographs, or paintings today, so the few that were in the exhibition were well worth the price of admission.

One painting, though, sealed the deal for every adult in the exhibit hall–Gaines Ruger Donoho’s Moonlight, Mills at Pont Aven (the link takes you to an image of it, but the image doesn’t do the painting justice).  Most of us, when we arrived at this painting, stopped, lingered, walked away, and then came back to linger a little longer.  It was that beautiful and that restful upon which to gaze.  I’m still enraptured by his use of blue . . . the many hues of blue in that painting.

Art on a Saturday–I should do this more often.  Oh, let’s face it–there are many, many things I should do more often.  Like rest and relax; take care of myself; stop and smell the roses; drink the coffee one, slow sip at a time; use dollar words instead of quarter words in conversation; write more letters; listen to Beethoven’s symphonies in chronological order; and remind myself that if Renoir had to blend red and yellow to make his gorgeous orange (and even if he didn’t), then I can do the same with my life until I arrive at the perfect orangey hue that makes me smile and puts the bounce back in my step, permanently.

Starting backwards with Beethoven’s symphonies–always have liked the ninth symphony best . . .

It has been years since my home contained a full-length mirror.  Although at the beginning, it was because I simply didn’t own one, now I’m not sure why the purchase has never been made.  Either it has become a subconscious, or maybe even a conscious, decision on my part to enjoy the oblivion that is part of a life lived without a full-length mirror.  If I don’t own a full-length mirror, then I can’t criticize myself for my physical failings morning, noon, and night.  And if I can’t see the full extent of my wrinkled linen, then I can pretend that the wrinkles don’t exist . . .

The only time I see a full reflection of myself is at church, and I’m okay with that.  Too much outer reflection time, and one is apt to become a bit too obsessed with the overall package, me thinks. On most days, I forget that there is a lack of mirror at home.  Chalk up my forgetting to a constant state of busyness.  As long as I’m groomed and neat, my world is good.  But here’s where things get tricky.  It’s easy to keep the outside of me looking neat, even when I’m busy; but it’s hard to keep everything together inside in the constant cycle of busyness that life seems to demand.  So, when I stop . . . really stop . . . there may not be a tangible full-length mirror at my house, but there is an internal full-length mirror that nudges me to pull it out and go over my emotional and spiritual person in detail.  Let’s face it, introspection is hard work.

Stopping and taking out that internal full-length mirror is the equivalent, I guess, of sitting in a chair surrounded by detectives asking questions.  Of course there is squirming involved–I don’t really want to look at me, but occasionally, “I” have to be dealt with .  .  . my past regrets and mistakes and my past failures, most importantly my past failures.  I have to look at them and learn from them, and then, if possible, let them go.  Some are harder than others to release, but like clothes that no longer fit, if the experience is over, if the mistake has been made and if apology has been offered, if I’ve failed but picked myself up again, then it’s time to let it–whatever it is–go.

I don’t stop often, but when I do, I know it’s time to find my internal full-length mirror because maybe it’s time for some soul-searching.  After all, release is not only healthy, it’s vital. And so is looking at yourself in a full-length mirror, occasionally . . . as long as you don’t obsess over the bumpy spots.

Yesterday, I walked around knowing what today would be; and this morning, I awakened to the thought that this day is the five-year anniversary of the death of my grandmother on my father’s side.  In fact, both of my grandmothers passed away in May.  One of them, my Maw Maw Maxine, died five years ago today; and my MoMo Ruby died 13 years ago at the beginning of this month.  So, maybe . . . that’s why as enchanted as April was, I’m finding May just a little bit exhausting and rough and bittersweet.

If you didn’t know my grandmothers, I’m sorry.  They were singular women–gentle, well-bred, completely southern, and yet worldly-wise.  Ruby became ill when I was just a child, so my memories of her are a child’s memories.  I knew her only as my grandmother–my first baby-sitter, the baker of snickerdoodles, and the hostess of the best Christmas Eve a person could ever experience.  I did not and will never know Ruby as the woman she was.  I know, from family stories, that she was an extraordinary wife and mother, that she created her own dress patterns and was a master-seamstress.  I’ve heard tales of her to-die-for pot roast and her dreamy fried chicken.  My memories of Ruby could fill a thimble, probably, but they are mine.  I remember the way she would catch lizards who loved to live in her kitchen, and she would return them to the great outdoors.  Her kitchen walls were green, and the lizards simply blended into the background (or so they thought).  She never killed them . . . maybe that’s why I don’t kill many bugs or small creatures today.  Ruby sang . . . although I don’t know if she was an alto or a soprano; I’m putting my money on soprano, but she sang.  I know because I have the briefest of memories of hearing her sing.  And she always, always had something yummy baked for my uncle and aunt’s weekly visits.  Most of all, I remember her eyes, her hair, and her hands.  Intangibles, but still . . . they’re what I’ve got to go on . . .  Ruby died the spring of my senior year in high school.  Perhaps the most telling attribute of this woman is her legacy.  Even her great-grandchildren know who she is, and they were born after she passed.

And Maxine.  There’s only one way to describe Maxine–five feet of nothing, and she walked with a wiggle.  Her personality was bigger than any house she ever lived in, and perhaps that’s what kept her going.  She was the oldest girl of a dozen children and spent most of her childhood living with relatives.  When Maxine grew up and got a job, she promised herself that she would buy a new pair of shoes every time she received a paycheck, and she did . . . Maxine had the best shoe collection outside of the Philippines.  Although I have no memories of my own about this, I’m told that when I was younger than two, Maxine would come to see me and bring me dresses, and it seems that I would hold those dresses in both arms and run through the house showing them off to the air . . . She sewed for me . . . year after year, dress after dress.  My favorite was a bright blue, ruffled dress that still hangs in my closet.  From her closet to mine–I inherited her love of beautiful clothes. When Ruby became ill, I spent a couple of weeks during the summer with Maw Maw Maxine and my grandfather–this stay became something of a tradition for me for a few years.  She washed my hair over the kitchen sink because it was easier on her back; she fed me icecream sandwiches and indulged me for breakfast, because that’s what grandmothers do.  We rented movies, and I stayed up late watching them.

Fast forward 10 or 15 years . . . one of my best memories of Maxine is the two of us watching the Beach Blanket movies with Annette Funicello from the 60’s together.  We laughed until we were gasping for air; and all the while, we were folding clothes and being busy with other housework.  That was Maxine–working even while trying to sit still . . .

And do you know what I remember most about Maxine?  Her eyes, her smile, her laughter, the way she would slap her hands together when she was tickled about something, the way she poked you, the way she referred to people as “Jack,” and her hands–those beautiful hands.

There are other, just-as-sweet memories, and of course, Ruby and Maxine were all-too-human.  However, when taken as a whole, they were marvelous grandmothers, and I wouldn’t have traded them for any other grandmothers in the world.  Somehow I was blessed . . .

Occasionally, I’ve received an email, or now, a quiz on Facebook asking me–if you could have dinner with one person from the past who would it be, and what would be the question you would ask that person?  Here’s my response:  Not one person, but two.  I want to have dinner with my grandmothers, and I want to ask them what I need to know and do to be as incredible and beautiful as they were.  We weren’t done talking and sharing when they had to leave . . . but I guess we never are.  Perhaps that’s the reason for the slightly bitter aftertaste of my oh-so-sweet memories today.  I wasn’t done asking my grandmothers all of my questions.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.