Monday, December 28, 2009

Mother Love

I had several posts in my head to write about "Love" for the topic of the One Word at a Time blog carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley this week. Try as I might I kept coming back to unconditional parental love and a poem that I was given nearly 20 years ago. I do not know the author, but will credit him/her if anyone happens to know. Unconditional love, like our Father has for us, and like every mother and father has for their children, no matter what.

Mother Love

Long, long ago; so I have been told,
Two mothers once met on the streets paved with gold.
“By the stars in your crown,” said the one to the other,
“I can see that on earth, you, too, were a Mother.
“And by the blue-tinted halo you wear
You, too, have known sorrow and deepest despair.”
“Ah yes,“ she replied, “I once had a son.
A sweet little lad, full of laughter and fun.

“But tell of your child,” -- “Oh, I knew I was blest
From the moment I first held him close to my breast,
And my heart almost burst with the joy of that day.”
“Ah, yes,” said the other, “I felt the same way.”

The former continued, “The first steps he took
So eager and breathless—the first startled look
Which came over his face—he trusted me so….”
“Ah, yes,” sighed the other, “How well do I know.”

“But soon he had grown to a tall handsome boy,
So stalwart and kind – and it gave me such joy
To have him just walk down the street by my side.”
“Ah, yes, sighed the other, “I felt the same pride.”
“How often I shielded and spared him from pain.
And when he for others was so cruelly slain,
When they crucified Him and they spat in His face,
How gladly would I have hung there in His place.”

A moment of silence –“Oh, then you are she—
The Mother of Christ,” and she fell on one knee;
But the Blessed One raised her up, drawing her near
And kissed from the cheek of the woman a tear.
“Tell me the name of the one you loved so,
That I may share with you your grief and your woe.”
She lifted her eyes, looking straight at the other

“He was Judas Iscariot, I am his mother.” 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Grace in Muddy Slush

This is my account of the Ten Dollar Challenge that Billy Coffey has presented. Click on the gift icon to read the wonderful stories of the others who have taken Billy up on his challenge. 

It did not turn out how I expected. But that's the nature of our plans. 

At first I wanted this to be an anonymous blessing. Then I had visions of doe-eyed children longing for Christmas toys, or parents lamenting the fact they didn't quite have enough money for their groceries at the check out. I would give them my ten-spot and they would smile and be eternally grateful and I would (wrongly) feel proud and smug.

In my dreams.

I stopped by a convenience store to put gas in my car. Simple enough. I ran my debit card through the pump, was ready to hop in and take off, but decided I'd run in the store quickly to use the facilities before embarking on the remainder of my errands. As I reached for my purse, I saw the designated Ten Dollar Challenge bill sticking out from behind my insurance cards in my billfold. I grabbed it, and stuck it in my jeans pocket. You just never know.

When I returned to my car, there was another car at the pump immediately in front of me. A 30ish woman, looking a bit bedraggled, was pumping gas into an older model car. The car seemed to be in fairly good shape, save for the frayed bungie cord that was holding the trunk lid in place.

The woman's raspy voice was angrily directed at the children in the back seat, but it's the dead of winter and the windows were up. I heard the familiar sounds of sibling rivalry, and saw some arms flailing and heads bobbing. Two, maybe three little heads. Hot-aired screaming children tend to steam up windows, and I really couldn't see clearly.

"Whew, glad those days are over for me," I thought to myself.

But they weren't over for Angry Gas Pump Mom. She lurched toward the car, opened the drivers door, and proceeded to launch into a tirade of multiple expletives toward the children. "Shut up." "Leave her alone." "When we get home I'm going to give you an @$$ slap." 

Ouch, it felt to me like she already did.

Those were some of the kinder words. The remainder were more colorful. It was sad, it was ugly, and at first I just wanted to run away. My second thought was to give her a taste of her own medicine, but I had no idea what she had gone through that day. Could have been any number of things.

Besides, I'm a confrontation coward.

I sat in my car and messed with my phone ... thinking. I gathered up a couple of gum wrappers and random receipts, got back out, and threw my trash in the garbage can.

I kept coming back to the fact that nobody should talk to a child that way, no matter what. I could only see them from the very tops of their heads in the back seat of a compact car, so they weren't very old. I was getting really angry with her.

"Now look what you made me do. You made me go #%#@ over!! Which one of you is going to pay for this ^%#@ gas?" She crossed her hands over her chest and "harumphed" at the steamed up window.

I walked toward the trash, reached in my pocket, and offered up the ten dollar bill.

"Here. I want you to have this, and may you and your children have a Merry Christmas."

"I don't want your #*%+$ money. I can buy my own (#%* gas," she exploded.

"Oh, it's not for your gas. It's just for you. I just want you to know that I care. And that your children really love and need you. Mine used to drive me bonkers when they were that age, too. In fact, they still do!"

So much for Mother of the Year this year. Again.

She pulled her hand away and the bill dropped to the dirty wet slush on the pavement. We both looked down, then our eyes met. I yearned to see hers soften, but it wasn't happening. I shrugged my shoulders, turned, and walked away quickly.

"Well, if you don't want it, I hope it will bless whoever finds it. That was my intent. Merry Christmas."

As I slid behind the drivers seat, she was still glaring at me with eyes not unlike her frosted windows. I started my car and drove off. As I pulled to the stop sign on the access road, I glanced back. It didn't appear that she had moved.

I have no idea if she took the money. When a gift of grace falls into the muddy slush of winter, is it still grace?

Yes, grace can be really muddy sometimes.

And it just might make you cry all the way to Target.

(Image: Photobucket)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Stories

Our house is as decorated as it's going to be this year. In other words, the tree is up.

And every ornament tells a story.

Friends I miss

A First Christmas

Proud Gifts to Mom and Dad

Nurse Mom to the rescue. Some of these we've had since Shep was a pup - if we'd had a pup named Shep, that is.

That was a good year - First Baby, First Christmas.

Our wedding cake topper turned into Best Christmas Decoration Ever

And who could ever forget a lispy three year old's precious voice when we set this one up 30 years ago..
"Mom! It-th Mary, Jopheth, and JC Penney!"

May your dayth be pleathant and brite.
Just don't shoot your eye out.

Tea today: Dragonwell

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple...

Here is the church
Here is the steeple
Open the doors
And see all the people.

It's a childhood finger rhyme that takes me back more than a couple dozen years. Pudgy fingers wrangling to point and intertwine and form the church in the way it was intended. Little fingers representing people, working together, pushing against each other, wrapping around each other, interlocking, and being the church only because all of the people-parts are working together for the One True Glory.

When the people of the right hand and the people of the left hand don't work together, the church falls into a mass of tangled finger people. And when the hands are flailing ghost-like in the air, seemingly attached to nothing, the church flounders. Gasps a few agonal breaths, then dies.

Our church has recently been divided by, of all things, the governing body of it's denomination. A vote was cast where nobody wins.

Not God. Not us.

Yet we still yearn to open the doors and see all the people. Together.

We are confused, broken, struggling finger-people who were bound together by the love of Christ for decades, and are now torn apart by the very entity that was intended to bring us together.

I have one request today - will you pray for my church?
This post is a part of the "One Word at a Time" Blog Carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley. Stop by and visit other contributions on "church." And bring some kleenex - she's got herself a bit of the flu this week.
Tea today: Tazo Joy
Image: PhotoBucket

Saturday, December 12, 2009


When a paralyzing snow storm comes our way, it freezes you in your tracks. Literally and figuratively. We know it's coming, we have the non-stop "weather crawl" on TV to warn us, the shift in barometric pressure alters our moods and our physical senses, and there's a swelling-up of that calm-before-the-storm that centers in your chest. We're used to it in Iowa, and when we had children at home, I was always prepared.

Cookies. Hot chocolate. Mac & cheese. Goulash. Entertain the kids. Avoid hearing "I'm bored" at all costs.

This storm was no surprise. "Biggest of the decade," my favorite weathermen told me. That can only mean one thing in Iowa. You'd better buy bread and milk. And lots of it. I never quite understood that "milk sandwich" thing, but I usually just do what the guy ahead of me in line at Fareway does.

Until that day.

I left work irresponsibly later than I should have for a stormy day, and the evening was already wrapped in full white garb. The white skies were peacefully eerie in the dark. Streets were covered, businesses closed, and respectful white-knuckled drivers were headed with trepidation to their destination.

I stopped at the grocery store, only because I could. I knew not what to buy. Our refrigerator was on the blink, so "stocking up" was pointless. I'd just thrown out an unopened bottle of milk the day before, and chastised myself that I hadn't caught it sooner and thrown it in a cooler.

I left the store with bananas, an onion, two sweet potatoes, and three grapefruit. Storm patrol at it's finest. My mind was simply adrift along with the storm. You really don't need to think much when you're driving 20 mph.

The drifts blanketing our yard and sub-zero temperatures would not let me keep refrigerator food - like fresh vegetables, yogurt, and eggs - unfrozen. The garage hovered around 42 degrees - for now. The freezer was chock-full with everything that could be frozen that had been rescued from the fridge. Two big containers of freshly-made soup sat on the garage floor, but I was hesitant to eat the beef noodle - it had never really cooled from its initial preparation before my fridge met it's maker ("Hello, Amana, I'm home"). The black bean was a different story. My jalapeƱo passion would kill anything.

Hating to waste anything remotely related to red meat, Ron Burgundy decided he'd try the beef soup anyway. Brave man, always going ahead of us to sense out danger. It was apparently fine, but I left it for him, knowing I wouldn't be cooking much the rest of the week. (And I also know bacteria will grow in 42 degrees). Other than my sparse grocery purchases, I was left with 3 of the four food groups: frozen, canned, and preserved. I could make do.

The official snow day came as predicted. I was imprisoned by beautifully sculpted 3 foot drifts in the driveway. The laundry and de-cluttering was done, except for the most obvious things I don't mess with:

The yard art in the family room in various stages of re-stringing, which prevented me from cleaning that room prior to assembling the Christmas tree

the kitchen desk containing very important things that cannot be lost and must not be moved

 or the den-turned-computer-room-turned-editing-studio with strategically-placed video cassettes, DVDs, and yards of firewire

Disorganized clutter is certainly a spiritual gift for a certain few in my family, and I decided not too long ago it's not the hill I want to die on.

I was paralyzed. Literally, nothing to do except read or work on the projects I hauled home from the office (bleh). I entertained the idea of making cookies, but nearly every recipe called for sugar. (Obviously I don't bake much). I found 1/3 cup in the container, a recipe for Snickerdoodles, cut it in thirds, and made a batch for RB to enjoy with his salmonella beef soup. I found myself adrift on the internet, but with my email down, it was difficult to communicate. I couldn't make any calls out of our area, because our new cell service does not work in our house (huh? SprintFail), so there was no catching up with out-of-towners. It was a good day to shop online, but I had not one clue what to get anyone. My trusty little book collection was lulling me to sleep.

I made lists. I love lists. They offer hope and plans and tomorrow.

I enjoyed the solitude, staring at the beautifully formed drifts in the yard.

I read Scripture and caught up on podcasts.

I did a couple of online yoga sessions, for which my back was grateful.

I baked a sweet potato.

A wise person once told me "only boring people get bored." That was assurance that I wasn't boring, but Snickers didn't seem too bored either, and she is the epitome of boring. Besides, she thinks yoga is dumb (and for dogs).

It was most certainly a day the Lord had made, and I loved every minute of it. Adrift among the drifts.

Am I the only one who can enjoy a day like that and not feel restless or bored?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Awaiting My Ten Dollar Challenge

Last week, Billy Coffey posed the Ten Dollar Challenge to all of us, so on a brief trip to the grocery store, I got $10 back on my debit card, and tucked it away in a safe place. I was waiting for the opportunity to bless someone with this ten-spot.

Today, I'm still waiting.

Interesting, the Advent series at church has been about "Waiting..." And I'm not a very good waiter.



Tired of waiting for things to happen. You know, on my timetable. It's been good for me to understand the whole concept of waiting in the scripture. Waiting in faith, and understanding that in God's silence, He's doing His work. He's attempting to align my desires and dreams with His. My job is to remain faithful while waiting.

Hurry up, Big Guy. 

It's not like I didn't have the opportunity for that ten dollars this week. There was a guy in front of me at the convenience store buying milk, jerky, and cigarettes who didn't have enough money, and had to clumsily write a check. Judgemental of me, I know (it was whole milk)! Just couldn't do it. There was the donation bucket at the hospital cafeteria for someone with an ill child. I walked right past it. I can't explain why. Was it wrong? I don't know.

I even entertained the idea of blessing myself with carry-out sushi. It had been a long week and not an easy week at work, and I deserved it, didn't I? I can't believe I just admitted that.

But I didn't feel really led to do that either.

I'm still waiting for that opportunity to bless someone with this ten bucks, and I'm certain the opportunity will come. Is it my fear that this kind act will go unnoticed? I hope not. What I have in the back of my mind is that I want this to be only between me, the person I give it to, and God. Nobody else.

Except the entire blogosphere (Billy's the boss of me on this) - but hopefully I will have a story that will bless you as well.

But these things are not on our timetable, are they? So I wait...

Will you take the Ten Dollar Challenge? If you do, please sign the linked list on Billy's page, and leave me a comment about how God used you and your ten spot.

I know the time will come.